aka “Let’s get Sirius!”
In today’s roundup: Andrew Liptak, Jim C. Hines, Damien G. Walter, Tom Knighton, David Gerrold, Irene Gallo, Brad R. Torgersen, Sarah A. Hoyt, Vox Day, Michael Z. Williamson, Markov Kern, bhalsop, sciphi, Jonathan LaForce, Cedar Sanderson, Amanda S. Green, Jon F. Zeigler, C. E. Petit, Lis Carey, Rebekah Golden, Mark Ciocco, amd George R.R. Martin. (Title credit belongs to Whym and Anna Nimmhaus.)
Andrew Liptak on io9
“Women Dominate The 2015 Nebula Awards” – June 7
Takeaways from this? With the exception of the Best Novel award, women swept the slate in all other categories, notable in light of the Sad/Rabid Puppies controversy with this year’s Hugo Awards.
Jim C. Hines
“Puppies in Their Own Words” – June 7
I’ve spent several hours on this, which is ridiculous. I don’t even know why, except that I’m frustrated by all of the “I never said…” “He really said…” “No he didn’t, you’re a lying liar!” “No, you’re the lying liar!” and so on.
An infinite number of monkeys have said an infinite number of things about the Hugos this year. People on all sides have said intelligent and insightful things, and people on all sides have said asinine things. The amount of words spent on this makes the Wheel of Time saga look like flash fiction. File770 has been doing an admirable job of posting links to the ongoing conversation.
I wanted to try to sort through the noise and hone in on what Correia and Torgersen themselves have been saying. As the founder and current leader, respecitvely, of the Sad Puppies, it seems fair to look to them for what the puppy campaign is truly about…..
So are Brad and Larry racist? Sexist? Homophobic? What about their slates?
I don’t see an active or conscious effort to shut out authors who aren’t straight white males.
I do see that the effect of the slates was to drastically reduce the number of women on the final ballots.
Torgersen made a now-infamously homophobic remark about John Scalzi, which he later apologized for. I don’t see this as suggesting Torgersen is a frothing bigot; it does suggest he has some homophobic attitudes or beliefs he should probably reexamine and work on.
More central to the Sad Puppies, when I see Brad railing against “affirmative action” fiction, I see a man who seems utterly incapable of understanding sometimes people write “non-default” characters not because they’re checking off boxes on a quota, but because those are the stories they want to tell, and the characters they want to write about. Dismissing all of those amazing, wonderful, and award-winning stories as nothing but affirmative-action cases? Yeah, that’s sounds pretty bigoted to me.
The more direct history of Sad Puppies. Ungood writers flounder around to get attention, stumble on rigging awards. http://t.co/fRC7rUgW9G
— Damien Walter (@damiengwalter) June 7, 2015
Remember that #SadPuppies think the other side in this is wrong. The anti-Sad Puppies think the other side is evil.
No compromise possible
— T.L. Knighton (@Tomcat1066) June 7, 2015
David Gerrold on Facebook – June 7
Here’s how self-fulfilling paranoia works.
Decide that something has been taken away from you — even if it hasn’t. And even if you were never entitled to it in the first place.
Then, find a group of someones to blame for taking it away from you — even if they had nothing to do with your perceived loss. (Women, LGBTs, People of Color, SJWs, liberals, whatever.) Make sure it’s a big important group with big important members.
Appoint that group — it has to be a group — the enemy. Accuse them of horrible behaviors. This is the important step. You can’t be a victim without a persecutor. So you have to say or do something so egregious that the other guys will have to respond. Their response is the proof that you are being persecuted. Even if their response is, “Huh? Who are you?” — that’s just evidence that they’ve been deliberately ignoring your importance.
As soon as you engage that very big, very important group in a dialog, you achieve credibility — theirs. You are obviously just as important as they are. The more they engage with you, the more they respond to you, the more important you are. Therefore — you must continue to escalate so as to use up more and more of their time, so as to prove just how truly truly truly big and powerful and important you are.
When the other side brings out facts, logic, evidence, rational thought, and methodical deconstruction, you must repeat your original claims, change the subject, make new charges, or point to this as evidence of their continuing persecution. The more you do this, the more followers you will attract. Everybody loves the underdog — it’s your job to be the persecuted underdog.
This tactic works for any political or social position. It worked for extreme-left activist groups in the sixties and seventies — it eventually marginalized them out of the political process. They had to grow up or get out.
Irene Gallo on Facebook – May 11
[Here is a direct link. Perhaps it was always public and I just didn’t scroll back far enough when I searched yesterday.]
Irene Gallo in a comment on Facebook – June 6
Not friends, rest assured. And ZOMG, teeth! Somehow this got dug up from early last month and pitchforks are out. And since then more people are aware of, and excited about, the upcoming Hurley book. So as long as the thread lasts, we’re spreading the good news.
Brad R. Torgersen in a comment on Facebook – June 6
Irene Gallo, I am going to ask a question, and I expect a response other than a cat picture non sequitur. How did you arrive at your conclusion that Sad Puppies is “neo nazi”?
