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May. 19th, 2014

Authors and Works

So, this is an entry that's probably a bit late, and spawned by last month's announcement of the nominees of the Hugo Award, a voted award for science fiction and fantasy stories. Basically, an author encouraged his fans to vote for a nomination slate to fight the liberal-feminist-diversity hold on SF fandom. Because most other people don't coordinate their nominations en masse, they got some works on the ballot. And, now, as a Hugo voter, I have to decide if I want to read them. Especially given that at least one of the organizers got booted from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America organization for using SFWA's official twitter to promote his essay insulting a fellow SFWA author in particular and non-white people and women in general.

Now, I know that an author is not the same as his or her works. On the other hand, I think an author's view of the world shapes his or her writing.

For instance, if I am writing a romantic couple that consists of two women, and I want a happy ending, that is shaped by what I find happy. Since I like romance and don't find anything wrong with any sort of sex between consenting adults, I can totally write them riding off into the sunset together as a happy ending. On the other hand, an author who genuinely doesn't believe that a same-sex couple is a good thing probably wouldn't write the couple staying together (or wouldn't write it as a good thing, or is writing erotica and is aiming more for 'hot' than 'emotionally satisfying').

So, if I know someone is racist and sexist (and also a jerk), I know that at best, I get 'good but problematic', but... well, there are too many books out there to read things that the best I can think of is 'good but...'. I'd prefer to take a chance on things that could be good with no qualifier and aren't going to lead me to wonder if the author's worldview is bleeding through.

Also, I don't like the collusion. Thankfully, it's harder to do on the award, since everyone votes on the same five works.

Jun. 13th, 2013

Best Novels 2013

So, once again I'm voting for the Hugo Awards, Science Fiction and Fantasy's major awards. Sure, it costs money, but I get all kinds of free ebooks and magazines and comic PDFs (sadly not free movies and TV shows).

So I figure I'd blog about what I read. Especially since this year I'd actually read four of five novels up for best novel before they were nominated.

What people liked in 2012, my take )

Apr. 26th, 2013

Life Update

I feel like I should say something clever, but I don't got any of that.

My allergies, even with pills, are in the stage where I feel like there is something caught in the back of my throat. I've been reading a lot, so I should do a book review or two, but a lot of the books were re-reading the ones on the Hugo List. I'm done with the novels, and I could probably read the two novellas I own. It's kind of nice to know what I'll be voting for now, though I suspect that my top choice will not win the Hugo.

Writing and drawing is slow right now. I need to kick my muse in the butt. Maybe this weekend.

Also, I need to clear out all the books and clothing I own that I'm not going to use. More and more it sinks in that I expect to move in less than six months, which means clearing out years worth of... well, crap... I've accumulated. (maybe I shouldn't have skipped the clothing swap a couple of weeks ago, even if I mostly gave things rather than picking anything up.)

Also, i really should learn how to drive this summer.

Mar. 16th, 2013

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 025: Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

I find Nnedi Okorafor an interesting author. She writes these amazing, creative children's/YA stories like Zarah the Windseeker and Akata Witch, and also writes amazing adult books that are in no way for children. (Seriously, while I loved Who Fears Death, it got dark enough at times that I doubt I'd be able to reread it.)

Anyway, so I finally got a copy of Akata Witch, which has been described as the Nigerian Harry Potter.  )

Feb. 12th, 2013

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 023: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

So, I picked this one up from [personal profile] anke who was getting rid of some books. The Eyre Affair takes place in an alternate late 20th century England where, among other things, people are obsessed with classics of literature and art. Most people have an opinion on things like who authored Shakespeare's plays, and it's enough that people can break into fist fights or political movements. The main character's hometown has a long-running community production of Richard III structured more like the showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show than any play I've seen. It's actually a bit like... well, a lot of Japanese action series where everyone knows a certain card game, or incorporates martial arts into their normal job, or has a job involving cute and trainable pet monsters.

