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Archive for the ‘books’ Category

ALL of the Bs. Didn’t think I could do it, but 16+ inches of snow on the ground kinda interferes with outside activities. I’ll finish up the second letter of the alphabet (second place is just the first place loser, lol – bit of paintball t-shirt lore there for ya) and then get back to reading – another Turtledove and this time it is for a rather well-respected literary ‘zine.

Barbara Martin: Dark fantasy, horses and history. And some really fine photos. This one is a probable add – the only downside being her insistence on using the metric system for measurement. So what you’re a Canadian! I’m an amerikun and we use real measures like feets and yahds an bushels an pecks! (The pecks ought to be over in the romance review section.) (Yeah, I know we’re the hold outs, but I just love pushing american-centrism on people – it endears us to them so much…)

Bees and Books on the Knob: Beekeeping and book reviews and e-reading tech coverage. The book reviews are being moved to their own blog (Books on the Knob). Unfortunately, the site kept on blowing up on me; I’ve had similar issues with Amazon ads occassionally. THIS will be a “re-do” and, since I like social insects (ants more than bees but ya can’t be picky), I’ll probably add it.

Bibliophile Stalker: Add. Nice collection of other blog entries, book reviews (SFF) RPG gaming (gaming being the operative for me), interviews and to the point style.

Bibliosnark: Whoa! Confessions of a book whore! (Just checked, the wife is not looking over my shoulder…) and she’s a Celt! And she just looooooves those movies. And she writes very professional reviews – with blurbs from the covers right at the beginning. I wish more people did that. I should lead by example, but I won’t. Bibliosnark can do that. Definite add. Heavy on the horror though.

BillWardWriter: Already a fan. Oh. And btw: if I’m already on you’re blogroll, I should have or will add you to mine. If you say nice things about me, I’ll do the same for you. And Bill Ward rocks. (And if you have added me and find that I haven’t added you – which is not the case with Bill – it is merely an oversite. I do appreciate friendly reminders.)

Bitten by Books: Hmmm. Not sure on this one. The page layout needs a little work as I had to scroll past a lot of stuff to get to the first entry. This is another grog – with some twenty+ reviewers – and a lot of ‘win free book contests’ for the Holidays. Seems pretty horror oriented also. I think I’ll be going back a few times before making a final decision.

The Black Library Blog: A review site from Games Workshop. Nice fantasy/pseudo-Frazetta artwork there. Short and sweet ‘support the business’ type blog. Another maybe.

Blog Jvstin Style: “Proudly Supporting Anti-Mundane SF”. Justin has just discovered the golden ticket. Well, more like the silver one (I’d prefer to see ‘Proudly Supporting Classic SF’), but it still gets him in the door. Journeyman’s blog, equal parts games, SF and NFL football.

Blood of the Muse:Comics, SF, Fantasy and good, comprehensive reviews. Also, a collector of autographs (so if you ever want to forge Stephen R Donaldson’s sig – here ya gp). An add.

The Book Bind: a Blog from “Keppler’s Teens” – people passionate about books and helping you find the right one. Not frequently updated and a blank myspace and website result. Mostly YA stuff – which I can avoid, since I don’t think kids should get special treatment. Damn whippersnappers are taking up all the shelf space at the bookstore. I thought they supposed to be seen and not heard. If I want ankle-biters hangin around, I’ll get a small dog. Oh, right – already got one. Not likely to be added.

Bookgeeks: Three blokes from London read on the train and write it all up here. Good mix of just about everything, and thoughtful reviews. Gonna give a little ‘cross-the-pond-love and add this one.

Bookslut: Wow – got a whore and a slut this episode! Unfortunately – no shoes here. The blog is a portion of a larger website, seemingly devoted to ‘mainstream’ and liturairy literature (the latter based on coverage of the New Yorker Magazine and NPR). Won’t be adding this one.

The Book Smugglers: Just about equal parts romance and spec fic reviews. A happy image of Princess Leia smooching with Han Solo greets you upon arrival. Bleh. (Two strikes there: books based on the movies of plus romance.) If someone really wanted to push the envelope, it’d be a cover featuring Chewbacca getting it on with Jabba the Hut. This one is a re-visit.

BookspotCentral: Ecclectic and funny – and some interesting layout and graphics. Manga, science fiction – and even Sesame Street are covered here. Definite add.

The Book Swede: Another pom. Tied in and happening. Stross, Morgan, etc., all the right publishers mentioned and a nice link library of advice for would-be SF writers. This one is an ADD.

