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Italicize the authors you've heard of before reading this list of authors, bold the ones you've read at least one work by, underline the ones of whose work you own (or have owned)

Read more... )
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...and Ten, aka David Tennant, aficionados (not me, alas).

Verity Stob sneaks into the rehearsals for Hamlet, soon to be portrayed by the man himself:
Hamlet Our tragedy that threatened to unfold
I have, with Gallifreyan wit, cut short:
By God I'm good! And best of all is last,
(For Russell T hath touched the RSC)
A telegram from Brighton I've just read
That Rosencrantz and Guildenstern... are wed!

[Exeunt singing and dancing to 'Hi Ho Silver Lining'.
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Best ever quote:

I don't want
[political] power. I just object to idiots having power over me.

Oh, and while I'm on the topic of reading, two annoyances. Why o why did I get that David and Leigh Eddings book out of the library? I knew I'd hate myself, and I do. The book was Polgara the Sorceress, and it's one of the Belgariad books, which are absolute tripe, but were entertaining enough on the initial read. But. O dear god, but. Apparently the last 40 years haven't happened for the Eddingses. Apparently women (even mighty sorceresses) play stupid "battle of the sexes" crap to manipulate the poor stupid men who don't realise that women really rule the world.  And men. (Sure they do, it's obvious).  Women also have special knowledge and skills that men can never hope to gain, such as knowing what someone really thinks by the marvels of feminine intuition.  I would open the book to get a quote... but I can't do it. Feh. It's bad enough when men come up with sexist bullshit, but when women do as well, it drives me right up the wall.

Then I read Beastmaster's Circus by "Andre Norton" and Lyn McConchie. Why why why do (did) established authors allow such tripe to come out under their names? Ok, I realise Andre Norton was practically on her deathbed at the time, but how did she get hooked up with this "co-author"? I read a couple of collaborations Norton did with PM Griffin, and they were fine (despite the fact I still can't get over Jellicoe on the Solar Queen having a love interest - he's queer, for god's sake!) What's worse is that Lyn McConchie is a kiwi. The plot is ok, but the writing is absolutely 100% crap. All the sentences are about 10 words each, except for the occasional longer one that comes complete with comma splice. A fact needs to be repeated about three times in as many paragraphs, preferably by different characters.

There is an entire plot point about booby-trapped cages, which one of the ambiguous characters has been aware of all along, and which isn't mentioned at all until the time comes to have a crisis because of it. Ok, you can err on the side of squid-on-the-mantelpiece, but to have the ambiguous character be working in and around the cages constantly and observing from his POV, not to mention a couple of people staying in one who apparently don't need to take any precautions... until it's time for a rescue attempt (not of the people), and then suddenly there's a booby trap? Puhlease. Oh, and the protagonist is saved by her unknown brother (of course, that was amply telegraphed about 150 pages before the big denouement) after conveniently redeeming himself and dying in the process. GAH.
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I've become irked in the last few weeks about a number of statements I've seen about SF as a genre for pimply-faced nerds who only care about space-ships, aliens and muzzle velocities. While a lot of SF is about precisely that, it's not the kind I read. It might be a surprise to some, but quite a bit of SF consists of character-driven stories which examine everything from economics, ecology and politics through to interpersonal relationships of all kinds (of course, the latter two are the same, jut macro and micro). Of course, the background and plotting relates to spaceships, strange worlds and aliens... and sometimes big guns too (although if I enjoy a novel that features that kind of thing, it's despite the weapons). Genre fiction can tend to be more prosaic in its prose compared to the more literary varieties of writing, but when you find an Ursula Le Guin writing beautiful SF, you realise that the one doesn't necessarily preclude the other.

Elizabeth Lowell wrote an essay on Popular Fiction: Why We Read It, Why We Write It, which went around a few months back.Yes, I like escapism (and most other fiction isn't?). Yes, I like a fairly-definitely delineated plot. I really don't want to spend time when I'm trying to relax sitting there wondering what the hell is going on (if anything is) - it irritates me. And what isn't so explicitly laid out in that essay is the fact that I like the internal character development to be subordinate to the plot. Just like real life. If I am totally stuck in my own head in RL, then there is something wrong with me. For me, a healthy state of being is for life to be continuing, and for me to be dealing with it, and my own self-awareness is something that comes and goes. I find a lot of so-called literary fiction to be claustrophobic, if not outright narcissistic.

