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Speculations: The Feedback Zone: The Rumor Mill: Really Good Books: Message Archive

Well, we have a topic for BAD books, so why not one for really good books? Not just average books, or books that you just liked--they don't belong in this topic. This topic is only for those books which you absolutely loved, told all your friends about, and would happily read again and again. Books that you'd praise yourself forever if you wrote. But you get the picture.

Message #693 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on May 8, 2001 at 0:27

I don't know. Storm of Shears or Storm of Slaughter just doesn't have the same ring as Martin's title does. Personally I'd give highest body count award to Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest. Man, in that novel Hammett offs his characters with a hyperactive thresher.

I'll have to borrow a copy of the first Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire when I get a chance.

Message #692 left by Marti on May 7, 2001 at 20:20

Storm of Swords.

Very good, although I think it deserves some kind of special Nebula or Hugo for "novel that kills off the most main characters in violent bloody ways." It was like Martin went though the cast of characters with pruning shears.

Message #691 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on May 5, 2001 at 17:42

Finished City of Baraboo by Barry Longyear and I enjoyed it a lot. It had a lot of interesting characters and unique insights into the circus life--perhaps a bit too many of the former. But I still had fun while I read it, which is the most important thing. Plus I also learned some interesting information about grifters and the circus trade. One small nit I had, though. Longyear tended to use "he felt" too much in the prose, thus distancing me more than if he had used more active descriptions like "Drops of cold sweat spilled down the back of his neck." After reading James Van Pelt's definition in The Jargon File topic, I'm looking out for that more often in both other writers' work and my own.

In any case, I recommend City of Baraboo.

Message #690 left by Joe Shosty on May 5, 2001 at 2:13

Silver Birch, Blood Moon, edited by Datlow and Windling. Good book. I liked the second one in the series, but didn't really like the others until this one. It's still the same old woman as victim stuff as before, but there are some real gems here. Pamela Briggs' reworking of Rumplestilzkin is a good one, as well as Pat York's look at Sleeping Beauty. It's nice to see stories like these. I much prefer York's story to most of the others in the way she shows the woman as both mother and wife. She's devoted to the plight of her son, yet yearns for her husband thousands of miles away. So often in this series we see the woman shackled to some big brute (which I find offensive, as I am the proverbial "big ol' boy" myself) that she doesn't love and finds sexually repulsive. While it's obvious from the get go this story won't end well, it's nice to see a story filled with love and heartbreak instead of no love at all.

My only problem with this series is they seem to be doing the same tales over and over again. It seems every one contains a Frog Prince, Rumplestiltzkin, Sleeping Beauty, and Puss in Boots. I'm a little upset that they haven't chosen to mine other tales for inspiration.

Message #689 left by Jason D. W. on Apr 23, 2001 at 2:11

I'm in the midst of "Tales of Earthsea" by Ursula K. LeGuin, an anthology of short stories and novellas. An excellent book, on the whole. And I can't wait til her next Earthsea novel, "The Other Wind" comes out.

Message #688 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Apr 22, 2001 at 17:42

About two weeks ago, I finished Ben Bova's Venus and I found that upon recollection I still enjoyed the novel. Although the characterization in the novel is less than stellar, I found it to be an enjoyable science fiction adventure novel. It doesn't claim to be great literature, but it entertained me a great deal and I found it one of the more interesting planetary exploration novels I've read recently in terms of good, hard science. One revealation I found, however, was absolutely ridiculous and some of the plot points are telegraphed from a mile away. If you can ignore these critiques, though, I recommend Venus as a really good weekend read.

Message #687 left by Jay Arr on Mar 29, 2001 at 16:29

Just finished "I Dream of You," a collection of the Strangers in Paradise series. Also read "A Game of You," a Sandman collection. I'm trying to find more of Alison Bechdel's work (Dykes to Watch Out For.) I love her people.

Message #686 left by Jan S. on Mar 25, 2001 at 17:13

Mentioned ages ago in Favorite Characters but not elsewhere according to the RM search-critter is Anya Seton's _Katherine_. I would give my left arm to be able to write that well. I've read this book so many times I've lost count. All those writers busy churning out those so-called bodice rippers should each be made to read this book at least once as a primer on how to do not only historical fiction, but a historical romance. Why, oh why has no one made a film of this? Perhaps the author's descendants or whoever owns the book rights won't sell. But with the right script and some really intelligent casting, this would be a monster. A long monster -- maybe a series? -- but a monster nonetheless.

For those who don't know, this is a historical novel about a woman called Katherine de Roet when she was born, who first married a knight named Swynford (who later died) and then became the mistress of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (lands he acquired from his first wife, Blanche) and son of King Edward III. They separated during a virulent plague epidemic, then later reunited and married, and their children started the Tudor line of English royalty, which includes Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Antonia Fraser's _The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England_ has some mentions of both John and Katherine.

Enough, before I start blathering.;>

Message #685 left by RHole on Mar 23, 2001 at 14:12

Kenn Kaufman's "Kingbird Highway" I think it's the best travel-sort-of book I've ever read. It's about the author's search to see more birds in North America in 1973 than anyone else. All by hitchhiking. It's got character studies of many obsessive people (and while some of us are obsessive, you've not met obsessive until you've met a true bird watcher), and lots of other people he meets on his way. It's also a pleasant and fast read, and you don't have to be interested in birds to enjoy it. I found it very well written and just a fun book, and it captures a spirit of adventure and movement that might be of interest to those writing episodic odyssey-type novels. -Robert

Message #684 left by Tim Pratt on Mar 20, 2001 at 19:10

Peter S. Beagle's Folk of the Air is wonderful. The story is solid, the characters fascinating, and the prose is as beautiful and inventive as anything I've ever read.

Message #683 left by Mary on Mar 20, 2001 at 18:54

Oh, yes.

_The Tough Guide_ was reviewed in _Weird Tales_: "the trilogies it could have prevented."

Message #682 left by Jason D. W. on Mar 20, 2001 at 11:20

Speaking of Diana Wynne Jones, has anyone read her "Tough Guide to Fantasyland"? It's an encyclopedic listing of every fantasy cliche known to humankind. Very funny in spots.

Message #681 left by Antonia Mitchell on Mar 19, 2001 at 20:05

Jay Arr: I find Diana Wynne Jones's books are funny and charming. "Deep Secret" should be the easiest to find.

I'd recommend my all-time fav book "Good Omens" but since you mentioned Pratchett and Sandman, you've probably already read it.

Message #680 left by MWA on Mar 18, 2001 at 22:16

Bentley Little's "The Ignored." It took me a while to find it (at a Border's in Atlanta), but it was well worth the search. A very intriguing concept for a novel.

Message #679 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Mar 17, 2001 at 22:55

I just finished Courtship Rites, an excellent novel by Donald Kingsbury. I never thought a novel about a cannibalism would be this interesting. But it was quite well written, had many interesting characters (particular Oelita and Teenae) and a good, complex plot. The novel had few minor similarities to Dune, but it was enough of its own work to stand out on its own. I highly recommend this novel.

Ironically I found out about this novel after listening to a Realaudio interview with Robert Sawyer. He mentioned it and I'm glad that he did.

One other interesting thing I've been noticing is a lot of science fiction novels with atavistic themes, specifically how certain socities are reverted back to more primitive states and must relearn technology. Souls in the Great Machine by Sean McMullen, An Alien Light by Nancy Kress and of course Courtship Rites.

Message #678 left by Jamie Rosen on Mar 17, 2001 at 9:50

I'll fifth the opinion on Mythago Wood. Certainly one of the best fantasy books I've read, and it definitely qualifies for the "wish I could have written it" category.

Message #677 left by Brian L. Blalock on Mar 17, 2001 at 5:35

I'll fourth that opinion on Mythago Wood. Definate must read.

Re: Clash of Kings: You could always do what I do with multi-viewpoint books with too many multis: Just skip ahead and read three or four chapters per character before switching characters. =)

Message #676 left by Lenora Rose on Mar 17, 2001 at 4:12

I loved Mythago Wood - and I liked Lavondyss (the first sequal, and one that some peopel found an easier entry point), but could never bring myself to bother with the rest - it looked a bit too much alike when I read the blurbs.

Hammering away at A Clash of Kings. Still the same problem as in the first book - not just that there are a lot of characters, but that so little time is spent with each before moving on, and Sansa STILL seems redundant (though now it's not with her sister, it's with the much more interesting POV of Tyrion, in the same castle) and cipherous. Still, fine writing, many-faceted story, and most of the other 'important' characters are complex enough to keep interest.

Message #675 left by Lori on Mar 16, 2001 at 16:32

I liked Darwinia quite a bit, and I've heard very good things about Mythago Wood, but I haven't gotten to it yet. On the pile, I guess.

Message #674 left by Megan on Mar 16, 2001 at 16:21

Yes, I liked that one--though I really should go back and read it again. I've tried a couple of the sequels/related works within the past year or so. The Hollowing was fine, but I was much more enthused with The Fetch.

Message #673 left by Jim Van Pelt on Mar 16, 2001 at 15:21

My personal, all time favorite fantasy novel (single volume) is Robert Holdstock's MYTHAGO WOOD. Have any of you read it? It blew me away in '88 when I read it the first time (it won the World Fantasy Award), and it's held up every time I read it since then. He's written some sequels that I haven't been able to get into, but MYTHAGO WOOD is a darned good book.

Message #672 left by Jae on Mar 16, 2001 at 15:17

Jason: To add another perspective, I was disappointed. I enjoyed #1 and #2 very much, but #3 was real let down, especially when compared to Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. I'll probably read #4, because it got interesting again in the last five pages of #3, but I'll wait for paperback.

Message #671 left by Barry Hollander on Mar 16, 2001 at 14:09

Jason: I think the Tad Williams series is quite good. I know the last book of the series is just now coming out (finally!). That said, my wife enjoyed his other, more fantasy S&S series but couldn't get into the Otherland story, which is more SF/Cyber/touch of fantasy.

Message #670 left by Jason D. W. on Mar 16, 2001 at 12:26

How good is Tad Williams' "Otherland" series?

Message #669 left by John Savage on Mar 15, 2001 at 19:38

Never been near the website. And, if it was a "fan," it's a consistent (and rather stupid) one—the two groupings of spam all originated in the same narrow IP address range, and it's a "real" range (i.e., not an anonymizing proxy).

Message #668 left by Terry on Mar 15, 2001 at 16:06

John, are you sure it's Lemony his/her/itself? And not a fan, or just someone using the name? Had you visited the web site, and is that why you think you got the spam? I'm wondering, because I went over there a couple of times and now you've got me wondering about cookies.

Message #667 left by John Savage on Mar 15, 2001 at 14:41

Commenting on an issue up the chain:

"Lemony Snicket" is also a spamster. I've gotten messages labelled "Who is Lemony Snicket?" and variations thereon about 25 times in the last week. And there was a similar pattern in mid-November. For that reason, I'm not reading the books.

Message #666 left by Lindsey on Mar 15, 2001 at 13:48

I think it's the last one in *that* series, although she may have more planned for the world in general. I haven't seen any promotions for new books yet, though. You could check Bantam's web site and see if they say anything.

-Linz

Message #665 left by Jason D. W. on Mar 15, 2001 at 13:14

Quick question: Is the third book in Robin Hobb's "Liveship Traders" series the last one?

Message #664 left by John Savage on Mar 13, 2001 at 11:34

Trade paperback just after WorldCon, mass market paperback sometime in late 2002. At least, that's according to the schedule I've seen. Bantam is notorious for slipping paperback reissues on books that sell well in casebound editions, even when that involves breaching distribution contracts and preordering agreements from the stores.

Message #663 left by Joe Mahoney on Mar 13, 2001 at 10:26

Anybody have any idea when Storm of Swords will be coming out in paperback?

Message #662 left by Terry on Mar 12, 2001 at 13:45

Has no one mentioned Sluggy Freelance? It's presented online like a newspaper serial--b & w panels during the week then color on Sunday. www.sluggy.com. It's been running for several years and I'm working my way forward through the archives before getting to current issues. The archives are accessible via the URL I gave. Insane, dark, goofy--it's got a homicidal, sadistic and cute bunny rabbit and a constantly-morphing alien secretary, among other delectables.

Message #661 left by Lindsey on Mar 12, 2001 at 12:09

Jay Arr, for comic book humor also try "Quantum and Woody," one of the funniest spoofs/bouts of silliness I've ever read. But then, I'm weird and twisted. Which is why I think you'll like them. Priest, the author (or illustrator, or both, I forget) apparently didn't want it to be funny, and is a little put out that it is. Don't let that stop you from laughing at him. I think unintentional ridiculousness mixed generously with sarcasm is hysterical. I highly recommend it.

-Linz

Message #660 left by John Savage on Mar 12, 2001 at 11:36

It's looking like 2002 now. Her own and family health have not been the best of late.

Message #659 left by Lenora Rose on Mar 12, 2001 at 2:46

Alas, a serious comic to recommend (thus, not for Jay Arr) - The Tale of One Bad Rat, by Bryan Talbot. My favourite comic of all time - possibly barring Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind (But it takes a couple reads of the first Part of five to figure out all the political sides). But only possibly.

Also, just finished Mary Doria Russell's Children of God (I must say, this seems to be a time for me to list seriously dark subject matter...). Seemed to drag at first compared to the Sparrow, but by the conclusion I was almost as transported as I was with the first book. Almost. (With the Sparrow I had bought my own copy before the library book got back to the library. With Children of God, I haven't been quite as hasty.)

John, any word on when her next book is coming out? (I know it probably won't be 'in genre', but then, I found the other two in the general fiction section in the bookstores (but in SF in the library) as it is...), and frankly, I don't give a damn anyhow.

Message #658 left by Jamie Rosen on Mar 11, 2001 at 22:01

Hey Jay, if you like quality comics and are looking for humour (and haven't tried these yet) you might want to look into Madman and The Flaming Carrot.

And I'd like to second your reccomendations and add V For Vendetta to the list -- from Alan Moore, the writer on Watchmen, and surprisingly overlooked.

On the book front, I enjoyed VMR by Robert Frezza, but it may not be to everyone's liking.

Message #657 left by Mary on Mar 11, 2001 at 21:59

Astro City is indeed marvelous. There was a limited series, and now a continuing series, and all but the last arc in the series are available collected.

Message #656 left by Sean Klein on Mar 11, 2001 at 21:18

Jay, try Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events." There's six books in the series at the moment. In the children's section of your local bookstore or library.

Message #655 left by Terry on Mar 11, 2001 at 17:38

Jay Arr: (yes, I'm following you around the RM) If you aren't prejudiced against mysteries, try Parnell Hall for humor. I have on occasion literally almost embarassed myself (ahem) laughing at his books. They each stand alone but it's best if you start with the first. You're going to ask me which that is now, aren't you. I'll check...Okay, here are some of them, in order (there are later ones which I haven't got yet): DETECTIVE MURDER FAVOR STRANGLER CLIENT JUROR SHOT ACTOR Stanley Hastings is the funniest sleuth between board covers, IMO. He bumbles through the books coming to all the wrong conclusions for the right reasons and vice-versa, and somehow lives through it all (you thought I was going to say "solves the cases," didn't you? HA!)

Message #654 left by Jay Arr on Mar 11, 2001 at 14:42

For those who can get over their prejudice against "comic books," ASTRO CITY is a really beautiful work. THE WATCHMEN should be required reading for writers, right up there beside 1984. MIRACLEMAN, SANDMAN... just incredible stuff. Beautiful.

Those who read the "Crummy Life" topic know I could use a few laughs right now, so I will definitely check out *Cosmic Banditos.*

Library still has no Pratchett in. Drat! I'm re-reading a Kinky Friedman though, and that is a treasure. Okay, so his plots don't always make sense and he uses the same tired word-play time after time. But he has done what we all long to do: he has created his own little world. It's a world I wouldn't mind living in.

More recommendations of humor, please! I need to laugh.

Message #653 left by Sean Klein on Mar 11, 2001 at 10:54

Not quite spec fic, but I can't recommend this book highly enough: Cosmic Banditos by A.C. Weisbecker. It's just back in print after a criminally-long stretch in the OOP purgatory.

It's the only book I've ever read that combined drug running, quantum physics, South American banditos, a dog, a snake, and more. Quite possibly the funniest book I've ever read in my life.

Message #652 left by Brian L. Blalock on Mar 8, 2001 at 20:13

Maybe first written, but not first sold?

Message #651 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Mar 8, 2001 at 16:56

I just finished reading Cirque by Terry Carr and I enjoyed the book a lot. Cirque was a very interesting world and I believe that Carr did a great job populating it with interesting characters and technologies. In truth, I was going to pass this book over in the library. But now I'm glad that I read it.

The back of the book says that this is Carr's first novel he wrote. I could've sworn that he wrote another one (Warlords of Kor, I believe)--I know he wrote some short stories as well. It's a shame that he never got the chance to write another novel.

Message #650 left by Jon Hodges on Mar 7, 2001 at 23:39

MWA: I've been trying to mentally classify The Tin Drum since I finished it, and I can't. It has plenty of literary aspects, but it does have some magic realism aspects, and it probably even has some horror aspects, depending on how loose you are with the word "horror." I wouldn't necessarily, though, approach a group of horror readers and say "Read the Tin Drum, you'll love it." I don't have a good grip on what "magic realism" really is, to be honest, so I'm not sure if I could approach a group of magic realism readers and say, "Read The Tin Drum, you'll love it" or not.

All I can say is that it's a literary book, but Oskar Matzerath has some mannerisms that are very definitely supernatural, no matter how he plays them off as true traits. And there are a couple other small things that occur that are supernatural, but that's also questionable as to whether or not it was just in Oskar's head, or if it really did happen.

So yes, I think it could be labeled as magic realism, but I think giving it ONLY that label would be cheating it a bit. Not that magic realism is a bad label, just that there's so much more to this book than just that.

Message #649 left by MWA on Mar 7, 2001 at 20:41

Jon:

I've seen comments online describing "The Tin Drum" as Magical Realism--what's your take on its "classification"?

Message #648 left by Robert Hoge on Mar 4, 2001 at 22:27

Haven't read them in nearly 10 years but have just noticed that M. K. Wren's Phoenix Legacy trilogy is back in print.

The books are: Sword of the Lamb Shadow of the Swan House of the Wolf

I remember them being a very good read. They should be suitable for younger readers too.

Message #647 left by Jon Hodges on Mar 3, 2001 at 12:04

I finished reading The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass last month. Wow. That's officially my favorite book of all time, and I'm now going to go and read the entire Danzig Trilogy.

It's not speculative. It's a German fictionalized autobiography of one Oskar Matzerath, who leads *quite* an interesting life. He stunts his height to less than four feet until he's 18, he tells his life stories through a tin drum, and he can scream at such a pitch it shatters windows, except he learns how to control his scream to shatter only the windows he sees fit. I recommend this book to *anyone*.

Message #646 left by John Savage on Mar 3, 2001 at 10:19

You'll find out a couple of those answers in Children of God. Or at least be able to infer them.

Message #645 left by Sean Klein on Mar 3, 2001 at 10:05

Just finished "The Sparrow" which is a great book, but I have two questions. Both relate to plot events in the book and both are spoily, so don't read ahead unless you've read the book.


Spoiler alert!!! . . . . . . . . . . . 1. How is it that this group of brilliant and clever people can let themselves get stranded on the planet by not leaving enough fuel in the lander? This really bugged me and seemed to fall into the category of characters doing stupid things just to advance the plot. How easy would it have been for D.W. to say, "Don't use the lander, we only have enough fuel in it to go back to the Stella Maris." And don't say, "To spare George's feelings." I'm not buying that.

2. How did Emilio survive in the Stella Maris on the return trip alone, with no hands? I'm wondering how he did basic things like prepare food and some basic hygene.

3. Did anyone feel that the last 50 pages were a bit rushed, in comparason to the first 350? There's an awful lot of stuff happening in those last 50. They didn't quite have the same pace as the first 350 to me.

Overall, "The Sparrow" is a great thought-provoking read. Thanks to Ron Collins and John Savage for pointing it out to me.

Message #644 left by Marti on Mar 2, 2001 at 20:08

Well, Kage Baker's books of the Company were pretty darned good. In the Garden of Iden, Sky Coyote, and Mendoza in Hollywood were all good fun to read. Time travel novels, although with cyborgs. Very enjoyable stuff.

Message #643 left by Terry on Mar 2, 2001 at 14:24

I've been reading the first two books in Julie Czerneda's Trade Pact Universe series (A Thousand Words for Stranger, Ties of Power) and I found myself liking them more than I expected. I generally have little patience for ESP-type stuff in my SF. Hers is okay, though--and in the second book it turns out it (the basis for the ESP stuff) may be more SF than you're led to believe in the first. But what *really* sold me were the Drapsk in the second book--this is one of the coolest, most appealing alien species I've come across. I could even see a Drapsk stuffed alien figure! Ha! I also liked the hero's best buddy, Huido. A lot. I hope we see more of the Drapsk AND Huido in subsequent books!

Message #642 left by Barry Hollander on Mar 2, 2001 at 13:32

On the Martin books, I am amazed at his willingness to kill off some major characters. As long as Tyrion survives, I'll be happy. The jumps in POV only annoy me when they are of a character I really care little about...of which there aren't many, though Sansa (spelling?) is among them.

As someone who has read way too much fantasy over the last 30 or so years, his series is a refreshing break from the usual S&S stuff. A brother-in-law lent me a batch of Goodkind novels and I've honestly tried to get into them, but I can't. I may try again this summer.

Oh, on good books. Reading a collection of John Cheever short stories. Amazing stuff.

Message #641 left by Joe Mahoney on Mar 2, 2001 at 12:22

Yeah, I suppose you're right. But I still find it a bit jarring just getting into one character and then phlumpff! You're off to the next. I wonder if there wasn't a less jarring way to switch viewpoints. Lots of viewpoints in Lord of the Rings, I seem to recall, and I don't recall feeling bounced around so much. Don't get me wrong, though... I liked the books well enough.

Message #640 left by NMcVey on Mar 2, 2001 at 11:32

Not to be a disagreeable sort, but I believe that the scope and breadth of Mr. Martin's plots and character interaction is what impresses me the most. To restrict him to one character viewpoint would mean the loss of 80-85 percent of the plots. Simply put, Tyrion can't be everywhere he would need to be to advance the plots under the watchful eyes of the reader.

On another point, Tyrion Lannister is my favorite character... next to Gregor Clegane. ;)

Message #639 left by Joe Mahoney on Mar 2, 2001 at 8:49

Clash of Kings started off slow for me, but picked up quickly enough. If the entire series had been written from Tyrion Lannister's POV I don't think much wouldn've been lost, though.

Message #638 left by NMcVey on Mar 1, 2001 at 12:10

I thought the second book, Clash of Kings was a bit too slow for its size. It lumbered a bit, but to say that Storm of Swords didn't move the plot forward enough for it's size strikes me as odd. An absolute ton of events happen in it and the plot strides forward.

Message #637 left by Mary on Feb 28, 2001 at 19:34

I regret to inform you that _Storm of Swords_ is not as good. It doesn't have sufficient moving forward on the plot to justify a 900 page book.

But some important things do happen in it. I doubt you will be able to understand book 3 without it.

Message #636 left by Joe Mahoney on Feb 28, 2001 at 12:10

'A Clash of Kings' is even better -- Tyrion Lannister is such a great character. Although the constantly switching viewpoints drives me a bit nuts.

Message #635 left by Martin on Feb 25, 2001 at 16:14

I just want to say that following the recommendations on this thread I went a bought George RR Martin's 'A Game of Thrones' and you were all right - it's excellent.

Message #634 left by John Savage on Feb 25, 2001 at 11:22

Jason, by "small" I meant in perspective, not in physical size.

One of the aspects of allegory that is a real stumbling block is Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" from The Republic—which is not, under most useful definitions of the term, an allegory at all. It is, instead, an extended metaphor, because it does not have a precise, explicable correspondence with anything. Try reading I.A. Richards' translation of The Republic and you'll see what I mean.

Message #633 left by MWA on Feb 25, 2001 at 0:52

I think one of the best explanations I've heard for the term "literary" is that the work lends some insight into the experience of being human. Of course, one might ask just what the hell other kind of experience we humans can write about--I tend to think of the stories I utterly hate for various reasons, and that's my own answer. In some way, those stories lack (human) elements that I can relate to.

But I do occasionally find a story in Plowshares, Glimmer Train or other lit mags that, on the brief glance, seem to be about nothing at all--no real action, no disturbing or fantastic elemenst--but when the story is fully read and understood, gives me a feeling that the author has hit upon a simple element of everyday life in a way that is enlightening to me. And that, if such a definition is indeed valid, goes a long way in explaining why nailing literary stories down to a strict story type is so difficult. It's all very opinon oriented. One person's literary story is another's pointless drivel.

Message #632 left by Jason D. W. on Feb 24, 2001 at 23:31

Re #627: Camp Concentration isn't small enough to be an allegory.

I didn't know allegories had a size requirement. Besides, Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene is nothing but a big huge allegory. In book form, it's almost two inches thick.

Message #631 left by John Savage on Feb 20, 2001 at 17:03

The first rendition of An Enemy of the People in the US was Arthur Miller's 1955ish version, which is the one most Americans know. That version removed a lot of the ambiguity in Ibsen's play in the name of attacking McCarthyism. For example, in Ibsen's version, the doctor is not an unalloyed hero, but a self-serving SOB who is not much, if any, better than the townsfolk. More-recent translations—since the late 1980s—have restored much of the ambiguity.

This is, itself, a hint, folks: Don't assume that illustrious translators will always be faithful to the original work.

Message #630 left by Joe Shosty on Feb 20, 2001 at 12:35

John: Thanks for clarifying. I agree the common definition is a bit too loose. And I agree that An Enemy of the State is not an allegory. It has more an absurdist bent to it than anything. You mentioned something about Miller's work that I'm not clear on. Are you saying he's written an interpretation of Ibsen's work, or has he done something else altogether that is similar in form?

Message #629 left by Sean Klein on Feb 20, 2001 at 11:00

I'll second the vote for "A Deepness in the Sky" as a really good book. It had me saying, "Oh my God, oh my God," out loud at one point.

Message #628 left by Joe Mahoney on Feb 19, 2001 at 14:18

Best book I've read recently would have to be A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge. Just a deeply satisfying read, from an author who I understand has a day job, which makes me like him all the more. If he can produce such a great book while working for someone else, maybe I can too (insert wistful sigh here).

Message #627 left by John Savage on Feb 19, 2001 at 9:24

It's neither. Camp Concentration isn't small enough to be an allegory, and the paranoia is merely (to borrow what I think you were referring to) a technical aspect.

The definition in most nonspecialist dictionaries of "allegory" is too loose an imprecise to be useful. I'm using the definition implied in Frye's, Booth's, and Auerbach's works, which is something like a roman a clef keyed to specific, explicable types, as opposed to specific, identifiable persons/places/things/events, although it's quite a bit more than that. Examples include Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Spenser's Faerie Queen, and the play Inherit the Wind (a far less powerful piece than either a nonfiction rendition of the Scopes trial or the short story the play was based upon). Compare, on the other hand, Ibsen's An Enemy of the State in the original or a recent rendition, which is not allegorical, with Arthur Miller's popularization, which is.

Message #626 left by Joe Shosty on Feb 19, 2001 at 6:26

John, I'm a little bit unclear here. You say allegories suck, yet you stand up for Disch's Camp Concentration. What else could that book be called but a paranoid jerkoff fantasy? I'm not about to argue with you again about the book's validity as a piece of outstanding literature -- obviously we'll have to agree to disagree about that. I'm interested why you could support it yet condemn allegories as a whole. Unless, of course, you liked the writing but not necessarily what the book stood for. That I could see.

Message #625 left by Joe Shosty on Feb 19, 2001 at 6:15

I'd like to add that authors like Steinbeck, Hemingway, and even sf's own illustrious Ray Bradbury are considered "literary" geniuses but also possess easy to read styles.

Literary is another word I see kicked about these days without most even knowing what it means. I try to use it sparingly because to be honest it's really a neutral sort of word. Does it really add to your selling point if you say a book employs techniques such as allusion and symbolism -- or carries some great meaning -- rather than it exists simply to delight and astound? Only if a person is actively seeking out books that are strictly literary.

Oh, and I consider myself a literary writer, btw, but that is simply because I actively employ such techniques in my writing. I use sf and fantasy as vehicles, not as the end-all and be-all of my writing. In fact, if I knew how to get to the point of some of the things I want to say without a robot or a poodle with bat wings thrown in for good measure, I'd abandon the fantastic elements of my work altogether. But I wouldn't say I'm a pompous prig because I consider my work literature.

That said, I'd like to mention I'm re-reading Chabon's Wonder Boys for a second time. Speaking of allusion, I've caught something like six or seven hidden references to comic books that I hadn't noticed on the first read. I'm really enjoying myself. This book is definitely on my recommended list, especially as it will some day (even though that date seems to be continually pushed back) be released on video for the millions of people who haven't seen it to enjoy. But I really recommend the book because the movie is a separate entity unto itself. Michael Douglas does a spectacular job, but he doesn't convince me he's Grady Tripp. Not by a long shot. Nor does the movie convince me it's an adaptation of the book. It does have the same series of actions in it, but the film's style, and the inclusion of an enormously powerful soundtrack that packs an emotional wallop at just the right times, transforms it into something else entirely. Just as good, but different.

Message #624 left by John Savage on Feb 18, 2001 at 17:02

The working definition of "literary" in the book-review trade is "aspires to more than just entertainment/escapism." Leaving the loaded terms aside, that works for me, with one exception: If the work reaches more than entertainment/escapism, regardless of authorial intent (cf. Wimsatt & Beardsley's "The Intentional Fallacy," which should be required reading for all reviewers), I put it into the "literary" camp.

OK, another exception: Pure polemic is not "literary." This is why allegory in all its various guises sucks (to use another technical term). Far-right military jerkoff fantasies are as nonliterary as far-left economic-genocide jerkoff fantasies; I'm an equal opportunity curmedgeon.

On the other hand, I disagree vehemently with the distinction cited in the previous post. There are a helluva lot of "popular" works that are much more difficult to read than some of the subtler "lit'rary" works. Compare anything by Clark Ashton Smith to Le Guin's original Earthsea Trilogy; there's no question which one is "popular," and which one is "easier to read."

Message #623 left by Mary on Feb 18, 2001 at 16:20

I read _Corrupting Dr. Nice_. Didn't like it much and don't recommend it.

The difference between "literary" and "popular" is that popular works are easier to read than literary works. Therefore, all works that survive will move from the popular category to the literary, because the vocabulary will change and shift, and allusions that were obvious have to be understood, etc. etc.

Message #622 left by Sean Klein on Feb 18, 2001 at 10:43

I think literary is like pornography. People can't really define it but they know it when they see it. Consider that Raymond Chandler was pulp fiction until fairly recently. Now he's considered literature. Philip Dick is another good example.

Burroughs is a great example of non-literary. Plain, action-oriented writing that does nothing but provide a great thrill ride for the reader. I'd go out on a limb and say that most pre-60's new wave SF is non-literary also. One exception that comes to mind is Fritz Leiber who may not be literary, but is in a gray zone between the two. He's damn good and never got the acclaim he deserved.

To me, literary needs to be a title that comes from outside. If a writer says to me, "I write literature," it sends up a red flag that that person is a pompus prig I'm better off avoiding. Story is paramount always.

Message #621 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Feb 17, 2001 at 22:16

Can someone give an example of an unliterary story (maybe Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan novels or Susann's Valley of the Dolls)? No offense intended, Gail, but a lot of people throw around the words "literate" and "literary" when writing about books and screenplays but for the life of me I can't understand it.

Also, is there such a thing as an anti-literate or an anti-literary piece of fiction?

Message #620 left by Gail on Feb 17, 2001 at 21:43

Have any of you read "Corrupting Dr. Nice" by John Kessel(sp)? It is imaginative, literary, and fun. I believe it deserved more public notice than it got.