Bookrastination: A freelance editor’s tales of roaming New York City and occassionally writing about comics and SF/F. (Which is not a bad thing.) Tough row to hoe on the work side – pretty good blog on the blogging side. Most likely an add.

BreeniBooks:Seems to be a creature of ‘pumpupyourbooks.com’ and enamoured of POD books. Does have a link to Preditors and Editors going in its favor, as well as a very extensive link list to other review sites not listed in the meme. No SF/F/H reviews after going several levels deep – and not really interested in self-published stuff anyway (not after breaking my back on the traditional submission to traditional publishers route) so won’t be adding this one – but it might be right up your alley if you’re looking to support the new ‘everyone can be anything’ internet economy.

Wow. End of the Bs. I’ll start the Cs tomorrow. That’s the alphabetic category my own blog is in, so prepare yourselves for just a small amount of ego.

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Ok, so Mike Glyer over at File 770 called my rant and found out that the “remake” of Forbidden Planet is not going to be a re-do, but rather a sequel to the 1950s classic.

That gives me a little more hope.

My thoughts naturally turn to wondering the nature of such a sequel. Leslie Nielsen is still very much around, so it is entirely possible for him to put in an appearance as an Admiral – or a washed out space bum.

Could it be that the Krell had interstellar travel? Could it be that Dr. Morbius somehow survived his encounter with his Id? Does Altaira go on to become some futuristic version of Paris Hilton, flitting from party to party throughout known space? Does Robbie go into business for himself distilling the finest spirits this side of the Crab Nebula?

Only Mr. Straczyinsky knows for sure.

Interestingly and serendipitously enough, I’ve been recovering my book collection from the numbered and indexed boxes they’ve been inhabiting for several years (I HATE HATE HATE not being able to look at my books) and I ran across the following:

forbidden planet

This is the Paperback Library’s first edition (1967) of the novelization of the movie. Its prior copyright is listed as Loews Incorporated, 1956.

Pretty good non-traditional rendering of Robbie right there (his antenna are a bit large and ungainly though) and I’d have shown the Krell city in the background; neither of those people look like Leslie Nielsen either…

Didn’t know they did novelizations back then, huh? Written by W.J. Stuart. Who I’ve not yet had a chance to investigate.

Here’s an excerpt

“In all the annals of Space History as known to man, there is surely no stranger tale than what befell the crew of the Cruiser C-57-D when it reached its objective, the planet Altair-4. Like all Cruisers sent on these investigatory missions, it carried a smaller crew than the big Space Ships, only twenty-one in all. Its Commander and Chief Pilot was John Adams.”

I wonder if J. Michael has seen this one…

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File 770 revives memories of Laser Books and Thomas Monteleone’s novel – Seeds of Change.  Mike brings it up because of the J. J. Adams’ anthology of the same title, and an interview in PW of Adams.  (Go here for the link.)

File 770 reminds us that Laser’s plan was to ‘flood the market with cheap SF, just like they had with romance novels’.  (my paraphrasing of Mike’s more elegant prose) In pursuit of that blasphemous goal, Laser shipped boatloads of cartons of their first book – S.O.C. – to conventions all across the country.

File 770 then – and here is where it gets really intriguing – relates a tale of the book being read out loud, with each page ripped out after it had been read.  Mike says that Alan Chudnow claims this activity occurred at the Equicon con, while Glyer remembers it has having taken place at the NASFiC that same year.

Hmmmm.  Very, very interesting, cause I didn’t get to Equicon or the NASFiC that year – but I remember this same thing happening as well. 

Could it be that SOMEONE ELSE had been coordinating mass book rippings at conventions all across the country?  There are only two possible explanations: either S.O.C. and the Laser Books concept were so god-awfully heinous that they engendered instantaneous and universal contempt amongst each and every last fan in the nation – or someone was running an op designed to kill Laser.

Of course there are simpler explanations (copy-catism), but those aren’t nearly as much fun as supposing a conspiracy, so we can safely ignore them.

Me?  I’ve got three copies of Seeds of Change from Laser Books.  I’m thinking that if we can build this thing up into a truly monumental conspiracy mystery, I might just be able to get a decent penny for a couple of them on Ebay.  Maybe even as much as 25 cents each.  Plus shipping.

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Entering the tiger’s den with bacon taped all over my body…

I have to confess that John Scalzi is the first ‘new’ science fiction author I’ve read in quite some time. With a limited budget for full-price books, I’m reluctant to risk my money on something I might not enjoy (or be prompted to re-read umpteen million times over the next five or six decades). 