Just to show what I mean about internal awareness being part of a plot, I'm going to post a longish excerpt from Komarr, by Lois McMaster Bujold. The background is another world, where everyone lives in domes. There are space "wormholes", where spaceships can "jump" to remote solar systems. There are a bunch of conspirators, whose aim is to collapse one of these wormholes, and so isolate their world from the militaristic overlords who conquered their world a generation back. The lead character is the son of the man who conquered the world. He meets the wife of one of the colonial administrators, who (the administrator) turns out to be in the pay of the conspirators. Things happen, lots of them. But read the following excerpt and see if you still think SF is only ever just about the spaceships. And while realising that this describes the background to an event that has a major influence in moving the plot forward. I like the aspect of internal character development driving external results...just like in RL. By contrast, I also like the fact that most genre fiction has a positive ending... because you get enough crap to wade through in reality. If making internal changes leads to positive external results, I'm all for it as a theme. Anyways, read on:

Read more... )
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I thought the last two eps were fab - Owen finally had the major fuckup I was expecting from him - but why oh why did they have to tie it back into the Doctor Who ep I thought was the cheesiest of the cheese? And if they going to continue with that whole theme, it's going to end up annoying me.

not exactly spoilerific )

[Although we need to come up for another term for Big Poly Clans that doesn't use the c-word. I'm somewhat allergic to it. A "tribe" is worse, but that's purely because it's become such a cliché - I love the concept. Something that implies an interconnected group of people, without it being about ownership, per se. If we were in NZ, I'd say Ngati Poly (hee!), since that implies a confederated grouping. Hmmmm.]
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Apropos to a discussion on her mailing list regarding why yer typical male reader doesn't seem to enjoy "romance", Lois expounded on her Theory-in-Progress as to why that might be:

First, gender formation. Gender formation consists of a certain amount of biology overlain by a lot of culture.  In our culture, gender differentiation goes into high gear at puberty, and consists to a large extent of a process of deletion.  The individual ejects or suppresses aspects of him/her/self perceived as belonging to the other gender, and the resultant cripples are called "young men" or "young women".  Maturity, to an interesting extent, consists of people reclaiming a lot of these lost aspects to become more complete persons again.

(My itals) Isn't that bloody awesome? I'm in love (if I wasn't already).

Then there's this about status:

Status and status emergency.  Status seems to me under-examined as a biological (as contrasted with a social) motive.  It's necessarily a group thing; no one has status as a lone individual, as it is created relative to the group in which the individual is embedded.  ... Lack of status can really kill one, in any crunch situation.  (Lifeboats, starving villages, the hunt, etc. See _Lord of the Flies_)   So humans have a *biological* need for enough status to obtain whatever their personal threshold may be to feel safe.  ... When a person drops below their comfort zone of status, they are thrown into a state of status emergency or panic behavior (often bad or wildly disproportionate) sometimes having little relation to any actual physical threat (see any internet flame war.  And a lot of real wars.)

Which results in this kind of thing:

Combining these two, there are three arenas of status/gender struggle: man vs. man, woman vs. woman, man vs. woman.  All overlap and all are combined with equally urgent needs for various kinds of cooperation amongst the participants, so at this point it all sort of goes fractal.  But anyway.

In the post-puberty, not-yet-mature mode, the social model goes: girls attract guys by out-competing other women in attractiveness/status, the latter being defined as (million ways again) anything from beauty to owning more cows.

Guys attract girls by *competing with other guys* to obtain victory/wealth/status: girls then happen automatically, without the guy having to actually, like, talk to them or anything.  (See: trophy wives.)

Note that both genders are focusing on guys.

Problems happen when the girl has way more status than the guy, throwing him into possibly-unconscious status-emergency mode.  Problems also happen when the girl has *so* much less status, association with her saps the boy's status, ditto status-emergency for him.  In the puberty phase, when social enforcement of gender roles is in high gear, boys also lose status in the eyes of their very dangerous peers by association with anything "girly"; tomboys have similar troubles, if less directly lethal.  (But not always: see rl murder of Brandon Teena/Teena Brandon, and about a gazillion other people who stepped outside of prescribed gender boundaries in an unsafe place.)  So guys have more directly visible status-motivation not to appear "girly" than girls do not to appear "tomboy", but the indirect pressure on the girls can be just as nasty.  (Many females do not read SF because they perceive it as a guy-genre, unwelcoming to them; many guys read it for the exact same reason.  Or rather, because the suspect sissy thing, reading a book, is redeemed by being strongly guy-associated.)

There follows more about "why guys don't read girlie romance" - and it's easy to see where Lois is heading here - but doesn't this Theory-in-Progress go way beyond that?

This kind of thing is why I regret not finishing a university degree. I wish I could think in that kind of way, and have the underpinning concepts to be able to construct a theory like that.
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Ganked from [ profile] kikibug13, and the original sources are cited here.

I've bolded the ones I've read and given my opinion of them of course. :-)
Read more... )
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So, I've been attempting Kushiel's Dart again, because I have had too many people whose judgement I trust say it's way too good to miss.

I tried reading it in hardcover a few years ago, and couldn't get past the first hour's reading (so, less than 100 pages). I'm liking it a bit better this time, since I perhaps can see that the lead character isn't as unbalanced (in terms of not fully fleshed-out) as I initially thought she was.