There's also things like low-grade magic )

Feb. 4th, 2013

In which I am peculiarly grateful to Robert Heinlein

An article on polyandry came across my feed today. Basically it mentions a paper that came out re-evaluating how common polyandry (one wife, multiple husbands) was in modern and historical societies: mostly showing that, contrary to 'the common wisdom' it happened in more places than just 'a part of Tibet where land is scarse, so often brothers marry the same woman so the family doesn't have to split the land'. (Also, it looks like one of the co-authors was a University of Nebraska anthropology prof -- go big red!)

The article notes that polyandry in societies are one alternative when for some reason the sex ratio becomes skewed towards more adult men, and in societies with little class structure (because I gather patrilineal inheritance matters less). And it made me nostalgic.

When I was in high school, I read a lot of 'classic SF' and that included Robert Heinlein. )
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Jan. 9th, 2013

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 019: The Fall of Kings, by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman

The nice thing about Christmas is new books and time to read them. The Fall of Kings is a book set in Ellen Kishner's Riverside series. Thankfully it was set decades after Swordspoint, the first book, because I only vaguely remembered the events of that one. (I remembered I liked it, and I found out that my used copy doesn't have the short stories that the reprint has... perhaps I should fix this.)

I remember hearing about <em>Swordspoint</em> on a podcast (the SF Squeecast, I think), that noted that for a book published in 1987, it did two interesting things. )

Jun. 20th, 2012

So, a week(ish?) ago, I happened to get into a fan discussion about Reborn!/KHR on Plurk. Now, all I know about the series is from friends, but it's about Tsuna, an unlikely Japanese schoolboy discovering he was the heir to a Mafia family and that it started as a gag comedy manga but the author eventually decided to try to plot something. One of the points of Tsuna's characterization was that he was a good kid who was determined to not compromise that even if he was the head of a Mafia family.

So my Plurk friend was ranting about how fans of the series were all 'Mafia = serious business' and therefore that the logical thing would be for the series to crush Tsuna's innocence until he had to act all ruthless and how a Mafia boss should act, rather than have the plot be about Tsuna's conflict between duty and idealism* and let that take it where it may.

I commented this is a lot like how some Avatar fans reacted to the end of Season 3 of Avatar: the Last Airbender.

Spoilers here! )

And I'm still going! )

* I mean, this isn't an uncommon theme, especially in shounen anime/manga. The protagonist is an idealist. Usually he has an ally or rival that is a pragmatist. When he confronts the antagonists, he has to choose if he wants to compromise his ideals for a better shot at winning, or try to stick to his guns and win.

Jun. 10th, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 010: Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht

So, Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht was a difficult novel for me for about the same reason Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okaofor was; I don't mind reading things that are set in a darker era (real or fictitious), but afterward, I want the literary equivalent of something sweet and fluffy. A bit like drinking black tea with pastries.

Anyway, Of Blood and Honey is set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.  )

Jun. 5th, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 009: The Man Who Ended History, by Ken Liu

I actually finished all the novelettes for the Hugos last night, meaning I've read for four awards. I might do the novelettes and short stories in one post, rather than do these.

Hey, it's a story involving time travel (sort of) and WWII and not Nazis!

'The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary' is told as if we're watching a documentary from the near future, the ever classic 20XX. )

Jun. 2nd, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 008: Silently and Very Fast by Cat Valente

First off, Cat Valente has incredibly rich prose, full of imagery. Silently and Very Fast is basically a story told in stories to describe the relationship between machine intelligences and human intelligences.

(The first part is here)

Elefsis is a machine intelligence that used to be a house, modeled by his creator as a lares familiar, a 'god of the household' like the Romans worshiped.  )

Jun. 1st, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 007: Countdown by Mira Grant

I'm into the Hugo novellas! Hooray! Yes, I'm cheating and skipping A Dance with Dragons. If I finish everything else in two months, maybe I'll go back and read it.