Having made a committment a couple of years ago to re-enter fandom, I did feel it was necessary to catch up on all the happenings, which meant that it would be important to read some contemporary works (if only to be able to discuss authoritatively about how rotten they all were compared to the classics).

I will also confess that the references to Scalzi’s ‘Heinlienness’ on his book’s cover was what tipped me over into shelling out 8 or 9 bucks for a PAPERBACK! (Honestly, I still have books that I paid 45 cents for when they were new).  That and his accessibility on his Whatever blog; the man obviously wrote well, took the genre seriously, paid due homage to his forebears, had interesting things to say, exhibited some bizarre and entertaining behaviors and answered his emails.

In the weeks just prior to picking up Old Man’s War (the first in the series), I had been reading Spider Robinson’s ‘completion’ of the LAST HEINLEIN NOVEL E VER.  I found it flat, uneven, claustrophobic and disappointing.  Sticking both Robinson’s and Heinlein’s names on the cover misled me into believing that Spider was going to try to write a Heinlein novel, not a Spider novel.

No such illusion existed while I read OMW.  Only Scalzi’s name appeared on the cover. The references to Heinlein were clearly advertising copy, not a scam.

I thoroughly enjoyed Old Man’s War and appreciated its opening premise (not to mention the opening line): when you’re 75 and offered a new lease on life, you don’t worry about the details too much.

John Perry is/was an intriguing character, the type of everyday competant that Heinlein enjoyed using as his main character, with an interesting Scalzi twist: the young recruit is also the wise old man.

I had a bit of an issue with the idea that the galaxy was such a widely violent place and that so many different alien species found a place for humans on their dinner menu, but after thinking about it for a while and accepting the initial premise that real estate is scarce and no one seems interested in population control, I’ve come to accept it as part of the background. (I’m completely ignoring the physical impossibility of using stellar colonies to solve population problems, because everyone in the genre seems to be happily ignoring it as well.) 

I found his action sequences to be gripping and fairly tactically correct.  His depiction of what soldiers are willing to do when they have little fear of death and none of injury seemed so spot on that it even prompted a short email exchange between John and I. (Whether he had ever played paintball or not – Not – because his troops exhibited the same suicidal tactics that professional paintball players engage in, which is the primary difference between ‘real’ war and game war.)

I got deeper into it with The Ghost Brigades.  I thought the murder mystery aspects of that novel were handled well, but I did have a bit of unease over intelligence transfer technology:  for example, if you could make one copy of the ideal soldier – why not make multiple copies?  Why bother to import untrained recruits from Earth at all?

But I enjoyed it nevertheless (hell, Niven has spawned an entire cottage industry with ‘what ifs? from his Known Space stories).

Both novels clearly illustrate one salient fact: Scalzi enjoys entertaining.  He’s not afraid to take a bizarre idea and throw it against the wall to see what sticks.  The sheer joy exhibited in his writing, the earnestness with which he seeks to get us to play ‘make-believe’ just for the sheer fun of it, easily allowed me to brush past these kinds of questions in favor of simply enjoying the story.

The same was true for The Last Colony.  I had some minor major issues with the sheer stupidity of the Colonial Unions’s political strategies. (Spoiler: No one in the upper echelons of the CU could predict that the destruction of the Conclave’s 412 ship fleet – one from every member race of the Conclave – wouldn’t turn the Conclave rabid?  They actually thought it would slow the Conclave down?  This from a species with The Alamo, Pearl Harbor and 9/11 in its history? )

Scalzi did do a little mending at the end by portraying the CU as fairly dimwitted, but that is equally problematic as heretofore the CU has been responsible for earning a place for humanity in a very hostile galaxy.

Continuing on the critical bent, I had some minor issues with Zoe the character: I’m not entirely clear on how old she is here and she seemed a bit ‘too’ sophisticated for a mid-teenaged girl.  On the other hand, Podkayne was pretty sophisticated for her age and we really don’t get to see all that much of Zoe, the detail obviously having been reserved for Zoe’s Tale, the recently released 5th book in the series (#5 if you count Sagan’s Diary, which I do).

I will wait until I’ve read ZT to render final judgement, since everyone seems to be saying that Scalzi’s portrayal of nubile female teenagers is pretty darned good.  (Which is a scary thought if you’ve ever been exposed to Scalzi’s sense of humor at Whatever.)

