(1) TAKE NO PRISONERS OF ZENDA. Ian Sales’ title “When I read a story I skip the explanations” introduces an extremely skillful dissection of a certain approach to science fictional worldbuilding that Sales compares to Ruritanian romance.
That’s the essence of Ruritanian science fiction. It is genre fiction which builds an invented setting out of elements which might as well not be invented. The labels are different but the objects are the same, or fulfil the same function. It’s not a failure of imagination, because imagination doesn’t feature in the process. And it’s only a failure of craft if the author is attempting something more than Ruritanian sf. If all they want is a science-fictional setting the reader can parse, one that’s uncoupled from the real world but close enough to it that few explanations are required, then if they’ve produced Ruritanian sf they’ve succeeded. Info-dumps are a given, but they’re usually “historical”, inasmuch as they attempt to give the invented world solidity and depth through exposition – but shifting the burden of exposition onto the setting’s own narrative only demonstrates how little exposition the tropes in the story actually need.
Needless to say, I think such forms of science fiction are low on invention and make poor use of the tools at the genre’s disposal. They can be entertaining, there’s no doubt about that; but their uncritical use of tropes, and their failure to interrogate the form, means they have little or nothing to add to the genre conversation.
(2) KEEP TRACK OF YOUR SPOONS. Andrea seeks the reasons she’s not writing more reviews in “Anger, Anxiety, and Art” at the Little Red Reviewer.
I know what I write on this blog doesn’t matter. I know none of this counts as “writing” or as anything, really. But in my mind, I put a lot of energy into this. I like pretty metaphors, ornamented sentences. I like to write book reviews and other articles that I am proud of. It’s not art, by a long shot, but I am creating something out of nothing. for the purposes of this particular blog post, let’s call what I do here art. And art requires mental energy. or at least it does for me.
So, where were all my spoons going? And was there any way to get them back? And thus, we get to the why.
(3) ONE MORE THAN FIVE. Nerds of a Feather has the perfect pairing of feature concept with an interesting author: “6 Books with Julie Czerneda”.
- What upcoming book you are really excited about? The next one Ben Aaronovitch writes in his Rivers of London series. Our travelling offspring lent me the existing books and I gobbled them up, despite trying to ration myself. They are fun, original, and yes, feel a bit Pratchett (wistful sigh) in the best way. Can’t wait to dive back in!
(4) VANISHING POINT. Camestros Felapton is keeping an eye on the internet’s newest knowledge source: “Voxopedia: where information about women goes to be erased”.
The erasure of women’s achievements in science is a known phenomenon, but it is rare that you get to see it happen in such a simple and direct way. Over at our new favourite train-wreck, Vox Day had been busy quite literally erasing women’s contribution to science….
(5) A MONTH WITH NO FIVES. Rocket Stack Rank’s ”October 2016 Ratings” covers 51 stories, but none of them warranted the highest score of 5, which means ‘Hugo worthy.”
(6) BINARY CHOICE. Matthew B.J. Delaney says characters count in “Characters or Plot, Which Is More Important?” at Fantasy Book Critic.
The 5 highest grossing films of all time are heavy plot, light character:
– Star Wars: The Force Awakens
– Jurassic World
– The Avengers.
These are all entertaining movies dominated by things happening. The characters are interchangeable pieces to throw explosions or dinosaurs, or sinking ships at. They don’t really matter. People don’t walk around reciting quotes from any of these films, because characters are made memorable by the things they say. And there are no truly memorable characters in any of these movies.
Memorable scenes, yes, memorable quotes, no.
On the other hand, character movies are filled with amazing lines.
Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.
I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.
Here’s looking at you kid.
These are the kind of things that characters who really blow your hair back say. The cool comebacks and one liners you wish you could have used on anyone who pushed you around or made you fall in love. These are character driven quotes, and the top IMDB highest rated films of all time are filled with them…
(7) NO FEAR. I would need to excerpt about eight paragraphs of Ann Leckie’s “On Blacklisting” to convey how many aspects of this topic she deals with. That’s why you should just click through and read it, eh?