Anyway, Countdown is a prequel to Mira Grant's (aka Seanan McGuire's) Newsflesh trilogy telling the story of how we accidentally made the dead rise. It was originally published as a series of short pieces on her LJ running up to Deadline's release in May 2011, and you can still read it like that. Orbit did release an ebook version of it, and a paper copy is coming out from Subterranean Press (as When Will You Rise).

One of the things I appreciate about Grant's zombie books is that while scientists can be the bad guys, science isn't. )

May. 31st, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 006: Leviathan Wakes, by James SA Corey

So, I mentioned this previously, but I was able to enjoy Leviathan Wakes, despite me critiquing the orbital mechanics and realizing that recent science* would throw a monkey wrench into the plot. But I'm used to that; sometimes things shape out that way.

So, Leviathan Wakes hits a sweet spot in SF for me by being about the time when humankind has the Solar System as its playground but hasn't moved to the stars.  )

* Recent science that a member of my research group is doing!

May. 24th, 2012

My Inner Skeptic LOVES Orbital Mechanics

I'm discovering that hard SF where you're bouncing around the solar system means my Inner Skeptic actually pays attention to people other than me and my writing.

Probably because I've spent most of my adult life following NASA missions. Maybe because I read Heinlein in high school, and Heinlein learned orbital mechanics for his solar-system SF. There might be Martians and Venusians and a spin-locked Mercury*, but by golly, things moved like they should.

But when you're gallivanting around the Solar System you have to remember that things are all moving at different rates.

Nerdity Ahoy! I'll be good and not do the math here, though. )

I feel really weird that things like this bug me enough to make petty ranty journal posts about it. Also, yes, I have calculated things like 'what's a good timescale for going from X to Y assuming no magic physics that let me ignore that if we accelerate too hard, we kill the passengers'.

* This is a SFnal dating technique: look at what things we thought we knew at the time but turned out wrong. So Mercury's rotation makes me go 'wait, what', but a quick check to the publication date makes me go with it.

May. 5th, 2012

There are times when I love details

There be spoilers here. I'll keep anything that's not spoiler-rific outside the cuts if you want to read it anyway.

I read the sample chapters to Mira Grant's (aka [livejournal.com profile] seanan_mcguire) upcoming book, Blackout. And something caught me...

Spoilers for Feed and the sample material from Blackout )

There's another one in when Seanan McGuire asked who would win in a fight, Georgia, or the heroine of her other series, October Daye. Seanan noted that, while George was a better shot, Toby had one advantage.

Toby is known as working blood magic: she can use blood to see through another's eyes, even if they died. Moreover, she grew up in mid-century America. Georgia grew up in post-Rising America where any sign of blood was a risk of someone becoming a zombie, and any fluids from a zombie could spread the disease if they got into your body. So, Georgia has a reflexive avoidance of blood because of this, something a character from a setting that doesn't involve zombies just wouldn't have. Especially not a changeling that needs blood to work some magic.

Another worldbuilding detail that I didn't think about until the author pointed it out.

Spoilers for Feed (the same ones) and also old Heinlein juvenile SF )
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Apr. 22nd, 2012

On Trilogies

I'm reading Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy, specifically the final book. And I got to thinking about the structure of trilogies. It seems like, even if each book in the trilogy has a plot, the trilogy itself has a pattern of the first book ending on an up beat, and the second on a down beat.

Some examples to explain what I mean )

So, I wonder if this is inherent to the construction of a trilogy. I can think of counter-examples: N. K. Jemisen's Inheritance trilogy doesn't quite have a downbeat second book, but I might have to reread it as a trilogy, rather than as a series of stand-alone novels. The Lord of the Rings... well, I have to go back and see where Tolkein cut the story, since the films changed things up. And discussing the differences there might be a post into itself. I can think of plenty of trilogies that do do this -- even darker stories, like [profile] seanan_mcguire's Newsflesh trilogy have a more upbeat first book end than second book end.