BTW, my introduction to Terry Pratchett was through audio books. It was his story about Death and Music With Rocks In It. The reader did an excellent job of creating voice personalities, and I'm sure I got some strange looks as I listened, driving around the neighborhood with a mad grin on my face.

Message #619 left by Lenora Rose on Feb 9, 2001 at 21:40

I won't quite agree that Terry Pratchett's books are all good (His first three Discworld books are weak, with moments of great humour, but only moments - and Equal Rites, in my not humble opinion, is perhaps lacking even that). BUt overall, he's done A lot of wonderful stuff, and "the Truth" was definitely a good addition to his canon. I'm also liking the serious bits and his steadily improving skill in real dramatic tension as he goes on.

In other books - have I mentioned Kij Johnson's "The Fox Woman"? Quite lovely tale set in medieval Japan -and the language evokes it well. The concluding moral was a bit more onbvious than I'd like, but well within forgiveable limits, and the rest of the work makes up for it.

Message #618 left by Andrew on Feb 9, 2001 at 4:05

I'll recommend the Pratchett as well, even though I haven't bought that one yet (I've got all the others, though). Terry is bloody funny throughout all twenty-something discworld books to date. The insights into the world of journalis arise, I suspect, from the fact that Pterry was a journalist himself up until about five years ago, when the discworld books made enough that he could give up the day job. In fact, if you look at the earlier author bios, you note that he got a job as press officer for four nuclear power stations ... three days before Three Mile Island.

Message #617 left by Steve on Feb 8, 2001 at 11:51

Yeah, but no one's posted there for a while. You gotta go where the woik is...

Message #616 left by Sean K on Feb 8, 2001 at 10:35

Shouldn't the above post be in the "Really Bad Books" thread?

Message #615 left by Steve on Feb 8, 2001 at 10:20

The Turner Diaries, by Andrew Macdonald -- excellent. Already in chapter one, the "blacks" in the "System" have enforced the Jewish "Cohen Law" and rounded up all white, God-fearing gun owners and put them in camps. The revolution is about to begin. Timothy McVeigh musta been REAL gullible. The publisher calls it "a dreadful book," but I think it takes real talent to write such awful stuff in such awful prose

I win an award from myself (a steel-rope flogging) if I finish Chapter 2.

Message #614 left by Mary on Feb 6, 2001 at 22:22

Donn Kushner's _A Book Dragon_ is a charming piece -- a fantasy that starts in the medieval era and leads to the present, and I think gets all its facts straight (and hands the expository prose so well that it doesn't form lumps), with an interesting lead character, the title dragon.

Message #613 left by Barry Hollander on Feb 6, 2001 at 19:29

Terry Pratchett's The Truth is a slim but funny book. It takes the arrival of a printing press and the early stages of journalism and dumps both in a bizarre medieval fantasy world of dwarves, vampires, trolls, a mysterious disappearance, and city politics. Wicked stuff that, at times, offers insight into journalism you won't find elsewhere.

Message #612 left by Jason D. W. on Feb 3, 2001 at 22:41

I'm about halfway through Barbara Hambly's "Dragonshadow," which is a sequel to "Dragonsbane." Hers are consistently well-written books, in that they contain fantasy with a sense of realism, if it can be called that. She seems to start out with the question: If dragons actually existed, what would they be like? How would they operate? And how would a human being go about slaying them? She has also done the same thing with vampires in "Those Who Hunt the Night," and "Travelling With the Dead."

Message #611 left by Joe Shosty on Feb 3, 2001 at 4:53

Just finished Jeffrey Ford's The Physiognomy. I enjoyed the whole thing immensely. It's a great example of tight writing and sparse description.

Message #610 left by Lenora Rose on Feb 3, 2001 at 1:13

Finally got around to Mary Doria Russell's the Sparrow.

These days I literally don't have time to read. So this week I didn't sleep instead. The trade was worth it.

Message #609 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Feb 2, 2001 at 18:11

I just finished Wil McCarthy's Bloom last night and I enjoyed it a lot. Very interesting story with a unique enemy, the Mycora. However I felt that the ending was disappointing, considering how great the story before it was. I think I would've liked more of a sense of wonder or awe or something more complete. I'm not sure. Also, I found John Strasheim to be an interesting character and having him work as a shoe maker was a nice touch. If I get a chance, I'll see about reading Murder in the Solid State and The Collapsium. Loved the tickler capacitor in the captain, BTW. Great idea.

On the other hand, I tried reading David Brin's Glory Season and stopped after about one hundred pages. Actually I thought it was a decent story, but it moved at an abysmal pace and I had 400+ pages to go. Also, he threw out a ton of terms that I couldn't understand like var and summerling and I didn't find a glossary to translate. But it least it didn't have any Uplifted flippers swimming around spouting haiku--thank goodness. I may go back and re-read when I have some time.

Message #608 left by Mary on Jan 25, 2001 at 19:23

_All of An Instant_ is available in the US. I got it out of library. (I will say that I greatly enjoyed _Celestial Matters_ and didn't like _All of An Instant_.)

Message #607 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Jan 24, 2001 at 23:19

It's available on Amazon.com if you wish to buy it. The publisher is Tor Books. I found a hardcover copy at my local library and it's copyright is 1999, so I think it should be available. Here is the link:

All of an Instant .

Message #606 left by Jason D. W. on Jan 24, 2001 at 22:56

I didn't know Richard Garfinkle had written a second book! I've read "Celestial Matters," and I thought it was great. So exactly what is "All of an Instant" about (I saw a reference to time travel, but I'd like to know more)? Is it available in the US? Who publishes it?

Message #605 left by Shannon on Jan 24, 2001 at 19:59

Just starting the 3rd installemnt of 'His Dark Materials' by Philip Pullman entitled The Amber Spyglass. Excellent so far - and the 1st two books (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife) are recommended as well! Guy Gavriel Kay did an amazing job with The Sarantium Mosaic, as well as the Fionavar Tapestry - a favorite author of mine.

Message #604 left by Willis Couvillier on Jan 10, 2001 at 18:56

Well, gee guys, you are making me feel my middle age now. When Asimov's started I was there eagerly waiting for the 1st issue, oh, I guess in my mid-late teens. Joe -- if you have the opportunity to read the original, do it! You'll wonder why you thought so highly about the book, you will.

Plenty works from that time were moody -- we all lived in the full shadow of the cold war and everyone who watched news expected to be nuked at any time. You think the nuts thing with y2k was something? The subtler constant tension of the full cold war was far worse. At least with y2k we felt we could do something about it. With the cold war, it was out of our hands. We could only sit and wait for people we didn't know to decide whether we lived or died. A lot of tension left when we saw that wall torn down, in the 80's.

Will.

Message #603 left by Timprov on Jan 10, 2001 at 6:07

Though I was only seven months old when "Enemy Mine" was in Asimov's, it's one of my formative SF memories; my mom had a subscription to IASFM until I was eight or so, and about that time I went through about 15 years worth of back issues. "Enemy Mine" was the one that stood out most. The short story is much better than the novelization or the movie, IMHO.

Message #602 left by Joe Shosty on Jan 10, 2001 at 3:51

Willis: Well, I'm a bit young to have read those two works when they were serialized, but I've enjoyed what I've seen of them both in recent printed form.

Speaking of digging up old bones, I just finished Damon Knight's The Futurians. Man was that a depressing book! I don't care how you slice it, Knight's look at the first family of sf was so downcast I was practically slicing at my wrists with a dull knife as it ended. It also makes me look at the old novels by Blish, Pohl, Asimov, Knight, and Kornbluth in a drastically different way. It's hard to believe something as grand and as far-reaching as science fiction could have been made world famous by these people, for their lives were so chaotic and dreary. This is not to say the book wasn't good. Quite the contrary. Even if Knight's look at the group is uncompromising and a bit harsh at times the writing is top-notch. If you haven't read this book do whatever is in your power to find it. In fact, this book should be required reading of anyone wanting to publish speculative fiction.

Message #601 left by Willis Couvillier on Jan 9, 2001 at 18:29

Just read Orson Scott Card's Ender's Shadow. Also Raymond E Feist's Krondor: Assassins and Brian Lumley's Invaders. All very fine additions to great series.

Barry B. Longyear's Enemy Mine as it was originally printed in IASFM was incredible. When the movie came out and the shorter work novelized, it lost something. For one thing, the conclusion was different. Another tale that suffered was The Postman.

Message #600 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Jan 9, 2001 at 17:40

Great, that should be All of an Instant. Sorry, R. Garfinkle. You can flog me at your leisure.

Message #599 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Jan 9, 2001 at 17:37

I just finished Richard Garfinkle's All in an Instant and I found it to be one of the most interesting science fiction novels I've read in a long while. I really found his ideas about time fascinating. Admittedly I didn't think his characters were all that well developed, but I didn't care, since his ideas were staggering. Makes me wish I could go into the Instant right now and grow a tail. Anyway, I'm so intriguing that I'll probably go back and check out Garfinkle's first novel, Celestial Matters.

Message #598 left by Joe Shosty on Jan 8, 2001 at 4:27

Not technically a book, but I just finished Barry Longyear's Enemy Mine (Tor Double with Kessel's Another Orphan). I was greatly impressed with it. The cool thing was one evening I was sitting on the couch reading it when the movie came on television. Talk about coincidences! I'd forgotten how much I liked the movie as well, and it made reading the book all the more enjoyable.

Message #597 left by Mary on Jan 3, 2001 at 18:51

It is Patricia Wrede. Not only has she written more books, she has written three more books set in the Enchanted Forest with (some of) the same characters.

Message #596 left by Barry Hollander on Jan 3, 2001 at 12:55

Over holiday break read Martin's latest fantasy epic. God, it's good, and now I have to wait for book 4. Also read King's On Writing and thoroughly enjoyed it. Looked at the latest Jordan opus and passed.

Also reading shorts from Year's Best SF 5 edited by Hartwell. Already found a couple of typos and, to be honest, some of the stories don't really (to borrow a term) grab me.

Message #595 left by S.N.Arly on Dec 29, 2000 at 12:29

Haven't had time to really post these previously.

The Circle and The Cross, by Caiseal Mor, takes place chronologically a short time after the standard Arthurian breakdown. The subtle magic is reminiscent of Tolkein's work. It has a similar "feel" to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon, in that the author presents a civilization at the crossroads of change. In The Circle and The Cross, the druids and clan chieftains recognize that their culture and way of life is likely to be subsumed by another. They plan to imbed their own traditions within the new culture being forced upon them, thereby providing the outward appearance of obedience.

Rather than focusing on the people and associated mythologies of Scotland and England, as has been done by other writers, Mor takes us to Erinn, and presents his version of the old Irish people and their mythos. He has created believable characters on both sides of the conflict.

The Circle and The Cross is both the first book in a trilogy and the author's first book. It may look somewhat intimidating, but it is a remarkably quick read. None of Mor's books are available in a US imprint. You may find them in stores that carry or special order imports. It is also available through Amazon UK. I picked my copy up at DreamHaven Books in Minneapolis, MN.

Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine, was recommended by others on the RM, which is why I picked it up (that and I'm researching the YA market). For all that the book is marketed as a retelling of Cinderella, that really belittles the story. Levine did indeed use some details from the traditional Cinderella story, as well as blending in a number of fairy tale tropes. However, there is much more to Ella Enchanted than merely telling the same story, with the same events, in the author's own words. Levine took a very drastic twist on the traditional tale, with some entertaining and tragic results.

Levine's has a number of books out now and I look forward to reading more of them (I'm really just a very large kid). I've noticed that YA sections of American bookstores are uniformly sloppy and disorganized, so it may be tough to find. It is popular, as well as being a Newberry award winner, so most bookstores should carry it. I am unsure how available it is elsewhere in the world.

I also recently read Dealing With Dragons by Patricia Wrede (ooh - I think that's her first name). It's another YA novel and it was high on the amusement factor. Not exactly stellar writing, but definitely a fun romp, and I would read another of her books.

Message #594 left by Gregory Koster on Dec 26, 2000 at 12:51

THE COMPLETE SHORT STORIES OF H.G. WELLS, published by Orion Press. It includes 22 items not in the "Complete" volume published by St. Martin's. None of these new items is a masterpie ce, but they all have something for the SF reader. More to the point, you can reread all the great stories HGW wrote when he was putting science fiction into overdrive. Grand Xmas day rereading this.

WOLVES OF DARKNESS, the second volume of Jack Williamson's collected less-than-four-part-serial work. If you like old pulp, marvelous stuff. Even if you don't, the title story is worth the 32 bucks you shell out. Finally, damn few trade publishers manufacture books this well any more. Haffner Press deserves all the support it can be given for starting this series.

Finally the second volume of Hal Clement's collected works from NESFA Press, MUSIC OF MANY SPHERES. This collects seventeen of Clement's stories, again in a superbly manufactured volume, fit for the quality of the stories. That none of them ever grabbed the awards that seem to make such a difference inliterary valuations these days is a damn disgrace.

Buy all these books. You won't be sorry. These have made 2000 a fine reading year all by themselves.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #593 left by Lindsey on Dec 19, 2000 at 11:51

I have the feeling I've recommended this author before, but I don't remember for sure, so here goes. Kage Baker, "The Garden of Iden" and "Sky Coyote." Those are excellent books, I love her style and the concept of going back in time to create cyborgs to preserve the past ... well, read them. They're exceedingly neat.

-Linz

Message #592 left by Tim Pratt on Dec 18, 2000 at 13:05

I just bought William Gibson's _All Tomorrow's Parties_ in trade paperback, and there's no plot synopsis on the cover, and not much in the way of blurbs, either. The back cover is just a big picture of Gibson. I assume that the hardcover had some inner-jacket copy about the plot...

Maybe the publishers figure "Hey, it's Bill Gibson; the people know what to expect, right?"

Message #591 left by alex on Dec 18, 2000 at 8:57

Jason: Maybe book pushers are like political advisors; they think the less you know about a book or candidate, the more likely you will be to buy it. Why narrow an audience by giving away any details which might turn some readers off? Not supporting the practice, mind you. Just trying to make some sense of it.

Message #590 left by eyeplode on Dec 18, 2000 at 3:04

responding to Jason: Unfortunately a lot of those synopses make the book sound kind of stupid, especially high fantasy (i.e. "The Dark Lord Blabbermord has stolen the Big Crystal and young Earnestyouth must discover his magic powers before Really Bad Things happen..."). Many genre books, when reduced to plot, sound cliched, and yet they can still be good books if the realization of that plot is fresh, the characters are intriguing, or its just really violent(joke). So...what I really like to do is either read books that have been recommended to me by someone I know, or read the first few pages to get a feel for the tone. If publishers know that people like me exist, they might not do the synopsis thing. IMHO.

Message #589 left by Jason D. W. on Dec 17, 2000 at 21:48

Some people were talking about reviews, marketing blurbs, and plot synopses earlier, and I would like to broach the subject again, if I may. Personally, I don't read reviews to determine if a book (movie, etc.) is good or not, but to find out what the book is about. Of course, when the review is reduced to a few words on the back of a book ("A tour de force!"--if that isn't the most overused word in book reviewing, then I'm Shaquille O'Neal), then it isn't much help in that respect. But then, that's what plot synopses are for.

Which brings me to another point: every once in a while a book is published that has no plot synopsis, and the book reviews give no clue to the book's contents either. Example: "The Quincunx," which is most likely a non-SF book, though I would have no way of knowing. As I said, no plot synopsis, the reviews weren't any help, and I could gather nothing through skimming the pages. A more widely known example would be Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series. Pick up any volume, read the back, and you get some mystical mumbo jumbo about "The Wheel of Time turns and ages, come and go," blah, blah, blah. My question: how can one be expected to buy a book if one has no idea what the book is about? What possesses publishers to put out these books (few though they are) in this way?

Message #588 left by Gregory Koster on Dec 13, 2000 at 16:44

For Ibtissam: A book that has a chapter on "The Undefeated" is THE SHORT STORY IN ENGLISH by W. E. Allen, Oxford University Press, 1981. Also there's ERNEST HEMINGWAY A TO Z by Charles Oliver. Have not been able to find any criticism online for free. Good luck.

Best rgards, Gregory Koster

Message #587 left by ibtissam zaatari on Dec 13, 2000 at 13:06

i'm looking for critical information about hemingway's 'undefeated' .i'd be glad to receive any. thanks.

Message #586 left by Hilary on Dec 7, 2000 at 22:43

I liked it all, and I must admit that I took great heart when King gave his opinions about plotting. I come up with marvelous plots before I write any story, but invariably my pesky characters decide that they're not going to cooperate. So I wind up plotting on the fly most of the time anyway.

By the way, I didn't read the book. Just listened to it. The audio version is about eight hours long, and is great. It felt like I was having a personal conversation with Steven King over a series of days in my kitchen...

Hmm

Message #585 left by Mary on Dec 7, 2000 at 19:22

The parts on writing, not on his life, were the best, I think. Then, I'm not big on biography.

On the other hand, I read his section about "plotted" stories -- and I was saying, Okay, what do you mean? What is a plotted story, and how does it differ from what you are recommending instead?

Message #584 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Dec 7, 2000 at 16:21

Just finished Stephen King's On Writing. And I thought it was pretty enjoyable book. I liked his C.V. the most, although I've already heard most of the advice he gives in the "On Writing" in one form or another. However I disagree with his apparent aversion to plot (but if it works for King, then more power to him) as well as his belief that you probably shouldn't take more than three months to write the first draft of a novel. However I do believe he's right when he says you should write the first draft of a short story or novel as fast as possible, before the story embers burn out.

Message #583 left by Terry on Dec 7, 2000 at 15:24

Yikes--I had forgotten that a saint has to be past tense, Gregory. That will never do. But..."Pope"? How would you look in the funny hat? And I don't think you insist on your own infallibility enough. Sorry.

"Deacon"? You're too young to be "Father Koster." Lord High Executioner Koster? The Big Kahuna?

This reminds me of the Sherman's lagoon cartoon I've got pasted (and yeloowing) on the side of my file cabinet. There's a girl fish and a boy fish (Ernest) hovering around above what's obviously an ocean-bottom dump site.

She says: "If I'm going to be queen of this trash pile, I need a better name than Lady Boogerface."

Ernest says, "How about Lady Dogbreath?"

"Ernest! I need something more ladylike than that!"

Scanning the jetsam below, Ernest says, "Lady Pooperscooper?"

"No! Something that sounds like royalty."

"Lady Wilkonson Disposable."

"Perfect."

Message #582 left by Gregory Koster on Dec 7, 2000 at 12:21

Late as usual, I thank those who tossed roses, not minding at all that I managed to catch them by the thorns...Alas, it is all to easy to stump Gregory. It is often done by deranged patrons swinging axes at what they claim is my wooden head, trying to stump me. More, they follow up with the next step that is used with stumps: blowing them up with dynamite. I must also remind everybody that much of the time, it is not Gregory speaking, but the vast resources of the Fresno County Free Library, resources that are likely available to you in your own home towns. For Sean: Alas, I am not going to be at Potlach, and am glum that you won't be there for the next Baycon. Hell! As for going to heaven, I'm with Mark Twain:

"Heaven for climate, Hell for company."

You are also bang right about A FIRE UPON THE DEEP. I think this is the best book for showing what science fiction (and ONLY science fiction) can do with literature.

As for GLORY ROAD, I am not ordinarily a Heinlein hater, but this one didn't do anything for me. It wasn't Heinlein's fault, because all the virtues Joe ascribes to it are there, in force. The fault is in me. Hmm, time for a checkup by the docs, I think.

As for being a saint, I object. If I recall the canonization process correctly, the first step is that the proposed victim has to be dead, and for all the crabbing and squawking I do about computers, I am not yet ready to roar off the bliss eternal, or maybe something warmer. I am surprised that the Sage of Omaha has forgotten that. Doubtless all those late hours spent devouring the Harry Potter books. Or maybe she DIDN'T forget this. Hmm, sinister currents here. In any case, I have given the matter of a title for me some thought, and conclude that if we must bow to the prevailing current that a religious title is in order, than I would like to be Pope. There is precedent; no fewer than sixteen popes (and two antipopes) have been named Gregory, and still the world spins on its axis once every twenty four hours, except in three counties in Florida. Besides, those who differ with me on this subject would always be free to replace the first "P" with a capital d. I await the white smoke coming out of the College of Cardinals's room, thank you.

Trying to be a bit more serious and on topic, I am about to start the second volume of Ian Kershaw's biography of Hitler: HITLER: NEMESIS 1937-45. The first volume had much merit, though I didn't thinkit deserved the torrents of ecstasy the mainstream press dumped on it. It was worth reading for those with an interest in German social history of that period.

Skyward ho! whatever his title is

Message #581 left by Terry on Dec 7, 2000 at 7:44

Finished the 4th Harry Potter book. My opinion: Ms. Rowling deserves every penny of the money she's making on this series. I think she's a witch herself; there are so many ways she finds to charm.

Hrmm. I read Vernor Vinge's "A Fire Upon the Deep" several years ago, and virtually the only thing I remember was being unable to get my brain around his concept of -- deep space? (See? Still haven't figured it out.) That's just my limited mind, though--he's obviously brainy and creative.

Message #580 left by Joe Shosty on Dec 7, 2000 at 5:56

I'm reading Glory Road again just for the fun of it. You really can't beat Heinlein's writing in the first three chapters as he sets up the story. It definitely shows his quick-wittedness as a writer. I think even some of you Heinlein haters might like this one.

Message #579 left by Anonymous on Dec 7, 2000 at 0:19

Isn't that Saint Red Dragon Koster?

Message #578 left by Terry on Dec 6, 2000 at 18:20

I second that, Fredrick. Definitely. From here on out, Saint Gregory it is.

<evil chuckle>That'll getcha for the "Sage of Omaha" moniker, St. Gregory!

Message #577 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Dec 6, 2000 at 17:12

Saint Gregory of Fresno. Has a nice ring to it, I think.

Message #576 left by Sean Klein on Dec 6, 2000 at 11:25

Dammit! Did I kill this thread? Hope not. Let's get back on track:

Finushed Vernor Vinge's "A Fire Upon the Deep" last night. I highly recommend it. At one point I was saying "Oh no" and "Oh my god" out loud as I read.

Message #575 left by Sean Klein on Nov 30, 2000 at 11:11

I'm contemplating a new thread called "Stump Gregory." But I can't figure out what to start it with. I'm beginning to think that librarians automatically go to heaven.

And a private message for Gregory: Are you going to be at Potlach in February? I'll be out of the country for the next Baycon. (Bummer.)

Message #574 left by Gregory Koster on Nov 30, 2000 at 11:00

For eyeplode: DUNCTON WOOD is by William Horwood. I'm told that it is fine book, moles or no.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #573 left by eyeplode on Nov 30, 2000 at 3:07

re Watership Down on that list above: another good book about small animals is Duncton Wood by somebody or other. That one was about moles, no kidding.

Message #572 left by Jason D. W. on Nov 29, 2000 at 21:40

I have read all six DUNE books (I think I am one of an elite few who can say that). The way I see it, the series can be divided into two halves, with "God Emperor of Dune" being the borderline between the two. DUNE, written circa 1965, was excellent, and did just fine as a stand-alone book. The next two, "Dune Messiah," and "Children of Dune," make no sense without the first book, but both are good continuations of the story. The fourth book, "God Emperor of Dune," marks a changing-point in the series. First off, it takes place a couple thousand years after the last book, and is told almost exclusively from the viewpoint of Leto II. Also, it was written almost ten years after "Children of Dune," and so may have reflected the maturation--or change, at any rate--of Herbert's writing. The last two books--"Heretics of Dune," and "Chapterhouse: Dune"--were a bit hard to fathom. I personally wasn't sure if the series was supposed to end at six books, or if Herbert just died too soon. But it turns out the latter was the case. In the afterword to "Dune: House Atreides," Brian Herbert relates how he found his father's notes for "Dune 7" in a safety deposit box.

On a side note, I am really looking forward to the new miniseries on the Sci-Fi Channel. I can't really pass judgement yet, but at least the Paul Atreides in this version *looks* like he belongs in a desert. Kyle MacLachlan is too much of a pretty boy. And I hope they stay away from doing voice-overs of the characters' inner thoughts, as in the David Lynch version.

Message #571 left by NMcVey on Nov 29, 2000 at 15:56

I just finished reading Storm of Swords last week and I think it was great. I started reading Winter's Heart then switched to SOS when it became available at the library. Winter's Heart is just not nearly as well written. Quite depressing actually.

It's official for me with Jordan's latest installment. The shine is off his series. It's just too slow and too much of the same in the last three books. Although I suppose there is hope for the last half of Winter's heart.

Nick

Message #570 left by Robert Stephenson on Nov 29, 2000 at 6:16

If you don't want to read the first two martin books then Storm of Swords does stand up well independently. I told you this was a great book. My prediction is that it will win the Fantasy Award this year. So far nothing else come close. But then again judging is always bloody fickle in awards.

Robert Stephenson

Read Harlequin Bernard Corwell and Namelss day Sara Douglass. These three books put new life back into fantasy. Well doen all of you.

Message #569 left by Hilary on Nov 28, 2000 at 22:31

Go away italics! Dang it, I was certain that I had typed the final slash. Bother.

Hmm

Message #568 left by Hilary on Nov 28, 2000 at 22:30


Just finished Storm of Swords. My god, I didn't think it was possible for Martin to get any better. I was wrong. This series is a must read.

Hmm

Message #567 left by Anonymous on Nov 28, 2000 at 10:15

Message #566 left by Typographyman on Nov 28, 2000 at 10:15

Never mind the little man behind the curtain, folks.

Message #565 left by Harvey on Nov 28, 2000 at 4:06

By the way, a short synopsis for suggested good reads is plenty--not necessary to reveal the endings within the post. hehehe...

Message #564 left by Harvey on Nov 28, 2000 at 3:58

Quite a collection of S/F titles and authors.

http://www.adherents.com/lit/sf_lists.html


Amazon.com's 25 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of the Century:

Rank Book Author 1 1984 George Orwell 2 A Canticle for Leibowitz Walter M. Miller, Jr. 3 A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess 4 Brave New World Aldous Huxley 5 Camp Concentration Thomas M. Disch 6 Dune Frank Herbert 7 Ender's Game Orson Scott Card 8 Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury 9 Foundation Isaac Asimov 10 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams 11 The Hobbit J. R. R. Tolkien 12 The Last Unicorn Peter S. Beagle, Mel Grant 13 The Left Hand of Darkness Ursula K. Le Guin 14 The Martian Chronicles Ray Bradbury 15 The Mists of Avalon Marion Zimmer Bradley 16 Neuromancer William Gibson 17 Norstrilia Cordwainer Smith 18 The Once and Future King Terence Hanbury White 19 The Princess Bride William Goldman 20 Shadow and Claw: The Shadow of the Torturer/the Claw of the Conciliator Gene Wolfe 21 The Stars My Destination Alfred Bester, et al 22 Snow Crash Neal Stephenson 23 Stranger in a Strange Land Robert A. Heinlein 24 Ubik Philip K. Dick 25 Watership Down Richard Adams

Message #563 left by eyeplode on Nov 28, 2000 at 1:44

I hate italics

Message #562 left by eyeplode on Nov 28, 2000 at 1:42

I think you could start directly with the Miles Vorkosigan books if you wanted to, without missing too many nuances. The Warrior's Apprentice is the first one of those, but Shards of Honor is very good itself, so it is not much of a hardship to start there. And if you are like me you will start with the first book first because that is really the only correct thing to do. :)

Message #561 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Nov 28, 2000 at 0:17

I just finished reading Children of Dune by Frank Herbert. My verdict stands as follows: better than Dune Messiah but not as good as the original Dune. I liked the story, though, it was a bit long, I felt, and some parts felt redundant, with all those plots within plots. I liked the Laza Tigers, though, and Leto II's transformation and ascendency (but I don't understand why he's #II, since Paul and Chani had a son named Leto that died in the first book. Shouldn't he be #III?). I think it rounded out the first series nicely, and I find Herbert's views on power and politics fascinating to read. Though I do wish there was some more action in the book, like the first one. I won't leap to God Emperor of Dune right away though, since I need time to digest this one and also since the Dune mini-series on the SF channel is starting on Sunday.

Another book I really liked was Lois McMaster Bujold's Falling Free. I love the idea of quaddies. What an interesting concept. Quaddies. Even saying the name makes me feel happy. About the only thing I might complain about is that Bujold uses a bit too many adverbs in the book for my liking. But that didn't detract a great deal, since I thought it was a great story to begin with. I'm looking for to reading some of her Miles Vorkosigan's books, starting with Shards of Honor, though from what I've heard Miles isn't even born until the second or third book. Oh well.

Message #560 left by Jason D. W. on Nov 26, 2000 at 18:09

I have to take exception to the "clench-racing" comment about Donaldson's books. I opened "This Day All Gods Die" to page 183 and didn't encounter the word "clench" once. Terry don't let Andrew throw you. Donaldson's books are really quite brilliant. If nothing else, he at least *tries* to give us something besides the usual mind candy (can you say "Robert Jordan"?). I second the earlier recommendation of starting with the Mordant's Need Duology. There are plot twists on top of plot twists, and it all works out in the end; also it's the most upbeat of his series. As for the Covenant series, I will concede that it's not for the clinically depressed, but I still recommend it highly. And as for Thomas Covenant being a whiner: how chipper would you be if everyone ostracized you simply because you'd caught some disfiguring disease?

Message #559 left by TomW on Nov 25, 2000 at 23:15

Hmm, couldn't get past Ms Douglass' "Battle Axe". Very poor. May be time to forgive?

Message #558 left by Robert Stephenson on Nov 24, 2000 at 21:16

Just finnished Sara Douglass' The Nameless Day

Highly recomended

Rob

Also took a look at Jordan's Winters Heart. no go I'm afraid.

Message #557 left by Terry on Nov 24, 2000 at 9:53

..."clench"? Oy! Methinks I'll skip Donaldson.

The local SF bookseller told me there's a similar game they play with John Norman's Gor series, except you're waiting for some form of female submission. Yeesh.

Message #556 left by Andrew on Nov 24, 2000 at 8:55

I'll second the Cornwell recommendation: while ninety per cent of his output is all essentially the same book with different words in, It's a Damned Fine Book and Worth Re-Reading.

As for Donaldson, there's a great game you can play with his works, called "clench racing". Each player opens a randomly-chosen page of a randomly-chosen Donaldson book and, at the starting gun, starts to read aloud as fast as possible.

The first to reach the word "clench" or some inflection thereof wins.

Message #555 left by Jamie Rosen on Nov 23, 2000 at 15:26

Personally, I enjoyed The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, although every book was a pain to get through.

Let me elucidate:

Thomas Covenant is an unpleasant protagonist. He whines, complains, and generally does jack-squat. Donaldson is guilty of over-writing on occasion (although no more than, say, ER Eddison or Mervyn Peake.) And yet, somehow, not only did I slog through all three books, but I wanted to know what happened next every time. I thought the books were fascinating.

I've tried and failed to read any of his other series. I made it through 1 or 2 Gap books, and partway into the first book of both Mordant' Need and The Second Chronicles.

As far as really good books go, I'd have to say Jonathan Lethem's first two, Gun, With Occasional Music and Amnesia Moon, were real stand-outs. I was reminded of how much I enjoyed them by his story in The Best of Crank!, which isn't as good but stil has the trademark "what the hell?" sort of premise. Haven't gotten to his other books yet, which I really should.

Message #554 left by Mary on Nov 21, 2000 at 20:49

Just found myself (at Philcon) a copy of James Stoddard's *The High House* and *The False House*. I had only found The High House in libraries (I believe I've already mentioned it here), and I hadn't found The False House at all.

Good books, both of them. Very strange in many respects. Not your typical fantasy.