Sarah A. Hoyt on According To Hoyt
“Shout it from the rooftops” – June 7
However, let’s be clear: mud sticks. Get something associated with unspeakable sins like “racism, sexism, homophobia” and the idiots will go on repeating it forever, no matter how often it’s disproved. This is how they came up with the notion that Brad Torgersen is in an interracial marriage to disguise his racism, or that Sad Puppies is about pushing women and minorities from the ballot, even though the suggested authors include both women and minorities. And I’m not sure what has been said about me. Echoes have reached back, such as a gay friend emailing me (joking. He’s not stupid, and he was mildly upset on my behalf) saying he’d just found out I wanted to fry all gay people in oil and that he needed a safe room just to email me from. Then there was the German Fraulein who has repeatedly called me a Fascist (you know, those authoritarian libertari—wait, what?) and her friends who declared Kate and I the world’s worst person (we’re one in spirit apparently) as well as calling me in various twitter storms a “white supremacist” (which if you’ve met me is really funny.) A friend told me last week that he defended me on a TOR editor’s thread. I don’t even know what they were saying about me there. I make it a point of not following all the crazy around, so I have some mental space to write from.
However, enough people have told me about attacks, that I know my name as such is tainted with the publishing establishment (not that I care much, mind) and that some of it might leak to the reading public (which is why G-d gave us pennames.)….
This feebleness of mind was in stunning display recently in the Facebook page of one Irene Gallo, Creative Director at TOR. (I hope that’s an art-related thing. Or do they think authors need help being creative?)….
Note that those statements are so wrong they’re not even in the same universe we inhabit. Note also that when she talks about “bad to reprehensible” stories pushed into the ballot by the Sad Puppies, she’s talking about one of her house’s own authors, a multiple bestseller, and also of John C. Wright who works for her house as well.
Note also that when one of my fans jumped in and tried to correct the misconceptions, she responded with daft cat pictures.
Say what you will about @torbooks customer relations, it certainly is creative. "Buy our bad-to-reprehensible books, you racist neo-nazis!"
— Supreme Dark Lord (@voxday) June 7, 2015
My reading list for the future includes nothing from publishers who libel other authors as "neo-nazis."
— Michael Z Williamson (@mzmadmike) June 6, 2015
Hugo awards are the work of those who claim to know the truth and who control the official version of events.
— Markov Kern (@sealion_ebooks) June 7, 2015
Has the Hugo award for most egregious use of the bloc vote been awarded yet? Is it for "the right wing of darkness"?
— Fusel Jeremiad (@diskgrinder) June 8, 2015
“Tor and Sad/Rabid Puppies” – June 7
There is a war going on in the blogosphere between certain employees of Tor, the once great publisher of scifi/fantasy, and the proponents of alternate slates for the Hugo, the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies. I have watched it with some interest, since I am undoubtedly one of those the Puppies in general would not like, but I have found their position actually has merit.
There was a time, many years ago, when one could buy a book honored with the Hugo award and know that the book would be well written, well edited, and thought provoking. This has not been the case for several years, I am sorry to report. In fact, there was a time, again many years ago, that one could buy a book published by Tor, and have a good read that might be thought provoking but was at minimum a good story well told. This is sadly no longer the case. I used to buy a Tor book even if the blurb wasn’t particularly inviting, because I trusted Tor. This is no longer the case.
Tor employees have attacked the Sad/Rabid Puppies as racist, misogynist, right wing whackos. The fact is that this reviling became much louder after the Sad Puppy slate won most of the Hugo niminations. What? They outvoted you? Doesn’t this sound like the Republicans after our current president was elected? Are you sure you want to go there?
sciphi on Superversive SF
“Irene Gallo, #Sadpuppies, #Gamergate and Tor” – June 7
What I find particularly insulting is that I have been following #Gamergate for quite a while, since at least Internet Aristocrats original Quinnspiracy videos, and I am extremely right wing (Nazi’s and Neo-Nazi’s aren’t though, fascists really were/are kissing cousins of socialists), and I can tell you for a fact that the talking heads of #Gamergate like Sargon of Akkad are thorough going leftwing moderates, they just aren’t frothing at the mouth SJW’s (I guess that makes them “far-right” in SJW land). I’m insulted as an arch conservative and reactionary to be regarded as basically the same as such thorough going hippies.
Jonathan LaForce on Mad Genius Club
“Dear Tor” – June 7
Tor, let’s face facts: that you repeatedly allow straw man makers like John Scalzi to have a place in your stable, even as he vainly justifies his arrogant idiocy is absurd. To allow bigots like NK Jemisin bully pulpits without regard for fact or truth is wrong. To encourage people to put one-star reviews on Amazon, simply because you don’t like an author’s politics, rather than because you didn’t like the story is not only disgusting, it is a willful manipulation of the Amazon rating system.
Whereas I believe in the principles of the free market, I don’t want to see somebody create new laws over this. We already have government invading our bedrooms, our computers and our bank accounts daily. No, ladies and gentlemen, instead I ask you this:
Don’t buy anything made by TOR. Not pamphlets. Not novels, not audiobooks. Not even if it’s free. Let Tor know that they do not decide what we want as fans of science fiction and fantasy. Instead, I ask that those of you whom trust my opinion cease to buy their products ever again. Show them that in the end, the consumer drives the market. Why? Because nobody can make you buy anything. Not health care, not books, not movies. NOT A SINGLE DAMN THING.
In older times, a bard who couldn’t sing or orate well, much less properly play an instrument (in short, when the bard could not perform well, the crowd kicked him out. And he went hungry until he got better or he died from starvation. Or he found a new profession that he was actually good at.