I’ll be honest, I am not down for calls to close anyone out of the field for bad behavior. I mean, for myself, bad enough, or bad in specific ways, and yeah, I don’t want to work with you. Maybe quite a few people don’t. But it’s not my call to make for anyone but me, nor should it be. No one should have that power, to shut anyone out of SFF. Behave badly enough and quite a few editors will prefer not to work with you–but that’s not the same as a field-wide blacklist, and I don’t think there should be one. Ever. Each editor gets to make the call for their venue, end of story. And yes, there will be editors who are all about the purity of art apart from artist, editors who don’t care one way or the other about kittens. You may disagree with those editors’ decisions, but they get to make that choice. You may prefer on balance not to work with such editors–again, that’s your call. You choose where to submit, and you get to have whatever reasons you want for that choice.
I am down for being open about serious problems, though. Someone who’s a really bad actor, who’s strewn destruction in their wake? Yeah, let’s know about that. We can all make our decisions about how to react to that, going forward. Concealing things to whisper networks and private chats just lets the bad actor continue to harm the unwarned.
(8) BELLY UP. This weekend Utah regional publisher Jolly Fish Press announced they are going out of business.
Our Journey Has Come to a Close
It is with deep sadness that we are announcing the closing of Jolly Fish Press (JFP). For nearly five years, JFP has been a beacon of inspiration to many in the publishing industry; we’ve opened up doors to authors, editors, designers, publicists, and illustrators alike, providing them with a platform on which their dreams of establishing themselves in the industry could be realized….
After a long process of seeking investors who believe in our company and what we aim to achieve, we have, unfortunately, failed to secure the funds necessary to grow and move the company forward. While JFP has great propensity to becoming a serious competitor in the industry, the lack of financial investment prohibits us from reaching our potential. We have approached the point where we can no longer sustain our business.
JFP is ceasing business effective October 31, 2016. All rights to our titles will be reverted by October 31, 2016. Book production will stop effective immediately.
JFP’s authors included Johnny Worthen and Jenniffer Wardell.
(9) STUART OBIT. TheRecord.com profiled the late Ruth Ann Stuart (1964-2016), who died of brain cancer on August 12, in “Lifetimes: By day an insurance worker, by night a fantasy fiction writer”.
Ruth Stuart worked in insurance, the past 10 years as quality assurance auditor for Manulife Financial. Her job required a no-nonsense approach in the anything but lighthearted world of insurance. By night, Ruth cast off her serious side and delved into the world of fantasy writing as an author, mentor, editor and inspiration to everyone in the speculative fiction community. She even dabbled in writing eroticism according to her friend and editor, Julie Czerneda.
These were two very different sides to a woman who had so many friends that while in hospital suffering through the final stages of brain cancer, Ruth’s room was constantly jammed packed with visitors, not to mention the steady stream of phone calls and text messages. Nurses suggested they install a revolving door in her room.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL
- Born October 17, 1948 — Margot Kidder
(11) APPLYING CODES OF CONDUCT AT CONS. Alexandra Erin suggests where to strike the balance, in “Priorities: Justice vs. Safety in Convention Culture”.
One comment I made in one of my recent posts that has attracted a certain amount of skepticism was my endorsement of a con culture that focuses on safety rather than justice in conflict resolutions. “How can you have safety without justice?” is one typical response. “So justice is a bad thing now?” is another.
Well, justice is most assuredly not a bad thing.
But justice in the sense of criminal justice or what we might call retributive justice is not the most pressing concern of a convention’s code of conduct, nor should it be the focus of a convention’s safety or security team.
Let me put it to you this way: how many comic, literary, or media conventions have you been to or heard of, that you would trust with the weighty responsibility of meting out justice? How many of them do you think have the people, expertise, or time and resources to serve out justice in a meaningful sense?