Message #553 left by Gregory Koster on Nov 20, 2000 at 13:01

After blasting Ronald W. Clark's QUEEN VICTORIA'S BOMB in the Bad Books topic, it's a pleasure to say that when he tried again with THE BOMB THAT FAILED, he came a lot closer to success. Premise of the book is straightforward: Alamogordo 16 July 45, three, two one, FIRE THE FIRST ATOMIC BOMB!!! And...it fizzles.

What next? Well, Clark uses several narrators to give us his notions. First, the November 1945 invasion of Japan, a bloody affair. The Russians sit on their hands so far as invading Japan from the mainland. Clark wrote this novel in 1969, before the revisionists had their say about how Japan was on the verge of surrendering when the bombs were dropped, and it was a crime to have done so. He does not believe that Japan was on the verge of surrendering, and makes a vivid case for it. He has the Allies try to starve out Japan by dropping biological weapons that will destroy the food crops. Doesn't work, but shows how the bomb wasn't necessarily the worst weapon that could have been used against Japan.

Next, the United States. After the 16 July fiasco, the Manhattan Project is shoved into the deep freeze. Congress tries to investigate, prodded along by a state judge from Wisconsin, who has learned about the fiasco, and has broken the story, charging the Roosevelt/Truman administrations with treasonable incompetence in spending two billion bucks that could have gone to equip the Allied forces in the Pacific. The judge is elected on the strength of his charges. His name? Joseph McCarthy. This was the part of the book I liked best, because Clark has come up with a notion that could easily have happened if things had turned out a bit differently. I'm tempted to steal this notion myself.

The third part has the Russians invading Europe. They get away with it because the American/British/Commonwealth forces have been withdrawn to finish off Japan. So Russia helps herself to all of Europe. Churchill is recalled to power, and manages to save the day, thanks to a neat bit of bluff.

The principal thing wrong with this book is that it is much too short, only 250 odd pages. Each individual part would have rated a novel by itself, or an epic in the manner of Herman Wouk's war novels. Still, it works well enough that I commend it to everyone's attention.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #552 left by eyeplode on Nov 19, 2000 at 1:53

I just finished The Golden Compass and I thought it was great. I haven't read "Paradise Lost," but maybe I will do that and then hmmm, perhaps I will have to read the book over again. Many juvenile books have the adult characters as rather simplistic good or bad or wise, etc. Pullman manages to get the complexties across without being overly adult about it.

Message #551 left by Peter E. Morgan on Nov 18, 2000 at 21:23

I am very lucky that I read The Gap and Mordant's Need before Thomas Covenant, because if I'd read TC first, I would have been put off Stephen Donaldson forever and never read his other brilliant works. What can I say? The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant were so utterly, unbelievably bad it is hard to believe they came from the same mind as the brilliant, flawless Mordant's Need. All six TC books were a repetition of very similar events followed by about thirty pages of Tommy whining and feeling sorry for himself. No other characters were developed in any detail except Linden Avery, who is almost as annoying as Covenant himself.

I loved the Gap series. The fascinating, flawed characters he's renowned for were there, but he didn't sacrifice plot for character development like he did in TC. The characters that interested me the most was Fasner's ancient mother and Warden Dios.

I think the two Mordant's Need books are the best ever written. His creative magic system, imagery, was very original and believable because he portrayed the Imagers almost as scientists rather than stereotype wizards with magic wands. Donaldson has given his charcters believable motives and raised the art of the multiple double-cross to new heights. These books are close to perfect. Anyone who hasn't read them, DO SO NOW!

Message #550 left by Robert Stephenson on Nov 18, 2000 at 19:38

As I review books, I am lothe to give away plot line, story lines etc as I feel these take away the readers true discovery of what is written. I tend to focus on style, ease of reading, whether or no the plot actually works and whether or not the characters are in the least believable.

Some say my reviews are too short. Averaging around 150-200 words, but to say more on a book is a waste of wor\dage and becomes, in my opinion, a reviews way of saying 'look at me, ain't I clever'.

My reviews simply tell people who I felt the book was and if I would recomend it. Considering the cost of books these days that is about all the review reader really is interested in.

Rob

I'll probably only write a single sentence for Jordan's book. Pity really.

Message #549 left by John Savage on Nov 18, 2000 at 11:07

Amy, the problem is with a certain reviewer whose "reviews" are nothing more than marketing blurbs and plot summaries with a short personal evaluation attached that seldom seems to have anything to do with said blurb/summary. That's not a "review." The "mainstreamers" have been even worse; "reflexive" doesn't seem to be in their vocabulary, and neither do "irony," "satire," or "oral history."

"From the beginning" means starting with The Golden Compass, Terry, not trying to jump into The Amber Spyglass. That's sort of like trying to read the Bible jumping in after Mark, ignoring the Torah, the remainder of the OT, and the other gospels. (Hint: That's what a lot of "mainstream" reviewers seem to be doing.)

Message #548 left by Terry on Nov 18, 2000 at 10:13

Oops--that Anonymous in #546 was me. <blush>

Message #547 left by Amy Sterling Casil on Nov 18, 2000 at 9:44

They didn't like Ursula Le Guin's book, John? Shame on them!

Yet more proof that nobody should trust reviewers. Read and see for yourself.

> Amy :)

Message #546 left by Anonymous on Nov 18, 2000 at 9:09

John, I went & downloaded Paradise Lost after reading your note--it was just the push I needed to go get it; that's one of those on my lifelong "I really should read that" list.

It'll take a little while before I get to it, I know, but why do you say about Pullman's book "starting from the beginning"? Why on earth *wouldn't* I start from the beginning?

Message #545 left by Robert Stephenson on Nov 18, 2000 at 5:20

One to read if you like solid history in your fantasy or mediaval fiction. Bernard Cornwell's Harlequin. This guy can really write. Much to learn from him.

Rob

Just got Robert Jordan's Winter's Heart to review. I have tears in my eyes already. Do I really have to read it?

Message #544 left by John Savage on Nov 17, 2000 at 19:49

If you like some meat on your fiction, consider:

Ursula Le Guin's The Telling, which is a much more subtle work than Certain Prominent (Marginally Literate) Reviewers at Locus seem to comprehend

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, starting from the beginning, preferably after having actually read Paradise Lost (not just the Cliff's Notes)

Message #543 left by Tim on Nov 17, 2000 at 18:58

Yeah, there's a "My Favorite Science Fiction Story" and a "My Favorite Fantasy Story"-- products of the Martin Greenberg Anthology Machine, if I recall. It's a neat premise for an antho, and leads to really diverse contents... though one could wish there'd be more obscure, underappreciated writers brought to light...

Then again, most of my favorite stories are by fairly well-known writers...

Message #542 left by Jason D. W. on Nov 17, 2000 at 0:03

Re: message # 541: I believe there's a similar anthology for fantasy writers. I don't remember what the title is, but I'll go look for it.

Message #541 left by MWA on Nov 16, 2000 at 23:07

I'm currently reading a Horror anthology, titled "My Favorite Horror Story". Good stuff. Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Richard Laymon, F. Paul Wilson, Ed Gorman, Ramsey Campbell, Peter Straub, Joyce Carol Oates, Dennis Etchison, Harlan Ellison & others select their favorite horror tales, which includes stories by: Ambrose Bierce, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson, Phillip K. Dick, M. R. James, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert Aickman...and the list goes on. Excellent so far. Each selecting author introduces the story they selected, and tells why. Particularly interesting is F. Paul Wilson's selection of Richard Matheson's "The Distributor", and what Mr. Wilson has to say about his own writing, as related to the story. The story is exceptional.

Message #540 left by Joe Shosty on Nov 15, 2000 at 5:08

Alex: I had a similar incident happen to me in that very grade. There was a teacher who didn't like me because I was, as she put it, a "problem child." I did one of my book reports on Elfstones of Shannarra, and she gave me a D- with the note "inappropriate choice of material." However, no doubt showing my obvious problem child roots I took it to the principal and had it overturned so that I got an A instead. His note to her was something to the effect of, "He's probably the only student who actually read the book he reported on."

Forgot to mention in my last post Space Paw by Gordon R. Dickson. I wouldn't say it's "really" good as the thread's title implies, but I thought it was neat and off center. It probably won't change anyone's life should they read it, but it was a good yarn.

Message #539 left by Andrea on Nov 14, 2000 at 19:35

I believe it's Robert McCammon's short story collection, _Blue World_, that contains the story about the evil kid who can summon and control yellowjackets. Maybe if I didn't have a big ol' insect phobia, this wouldn't have been the absolute most horrifying piece of fiction I ever read. But it'd still make the top five. ::shudder::

Message #538 left by alex on Nov 14, 2000 at 8:39

The Wolf's Hour?

Oh, my. I got in trouble for doing a book report on that book in sixth grade (wasn't appropriate?). I thought the name McCammon sounded familiar. Well, I loved the book then (I was 12 years old, I guess, but I was also heavily into Stephen King at the time). Silly me, I figured this was just another author I'd probably never get to.

Thanks for the memories.

Message #537 left by Christina on Nov 14, 2000 at 4:52

Would have liked to read more of his books. I hope it is not true that he won't write anymore. As is, I have read all his books several times over.

Wolf's Hour is my second favourite. They Thirst and Stinger are pretty good as well.

Message #536 left by Joe Shosty on Nov 14, 2000 at 4:20

Rather enjoyed McCammon's The Wolf's Hour. Care to debate how it would be impossible for a werewolf to infiltrate Nazi Germany as well, Dave? Glad to see folks around here are still needlessly confrontational.

Hmm, let's see. Haven't read many books this year, and most of the ones I've read weren't that great. Enjoyed the hell out of Dave Duncan's Sir Stalwart, and I'm really kinda digging Nancy Springer's Fair Peril, though I haven't finished it yet.

Message #535 left by Tim on Nov 13, 2000 at 19:15

Re: Robert McCammon.

This is from a McCammon website:

"At the request of Robert R. McCammon, the McCammon web site, LIGHTS OUT!, has been shut down.

In November 1999, Robert R. McCammon announced his official retirement from writing. Since he won't have any new material coming out, McCammon asked me to shut down the web site."

Don't know how true this is...

If he has given up writing entirely, it's sort of a bummer; Swan Song is great, and Boy's Life is really good, too... I liked them enough to read his other books, even though I didn't like any of them nearly so much.

Message #534 left by FranW on Nov 13, 2000 at 17:00

Has anyone else out there read "Rats, Bats and Vats" by Dave Freer and Eric Flint (Baen)? While it's neither high literature nor hardcore need-a-degree-in-physics-to-read stuff, it's quite good. I for one was delighted to finally find some _humorous_ SF. Check it out.

Message #533 left by DaveK on Nov 13, 2000 at 10:50

Christina: is that the one with the nuclear holocaust in the beginning and a bus is tossed up high enough by a nuclear explosion to knock the President's plane out of the air? If so, then it was awful. Give me a break. It had so many scientific flaws in it that it was ridiculous.

Message #532 left by Christina on Nov 13, 2000 at 5:02

Robert McCammon's Swan Song is the best book I've ever read. Does anyone know what happened to him? I haven't seen any of his work for the last few years.

Message #531 left by TomW on Nov 10, 2000 at 20:58

Anyone read Stephen Baxter's "Time"? Very interesting, with a scope literally spanning universes. Still some awkwardness in the structure/writing, but bursting with ideas. And his characterisation is much improved on the only other book of his that I've read, "Raft", which I believe was his first.

Message #530 left by John Savage on Nov 10, 2000 at 17:08

No, not obscure, Tim. Although I've heard rumors of people going blind reading Roth's book <ducks and runs>.

Message #529 left by Tim on Nov 10, 2000 at 13:57

_Dying Inside_ is the _Portnoy's Complaint_ of sf.

Which is good, if you like that sort of thing.

Hmm. I hope the above doesn't count as an obscure literary allusion.

-Tim

Message #528 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Nov 9, 2000 at 22:31

Maybe it's just me but there's something about Robert Silverberg's writings that I find pretentious and perhaps even a bit smug and arrogant, like he wants to flaunt the fact that he knows so much on the rest of us rubes. Which was why I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed one of his novels back from the 60's, Hawksbill Station. Although there was nothing overtly stunning or amazing about it, I thought it was a good time travel story, well-told and with an interesting premise about sending political dissidents on a one-way trip to the Precambrian Era. Also I didn't feel like Silverberg was trying to bombard me with strange literary allusions, obscure characters and places I've never even heard of. Even the protagonist, Jim Barrett, was a good, likeable and sympathetic character.

About the only problems I had with the story was that there wasn't anything surprising about the plot--in other words it followed the paces through and through. Plus like a lot of PKD's work it suffered from near futurism syndrome--I doubt we'll have time travel by 2005, but I can forgive it easily. It was a short novel (around 170 pages) and a very good read. In fact I liked it so much I make go and check out some more of his earlier works from the 60's and 70's, like Dying Inside, that is if I can find it.

Message #527 left by Captain Ed on Nov 5, 2000 at 21:48

And tomorrow I'll take my remedial HTML class. Sorry about the blown coding!

Message #526 left by Captain Ed on Nov 5, 2000 at 21:47

It may have already been discussed here, but I just finished Stephen King's On Writing. I found it very readable and enlightening. If you haven't read it yet, the first half is a memoir of sorts, mostly about how he came to write and recapping his less-than-successful years. The second half is his view of writing and writers. Some of it is cast in 'you must do this' mode, but for the most part it's King talking about what works for him and what doesn't. I found it fascinating, not preachy at all, and full of very good advice. I didn't necessarily agree with everything, but it's clear he's no idiot savant; his success is not a result of unthinking luck.

The last section deals with the accident that almost resulted in his death and his slow and painful recovery from his injuries. He tells the story without any significant animosity towards the driver, although it's clear that King hadn't forgiven the man by the time this was written (and the man is dead now, he died this summer, but that didn't make it into the book). To me, knowing it was true made it even more harrowing than some of his fiction. I haven't read anything from King since The Dark Half</>, but I may give some of his recent material a look now.

I'd highly recommend it to people who love to read King or writers, especially newbies such as myself.

Message #525 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Nov 5, 2000 at 21:18

Just finished reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling and I enjoyed it immensely. At last I've finally read a bestseller that actually lived up to its hype. The story was funny and smart and exciting. I really liked Hagrid, sympathized with Harry and hated those terrible Dursleys. And I didn't even mind all of Rowling's said bookisms. Not to mention the fact that it was a solidly-told story overall. About the only qualm I had was that the climax and ending seemed a bit rushed--though the former was surprising. I would read Chamber of Secrets except I just read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and didn't like that at all, plus I have a hundred other books to read for college. Perhaps I'll go grab a broomstick and play some Quidditch in the meantime.

Message #524 left by Hilary on Nov 3, 2000 at 13:02

Lindsay --

Note Martin's comment about dragons the size of chihuahuas. Dragons were extinct, until someone finds a way of making some petrified eggs hatch. The resulting dragons are minor (in all senses of the word) characters but I have the distinct feeling that they will be a royal nuisance by book six.

Don't let the dragons deter you. If what Martin does with them is as different as what Martin did with the rest of heroic fantasy, they should be pretty memorable.

Hmm

Message #523 left by Lindsay M on Nov 3, 2000 at 11:04

Hilary: You almost sold me on reading the series... I just got put off by the dragons! I don't know what it is but I just don't like reading about dragons... although I suppose I could be sold on that as well. What are these dragons like?

I recently read "Beyond the Pale" by Mark Anthony, which I really loved. I have the second one although I started on a horror kick before I got it so I'm working through that. Anyway I loved "Beyond the Pale", for a start I enjoy books where people from this world go into other worlds (I have recently managed to attribute this to my love of the Narnia and Alan Garner books as a child). Anyway, it's humorous and I liked the fantasy world, it was nice and grim and I love what the main evil dude does to his minions.

I think it's well written and intriguing and most of the characters are well rounded and are not interchangeable, I would definitely recommend it to someone.

Lindsay M

Message #522 left by Sean Klein on Nov 3, 2000 at 11:03

I was talking about Tolstoy, then Tolkien.

Perhaps I should start a thread called "Really Good Books by Writers Who's Names Start with T"

Maybe I'll check our Mr. Martin during my next buying spree.

Message #521 left by Hilary on Nov 3, 2000 at 10:48

Jase --

Please read the Martin books before you cast judgment on them. Let me take a moment to talk about what I love about these books. Before Martin came along, I had just about given up on psuedo-medieval heroic fantasy as a genre. I did not want to read a Game of Thrones because I was certain it was going to be another awful quest story. Scott at Uncle Hugo's bookstore literally had to force the book upon me.

It was wonderful! A diverse and interesting set of flawed characters. While a few characters are more heroic than others (and several are downright evil), no one side is really better or more pure than any other. The most sympathetic (and, in his own way, honorable) of the characters (Tyrion) works for the most despicable of the throne contenders. Who do you root for? How can you tell? Characters continually shift their alliances as they grow and change and learn about eachother. I found myself utterly swept away by the intrigue, unable to tell which way the cards would fall.

The setting is equally interesting: a gritty fantasy world with so little magic that almost everyone has to rely on their wits and their political maneuvering. There are may diverse human cultures and the non-human ones are not the expected stock races of fantasy.

I agree that book one seemed faster paced than book two, but not by much. Every plot advanced in book two and every character changed. Did they wind up where they started? No. But Martin's series chronicles a struggle for power between six different families, and also struggles for power within those families... Some gain ground only to lose it again.

Interestingly enough, while books 1-3 take place in a continuous time line, Martin said at World Con that book 4 will leap forward in time a few years. Why? "I'm tired of writing about eight year old children and dragons the size of chihuahuas," he said. "It'll be more exciting if the main contenders grow a little before the next book." So while it is one story, you could look at it as two successive trilogies if it'll make you happier. Just read it, please? You will not regret this one.

Hmm

Message #520 left by Robert Stephenson on Nov 3, 2000 at 1:18

I think Sean is talking about Tolstoy not Tolkien. Two very different and equaly proficient writers.

Rob

Message #519 left by NMcVey on Nov 2, 2000 at 15:29

Sean: I don't even want to get started arguing about Tolkien. There are some who love him, maybe even most, but there are some of us who find him so boring that we must suspect his books in many cases of wilfire over the years.

Message #518 left by NMcVey on Nov 2, 2000 at 15:27

Jason: I found that quite a lot happens in Clash of Kings. Not as much as happens in Game of Thrones, but that's to be expected as the first book of a series has to do all the work in setting up the various plot threads.

All of the threads in the series were significantly advanced and quite a few new ones were conceived as well. If this were Book 2 of a trilogy as it was originally thought to be then I would be as upset as your friend. As it is only Book 2 of six then an acceptable amount of movement in the events of the story can be found.

Message #517 left by Jason D. W. on Nov 2, 2000 at 11:09

About Martin's books: A friend of mine recently read Book 2 in Martin's series (she thought Book 1 was brilliant, so she bought Book 2 in hardcover), and she was woefully disappointed. She said that events in Book 2 went in no direction, and the plot wound up almost exactly where it started. Is this Martin's way of expanding a trilogy into six books?

Message #516 left by Sean Klein on Nov 2, 2000 at 10:53

I read Tolstoy because I wanted to read Tolstoy. I enjoy Russian literature. However, before reading Anna Karenina I read some writing advice that said "Don't do X." Then, when I read AK, I saw how Tolstoy handled the "Don't do X" thing. It's hard to explain, but a little light went on in my head and my writing was forever changed.

Message #515 left by Lindsay M on Nov 2, 2000 at 9:59

Marti: Why on earth would you read a series not in order?? :o)

Message #514 left by Lindsay M on Nov 2, 2000 at 9:58

Nick: Okay, Okay you can get rid of the darn book. You only said you didn't like it not that it was so awful :p

Sean: I also don't just read to be taught about reading, sometimes I actually just read for enjoyment, although these days I have to deliberately turn off the inner critic... although sometimes that's really really hard to do.

Maybe I will try "Anna Karenina" again, my English teacher gave me it to read it because it was very good and he thought I'd enjoy it. I did find it a little tedious, but then at 17 reading classics wasn't exactly a priority, maybe I'll try it again with a little maturity under my belt.

Also I don't seem to recall Jordan doing the same descriptions again and again, but then I last read it as a reader, not as a writer, which of course may explain my current view on it... maybe it will change when I re-read them, we'll see.

John: You know I don't recall him going over things again... I read the last few as they came out and sometimes struggled to remember things, I don't recall getting any help from Jordan in that respect.


So it's been a while since I last read any, and I read them as a reader who has learned a lot from writing since then... as I do intend to re-read them maybe I will agree with these comments at a later date, or maybe I will be back here again arguing :o)

Lindsay M

Message #513 left by Marti on Nov 2, 2000 at 9:11

Just a minor note: You must read the Martin books in order. I read book 2, loved it, and went back to read book 1. Big mistake-- so much of his "plot" is the detailed play by play of these characters and not knowing what will happen next. If you already know what's going to happen, it leaves your mind to wander and notice all the little annoying things he does.

Message #512 left by Sean Klein on Nov 1, 2000 at 11:12

Point taken about Tolstoy. It came to mind because I noticed the same description used twice. So...

How often does Tolkien repeat descriptions in LotR? Probably not as much as Jordan does in WoT.

I'll have to look up the Martin books. Maybe when I get the ten foot tall stack of unread books in my office down to three or four feet.

Message #511 left by NMcVey on Nov 1, 2000 at 10:07

Maybe this should be in the Bad Books topic, but I thought that the Otherworld series was awful. I couldn't get through the second book. It was interminably slow-paced and the characters annoyed me to no end.

Luckily I didn't pay any money for the books although book one was a gift from my wife.

As far as Robert Jordan goes, I think he suffers from lack of serious editing whether self imposed or outside influence. His book are too long and the early ones are especially hard to get through. I never thought I'd get through Eye of the World. Even book 2 was more than a bit slow.

That being said, I think Jordan's Wheel of Time is the second best epic fantasy series on the market behind Martin's. It may not credit the reader with being able to follow a intricate plot, but at least it has more than an ample amount of plot. The characters aren't great, but they're acceptable vehicles for the plot. The world is well thought out if not engrossing to me personally. All in all quite good.

As far as Tolstoy goes, could we stay with apples and apples for comparison's sakes; examples of speculative fiction would be appreciated. Or even stick with someone who wrote in English for that matter.

Hey Robert I'd let you have my copy of Otherworld: Book ONe if my wife would let me part with it. Otherwise it sits in a great number of bargain piles out here in Colorado for 3.99 as hardcover.

Nick

Message #510 left by John Savage on Nov 1, 2000 at 8:56

I'd have to disagree with a couple of people . . .

Jordan does not give readers credit for intelligence to follow things. Virtually every time something is reintroduced, there's an "As you know, Bob . . ." recapitulation, even if it's spread across three or four characters.

I didn't like King's book. There's nothing in it that's not in Melissa Scott's Conceiving the Heavens, Card's two WD books, or John Gardner's The Art of Fiction. Except, perhaps, King's own self-appreciation.

Message #509 left by Lenora Rose on Nov 1, 2000 at 0:36

For short and not so lihgt, but really stunning, I'm just slowly climbing out to Patricia McKillip's the Tower at Stony Wood. I say climbing out because I feel like I was in the world. Very different from ours, more poetic, and way too full of mirrors -but isn't it a sign of great writing that a world so far into high fantasy that it removes itself from the idea of reality and plunges straight into myth/folklore should feel real for the duration?

Of course, once again I'm wooed by the presence of selkies...

Message #508 left by Robert Stephenson on Oct 31, 2000 at 23:18

I've got book two and three of Tad William's series and I'm trying to get a copy if the first one. From OZ that can be hard, especiallynwhen some stores are still asking huge prices for the H/C _ which I want.

Rob

I also agree with G R. R. Martins work being brilliant. He will certainly become known as a master if Fantasy circles and in the greater writing world.

Rob

Message #507 left by Sean Klein on Oct 31, 2000 at 18:58

Lindsay: count how many times in Jordan's Book 2 (don't remember the title) that the wookie guy's smile "split his face." I can guarantee you that it's more than four or five times in the 800 pages. And that's only on one book. Jordan used it in book one. God knows how many times he used it in books 3 to infinity.

Compare with Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" (and perhaps I'm being unfair here, comparing Jordan to the master) and how many times Tolstoy repeats a description like that. I remember seeing him describe a baby's wrist twice as looking like it had string wrapped around it. But Anna nor Vronsky nor any other character gets a "tag" that is repeated every time the character appears. (Plus, "his smile split his face" is fairly poor writing.)

If you want to read some great long books, I suggest Tolstoy (who will teach you more about writing in 100 pages than Jordan will in 1000) or Tad Williams' Otherworld series. "Gravity's Rainbow" by Pynchon is also a good one. "One Hundred Years of Solitude" while short in comparison to these other tomes, is also brilliant.

Perhaps I should start a "Really Good, Really Long Books" topic.

Message #506 left by Lindsay M on Oct 31, 2000 at 12:25

Well I'm 18th in line at the library for "On Writing" and there are six copies... so I should get it... ah whenever, I write I don't do maths.

Anyway I disagree, I would put Jordan in really good books. My reasons...

Well for one thing, Jordan actually credits the reader with an attention span and enough intelligence to actually follow an intricate plot and numerous characters.

I will admit he is a little weak on the female characters in that they do tend to be more or less alike, however it's much better that they are more or less alike in a strong way rather than a weak permanent victim of circumstance, tag along, annoying way. Of course this goes into the gender argument again doesn't it.

As for the length and the wait, well I don't mind waiting for what I think of as well written books, I much prefer it to quickly churned out drek. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy fluff books the same as I enjoy fluff films and fluff tv shows, but I don't like a constant diet of it. I want to be challenged now and again, I want something that takes effort to read now and again, something where I have to concentrate. That's why I think Robert Jordan is good.

Of course this leads onto what is and isn't good, my personal definition of good doesn't include all action all the time, I like slower bits, I like getting to know character and place bits. I like a strong plot driven story which includes all components to make it a strong and believable plot.

This is on Jordan so far, the last book was slow, yes, but not bad in my opinion. He hasn't finished them and so maybe by the end I will have changed my mind. I still believe they are well written, but then maybe that's because I'm such an amateur writer myself.

I would also like to say that I love waiting for books to come out, it's a delight I can look forward to. I read far too quickly and am often saddened when I've finished, I like the enforced wait and the excitement when I know the next book in whichever series is coming out. The wonderful anticipation. Maybe this personality quirk is why I'm one of the few people I know who isn't peeved at having to wait for the next book in yet another series.

Lindsay M

Message #505 left by Sean Klein on Oct 31, 2000 at 11:36

Any mention of Jordan should probably belong in the Really Bad Books thread. I got one and a half books into the Overstuffed Wheel of Neverending Time series before becoming angry and annoyed. Forced myself to finish book 2 then donated both to the library.

As for really good books, I finished Stephen King's "On Writing" last night. Excellent stuff that every RM'er should read.

Message #504 left by Hilary on Oct 31, 2000 at 10:37

Most long fantasy series drag interminably for me. I couldn't read Jordan, and David Edding's Mallorean was the Belgariad all over again, only written even more poorly.

However, I will make an exception for George Martin. He has done something amazing: he has created a pseudo medieval fantasy universe that is fully realized and gritty. His series is long because he has enough characters and subplots to justify it. Six major families are contending for a throne, there is a civil war, and characters die or become transformed left and right. It's a damn good series and it is the length it needs to be. Does quantity diminish the quality of the writing? In Martin's case, I'd say no.

Hmm

Message #503 left by Terry on Oct 31, 2000 at 7:53

"an empty bookcase"? What's that?

Message #502 left by Robert Stephenson on Oct 31, 2000 at 6:04

Two books which are a must. Three actually if you throw in Greg Benfords Deep Time

Time by Clifford A. Pickover "Oxford Press" Non-fiction The Five Ages of The Universe by Fred Admas and Greg Laughlin " Free Press"

The last book is superb for the SF writer. Mind blowing facts and even greater extrapolations and pseculation that will take your breath away.

Rob

Message #501 left by TomW on Oct 31, 2000 at 5:51

Or fill an empty bookcase.

Message #500 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Oct 31, 2000 at 0:58

Look on the bright side: if you can't stand reading these monster fantasy books, you can always use them as paperweights or to whack your annoying neighbor upside the head.

Message #499 left by Jason D. W. on Oct 30, 2000 at 23:24

Re: Martin's 6-book series: At whose behest was that series expanded from a trilogy to six books? Was it the marketers or Martin himself? Each of the first two books are more than an inch thick in paperback, and one would guess that the following books will follow suit. And then there's Robert Jordan's series, which is currently at 9 (?) books. My point is that dragging a story over this many pages would tend (I think) to diminish the quality of the writing. Or are these authors, when they sit at the typewriter, thinking of V.I. Lenin's theory, "Quantity has a quality all its own"?

Message #498 left by Robert Stephenson on Oct 27, 2000 at 20:42

according to HarperCollins George Martin has another three books to write, though it did start out as a trilogy.

Rob

Message #497 left by Robert Stephenson on Oct 27, 2000 at 20:41

according to HarperCollins George Martin has another three books to write, though it did start out as a trilogy.

Rob

Message #496 left by Terry on Oct 27, 2000 at 11:11

In case you hadn't noticed, there's a mutliple-posting epidemic happening. To thwart it, the FIRST time you hit the post button, if you're timed out, then hit the Back button, then Refresh. Your message may already be there. Hilary and I both have alerted (or tried to) Kent via the Future of the RM and the Urgent Announcements topics.

Message #495 left by TomW on Oct 27, 2000 at 11:06

I'm sure you're right, John. I wasn't saying that Tolkien invented the multi-book fantasy, but he certainly popularised it. The infection spread rapidly after his initial "outbreak".

Just to be sure you get this, it'll probably appear 4 times.

Message #494 left by TomW on Oct 27, 2000 at 11:05

I'm sure you're right, John. I wasn't saying that Tolkien invented the multi-book fantasy, but he certainly popularised it. The infection spread rapidly after his initial "outbreak".

Just to be sure you get this, it'll probably appear 4 times.

Message #493 left by TomW on Oct 27, 2000 at 11:04

I'm sure you're right, John. I wasn't saying that Tolkien invented the multi-book fantasy, but he certainly popularised it. The infection spread rapidly after his initial "outbreak".

Just to be sure you get this, it'll probably appear 4 times.

Message #492 left by TomW on Oct 27, 2000 at 11:02

I'm sure you're right, John. I wasn't saying that Tolkien invented the multi-book fantasy, but he certainly popularised it. The infection spread rapidly after his initial "outbreak".

Just to be sure you get this, it'll probably appear 4 times.

Message #491 left by John Savage on Oct 27, 2000 at 10:26

Just a couple of quick notes:

  • Martin's series is currently planned for six books (at least, that's what is contracted)
  • Series certainly did not originate with Tolkein. For example, E.R. Eddison's Zimiamvian Trilogy predates LOTR by over a decade; Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time (like LOTR, properly classified as a "serial novel" rather than a series) included a dozen volumes started in the early 1940s. Farther back, one can look at Amadis of Gaul, which ran to over 20 volumes—in the early 1500s.

Message #490 left by TomW on Oct 27, 2000 at 8:20

Once upon a time a fantasy could be told in one book. Then a bloke named Tolkien came along. And lo! Every fantasy required 3 books. Now...

Robert Jordan has hit 8 (or is it 9) in the Wheel of Time Terry Goodkind has hit 6 in the Sword of Truth. The first couple were good, but... George RR Martin is up to 3 (and I believe there are a few more, though I'm sure it was initially meant to be a trilogy). Raymond Feist sticks to trilogies, but he can't leave Midkemia behind, it seems. Nor can David Eddings abandon the world of the Belgariad.

Still, who am I to complain? If that's what the readers want...

It's a bit like the movies and the tendency for sequels/and or re-makes of old movies/television shows. The potential for failure is lessened if you stick to the familiar. Familiarity definitely does NOT breed contempt.