I liked Hickory and Dickory, had a bit of a problem with the Consu’s Deus ex Machina introduced towards the end of the story (but then it wouldn’t BE a D.E.M. if it didn’t enter at the end) and felt that all in all, the Conclave exhibited as much stupidity as the Colonial Union did it its dealings with the Last Colony.  The ending, which neatly wrapped up this series of tales, neatly wrapped it up, although, again, niggly little issues with the ease with which Perry and Sagan were able to circumvent the C.U.

But. But. BUT.

I enjoyed the whole thing. When your friend is making up a story to thrill, amaze, entertain and share friendship with you, you don’t constantly interrupt them with worry over the details. Later on, when you’re out playing in the backyard and those things come up, you get to make up more stuff; rather than becoming a show stopper like a call to dinner, they become part of the entertainment.

I don’t think Scalzi ever set out to write the most logical, tightly scripted series of SF novels about warfare, interstellar conquest and galactic politics. I think he came up with a nifty idea, firmly grounded it in SF literary tradition and then wrote it to entertain and amuse.  All of which he amply – and humorously – accomplished.

I’ll give The Last Colony 4 Old Man Sticks. 

Highlights: Giant space battle fleets, new colonies, John Perry, Jane Sagan and Zoe Boutin

Key Themes: interstellar war, the politics of empire, colonization

Datedness: Totally NEW

Audience: Any old time fan who’s been disappointed by the ‘new’ science fiction, anyone who can’t handle post-singularity, steampunk or cyberpunk SF, any new fan who likes a thoughtful, entertaining and action-oriented story

Fan Rating: High

Special Note: I give the series so far – Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, The Sagan Diary, The Last Colony and newly released Zoe’s Tale (which I have not yet read) 5 Old Man Sticks.

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Preface.

First, you’ll need to read some science fiction.  Preferably a lot of science fiction. This is an unfortunately necessary first step and one that can’t really be skimped on. You could try getting by on a little urban fantasy or maybe some paranormal romance, but it is generally a good idea to go with the genuine article.

If you aren’t exactly sure what science fiction is, don’t worry! Most other people don’t have a clue either, but that hasn’t stopped them from reading it!  Just look for the words ‘science fiction’ somewhere on the cover of the book. If those two words are printed anywhere on the cover – front or back – you’ll be in safe territory.  (Not finding those words on the cover doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not science fiction. In fact it probably is. Publishers do this occassionally when they want to actually sell a few copies of a book.  You can read it, but for now it’s best to invest your time with books that are properly labelled.)

You will probably notice that there are many different kinds of science fiction. Don’t let this confuse you. Publishers like to put labels on books so that they can be put into the proper box.  These labels are, for the most part, nothing more than arbitrary adjectives – the same kinds of things you’ll find on bottles of household cleaners, things like ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘new and improved’, ‘lilac scented formula’ and ‘safe for pets’.

While mostly meaningless, these lables can be useful later on, so don’t worry about them now, but do make note of them.

You may also notice that these books come in a variety of thicknesses.  Since you need to read a lot of titles in a short period of time (presuming that you wish to make converts as soon as possible) it would be a good idea to stick with the thinner books.  Right now, thick is in. Book thickness is yet another publishing fad – like straight-legged jeans or flare-legged jeans – and like fashion, this trend is constantly changing. We’re concerned with volume right now, so don’t worry too much about wearing last summer’s bikini, at least you’re wearing a bikini.

The second thing you’ll need is a person.  Preferably someone who is not dead and preferably someone who can read. That’s not a hard and fast requirement – there are audio books, podcasts, movies and even anime versions of science fiction that the illiterate can enjoy, and lord knows there’s more than enough zombie fiction for readers who have passed on – but the ability to read on the part of your intended convert will help speed the process up.

One other thing to clear up before we move on to the actual conversion process. Some people get confused by the names used for science fiction. Here we use the full, formal, term – Science Fiction. Other people sometimes use SF (where the ‘S’ stands for Science and the ‘F’ for Fiction) or Sci Fi or SyPhy or Speculative Fiction or Speculative Literature or Science Fantasy or even ‘That Buck Rogers Stuff’.  Don’t let this fool you. It’s all Buck Rogers ‘stuff’. 

Buck who?  He’s the guy that played Captain Kirk before that upstart William Shatner came along.  Yes, it is way past the time that they should start calling it ‘that Captain Kirk stuff’, but science fiction as an industry is so so much living in the past that we won’t see that happen for at least another century. That is, if the singularity doesn’t happen first.  But we’re digressing. If the singularity does happen, none of this science fiction stuff will matter and if it doesn’t happen, reading about it will have been a waste of time.