However. One thing that I really hate in fiction - and fantasy is particularly prone to it, including this one - is the One True X who is "destined" for something or to do something. And because they're "destined", they may resist, but they will eventually accede to their Perfect Fate. Oh, whatthefuckever.

Perfection is a concept I find terribly dangerous. Perhaps that's why various religions make a point of saying only god is perfect - unfortunately, they leave off the corollary "so, as a human, relax and enjoy the fact you are not perfect". No, they seem to expect we try an emulate god in striving for perfection. Since, according to them, we can't succeed anyway, I find that kind of carryon pointless.

So, the cheesier the fantasy, the more blatant the plot that shepherds the Perfect (but often Ignorant of his/her True Destiny) Hero onto his/her Fate. You know, jewels light up, magic swords appear from nowhere, a bunch of companions show up who just happen to have the right skills for getting him/her out of the stickier parts... *yawn*

The best fiction writing doesn't resort to that crap. And I find the idea of Perfect Destiny terribly demeaning to humans as a whole. We manage to create the most beautiful, most compelling, most amazing things out of imperfection. Most of us are generalists. We can do a number of things reasonably well. Some few are geniuses, but perhaps they're useless cooks, or can't sing.

So human endeavour is a vast pool of people combining their creativity and insights into making things which approach perfection. Einstein may have come up with the Theory of Relativity in a (fairly protracted) flash of insight, but it took Ernest Rutherford years of plodding in a fairly uninspired way to be able to split the atom.

The fact that we can get together and do such things, either working together or building on someone else's work is a fairly good example of human society being more functional than not. So what if the vast majority of us are mostly plodders, most of the time? We all have occasional flashes of insight - some more than others, to be sure - but most of achievement is to do with experimentation. Oh, and the willingness to try again when the experiment doesn't work, which they mostly don't. That doesn't necessitate perfection or genius. Just the ability to try and learn.

Otherwise, if we truly believe that only the gifted few create or contribute, just what are we bothering for?

Anyways, one of my favourite SFF authors, Lois McMaster Bujold, doesn't fall into the Perfect Hero trap - her heros are worthy because they work through their imperfections. The best piece of advice one character gives to another is: "[There's no trick to success.] You just go on." Her best quote, and a philosophy (not to mention fiction inspiration) I can get behind:

I don't confuse greatness with perfection. To be great anyhow is…the higher achievement.


Oct. 25th, 2006 09:26 pm
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OMG, the hotness, I'm going to die. I hear those slashy motors revving up now, so I want to see good smut, you hear me?

So, yes, Captain Jack (John Barrowman), just as suave and cute as ever. But Gwen (Eve Myles)... oh, it's lurrve, she is too spunky for words. As for the m/f, m/m and f/f snogging action, I though my screen was going to go up in flames. See, while the US invented the concept of sex with their sci-fi, the poms can take it that much further in cool directions on prime time public TV because their brains won't fall out of their heads with a bit of same-sex shenanigans.

I remember the Gwyneth character on the Doctor Who ep with the Welsh ghosts, and here she is again as Gwen, so I assume there's some connection. Who knows, who cares, I get to perve. If the storylines continue well (and I enjoyed the first two eps), we could have a Firefly contender on our hands for a TV series I actually get fannish about.

Speaking of, I've got my hands on the first 2 series of BSG, so I'll see what all the ranting is about. Since the female character that all the dykes rave about seems quite butch-ish, I don't necessarily think I'll have a lust object there, alas. We'll see.

Getting back to Torchwood, the wee Caerdyyyyyydd tourist fest is nice too. Despite how terribly uncool it is, I liked Cardiff as a town. Also, two of my groovy friends live there, so it has built-in cred.

[/ squee mode]
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I re-read A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold a couple of weeks back, and I couldn't stop myself from mentally casting all the characters. I specifically wanted to use actors as they appear now, or within a few years, anyway. In the interest of not spamming the LMB mailing list (since I'm sure they're all heartily sick of casting threads), I'll inflict it on you here:

trixtah: (bookporn)
And that's pronounced the English way, with a short "a", as in tw-at, rather than my kiwified "twot".

So, yeah, here's me announcing to [ profile] damned_colonial a couple of weekends back in a rather sentitious way that I didn't really consider myself fannish. Yeah, I read SF/fantasy, but I subscribe to precisely one author-related mailing list, belong to precisely one L/J author community ([ profile] lmbujold), and have a newsfeed from precisely one author's blog. The last TV I saw (or downloaded) was the last Doctor Who, and the one before that was Firefly. I have not read any Whovian fanfic. I read a bit of Firefly fic, and those written by people in my friends list. I hate Star Trek (well, maybe "hate" is too strong a word; I'm vastly indifferent to any of its permutations, and I hate Trekkies who engage in mob behaviour). I have been to one science-fiction (or any other non-work-related) convention, purely because LMB was the GoH.