(12) BURTON BEFORE BEETHOVEN. The Los Angeles Times says symphony-goers have something to look forward to: “’A Freak in Burbank’: Alex Theater Concert to Feature Composer’s Paean to Tim Burton”.
The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and guest conductor Thomas Dausgaard are looking to start off an upcoming concert on a more eccentric note.
One of Beethoven’s most celebrated works, Symphony No. 3, “Eroica,” will be the headlining piece at the chamber’s concert at the Alex Theatre in Glendale on Oct. 29. However, the night will open with a roughly 10-minute work called “A Freak in Burbank,” a composition making its West Coast debut and dedicated to the legendary and eccentric filmmaker Tim Burton.
(13) SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT. Crooked Timber recommends “A Science Fiction Tasting Menu For The As Yet Uninitiated”.
Hors d’oeuvre—short stories available for free or cheap download
If you don’t like any of these, you won’t appreciate anything that follows
E.M. Forster, The Machine Stops – Dystopia perfectly imagined, in 1909.
William Tenn, The Liberation of Earth – All you need know about war
James Blish, Surface Tension – What imagination can do
Frederik Pohl, The tunnel under the world – Life inside Facebook
(14) TREEHOUSE OF HORROR. A.V. Club got an advance peek — “The Simpson’s evil scheme to reach 600 episodes lands in the Treehouse of Horror”.
The promotional materials, including the usually amusing snarky screener announcement sent to critics (or “critics” as such people are called within), hyped the return of still-hotly-debated Homer nemesis Frank Grimes, or at least the poor guy’s ghost. And the opening segment sees the Simpsons in costume, buying Christmas trees on Halloween, as Homer says, “Because in America, everything’s way too early.” (He’s wearing an “Ivanka 2028” campaign button, because nothing matters in America at this point.) There, they’re confronted not only by the ghost of Grimes (“Who?,” asks Homer, to the ghostly Grimes’ chagrin), Sideshow Bob, Kang (or Kodos), and that leprechaun who tells Ralph to burn things, who proclaim themselves the family’s four evil nemeses before being immediately slaughtered by Maggie. (What looked like her Chaplin costume turns out to be her old Alex DeLarge costume, complete with sword cane.) Adios, Frank Grimes—you were used for a throwaway gag, as is your destiny.
The pieces that follow all partake of the same strengths and weaknesses.
The first fanzine I read was an issue of Science Fiction Review, a magazine edited and published by the late Richard (Dick) Geis, and that issue included among much else a bit of autobiography by Algis Budrys, a fiction-writer, editor and critic who has had rather a large influence on me; along with that essay, an interview, conducted by an impressed fan of his (and of other contributors to the literary legacy of the Fawcett Gold Medal paperback line), Edward Gorman. So that’s how I was introduced to Ed, in 1978.
Like Budrys, or Geis, only perhaps even more so, Ed went ahead and did things that he clearly thought needed doing, not only establishing himself as a freelance writer, but launching the magazine Mystery Scene and engaged in the launch of the book-publishing house, Five Star, which have both done notable service to the field of crime fiction and beyond. He co-edited two (or, arguably, three) best crime fiction of the year annual series, and wrote well and often brilliantly in at least the fields of crime fiction, fantastic fiction (particularly horror), western fiction, and historical fiction. His editorial work has been impressive, beyond the magazine and annuals, often assembling key anthologies of crime fiction and more, not least with The Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction and The Second Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction, and such notable compilations as the nonfiction collection The Big Book of Noir and the interview collections Speaking of Murder and Speaking of Murder 2.
(16) DO WE BLAME ASIMOV? In a video at Business Insider, “Neil deGrasse Tyson explains why killer robots don’t scare him”.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Bonnie McDaniel, Mackenzie, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, and Dave Doering for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day Jim Henley and Simon Bisson.]