So now you need a reader.  This is perhaps the most difficult requirement, as readers are elusive creatures who often go to great lengths to hide their true nature. You may also find yourself fooled by ‘writers’ who claim to be readers (they do this as a fairly successful strategy to lure in readers). Of course not all writers claim to be readers – only the good ones.

The easiest way to identify a reader is to find one holding a book. In the olden days you could usually count on finding people holding books in bookstores, but these days most of them seem to be holding coffee or DVDs rather than books.  You can try a bookstore, you might get lucky. You can try other public spaces as well. Libraries, like bookstores, have a lot fewer people in them holding books these days. Bathroom stalls can sometimes prove to be rewarding, if a bit awkward.  The best advice is – just keep your eyes open and go to places where there are lots of people.  Eventually you will find someone holding a book.

Next – examine the book. You’ll want to make sure that it’s a work of fiction – or at least a biography or history text. People reading non-fiction like “How To Get Rich In Ten Easy Steps” or “Your Political Philosophy Sucks – And You’re Stupid” are unlikely to make good candidates for conversion.  They’re hung up on ‘the real world’ and can’t waste time on make-believe, they need that time to catch up on cable news.

Assuming that it is a work of fiction that your intended convert is reading, you’re just about all set.

Next Week: Popping The Question

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*Above you will see the first incarnation of my ‘Nightline-esque’ reminder that we are STILL being held hostage by the eldritch horrors commonly referred to as Network Programmers.  Of the cable television variety.  Next to that, you’ll notice the countdown to TDTESSTWTOMD. For those coming late or not paying attention, that is the acronym for The Day The Earth Stood Still To Watch The Original Movie Day – which is December 10th, 2008.  I want everyone and anyone who might walk into the theater to see the remake to have already seen the original so that we can all form an unbiased opinion of the two as they relate to each other.  Clicking the link will take you to the page for that activity – where you can watch the original (over and over and over and over again – like I do).*

I had occassion yesterday to update some of the pages on the Rimworlds website, the personal page that started out as a home for my Rim Worlds/A. Bertram Chandler concordance project and has since grown to include The Classic Science Fiction Channel, Pulp magazine checklist and anything else I can cram in there.

I’ve obviously been paying attention to the ‘graying of fandom’/’old sf vs new sf’/similarly themed discussions floating around and as I was adding a couple of new items to the ‘Buy A. Bertram Chandler’ section I was struck by a couple of thoughts.

First, Chandler resides in the ‘old SF category; he unfortunately passed away in 1984, his 100th birthday is fast approaching (2012) and his works are becoming scarcer, although by no means are they completely absent.

Why he has faded remains a mystery to me, one that is probably equal parts fanboy blindness and publishing peculiarity; neither he nor any critic ever claimed literary pretensions for his works, but on the other hand he was a staple at DAW books and regularly appeared in the top magazines of the day.

His stories are what that they are: quaint adventures of an archetypical science fiction hero (John Grimes) – the man who always managed to get himself into deep yogurt, and always managed to come up smelling of roses and clutching the Shaara Crown jewels.

With HUGE tomes and ENDLESS series being all the rage these days in SF publishing, it’s a wonder that someone doesn’t do a little creative editing, retitle some of his works and bring out the Grimes series again.  The hype would be fun:

An Epic Space Opera Series!

Three Decades in the Making!

THREE MASSIVE DOORSTOP VOLUMES!

Featuring Science Fiction’s ORIGINAL Horatio Hornblower of Space!

When you consider that:

Chandler wrote some 20 novels (albeit 60’s/70’s/80’s 140 pagers) and 32 shorts dealing with John Grimes, 9 other novels and 30 other shorts dealing with alternate characters, other history or parallel universe versions of the Rim Worlds – you’ve got quite a canon!