“Tor Creative Director bashes Tor authors among others” – June 7
Based on how she phrased this, she’s implying that that both Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies are extreme right wing to neo-Nazis. Now, I generally don’t defend Rabid Puppies because Vox is a big boy and can fight his own battles, and since I’m not part of that group I really can’t speak for it. Vox has seen this, and I suspect he’ll jump in soon enough.
As a Sad Puppy, I’m freaking pissed.
First, I’m sick of being called “unrepentantly racist, mysogynist, and homophobic” simply because I don’t like their taste in books or because I disagree with them about what the government should spend its money doing. It’s funny, because these are the same people who bitch about “slut shaming” or “fat shaming” or whatever, but now they’re trying to “thought shame”, like we’re horrid human beings just because we don’t trip over ourselves on identity issues. No evidence, no examples, nothing except libelous rhetoric. Nothing….
I’ve read multiple times that Tor isn’t so much a publishing house as a series of editorial fiefdoms, a confederation of miniature publishing houses under a single roof and a shared marketing and art department. If that’s true, then there probably isn’t a lot of oversight on these kinds of things, so I really don’t think there will be any kind of change.
“Fear and Loathing at TOR” – June 7
Almost since the advent of the internet, there have been warnings about what to say – or not – on it. The internet is a vast and mostly public arena. Imagine, if you can, standing in Grand Central Station and screaming slurs at the top of your lungs, while the sane people standing near you back away slowly. Online, this doesn’t happen. One person starts screaming and frothing at the mouth, and others are drawn like moths to the flame to scream along with them.
This is disturbing and upsetting, but it is easy enough to avoid this kind of behaviour if you want to (and some like to troll-bait. Personally, I find it unkind to taunt the mentally ill and don’t stoop to pillorying their personal lives). On occasion, though, we are not dealing with a lone individual, but one that is tied to a corporate identity. And this situation is why most reputable companies have policies in place about the use of social media. Because when a person using their real name, which can easily be tied to their workplace, starts to cast slurs on their own colleagues, not to mention large sections of the business’s client base, that can reflect very badly on their employer.
Amanda S. Green on Nocturnal Lives
“Interrupting my vacation and not happy about it” – June 7
But what galls me is how she calls us “Extreme right-wing to Neo-Nazi”. To begin with, if she were to really look at who wound up on the final ballot, especially those backed by the Sad Puppies, she would see that there are conservative, libertarian AND liberals represented. There are women and minorities. If I remember correctly, not everyone on the ballot is straight. (I don’t remember because I don’t care what a person’s sexual preference. It has nothing to do with their ability as a writer.)
Then there is the personal reaction. Ms. Gallo doesn’t know me and I don’t know her. So she doesn’t understand what sort of wound she opened for my family by calling me “extreme right-wing to Neo-Nazi”. My family comes from Germany and the Netherlands. Fortunately, the family was here before Hitler came to power. But they remember what it was like living in parts of this country and having to defend themselves because they had a Germanic last name. Nazism is and always will be a personal anathema to my family and to be called a follower of that hated philosophy/government is beyond acceptable.
Did she commit slander or libel? No. Did she consider the impact her words would have on other people? I don’t know. Part of me wants to believe that she did not but I have my doubts. She used a number of “trigger” words in her response, words meant to create a negative impression. She did not consider or care about how her allegation would impact fans of those authors she was condemning nor did she apparently think or care about how such a hateful allegation could possibly lead to termination of employment.
Every now and then I look in on the #HugoAwards dispute, shake my head in disgust, and move on. More important to get back to #writing.
— Jon F. Zeigler (@JFZeigler) June 7, 2015
C. E. Petit on Scrivener’s Error
“Pre-Road-Kill Link Sausages” – June 6
There’s a proposal to tweak Hugo voting rules somewhat jocularly labelled E Pluribus Hugo that I cannot support, for three reasons. First, it depends upon accepting the proposition that a popular vote among those who pay a poll tax to vote is the best way to determine actual quality. (I’d be probably be more supportive if the Hugos themselves were renamed from “Best” to “Favorite.”) Second, it does nothing whatsoever to deal with the far-more-serious problems of source restrictiveness and the inept calendar (really? for an award issued in late August, we start nominations in January?). Third, at a fundamental level it fails to engage with the dynamics of cliquishness (for both real and imagined cliques, I should note) that are at issue; in fact, it bears a disturbing resemblance to the evolution of voting patterns in Jim Crow country following passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1964, if not with the same obvious discriminatory animus.
I think this proposal has been put forth in good faith, in a highly conservative attempt to retain, and even reify, a particular (and wildly inaccurate) fannish/SMOFish perception of what the Hugos “are” and “mean.” The irony of that characterization is intentional, especially compared to the various canine complaints; it is obvious, disturbing, and all too typical of attempts to tweak selection mechanisms without pondering what is being selected… and whether that requires a farther-reaching change.
“Reviewing; Meta Post” – June 7
This goes back to my post about Totaled. It was a good story. Had some interesting ideas. Didn’t do it for me and I think the reason why not has to do with compelling questions. Look at Ancillary Justice and the story is full of compelling questions. Then there’s Mono No Aware.
Cutting for spoilers about Mono No Aware, Totaled, and me….
