?

Log in

Also, in addition to my brief tale of conversational gaffes and… - Dreamtigers and other fantastical beasts [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Random

[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

[May. 28th, 2006|11:24 pm]
Random
Also, in addition to my brief tale of conversational gaffes and soul-sucking awkwardness in my last post, I meant to direct a question to my f-list:

On the heels of KdS's analysis of spec-fic, I've been thinking about my on-going struggle to update my personal canon of sci-fi and fantasy. My dilemma has been to avoid the "pulp" stuff (if, while browsing the bookstore, I have to read one more title with some variation of the words "mage," "dragon," "magic/magick/majick/majoke," etc, often with a colorful picture of what is obviously an elf on the cover, I swear I will start endorsing censorship.) Searching on-line doesn't help much -- most of what I see is either 1) stuff that doesn't remotely interest me (Lackey, Pierce, Gaiman, Salvatore, anime/comics, et cetera) because they seem to be too "pop fic," if that makes sense, or 2) stuff seems a bit too overtly oriented in the socio-political. I find the latter extremely distracting because most writers I've seen of late have no sense of subtlety, so the message comes to dominate the medium. I don't necessarily disagree with the message, but I don't need to have it glaring angrily at me while I'm trying to relax and enjoy a book.

I'm fond of old-school stuff -- the Tolkiens and the Liebers and the Heinleins and the Bears and the Nivens and Besters and the Le Guins and the Golden/Silver Age fiction -- but I've pretty much run through those in terms of interest...I'm ready to join the 21st century and find out who the new grandmasters of good old-fashioned sci-fi and fantasy are. It shames me to say so, but the last stuff to really fascinate me were Stephen Donaldson's fantasy and sci-fi (even if he did have a wee problem with over-writing and over-emoting) and William Gibson's stuff (even if his works other than Neuromancer are rather formulaic.) But those date from the late 70's, early to mid 80's. At least their original stuff does, though Donaldson did some excellent sci-fi stuff in the 90's and Gibson has been writing solidly, but not spectacularly, since the apex he reached with Neuromancer.

I'd ask around for recs, but I have no idea if anyone else has the same tastes as me. And reading titles in the bookstore just depresses me no end because all I can think about is how, time was, I could immediately tell you whether a given book or series (I like series) was a fun read. The Books of Swords, the Robot series, Heinlein's "total psychotic pontificating sex-fiend nutjob" period from Stranger until his death, even the Moorcock stuff. Nowadays, though....

p.s. I've now read 15 pages of "The Da Vinci Code" in 5 days. I hate it more than even Snacky does.
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: midnightsjane
2006-05-29 04:25 am (UTC)
I like the old school stuff like Le Guin and Tolkien too. I don't have any recs, but I do have a good friend who owns both a science fiction/fantasy bookstore, and a vast knowledge of the genre. He can tell by the books you read who you might enjoy, and give recommendations;
http://www.deadwrite.com is their website, and I'm sure Walter would be happy to help if you drop him an email.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: randomways
2006-05-29 05:05 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I've looked over it and have formulated some ideas. The sheer numbers of the genre books are staggering, so I'll definitely need some sort of spirit guide to lead me past the landmines of "our hero, a 20th level Drow Enchanter with a +3 Wand of Immaculate Imitation" type books. :)

How do I address him? Coming out of the blue with a random "howdy, stranger, this is what I like, cater to me" e-mail seems a little abrupt.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: midnightsjane
2006-05-29 06:30 pm (UTC)
His name is Walter, and I'll tell him I told you to email him. Just mention that their friend Jane sent you!
He'll be happy to help.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: randomways
2006-05-30 04:05 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'll formulate an e-mail (once I formulate my thoughts, heh) and contact him sometime this week, then. You've been very helpful.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: midnightsjane
2006-05-30 05:27 am (UTC)
I mentioned it to him tonight, and he's going to keep an eye out for your email.
Glad I could help!
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: angels_nibblet
2006-05-29 06:05 am (UTC)
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke is the best fantasy book I've read in....a long time. And one of the best books in general. Don't know if you'd like it, but I love it with a mad passion.