Apr. 21st, 2012

Letter Meme

1. Leave a comment to this post, specifically saying that you would like a letter.
2. I will give you a letter.
3. Post the names of five fictional characters whose names begin with that letter, and your thoughts on each. The characters can be from books, movies, or TV shows.

I ramble a lot here. Be warned.

[livejournal.com profile] stormsdotter gave me Z.

Z is for Zelda, Zelda, Zelda, Zelda and, of course, Zelda )

I also got T from [personal profile] dqbunny

T is for Toph, and that's good enough for me! )

Nov. 23rd, 2011

Anne McCaffrey

So, as the Internet might know by now, Anne McCaffrey, she of the color-coded-by-sex dragons*, passed away.

It's weird because, well, somehow -- I don't know how -- when I was getting into book SFF fandom, I read her books because... well, I honestly don't know. She was listed as one of those authors that people read, especially high school girls who would like a sparkly telepathic dragon friend or to be a telepath who could toss ships around with her mind and don't notice some of the skeevy sexual politics.

Later, you did notice things like that, so maybe you sold your Pern books to the used bookstore to clear up space for other authors. And every time things came up, you kind of rolled your eyes, since half the time it would good (McCaffrey finally stopped fighting fanfic!) and half the time it would be... well, not so good (McCaffrey seems to define slash as 'non-canon explicit gay sex' when her series had canonical same-sex (male) couples who had on-screen sex, so she disallowed it)**.

But, everything I read -- good, bad or so-bad-its-terrible -- has shaped what I write and what I like (even if the shaping is 'I can do it better' or 'I don't like that'). Part of me can't think about animal companion fantasy without Pern and its dragons. Or, hell, a lot of my webcomic's universe probably owes itself to the Talent series. And hell, Acorna introduced me to conlanging, even if Ms. McCaffrey wasn't the co-author who worked on that.

Ms. McCaffrey was kind of the literary equivalent of the elderly aunt who embarrassed you at family gatherings, but who took you to the seashore every summer when you were young and told you stories you still remember.

* After all, the color-coded-by-alignment dragons were Gary Gygax's.
** You thought I was going to mention tent pegs, right?
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Oct. 9th, 2011

Short Book Reviews

Because two trans-Atlantic flights and a week's worth of dinners and breakfasts in restaurant alone* gives one a lot of time to read.

I read the books so you don't have to! )

Sep. 25th, 2011

Rebecca's List of Literature Pings

You know, I recall a discussion of fanfiction as a place for 'id-fic' -- that part of it is admitting you are writing something totally self-indulgent and rather than disguising that, glorying in it. Some of that is the porn, but it's also things like writing waff-y drabbles or hurt-comfort or black bleeding angst. Basically, the idea is that the story hits some emotional ping like a hammer, and that's why the reader enjoys it, even if technically, it needs work. About the equivalent of 'comfort food'. A grilled cheese sandwich with some kind of potato dish (and possibly soup) is one of my favorite comfort foods, and sometimes I enjoy it even when the food isn't that good. Or I know that having that many french fries will make me sick later. Of course, an excellent grilled cheese sandwich with just the right number of fries and perfect tomato soup would be better than going to Friendley's and taking my chances, but... it's comfort food, you know>

I kind of wonder what the line between this and Steven Brust's Cool Stuff Theory of Literature. Which, to summarize: authors write books about things they consider Cool Stuff. Readers enjoy the book to the degree that they agree with the author about what constitutes Cool Stuff. I suspect it's an approach of editing: that you can't serve crappy comfort food when being judged by Celebrity Chef of Your Choice (in this case, agents/publishers), or trying to sell things, so you do have to disguise your id to some degree, or at least back it up with some craft. Maybe not much: insert complaint about how Popular Series Here shows that its readers really crave Concept Here, and will put up with crappy writing*.

This was a long and rambly introduction to what essentially amounts to my Big List of Literature Pings: aka the things that will get me to read your book, the things I want to write about, and the things that generally make me squee. )
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