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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.

Sep. 2nd, 2012

Genre conventions...

Inspired by a twitter conversation with [livejournal.com profile] beanbunny.

Most fantasy series don't capitalize nonhuman species (elf, dwarf, hobbit, etc.). Most science fiction series do (Klingon, Vulcan, Wookie, Ewok, etc.). My theory is that fantasy is working from myth and biology, where we don't usually capitalize other species (dryad, angel, crow, jackalope, etc.). Science fiction is working from something like nationalities, where we do capitalize different groups of people (American, Russian, Indian, Chinese, etc.).

Related idea: a lot of SFnal aliens have either planetary-wide cultures*, or two cultures, one of which is a Persecuted Minority. In that sense, the analogy makes a lot of sense: if you start going 'Space Soviets', 'Space Japanese', 'Space Jews'. Which has really Unfortunate Implications, now that I type it out.

Fantasy isn't immune to that, but fantasy also occasionally has a more narrow geography to work with. If you have only one group of elves who all live in the same woods, then it makes sense that all of them share a culture as much as all New Yorkers have things in common that even folks from New England don't get. When your Space Elves have forty planets and there's no regional variations between them... it starts to get weird. (Especially if humans still retain ethnic and regional identities.)

* If not one culture across all planets that a species owns. Maybe related to the whole 'one climate per planet' thing.

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!

Sketches 2/2

Finished up the meme.

Alphonse Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist for [info]yuuo
Jeff Andonuts from Earthbound for [livejournal.com profile] eiviiaru
Mirrim from Dragonriders of Pern for [livejournal.com profile] allicapri
Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek for [livejournal.com profile] padparadscha

May. 12th, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 001: Deadline by Mira Grant

So, I decided to do the [livejournal.com profile] 100things_index, a challenge to write 100 blog posts on a topic or topics. Mine is going to be 'stuff I've read'. There may be some repeats from my book reviews, since I'm on the 'reread until I get the Hugo voter package'.

001: Deadline by Mira Grant )

Sep. 28th, 2010

30DoA.19: Change you’d like to make to any one anime: Fix the pacing problems in Crest of the Stars

Day 19 - Change you’d like to make to any one anime: Fix the pacing problems in Crest/Banner of the Stars.

I've mentioned this before -- there's a lot of anime adaptions I hate because the writers made them boring. It's one good thing about Slayers, IMO -- even the seasons/arcs that keep a lot of the novel elements in play while not trying to make them carry more than they're able.

Crest of the Stars has this problem.  )

Sep. 18th, 2010

30DoS.09: The most believable relationship? Kaylee/Simon

Day 09 - The most believable relationship? Kaylee/Simon

Okay, it helped that Kaylee immediately grabbed me by the lapels and yanked me into wanting to be her friend.  )

Aug. 7th, 2010

Alien Thought

I'm currently reading C J Cherryh's The Foreigner. In a nutshell, it's about a human colony ship that gets marooned somewhere far from Earth and where they are supposed to be. With their constructed space station failing, they are forced to land on a planet with an Industrial Age civilization -- which goes fine, until some years in, they nearly get wiped out because the aliens don't think like humans. The meat of the book is about the human ambassador to the aliens and both the internal politics that are looking to get him killed, and his own tendency to anthropomorphize alien thought processes*.

Cherryh and Octavia Butler, and probably others are authors I enjoy for playing with alien psychology. I mean, if you want a little alienness, a lot of people just go for the Planet of the Hats approach and have the Logical Ones, the Honorable Ones**, the Sneaky Bastards, etc. while some SF authors question a lot of universals of human psychology -- what if we weren't a hierarchical species, or if we were more of a hierarchical species? -- which gets a lot of weird aliens.

I mention this because something today made me realize that we don't always have to go into SF literature to find alien thought patterns.  )

--
* Doesn't help that he's the only human living off the island humans settled. Personally, I'd think that's a horrible setup and rife for trouble, but the aliens might not have agreed to multiple humans, and they probably wouldn't have gotten why humans would need a group.

** Actually read an interesting Star Trek: The Next Generation spinoff novel. One of the side plots advanced the idea that the Klingons were one of the few naturally-solitary species*** that achieved starflight without killing themselves, and the whole TNG-era strict honor code was essentially a cultural adaption to allow people who evolved from violent predators to get along without killing one another (too much). Not sure if I buy it, but it's at least an attempt to think about Klingon psychology other than Honorable Warrior Race or Those Guys that Shoot at Us.

*** Read: if humans are lions, Klingons would be tigers. Lions raise their young in groups, and even low-ranked males without a pride will sometimes form small groups. Tigers on the other hand, are rarely found in groups, outside of a mother and her cubs.

**** Okay, poorer and living in the United States, where poor means uninsured or underinsured.