Message #489 left by TomW on Oct 27, 2000 at 8:19

Once upon a time a fantasy could be told in one book. Then a bloke named Tolkien came along. And lo! Every fantasy required 3 books. Now...

Robert Jordan has hit 8 (or is it 9) in the Wheel of Time Terry Goodkind has hit 6 in the Sword of Truth. The first couple were good, but... George RR Martin is up to 3 (and I believe there are a few more, though I'm sure it was initially meant to be a trilogy). Raymond Feist sticks to trilogies, but he can't leave Midkemia behind, it seems. Nor can David Eddings abandon the world of the Belgariad.

Still, who am I to complain? If that's what the readers want...

It's a bit like the movies and the tendency for sequels/and or re-makes of old movies/television shows. The potential for failure is lessened if you stick to the familiar. Familiarity definitely does NOT breed contempt.

Message #488 left by TomW on Oct 27, 2000 at 8:18

Once upon a time a fantasy could be told in one book. Then a bloke named Tolkien came along. And lo! Every fantasy required 3 books. Now...

Robert Jordan has hit 8 (or is it 9) in the Wheel of Time Terry Goodkind has hit 6 in the Sword of Truth. The first couple were good, but... George RR Martin is up to 3 (and I believe there are a few more, though I'm sure it was initially meant to be a trilogy). Raymond Feist sticks to trilogies, but he can't leave Midkemia behind, it seems. Nor can David Eddings abandon the world of the Belgariad.

Still, who am I to complain? If that's what the readers want...

It's a bit like the movies and the tendency for sequels/and or re-makes of old movies/television shows. The potential for failure is lessened if you stick to the familiar. Familiarity definitely does NOT breed contempt.

Message #487 left by TomW on Oct 27, 2000 at 8:17

Once upon a time a fantasy could be told in one book. Then a bloke named Tolkien came along. And lo! Every fantasy required 3 books. Now...

Robert Jordan has hit 8 (or is it 9) in the Wheel of Time Terry Goodkind has hit 6 in the Sword of Truth. The first couple were good, but... George RR Martin is up to 3 (and I believe there are a few more, though I'm sure it was initially meant to be a trilogy). Raymond Feist sticks to trilogies, but he can't leave Midkemia behind, it seems. Nor can David Eddings abandon the world of the Belgariad.

Still, who am I to complain? If that's what the readers want...

It's a bit like the movies and the tendency for sequels/and or re-makes of old movies/television shows. The potential for failure is lessened if you stick to the familiar. Familiarity definitely does NOT breed contempt.

Message #486 left by Lenora Rose on Oct 26, 2000 at 22:47

ROb - Is Storm of Swords the last book, or are there yet more to come? I've heard both that it was going to be a trilogy, and an ongoing series.

Message #485 left by Jay Arr on Oct 25, 2000 at 12:48

World-be writer? I like it.

Message #484 left by Robert Stephenson on Oct 25, 2000 at 5:38

Has any one mentioned George RR Martins "Storm of Swords" ?

Brilliant stuff. For the world be writer read this. Characters well drawn, scenes beautiful, plot engrossing, sub plots intriuging (spell checker please) Overall world building almost faultless. Great style as well. Another book I could recomend for the same reasons is a much older work by Jack Vance. "Araminta Station"

By for now

Rob

Message #483 left by Terry on Oct 24, 2000 at 22:44

But Lenora, don't we all anyway?

Message #482 left by Lenora Rose on Oct 24, 2000 at 21:40

The fact that Patricia McKillip's recent novels have had Kinuko Craft covers (Which are almost worth the cover price alone in my estimate) just adds icing to the cake, but yes, she does some pretty lovely books...

I've been trying to find a copy of Dark Lord of Derkholm at our library, but their Diana Wynne Jones collection seems to be rather eccentric in its hit-and-miss.

Her recent semi-serious Deep Secret was rather nice, although I continue to have unanswered questions about centaur anatomy.

Message #481 left by Lindsay M on Oct 24, 2000 at 18:18

I just finished reading "The Dark Lord of Derkholm" about 10 minutes ago. I enjoyed it, as I love most of Diana Wynne Jones' kids books. It is based on "A Tough Guide..." as it's set in a world where they have tourists and have to arrange the stuff for that, it's quite amusing, but I see "A Tough Guide..." as adult, "The Dark Lord of Derkholm" is definitely for kids.

I got my copy to read from the library and I wouldn't purchase it unless I had kids of an appropriate age, unlike some others of her books which I would get for myself :o)

Lindsay M

Message #480 left by Hilary on Oct 24, 2000 at 17:13

Mary --

Based on A Tough Guide to Fantasy Land? Based how? Are they guides in similar vein, or are they novel spoofs? Either way, I'm going to have to purchase them. I loooved the Tough Guide!

Hmm

Message #479 left by Beth Long on Oct 24, 2000 at 15:52

re #477: Williamson's "With Folded Hands" has been one of my favorites since the day I read it. I love it when authors take something that's widely accepted and say "But what about this..."

Also, I just read my first Patricia McKillip novel last month, The Book of Atrix Wolf. Sigh. Beauty, power, elegance. I loved it.

Message #478 left by Mary on Oct 18, 2000 at 20:36

Diana Wynne Jones's *The Dark Lord of Derkholm* and its sequel, *The Year of the Griffin*, are out in America. Both of them (particularly the first) are based on her *A Tough Guide to Fantasyland*.

Good books.

Message #477 left by Jay Arr on Oct 16, 2000 at 22:12

Fredrick's mention of *The Space Merchants* brought to mind Shepherd Mead's *The Big Ball of Wax.* Anyone read this? It was not only quite inventive for its time, but some of the ideas would seem cutting-edge today.

Just read Williamson's *With Folded Hands* again. Love to see how Williamson's Prime Directive fits in with Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics. A lot of cross-fertilization going on there.

Message #476 left by Sean Klein on Oct 16, 2000 at 10:57

Has anyone mentioned Redwall in this thread? Gail Sproule, here and elsewhere, has been debating the merits of good writing v. good story. Redwall is an example of mediocre writing attached to great characters and a great story. My writerly eye picked out cliches a plenty, but I read on because I wanted to know what was going to happen.

Message #475 left by Gregory Koster on Oct 15, 2000 at 19:39

For Fred: You are bang right about THE SPACE MERCHANTS. If you feel like another one of theirs, I'd suggest SEARCH THE SKY. Also agree with you on Varley, though I think the novel expansion of the story is rather weaker than the short version.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #474 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Oct 15, 2000 at 18:32

I just read The Space Merchants by Fredrik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth. I enjoyed the novel a great deal, and it did not seem that dated even though it was written back in the 50's. Some of the inventions, like the pedicabs, strained credulity, but other than that it was a good vision of consumerism gone amok. I especially like the Coffiest spiked with alkaloids that got people addicted--no wonder I'm drinking Starbucks coffee so much.

I am also rushing to read through John Varley's short story collection The Persistence of Vision before it has to go back through InterLibrary Loan on Thursday, and though I haven't read the title story yet I did read "Air Raid" and liked it a lot. But I would suggest staying away from the movie "Millenium" that's based on the short story--it's not nearly as interesting or enjoyable as the short story. I would run out and borrow the novel Millenium to read the rest of the story, but right now I'm balancing the rest of Vision with the Gaean trilogy and all of my school reading.

Message #473 left by Jason D. W. on Oct 13, 2000 at 0:34

re: #463--

You're calling Stephen R. Donaldson a derivationist? Sounds like you're lumping him in with Robert Jordan. And I don't think that would be doing him justice at all. What makes me like SRD so much is his plotting. In the "Mordant's Need" duology, for instance, he tightens the screws on the protagonists to the point that you don't think they can get out. And then--slowly, and with perfect logic--the whole Gordian knot unravels, and the villains' machinations come crashing down. Same thing with the Gap series. And if you like villains that you love to hate--villains that, in the end, always get theirs with a vengeance--look no farther than Holt Fasner, Master Eremis, and of course, Lord Foul.

Message #472 left by Lenora Rose on Oct 11, 2000 at 23:16


Praise for one book, and random musings regarding another. I like Neil Gaiman fairly well, but his Neverwhere (The novel - I ahven't seen the mini-series) loses a lot when compared to Viido Polikarpus & Tappan King's "Down Town" a young adult novel set in a magical underworld to new York, where the unwanted people and things go.. Gaiman's is grimmer, and naturally enough, meant for an older audience.

Now, writers borrow, by accident or intent, all the time, and write similar themes, sometimes without even having read the first book. But in this case, the two felt similar iun all the wrong ways. Not so close as plagiarism, or even shameless but affectionate copying (A la Terry Brooks vs Tolkien) - but just "I've seen this before and better done".

Message #471 left by Marti Booker on Oct 11, 2000 at 17:39

For really good horror, read 999, edited by Al Sarrantonio. Not an anthology that one can really relate to as a writer (I mean, he got Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Joyce Carol Oates to send him stuff. From his introductions, it seems that begging was involved.) but as a reader, it's pure joy. Ok, joy for those of us that love horror anyway.

Message #470 left by Jay Arr on Oct 10, 2000 at 10:09

In the "Good Enough to Read" category, I would put *Island of the Sequined Love Nun* by Christopher Moore. It's one of those stories that makes you say, "Why didn't I think of that?" It involves a cargo cult, a fake mesiah-figure, and the selling of human organs on the black market. Not marketed as science fiction, but it's close enough for line-dancing.

Message #469 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Oct 3, 2000 at 22:40

Yes, please.

Message #468 left by lori on Oct 3, 2000 at 21:04

Hmm--do we need a "not Earth-shattering but a good enough read" topic? :-)

law

Message #467 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Oct 3, 2000 at 14:16

I finished Catherine Asaro's Primary Inversion just recently, and it was reasonably entertaining. Although the battle scene at the end of the first section with all those inversion was confusing and hard to follow. I liked the technology like nervoplex and Jumblers. The characters were all right, though Sauscony Valdoria was a weird name to say the least. I had taken out the book from the library a few months back and read only the first chapter. But I thought it was good enough, so I came back later and read the rest.

Somebody on Amazon said that this book was like Romeo and Juliet except with a happy ending, and I suppose that's a fair assessment of the book. It was not Earth-shattering, but it was a good enough read.

Message #466 left by T. Rex on Sep 25, 2000 at 22:10

Dear Elizabeth:

What are you trying to do? Restore my faith in public education? ;-)

Message #465 left by Elizabeth on Sep 25, 2000 at 15:49


For T.Rex, in re #461:

Several of the stories in that book were assigned to me in school. What's funny is that many have an SF *feel*, even if the story isn't actually specfic (such as "The Most Dangerous Game").

I had to read "The Lottery" and "Harrison Bergeron" (Jackson and Vonnegut, respectively), both of which are undeniably SF. "The Yellow Wallpaper" can be interpreted as spec-fic, too.

I'm sure I had other spec-fic literature assigned as well, though at this date it's hard to recall what was assigned and what was recreational. But "The Lottery" and "Harrison Bergeron" were in my sixth-grade reader (along with several of the tales you list). Rah-rah, New York City public school system, and rah-rah Mr. Feldman for assigning them!

--E

Message #464 left by S.N.Arly on Sep 25, 2000 at 14:21

I liked the "Mordant's Need" books enough to plow through both of them (back in HS)without glasses, which resulted in a horrific 12 hour headache. Could not get past the beginning of the Thomas Covenant books. What a godawful whiner. I have been told that there's worthy stuff therin, but I don't know if I have the stomach to go spelunking for it.

Message #463 left by John Savage on Sep 24, 2000 at 19:58

I give Donaldson only the points for originality due a moderately successful pioneer; or, from another perspective, derivationist. Yes, it was "original" to have a leper as the hero, and to have a blind military genius the focal point of one book—at least in speculative fiction. The one, however, calls to mind one of Patrick White's early works (I can't recall the title), and the other Admiral Nelson. What Donaldson did was put a whole bunch of different elements gathered from elsewhere into a pot of religious ideology and stirred it for a while. The soup as a whole isn't bad, but one must wonder exactly what those chunks of meat were. Same problem with the "Gap" books.

Message #462 left by Jason D. W. on Sep 24, 2000 at 18:14

About #458: Actually, I just saw a trade paperback "omnibus collection" of P.C. Hodgell's first two books ("God Stalk," and "Dark of the Moon") at a Barnes+Noble, published under the title "Dark of the Gods" by Meisha Merlin Publishing. It's good to see her in print again, especially considering the hell I heard she went through.

By the way, what do you people think of Stephen R. Donaldson's works? The six volumes of "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" are, I grant you, not for the clinically depressed, but I really enjoyed his "Mordant's Need" duology, and I found his "Gap" series (in which he rewrote Norse mythology in a science fiction context) to be a real page turner. You have to give him points for originality.

Message #461 left by T. Rex on Sep 24, 2000 at 18:09

Some time ago I bought a literature textbook at a secondhand shop for $1.00. It was titled, simply, _Stories_, and was, in fact, unused. (Besides being in Excellent condition, the usage log pasted on the inside front cover had no names on it.)

The reason I bring this item up is the following: Had I, as a high school junior or senior, had something like this to read, I would have enjoyed literature far more than I did. Here are the tales collected in this book:

_Stories_ Co. 1957 Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.

Stories of Impact:

The Sniper. . . . . . . . . . . . . Liam O'Flaherty Bill's Little Girl. . . . . . . . . Zona Gale Romance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . William Saroyan The Blanket . . . . . . . . . . . . Floyd Dell Snake Dance . . . . . . . . . . . . Corey Ford Thus I Refute Beelzy. . . . . . . . John Collier Yep, a real John Collier tale. A boy invokes "Mr. Beelzy" to save him from an abusive father. The anti-witchcraft forces would probably burn this book today. BTW, I while I think John Collier is remarkably imaginative and is one of my favorite writers, his works appear stained with technical flaws. Here in the title "Thus I Refute Beelzy," the "I" refers to the father, but the boy is the main character, and this is much confusing at first. Collier's most famous work, much anthologized, is "The Chaser," in which almost every paragraph tells you what's coming at the end and, when the end comes, you're _still_ surprised. The Father. . . . . . . . . . . . . Bjoernstjerne Bjoernson The Unpopular Passenger . . . . . . Robert Bingham A Girl from the Queer People. . . . Carl Sandburg The Golden Kite, The Silver Wind. . Ray Bradbury After Twenty Years. . . . . . . . . O. Henry The Upturned Face . . . . . . . . . Stephen Crane

Stories of Depth:

The New Kid . . . . . . . . . . . . Murray Heyert The Undefeated. . . . . . . . . . . Ernest Hemingway The Necklace. . . . . . . . . . . . Guy de Maupassant GdM also wrote a bizarre tale called, I think, "The Woman Who Bore Monsters," about a woman who could generate fetal deformities in her children and thus sell them to circus owners, etc. The Minister's Black Veil . . . . . Nathaniel Hawthorne Nancy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Elizabeth Enright The Great Automatic Grammatisator . Roald Dahl Another speculative fiction story: a machine is designed to compose fiction and threatens the livelihood of all writers. The Quiet Man . . . . . . . . . . . Maurice Walsh A Time of Learning. . . . . . . . . Jessamym West The Cask of Amontillado . . . . . . E. A. Poe An "evil wins" story in a high school text. Gasp! The Most Dangerous Game . . . . . . Richard Connell The archetypal man-hunts-man tale. Haircut . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ring Lardner The Duchess and the Smugs . . . . . Pamela Frankau

Stories to Think About:

Paul's Case . . . . . . . . . . . . Willa Cather Barn Burning. . . . . . . . . . . . William Faulkner My First Two Women. . . . . . . . . Nadine Gordimer Molly Morgan. . . . . . . . . . . . John Steinbeck A story about drunkenness and abandonment. The Rocking-Horse Winner. . . . . . D. H. Lawrence Another specfic tale: a boy learns to predict race winners by riding his rocking horse to victory. Bernice Bobs Her Hair . . . . . . . F. Scott Fitzgerald The Answer. . . . . . . . . . . . . Philip Wylie P. Wylie of _When Worlds Collide_ (w/Balmer) fame offers an SF/faith cross-genre piece. Mario and the Magician. . . . . . . Thomas Mann

My comment: I can only recall being offered TWO specfic stories throughout school. One was about a man finding a Martian coin on the steps of a government building; the other was Bradbury's tepid "There Will Come Soft Rains." Talk about mediocre. The stories in this collection are far better. Does anyone remember ever seeing or USING this text? Or was this a case of a text being too good for the market?

T.

Message #460 left by Lenora Rose on Sep 20, 2000 at 18:57

Terry, I thought we were expressly forbidden to leave those hairballs on Kent's nice rugs...

Message #459 left by Terry on Sep 19, 2000 at 21:56

...ththu! ...ththu! ...ththu!

I *always forget that second "th" in Wraeththu! (msg #456)

Message #458 left by Hilary on Sep 19, 2000 at 21:44

Other suggestions for Barry: The Game of Thrones by Martin, The Golden Compass by Pullman, and Godstalk by PC Hodgell (oh, dang, that one's out of print too...) All are strikingly original fantasies with a very dark edge.

Too bad the SF spot is taken though, because I came here to praise one of the best books I've read in a long time. The Bridge by Janine Ellen Young. Aliens have built one half of a starbridge and have sent us a message with everything we need to understand their culture and build the other half of the bridge to come join them. Only one problem: when the message arrives, it's a virus that kills four billion people and leaves the rest with heads full of half-understood, nutso ideas... Great stuff. It's a book that dares to throw out big ideas and run with them. The characters are all memorable, too. What an amazing second novel. Makes me want to go out and buy her first one.

Hmm

Message #457 left by Lori on Sep 19, 2000 at 21:17

You know, I don't know which of Powers' books got a Stoker. My bad. Earthquake Weather? Last Call is fun for Vegas fans.

You could get Dark Cities Underground by Goldstein, except I don't think it's out in paperback yet. Then why do I mention a useless piece of info? Just one of those days, I guess.

law

Message #456 left by Terry on Sep 19, 2000 at 8:52

Barry--have you read Storm Constantine's Wraethu series yet? I've got them at home so can't recall the titles but I'm sure if you search on her name on the Net you'll find a biblio. I couldn't put the darn things down!

Message #455 left by MWA on Sep 19, 2000 at 2:18

Barry:

I'm about 150 pages into "Mr. X"--excellent so far. I'd say go for it.

Message #454 left by Lenora Rose on Sep 18, 2000 at 19:30

Lisa Goldstein. Short but very very good. Pick any; none of them are series', so you can start with whatever you luck into finding. (I'm personally not very fond of the Red Magician, her first book, but it started her career with an award and a bang.)

Message #453 left by Barry Hollander on Sep 18, 2000 at 15:08

Funny, my wife just bought the Klasky book. No way she'll let me take it, heh heh. I'll read it when I get back.

Tim Powers is a possibility. Hit a web page of his stuff. Which of his won a Stoker?

Message #452 left by Lindsey on Sep 18, 2000 at 13:59

Barry: I just finished our own Mindy Klasky's "Glasswright's Apprentice" and it was good, with lots of fun intrigue. It's not exactly horror, but there's some blood and torture. You could try that.

-Linz

Message #451 left by Lori on Sep 18, 2000 at 9:48

Barry: Something by Tim Powers?

Message #450 left by Barry Hollander on Sep 18, 2000 at 8:56

Ok, I have room for one more fat paperback on a trip I'm taking Friday. What'll it be? Suggestions?

Got SF covered. Don't want S&S. Would prefer fantasy with a dark edge...anywhere from dark to almost horror but not slasher stuff (contemplating the Straub paperback). Readable stuff, though, for a looooong plane ride. I'm not looking for challenging here, I'm looking for help on a 10-day business trip to Ukraine.

Fire at will.

Message #449 left by Terry on Sep 16, 2000 at 23:18

Tippi: A MUCH-belated correction to #414 about the author of Watchers at the Pond: It's Franklin Russell. The copy I have is a handsome paperback from Time Reading Program Special Edition, with drawings by Robert W. Arnold and Intro by--drum-roll--Gerald Durrell! The copyright date is 1961.

Message #448 left by John Savage on Sep 16, 2000 at 21:02

I missed the messages . . .

Eric (438): No, I meant that literature doesn't deserve to be sullied by the comparison. In a way, though, your rant was more accurate than you might have thought; I was (almost) an English professor. I was working on that nasty old dissertation, with an appointment at the Air Force Academy in the offing. Then some nastiness in the Gulf intervened. I went over to the Dark Side, and became a lawyer. I find your lack of faith … disturbing.

Message #447 left by Jim Palmer on Sep 16, 2000 at 17:37

Dear Greg, Right on all counts about Avram. Yeah, his stuff does need to be read with a fine-toothed comb, and preferably repeatedly. And life did have a pretty rough time with him. I'm envious that you got to actually see the guy (and under such odd circumstances--didn't happen to see which library books he was borrowing, did you?, but, like you, I think I would have just let him be and not bothered him either.

Yes, I'm glad Wildside is reissuing his work, and I personally think the St. Martin's anthology has better stuff in it than the Tor one. And Owlswick Press is still churning out the Esterhazy compendium, with an introduction by Gene Wolfe.

And since I'm here, I'll throw another couple of titles out for consideration: anyone else here familiar with Milorad Pavic? His stuff is so strange that I'm not exactly sure where it should go--spec fic, literary avant-garde, or any other category. But a brilliant talent, and, like Davidson, a man of encyclopedic knowledge of many arcane subjects. Again, like Davidson, he requires a little time and effort to get into.

Jim

Message #446 left by MWA on Sep 15, 2000 at 23:50

I just got my hot hands on the paperback release of Peter Straub's "Mr. X". It won the Storker award for novel in 1999, so I'm anxious to see if it lives up to that status. I shall make a full report next week (if it takes that long).

I also just finished Elizabeth Massie's "Sineater". It also won a Stoker--all I can say is that ('95-'96?) must have been a lean year. The writing is good, and the basic story is good. The problem is with an excessively long build up to a story that could have been told just as well in a novelette.

Message #445 left by Dennis on Sep 15, 2000 at 16:32

I really, really enjoyed The Light of Other Days. Wow, I was surprised (so much SF today is such unbearable crap).

I'm half way through Pegasus in Space right now. Not sure if I'll finish it, or maybe stab myself to death with a number 2 pencil instead.

Message #444 left by Gregory Koster on Sep 15, 2000 at 15:25

For Jim: Stop! The last thing we need is another riot here on the Mill. Besides, you don't need to do it. Tor has brought out THE AVRAM DAVIDSON TREASURY, a fine selection of his shorter work. It's still in print in hard- or trade paperback. Better, St. Martin's has published THE INVESTIGATIONS OF AVRAM DAVIDSON another story omnibus that does not overlap with the Tor effort so much as you might think. Best of all, Wildside Press is making a determined effort to bring his stuff back into print, having brought 11 of his books (including some dubious "posthumous collaborations") back into print in trade paperbacks. All these are available via Amazon. What are you waiting for?

As for AD himself, it took me quite a while to warm up to his stuff. It is rewarding, but reading his stuff is quite exhausting for me, thanks to my mental limitations. The attention his work demands to be appreciated is such that it does not surprise me he remained a "caviar to the general public" writer, or that many folks razzed him as a pretentious mountebank. I find the insistence of his estate on hiring Michael Swanwick to finish all the fragments he wrote as "posthumous collaborations" a bit disturbing. The results aren't bad, but they aren't up to either Swanwick's or Davidson's best, or even second best. The estate would do better to keep AD's best work in print, and stop trying to grab some easy money.

Finally, I saw the great man once. Like you, Jim, I didn't know where he lived, but I had seen his photograph. One Sunday afternoon, I was at the Central branch of the Kitsap Regional Library in Bremerton WA. PA system booms, "Avram Davidson, your bus is here." (One of those dial-a-rides for the handicapped.) The names--- it couldn't be a coincidence. So I went to the front and watched. It was him, in a wheelchair, going out into the rain. It was a jolt. He was recognizable from his photograph, but all I could think of at the time was Hemingway's description of himself as "a beat up old bastard." It seemed to fit the outward appearance of AD perfectly. I do not mean that AD was a bastard, but instead that life had launched a full bombardment at him, and he was dreadfully battered by it. Looked him up in the phone book, and found he lived about six miles from me. I never called, wrote, or visited. Shyness in part, and also the notion that authors should write, and the way for the fans to help is to let them write. Buy the books, don't bother them with letters. Yet it should have been evident to me that a fellow in a wheelchair might have been able use the help of someone who was able-bodied, if witless. But this did not occur to me until after he was dead. In any case, from what I know of his life, he had a rough time. Great talent, but he never got the audience he deserved for us. A cautionary tale for all of us hear as we strive for that brass ring of publication that we know will make all the struggling worthwhile.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #443 left by Jim Palmer on Sep 15, 2000 at 12:25

I already praised him to the skies on the "Classics" list, but I'm still surprised no one has mentioned Avram Davidson. What a stylist. What a funny man. And sooooo daaaarned SMART. "The Inquiries of Doctor Esterhazy" was one of the few books that made me want to meet the author. After I did a little more research, it metamorphosed into one of the very few books I've read that made me really, really sad that the author is dead.

I'm going to keep singing his praises until I've generated enough interest in him that spec fic fans riot to bring his books back into print, and then maybe I won't have to pay thirty bucks for a mouldering paperback of his that I found in a used bookstore. Not that I begrudged a single cent of it...

Jim

Message #442 left by Jan S. on Sep 10, 2000 at 20:23

Must mention here Neal Stephenson. _Snow Crash_ was just plain great fun, but _Cryptonomicon_ is outfreakin'standing. I have been laughing for the last two days whenever I have the time to pick it up and read more. His use of the English language is delightfully free and he has more cool ideas in one paragraph than a lot of other writers can sweat out in a whole book. Though comparisons are not something I much like to make, when reading Stephenson I'm strongly reminded of Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus books and John Calvin Batchelor's _The Further Adventures of Halley's Comet_. Yeah, NS is _that_ whacked. Now go have some fun. <g>

Message #441 left by Kenneth Burke on Sep 6, 2000 at 23:57

Be careful who you praise on this site. Over on "Bad Books" we're discussing Shakespeare and Hemingway. Talk about high standards.

Message #440 left by Fred Lloyd on Sep 6, 2000 at 21:00

Emily, I really have to disagree with you about Angela's Ashes. I kept waiting for something, anything, to happen. I found nothing heartening in the book. All I wanted was for it to end. I know so many people who think this is a great book. I can't for the life of me figure out why. My childhood wasn't as primitive as his but is was definitely as bad. Is it something akin to watching a car accident?

Fred

Message #439 left by Emily on Sep 5, 2000 at 17:48

Anyone who enjoys memoirs should definitely pick up a copy of Angela's Ashes by Frank McOurt. It's wonderful.

Message #438 left by Eric Snyder II on Sep 5, 2000 at 14:11

John: I assume you meant the theory assumes Star Wars deserves comparison to any form of literature. IMO, it does. Is Luke Skywalker the most important mythic figure to come around lately? Probably not. Is Harry Potter? Probably not. The fact remains, however, that they are both popular mythic figures. Popular almost to saturation. Nearly everyone between eight and fifteen, and a good number of people older than that, have read the Harry Potter books. Everyone twenty and up has watched the Star Wars movies. And as we go back generations, we encounter other mythic figures who took the populace by storm. My parents' generation had Frodo Baggins and Paul Atreides.

Whether any of these characters, books and movies are part of the hero-myth cycle--which is IMO a pretty nebulous term to begin with--is an academic problem left for the English professors in their halls of knowledge. But they will be compared to each other by the public, because of their similarity, and because of their popularity.

Me... I've always disliked English professors. I like having my own interpretations of literature :)

[/rant]

ES2

Message #437 left by Lenora Rose on Sep 4, 2000 at 23:46

John: Most of the people who came up with the theory came up with it because, as far as I can see, they feel any hero who resonates with a lot of people must be mythical. Oops, I mean, 'of mythical stature'. (Well, take it as you please, I think both might be accurate.) Luke does resonate with a lot of people, as does Han.

However, as for "Lucas' moneymakers", the theory was put forth after they made the money, but only because it couldn't exactly help being so. However, I do think that when Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back were made, Lucas Knew he was doing an ambitious project, and that he had a vision - but I don't think he was *yet* deluded into believing he was changing the face of modern myth, culture, peoples' mentality, or that everything he did was significant. I think at the outset, he thought "cool ambitious project, likely good crowds, new steps in special effects", and not much more.

And why is it that the only part of all of Joseph Campbell's books anyone focuses on is his example of Luke Skywalker as a modern myth figure? It's the only part that seemed to hit anyone's consciousness for more than two seconds, and it was far from one of his main points.

Message #436 left by John Savage on Sep 4, 2000 at 22:21

No. I don't buy this at all, for a very simple reason:

It assumes that any variety of literature deserves comparison to Star Wars. I've ranted in detail on this before; suffice it to say that one can believe that Lucas's moneymakers are in the "hero-myth cycle" if, and only if, one believes in the Easter Bunny and the integrity of Presidential candidates. Lucas might believe such, but he's far better at suspending disbelief than he is at creating such suspension.

Message #435 left by Sean Klein on Sep 4, 2000 at 13:23

Harry Potter = Luke Skywalker because both stories are following the hero-myth cycle. Will Dumbledore die fighting Voldemort in book six? Perhaps. Harry will emerge victorious over Voldemort at the end of seven, but I sincerely doubt we'll hear, "Harry, I am your father" from he-who-cannot-be-named.

Message #434 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Sep 3, 2000 at 13:53

Luke = Harry? Guess I'll have to read the books and judge for myself.

Here's an interesting study in opposites.

On one hand, Alan Nourse's _Trouble on Titan_. A very well-written book that I zoomed through. Though I admit the story wasn't groundbreaking, Nourse executed it very well. It had a good story and plot, fine 2-D characters (I can still remember Tuck Benedict and David Torm), a fast pace and it did not seem at all dated for a book published back in 1954. I read the first three chapters earlier, then zoomed right through the rest of the book, over a hundred pages, in a few hours. I'll see about _Star Surgeon_ next.

On the other hand, I had to read about twenty pages on a book about British Romanticism and my question is, do scholars purposefully make their books dull to read? It took me over an hour to read the damn thing, and I still have trouble remembering anything that the author said. My mind kept wandering away from the information, even stuff I underlined. Perhaps it wouldn't hurt scholars to write their books in a more jaunty prose style, with less blocks of huge texts. All I can say is I'm thankful that I don't have to read law texts. If I tried, I'd probably faint after the first few pages.

Message #433 left by Eric Snyder II on Sep 1, 2000 at 18:24

Kenneth:

I agree with you whole-heartedly on those choices. I would also recommend Double Star to you, Frederick.

As an aside, I just (finally) got around to reading Harry Potter IV. In about eight hours. Excellent book, though I dare say not a kids' book. And I reassert my claim that Harry Potter = Luke Skywalker.

ES2

Message #432 left by Mary on Sep 1, 2000 at 17:23

Just read James Stoddard's *The High House* Good book. A different sort of fantasy, even though it has a fair number of the cliches.

Message #431 left by Kenneth Burke on Sep 1, 2000 at 3:16

Fredrick: start with Tunniel in the Sky, if you haven't read it. And if you haven't read "The Door into Summer", do so immediately. (That's an order). Other than an imbecillic bit on economics, it's Heinlein's best, in my opinion. (Not counting Harsh Mistress, of course.)

Message #430 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Aug 31, 2000 at 23:28

I just read _Have Space Suit--Will Travel_ by Robert Heinlein and enjoyed it a lot. It's amazing, aside from a few 50's references like soda jerk and slide rules, how modern the book feels, esp. in light of how dated a book like _Slan_ reads. It was a well-written story and as usual, Heinlein has that wonderful authoritative tone. About my only complaints were that Kip and Peewee sounded a bit too adult, even if they were kid geniuses, and Mother Thing sounded too Heinleinish for an alien. But other than that, it was a great read, full of interesting characters that you could care about and a great story that hopped around the galaxy and beyond. I look forward to reading some more of his earlier works.

