onyxhawke: (Default)
( Apr. 14th, 2009 11:14 pm)
It was 11:14pm ET when I started this post eight minutes after I got home, as I mentioned I've been busy. I signed a new client, one Irene Radford. The divine mind behind the Dragon Nimbus series, the Star God's series, and Merlin's Descendants series, among others. Go buy dozens, they're good reading and it will help me sell more of her stuff. You can go read this fab ladies far more interesting blog here: [profile] ramblin_phyl 

The other thing I did was talk to a writers group. Somehow they managed to put up with me for two hours of talking and still invited me to Friendly's for soda and ice cream afterwards. I had fun, they were a great audience attentive, inquisitive and they even laughed at my jokes. It was a fun day, but seven hours out of the house did cut into how much attention I could pay to the world. If the world ended, we were invated by aliens or anything like that please tell me.

The four books I read this time are all interesting, and from just two publishers.

K. E. Mills' The Accidental Sorcerer is a fantasy, set in a world that has an early electric age feel with a lot of magic. Gerald Dunwoody is our title character who has all the good fortune of a plague victim without the blessed death at the end. We start off the book with him in the middle of a magic wand factory that is about to explode. Politicians and bureaucrats being the same everywhere he is blamed for it despite evidence to the contrary. This job was of course his last shot at success and the explosion yet another disaster in an life that could be the highlight reel from I Love Lucy. A fun book overall with a some interesting insights hidden amongst the litter of fantasy tropes.
Three Urban Fantasy's also got onto the list, and all three are written by people from different areas of the nation. Each has recognizable regional quirks that make their work distinct.

Anton Strout's Dead To Me features a thief gone straight who has decided to use his ability to read objects for something other than lining his pockets. As part of proving that there's no saint like a reformed sinner he's joined a pseudo government agency. Strout's Big Apple is replete with scenes that demonstrate all the shades of gray that color scale life in any large group. Some of Simon's superiors are not as nice as even Simon's low opinion of them, some are not as pure as he'd believe, it's a mantra we see more than once to good effect. The quips about New York life, and various denziens of the city are a hoot.

Jennifer Rardin;s Once Bitten Twice Shy is the first UF i've read from Orbit, and the first book by the author. Jaz Parks is like the author from the Midwest, although i doubt the authors boss is a vampire. Jaz, is a CIA assasin, and she's good at her job, aside from wrecking cars and her boss's nerves. Jaz has a personality that utterly fits her battle scarred experiences to her her pragmatic midwest roots.

Mark Del Francos Unshapely Things is quite the tour of Boston, and his imagination with a well concealed smattering of New England common sense. Connor Grey is medically, or at least magically retired Druid who has to eek out a living working as a private investigator with the shreds of his once formidable power. Connor's Boston is one where Elves, Fairies and other creatures of legend have come to live. Unfortunatly someone is making ritual killings in his neck of the woods. Connor Grey is not the type to stand around and let things like this happen, especially when he can do something and irritate the powers that be at the same time.

A fun, and contrasting four books.
 

edited since i conflated the real and pen names of the first author.

  

First up was Amsterdam by the redoubtable Elizabeth Bear. I really liked this one, it has an episodic feel with each chapter leading into the next, but semi distinct. The first chapter feels like The Orient Express which I suspect is as accidental as pulling your own teeth. The main characters are fun, and the settings, dialogue and language have that fell that instantly lets you know who the writer is.

 

Next up was a book I bought half expecting to hate just based on the cover. Sorry, but it’s true, I mostly hate the cover art on books. Children of Chaos I mostly picked up because I noticed the number of titles on the shelf by David Duncan who I’d never before read. David Duncan has the unforgivable habit of doing things I hate, and doing them well enough to make me overlook those things. Epic, multigenerational, ensemble fantasy is very difficult to do and do well. I will be reading more.

 

Liberators: Latin America's Struggle for Independence is one of the best pieces of history I’ve read in a long time. It has the ease of reading of a good novel, includes writings by the principals, and discusses how various historical actions were perceived at the time, and since. For understanding foreign cultures this is hugely valuable. I already knew from other readings that Simon Bolivar was an interesting character and almost a living caricature, this fills in more of the forces that shape him, and the other men who helped break the various colonies free. Anyone who wants something good to read or people to base characters off of should read this. Robert Harvey has done a truly masterful job with this.

 And last,

 Draw One in the Dark was a fun book and had a small number of the inherent edges a first book is gifted with simply by its birth. Gentleman Takes a Chance, shows the coherence of character and world that normally takes an author at least four or five books to achieve. Tom and Kyrie grow more, take their odd relationship into new ground, and in general are just fun people to read. We learn more about the world, more about the characters, and about how good a writer Sarah Hoyt is.

I asked a couple of the writers in the Better off Undead anthology about their stories,  

Dave Freer says: "If you are writer who has ever wondered just how some works of 'literary genius' escaped the toilet, and adore the taxman, read this."