Other than that, the only fantasy I really read nowadays is by a woman called Kate Forsyth, but she's an Aussie so I don't know how readily her books are available outside of Oz and NZ. I really like her series though, because I feel like she can actually write good characters, which is something missing from many sci-fi/fantasy writers these days.

I understand where you're coming from, most of the fantasy I see on the shelves these days is so derivative. I used to live in the Sci-fi/Fantasy section, now I barely venture in there.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: randomways
2006-05-29 05:12 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure I have a friend with possession of said "Strange" book -- I should ask her for a look-see.

For me, good characterization and good world-building are both very important. Granted, lots of the old-skool stuff skimps a little on characterization, but the opposite extreme, where it's all about Our Hero and little about the world and the ideas, is almost worse for me because at that point, it's like reading Lord of the Rings written as a teen wangst drama set entirely in a Southfarthing tobacco field...on the beach.

The only thing I really venture into the sci-fi/fantasy section to get anymore are certain short-story anthologies. Though I do glance wistfully at the incomplete sets of out-of-print series.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: ashenmote
2006-05-29 11:33 am (UTC)
Do you have those covered when you say you've run through the Golden/Silver Age fiction?

Patricia McKillip, particularly "Riddlemaster" and "Forgotten beasts of Eld".
Hans Benmann, "Stone and Flute".
Joy Chant "Red Moon and Black Mountain", "The Grey Mane of Morning".

And I like Donaldson just fine, emo be damned.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: randomways
2006-05-29 05:28 pm (UTC)
Those escaped me -- primarily because they really started publishing just after the era of sci-fi/fantasy that my dad could fill me in on :) What am I looking at with regards to them, i.e. what sort of stories/mythos do they write?

I have a love/hate relationship with Donaldson, teetering toward the love. The excessive angst does tend to wear down, and the, um, "florid thesaurus" approach of the 2nd Chronicles of Thomas Covenant was a bit much, but he's a magnificent world-builder and knows how to tell a really good story with fascinating characters.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: ashenmote
2006-05-29 11:59 pm (UTC)
I see Donaldson's main characters as kind of the grumpy museum guide who shows you around. Just try to ignore him, enjoy the exhibition and sekkritly resolve to leave him no tip. And yeah, the second chronicles were hard to tackle and standing on their own I would have dropped them. Even though he has new places to show and new stories to tell, and it's not just the land revisited. I liked his two Mordant books better than the second chronicle (but less than the first chronicles, of course). I love the lords so, so much, especially in book two and three.

It's all classy high fantasy.

For McKillip: Her later books are a little to airy in my taste, but the Riddlemaster trilogy gives you characters and a land to fall in love with, just like Donaldson, but without the drawbacks. Many fantasy books explain why things are as they are and work as they do as they go along, while Riddlemaster works almost like a crime story in so far as you strongly feel that probably all makes sense and there is a reason for everything, and it does, but if you can figure it out before the end then you're pretty good. 'The forgotten beasts of Eld' is more fairy tale like and less epic and world-shaking, but a nice cure when you feel homesick after Riddlemaster. :D
Btw, 'The Lone Tree' is dedicated to McKillip, and 'Riddlemaster' is dedicated to Donaldson. *gossips*

Hans Benmann is a german writer. 'Stone and Fue' is very fairy tale-like and deep and meaningful and symbol-ridden, but in a good way (I think. I'm no expert at figuring these things out). And it has sort of a 'cherchez la femme' theme going that I love very dearly.

"Red Moon and Black Mountain" is Tolkien-styled and epic with regard to world- and history-building. It's a rather innocent high fantasy book for young people. You know, like the fantasy world the author spent her youth dreaming of and then goes to write her first book about it, with lots of dedication. That normally doesn't work, for lack of writing skills or Mary-Sueism. But it's more than decent here. "The Grey Mane of Morning" is a prequel to that, darker and more adult-themed compared, and focused on one of the races featured in RM&BM, almost native american nomad tribes style.