Message #429 left by Kenny on Aug 14, 2000 at 13:01

I just finished Calulating God by Robert Sawyer; it hurt to read (those of you who know what's been going one will know why), but it's a wonderful book that points out why Sawyer is one of the consistently best writers around.

Message #428 left by Sean Klein on Aug 14, 2000 at 11:09

Any book by a guy named Sean can't be all that bad.

Message #427 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Aug 14, 2000 at 8:55

Sorry to hear you were ill, Gregory. Hope you're feeling better.

As for your fate upon the field of battle, I would not worry. For there will come a time when the name of Koster will become legend in the annals of history, and Fresno.

So I say to you, mighty Koster. March forth unto the fray! For the spoils of war are fleeting But legends live beyond their day

Message #426 left by Beth on Aug 13, 2000 at 20:38

Gregory Koster -- the new High Liber. Yowzah!

btw, the author's name is Sean McMullen. Publisher is Tor (iirc).

Message #425 left by Gregory Koster on Aug 13, 2000 at 18:39

Holy cow. I stay away from the Mill for ONE day, fighting a losing battle against the microbes that have developed a taste for my carcass, and what happens? I find myself marched out onto the field of honor by that scalawag Fred, flintlock in hand, assigned a moniker (Dragon Red Koster) that will raise eyebrows in Paris and snickers in Fresno, given the line "Best regards, a**hole" and then BANG! What that villain Fred did not do is show what happened next: A colossal explosion followed by a cloud of smoke. The smoke clears, revealing ol' Dragon Red, holding on to the remants of his blown up gun, clothes shredded and afire, in blackface (thanks to gunpowder combustion products) that would make Al Jolson proud, tottering, mumbling, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed astern," as he topples to earth, wishing that he could have been Sam Spade instead. Great racucous belly laughs from the crowd, save for the Three Stooges, who are worried that finally someone has come along who could upstage them. What a fate, to be the Mill's flintlock stooge, fit only for threatening precocious ten year olds! Fred, Fred, what have you done?

BANG! Dragon Red who will have to look up that book, SOULS IN THE GREAT MACHINE

Message #424 left by Lenora Rose on Aug 12, 2000 at 22:41

> to all (Even Kenneth, who would die before using a smiley.)

I have been paid for something I wrote. Once. I'm sure it'll happen again sometime. Maybe when I'm eighty.

Kenneth - my mom has the Rabbi books - or at least most of them. I've heard of a lot of authors who started late. I personally will not feel bad until I'm fifty, have almost as many novels as years piled up around me, and not one sold. Until then, I plan to try and be hopeful (except for those dark depressing nights. but I intend to be thoroughly distracted then O;>

Terry: why do you think he chose that particular pseudonym? Of course he's cruel. That's why we love him - he's OUR cruel...

Message #423 left by Kenneth Burke on Aug 12, 2000 at 20:21

Lenora: I was thirty-three before I got paid for something I wrote, not counting a brief stint in my late teens when I was a stringer for the Fresno Bee. Fifty cents a column inch was my munificent salary. The guy who wrote a whole string of best sellers beginning with "Friday the Rabbi Slept Late" was in his sixties when he got started. (He's my hero.)

Everybody: Has anyone read Caesar's Gallic War? (The Conquest of Gaul, as Penguin has it.) Does anyone agree with me that it's a useful book for both fantasy and sci/fi writers? I'd be interested in knowing why, if so, because I'd like to know if your reasons are similar to mine. (If anyone drops by to tell us that you can only enjoy it in the original Latin, I'm hiring an assassin. Maybe Craig Kilborne.)

Message #422 left by Terry on Aug 12, 2000 at 20:07

John Savage, you are cruel!

Message #421 left by John Savage on Aug 12, 2000 at 18:28

Lenora, if it makes you feel any better, at least it's not eligible for a Nebula (since it's not in a North American publication).

Message #420 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Aug 12, 2000 at 17:09

<pat-pat> It's all right, Lenora. Grandma Moses didn't publish her paintings until her later years. You'll be fine.

Message #419 left by Lenora Rose on Aug 12, 2000 at 16:03

TEN? Aaargh!

<Wanders away with all the slow weight of her twenty-four years upon her, grumbling under her breath about uppity youngsters....>

Message #418 left by Beth on Aug 12, 2000 at 11:22

Fredrick: (Message #417) If I recall correctly, the various religions didn't like rockets, either. (And why they used wind and galley trains.) It was the High Liber who insisted on using them, for her own purposes. Avoiding the antibiotics may have been a holdover from the genetic experiments, which produced the bird people. The plot got rather thick near the end, but I think that was part of the setup for _The Miocene Arrow,_ which takes place in North America.

btw, the author was at Readercon. Friendly fellow, and very proud of his daughter, who recently got published in Interzone at the age of ten.

Message #417 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Aug 12, 2000 at 10:55

Just finished _Souls in the Great Machine_. It was a pretty good book, although there seemed to be an awful number of convenient coincidences in the novel and a question that kept bothering me is why would a society embrace old weapons like rockets, yet shun using antibiotics in favor of eucalyptus leaves.

But I really liked the parts with the librarians dueling with flintlock pistols. Funny thing was everytime I read one of these duels, I couldn't help but think of Gregory Koster marching out onto the field like Barry Lyndon, with a flintlock pistol in hand.

"Dragon Red Koster, are you prepared to return fire?"

"Yeah." He smiles. "Best regards, a**hole!"

BANG!

Message #416 left by S.N.Arly on Aug 7, 2000 at 13:29

Growing Wings by Laurel Winter.

I think it's being marketed as a kids' book, but it's the sort of thing that a lot of us nonkids might enjoy. I did, anyway. It's available over at Amazon; don't know how easy it will be to find in bookstores as it is her first novel.

Message #415 left by Tippi on Aug 4, 2000 at 10:29

I haven't read the Beebe. I loaned that to someone in college and never got it back. *grumble*

And ditto on the Jacques Cousteau books! I got a set as a kid but I couldn't read yet. I wanted so badly to know what the words said that I think I learned to read almost through will. And Sesame Street. I then made up stories about all the pictures in the book. :-)

I didn't go into biology, though. In high school, I kept losing my lunch during dissections. I'm not sure if it was the dissection itself or the formaldehyde. But I still pursue marine biology via books and Discovery Channel specials. I must have 8 tapes of various shark documentaries.

Message #414 left by Terry on Aug 4, 2000 at 7:45

Oh, Gregory, I read that so many years ago I can't even remember it!

But wasn't The Water's Edge by Rachel Carson? She wrote several biology books for lay people, plus some children's books, too, I thought. Tippi -- this isn't marine biology but it's a forgotten/overlooked jewel: Watcher at the Pond. The author was, I *think* william Russell. It's an amazing book--almost a spiritual journey, though there's not a single human in it. He just goes through an entire year's seasons at a little pond, in minute detail about all the life forms around and in the pond. About halfway through, I thought I couldn't go on--everything was all the time dying! But I kept reading, and then came to realize--everything IS all the time dying. But it's also renewing all the time, too. Wow. It's old, and probably out of print, but you might find it at a good used bookstore. (Or maybe Gregory can unearth it for you?)

My life was altered forever by (all of) Jacques Cousteau's books, and in particular that "Ocean World" encyclopedia he produced -- stuck in a farmhouse in the middle of Iowa in the early 1970's, I subscribed and got every one of the volumes--and read it a dozen times or more. And--guess what--here I am, 25 years later, an aquatic biologist! (Nobody told me about the meetings and paper-shuffling, though...)

Message #413 left by Gregory Koster on Aug 3, 2000 at 23:50

For Terry and Tippi: Let us hear your opinions on William Beebe's foray into deep water biology, HALF MILE DOWN, published in 1934 with those marvelous drawings of viperfish. Great stuff.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #412 left by Tippi on Aug 3, 2000 at 21:51

LOL! I haven't read that but will keep an eye out for it.

I thought of another book. At the Water's Edge. I can't remember the author's name but it's a really fascinating work. It's the story of the origin of life in the sea, how that life evolved to land, and then went back again (dolphins and whales). I'm particularly passionate about sharks, rays, and deep sea fish. I also have a fondness for the ocean sunfish (mola mola) because it's just so damn freaky.

I also have The Octopus's Garden somewhere and I need to read it. The author, I think, is Van Dolen.

Message #411 left by Terry on Aug 3, 2000 at 21:02

I swear to God I'm not stalking you, Tippi, but I can't believe you've come up with yet another passionate interest of mine--oceanography/aquatic biology??? Were we like, separated at birth or something? Have you read the (older--early 1970's maybe) nonfiction book titled The Abyss? The opening chapter of that is SO COOL!

Message #410 left by Tippi on Aug 3, 2000 at 18:46

Some of my favorite books are by Richard Ellis. They're marine biology, but they are absolutely as riveting as any fiction bestseller I've read. The Deep Atlantic is probably my favorite because I'm enthralled by ceratioid anglerfish, but his Monsters of the Sea is also good. I think that's the name of it. It's an exploration into cryptozoology, digging up the origins of mythological sea creatures, some of which turn out to be real.

Message #409 left by Beth on Jul 30, 2000 at 11:24

Just finished reading Souls in the Great Machine. After talking with the author at Readercon, and hearing snippets at his reading, I *had* to buy it. Was not disappointed. That I was in the depths of programming hell (known as crunch week), simply added to the delight.

Message #408 left by Terry on Jul 18, 2000 at 8:15

TomWon--that's been happening for awhile, methinks. I remember in some Dorothy L. Sayers' mystery, one of the characters had a habit of talking like a 1920's Chicago gangster, much to the amusement and annoyance of his acquaintances, since he was Londoner born and bred.

This homogenization is distressing--it's ongoing in the US, among the different regions, becuase of TV of course. And MTV is now homogenizing our youths' dialects. Bah, humbug!

Message #407 left by TomW on Jul 18, 2000 at 6:51

Welcome, oh, Americans, to the world inhabited by those of us benighted souls in other English-speaking realms of this planet Earth. Know that we must translate Americanisms almost every time we read a book or watch television/movies.

Message #406 left by Mary on Jul 17, 2000 at 17:40

Interesting. S.N. Arly's dictionary does not have the only clothing definition that I've ever heard of.

My dictionary does, though: "a sleeveless dress worn over a blouse or sweater."

Message #405 left by Terry on Jul 17, 2000 at 13:26

Point taken on the British dictionaries. However--answer me this, then: If our paternalistic publishers continue to weed out the Britishisms, how are our American readers wever going to even KNOW about the delightful diversity of the language? Already too many kids think their local variation of MTV-taught Valley/Compton-speak is the language of Earth.

Message #404 left by S.N.Arly on Jul 17, 2000 at 12:57

Terry - Just for the heck of it I looked up jumpers in my dictionary here at work. Our options include: a person who jumps, a loose blouse or jacket worn by workmen, or a child's coverall. None of these are quite right, so it's not just a case of people looking stuff up, since most of us don't have a british dictionary. It's just a fact of life that there are differences between British English and American English and not everyone can be expected to know what all the differences are. I'm used to a lot of them, my grandmum having come from over the great pond, but every once in a while my cousins and I run into something odd. They couldn't figure out why the hell I would want a hutch in my kitchen. As far as they were concerned a hutch is a kennel, not a place for nice china.

Message #403 left by Captain Ed on Jul 17, 2000 at 12:15

Has anyone ever read the book by Jeremy Leven with the exhausting title of "Satan: His Psychotherapy and Cure by the Unfortunate Dr. Kassler, JSPS"? It's not for everyone, but I thought it was outstanding. Definitely creative and features many memorable characters, and very well researched. It's both funny and depressing at the same time. I've never met anyone who read it who didn't have a strong opinion about it, and most love it. It's out of print but can be found in used bookstores.

Message #402 left by Martin on Jul 17, 2000 at 9:58

For Fredrick - An oik is an ignorant and uncouth person. This term is often put into the mouths of upper class characters for them to describe in negative terms members of the lower classes. No-one uses it in real life.

Message #401 left by Terry on Jul 14, 2000 at 23:41

I guess I have to keep in mind that not every Yank has spent 25 years reading mysteries--of course at least half were British--so they aren't as familiar with things like "jumpers." But--darn it, when did we get the idea that we shouldn't EVER be inspired to LOOK THINGS UP?????

Message #400 left by Mary on Jul 14, 2000 at 19:54

Have you tried your local library, Terry?

On the Americanisms issue: I have to agree with one that I have heard of. The American publisher change Mrs. Weasley's Christmas presents from "jumpers" to "sweaters."

I assure the British that you don't want to give boys jumpers for Christmas.

Message #399 left by Terry on Jul 14, 2000 at 11:29

You're all driving me crazy--it's going to be quite awhile before I'll be able to afford the H.P. books and I really wann read them!

Jay Arr--I'm thrilled you love DHALGREN! Me, too! It took me several tries over a year or so to get into it, but when it finally "took" -- I didn't get anything else done for two days until I'd finished it. I ADORE Delany. The writing-in-ink is bliss--but as you say, the writing between-the-inky-bits is even better. I don't know if this is technically correct or not, but for *myself* I've decided that THAT'S what "semiotics" is.

Everyone else: What do you say we start a letter-writing campaign to Harry Potter's American publisher and beat him up for his stupid attitude about our ability to "understand" non-Americanisms? (I suppose I should actually have read at least one of the books before I launch my letter...) Maybe that'd larn 'im...

Message #398 left by Sean Klein on Jul 14, 2000 at 11:06

That last message is from me. Forgot to sign it. I'll take my lashings now.

Message #397 left by Anonymous on Jul 14, 2000 at 11:05

John: my source for Harry Potter merchadising news is none other than the mighty Sacramento Bee. My citation:

http://www.sacbee.com/lifestyle/news/lifestyle02_20000707.html

There was another, earlier article that was more about the merchandising (and the $$$ it's expected to generate), but it's not showing up when I search Sac Bee for "Harry Potter."

Message #396 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Jul 14, 2000 at 9:08

_Moby Dick_, John! Why, how could you? That's one of the best American books ever written, even if it is slow in many parts. The middle two I haven't read, but Gatsby I do agree, though, is nothing to cheer about.

In any case, I just finished reading _Feet of Clay_ by Terry Prachett. Very funny book. And what surprised me was that for a book written by an English author, it had a lot of American puns in it. It also had a good murder mystery in it and a lot of interesting characters. Esp. liked Corporal Nobbs, Cheri Littlebottom and Angua.

But I do have one question. What is an oik? Maybe Andrew or Gregory could help me out on that one. Also, since this is first Discworld book I've read, I'm afraid I might have jumped ahead a bit. Any recommendations for earlier books to read.

Message #395 left by John Savage on Jul 13, 2000 at 20:25

I don't think you gave it long enough, Meredith. The first thirty or forty pages of Philosopher's Stone (the American publisher changed the title because he didn't think us uneducated Yanks would get it—and, instead, everyone who does is pissed off) are somewhat slow, but necessary, scene-setting. At least get through the Sorting Hat before you give up.

Now, that's not to say that people can't dislike classics. For example, I'd apply a whole bunch of unfavorable adjectives to Moby Dick, Great Expectorations, The Scarlet Letter, and The Great Gatsby, and I think I could make them stick . . . but I'd still be shouted down.

Message #394 left by Meredith on Jul 13, 2000 at 16:09

I'm not sure what the hell's wrong with me, but I can't seem to get into the Harry Potter books at all. I tried reading the first one (tangent: does anyone else think it's curious that it was marketed in America as "... and the Sorceror's Stone," but everywhere else as "... and the Philosopher's Stone"?) in B&N, got through maybe twenty pages, and utterly failed to see what all the hype was about. I was expecting a sort of kids-grok-the-action, adults-grok-the-more-subtle-bits story, like just about anything by Madeleine L'Engle, C.S. Lewis or even Susan Cooper, but ... no. That sense of depth just wasn't present.

Or maybe I've turned into too much of a literary snob in my old age. I wouldn't discount that possibility at all. But I still like the Time Trilogy better. No accounting for my tastes, I guess.

Message #393 left by John Savage on Jul 13, 2000 at 15:00

Sean, your statement of timing doesn't match the information I have. Warner's lawyers said "no physical merchandise until the movie is released," which is November 2001—and Warner owns the merchandising rights in the US/Canada. Is there something overseas that I don't know about? With Amazon, etc., if Hummel starts making a Harry Potter series of overcute little porcelain figures, you can bet they'll be in the US in a heartbeat.

Message #392 left by Sean Klein on Jul 13, 2000 at 11:35

Licensed Harry Potter products, which should be hitting our shelves this fall, are expected to generate over a billion dollars in sales in the upcoming year or two. Those of you with kids, start saving your pennies...

Message #391 left by TomW on Jul 13, 2000 at 7:37

I can just see the USA's good 'ol toymakers turning out millions of plastic figures...

Message #390 left by Gregory Koster on Jul 12, 2000 at 20:00

On Harry Potter: for me, the most remarkable feature of this series is not the current flood of sales of HP 4 (reflected in our library system's buy of 89 copies with 253 reserves on them as of today) but the figures for the first three titles:

HP 1: 191 copies with 59 reserves (published 1997) HP 2: 143 copies with 45 reserves (published 1998) HP 3: 136 copies with 36 reserves (published 1999)

This series has stamina. I do not think there has ever been such interest of any book or series.

Best reagrds, Gregory Koster

Message #389 left by Jay Arr on Jul 12, 2000 at 14:50

All the talk about Gene Wolfe reminded me of Samuel Delaney's *Dhalgren.* Beautiful writing, float along for a hundred pages and realize nothing actually happened. Well, *something* happened, but it's like it happened *between* the lines the author actually wrote.

For a quick fun read: Herbert's *The Santaroga Barrier.*

Harry Potter is the kind of book I usually shy away from, but I'd heard so many good things about it from you guys... And then I read the first book, thanks to Corey K. And I loved it!

There is a certain sense of "place" that needs to be satisfied before we can rally make a book ours. If I read a book or see a TV show and think, "Yeah, I can see myself living there or working there," it's got a good chance to become a personal favorite. (Thus the odd popularity of the amateurish BBC production, "Are You Being Served?" I can picture myself coming to work there every morning.)

Hogwarts is so well-drawn that I can shiver in the chilly rooms, feel the mattress give way as I sit on the edge of the bed, feel the weight of the heavy oak doors as I pull them open. I know how it *Feels* to be in that place. When I re-read the book, I begin with Harry's first sight of Hogwarts. Everything up to then is okay, but it's just reading. But when Hogwarts shows up, I settle into the book as if it were a cozy chair.

Message #388 left by Sean Klein on Jul 12, 2000 at 11:21

Re 386

The American cover of HP4 is pretty awful. (New thread(s)? Really Bad Cover Art and Really Good Cover Art?) I contemplated ordering a British edition just to get the really good cover. I also rushed out Saturday morning, bought the book, then proceeded to let it sit ignored on my desk while I read other books.

Message #387 left by S.N.Arly on Jul 12, 2000 at 11:10

I had heard that she didn't write the book with a target audience in mind. She had a story so she wrote it, and her publisher marketed it to kids. I have also heard that this is more prevalent in America.

Message #386 left by Lenora Rose on Jul 12, 2000 at 3:09

Not underestimating. Harry Potter seems to be read by everyone, even people who, unlike me, haven't touched a children's book since they were one (Child that is, not book). However, kids also read them, kids *were* the target audience originally.

I'm personally very proud that the Canadian cover seems to feature a boy on a broomstick fighting a dragon, not that godawful Disney-fied grinning shmuck on the American one.

Message #385 left by S.N.Arly on Jul 11, 2000 at 12:10

I think people are drastically underestimating the average age of the readers of Harry Potter. I have no kids. Most of my friends don't have kids in the supposed age range for these books. Yet most of my friends have read the books. I work with a grandma who read them, not for her grandkids, but for herself and she loved it.

This, I think, is what has made Harry such a phenomenon. They don't simply appeal to one group, but they appeal across the board.

Message #384 left by John Savage on Jul 11, 2000 at 11:04

What amazes me about the Potter novel (yes, it's planned as one novel, even if it's seven volumes long; that's a theoretical rant for another time, although part of it may be in the archives of this topic, Bad Books, or Dumping Theory on You) is that thus far, it looks like it is sticking to the plan. Very few novel-length works of any value turn out exactly as planned; it will be interesting after volume seven is published to ask Rowling if/when anything took on a life of its own and just couldn't be made to fit the plan. Volume IV shows some serious signs of stuffing Ginny Weasley back in the prefitted box, although that may well just be setting things up for Volume V.

Totally irrelevant aside: For last Halloween, my oldest son (then 9) went dressed up at Harry Potter. His little brother (then 6) went as a hippogriff, dragging a black Lab (apparently Sirius Black) along. They've been bugging me for a month to read the book to them; it's been tough to keep explaining why I couldn't. Now I just have to get enough audio tapes for Dad's private reading set up—one complete set for each of them. That's going to cost more than the book, even with 10 c90s for $4 at Meijer. (The kids hate Jim Dale's readings; the older boy says they're "passionless, as if he doesn't really care.")

Message #383 left by Lenora Rose on Jul 11, 2000 at 2:32

Maren: don't feel bad. I've only read book one. And that was damn good.

You realise of course that J.K.'s average reader was 10 when she wrote the first book, 11, when she wrote the second, 12 when she wrote the third...

Message #382 left by Maren Henry on Jul 11, 2000 at 1:31

Eric, I don't think it's redundant at all; a while back there was a discussion of Tolkien over in "Bad Books," so it's nice to see someone who appreciates them.

Everyone has read Harry Potter so much faster than me! I better get to it!

Message #381 left by Patrice on Jul 10, 2000 at 23:27

Eric obviously goes in for those quick reads. ;)

I just finished Harry Potter IV, and it was good. Well worth it. Rowling has a job to do, to sustain the sense of wonder she established in the first two books (the third book was less light and airy and more somber), and I don't think she succeeded quite so well, but the book sets the stage for the next three installments. She had said this was the pivotal book and it is. So far she has managed quite a feat.

Message #380 left by Eric Snyder II on Jul 10, 2000 at 22:38

Maybe it's incredibly redundant to mention something that everyone considers a classic, but I'm finally reading _Lord of the Rings_... and I can't get over just how good it is. I wish I hadn't waited so long :)

(And, of course, Harry Potter IV is next.)

ES2

Message #379 left by Mary on Jul 10, 2000 at 20:19

Oh, yes, Harry Potter. I reserved a copy in February. I'm glad.

Like Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydian, the reading age for the book seems to be going up.

Message #378 left by Jason Schmetzer on Jul 10, 2000 at 14:10

Does anyone here happen to read Glen Cook's Black Company novels? I've read only the first four, but I like them alot.

Just curious... want to know if my taste in movies (bad ones) extends to books...

Jason

Message #377 left by Naomi Kritzer on Jul 10, 2000 at 13:50

What S.N.Arly said ("You'll laugh, you'll cry, it'll hurt a lot if you drop it on your foot.") I stayed up last night until 1 a.m. reading it. My husband was planning to read it as soon as I'd finished, so I had to restrain myself and NOT read any of the funny bits out loud to him, which was more than a little frustrating.

Message #376 left by S.N.Arly on Jul 10, 2000 at 12:12

Maren - about Harry Potter 4: You'll laugh, you'll cry (honest, I did both, but I'm such an old softie), it'll hurt a lot if you drop it on your foot (just a guess). I read it this weekend and really liked it. Liked the others, too, but I think this one's the best to date. My copy did have a slight printer error so I had to run out to Barnes and Noble at 11:30 Saturday night to exchange it for one that wasn't missing those 30 pages. Didn't want to be left hanging at bedtime.

So's not to give away anything (I hate spoilers), I will simply say this is one book that is definitely worth the full hardpack price.

Message #375 left by Maren Henry on Jul 10, 2000 at 0:14

I remember reading The Most Dangerous Game in school, too. Good story.

As for very good books, let me just say: Harry Potter. Ahhhh. I'm slipping right back into his world, and I like it. This fourth book is thicker than the previous three, too. More to love.

Message #374 left by Kenneth Burke on Jul 9, 2000 at 3:51

Mary: Sorry. Feel free to disregard the above message.

Message #373 left by Kenneth Burke on Jul 9, 2000 at 3:49

The Most Dangerous Game meets the plot requirements but it's a not-very-long short story. It's also old enough to have been in my English anthology back in high school. I graduated in l958. I've got a copy around the house somewhere if anyone wants to know the author's name.

Message #372 left by Elise on Jul 9, 2000 at 1:37

Me again. I did some digging tonight on the web, and it may be Deathwatch, by Robb White. I still seem to remember jungle as opposed to desert, though. Hmm.

Message #371 left by Elise on Jul 9, 2000 at 1:03

I know it was a novel. I seem to remember a one-word title. Sigh. Getting older sucks. ;)

Message #370 left by Mary on Jul 8, 2000 at 20:03

I also read "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell in school. Great story. Everyone should read it. (http://www.bnlhost.com/shorts/stories/danger.html)

But the guy got swept off a boat and manages to make it to an island, where he discovers a lone inhabitant, who hunts men, and decides to hunt him. No safari, and he wasn't invited. Furthermore, since there was a 1932 movie based on it, it certainly wasn't in the 1980s.

It may be the same story, if you're not sure about the details, Elise.

Message #369 left by John Savage on Jul 8, 2000 at 16:25

I recall something similar as a novelette entitled "The Most Dangerous Game." It can't be 80s—I read it in high school. Perhaps Jim Van Pelt knows . . .

Message #368 left by Elise on Jul 8, 2000 at 15:46

Didn't there used to be a "hard to find" books topic? I've lost it! (Checked the archive, too.)

Annnyhow...maybe someone here can help. I remember a book from long ago (early 80s, perhaps), about a man who is (maybe) invited to a safari and hunt. He soon discovers that he's the thing that will be hunted. The book is about him evading the hunter and such.

Does this ring a bell with anyone? I remember it being good and would like to track it down again.

Message #367 left by Gregory Koster on Jun 30, 2000 at 8:31

"The Man Who Saw Through Heaven" by Wilbur Daniel Steele. A very fine short story. Trouble is, Steele's work is largely forgotten these days, completely out of print, and his stories (as opposed to his novels, which are dreadful stuff) are only available at the larger (say 100,000+ population) public libraries.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #366 left by Joe Shosty on Jun 30, 2000 at 6:36

Was thumbing through some of my favorite books last night. Came across Nina Kiriki Hoffman's The Silent Strength of Stones, and before I knew it I was halfway through it. Such a great novel.

Message #365 left by Lenora Rose on Jun 29, 2000 at 3:07

A Mask For the General. Which does have a few more flaws than my favourites of hers (the Dream Years and Tourists).

Different is fun!

Message #364 left by Lori on Jun 28, 2000 at 16:12

Lenora, which Lisa Goldstein book? I really like her stuff too.

As for The Book of the New Sun, I think "no accounting for taste" pretty much covers it. I can only say how it struck me--it built to an over-whelming mood or atmosphere that surrounded me as I read it, and I can't explain it any better than that. I can't say, well, this plotline was totally engaging, or I really identified with that character. The series as a whole evoked something in me, and I can argue until I'm blue in the face but if it didn't hit you that way, nothing I can say will change that.

We're just different, that's all. :-)

law

Message #363 left by Lenora Rose on Jun 28, 2000 at 2:47

Lori: definitely no accounting for taste - I was expecting *more* people to respond saying they liked it, and poossibly giving me a reason why that would help make sense of it to me.Thanks for trying - but I love words, too, and while there were a few short passages, and striking scenes, that were beautifully written or beautiful in general, they were surrounded by scenes and descriptions and word passages that either confused me, or failed to evoke any feeling at all, or struck me as ponderous, or... One of the things that I think bothered me was that i could not get hold enough of any one character to like them, even Severian himself. They were all so obviously symbolic characters, but I could never figure out what they were symbolic of, and none came to life for me as a character in and of him/herself for me to get past not knowing what they meant. Nor what the story symbolized - it had so much feeling of a parable, or maybe an allegory, that I assumed it all "Meant" something - nor the settings, nor...

However, I am truly curious why others like this series and recommend it. if someone gives me a line of reasoning, or shows me something I missed, it might encourage me to continue.

Meantime I am still shamelessly devouring Bujold's Vorkosigan books whole, though I took a break to read a Lisa Goldstein book - the only one of hers I've seen and actually not grabbed to read isntantly. I took it out of the library twice, and didn't read it either time, in spite of knowing every other book she wrote was damn good (excepting only the Red Magician, which was only good), and that she was an author whose works I wanted to collect in force. Well, now I'm reading it, and I like.

I have this theory that some books wait until their proper time to be picked up - it's the only way to explain how some books catch my attention, make me desperately want to find out what they're about NOW, yet which I don't read for a year or two - in the most extreme case, I think it took almost four years between instant attraction and actual reading. Once more, in spite of having taken out of the library, been presented with it in a bookstore, reading a good review....

Message #362 left by Mary on Jun 27, 2000 at 17:59

I, too, got rather lost in *The Shadow of the Torturer* and all. On the other hand, I rather like Wolfe's *Pandora by Holly Hollander*.

Message #361 left by Lori on Jun 27, 2000 at 15:55

I'm sorry, John. I realized that Martin was supposed to be some sort of comic relief but only found him rather savagely snide (no pun intended). He was generally too nasty to be funny.

Oh, lord. Another nine hundred pages? (Deep breath.) :-)

law

Message #360 left by John Savage on Jun 27, 2000 at 15:51

Lori, I'm afraid you're only halfway through . . . you won't get a get grip on Hyperion until you read Endymion and Rise of Endymion.

And no jokes? Just what is Martin saying that whole time, eh? I think what bothers you is the insulation of the jokes from direct dialog—they're not character-wiseassing-to-character, they're character-telling-about-wiseass-incident.

Message #359 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Jun 27, 2000 at 14:14

I agree with you about _Hyperion_, Lori. I got about a hundred pages in and I couldn't stand reading it anymore. I stopped after that ridiculous story about Father Dure (I think that was his name) and his meeting with the little people who stick that cross into his chest (it's been a while since I read it) that causes his immense pain. I know that the book is supposed to be based on Chaucer's _The Canterbury Tales_ but that still wasn't an excuse for the book to have no real plot or interesting characters to speak of. A better book by Simmons was _The Hollow Man_, not to be confused with the upcoming movie starring Kevin Bacon.

As for Wolfe, the only thing I read from him was a section from _The Fifth Head of Cerebus_ and I found it to be ponderous and confusing. All I can remember was that it was this planet where there were these aliens called abos that supposedly defeated mankind when they came and then took their shape and that somehow the protagonist wasn't sure if he was really an abo or not. Anyway, I didn't care for much of anything in the story, least of all the words, and I doubt I will read anything else by him anytime soon.

On the other hand, one book that stunned me was Frank Herbert's _The Dosadi Experiment_. Now here is a compelling book that bears no relation to _Dune_ and yet is just as amazing. I loved the whole conceit of Calebans, Fannie Mae and the sentient stars, Jory X. McRie, Keila Jedrik, Wreaves, the planet Dosadi where there is almost no room and violence is a way of life. Why they haven't turned this novel into a movie is beyond me. It has everything, even a great courtroom scene near the end that John S. and Andrew might appreciate. Also, in terms of prose style, no one can match Herbert. He has such a unique way of writing, that is so Herbertesque, if you've read _Dune_ you know how he writes, and it is interesting to say the least.

Message #358 left by Lori on Jun 27, 2000 at 10:58

Huh. No accounting for taste. I loved the Book of the New Sun. I flat-out like words, and Gene Wolfe can write so beautifully, I'm just in awe. Plus, I liked a lot of the surreal aspects, as well as how Severian's fate played out.