In many respects, it seems like Chandler was writing for our time, rather than his own (not surprising if you consider how much he played around with time travel, alternate realities and world-as-myth). He’d fit right in: an on-going series that could count on a steady readership, long pieces for the book trade, short pieces for the e-zines and self-promotion, stories that play around in other parts of the universe…

I’ll note that SFBC did a series of omnibi editions which are mostly still available in the used book trade and that Baen Books offers all of the Grimes stories (with two exceptions that I can see – the recently published Grimes and the Gaijin Daimyo – Dreaming Again – Jack Dann and Doggy in the Window, a short that appeared in Amazing Stories) in three e-book packages, compiled in a manner that reflects the three phases of Grimes’ career – officer in the Federation Survey Service, wandering, self-employed ship captain and citizen of the Rim Worlds Confederacy.  All of the current sources for Chandler’s material can be found here

Baen Books might want to think about offering a donwload pack of the rest of the Rim Worlds stories – there’s the Derek Calver tales (2 novels), the Empress Irene stories (3 novels – and they tie in to a Grimes novel), several other novels including The Deep Reaches of Space, Bring Back Yesterday, Frontier of the Dark – the novel based on a short story that Harlan Ellison called one of the best things he’s ever read – and a whole mess of shorts, including a Retro Hugo nominee – Giant Killer and one of the most anthologized short stories ever written – The Cage.

Me, I’d hype the space opera and continuing series aspects, hire some rabid fanboy (like me) to write a page or two of connecting material, combine three or four of the existing novels into one big tome, give them all new cover art, stick a new penname on the cover, maybe Whitley Dunstan (Chandler used both) and stick them out on the shelves.  Devoid of any connection to ‘old science fiction’, I bet they’d sell just dandy, thank you.

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S. Andrew Swann takes on the triptych of seminal military SF novels in a quick look at Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, Haldeman’s Forever War and Scalzi’s Old Man’s War.

I think some of his views are more a reflection of hype and internet babble than they are a true representation of each book.

If you’re going to do a deconstruction of these three novels, you can’t just lightly skip over the surface, you’ve got to dig deep.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading all three: ST probably 20+ times, FW at least 6 times and OMW just the once – it will be due for a re-read in just a few months time.

Swann declares the existence of these three books to be an example of how broadly a single subject can be handled.  What’s the subject?  Military science fiction? War in space? Infantry war in space? The plot line of following a new recruit all the way through his career?

Probably what he means is that these three stand head and shoulders above the rest of military SF, because there have certainly been plenty of other novels that feature future infantry soldiers enhanced in one way or another.

He states that on a broad scale, these three novels are very similar, while looking more closely we find wild divergences.  True, but the differences Swann notes are not as accurate as he would have us believe:

Government: ST – benign and competent, FW – not – OMW – competent but ambiguous.  ?

ST – benign? You only get to vote if you’ve done service and this is benign? All high school kids go through an indoctrination class that they don’t have to pass but MUST attend?

FW – not competent?  They decide to go for quality rather than quantity – how is this not competent?

OMW – morally ambiguous? When they’ve accepted the way the galaxy is and are dealing with that reality mostly effectively?

Military Duty: – ST: respected and voluntary FW: – compulsory and a burden OMW: – a crapshoot

In ST military service is certainly respected and absolutely voluntary – if you can call not being a citizen unless you serve voluntary.  Rico’s family was entirely dismissive of the military at the beginning of the book.  Reactions to the then current society were not monolithic.

FW – compulsory.  Well, when you grab up the top 1 percent of the world’s young, smart, physically capable people and stick them in uniform it could be called compulsory.  I’d call it a harsh reality, since the human race can’t afford to do things any differently if it wants to win the war with the Taurans.

OMW – no idea what they’re volunteering for.  Hmmm.  Actually, they do.  They know they’re going into military service, they know they have to leave their old life behind and they know they’ll never come back to Earth.  Kind of like joining the French Foreign Legion.  They do all that in exchange for living longer.  Pretty fair trade, I’d say.

Training: ST: – relevant, FW: – pointless, OMW: – useful but lacking

He got it right on ST.  The training is relevant to the soldier’s tasks.  FW – woefully wrong.  The training was just as effective in that book as was the training in ST.  In fact, that training helped Mandela sort out a bunch of problems during the book – like the force field scene.  OMW – the training was fine, it taught the recruits that in order to handle a nightmarish galaxy, they had to do nightmarish things, like sacrifice a hand to win a knife fight.

Heinlein pioneered this type of gritty, military SF – as a YA title! He introduced the basic plot line and various key elements (powered armor) but the central theme of the story is responsibility.  Haldeman claims NOT to have written FW as a ‘response’ to ST.  He deals with many of the same issues because, after all, it’s a military SF story and basic training is going to be basic training no matter who writes about it.  The unique aspects he introduced in his novel mostly dealt with the effects of time-dilation on interstellar warfare.  Scalzi substituted new, enhanced bodies for powered armor, introduced a new and unique version of AARP and created one of the nastiest galaxies ever.

About the only sameness to be found in these three books is they are all ‘tales about a new soldier experiencing interstellar warfare’.  Just about EVERYTHING else in them is different.