Mark Ciocco on Kaedrin Weblog
“Hugo Awards: Short Stories” – June 7
My feelings on short stories are decidedly mixed, because most of the short fiction I read is from collections that are, by their very nature, uneven. As with Anthology Films, I generally find myself exhausted by the inconsistency. Also, as someone who tends to gravitate towards actual storytelling rather than character sketches or tone poems (or similar exercises in style), a short story can be quite difficult to execute. A lot must be accomplished in a short time, and a certain economy of language is needed to make it all work. There are some people who are great at this sort of thing, but I find them few and far between, so collections of short stories tend to fall short even if they include stories I love. In my experience, the exceptions tend to be collections from a single author, like Asimov’s I, Robot or Barker’s Books of Blood. That being said, I’ve been reading significantly more short fiction lately, primarily because of my participation in the Hugo Awards. I found myself quite disappointed with last year’s nominated slate, so I actually went the extra mile this year and read a bunch of stuff so that I could participate in the nomination portion of the process. Of course, none of my nominees actually made the final ballot. Such is the way of the short story award (with so many options, the votes tend to be pretty widely spread out, hence all the consternation about the Puppy slates which probably gave their recommendations undue influence this year). But is the ballot any better this year? Only one way to find out, and here are the results, in handy voting order:
- Totaled by Kary English – Told from the perspective of a brain that has been separated from its body (courtesy of a car accident) and subsequently preserved in a device that presumably resembles that which was used to preserve Walt Disney’s head or something. In the story, this is new technology, so the process is imperfect and while the brain can be kept alive for a significant amount of time, it still only amounts to around 6 months or so. Fortunately, the disembodied brain in question was the woman leading the project, so she’s able to quickly set up a rudimentary communication scheme with her lab partner. Interfaces for sound and visuals are ginned up and successful, but by that point the brain’s deterioration has begun. This could have been one of those pointless tone poems I mentioned earlier, but English keeps things approachable, taking things step by step. The portrayal of a brain separated from the majority of its inputs (and outputs, for that matter), and slowly regaining some measure of them as time goes on, is well done and seems realistic enough. One could view some of the things portrayed here as pessimistic, but I didn’t really read it that way. When the brain deteriorates, she eventually asks to be disconnected before she loses all sense of lucidity (the end of the story starts to lilt into an Algernon-like devolution of language into simplistic quasi-stream of consciousness prose). I suppose this is a form of suicide, but it was inevitable at that point, and the experimental brain-in-a-jar technology allowed for a closure (both in terms of completing some of her research and even seeing her kids again) that would have otherwise been impossible. I found that touching and effective enough that this was a clear winner in the category.
Lis Carey at Lis Carey’s Library
“Galactic Suburbia, presented by Alis, Alex, and Tansy” – June 7
Another Best Fancast Hugo nominee.
Speculative fiction, publishing news, and chat. This podcast comes to us from Australia, and as far as I can find, they do not reveal their last names anywhere on their website. That’s a shame, because these are very engaging people, and they mention up coming book launches. (Feel free to enlighten me in comments. Please!)
George R.R. Martin on Not A Blog
“Reading” – June 7
I also read LINES OF DEPARTURE by Marko Kloos. This was part of the Hugo ballot as originally announced, one of the books put there by the slates… but Kloos, in an act of singular courage and integrity, withdrew. It was his withdrawal that moved THREE-BODY PROBLEM onto the ballot. This is the second book in a series, and I’ve never read the first. Truth be told, I’d never read anything by Kloos before, but I’m glad I read this. It’s military SF, solidly in the tradition of STARSHIP TROOPERS and THE FOREVER WAR. No, it’s not nearly as good as either of those, but it still hands head and shoulders above most of what passes for military SF today. The enigmatic (and gigantic) alien enemies here are intriguing, but aside from them there’s not a lot of originality here; the similarity to THE FOREVER WAR and its three act structure is striking, but the battle scenes are vivid, and the center section, where the hero returns to Earth and visits his mother, is moving and effective. I have other criticisms, but this is not a formal review, and I don’t have the time or energy to expand on them at this point. Bottom line, this is a good book, but not a great one. It’s way better than most of what the Puppies have put on the Hugo ballot in the other categories, but it’s not nearly as ambitious or original as THREE-BODY PROBLEM. Even so, I read this with pleasure, and I will definitely read the next one. Kloos is talented young writer, and I suspect that his best work is ahead of him. He is also a man of principle. I hope he comes to worldcon; I’d like to meet him.
Danny! You mustn’t use the ‘d’ word around people in hospital!
@Ann Somerville “I find your addiction to really old writing ahead of anything written after 1980 annoying.”
I have undertaken a project to do retrospectives on forty-two volumes that played a surprising role in the genesis of role-playing games in the seventies. If this does not interest you, I do not begrudge that. However characterizing it as an addiction is unfair to me.
Ann, people in hospitals aren’t exempt from the awful knowledge that dimetrodons once existed.
” However characterizing it as an addiction is unfair to me.”
All right, but the tenor of your comments generally is that you view older works as of greater value and entertainment than newer ones. And as a modern writer, that’s annoying.
Bruce: true, true 😉
Ann Somerville: All right, but the tenor of your comments generally is that you view older works as of greater value and entertainment than newer ones. And as a modern writer, that’s annoying.
Right? It’s like telling any writers alive and working today, “Just stop. It’ll never be good enough. Give up.”
JJ: Also everyone, I understand the desire to lessen keystrokes, but when shortening his name, I would appreciate it if you would shorten it to “Jeffro” rather than “JJ”, kthxmch.
Sorry! In my defense, I *was* thinking about that, which was why I very carefully addressed him as “J. J.” – but I can address him by name (should I have any wish to address him directly, which, given his disingenuous between-the-lines asides, I do not wish at current) and reserve the initials for you in future.
Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little: Sorry! In my defense, I *was* thinking about that, which was why I very carefully addressed him as “J. J.” – but I can address him by name (should I have any wish to address him directly, which, given his disingenuous between-the-lines asides, I do not wish at current) and reserve the initials for you in future.
Thanks, it will just save a bit on confusion. 😉
Thanks for coming back – I was away on mundane business or I would have joined in earlier. I haven’t finished your whole N-Series but so far they are great reads. I admire your chutzpah given the sheer number of books out there that we haven’t read. (I’ve made what I thought was a pretty good effort, but was recently shamed to discover I’ve only read two books from a year as recent as 1995 – the stellar The Diamond Age and Greg Bear’s awful-in-retrospect Legacy.) Thanks for what you are doing and for your willingness to record your impressions as you go along.
Earlier you wrote:
Yes, I could go deeper. I am at the point where I have questions that would require me to do “real” research and/or read every single thing by a given author. I would like to read the full Amber series, get a copy of Amber Diceless and run it for a few months and then write about Zelazny. I would like to go to Brown University and read all of Lovecraft’s letters that they have there. I would not be writing at all if I stopped to do this.
Personally, I’d be glad if you sometimes took a systematic approach even without going “full academic” on us. Not changing your style of writing about the individual entries, even, but maybe taking a break once in a while to discuss larger questions.
The seven decades from, say, A Princess of Mars to The Courts of Chaos saw the world turned upside down, and the novel itself was gutted, set on fire, and then haphazardly re-stitched from the scraps found among the ashes. Even though you are not reading in chronological order, it would be great to hear more from you about how you think they are in conversation with one another and their own time as well as with Gygax and with us.
There are also thematic questions. Several people have talked about diversity, and certainly how those various authors have handled race is a post in itself. Maybe I’m just another nihilistic kid but I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on spiritual or existential dimensions. Also, GG had reasons for the presentation of that Appendix, like a desire to draw on their gravitas and imprimatur to help spread the good news of gaming, and he left some things out. Why skip straight past Hans Christian Andersen or Kenneth Grahame except that GG considered that stuff for children? Wasn’t he inspired by wider literary trends as well, and assuming that’s the case, where’s, say, William Burroughs? That GG choose not to emphasize the dystopianism that crashed over the 60s/70s doesn’t mean he wasn’t responding to it. And even without going post-1980 (I admire that you drew a line to limit the project), what other literature should have been there that wasn’t, and were there missed opportunities as a result? Those are all things I’d love to hear your thoughts on if you get the chance.
You know, I shouldn’t be hard on Legacy. The only really awful-in-retrospect one was Eternity.
Brian Z: Why skip straight past Hans Christian Andersen or Kenneth Grahame except that GG considered that stuff for children?
Appendix N has both The Hobbit (definitely children) and The Lord of the Rings (less so). Most adventuring parties in the D&D I’ve played tend to be motivated very like Thorin’s crew at the start of The Hobbit; interested in the loot (and getting back at
dragonspeople who’ve done them injuries), and then reluctantly drawn into fighting evil. Yet many gamers I’ve spoken to have, indeed, dismissed The Hobbit as having some good ideas but mostly being for kids; LOTR is where it’s at. Similarily there’s more stuff surced from Roman and Greek mythology and less of British (or American) folktale in the Monster Manual* than in the kind of game I used to play. Roman and Greek myths might have been considered more respectable, more adult, or it might be that Gygax simply knew more about them.
So yes, good question.
* My impression from memory
Very brief response here:
There’s a lot of things I either drop to ball on or fail to see. Then the next book comes along and it’s the perfect vehicle to explore that particular topic. (My Lovecraft post does not include a mention of Derleth. But that’s okay, because I have a post about Derleth in the queue.)
As far as works that should have been included by GG but that weren’t, I can tell you that Earthsea is at the top of the list– several rpg hobbyists have indicated that they felt that way. 5th edition actually “corrected” that omission.
Finally, I would not characterize my pieces as essays. I like essays, but I’m trying to write for a wide audience, and like you indicate… people seem to next things that have an academic tone.
However… I believe that my piece on Lord Dunsany (and yes, I have to read more of him) comes close to what you’re asking for, especially when combined with my others on Poul Anderson. Dunsany, Tolkien, Lewis, and Anderson wrote works from a perspective that wasn’t yet post-Christian. Today, a great many churches will tell you straight up that they themselves are post-Christian. This sort of transition has an impact on the very axioms of our fantasy.
Another aspect of this is that fantasy as a hard and fast genre didn’t really exist before about 1980 or so. (Someone up thread remarked that there was next to nothing before then and massive amounts of it since then.) Yes, there was some kind of crystallization process where one view of fantasy became dominate. Before that… it is wild and whooly. It’s difficult even to describe to people that haven’t seen the old stuff.
I can’t speak for everyone, though. And I do get excited when I see that people like Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchet have had some of the exact same reactions that I have and paid obvious homages to some of the strangely obscure writers that I dig into for this series. No, I am not a lone voice crying in the wilderness! Yes, I am excited about being able to see stuff that just went right past me before. Yes, my observations will not be news to a lot of hard core fans.
But here’s the thing: I’m out in the trenches bringing this stuff to the attention of a wider audience. It’s expanding people’s reading lists. It’s getting people back into reading more sff. It’s giving them inspiration for their own game mastering and world building projects.