But I agree his short fiction is also wonderful. /The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories and Other Stories/ is another good collection.

On the other hand, I just finished /Hyperion/ and /The Fall of Hyperion/ and I cannot understand what the fuss was all about. This book (they do *not* stand as separate volumes) desperately needed four things: another rewrite, a good edit, decent characters, and a sense of humor. That last point amazed me the most. This was one of the most humorless books I have ever read. True, the characters were dealing with Important Issues(tm) like love and death and pain and faith and God and fate, but even Jesus told jokes, fer chrissakes, and this book had not one thing that even made me crack a smile.

law

Message #357 left by Joe Shosty on Jun 27, 2000 at 2:23

I'm 2/3 of the way through one of Richard Laymon's first books, The Woods are Dark, and it, like the rest of his work, is that good, old-fashioned buckets of gore horror circa the 1980s that I read when I want a break from the "important books." The difference this time is I'm reading it aloud to my wife during car trips, on the couch in the afternoon, and at night before bed. She's completely enrapt in the story, which I jokingly compare to rubbernecking at a fatal car crash, but she's really, really hooked. Most of the time she has me read until my throat is raw, and a few times she's taken over and started to read to me after I can't go on anymore. I've created a monster, I know, but in doing this I've also found a new and enojoyable pastime. I've bought several more books to read to her whlie we travel, which is almost every weekend. Seriously, people, if you've got a spouse or a loved one who's a fan of books of any sort you've really got to try this out. I didn't think reading could get any more exciting, but I was wrong.

Message #356 left by FrankT on Jun 23, 2000 at 17:50

Lenora:

I share your befuddlement concerning The Shadow of the Torturer and the Claw of the Conciliator and the Whatsis of the Whathteheck.

A friend loaned me the whole series. I dived in, enthusiastic. I dived back out, wondering:

A) What happened?

B) Who did it happen to?, and

C) What?

Oh, individual scenes stuck in my mind -- still do. The ruined starships resting on a hill, filled with humming wonders that will never fly again. The ancient cities, the ancient landscape, the hints that we were seeing something that might have been familiar, half a million years ago from the story's point of view. But, I repeat, what the heck happened?

In the end, I just didn't care enough to try again. That's probably more a reflection on me, though, than on Gene Wolfe.

Message #355 left by Joe Shosty on Jun 23, 2000 at 17:25

Lenora Rose: I read Shadow of the Torturer myself, and I have to tell you it's not my favorite book. I love Gene Wolfe's short fiction, but I'm not a big fan of his full-length works. I have a similar problem with his novel Castleview. It just didn't make much sense, and he doesn't explain anything. My suggestion is you read his fiction collections, Storeys from the Old Hotel and Endangered Species. Very impressive stuff.

Message #354 left by Lenora Rose on Jun 23, 2000 at 16:30

Can someone explain to me why so many people seem to recommend/like Teh Book of the New Sun series? I finished Shadow of the Torturer in a permenant state of befuddlement, and found that the befuddlement didn't clear up through the second book. I haven;t bothered pursuing that oen to the end yet. if someone can clear up the sheer confusion it created, I might give it another shot.

Message #353 left by Lenora Rose on Jun 19, 2000 at 23:05

Expendable was actually a really incredible book. it's my favourite of anything I've read by James Alan Gardner, and I'm an unashamed fan. He followed it up with Commitment Hour (Same universe, but back on the first Earth), which was an interesting look at gender and almost as good, then the disappointing Vigilant. He's got a new one coming out, too; I hope it's at the level of the first two.

Message #352 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Jun 19, 2000 at 20:59

_Expendable_ by James Alan Gardner, maybe?

Message #351 left by Mary on Jun 19, 2000 at 17:47

  • Jumper* was his first book. He also wrote (in order) *Wildside*, *Helm* and *Blind Waves*.

I think his skill went up as he wrote. (I never got through *Jumper*.)

Message #350 left by Lindsey on Jun 19, 2000 at 17:08

Fredrick, I read "Jumper" several years ago, and I really enjoyed it too. I thought it was fun and really clever. I haven't really seen anything else from Gould, though.

Another book I read at that same time and liked was "Expendables", but I can't remember the author right now. Both good SF books. This one was a bit more dark as I recall.

-Linz

Message #349 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Jun 18, 2000 at 1:05

I've read a number of good books lately. _Jumper_ by Steven C. Gould was great, a brilliant new riff on the old idea of teleportation and an excellent action novel. Davy Rice was a very human and compelling character. Also, I read _The Three Stigamata of Palmer Eldritch_ by PKD. It was good, although a bit confusing and weird, even for PKD--but hey, what did I expect? But if you want to see where some of the ideas for "The Matrix" came from it's a fun read.

I've only read _Ender's Game_. It was a very good book, but I don't recall it being all the expository. Oh well, maybe I wasn't paying attention. And in any case, I guess you can get away with long exposition and overanalysis more easily in a novel than in a short story.

Message #348 left by Tom W on Jun 17, 2000 at 10:42

Ok, i've read "Ender's Shadow."

How to describe it? Hmm, typical Orson Scott Card. Minimalistic prose, full of tell not show, over-analysis of every nuance of the the things around him by the protag, and yet...I devoured it in no time at all, even down to the we all live happily ever after ending.

Message #347 left by Terry on Jun 16, 2000 at 22:46

Sorry to take a bit of the wind out of your sails, Gregory dear, but if I don't still own NIGHTMARE TOWN, I did at one time. For approx. 26 years almost 100% of what I read was in the mystery genre. Since 1994 I've read NONE that I can think of. Oh, maybe a Hiaasen or two. Anyway, I'd go on a tear for one author and dig up the earth to get everything they wrote, so yeah, I came across NIGHTMARE TOWN. That, too, was well-named. But man, didn't Hammett just create a trademark *air* in the first sentence of his stories & books? Amazing.

Message #346 left by Lenora Rose on Jun 16, 2000 at 21:47

Over the many many weeks that I've been reading them, I went from enjoying Lois McMaster Bujold's books to REALLY liking them. Anyone who hasn't met Cordelia Naismith or Miles Vorkosigan should check them out.

(I have a friend who's making himself a Barrayaran uniform for the next con. But he's decided {only partly based on figure}, he's going to be going as MARK Vorkosigan, not Miles....<eep>)

Message #345 left by Gregory Koster on Jun 11, 2000 at 2:25

For Fred and Terry: Waking up from my witless sleep, I just remembered a new book by Hammett that came out last fall. NIGHTMARE TOWN collects twenty of Hammett's stories. Most have been out of print since the Dell paperbacks of the early fifties. Trying to get hold of those versions is a) expensive and b) frustrating, because the books are usually in such poor shape that they won't stand reading. Terry, if you think RED HARVEST was violent, wait till you read "Nightmare Town." Also, this coming fall, the Library of America is planning to publish a volume of Hammett's stories. Can't get the details, but it likely will have most, if not all of them, especially all of the Continental Op stories that we seem to like best. They've already published his collected novels in a handsome volume. Good stuff, as this eccentrically edited series often provides.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #344 left by Jan S. on Jun 8, 2000 at 16:04

One other work I keep forgetting to mention. Ursula K. LeGuin's "The Word for World is Forest." Stellar.

Message #343 left by Terry on Jun 8, 2000 at 7:40

I like all of Hammett's stuff, but RED HARVEST, it should be noted, is one of the bloodiest books I have ever read. The title really *does* tell you what it's about.

Message #342 left by Gregory Koster on Jun 7, 2000 at 23:40

For Fred: hear hear. Also Hammett's short stories about the Continental Op (the detective of RED HARVEST) are fine stuff. Just for the records, Hammett and Faulkner did a fiar amount of drinking together in the early thirties. Wonder what they had to say to each other.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #341 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Jun 7, 2000 at 19:55

Although I'll admit that this isn't a SF/F/H genre book, I have to recommend Dashiell Hammett's _Red Harvest_. It is, simply put, one of the best crime novels I have ever read. And when I first read it, I was hesitant, considering that I already read _The Thin Man_ and didn't care for it, and _The Maltese Falcon_ and thought that book was just all right. But _Red Harvest_ literally blew me away. I loved the dialogue, the plot, the characters, the setting (Personville/Poisonville), the language, the action, the plot twists, the humor--everything was near perfect. Above all, Hammett knew how to write. I love the economy of language he used in the book and the spare style. Whereas Faulkner could go on for a two page sentence describing every little aggravating nuance of a scene or character and get nowhere, Hammett could nail a character or a setting or a plot point down with two or three lines on a single page. If for nothing else, I recommend Hammett and this book to learn how to economize one's writing to pinpoint accuracy.

Message #340 left by Jan S. on May 25, 2000 at 11:49

Just in case I hadn't mentioned them before, I'm very impressed with Jane Fancher's Dance of the Rings books (Ring of Lightning, Ring of Intrigue, Ring of Destiny). Her Groundties books are pretty durn good, too. And she hasn't even written a stand-alone book yet! -- but wants to, and soon, so she tells me.

George R.R. Martin's _A Game of Thrones_ is also very impressive, and as soon as I get through the stack of books on my shelf over there ===> I'll go get a copy of _A Clash of Kings_ and see if he's maintainted the energy of the first book.

Message #339 left by Lenora Rose on May 24, 2000 at 0:29

Friend of *Mine*...

Message #338 left by Lenora Rose on May 24, 2000 at 0:19

Watts Martin: Moonheart is indeed very overt (And, being a relatively early work, has a few stumbles; how many times can it be "Too quiet"?) - but it happens not to be set in Newford. That removes the supersaturation by previous works set in the same place. It's also one of the ones I liked less, though my complaints about it are less strong than those about Someplace to Be Flying. LIke sI said, though, My opinion is swayed by his other work - I find it very hard to look at Someplace to Be Flying without the context of his previous books. If it were somewhere other than Newford, I'd probably have handled it better. In othewr words, it all coems down to my opinion.

His upcoming, "Forests of the Heart" is already getting a rave review from a friend of hime who got a reading copy....

Message #337 left by Greg Mays on May 23, 2000 at 21:50

Okay, here's what I think is a great first line from a pretty good book:

Suzi crapped the Frankenstein cockroach into the toilet bowl, then pushed the chrome handle halfway down for a short flush.

--From The Nano Flower by Peter F. Hamilton.

Message #336 left by Mary on May 23, 2000 at 17:38

Saberhagen's *The Face of Apollo* and *Ariadne's Thread* are good. They're actually sf, but that isn't definitively shown until the end of The Face -- and having read Thread second, I can't be sure, but I don't think it actually proves that it's sf in the book.

Message #335 left by Joe Shosty on May 23, 2000 at 17:18

Fredrick: It's good that you did. The first half of Battlefield: Earth is good, but after they destroy the . . . hmmm, memory slip . . . the whatchamcallit it starts to go downhill.

For those interested, I just finished Way Station by Clifford D. Simak, and it was brilliant.

Message #334 left by Lindsey on May 23, 2000 at 11:26

It did make it funny though, Fredrick. A typo in the first line of a crap book. I think they should make a practice of that, to warn people. -Linz

Message #333 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on May 23, 2000 at 7:09

Actually that should be "Man is an endangered species." Not "in."

My bad.

Message #332 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on May 23, 2000 at 7:08

"Great first lines of crap books"

"Man in an endangered species," said Terl--Battlefield Earth.

Actually not bad as first lines go, but after I skimmed through the first page I put the book back on the shelf and moved along.

Message #331 left by Robert Hoge on May 23, 2000 at 2:16

What about "Great first lines of great books" and "Great first lines of crap books" and vice-versa? I can't add much at the moment 'cause I'm 1000km away from my book collection but for starters:

"Great first lines of great books" It was a pleasure to burn. - Farenheit 451 (or Celsius 232.78 for the more right-minded :-) )

Cheers, Robert H.

Message #330 left by Watts Martin on May 16, 2000 at 23:19

Hmm. Well, I've read a couple of de Lint's other books and short story collections. Perhaps there's something about the way he handled the 'world-stopping magic' that appeals to me, even if it's certainly more up-front than in his short stories. (I'm not sure it's much less overt in MOONHEART, though, the first novel by him I'd read.)

Message #329 left by Lenora Rose on May 16, 2000 at 11:20

Watts: Actually, I found Someplace to Be Flying one of Charles' weakest books - partly because it's one of many set in that particular city. Newford is a city chock full of magic, from multiple different cultures already; but most of it is fairly quiet (as Charles has remarked, there are books called mainstream that have five times the magic of many of his stories.) IN fact, Charles' magic is at its best when it is quiet, or underground, or hidden. It provides a beautiful contrast to the huge world-bending powers tossed about in a great many 'imaginary-world' series'. My problem with Someplace to be Flying is that on its own, it seemed to me saturated with really blatant magic - the world-stopping kind. Now, yes, he chose to take that world-stopping magic from a different culture than most, but it still had the same overwhelming effect of the most common fantasies. Now, the book was literally saturated with magic; so strong nothing else could fit. Now set that book in a city with a great many magics already in it - the result is that it becomes too much.

Does this mean I would like it more if I weren't looking at it as part of a larger body of work? Maybe. It's not a bad book- Charles at his worst is still creative and his prose is still smooth and real (And I think he did worse early in his career). But I can't help look at it in the wake of the Newford tales previous to it: two novels, and three books worth of short stories. And in a more standard comparison to those other books, some of what came before was better.

This is particularly frustrating because I rather like the Crow Girls.

Message #328 left by Andrew on May 16, 2000 at 4:09

Frederick,

I think you need to get to know more hackers. The Captain Crunch scene makes *perfect* sense if you've ever suddenly realised that you've been inveigled into a conversation about UNIX.

Message #327 left by Watts Martin on May 15, 2000 at 22:51

At this moment, at least, my favorite novels are probably ANIMAL DREAMS by Barbara Kingsolver, THE FALLING WOMAN by Pat Murphy and SOMEWHERE TO BE FLYING by Charles de Lint. Alfred Bester's THE DEMOLISHED MAN would probably also be in there if I'd read it in the last ten years or so.

I've noticed a fair number of non-genre books in the lists people are giving. (ANIMAL DREAMS is non-genre, and Barbara Kingsolver is probably my favorite author, even though her most recent book, THE POISONWOOD BIBLE, struck me as her weakest--her most ambitious, perhaps, but her weakest.) That's interesting; lately I've found myself reading less and less sf/fantasy and more "mainstream," mystery and non-fiction works. I'm not sure whether my tastes are changing, or whather it's really getting harder to find genre stuff that's within my tastes. (I admit I've developed a bias against novels which start out planned as series.)

Message #326 left by Alex Finch on May 9, 2000 at 14:57

Senor Vivo and The Coca Lord by Louis De Bernieres is a must read witty, imaginative, clever and thoughtful - one of the few books that I never wanted to put down for a second. Plus 'High Fidelity' by Nick Hornby's pretty special too, though maybe I like it so much because I relate to the lead character a hell of a lot. Oh, and whilst I'm here, 'Heart of the Matter' by Graham Greene astonished me.....

Message #325 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on May 8, 2000 at 11:44

I can say that I only half enjoyed Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. On one hand, I thought Bobby Shaftoe was a great character, hard a** marine and a nutball to boot. But everything set in the present, w/ the exception of Avi, his family and the Israeli nannies was pretty boring. I thought Larry Waterhouse and his descendant, Randy (I think that's his name) were a yawn. Plus, Stephenson takes like three pages describing Randy eating a bowl of Captain Crunch. What's up with that? And the basic info about cryptography was so boring that I tuned out about a quarter of the way into it.

I suggest that if you read Cryp, read every section with Bobby Shaftoe in it and then ignore the rest.

Message #324 left by Andrew on May 8, 2000 at 3:43

Getting back to the topic, I mentioned earlier that my bedside cabinet was groaning under the weight of Neil Stephenson's Cryptonomicon.

I return here to praise it mightily: screamingly funny without once leaving the real world. The comedy depends on the native wit and intelligence of his characters and the plot is one of thosen that looks like a complete mash halfway through and then drops into perfect alignment like the teeth of a zipper as the last chapter rolls in.

The plot doesn't matter much, though, as the whole thing is simply a vehicle for verbal pyrotechnics and a lot of very, very good jokes. There's a scene where they Van Eck Phreak someone's screen. Not of itself funny, but the thing the guy is typing nearly gave me an embolism laughing.

Message #323 left by Lenora Rose on May 7, 2000 at 21:18

I had to read Marquez' IN Evil Hour for high school -and I detested it. I loathed that book, and I couldn't make sense of it, which for me is rare. I got an F on the test for it, in a course where I was getting overall good marks for everything I did and completely aced the final exam.

Since then, I've read two of his short stories, and I rather liked them. Because of that, I've been tempted to try rereading in evil hour without all the accompaniment of school class. Although I doubt the class had so much to do with my dislike as the book itself did, I have grown a lot since then, and I have changed opinions of books before.

Message #322 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on May 6, 2000 at 20:31

I think that LWFC is a good book, but not a really good one. And the end was terrible IMHO, esp. with Rosaura and Tita's bad deaths. I think the foremost magical realist is Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I'd also have to include Harlan Ellison as a great practioner of MR.

Message #321 left by Mary on May 5, 2000 at 21:17

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel is an excellent book and a fine example of magic realism -- anyone care to recommend any other examples?

Message #320 left by Andrew on Apr 30, 2000 at 14:10

I'd say a proper trilogy is one that's planned as such right from the get go - that is, three complete sequences of beginning middle and end that themselves form a complete sequence of beginning, middle and end. There's a few ways of doing this, of course. Make each book a separate, separately-released novel; make them a complete cycle and release them together in a boxed set or a fat single-volume edition (this used to be a lot more common - the last famous one was LOTR) or fold them all in together like Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, which is about five short novels all folded into one dirty great big thousand-page doorstop that I'm currently having trouble putting down and lord, do I wish I could get away with writing like that...

Series and sequels are just that - books with a connection one to the other and intended to depict stories at different times in the same milieu. Sometimes planned that way, sometimes not. I've got one at the publisher now that generated a sequel while I was working up a bit of framing story at the end; I thought of a character (who at no point appears in the book I just wrote) whose personality and exploits make a logical next step in the sequence of ideas I'm playing with, and set down to tell his story. It'll be a sequel, not a step in the trilogy (and, given how much I learned from doing the first one and the fact that I ain't got a contract yet, there's a real chance that it'll be the first to see print - the editor loves the world but has doubts about the book on his desk at the moment.)

I'm rambling; my grasp of literary theory is not great (I have trouble taking a lot of it seriously enough to get deep into the thickets) but I do have some fixed ideas about wht ought to be doing when I set out to achieve a particular literary goal.

Message #319 left by Lori on Apr 29, 2000 at 16:50

Thanks, Lenora, for bringing up Lisa Goldstein. She feels strongly about not inflicting series on her readers, but also wonders if she'd be more successful if she did.

Message #318 left by Lenora Rose on Apr 29, 2000 at 0:43

Marti: No, it wouldn't make them selkie books. To be selkie books, they'd have to be fully amphibious, and I have yet to meet a book that isn't ruined by prolonged contact with the bathwater.

As for sequels - thus far, the only sequels I have written to any of my own books have been because the book grew too long to be a single novel, and I split it as neatly as possible. However, some books have planned sequels - of Tom's description as a stand-alone complete in itself book. And most of the creation of the sequel is based on writing in a particular country, not necessarly with the exact same people.

As for the conjecture that all fantasies are series': Peter Beagle has only once ever written a second story in the same UNIVERSE as a previous story (One of the s-s's in Giant Bones uses the characters from the Innkeeper's Song) And he's one of the best. Robin McKinley has two books set in the same country, but they were written in the wrong order for the second to be a sequel. Charles deLint writes in the same city a lot, but with the single exception of Spiritwalk (Sequel to Moonheart), only his short stories ever get the feel of a series. Lisa Goldstein. Emma Bull mostly.

I ahve to admit, most of my other potential examples have written a trilogy or a series at some point. However, most of them have done so quite obviously because they wanted to (Ursula LeGuin, Diana Wynne Jones).

Can someone tell me why Alvin Maker *wouldn't* qualify as Fantasy?

Message #317 left by Tom Williams on Apr 28, 2000 at 22:53

OK, write a sequel. But make it a stand-alone/complete-in-itself book. There's nothing worse than reading a book that gallops along and then just...stops.

Message #316 left by DaveK on Apr 28, 2000 at 21:22

When I wrote Rust Bucket, it was intended to be a stand-alone single book. It wasn't until a few months after it was finished that the idea came to me for a sequel that absolutely demanded to be written and filled out two more books to make it a trilogy. Actually, from that point on, it grew considerably past being a trilogy, but that's what's been published so far. That's also the marketing angle the publisher took on the series even though I informed them up front that there are 15 books in the series. Yes, they're all completely written, though several need editing to fit the publisher's preferences. Also, they've said no to three of the series as too erotic even though the sexual content later provides a pivotal conflict hinge. I suspect that they will want some scenes cut or toned down in two of the other books, as well. Again, the scenes provide necessary motivation for later events and behavior.

Message #315 left by Marti Booker on Apr 28, 2000 at 20:58

To stay on topic.... Tamsin by Peter S. Beagle. Absolutely. Thanks to whomever upstream recommended it.


And, is the whole trilogy thing even a writer's choice after the book is finished? I kind of got the idea that trilogy books were written with sequels in mind. And that editors bought them with their expectations (and contracts) tailored to that end. Most "stand-alone" type books just wouldn't fit the traditional trilogy mold, for, if they're any good, the central issue has been resolved. Maybe you might squeeze another book of of some fantastic universe but it wouldn't be the "Quest that takes 3 books and maybe 4 to finish".

And anyway, if you did sell a book and people were demanding sequels, it would be hard to resist, no?

Message #314 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Apr 28, 2000 at 19:50

Although I'm not sure this is in the right topic, I'll give it a go as the Brits say. One pattern I've noticed in the fantasy genre for almost every fantasy book I can think of is part of a series: The Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis, the Discworld series by Terry Prachett, the Amber series by Zelazny, the Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, the Alvin Maker series by Orson Scott Card (though I'm not sure it qualifies as fantasy), MZB's Trillium Books, Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series and on and on ad nauseam. I wonder, though, are there RMs out there who would stop after one book. Deep down, I'd like to think I'd stick to my guns and say one is enough (of course, one is also the loneliest number as the song goes) but if I had written a really good fantasy book and the publisher offered me a whopper of a contract to write two or three more in a series I fear I'd cave in and write them, even if the other books stunk like limburger cheese.

So, would you stop at one book or go for a few more. And if so, why?

And by the way, just so I don't stray completely off topic here, I thought that Robert Heinlein's _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_ was a really good book.

Message #313 left by Francis W. Porretto on Apr 28, 2000 at 7:53

"Trashy Books You Love But Hide." Marvelous! Guilty pleasures seem to be the only ones left, sometimes. That could well be one of the reasons for the current trend toward flapping them in others' faces: guilt fatigue.

My own contribution to this category is David Eddings's four fantasy series: "The Belgariad," "The Malloreon," "The Elenium," and "The Tamuli." Two reasons for this: 1) Eddings's characters are color-coded, and his heroes always have such enormous advantages over their adversaries that victory for the forces of goodness is guaranteed going in. 2) I have to admit that the man tells a rollicking tale rollickingly well, and I yearn to discover how he does it.

Strangely enough, Eddings's mainstream novel "The Losers" impresses me from about fifty different directions. It shows none of the weaknesses or two-dimensionality of his fantasies. I find myself asking, "Why can't he do this all the time?" Maybe it's a matter of the audience he was steering toward.

Freedom, Wealth, and Peace, Fran Porretto

Message #312 left by Naomi Kritzer on Apr 27, 2000 at 17:24

I'm guessing that this isn't so much a question about guilty pleasures (Mercedes Lackey is in that category for me, as well -- I have most of her Valdemar books, I'm embarrassed to admit) as it is a topic about books you both like and admire, even as you have to admit that they're flawed.

I've got a book to add to this list: "The Girl from the Emeraline Island" by Robert Blum. Flawed, but very, very memorable. (The author is apparently a Speculations subscriber, so if he wanders by this topic, I hope he won't be _too_ offended to be described in this way.) I originally read it checked out of the library, and snatched up a copy of my own when I found it used. This book had a ball-busting female protagonist, who strongly influenced my own storytelling during a period when most of the girls I read about were wilting victims of one variety or another. (_Sympathetic_ wilting victims, but subject to the whims of fate nonetheless.)

Message #311 left by Marti Booker on Apr 27, 2000 at 13:49

Hmm, does this need its own topic? "Trashy Books you Love-- but Hide behind that old copy of War and Peace"?

I must admit, I actually own Mercedes Lackey books. I have those two books you mentioned, Lenora, with the elves. I couldn't stand them, personally, I got them in a grab-bag, but I have to admit that I own not only all the Shannara series but also enjoyed them when I bought them. I also have several Anne Rice books. Would they go on the desert island? No, but they're fine for reading in the tub. Maybe that makes them selkie books?

Message #310 left by Lenora Rose on Apr 27, 2000 at 5:16

Actually, Barry, my point was that he's still really damn good - but it's a different good. His style is changing, moving away from even pointed and extremely sophisticated humour (which some of them do contain, between puns) into something SOMEWHAT more serious. Serious isn't bad, and it's not like he's abandoned his puns...

I don't have as poor an opinion of Carpe Jugulum as some people here do, but I have to say, isn't it time he stopped *almost* killing Granny Weatherwax in every damn witches book? Her triumphs are getting predictable and outright silly, not in a Discworld way, but in the 'thing to be avoided' way Terry himself describes silliness. I find that even though the witches are interesting as characters, their stories have become the weakest sub-series in the series. This despite an abiding fondness for Lords and Ladies' take on elves....


ON an unrelated note - about favourite books as opposed to classics.

Fran just said "Of course, some of you are thinking, "How could anyone like *that* clinker?" about some of the abovenamed books."

I've found that my top ten list does not include very many classics, even those I very much liked (And ones on many peoples' favourites lists right here. I'm not talking about Dickens). It includes an erratic list of things which influenced my personal taste and style, including some stuff I know damn well is flawed, but like anyhow. I wondered for a long time if this meant I had something wrong with me; a few years ago, I decided it didn't.

But much more recently, i was reading an interview in which Robin McKinley pointed out that her two biggest influences are Tolkien and Kipling. This IN SPITE OF her own irritation with both writers' sexism and racism, and Tolkien's over-wrought prose, and Kipling's occasional plain awfullness. She ahd a longer list in her description of the things they did wrong than I give some books I don't like - but these were her oldest favourites, and the ones she'd have on a desert island.

Based on this, what are some books you guys n' gals like that you know will never be considered classics? Books with deep flaws, but which suit you anyhow?

I can give a couple of that kind of books right now:

Mercedes Lackey and Ellen Guon's Knight of Ghosts and Shadows. One of the earlier "elves in the modern world" books, with some moments of deep silliness, and a rather weaker sequel (Though Ellen Guon's solo prequel, Bedlam Boyz, is not bad)

Nancy Springer's Sea King Trilogy (Starting with Madbond) She's a bit too crude with the language in a few places, but inconsistent about it, sometimes fudging about the same things she described clearly earlier. And there are some unnecessary extras to the story; minor plot twists that I might have questioned or asked removed were I her editor. But it caught me up anyhow.

I confess the selkies might have something to do with that. They usually do...

Message #309 left by Francis W. Porretto on Apr 26, 2000 at 10:50

Gee, what happened to "Really Good Books" -- ? I dialed in hoping for a few recommendations.

Oh, well. Here are a few of my favorites. I've stuck to post-World-War-II speculative fiction.

Piers Anthony: "Macroscope" Greg Bear: "Anvil Of Stars" Gregory Benford: "Timescape" David Brin: "Startide Rising" Steven Brust: "To Reign In Hell" Orson Scott Card: "Ender's Game", "Wyrms" and "Treason" Ramsey Campbell: "Midnight Sun" Glen Cook: The "Black Company" series Robert A. Heinlein: "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress" P. D. James: "The Children Of Men" Stephen King: "Pet Sematary" and "The Green Mile" Ursula K. Leguin: "City Of Illusions" and "The Left Hand Of Darkness" C. S. Lewis: "That Hideous Strength" Ayn Rand: "Atlas Shrugged" Thomas T. Thomas: "First Citizen" J. R. R. Tolkien: "The Lord Of The Rings" Jack Vance: "Lyonesse," "The Green Pearl" and "Madouc" Vernor Vinge: "A Fire Upon The Deep" and "A Deepness In The Sky" Paula Volsky: "Illusion", "The Wolf In Winter", "The Gates Of Twilight" and "The White Tribunal" Roger Zelazny: "Lord Of Light" and "A Night In The Lonesome October"

This list is far from exhaustive, but it's a good start for anyone who's a newcomer to the richness of the field in the postwar period. I return to all of these books frequently, for stylistic reinforcement and moral support.

Of course, some of you are thinking, "How could anyone like *that* clinker?" about some of the abovenamed books. You're entitled.

Freedom, Wealth, and Peace, Fran Porretto

Message #308 left by Barry on Apr 26, 2000 at 8:03

I'll admit that I'm too much of a Discworld fan, but the newest one, The Fifth Elephant, is pretty good again. After the last one about the vampires I was wondering if I wanted to read them anymore. Also, the book stores are selling economy copies of the first few for around four dollars to get new people started on the series.

Message #307 left by Lenora Rose on Apr 26, 2000 at 4:05

I have this to say about Terry Pratchett.

A lot of the standard Discworld style-jokes are weakening a bit now, but as the humour, which was at its peak somewhere around Soul Music, Small Gods and Interesting Times, is getting weaker, he's getting better and better at building real suspense. Soul Music had drama, and a climax, and all that, and all well done, but there was a lot less _tension_ than there has been in the last couple of books.

Now I just want him to come up with another new string of comedy; if he does, the combination of killer suspense and killer laughs will be the best yet....

Message #306 left by Dionys Murphy on Apr 24, 2000 at 16:07

"The Dead Boy At Your Window" is linked from Bruce's page(http://www.sff.net/people/Bruce/), but here is the direct http address for those who want to jump directly from here:

http://www.ifdpublishing.com/AMClark/deadboy.html

Bruce's Page The Dead Boy...

Message #305 left by Lenora Rose on Apr 21, 2000 at 18:24

Gregory: That was because it was intellectual, not emotional on my part, too. My emotional reaction was nowhere near that deep; I thought it a well written fable.

Message #304 left by Gregory Koster on Apr 21, 2000 at 13:56

For Tasha: Wow, that story you can't remember the title to sounds impressive. I've been a subscriber to ASIMOV'S for some time, but that does't ring any bells. Which proves precious little. As for making an ass of yourself, gee, you will have to take your turn behind me. When I had to think about what I was to reply to Dom, I found (to my dismay, and not for the last time) I didn't have the knowledge I needed to defend my point of view. So it's off to do some reading and find out what I'll think after I'm done. I think you are right about "Evening Primrose," by the way. Thanks for your reaction to "The Dead Boy At Your Window." I should mention even at this late date, that you can read the story at Bruce holland Rogers's home page on the (I think) SFWA website. I think it is something in me that prevents me from responding to it in the way so many people do. What Lenora Rose said about it makes a lot of sense to me, but that is still an intellectual, not an emotional response. What the hell---if a story works for a reader, it has succeeded, no matter what everyone else says. Including me.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #303 left by tasha on Apr 21, 2000 at 4:48

Oh yeah, one more horror story that struck me, but I can't remember the name of it. I think it appeared in Asimov's originally. Does anyone remember a story about two German children (older now) who go back to the home they lived in before WWII. People talk of seeing ghosts, particulary the ghost of a man with a star on his jacket up on the roof. There were two children in the hidden room--there bodies still there--that had been abandoned by the woman who was hiding them because she saw her opportunity to escape at their expense. The man with the star knew they'd been betrayed and had tried to get them out but fell off the roof and died, leaving the children locked in that room, quietly starving to death. I found that terrifying because one woman's cowardice had caused those three deaths, and who can know how brave one is?