I hope that was helpful. I'm no good at book talk.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: randomways
2006-05-30 04:17 am (UTC)
Interestingly, a friend of mine has informed me she actually owns several McKillip novels, so I can check those out as soon as she can get them to me. Hooray for serendipity, eh?

High fantasy works just fine for me if the writer has skill, so I can definitely run with Ms. Chant's stuff. Indeed, it's sorta what I'm looking for. And if cherchez la femme ever gets old, I've yet to see such. It may be a stupid question, but is his work translated into English? German is a lot of fun to read, but since I don't understand many words that aren't actually titles of Wagner operas, I'd be pretty lost.

Donaldson has a marvelous imagination and even though his characters are terribly overdramatic sometimes, he definitely knows how to develop powerful personalities. And disturbing ones, especially in the case of the Mordant duology...there were times when you'd get almost queasy at the sheer tension and insanity. His Gap novels also left you feeling unsettled, especially when Angus or Nick started revealing their, um, feelings on things. Personally, I think he succeeds by sheer force of writing -- even when he's going a little overboard on the emo, he's developing a compelling narrative that just pulls you along with it.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: ashenmote
2006-05-30 11:05 am (UTC)
Yes, 'Stein und Flöte' was translated by one Anthea Bell, but it would be impossible for you to locate it because I got both the name of the author and the title of the book wrong. Go me.

Correct is: Hans Bemmann "The stone and the flute". And this time I c&P'ed it to make sure the Ashenmote Creative Spelling Factor doesn't enter into it. I see both hardcover and softcover editions at Amazon.

Everything else, after breakfast.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: ashenmote
2006-05-29 11:40 am (UTC)
Oh, and I can't help you with the 21th century. You tell me.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ymfaery
2006-05-29 11:41 am (UTC)
I haven't been reading much sci-fi/fantasy stuff lately, but I used to like David Eddings and Raymond Feist (although I haven't really kept up with Feist's latest stuff).
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: randomways
2006-05-29 05:35 pm (UTC)
I've read Eddings, and a dear friend of mine adores him. I can get into him on occasion because 1) he's prolific, so I know if I do manage to get into the story, my reward will be a lot of reading to come; and 2) if you ignore the slightly smug dichotomy between the know-it-all characterizations and the spoiled brat characterizations, the books make for a pretty decently kinetic plot. But I've never really felt the need to re-read him. Which is a shame, because re-reading series gives me great pleasure.

I've looked over Feist and I just can't get into it. I'm not sure exactly how to describe it...it's like Robert Jordan, where I feel like he's writing for a pre-made audience. Obviously, they all are, but some of them seem to gear their books around that fact more than others do. Heh -- as I said, I'm not sure how to describe it.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ymfaery
2006-05-30 02:38 am (UTC)
Heh. Haven't thought of Eddings' characterizations that way, but it makes sense.

Which of Feist's books did you look at? The later ones are a little hard to get into if you haven't read the earlier books, and even then, he might throw a monkey wrench or two. Although it might be considered a good thing that he's willing to kill off much-loved characters if the plot calls for it.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: randomways
2006-05-30 04:19 am (UTC)
I honestly don't remember which -- it wa one of my snap judgments where I read a couple dozen pages and put it down. But a friend of mine has them all (she claims), so I could be certain to start with the earlier ones and give them another chance.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ann1962
2006-05-29 11:58 am (UTC)
I just starting reading Connie Willis' To Say Nothing Of The Dog. It is funny with a interesting premise. I couldn't find the story KDS recc'ed by her, but found this one instead. So far, so good.