But yes, it’s difficult to pin a lot of this down because there are so many books and so many overlapping trends. But each installment gets me closer to presenting a more comprehensive picture.
(Well, I went off the rails there. Sorry… haven’t had coffee, yet.)
Jeffro, I wonder if you have read Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell? It’s often described as fantasy in the lineage of Dunsany and Mirilees. It certainly to me has a different flavour to a lot of other fantasy (plenty of which I also love).
There was lots of great discussion of it after it came out but perhaps especially on Crooked Timber with several posts
a quick amusing quote – http://crookedtimber.org/2004/09/26/advice-to-authors/
and then a full-blown book seminar
The year 1980 divides the two eras of world civilization, Before The Shadow of the Torturer and After The Shadow of the Torturer. 😀
Your post-Christian topic is fascinating and it would be great to hear more in any format you want to write in.
Should you do “what GG missed” posts, Earthsea is clearly a key addition to N-Canon. Also, if the complete works of R. A. Lafferty aren’t in print soon, I’m going to have to start feeling disappointed in today’s SFF publishers.
Funny thing about the Nebulas is that I didn’t notice they were dominated by women. I saw, “established author”, “oh that one’s new to me”, and “I think I have that issue in the 2BRed pile.” Never once occurred to me that they might be anything other than science fiction writers, and I bet that never occurred to them either.
Plus, you know, I didn’t see any leather.
For anime, I’ll second Paprika and Revolutionary Girl Utena, and suggest Another if you have any fondness for Japanese horror (only 13 episodes, and it us a complete, self-contained story), and for fans of Utena or Princess Tutu, I cannot recommend Puella Magi Magica Madoka strongly enough as a deconstruction of magical girl tropes.
For Tor books with gay protagonists, I will second In Tregillis’ Something More Than Night, if the thought of noir mixed with angels appeals. And though not publushed by Tor, I’m always happy to plug Ammonite and Slow River, both by Nicola Griffith, both featuring lesbian protagonists. The first is far future and rather anthropology heavy, and the second is the most emotionally gripping novel involving near-future wastewater treatment I’ve ever read, and probably makes my top ten list of genre books.
The magic year for fantasy is 1977: the year Del Rey discovered just the right mixture of derivative, formulaic fiction to sell in truckloads:
Hello, everyone. I somehow managed to never run across File 707 until Sad Puppies 3 exploded, but since then I have spent an excessive amount of time reading discussions. Having read the anime and manga recommendations and saying to myself “but what about X, and Y?” I had to delurk and add my own reccs. Some of these are fully science fiction or fantasy, some only tangentially, and some aren’t SF or F at all. Some of them are officially available for purchase in English, others are not. (For those that aren’t, who knows—maybe if you wait a BIT, TOR might RENT them to you.) This will be a rather long post, but hopefully not rudely long.
Junji Ito: Writes incredibly creepy horror manga. The first two of his series you may wish to check out are Uzumaki and Gyo. If you like those, there are many more.
Kei Toume: Creates moody, nicely illustrated supernatural stories. A recent (relatively short) series worth checking out is Acony, a not-too-heavy science fiction/fantasy/horror manga that takes place in a very odd old boarding house with very odd tenants. Also worth a look are Lament of the Lamb, Hour of the Mice, and whatever else you come across.
Yoshihiro Tatsumi: A pioneer in serious manga—look for “Abandon the Old in Tokyo” and “The Push Man and Other Stories.”
Inio Asano: His manga are typically gritty and “adult themed” (but not porn.) His longest running series (collected in 13 volumes) is Oyasumi Punpun/Goodnight Punpun. Follows the dysfunctional life of a character from childhood through young adulthood. This one has an interesting style choice—while every other character in the series is drawn fairly realistically, Punpun and his relatives are drawn more abstractly—usually as crudely drawn vaguely birdlike characters, but they can be depicted in even less lifelike ways given different moods. Also worth finding is “Before Dawn and the End of the World.”
Individual manga titles:
Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service: Centers on the lives of several of the bottom students at one of the bottom Buddhist colleges in Japan. Each of them has skills—one of them can “dowse” the location of corpses. One can talk to the dead. One channels an alien through a sock puppet (unless he is actually insane.) One is trained in Western-style embalming. They attempt to make money by finding corpses, asking them if they have any unfinished business in life, and try fulfill their wishes and put the dead to rest. (Ideally, the corpse is supposed to supply some form of payment—usually, they leave empty-handed.) Lots of graphic and accurate images mutilated corpses here, but very enjoyable stories.
A Certain Scientific Railgun: A small percentage of people have various powers. All the powered children live together in Academy City, which has a population of over a million and many schools established to handle both the academic needs for the students and their powers. Their power levels are rated from 0 to 5, with far fewer possessing a given power level each step upwards—there are only five level 5 students in all of Academy City. This series follows one level 5 who is nicknamed Railgun because her control of electromagnetism allows her to do a signature trick of accelerating a small metal object (usually a coin) to hypersonic speeds. Okay, the manga is a ripoff of X-Men, Academy City is hyper-Xavier’s, and the protagonist is Magneto as a schoolgirl. But it still has creative details (the main character can make a sword when needed from iron-rich sand; a “sidekick” teleporter destroys a building by teleporting window glass into the columns supporting the building, cutting them in two) and there are interesting story arcs. (Railgun is a spinoff of an earlier manga called A Certain Magical Index—I recommend Railgun more strongly than Index.) Both have been adapted into anime series.