Message #302 left by tasha on Apr 21, 2000 at 4:38

Gregory Koster: Way back when, you asked about people who were moved by "The Dead Boy at Your Window." I bought the book that it's in because of that story (I'd heard it was good and so wanted to see what the fuss was about). When I got home with my book, I was a little ticked to see it was only three pages because I could have read that on the sly in the bookstore. What I couldn't have done, if I hadn't bought that book though, was call my relatives and read it aloud to them, which I did. I read it three times out loud, and I never made it to the end without crying. I don't know why I cried so much (I'm not talking a few little sniffs--I'm talking wracking sobs and I had to get off the phone to wash my face). Everyone liked it but was mystified by my reaction. I am too, and all I can figure is maybe there is someone or some spirit that I miss and love that I can't remember while I'm in this body (yeah, I know that makes me sound like a fruitcake, but who knows?). Or maybe it was just that it was beautifully written--I can be sort of arty-farty now and then (Carmina Burana makes me cry too). All I can say is that story affected me more than any I can remember.

About the horror brouhaha: Wow. Can't believe I missed all that in real time, but I'm sort of glad I did since I'd have made an ass out of myself defending the genre. I like a lot of horror--"I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" is a favorite of mine. "The Autopsy" in David Hartwell's horror anthology (can't remember the name of it, and it's upstairs where my husband is sleeping) was good, but my favorite from that book was "Evening Primrose." Another horror story I liked a lot was "Richard's Head," in _Obsessions_ (might have got the name wrong--some guy's head though) by Al Sarantonio. I don't read a lot of novel length horror, but that's mostly because prefer shorts.

Tasha

Message #301 left by Dom on Apr 16, 2000 at 19:41

Greg: glad you're willing to check out a few of the more recent releases in the genre. As for Rex Miller, I'll agree that he was an extremist, though I really enjoyed his first Chaingang novel SLOB. Sadly, Rex had a stroke a few years back, and from what I've heard he really hasn't recovered much.

Best, Dom

Message #300 left by Gregory Koster on Apr 16, 2000 at 18:10

For Dom: Oh dear. Having been called on this, I turn to my armamentarium, and find---nothing there. I was thinking of Rex Miller,(who has a contract with a dozen slaughterhouses to provide the special effects he needs in his work) but he doesn't have anything in print in the "big" press at least. Thought some more, and came up with nothing. It seems that I was thining about a phase that the horror field has passed through, and is no longer representative. So I'd best get at those authors you suggested, and get my knowledge of horror up to date. Thanks.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #299 left by Dom on Apr 15, 2000 at 22:29

Hi Greg: I'm not sure we're working with the same definition of "small press." Almost all the names I've mentioned in my last few posts have recently had mass market paperbacks available, and while that's not bestsellerdom by any stretch of the imagination, it's not small press either. These guys have at least one or two books out a year from the likes of Leisure, Berkley and TOR, with print runs of 60-80k copies, so their effects are a lot broader and far-reaching than "small press," which makes me think of copy market magazines or print runs of 250 books. It is true though, that a lot of these guys also do work for Cemetery Dance, Subterrenean, Dreamhaven, Terminal Frights and other independent publishers, but hell, almost everybody does, Michael Shea included. Arkham House can be considered small press by today's standards, and so the likes of Ramsey Campbell, Charles L. Grant and other "major" names who continue to work with them are in effect working with smaller presses. I think the best writers cover the spectrum, doing a little of everything, working in various genres, and running the spectrum from big houses to medium to tiny. By the way, good call on "The Autopsy," it's long been one of my all-time favorites. I've probably read "Windows," since I own and have read the BEST HORROR OF F&SF some years ago, but for the life of me I can't recall anything about the piece right now. Also, since we keep talking about gore, can you name me a book outside of those by Clive Barker, that is so heaped with gore and can be found in the "big time?" (And Clive has toned down his work significantly, especially in Galilee, which can hardly be considered fantastical at all). You guys seem very committed to this idea, but despite my reading just about everything that comes out, I'm not sure I understand why you think gore sells and solid horror writing doesn't. A certain amount of gore is probably going to be found in most horror novels, which goes hand in hand the way that crime&murder goes hand in hand with mysteries, but I just don't see that many bigtime gory novels. Then again, maybe it just doesn't bother me as much as it does you and Andrew and John, and so I don't notice it as much.

Message #298 left by Gregory Koster on Apr 15, 2000 at 21:00

For Dom: Bang! How could I have forgotten Jack Cady, who is all you say he is? I also like the Bachman novels up to the point where King started making a joke out of them (THE REGULATORS was a bore.) I'm not familiar with the other friters you mention, and will have to give them a look. I think I'll pass on Clark Ashton Smith, though. I don't like flowery writing that is fertilized by gore. I've thought of a couple other horror tales. Fellow named Bob Leman wrote a few for F&SF years ago. One of them, "Windows"(has nothing to do with Bill Gates, though there's a horror story for you) is high on my list. Trouble is, I don't think Leman's tales have been collected. The other is Michael Shea, whose "The Autopsy" while full of gore, made it essential to the tale, and made the tale a huge success. But while Shea publishes books, they seem to be high fantasy not horror. Both of these tales are collected in THE BEST HORROR STORIES FROM f&sf. This also brings me to another of Andrew's points, which I fear is too valid for my liking: there does seem to be a Gresham's Law at work in horror publishing, at least in the "trade" press. I think all the writers you mentioned are pretty well stuck in the small press. (Correct me if I'm wrong.)There's nothing wrong with small press publishing, except that the profits aren't very big. What an awful development if the only way a "good" horror writer can get published is to stay with the small press, which is a ghetto financially, if in no other way. What is it that makes only the stupid, gore filled work publishable in the big time? I hope this will change, but I don't rightly know what will do it.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #297 left by Dom on Apr 15, 2000 at 19:10

Hi Greg: thanks for the comments. I agree that there was a period where horror authors tended to offer a top-heavy amount of extreme graphics in their fiction, but I believe that for the most part those days are thankfully over (despite the success of authors like Richard Laymon, who I do enjoy and who is finally easily available in the U.S.). Even small press houses such as Necro Publications, who originally published only "extreme" work, are now doing less of that sort of thing and broadening their initial horizons. I too find Anne Rice tedious as hell, and I'll also agree that much of King's shorter fiction is some of his strongest material. Personal favorites of mine include his earliest short novels now known as The Bachman Books. If you want work that has little to no graphics in it, I suggest you try Jack Cady, whose novel STREET and collection THE DAY WE BURIED ROAD DOG are two of the most literate and lovely works of horror/dark fantasy to be found. Also, you might enjoy the new anthology THE LAST CONTINENT, NEW TALES OF ZOTHIQUE out from Bereshith Publishing, which is a gathering of new takes on Clark Ashton Smith's creation. Seek out Tim Lebbon's "White" as well, which does have some viscera, but is really just a good old fashioned creepy story. He'll have a novel out from Leisure Books sometime next year, I believe. And stick with Piccirilli, he has a new novel THE DECEASED due out in July, I believe, and from what I've heard, there's just plenty of wild weirdness to be found in it.

Message #296 left by Gregory Koster on Apr 15, 2000 at 16:38

Game set and match to Dom. I say this despite agreeing with Andrew's position that (to me, and no one else is bound by it) far too much of modern horror writing depends on gross-out effects and will all too soon be dead. Example: I find Anne Rice tedious, and acted on this conviction by donating the copies of her books that I bought to a medical school, anatomy section. But I find most of Stephen King's short novel collections (DIFFERENT SEASONS, HEARTS OF ATLANTIS, and above all FOUR PAST MIDNIGHT) excellent. Whatever it takes, I guess. Dom, I don't think our tastes will match closely at all. But that is due as much to my own limitations as anything else. Good luck to you, and to what you write, and stand fast in your reasons for appreciating it. Also stand fast in your courtesy, and refraining from using Anglicisms. After all, you don't need to imply that the only reason you are holding back is because you don't want to cause Kent any work. Your arguments work well without condescension, or trying to shut the discussion down when you are losing. Keep up the good work.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #295 left by Dom on Apr 15, 2000 at 2:03

John: fine, we'll leave it at this. Unfortunately, your double-edged sword doesn't cut either way. The main mistake I see with your initial point and proposition is that "gore is not horror but it is all that one sees." I'm not sure why that's all you see, since fine horror works without gore (or with it, as the case may be). If you see only weak fiction then I'm afraid your tastes simply aren't up to par. You make grandiose suppositions that the genre tries to "claim" Graham Joyce but they simply don't work. Joyce is a horror writer, enough said. Why you'd feel he's anything but is beyond me, except that you seem to feel that your blatant statements of such is all that it takes to make it so. Bad writing is horror and good writing is something else? Very thin ice you stand on in your criticisms. Also, I'm not sure where you feel this topic has degenerated to name-calling. This hasn't been off-topic for me, as I've named numerous really good books, whereas you haven't mentioned one (though you did name a really good movie). As for ugliness, I've seen none other than you trying to heave your weight around by stating yourself as a lawyer. I'm afraid I've dealt with too many of them in the past to be much impressed in any case.

Message #294 left by John Savage on Apr 15, 2000 at 1:31

Dom, I'm afraid I must disagree with the strawman recasting of my position. Please go read my website position (linked above), and recall that I'm trying desperately to respond here in language and terms accessible to the readers. Unfortunately, that means that the technical points become less clear.

My ultimate point is that gore is not horror, and yet that is all one sees. I am simply not impressed by flying body parts, copious quantities of bodily fluids, possession by yet another reject from the Old Ones, or tired "vampirism is a metaphor for sex" stuff, because it doesn't horrify. This is not limited to splatterpunk; and, as I noted earlier, the problem is a "genre" (wrong term, but that's what's being used here) built around an "effect" that seems to effect only those whose backgrounds have sheltered them from the horrors of reality. Frankly, that willful rejection of psychological reality makes me quite ill. Maybe that's what horror should be doing instead of trying to shock. That's why, despite the horror community's attempts to claim (for example) Graham Joyce, it doesn't fit.

Don't play "change the label" games with me, please. Things'll get really ugly, really quickly. As Andrew can attest, that's not a game to play with a lawyer—particularly one who did all but dissertation under theoretically oriented faculty. Nobody wins.

This is my last comment on this issue. It has turned into a religious argument, and is off-topic. I stated an initial opinion, supporting Andrew's comment. This thread then degenerated into personal attacks. I would gladly use several Anglicisms that seem appropriate to me, but would rouse the ire of Our Esteemed Sponsor.

Message #293 left by Michelle on Apr 15, 2000 at 1:26

'Most horror writers have led sheltered lifes'? If you must make such goofy statements don't make them around a horror writer who is the single parent of three children. By the way, Emily Dickinson led a very sheltered life. Do I want some real life horror? No thank you. Would YOU like some real science? Join NASA! You asked me to 'show you' and I tried (though I suspect you never had any intention of actually reading any recomendations). Two well deserved Stoker nominations would argue your point on Tom Piccirilli's work. You've read a lot in the horror small press? I doubt it. I have no problem at all with someone saying they are not a fan of horror but to insult fellow writers in this forum shows a lack of compassion that is essential in a good writer of any genre. Andrew, THREE writers represent the entire horror field? Think about how silly that statement sounds. There are about 900 members in the HWA but we are all represented by just three writers? Okay, I'm done defending my genre. If you don't like horror, by all means, don't read it. But don't insult those of us that work very hard at it. Show a little respect for the other writers here.

Message #292 left by Dom on Apr 14, 2000 at 23:22

John: Your arguement continues to shift from one topic to the next, so I'll try to stay focused here on Horror as a literary genre. Pointing out the "real" horrors of the world like Vietnam or religious mania is no different that someone pointing out the real science of the world and calling every novel with alien lifeforms, time-travel, or extraterrestrial civilizations complete shit because it's made-up. Your qualm that horror doesn't grab you because it's too divorced from reality doesn't bear up in the light that SF is built even more on the non-real and non-common. SF can as well be called Science Fantasy as Horror can be called Dark Fantasy. We are, after all, talking fiction here, much more closely related then you're apparently willing to admit.

As Michelle correctly points out, you break the field down into its lowest common denominator, continually besmirching the genre by claiming that authors care only for blood and guts and gore or by saying that the field is only known for Anne Rice and Brian Lumley. True there's been plenty of drivel and drek written, but remember that Sturgeon's Law was written to apply to SF before Ellison applied it to everything: "90% of Science Fiction is crap."

There are dozens of fine working authors in the field that ARE representative of what is currently going on in the industry. If anything, it's foolish of you to smear an entire genre simply because of its notable weaknesses like Rice or some other bad splatter. If you want representative material, you've got to go to the shelves now, today, and see what is being published. You'll find novels by the likes of Jack Cady, Bentley Little, Elizabeth Massie, Mike Marano, Melanie Tem, Doug Clegg, Simon Clark, Peter Straub, Graham Joyce, Graham Masterton, Marc Laidlaw's THE 37th MANDALA which is genuinely eerie and affecting, Tim Lebbon's novella "White" which will appear in Datlow & WIndling's YEAR'S BEST FANTASY & HORROR, and Tom Piccirilli's occult novel HEXES. I don't think he's a "small press" writer or "horribly uneven," but hey, that's me. I find that his work is consistently fine, and I'm glad he's been deservedly nominated for a Stoker in both the novel and collection categories. These names I've mentioned aren't from out of the dim history of the genre. These are working, powerful authors who are putting out fine work, and if they're seated at their desks putting out fine material instead of off in some Peruvian jungle running from fire ants, then so much the better. Of course you won't like them all, maybe not even many of them, but this isn't ho-hum writing, so there's no need for ho-hum criticizing.

We see where your heart lies. SF is just as clearly represented by Mutant end-of-the-world series and shit like Lionel Fenn's KENT MONTANA AND THE REALLY UGLY THING FROM MARS or the latest Space Opera future war crap put out by Baen Books or McCaffrey's lameass Dragon novels as it is by Neal Stephenson, Harlan Ellison or Roger Zelazny. If you look for the weak-point, you'll find it. If you look for the strength, you'll find that as well.

Message #291 left by MWA on Apr 14, 2000 at 20:31

Well, there it is.

Message #290 left by Dave Kuzminski on Apr 14, 2000 at 20:13

Essentially, it's not one's personal experiences that determines who is a better writer of any particular genre, though those experiences can be of tremendous benefit and advantage. What really matters is how well a writer can use words to convey the story, be it horror, fantasy, science fiction, or other genre.

Message #289 left by MWA on Apr 14, 2000 at 19:35

As opposed to SF writers, all of whom have led extremely adventurous lives? John, please--you can speak for yourself, but to even imply that there is a link between a writer's background and which genre they write in (excluding everything other than genre writing!) is ridiculous. These days many writers cross the imaginary line that you draw between these genres, and in both directions. To classify a horrific story as SF because of the supposed genre of the author who wrote it is simply absurd. But my perception of any genre story is that it's Speculative Fiction. I'm not trying to pick a fight here, but I believe it is beneath anyone who would consider themselves a genre writer to point the finger at any other group of genre writers and declare their work to be without merit.

Oh, and if you look you will notice that F&SF proudly provides a link to the single story published in its pages that was nominated for a Stoker award.

Message #288 left by John Savage on Apr 14, 2000 at 18:58

In fact, I have read Tom's work, and I'll nonetheless stand by my comments. Some of his work is good, although not of literary award quality, but (like everything else that depends upon an effect instead of a paradigm) it's horribly, horribly uneven.

You want horror? Try being pursued on foot across a desert area by forty or fifty heavily armed religious fanatics trying to kill you. Get inside the chasee's head. Or try Apocalypse Now! if you really need some blood-and-guts in your horror. This, though, is not contemporary "horror;" it's "politicomilitary thriller." The difficulty is that most "genre horror" is so far divorced from reality in its setting that there's nothing (and no one) with which to identify.

Frankly, it's not just that the bad writing has driven out the good, as Andrew correctly points out. It's that for many of us, as I've noted elsewhere at length (and here at less length), more gore equals not horror, but another day at the office. Frankly, most horror writers have lived pretty damned sheltered lives, at least to judge by their bio slugs.

Message #287 left by Andrew on Apr 14, 2000 at 9:19

Anonymous, aside from backing up John's comments, perhaps I should say that we have a point of agreement.

There are some damned good horror stories out there. Poe, Lovecraft, M R James, Stoker, Shelley: these are all writers of horror whose works I have read, enjoyed reading, and they have put the wind right up me. Especially M R James, whose works are not to be read on windy winter nights.

The trouble is that none of these are representative of the horror genre. The rubbish that Rice and Lumley and Herbert produce is. That's the problem, not the pitifully few producing genuine works of craftsmanship in the genre for which, as you say, there is no market. I would respectfully suggest that this is because there is a literary equivalent of Gresham's Law at work here - the bad writing has driven out the good.

Message #286 left by Joe Shosty on Apr 14, 2000 at 5:34

Michelle, quite a biting retort you have there! I agree with you. Piccirili is excellent. I've been a fan of his since his "Self" stories back when Terminal Fright was a magazine. He does good stuff, but he is definitely a small press kinda guy. I haven't read this collection you speak of, but I do have something of his, "The Dog Syndrome", which was also small press and very good. He deserves any nomination he receives.

Other than that I can't much about horror. It's only an occasional thing for me. I read Richard Laymon and Bentley Little -- both of them extreme in their gore/slasher/unspeakable monster tales -- but I read them for relaxation and for little or no literary value. In fact I reject the idea that we should always be on the lookout for "important" books. There should always be room in the world for stories that offer a few cheap thrills or scares so long as the writing is good and doesn't, as Andrew says, pander too heavily to the teen angst side of things.

Now, since this is the Really Good Books section and not, "I Hate Horror" I should say I recently read The Smile by Ray Bradbury and loved it. It's not really a book per se, but a short story in hardback form. Nonetheless, it was excellent.

Message #285 left by Michelle on Apr 14, 2000 at 1:04

I just noticed that I forgot my name on that last post. I wasn't trying to hide, just flustered by the comments. John, you say that nothing you've read compares to the Nebula Preliminary well most the science fiction I have read lacks heart and passion but that,I've been told, is because I haven't read much of it and I agree. I'm sure I've missed the good stuff but it's not a subject that interest me. I would never call ALL science fiction awful, say it sucks or that it is worthless because I don't know enough to say so. Nor would I insult my fellow writers on these boards. How many writers have you actually read from this years Stokers list? Want a recomendation? Try Tom Piccirilli's (Stoker nominated)collection, Deep Into That Darkness Peering from Terminal Frights Press. It can be ordered right online from Amazon or B&N. Consider yourself 'Shown'!

Message #284 left by John Savage on Apr 13, 2000 at 17:50

Dear Anonymous:

(I'm speaking for me, since I agreed with Andrew.) Perhaps so. I doubt it, but I'm willing to be convinced. Show us some. Combing the small press is like finding a needle in a jumbo haystack, and I have neither the time nor the patience for it.

I've gone back and read many recommendations as "great horror not from New York publishers" that have appeared on this board, and I'm not impressed. A few were, in fact, decent; but only one was even comparable to the quality of what appears on the Nebula Preliminary Ballot. As a whole, the selections offered have only reinforced my own general analysis.

Message #283 left by Anonymous on Apr 13, 2000 at 15:29

Andrew, your comments are very insulting to those of us that write horror. I do not write about monsters with big teeth and claws. Nor do I suffer from teen angst (though I do have a teenager). You are explaining a genre by its lowest common denominator and that is unfair and false! Fantasy is not just an elf chasing unicorns nor is science fiction Star Trek. In spite of King, Rice and Koontz, horror does NOT sell and most big NY publishers want nothing to do with it. Those of us that work in this field follow (or try to follow) in the footsteps of such greats as Poe, Le Fanu, Shirley Jackson and M.R. James. And I'm leaving off all the mainstream and classic writers who have written horror stories like Edith Warton, Oscar Wilde and Henry James. If you'd care to read great horror it is not always found on the bestseller list (I believe this is the case with most genres). And as to John's comment that we are 'not worth noticing' well, I beg to differ! I work hard at my craft and so do the other writers in my genre. That people would make these remarks knowing there are horror writers on these boards is really sad.

Message #282 left by Naomi Kritzer on Apr 13, 2000 at 12:40

I originally read the "Donkeyskin" fairy tale as "Allerleiruah," as well. I was researching a paper at the time -- I ended up comparing "Allerleiruah" to (really) the Mahabarata. (Specifically, the paper dealt with concealment and revelation in the Hindu epic vs. western fairy tale mythology. I got an A, I think.) This particular fairy tale is omitted from a lot of collections of Grimm's tales, particularly if they're meant to be read by or to children. I found it, I think, in the Harvard Classics volume that includes the fairy tales. If you want to read it, you can probably find the complete Harvard Classics at the nearest central or university library. Probably near the very, very beginning, if the library uses the Library of Congress system.

It's worth noting, for those interested in such things, that the fairly tale Allerlairuah resembles in some significant ways the story of the Catholic virgin-martyr saint Dymphna. Dymphna was an Irish princess whose mother died, and whose grieving father attempted to rape her because of her resemblance to her mother. A sympathetic priest helped her escape to Belgium, but her father caught up with them and killed first the priest, then (when she still refused to return with him) Dymphna. Dymphna is the patroness of those suffering from mental illness. (As a "Really Good Book" recommendation -- I have a copy of a book called "Saints Preserve Us," which is sort of a highly unorthodox Lives of the Saints. This is where I ran across Dymphna, though you can also read about her on Catholic Online, http://www.catholic.org/saints/saints/dymphna.html)

I've also read "Deerskin." I love Robin McKinley's books, but I have to admit, this was probably my least favorite.

Message #281 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Apr 13, 2000 at 0:13

As opposed to Andrew, I think Anne Rice is a fine writer--even though her stories aren't strictly speaking, horror stories. Although true, she does tend to turn up the melodrama, especially in her later works, I found that the two vampire chronicle novels I've read were good books. In particular, _Interview with the Vampire_ but also the _The Vampire Lestat_. Especially since in the latter book she goes a long way towards develop her Lestat's history as "the Wolfkiller" and how he turned out to be a rock star. And although it did annoyingly diverge in the middle with the stories of other vampires, _Lestat_ has one of the best endings I've read in a long time for any novel.

Message #280 left by Lenora Rose on Apr 12, 2000 at 23:53

I don't remember who rewrote Tattercoats under that name - it's as Allerleirauh or All-Fur in Grimm. In our copy, it's story 65, and I think there is a standard order.

Message #279 left by Gregory Koster on Apr 12, 2000 at 19:40

For Lindsey: Amazon does have a May 2000 listing for SPINDLE'S END, and does say you can order now. Price is 15 odd bucks.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #278 left by Lindsey on Apr 12, 2000 at 18:20

Lenora -- I've never heard of Tattercoats, and I have a couple of Grimm collections. Where did you find it? It sounds intriguing. So does your story, for that matter. Neat.

Still jumping up and down about the new R McKinley book. Yippee!

-Linz

Message #277 left by Lenora Rose on Apr 12, 2000 at 17:44

Unfortunately, all I know is that it is due May 2000, and it sounds like it's going to be another Faery-tale retold - Sleeping Beauty. Amazon has a listing.

It wasn't actually Donkeyskin (The Charles Perrault version of the tale, also turned into a strangely Disney-esque French movie) I was thinking about as the original tale for Deerskin, but the much bolder and darker Tattercoats/Allerleirauh (The latter apparantly translates into "of many kinds of fur" or more simply as "All-Fur"), which is the Grimm version. A demeaning description of the story is it's like Cinderella with incest in place of ugly stepsisters. I've read Perrault and Grimm and a couple of modern variations, due to developing my own story about it.

Message #276 left by Patrice on Apr 12, 2000 at 17:33

Re: horror and King's The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. I loved that book. But I felt the horror aspects (the hidden beast in the woods) were the weakest part of the novel. He probably could have just edited out all those pages and had a stronger book -- I wonder if he felt he had to put in the conventional horror bits since people expect that of him?

The only other weakness in the book is that King's protag is a 10-year-old girl, and she seemed a bit too grownup in parts.

But I would recommend it. Except not as horror. <g>

Message #275 left by Lindsey on Apr 12, 2000 at 17:03

Lenora -- Really!!! A new one!!! When? Whenwhenwhenwhenwhen? Oh, I can hardly type I'm so excited! I look forward to losing significant amounts of time to my couch, where I'll be unmovable for however long it takes to finish it.

I agree with your thoughts on "Rose Daughter," I too had some trouble with its competition with "Beauty," which I love. But I liked the different take, and was able to relax and take it as another version. I never did read the tale "Donkeyskin." I only know a little about the original tale, although "Kissing the Witch" had its own version of it in there. So I didn't have any trouble sinking into "Deerskin."

Does Amazon or anywhere have info on the new book? Tell me everything you know!

Thanks! -Linz

Message #274 left by Lenora Rose on Apr 12, 2000 at 0:52

Thanks for your view, Andrew - Not being much of a horror reader (And the one novel that was marketed as horror that I own is in essence a Grimm coming of age story, and I suspect an exception to your rule - particularly as I can think of a heap of horror stories that fit your rule very well), I have neither defense nor comment about your opinion. Except that it makes sense now.

Although I know a few too many people who do think that Dragonlance-style fantasy is the pinnacle of the genre <brrr>...


Gregory: Blink. Blink blink blink. It did? Wow, I actually made sense! Thanks for the compliment. :)


For the Robin McKinley fans - She's one of the first fantasy authors I read as a child (Not counting Dr. Seuss), and probably the best of the lot; I still love pretty much all her works. The first time I read Rose Daughter, I was disappiointed and thought it much weaker than Beauty (being after all a different take on the same faery-tale) - the second time, I don't know why, something in it just clicked, and I fell in love. As for Deerskin - my only problem with it is I have my own personal take on the faery tale she based it on, which means her excellent story is competing with my imagination in full thrust.

She's got a new one coming out very soon - Spindle's End. I can't wait, I can't wait....

Message #273 left by Gregory Koster on Apr 11, 2000 at 20:07

For Lenora: Thank you very much for the new pair of glasses! Your take on "The Dead Boy..." did give the new perspective I was looking for. I still don't agree with the story or its premise, but can see what effect the story had on you. It isn't negligible, and deserves respect. I am much obliged.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #272 left by John Savage on Apr 11, 2000 at 11:50

My objections to horror are different from Andrew's, although his comments are well-taken (just perhaps more extreme than I would accept). I object principally to that which is marketed as horror by the "mainstream" horror publishers—the vast majority of which is at least as incoherent as Andrew states, for a very simple reason: take away the effect on the reader and there's nothing literary left. That's where Jim's story succeeds. The "horror effect", so to speak, is actually secondary and grows out of the characters and their situation, rather than determining them. Frankly, I would not classify "Miss Hathaway's Spider" as "commercial horror." Similarly, I would not classify Alien as "commercial horror"—which makes perfect sense when one looks at the literary antecedants. I would, however, classify the Friday the Thirteenth Part 47: Michael Kills From the Wheelchair—type dreck as dreck, and the "commercial horror" label is as convenient as any.

Not one book classified as commercial horror that I've read in the last twenty years has succeeded as more than "oh, that's somewhat interesting; I wonder if the author has ever actually seen it?" for me. There's far more real horror available in, say, the Room 101 scenes of 1984, or One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, or Schindler's List, or the close of Brave New World, or . . . well, I could go on, but you get the picture—than in just about any ten commercial horror novels. Thus, they're failures at their intended effect; and, since (most of the time) that effect is all they have, they're crap.

That's not to say that there are not individual exceptions; just that the so-called genre as a whole, as marketed by the New York publishers, is not worth noticing. For that reason, I don't waste my time on the small press, simply because there's not enough time for everything I really do want to do anyway. I simply don't have the energy to survive Sturgeon's Law there. I do have an open mind, contrary to some popular opinion; but you've got to overcome the screen I've placed there after too many wasted hours with this dreck.

You can find my more-theoretical rant as On Horror on my website.

Message #271 left by MWA on Apr 11, 2000 at 11:04

Andrew & John:

While I understand your reasoning on levels of personal experience, it seems to me that two of our finest are approaching the subject matter with less than a open mind--I would say with an extreme prejudice. From reading many postings by both of you, I would have expected a better understanding, and less of a dismissive attitude.

When making a comparison between horror & SF, I often find the similarities between the two so close as to be negligible, particularly in areas of darker subject matter. Example: "Miss Hathaway's Spider" by James Van Pelt--had that story been written by an author that is considered to be a "horror writer", then it would most certainly be classified as horror.

In short, I feel that your prejudices are unreasonable, and more specifically, uninformed, from lack of current reading in the genre. But hey, to each his own.

Message #270 left by Andrew on Apr 11, 2000 at 10:18

Anne Rice doesn't write horror (in fact, the most terrifying thing about her is her sales figures) but rather she writes fouth and fifth-rate bowdlerised pornography (which, when all's said and done, is what vampire stories have always been from Varney onward and probably earlier).

The basic problem with horror is that most of it's designed to appeal to people who find real life and the puberty they're enduring in it too unpleasant to deal with, so they'd rather read and fantasise about some big scary monster with teeth and claws (which just happens to be the viewpoint character for some or all of the book) so they can distract themselves from their imagined pains. I say "imagined" because most teenage angst - my own included, in retrospect - is the kind that would be forgotten after about thirty seconds of real toothache. They distract themselves by identifying with a supernatural predator with really, really, dodgy sexual politics.

This kind of wish-fulfillment-with-multiple-metaphors-for-rape is fairly horrible, and the only scary thing about it is how much it sells.

Like John, I've had to deal with a fair amount of real-life splatter (I used to be a clerk at a law firm with a signficant criminal practice) and don't find it particularly horrifying. (Other than the workaday kind when you discover that the defendant drove around for three days looking for a disposal site for his mother - with her in the boot of the car)

This makes it rather easier to see what's really going on in these books: look into Herbert's Rats trilogy, or the Fog, and see if you can deduce the author's sexual politics if any.

Here and there there are some bright points - Lovecraft, for example, and some of the stuff in TTA. Mostly, though, it's exactly this kind of wish-fulfillment dreck.

Compare this with SF, in which the tie-ins are the low-rent end of the market and fairly roundly despised at that. Those who buy them tend to be getting them as guilty pleasures, and at that they have to be kept clean for the kiddies.

So, that answer: Horror sucks because as a genre it - in the majority of sold works - panders to poisonous masturbation fantasies that only really exist as part of the pathology of puberty. Where Science Fiction and Fantasy does this sort of thing, it does it out of the mainstream of the genre and it's high-volume low-mental-effort hack content tends to be at least not actually obscene.

Message #269 left by Michelle on Apr 11, 2000 at 2:34

Okay, as a horror writer and reader I'll give my two cents worth. Hexes by Tom Piccirilli was great (as was his collection that is also nominated). Another book I loved this year has a nomination in the long story group, Dread In The Beast by Charlee Jacob (great collection and great story). Since most the writers nominated in short, long story, novel and collection are not household names I don't see how it is a matter of the 'name game'.

Message #268 left by Mary on Apr 10, 2000 at 17:52

Robin McKinley's *Beauty* is also very good.

Message #267 left by Lindsey on Apr 10, 2000 at 15:59

Hi all. I just re-read "Deerskin" by Robin McKinley for the umpteenth time. I adore that book. I keep reading it to find out why, her style, what engages me about it so, but I get swept up in the story every time and forget about all that by page 10 and just gulp the thing down whole. I never get tired of stories by that author -- so far I love everything she's written.

-Linz

Message #266 left by Lenora Rose on Apr 9, 2000 at 16:27

Just read this Realms of Fantasy, which meant I went up and read the discussion of Dead Boy at Your Window. The story neither affected me as deeply as it had some, nor did it leave me entirely cold. It reminded me of some of Jane Yolen's better short works (From me, this is a compliment), but it does suffer somewhat when analyzed as hard as Gregory Koster did; and he is right that the vision of the land of the dead is a little too hellish, and what have the living to look forward to?