Blah de blah, wankitude.

But. Oh my god, BUT. Joan D. Vinge is coming to town. JOAN VINGE is coming to CANBERRA. She is going to be GoH at Conflux, the Canberran sci-fi convention.

And all I can say is *SQUEE!*, with a big *SQUEEE!!!11!!* on top. Yes, I submit and reclaim my inner fan.

Looks like I'll be doubling my convention attendance, then.
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I know it's backwards, but it's apt.

Anyone who knows me for more than approximately 5 minutes knows that I have a slight obsession with coffee. Imagine my horror yesterday when I went to my favourite cafe after my hols and found they've switched to poxy evil vacuum-packed Vittoria coffee. Waurgh! Unknowingly, I'd ordered my usual short black with great anticipation, and got a thin acidic travesty of a coffee. When the waiter came out to ask if everything was ok, I mentioned the coffee wasn't up to their usual quality, and he told me then that the brand had changed. And that most people so far preferred the Vittoria. If they prefer thin "French roast" tasteless crap, well, they're bloody welcome to it.

I was was feeling quite miserable about the loss of one of my most consistent pleasures in life right now (the other being food, sadly enough), when I fetched up in Kingston - a suburb about 15 minutes' drive from where I live - for lunch today. I tripped over a cafe called Kingston Grind, and, taking my courage into both hands, ordered a short black. It was fantastic - best coffee I've had in Australia (people tell me there's great coffee in Sydney and Melbourne, but I haven't found it yet). It's apparently their own blend, and was brewed perfectly, with a nice crema and not in the slightest overheated. It was a dark roast with an almost berryish flavour and had a pleasantly charred aftertaste. Perfect, in fact. Shame it's not just down the road from me, like Gus', but hell, I'm happy to go for a nice wee drive for that kind of oral pleaure.

Yay!! And after that I hit the local SF/detective bookshop that I've been meaning to go to for ages, Gaslight Books, and finally bought Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell since I've heard rave reviews about it, and it hasn't come anywhere near the public library (which, to be frank, is crap. Wellington, which is the same size city, has nearly twice the number of holdings as Canberra) - so, I've bought it, sight unseen, which is something I hardly ever do for non-secondhand books. And, and, they had The Summer Queen (Joan Vinge) in exactly the edition (large format paperback, pretty cover) I wanted. Double yay! Much juicy reading tonight, then!
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There's a cool article on why we need science fiction in last Friday's Guardian Review, written by Atwood.
But it is still the human imagination, in all its diversity, that directs what we do with our tools. Literature is an uttering, or outering, of the human imagination. It lets the shadowy forms of thought and feeling - heaven, hell, monsters, angels and all - out into the light, where we can take a good look at them and perhaps come to a better understanding of who we are and what we want, and what the limits to those wants may be.

Well worth reading.
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So, I finally bought the extended mix of ROTK, and of course, had to watch it as soon as I got home. Some thoughts:
  • The lighting of the Gondorian beacons still makes me cry (this must be the 4th repetition). The background is the Southern Alps, and you know, that's part of home. A gorgeous part, of course.

  • The thing that irritates me the most about the changes the script writers made to the story is the whole forging of Anduril and giving it to Aragorn once he's ready to go to Minas Tirith thing. I mean, that whole sword-as-representation-of-potency crap was old in Freud's day. They haven't worn out that trope in kung-fu movies yet, but really, I think leaving it there and in Arthurian myth is the best thing for it. Arwen's flag was much more symbolic in a layered sense.

  • I still have trouble separating Karl Urban's flaring-nostril'd rendition of Eomer from his rendition of Jamie the gay ambulance driver. *snerk* Although his looks really have improved with age.

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She died yesterday, at home, as she wished. Here's the AP report. She was the first SF author I read, and I've devoured every book of hers I could lay my hands on (with the exception of the Witch World series, which didn't really work for me). What appealed was her depiction of other races and cultures, even in her earlier 50s and 60s work, strong female characters (more as time went on), and her awareness of ecology and even spirituality. She kept pumping out excellent books (with the assistance of a co-writer, later), almost to the end.

Lois McMaster Bujold had this to say on her mailing list:

"Not unexpected, but saddening nonetheless. I note with some interest
that she was born in the same year as my mother, food for meditation on
my part. My son's middle name is Andre: while it was, proximately,
chosen off a family tree from his father's side, it didn't hurt that she
was the only Andre I knew of, and so the name had good vibes.

"Kudos to Baen Books for re-releasing so much of her backlist while she
was still alive to enjoy it, and for bringing her work to a new
generation of readers.

"Ta, L."


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