Narutaru: (English name Shadow Star.) Started as a manga, made into an anime series. If I had to describe this in an “x crossed with y” format, think of it as “Pokemon crossed with Lord of the Flies.” A few children find odd little creatures with weird powers, except instead of training them to fight each other in tournaments of unremarked sadism, these children use their creatures to kill the rival children and endeavor towards world domination. Has a few truly brutal, creepy scenes—perhaps not a great choice for those sensitive to “trigger warnings.”
Alien 9: Started as a manga, made into a few anime OVAs Also involves children and aliens. Takes place in a Japan that is infested with many types of aliens, and centers around a handful of elementary school students. Just as classrooms in “real world” Japan elect a class president, these students also elect a sort of “alien fighter”, who must merge with an alien symbiont (which looks much like a bicycle helmet) and keeps the school alien free. Some of the children embrace their job, while at least one is really, really traumatized by it. Also includes Goldingesque infighting between the children. The anime has a cameo of an alien based on a Pierson’s Puppeteer!
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou: Someone beat me to this one, but let me strongly agree.
Kubo no Isaki: By the same mangaka as Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou. This one doesn’t quite reach the level of artistry as Yokohama, but it is still pretty good. In Kubo no Isaki (in English, Isaki’s Cub, as in Piper Cub) the Earth is inexplicably around 10 times its current diameter (or maybe 10 times its current surface area.) Settlements are widespread and sparsely populated and everyone gets around by airplane. Like with Yokohama, there is little action, no conflict, and the point of the manga is the setting and the simple lives of the characters. Hitoshi Ashinano has other works “out there” in English that are worth finding if you like Ashinano’s style.
Yotsuba: Alternately named Yotsubato! or Yotsuba&! This is a “slice of life” manga involving a 5-year-old girl, her adoptive father, the family next door, plus a few other characters. Seen through the eyes of 5-year old Yotsuba, to whom everything is new, it gives readers a fresh look at mundane contemporary life in Japan (both to us non-Japanese, and—I suspect—to Japanese readers, too.) Yotsuba is always innocently saying things that confuse or embarrass the adults and older children, and always obliviously doing things that have the older characters fearing for her safety. Think of it as a sort of Japanese “Dennis the Menace” without a trace of mean-spiritedness. Yotsuba is one of the few printed media that has me literally laughing out loud pretty much every chapter. (Also the source for an action figure that I’ve seen posed in quite a few photos online—you might have ran across one of them somewhere without knowing the context—google for photos of “danbo.”)
Ichigo Mashimaro: English name Strawberry Marshmallow. Another “slice of life” manga, this one involves a high-school girl, her middle-school sister, and the sister’s middle school friends. Also has a “Dennis the Menace-esque” character in the next-door neighbor girl, but if Yotsuba could be described as chaotic-good, this girl is chaotic-neutral at best. Always needing to be the center of attention even if it means BAD attention. Much of the humor revolves around the other girls effortlessly brushing off her schemes. Almost as laugh-out-loud funny as Yotsuba. (Has an anime series plus a few OVAs.)
Azumanga Daioh: A series by the creator of Yotsuba. Azumanga Daioh is a Yonkoma or 4-koma format manga. (Similar to the daily comic strips in American newspapers, but instead of 3 or 4 cells oriented horizontally, it is 4 cells oriented vertically, printed two columns per page. Like with American comic strips, the format leads to short jokes with a punchline each strip, but it also allows character depth to be built over time. Azumanga Daioh centers on the 3 high-school years of a group of girls and their teachers, and is dead funny (but IMHO not quite as funny as Yotsuba.) Azumanga Daioh has been made into a 26 episode anime.
Summer Wars: (Already mentioned, I’ll delete my long description and second the recc.)
Memories: AKA Otomo Katsuhiro’s Memories. A theatrical anime release made up of 3 short SF films. Memories was in part created by Satoshi Kon, who unfortunately died when he was only 46. Other Satoshi Kon films very much worth seeing are Paprika (science fiction) Millennium Actress and Perfect Blue (mainstream fiction) and Tokyo Godfathers (which could be interpreted as mainstream fiction with several big coincidences, or a subtly supernaturally-guided fantasy.) If you watch only one Satoshi Kon movie, watch Tokyo Godfathers.
5 Centimeters Per Second: An anime theatrical release. A relationshippy/coming of age movie that is gorgeously drawn. Think of the level of detail in the opening scene of The Lion King—you’ll find scene after scene with similar attention to detail. In one scene, the two main characters—who live near the Tanegashima Space Center—watch a rocket launch in the distance at near sunset, and close to two minutes of the film are dedicated to showing the smoke trail from the rocket rising into the sky.
Ergo Proxy: An action-heavy drama, it takes place in a semi-dystopian high-tech future. A computer virus called “cogito” is going around that triggers androids to gain free will/consciousness. Some of these androids become violent, others are sympathetic characters. The series is makes lots of direct references to Western philosophy. It starts off strong and sort of loses focus towards the end, but that can be said of a large percentage of media series.