I also started The Historian, but meh.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: randomways
2006-05-29 05:39 pm (UTC)
It looks interesting in the review. I'm a little leery about the "comedy of manners" aspect -- seems like everybody and their little dog too is doing that nowadays -- but I'm willing to look past these things for a good story, which usually trumps any gimmick.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: oceloty
2006-06-05 11:17 pm (UTC)
I've really enjoyed most of Connie Willis' stuff. I actually like Three Men and a Boat and I think To Say Nothing of the Dog is (a) a nice tribute, (b) actually funny, (c) actually a good story, too. But tastes vary, and all that. I think it's a comedy of manners in Wodehouse-Blandings sense rather than the Wodehouse-Jeeves sense, if that makes any ... sense. Let me know if you want to borrow my copy. I'd be interested to see if you find it funny.

Bellweather I don't hear much about, but it is the most ridiculously accurate portrayal of academic research I have ever read. Well, not actually accurate, except in its portrayal of the ridiculousness and futility and the frustration and what can you do but laugh and go to lunch? My entire lab (at least, the native English readers) passed the book around for weeks like it was some crack pipe our boss might discover, confisticate, and send us to jail for.

Of her serious stuff, can I recommend Fire Watch and Doomsday Book? She certainly likes to recycle her themes, but it's to good effect in these two.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ann1962
2006-05-29 12:04 pm (UTC)
Also! Writer scott_lynch's first novel will be out in June. It has been receiving excellent reviews, and I think his brand of humour and writing would something you might like! Plus pirates!!
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: randomways
2006-05-29 05:41 pm (UTC)
Heh. The best-reviewed unpublished book in recent memory?
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: snacky
2006-05-29 02:02 pm (UTC)
p.s. I've now read 15 pages of "The Da Vinci Code" in 5 days. I hate it more than even Snacky does.

Could that be possible?
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: randomways
2006-05-29 05:41 pm (UTC)
I could be. Because I am a dreamer, it definitely could be.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: deecers
2006-05-29 11:10 pm (UTC)
Overall, I dislike fantasy, so there's strike one. For strike two, my tastes in sci-fi tend toward the socio-political. And steeerike three: I have yet to find a 21st century novel I like.

So I'm no help at all.

*goes off to re-read all her Philip K. Dick novels*
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: randomways
2006-05-30 04:21 am (UTC)
Unhelpful bitch.



I mean, enjoy your Dick.



Er...I mean...well, just have fun reading. I keep meaning to re-read Niven and P.J. Farmer myself, but need to reacquire their books first.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: scrollgirl
2006-06-08 02:15 pm (UTC)
Thing one: I am completely unqualified to recommend sci-fi or fantasy lit. The only books I read, if I even read at all, are the same youth and children sci-fi/fantasy authors I grew up with: Lloyd Alexander, L'Engle, C.S. Lewis, Tamora Pierce, Bruce Coville, K.A. Applegate. They're like comfort food to me.

Thing two: Happy birthday, sweetie! I hope you're doing something fun to celebrate with your friends :)

*big hugs*
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ginsu
2006-09-09 05:20 am (UTC)
I can't believe nobody has recommended George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series in this post. It's obviously the best epic fantasy in many, many years.

A few notable innovations:

• No teen male orphan hero
• No hero, in fact, at all
• No elves
• No evil force threatening the kingdoms of Men from the East
• Damn little magic of any kind
• Sick-fuck bad guys that somehow turn out to be well-rounded characters

Four long books in, it's a fairly black tale -- medieval English history made even more fascinating, played out on an island the size of a continent. No cream, no sugar. Lots of back-room politics. Don't get too attached to the characters and don't expect Martin to bring the cozy. The man has no cozy in him.

Don't bother with the prologue of the first book, either; my guess is his publishers forced him to tack it on due to an insufficient cheese element in the text proper.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: surexit
2006-09-11 10:24 pm (UTC)
Hi!

I have. Um. No idea how I got to your journal? I went to work and it was open in tabs when I got back, and I'm still confused. But I friended you, because you seem cool.

Also, a rec these many moons later, although I'm not sure if this would jibe with your tastes at all: Ash: A History by Mary Gentle. It's this massive, bizarre, pseudo-historical thing, and it's one of those things that either fits your niche or it doesn't, you know? I adore it, but you might throw it violently across the room.
(Reply) (Thread)