Jay Lake says of his story:  Zombie chef searching for an out of this world taste

Kate Paulk says of hers:  It's a vampire who works the graveyard shift in a convenience store and has to deal with a wannabe vampire slayer.
and: Just an ordinary guy trying to get along who happens to be a vampire.

Sarah Hoyt: It's a story about a murder, a goddess and (Chinese) hell(s) to pay.

While Science Fiction and Fantasy have helped lead the way to some extraordinary things in our world, there are some things that just shouldn't be. Hopefully a few people will take this topic and run with it as I shall quite lazily point out only the simplest and most obvious things being the shiftless and not to bright person that i am.

Perhaps the greatest evil for which the world has Science Fiction, one author and a nearly invisible editor to thank is "cyber bullying". Long before most people could even hazard a guess at what "cyber" meant. Before people had screennames, and instant messengers, and email. Before the world wide web was all that wide, or a world of its own a man created a way of reaching out and hurting ones enemies in a way that few would realize the would be the new wedgie, His proxy a boy called Ender (a use name) humiliated his opponent in a way that let him cause trouble and get away with it. Today we write new laws to deal with the technology that enables this crime, and continue to handwring at the crime itself. Orson Scott Card has much to answer for.

Death Shouldn't Find Me!

This is a trope that abounds in both Science Fiction and Fantasy. I can't blame either genre for creating it, just for perpetuating it. Raymond E Feist should shoulder his share of this simply for the early Midkemia books. Not only is the book littered with glamorous, graceful and ageless Elves two of the main characters from Magician become effectively immortal. Pug and Thomas go from keep rascals to not just towering heros, but unaging towering heros. Truly unfair.

Science fiction can't leave not dying alone either. In science fiction not only have anti-aging techniques like Weber's attempts to drive the entire future of mankind nuts by extending both puberty and menopause with his prolong treatment. Honestly, this one should really be considered cruel and unusual punishment. I can't honestly imagine people developing healthily mentally when they spend from eleven to thirty-nine looking unfinished, gangling and wondering when people are gonna stop calling them the Honorverse equivalent of "pizza face".

Lois Bujold is not without blame for perpetuating this bit of cultural denial. She's invented two totally different ways of not aging like a normal human. Her Betans (almost all of whom seem to be like 'the good kids" in A Brave New World) simply don't age. They don't age because they just live right, and their doctors have a pill for that. Simply disgusting. Not to out do this she has tweaked an entire twelve planet society with the use of trickle down genetics. They are smart, beautiful, healthy, resistant to poisons and yup, long lived. Utterly vulgar.

Then of course there are the weapons of play war where people almost play for keeps. Stunner, cryo-revival, shock nets, knockout gas, and virtual reality combat. What type of sissyness is this? This doesn't provide any reason for the other side to stop being your enemy. And how the hell do you establish discipline in a war where the greatest danger is ripping and dirtying your uniform when the enemy reasonable-wonderful-valuable-unique-beautiful-caring-person-who-we-have-yet-to-reach-a
-reasonable-accord-with-through-no-fault-of-anyone stuns you. Oh no! What if their pain killers don't work as fast as our or they don't taste as good! Heaven Whatevereachreaderbelievesornotbelivesinwithoutpreferenceorjudgementwithfullsupportandornonsupportas itbestvalidatesthatreaderatthisoranyothermomentinwhatwenowcalltime forfend! 

Kill Something Bitches! Really, it's one of the few things that humans are actually good at finding new ways to do. Death and sex. These are the two things that most people wonder about first when contemplating a new technologies possible applications.
onyxhawke: (Default)
( Jul. 13th, 2008 05:29 pm)

So who is the greatest living science fiction and fantasy author? Is it Ray Bradbury who has done the rarest of all things for genre fiction and crossed over to being used in English classes from elementary school all the way to college and universities?  Does it go to Stephen King? He's sold oodles of books and even managed to convince the mainstream he isn't (usually) science fiction? Can we anoint Terry Pratchett? Despite his presence, and the legacy of Douglas Adams, People who Matter are still convinced humor doesn't sell. Another reasonable choice is Lois Bujold who has more Hugo Awards for both science fiction and fantasy, and is a perennial nominee for the Locus, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards as well? A case can be made for J.K. Rowling as well, without much need to go into what she's done. Robin Hobb certainly deserves a strong look as well. Mercedes Lackey has helped define SF/F for the last two decades and has written and sold across half a dozen of the subgenres. Another name some might throw out is China Meiville, for lush language and creativity?  R. A. Salvatore has sold well enough that he can make a legit claim to being the greatest too.

 

So is the greatest living SF/F writer one of these? Or is there someone I just don't know?

onyxhawke: (Default)
( Jun. 25th, 2008 08:20 pm)
Writer Friend (7:24 PM):
any suggested cure for writer's block?

Me : Fear.

Writer Friend : ?

Me: I will sing to you if it doesn't go away.

Writer Friend: mental note. don't answer the phone if Mike calls
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