Macross Frontier: The Macross universe has been portrayed in TV serieses, manga and movies for more than 30 years, but you do not need familiarity with any of the backstory to understand this one. A fleet of human ships are traveling through space and occasionally being forced to battle a race of hostile aliens bent on wiping them out (a la Battlestar Galactica.) This series revolves around the relationship between 3 characters who meet in the first episode of the series—a young male Macross pilot, a young female singing idol, and a slightly younger girl who aspires to be an idol. Macross Frontier has a wide range of plot elements—one scene might be a battle between large piloted humanoid robots and aliens while the next might involve an audition for a bit part in a commercial. Ever wonder what would happen if you mixed together clips of American Idol and Pacific Rim?
Oblivion Island—Haruka and the Magic Mirror: Theatrical CG animated release. In the genre of “young girl goes on adventure in weird place, survives by sake of her wits, grows in the end.” Girl loses a hand mirror that has sentimental value to her, ends up falling into a steampunkish junkyard world filled with creatures who depend on forgotten artifacts from the human world.
Brave Story: Another movie in the “child dropped into an adventure in a fantasy world”, except this time with a male protagonist. Has a more epic fantasy/hero’s journey feel about it. It is a type of movie that could easily have been put out by Ghibli. (BTW, I’m assuming that anyone with any interest in anime reccs already knows something as obvious as “watch every damn thing put out by Studio Ghibli.)
Summer Days With Coo: Theatrical anime release. I have an interest in “native” folklores in general and Japanese folklore in particular, so I’m biased towards this one. A boy in modern Japan discovers a young kappa (a sort of anthropomorphic turtle river monster from Japanese folklore) that had been hibernating since the Edo era. Both funny and emotion-tugging, it even has a scene taking place in the Tono region of Japan, made famous (well, famous to people that follow such things) by the “Father of Japanese Folklore” Kunio Yanagita in his book Tono Monogatari / The Legends of Tono. (This book was reprinted in English 2008 and is available both in hardback and ebook formats.)
Haibane Renmei: Translated in English as “Charcoal Feather Federation.” This anime series takes place in a walled town that nobody but special traders ever leave. Within the town are a group of people with wings and halos, who are born into the world when a large plant suddenly starts to grow and eventually produces the new person from a large pod, fully-sized (though that “full-size may be a child or an adult.) these people have no memories of a past life, but the idea seems to be that they are reborn from some past trauma, or possibly sin. This is another series that doesn’t really go anywhere and is mostly for the enjoyment of the character and the settings. Based on what is essentially a handful of doodles by the Japanese artist Yoshitoshi Abe and some imagery inspired by Huruki Murakami’s “Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World” and “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles.” (It may go without saying that Murakami’s books are worth reading, but I’ll say it anyway.)
Spice and Wolf: A traveling trader encounters a cute girl who turns out to be a god of the harvest who can transform into a rather large wolf. He agrees to take her north to her original home territory. This one has a fair amount of fanservice, but where else are you going to find a TV series that revolves around the details of the barter economy in medieval Europe? (This started out as a series of light novels—I don’t know if they are available in English.)
How about a few live action movies?
Bubble Fiction: This 1997 movie involves an experimental washing machine that quite by accident happens to be a time machine. A young woman in brought to the lab to go back in time to 1990 to find her mother (a researcher at the lab) who has gone missing. This movie is probably more enjoyable by people familiar with and nostalgic about the culture of Tokyo in 1990, but I still like it. Some humor, but more of a straight “fish out of water” movie.
Summer Time Machine Blues: This 1995 movie is much more of a straight-up comedy, and involves the members of a high-school Science Fiction club who have a visitor from the future arrive in a time machine very similar to the classic H.G. Wells Time Machine time machine. When the kids make use of the time machine, some Back to the Future-style timeline crosses happen.
Yentown: Also known as Swallowtail Butterfly, this 1996 movie takes place in an alternate Japan where most of the world’s economies are in poor shape and immigrants flock to Japan in search of work. A few native Japanese characters find a cassette tape (I won’t say how) and discover that it contains the pattern for printing magnetic ink on Japanese 10,000 yen banknotes. They take 1,000 yen banknotes and overprint them, then use them in vending machines, cash machines, etc, to get rich. The movie follows what they attempt to do with the money, and what happens as the criminals who lost the tape attempt to get it back.
Hiniko: A 2005 movie involving an adolescent boy who has become an agrophobe after an emotional trauma. His father happens to be a researcher in robotics and builds a robot with a telepresence link that can be sent to school as his son’s proxy. The movie revolves around the relationships with the fellow students that the boy manages to form through the robot. (“Hinoki” is a type of wood used in some construction in Japan, and he robot is apparently constructed partially from that wood so that the writers could use the Pinocchio pun.)
Jam Films: A collection of 7 short “indie” films, some of which have SF or F themes. The gem of the collection (IMHO, of course) is the last film, Arita, which has a single human character (Ryoko Hirosue, who stars alongside Jean Reno in Luc Besson’s movie Wasabi) and one character that is, uh, “something else.” The series continues with Jam Films 2 (4 shorts) and Jam Films S (7 shorts.)
The Host: This movie is Korean, not Japanese, and the original title is Coemul, meaning “creature.” Scientists dump experimental chemicals down the drain, and it causes some unspecified marine arthropod to mutate into a large (a couple of elephants or so, I’d estimate) creature that has a taste for human flesh. A creature-feature, but not a shallow one. It is largely a drama involving one family facing a problem (that I won’t spoiler) brought about by the creature, and their effort to solve it.
THE HOST is great!
Another great Korean SF film, though perhaps not so life-affirming, is SAVE THE GREEN PLANET.