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It has, of late, (and of early and of ‘tween times) been fashionable for the SF literary community to bemoan its fate as a ghetto.  Misery loves company and this shared viewpoint has no doubt provided thousands of hours of panel and hall fandom discussion, numerous fanzine articles and umpteen blog entries.

I have become aware over the past year or two that there seems to be an attempt at an engineered cultural shift, captained by several (here unnamed) editorial giants of the field.  This may be nothing more than impression, or the imprimatur of personal taste, or may actually be a deliberate attempt on the part of those EICs to usher in the ERA OF THE LITERARY SF NOVEL.

In an earlier post I offered my opinion as to why I think this is a misguided effort.

(Note to EICs to whom I may someday submit stories for consideration: I disagree with what may be your strategy, but I think YOU are all fine, upstanding, wonderful, huggable, lovely, salt-of-the-earth folk who I will gladly entrust my authorial future to…)

Today I was pointed to an NPR quickie interview of Michael Chabon, recent Hugo Winner for Best Novel (The Yiddish Policeman’s Union).

Michael is a Pulitzer Prize winner as well, an absolute dahling of the literary world.  Here’s what he had to say about genre fiction in general and science fiction in particular:

 

NPR Michael Chabon Interview

All Things Considered 8/10/08

 

At 2:15 in to the interview -

NPR: Do you read science fiction?

MC: Yes I do. I still read science fiction, and I see all kinds of diversity. I think, I find a very intense, ongoing kind of intellectual and esthetic debate in the world of science fiction. The people who are reading it and the people who are writing seem to me to be engaged in an on-going conversation about the fiction that they love on a level that I think is enviable, that would be a credit to the world of mainstream fiction.

 

Michael is going to be the first example of a highly-respected ‘literary’ author who’s deliberate association with science fiction is NOT going to hurt his sales.  In fact, we’ll probably be able to use TYPU as a demonstration of how an association with genre fiction helps sales.

I suspect that some of his peers are re-examining their story files for titles that can be tweaked to fit into the SF category.  I’ll bet that some of them have already called their agents and said something like “You know that Chabon guy that won the Pulitzer? I’ve got something like what he did in the works…”

Michael is certainly one of the first mainstreamers to be associated with SF who hasn’t run screaming away in horror over the impending (and presumed) destruction of their career.  There he is above, actually admitting that he reads the stuff and crediting it with an awareness and engagement that is enviable.

As this kind of thing evolves, it is going to be important for the SF genre to make sure that it retains its unique identity.  Genre fiction that can be just as good and literate and thought-provoking as mainstream fiction, only different.

The genre doesn’t need to do anything to gain ‘acceptance’ – the hoity-toity literati are going to come to us – there isn’t an author out there who doesn’t want ‘engaged readers’ and they’ve just been told where they can find them.  (I’ll mangle Machiavelli here by presuming he said something like ‘when they come to you, you’ve already won the negotiation’, or some such.)

All we need do is exhibit a little patience, embrace the (coming) efforts of our non-ghetto literary brethren and remember our roots.

PS:  Michael – you need to find someone to work on your website

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Twice.

SFSignal has started a meme – The Top 48 Sci-Fi Film Adaptations.

Fred Kiesche (of the Signal and Texas Best Grok) tagged me.

Mike Glyer of File 770 tagged me too.

Does that mean I have to tag ten other people, or can I still get by with only five?

Is it possible to get tagged twice, or does one tag cancel out the other tag?  Anyway.  I’m honored by all this tagging and pass the honor on below.

Here’s the instructions for the meme-spreading:

  • Copy the list below.
  • Mark in bold the movie titles for which you read the book.
  • Italicize the movie titles for which you started the book but didn’t finish it.
  • Tag 5 people to perpetuate the meme. (You may of course play along anyway.)
  • Here’s my list:

    1. Jurassic Park
    2. War of the Worlds
    3. The Lost World: Jurassic Park
    4. I, Robot
    5. Contact
    6. Congo
    7. Cocoon
    8. The Stepford Wives
    9. The Time Machine
    10. Starship Troopers
    11. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
    12. K-PAX
    13. 2010
    14. The Running Man
    15. Sphere
    16. The Mothman Prophecies
    17. Dreamcatcher
    18. Blade Runner(Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)
    19. Dune
    20. The Island of Dr. Moreau
    21. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
    22. The Iron Giant(The Iron Man)
    23. Battlefield Earth*
    24. The Incredible Shrinking Woman
    25. Fire in the Sky
    26. Altered States
    27. Timeline
    28. The Postman
    29. Freejack(Immortality, Inc.)
    30. Solaris
    31. Memoirs of an Invisible Man
    32. The Thing(Who Goes There?)
    33. The Thirteenth Floor
    34. Lifeforce(Space Vampires)
    35. Deadly Friend
    36. The Puppet Masters
    37. 1984
    38. A Scanner Darkly
    39. Creator
    40. Monkey Shines
    41. Solo(Weapon)
    42. The Handmaid’s Tale
    43. Communion
    44. Carnosaur
    45. From Beyond
    46. Nightflyers
    47. Watchers
    48. Body Snatchers

    *not science fiction because it’s Hubbard

     

    I added the following: an underlined entry is NOT SF

    And the editorializing on Hubbard was not included in the original. Just my (considered) opinion.

     

    I have no italics because I finish reading whatever I’ve started – with literally one exception, and I’m not even going to foist the title of that horrible experience on you.

     

    Opinions of the above stories?

     

    Jurassic Park – ok – can’t stand Crichton’s overbearing anti-scientism

    WotW – great, wonderful, Herbert George Rocks

    I, Robot – Ike does this kind of thing best

    Contact – Sagan rocks.  Most people missed the message at the end of the book:  there are always more questions and our job is to keep on asking them

    Congo – meh

    Stepford Wive – ok

    The Time Machine – my man HGW again

    Starship Troopers – all time fave.  If you start yapping about militarism and neo-fascism again I’m gonna hit you, hard.

    HHGTTG – meh.  Sorry, I know people love this one, but I think Harrison and Russell do funny far better than Adams could ever hope to

    2010 – decent sequel, Clarke’s done better: hey, why isn’t The Sentinel in this list?

    Running Man – hate King, hate Bachman; you’ll get no reasonable consideration out of me on this one

    Sphere – slow, dry, stupid, derivative, obvious and a waste of time

    Dreamcatcher – forgettable

    Blade Runner – PK Dick is brilliant. End of story, period, the end.

    Dune – there was a time when I wanted all blue eyes.  First two novellas, excellent, everything else, mostly suitable for doorstops

    Island of Dr. Moreau – HG, you’re hogging the limelight

    Invasion of the Body David BrinSnatchers – Finney is good

    Iron Giant – wonderful

    Altered States – meh.  drugs are cool but, meh

    Timeline – Crichton’s try at time travel. predictable

    The Postman – Brin rocks

    Freejack – meh

    Solaris – Lem rocks big time

    Memoirs – meh

    Who Goes There – one of Campbell’s best ever

    Puppet Masters – RAH again.  Just re-read it (unexpergated version), which is a clue

    1984 – Orwell rocks

    A Scanner Darkly – PKD again.  Uber rocks

    Communion – Streiber is a nutball

    Watchers – ok

    Body Snatchers isn’t this a double entry?

     

    I tag:

     

    Bill the SciFi Guy

    Heckler and Kochk

    Gary Wolf of Roger Rabbit

    John Whalen of Raygun Revival

    Rick Novy

     

     

    If I’m responsible for tagging another five, it’s gonna take a while.

     

     

     

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    YAY! Hugo Winners!

    (Oh yeah, and congrats to the nominees too…)

    So many others are posting this news that I’ll move on now to

    FORD STREET PUBLISHING

    Is becoming a powerhouse of Australian YA literature.  (They print other stuff too…) Paul Collins – he of other seminal Australian SF editorial accomplishments, has helmed this small press to a nomination on the short list for the Victorian Premier’s Award for the novel Pool by Justin D’Ath.

    YA in the US has become something of a cause celebre these days.  Cory Doctorow just published one (like you didn’t know that what with all the constant PR and all) and several folks have been pointing to the better sales, better dollars, bigger growth aspects of that segment of the marketplace, suggesting that authors of traditional fare might want to give it a go.

    They are also suggesting that it may be the gateway for salving the ‘graying-of-fandom’ by bringing in new, younger enthusiasts.

    But what many may not know is that the Australians (and the New Zealanders for that matter) have been WAY AHEAD of this curve. 

    And Ford Street Publishing is one of the leaders.

    Considering that they are playing into a much smaller market AND doing so successfully should clue some folks in to the fact that they know what they’re doing.  If you’re looking for a model for small press success, there you go.

    And if you don’t care about any of that crap and just want to read some fantasy – especially if you are looking for something a bit off the beaten path – here you go!.

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