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[May. 28th, 2006|11:24 pm]
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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.
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[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.
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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.
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[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.
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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.
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