But I note that the dead boy does not describe the land of the dead to the living - he only gives his messages - "you are loved, you are not forgotten". Which in a very literal sense (by name and face) Gregory would point out is untrue - but underneath the most literal view, is very true. The dead have not forgotten that they loved; the dead boy makes sure the living know those now dead loved them. Whether this exact person was loved by that exact ghost is irrelevant. The dead boy is saying what the living as a group need to hear, and what the dead as a group need to have said for them. Which gives the dead a rest from the futile efforts at communication which make their existance hellish; making it not so hellish after all.


AS for Horror: Point taken so far, Andrew, but why did the list of nominees confirm this? I read too little horror to know what the authors on the list as a whole (None of which were Brian Lumley, Poppy Z. Brite or Anne Rice, the examples of non-horror or else just bad horror) did to offend you. (Hannibal I've heard about, so i know why that offends. The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon I've heard so many differing ideas from amazingly good to astoundingly bad to know less about than when I started...)

I also note that these days, not everything considered in the Horror genre is meant to be horrific. Sometimes an author is considered horror even when he doesn't always write horror (Stephen King's books have occasionally dipped into other genres, including mainstream) And sometimes they have the trappings with NO intent on the part of the author to be scary. But then, I've also read things marketed as fantasy that either lacked magic or had so little that the story could have stood as historical fiction. And Science fiction that with only a little change (Not even the wagon-to-starship and six-shooter-to-laser of space opera. I mean LESS. Connie Willis' Chance, for example, although people in their haste to define have now decided *that* is slipstream) could have been considered mainstream.

And Dragonlance novels still sell by the shedload. So do Star Wars books. Yet I saw no-one considering this as an excuse to look down on the Nebula Nominees.

In short, I think you haven't answered my question, Andrew.

Message #265 left by John Savage on Apr 9, 2000 at 9:26

Oooh, Andrew, I know another one! Anne Rice.

I just don't find modern horror scary—which, since "horror" is about the effect upon the reader, lets it fall more than a little bit flat. I've seen the insides of too many bodies (mostly, but not entirely, in emergency and operating rooms) for splatterpunk to have much effect. The only real horror I've read in the last couple of decades has been bureaucratic stuff, the horror being the thought of what kind of being could write about some of those things in bureaucratic prose far deader and divorced from humanity than any scientist's notebook. Try living through something truly terrifying and then reading an after action report about the same incident.

Message #264 left by MWA on Apr 8, 2000 at 20:17

Ah, well, point taken, and a fine one at that.

Message #263 left by Andrew on Apr 8, 2000 at 18:34

MWA, most of my prejudices about horror as a genre derive from the fact that within it Poppy Z Brite and Brian Lumley ("Who ya gonna call? Cthulhubusters!") sell by the shedload.

Message #262 left by MWA on Apr 8, 2000 at 15:03

Ah, but Lenora, you see, my premature declaration brought swift emergency assistance! I also would like to hear from Andrew.

I'm very much a Straub fan. "Houses Without Doors" is a fine collection of short fiction by Mr. Straub, and I recommend it highly. I am anxious to read the sequel to "The Talisman" (I've seen a couple of references online to an upcoming collaboration for such).

Message #261 left by Lenora Rose on Apr 7, 2000 at 22:22

MWA: You din't kill the topic. Never declare a topic dead until it's been empty at least a month. Nobody's read anything worth commenting on lately, is all. And I rarely read horror (Peter Straub is the most frequent exception), but I will look one up if enough people comment on it here...

Andrew - you never did explain "all your prejudices confirmed in one stroke". Can you (When you have a spare second)?

Message #260 left by MWA on Apr 7, 2000 at 15:06

Damn! I killed another topic! It was an accident! I swear!

(note to self: very few horror fans at the RM...don't bother)

Message #259 left by MWA on Mar 28, 2000 at 19:16

Scott N.:

I will look for that next outing to the book store. I see that Peter Straub's "Mr. X' made the final ballot (no surprise there). I have wanted to read the book for some time now, but haven't been able to talk myself into buying the hardcover. Oh well, I guess I'll wait for paperback. BTW, I enjoyed your story "Haunted" at Electric Wine.

Message #258 left by Scott Nicholson on Mar 28, 2000 at 18:45

MWA, the true horror is that A PRAYER FOR THE DYING did not make the final ballot. Stewart O'Nan's book is simply the most chilling and literate book I have read in years. It's still the name game in voting by writers. PRAYER is on the IHG final list, at least.

Message #257 left by Gregory Koster on Mar 28, 2000 at 11:53

For Fred: You are bang right about GATEWAY. I have read BEYOND THE BLUE EVENT HORIZON which is the next book in the series. It's a good book that suffers in comparison to GATEWAY. Had I read them in the other order, I think BLUE EVENT would have seemed considerably better. Can't win on this one, I guess. I think you would enjoy BLUE EVENT, but don't pitch your expectations too high. Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #256 left by MWA on Mar 28, 2000 at 10:40

Oh, and BTW, I goofed--that was the preliminary ballot. The Final ballot is as follows:

NOVEL

Darker than Night by Owl Goingback (Signet)

Hannibal by Thomas Harris (Delacorte)

Low Men in Yellow Coats by Stephen King (Hearts in Atlantis, Scribner)

Hexes by Tom Piccirilli (Leisure Books)

Mr. X by Peter Straub (Random House)

Message #255 left by MWA on Mar 28, 2000 at 9:23

Andrew:

I'm curious about those predjudices--would you care to elaborate. Yeah, I know--I asked for it.

Message #254 left by Andrew on Mar 28, 2000 at 7:34

Outrage? Howls? That noise you hear from all the way across the atlantic is me, laughing my conkers off at having all of my prejudices about the entire horror genre confirmed in one bold, perfectly executed stroke.

Message #253 left by Lenora Rose on Mar 28, 2000 at 0:51

I exzpect to hear the howls of outrage that they touched Hannibal with a ten foot pole any moment now...

Message #252 left by MWA on Mar 27, 2000 at 20:03

Ok, horror fans, here's the final ballot for the Stoker Award/Novel catagory. If you could vote (assuming that you can't--I'm sure a few around here can), which one would you pick? Also, comments of praise, outrage, or indifference are welcome.

NOVEL

The Marriage of Sticks by Jonathan Carroll (Gollancz/Tor)

Naomi by Douglas Clegg (Douglas Clegg, email serial)

Darker than Night by Owl Goingback (Signet)

Strangewood by Christopher Golden (Nal)

The Poker Club by Ed Gorman (Cemetery Dance Publications)

Black Light by Elizabeth Hand (HarperPrism)

Hannibal by Thomas Harris (Delacorte)

Wild Horses by Brian Hodge (William Morrow)

The Road to Hell by Gerard Houarner (Necro Publishing)

Mojo Hand by Greg Kihn (Forge)

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King (Scribner)

Freezer Burn by Joe R. Lansdale (Mysterious Press)

Come Out Tonight by Richard Laymon (Cemetery Dance Publications)

Welcome Back to the Night by Elizabeth Massie (Leisure Books)

King Rat by China Miéville (Macmillan UK/Tor)

A Prayer for the Dying by Stewart O'Nan (Henry Holt)

Hexes by Tom Piccirilli (Leisure Books)

Mr. X by Peter Straub (Random House)

This is My Blood by David Niall Wilson (Terminal Fright)

Conspiracies by F. Paul Wilson (Gauntlet Press

Message #251 left by Mary on Mar 27, 2000 at 19:28

  • Tower of Dreams* by Jamil Nasar

A near-future sf novel with some interesting ideas and a good plot.

Message #250 left by Marti Booker on Mar 26, 2000 at 20:59

Lawrence Watt Evans's book "Dragon Weather" was a very nice fantasy book. Although I've noticed this thread being heavy on SF and light on the Big Fat Fantasy novels.

Message #249 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Mar 26, 2000 at 15:00

I thought _Gateway_ by Frederik Pohl was a damn fine SF novel. I enjoyed the decadence of Gateway and the way in which he portrayed space travel as a dangerous lottery where you have a 50/50 chance of coming back alive. Also, to my knowledge Bob Boradhead was one of the first SF characters to have latent homosexual tendencies. Very interesting in light of all the square hetero relationships most characters have in that novel as well as so many others. It also had a good, solid plot and structure (in terms of three progressively worse failures, followed by a success and a change of character and a growing at the end). Well done. Has anyone read the other Heechee novels--I heard they got bad reviews and so I'm not that eager to read them.

I also wants to give good marks to Walter Jon Williams' novel _Angel Station_. Although it suffer from post-cyberpunk cliches (like overuse of fake drugs) and some real silly lines (like "Jesus Rice"--give me a break) overall I found the novel quite good. The characters were interesting enough, the plot flowed at a good pace and it had some nice ideas--I especially liked fastlearn cartridges, the alien specie Beloved and one of her servants, Volitional Twelve. The only other flaw I found in the novel was that the ending seemed too nice and pat for my tastes. Aside from those quams, however, I recommend the novel for a good day or two read.

Message #248 left by Maren Henry on Mar 22, 2000 at 11:07

By choices I meant when I choose one word over another, or whether or not to dwell on the character's troubled history, or any of the various choices that come up while engaged in the act of writing. :)

Message #247 left by Maren Henry on Mar 22, 2000 at 10:59

How about _The Lord of the Rings_? It's been faulted for having undeveloped characters, but really Frodo and Gandalf and Sauron are all archetypal, and therefore to develop their character further as individuals would change the nature of the tale. (?)

Thank you, Bruce, for this discussion (and to Gregory as well!). Much of my improvement as a writer has come from discussions such as these. Kate Wilhelm's analogy of a novel as a world, a story as a window, and a short-short as a keyhole is also very apt. Seems to me that a short-short or a story would be easier to pull off as a romance than an entire novel would be.

Looking back over my own writing, there's two stories I can clearly identify as tales ("The Elf in the Valley of Forgive-Me-Nots" and "Dragon Don't Burn Your Books," for those of you who've read them; the dragon one is the one that's been in MZB's hold pile for over six months, cross fingers). So I'm instinctively writing in the manner of a tale, and I knew as I wrote that these stories were different than my other work, but I don't have a full understanding of why I made this choice rather than that one, besides that it felt right. I'd like to make those choices consciously, rather than intuitively, if that makes sense.

Would magic realism be romance, do you think?

Message #246 left by Bruce Holland Rogers on Mar 22, 2000 at 9:38

Maren, book length tales, or romances, were what all longer stories were before novels were "invented." Don Quixote, said by some to be the first novel in western cultures, is in fact a novel that makes fun of the unrealistic nature of tales.

The Arthur tales and any traditional sagas rendered in prose are clearly romances. As for more contemporary examples... Well, there the picture is less clear. It depends on how you choose to categorize works that are all in written in a time when the novel is dominant.

Message #245 left by Maren Henry on Mar 22, 2000 at 1:45

Seen in that light, "The Dead Boy At Your Window" has much in common with _Stranger in a Strange Land_. (Going by the three plot elements Bruce mentioned, that is: character is where he doesn't belong, goes to where he does but doesn't fit in there either, creates a new role for himself). I'd say that for both stories, it's the time spent in the world where they didn't belong that makes the main characters not belong in their true world once they get there.

Two questions: what "type" is the dead boy? And can anyone give me a few examples of book-length tales--I find this distinction interesting, possibly useful, but I don't have my mind fully around it yet.

Message #244 left by John Savage on Mar 22, 2000 at 0:23

I'll side with Bruce on this one. I'm afraid that the quoted statement from Fitzgerald doesn't quite mean what it appears to, even if one could trust Fitzgerald (who was notoriously inept as a critic). When he says "type," he means "stereotype" (a word not in common usage prior to the late 1940s). Frye means something entirely different when he discusses "type" and "genre" than, perhaps, those of you who have wisely avoided serious graduate education in literature might realize. The distinction is almost as extreme as going from "black humor" to "standup comedy by African Americans." A stereotype is a subspecies of type, but type is neither equivalent to nor subsumed in stereotype.

I think where things fell apart was all those "surely"s in point 3. I don't find any of them inescapable in the context of what Bruce wrote. This is not the forum for going into the details; in fact, it's unfair to everyone involved to go on any longer, given the topic header, so I'll just go away for the present.

Message #243 left by Gregory Koster on Mar 21, 2000 at 23:12

For Bruce: I'm obliged to you for taking the trouble to write. I think we will remain on opposite sides of the fence on this one. Granting the logic of Northrup Frye's categories, I will stay with Scott Fitzgerald, who wrote:

"Begin with an individual, and before you know it, you have created a type; begin with a type, and you find that you have created---nothing."(The first line of one of his better stories, "The Rich Boy.")

Going into your division of the tale's three parts:

1. The character is in a world where he does not belong.

To my mind, this is a story all by itself. Kafka's "Metamorphosis" is an example of this. But this was not the point you wished to make. Given that and that the short-short tale demands concision, why detail the dead boy's early life at all? Surely, the reader will grant that a dead person will not fit in the lives of the living.

2. He goes to where he should belong, but he doesn't belong there either.

Here my memory may be at fault (I don't have your story at hand) It seems to me that the dead boy doesn't belong in the land of the dead because he can fly, thanks to the cruel trick the boys in the land of the living played on him by turning him into a kite. But this could be repaired by taking out the sticks from him. But doing that would prevent part 3 of the tale from unfolding.

3. He invents a role for himself as intermediary between the worlds.

It seems to me that this decision, which leads you to your conclusion (the last line of the story:)

"On any night, head full of messages, he [the dead boy] may rap upon any window to remind someone---to remind you, perhaps--- of love that outlives memory, of love that needs no names."

is at odds with the premise of part two. It seems to me that the real reason the dead boy does not fit in with the dead people is this: the dead people are animated by nothing more than looking back to their past lives. The urge to communicate with the living is overpowering, so much so, that it even blots out the memory of the people they once knew. Thus you say that it is possible for dead to be sending back messages via the dead boy to people who may have already died---but the dead cannot recognize among their fellow dead the people they knew when they were alive. Surely this is a most terrible version of Hell. More, what messages can the dead send back? The living will soon learn that there is nothing for them after death, and that life, with all its transient joys, is going to be the high part of their existence, and that they will spend the rest of eternity looking back, longing for something they will never have. What a burden to cast upon the living! This message it at odds with the last line of your story, with its affirmation that love is all that matters.

You could say that I am once again using the more rigorous tools of what Frye would call a "story" to analyze a very different animal. There's something to that. If I insist that stories be an exact transcription of things-as-they-are, I will squeeze the life out of much fiction, and rule out science fiction and fantasy at one blow. Surely an even worse fate than the one I see for the dead in your story! But following Frye's precepts for the "tale" has its own danger: you end up parroting the Hollywood line, "It doesn't have to make sense, it's a fantasy." I reject that notion. It has degraded films, particularly SF/Fantasy films for far too long(see the topic here on the Mill on glaring lapses in story logic. Not for nothing are many of the examples from films.)

So you and I may be coming from very different premises. My temperament may have been shaped in such a way that I can't understand what you are trying to do. But I would like to try. Once again, I say to everyone here on the Mill: if Bruce's tale hit you hard, I would very much like to know WHY it did. I freely grant that it did. It is WHY that I want to know. Think of it as helping Koster get the prescription lenses he may need.

Finally, Bruce, I'd like to thank you again for taking the trouble to respond. I know how busy you are, and I appreciate your taking time. I hope I did not sound condescending. Perhaps the best answer to me is that your tale has been published, and to much applause. You are obviously doing something right, and I congratulate you on your success. Go on great man!

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #242 left by Elise on Mar 21, 2000 at 22:09

After the talk of it here, I finally read "The Dead Boy at Your Window" last night before bed. I enjoyed the piece, very much. Anyone who can pack that much emotion/action into a short-short makes me smile. I was touched by the story--maybe because the message that the dead don't forget us (just as we don't forget them) is a timeless one.

Bruce, how nice to see someone mention Operating Instructions. Lamott is a favourite of mine. :)

Message #241 left by Bruce Holland Rogers on Mar 21, 2000 at 18:38

I agree that Mockingbird is terrific. It has some of the funniest obesrvations I've ever read about pregnancy, as good as anything Anne Lamott wrote in Operating Instructions. Sean is obviously a good observer and listener.

Regarding "The Dead Boy at Your Window," I'm not the best person to talk about why the story works if it does, simply because I'm likely to have the sort of myopia that's common for one's own works. However, I will note, Gregory, that your posts suggest that you're looking for things in this story that would be appropriate in a tale of another sort, in different traditions, but not here.

In his Anatomy of Criticism, Northrup Frye broke down genres using a variety of useful distinctions. One key separation is between short stories and novels on one hand and tales and romances on the other. Short stories and novels aspire, even when they are about fantastic events, to be convincingly realistic. Tales and romances, on the other hand, are not about real people, but about characters who might be viewed as standing in for psychological/mythological archetypes.

In a tale, you don't have characters. You have types. If you read a tale or a romance (by which I mean a book-length tale, not a category romance novel) expecting characters, you'll be disappointed.

Incidentally, one of the interesting things about Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter is that this book keeps switching between being a romance and being a novel. This play by Hawthorne is quite deliberate, and he says as much in the introduction where he writes about moonlight and mirrors.

About the story's structure, the plot has three elements:

Character is in a world where he doesn't belong. He goes to where he should belong, but he's alien there, too. He invents a role for himself as intermediary between the worlds.

Maybe this will give you some idea of why I think the first part of the story is as essential as the last.

Finally, Kate Wilhelm just wrote an introduction for my short-short story collection, Flaming Arrows, which will be out in the fall from IFD Publishing <plug, plug>. I mention this because Kate says some useful things about very short stories.

The novel is a world that the reader is invited to come inhabit in all its detail, Kate says. A short story is a room where the reader isn't invited to enter, but peers in through the window.

The short-short story, however, gives the reader just a keyhole through which to peer, and absolutely minimal detail. This form, above all other narrative forms, demands that the reader invent most of the detail him/herself.

"Dead Boy" is written in the tradition of fairy tales, which makes it more about types and a manner of telling than about character or cinematic scene. Add to that the short length, and there are two ways in which the form of the work demands that it deliver different pleasures than what a "short story" would offer. So, again, if you read it expecting a short story, you're going to be disappointed, just as you'll be disappointed by a restaurant review when what you want is a recipe.

Make sense?

Bruce Holland Rogers "Writing in Spite of Everything," on audiotape http://www.panisphere.com

Message #240 left by Lenora Rose on Mar 21, 2000 at 16:49

Elise: I'll second that recommendation.

Message #239 left by Elise on Mar 21, 2000 at 0:31

Mockingbird, by Sean Stewart. Anyone read this? I found it wonderful--a very strong female voice, despite the fact that it's a male author. (Although the section with the porn mags seemed very male driven to me.) Hmm...don't send me to the Guys vs. Gals topic...that place is too scary. ;)

Message #238 left by Maren Henry on Mar 18, 2000 at 1:54

One of the things that struck me about "The Dead Boy at Your Window" was this: the wife in the beginning refused to accept that her baby was dead. That set up the rest of the story where the the dead and the living refuse to accept their separation and choose to send messages back and forth. You can believe it, because it's true from the first paragraph.

Message #237 left by Gregory Koster on Mar 18, 2000 at 1:37

For Fred: No no, I don't feel bad at all, just puzzled. And since the story is introduced in REALMS as a prizewinner, that is sure to garner more awards, I am still more puzzled. What am I missing? Anyone?

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #236 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Mar 17, 2000 at 17:47

I can't comment on the story, Gregory, since I haven't read it. But I can say this: that editors don't always choose stories because they are well written or even because they are even that great--MZB says as much on her websites about writing--though you'd think that would be enough. Also, the simple truth is that each person's informed opinion decides whether or not a story is good, and that includes the editors and your own. So don't feel bad if the story failed for you.

Message #235 left by Gregory Koster on Mar 17, 2000 at 16:42

Once more:

Here is the last line of the story:

"On any night, head full of messages, he [the dead boy] may rap upon any window to remind someone---to remind you, perhaps--- of love that outlives memory, of love that needs no names."

Compare this to the last line of THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY by Thornton Wilder:

"There is a land of the living and a land of the dead, and the bridge between them is love, the only survival, the only meaning."

It seems to me that Rogers was struck by the same sort of thought that Wilder was, and wrote it out (and no, I don't think he was plagarizing. This thought has occurred to many folks, I think.) But the story does have the same defect THE BRIDGE does: The thought is expressed at the expense of the characters. What character in this story will stick in your memory? Another thing I did not care for was the lack of thinking through what might be the consequences of the dead boy's arrival in the land of the dead. All the dead people have one thing in common: they are obsessed with the land of the living, even though they can never go back. Surely, this is a literal Hell. I think most of the people who will read this have experienced a great grief at some point in their lives. Do you still dwell on it? Of course, it will depend on how long ago it happened, but if it still obsesses you, aren't you as dead as the one you lost? This is what has happened to those in Rogers's land of the dead. And think of what this means for those in the land of the living: All they have to look forward to is looking back, mourning their separation from people whose names they can no longer remember. Is this the point of Rogers's story? The last line makes me think not, and yet surely this point, witha ll the horror it implies, is far more potent than what the last line implies. I cannot see why this tale has had such an impact. Finally, I don't care for the first half of the story. In the REALMS OF FANTASY version, the first page could be condensed to three paragraphs. As it stands, it contributes little to the second half of the story, which is where Rogers makes his point. I may be overanalyzing this tale. More likely, I am missing something. I'd be obliged to anyone who can tell me why this story hit home with them. Hope to hear from some of you.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #234 left by Gregory Koster on Mar 17, 2000 at 16:27

Hell. Sorry for the premature post. As I was saying:


Message #233 left by Gregory Koster on Mar 17, 2000 at 16:26

Quite a few folks have been praising "The Dead Boy At Your Window" by Bruce Holland Rogers, in the April 2000 REALMS OF FANTASY. On this praise, I read the story. It left me cold, and I'm wondering what I am missing. I should very much like to hear WHY people who liked this story did so. For what it is worth, this is why I did not:

Here is the last line of the tale:

Message #232 left by Gregory Koster on Mar 17, 2000 at 16:26

Quite a few folks have been praising "The Dead Boy At Your Window" by Bruce Holland Rogers, in the April 2000 REALMS OF FANTASY. On this praise, I read the story. It left me cold, and I'm wondering what I am missing. I should very much like to hear WHY people who liked this story did so. For what it is worth, this is why I did not:

Here is the last line of the tale:

Message #231 left by Gregory Koster on Mar 17, 2000 at 16:26

Quite a few folks have been praising "The Dead Boy At Your Window" by Bruce Holland Rogers, in the April 2000 REALMS OF FANTASY. On this praise, I read the story. It left me cold, and I'm wondering what I am missing. I should very much like to hear WHY people who liked this story did so. For what it is worth, this is why I did not:

Here is the last line of the tale:

Message #230 left by Gregory Koster on Mar 17, 2000 at 16:26

Quite a few folks have been praising "The Dead Boy At Your Window" by Bruce Holland Rogers, in the April 2000 REALMS OF FANTASY. On this praise, I read the story. It left me cold, and I'm wondering what I am missing. I should very much like to hear WHY people who liked this story did so. For what it is worth, this is why I did not:

Here is the last line of the tale:

Message #229 left by Gregory Koster on Mar 17, 2000 at 16:26

Quite a few folks have been praising "The Dead Boy At Your Window" by Bruce Holland Rogers, in the April 2000 REALMS OF FANTASY. On this praise, I read the story. It left me cold, and I'm wondering what I am missing. I should very much like to hear WHY people who liked this story did so. For what it is worth, this is why I did not:

Here is the last line of the tale:

Message #228 left by Lenora Rose on Mar 16, 2000 at 23:41

<Sarcasm> Isn't the poll tax the same thing that lost Wat Tyler his head? </sarcasm>

Freedom and Necessity is another of my faves. But then, I'm a raving Emma Bull fan.

Message #227 left by Andrew on Mar 16, 2000 at 18:27

Bonobos, maybe. The regular chimps, no. Cannibalism, turf wars, dung-flinging and gang violence: as I say, ****ing primates.

Meanwhile the Bonobos are whooping it up doing nothing but eat, sleep and have sex. I tell you, we evolved from the wrong damned monkey.

Message #226 left by Lindsey on Mar 16, 2000 at 18:17

Not to get back to the subject or anything, but a really great fantasy book is "Freedom and Necessity" by Brust and Bull. Actually, it almost has to do with what people are discussing, as it has a lot of 1840's British politics and intrigues and german philosphy. Rather a lot of german philosophy, actually, that I had trouble fitting my head around. But it was worth it, even if I'm not nearly as smart as I thought was, because the style and characters are brilliant, and I was sucked in and unable to put it down until I finished it.

Back to your regularly unscheduled political rants -Linz

Message #225 left by Patrice on Mar 16, 2000 at 14:26

Except aren't chimps more ethical than the ****ing primates?

Message #224 left by Andrew on Mar 16, 2000 at 8:36

Sorry bout that, Sally. What with John hitting my froth-at-the-mouth button on the subject of UK politics I get a tad excited.

Absolutely true story, laydeez and gennelmen: one of the arguments advanced by the tories for the poll tax, I shit you not, was that it was hardly fair for "a duke to pay more than a dustman". This is part of the reason why several good friends of mine picked up nasty injuries from police batons over this one.

At the time I thought there was something seriously wrong with the kind of personality that would join an organisation prepared to order a cavalry charge into a crowd that visibly included women and small children, some in puschairs. And something even worse wrong with the kind of people who wouldn't refuse the order.

Since then I've come to the conclusion that the police pay peanuts and get chimpanzees. ****ing primates.

Message #223 left by Sally Mae Johnson on Mar 14, 2000 at 14:45

WHOOOOP! Hey, watch it, my head almost hit the ceiling fan that time!

Message #222 left by Lenora Rose on Mar 14, 2000 at 13:56

Duck! The lawyers are beginning to throw sallies! Soon it will be throwing grenades...

Message #221 left by John Savage on Mar 14, 2000 at 9:51

I meant for the amusement value, Andrew. If nothing else, hearing "Dr. David Owen" pontificate on the value of 2+2 and consistently coming up with any number but 4, all while David Steele was slicing yet another haggis on Channel 4, was worth occasionally missing Prime Minister's Question Time (still the best value for your entertainment dollar, pound, or lire).

OK, guys. Time to press another one of Andrew's "f***g primates" buttons.

<SARCASM> Andrew, the Poll Tax is a Good Thing and the fairest way to raise revenue while still supporting fox hunting. </SARCASM>

Message #220 left by Andrew on Mar 14, 2000 at 8:22

Greg,

I'll look it up. I'll cheerfully admit to not being as well-read on late 20th Century political history as I ought to be. The current stuff I keep up with, and I still have one or two insider contacts but the analysis - well, I can ask people who can ask people (who, sometimes, can ask people) who were there.

I think Thatcher was never quite as big as she looked. She injected an element of style to what is and has been since the back end of the 19th Centuury the most successful political machine ever built: until quite recently it welded money and church and state into a more-or-less monolithic horror that was always in power whether or not it was in office.

Unfortunately, the class that kept it where it was lost its credibility from 1914 - 1945, and then began dying off. By the mid 70s they were all gone, and not all of their successors were the same kind of people. Outsiders got promoted into serious positions within the various corporations that constitute our Permanent Ownership and suddenly support began vanishing for the Tories.

Thatcher tried the appeal to populism, and it worked for a while but the Conservative machine had already lost the huge swathes of oily, cap-touching know-my-place-I-do-Squire toadies that kept them winning seats. Once Major had spent the last reserves of popular support, the party was dead.

From here on in, we've got a few years of the only effective Machine left in UK politics and then we're in the one-party-state position you've got in the US. Given the transnationalisation of capital, as well, we'll probably have a common Permanent Ownership.

Alas for the days, etc.

John, no. You're talking about the only political movement we ever had in this country more stupid, pointless, embarrassing and self-defeating than Major's Back To Basics Campaign. (note for US readers and other aliens: our conservative party decided to have a go at a moral crusade, quoting Orwell yet in their support. Naturally our press declared open season on tory MPs with their hands in the till, multiple mistresses and/or unfortunate dalliances with rent boys.

Matters were not helped by the MP found dead in ladies' underwear having done for himself by autoerotic asphyxia.

Message #219 left by Gregory Koster on Mar 13, 2000 at 13:01

For Andrew: As always, you are very amusing (the part about the New labour being the Whig party exhumed did make me snort.) But seriously, I would be interested in what you think of Young's book if you have time. As for grey personalities, no one can deny that Margaret Thatcher had a coruscating one. Which is better, grey or coruscating? Using TIME magazine's definition of Person of the Year (the person who has had the most impact on events), I rate Thatcher as third (behind Lloyd George and Churchill's wartime premiership) in twentieth century Premiers. Young's book did drop her quite a bit in my estimation (coming from the right), but she still remains, bulking over today's Tory party, sucking the oxygen from the air any of her successors need to gain a foothold. Quite an achievement, I think.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #218 left by John Savage on Mar 13, 2000 at 10:50

Well, Andrew, there's always an alternative:

Bring back Steele and Owen!

True story: John Major really did have five identical mid-gray satin ties that he rotated through virtually all of his foreign trips. They were the most colorful part of his personality.

Message #217 left by Andrew on Mar 13, 2000 at 7:41

Gregory, we all thought they'd been buried by Munich and Suez, but we still got twenty years of That Woman and her comedy nonentity successor.

And given that New Labour might as well rename itself the Whig party, I don't know why I bother, I really don't.

Message #216 left by Joe Shosty on Mar 13, 2000 at 4:11

With all this talk lately of cons and con etiquette I thought I'd mention Sharyn McCrumb's Bimbos of the Death Sun. It's a very funny mystery set in a hotel the weekend of a sf convention.

Message #215 left by John Savage on Mar 13, 2000 at 1:30

If you're a "book person," you probably like the idea of librarians taking over the world. If so, consider Sean McMullen's Souls in the Great Machine—which also has a great take on computers.

Message #214 left by Gregory Koster on Mar 12, 2000 at 19:09

THIS BLESSED PLOT by Hugo Young. Not genre, not even fiction, it is a history of Great Britain's history with Europe and the European Union since World War II. Young wrote the book in twelve portraits of key British players during this time. Gave me a great insight into not only British/European politics of this time, but also what American history from 1787 to say 1825 must have been like. I would be greatly interested to hear what Tom Ecclestone, Andrew, Martin, and anyone else in the UK think of this book. Many of the American admirers of Margaret Thatcher should read this. It would give them a fine jolt. In particular, Andrew, I don't think you need to waste any potshots at the Tories, not when they are trying to murder each other the way this book describes. I cannot see the Tories coming back to power for a long long time.

Best regards, Gregor Koster

Message #213 left by Rebecca on Mar 12, 2000 at 1:40

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner. Memory and Dream by Charles DeLint. The Lost Boys by Orson Scott Card.

I went to a panel of Orson Scott Card's at the Rocky Mountain Book Festival. He's a very entertaining speaker.

R

Message #212 left by Jon Moore on Mar 9, 2000 at 18:41

The best book I've read in the respective genres are as follows, Historical Fiction-Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, Fantasy-A Game of Thrones by George Martin or Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb Sci Fi-Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card(It's the only Science Fiction I've ever read mind you).

Message #211 left by Maren Henry on Mar 8, 2000 at 15:50

Philip Dick's "Imposter" is coming out as a movie this summer starring Gary Sinise.

Message #210 left by Gregory Koster on Mar 8, 2000 at 12:55

For Fred: I'm obliged. I think there maybe a switch in my so-called mind that shuts off on Phil Dick once I have passed the 15,000 word mark. You are right about Hollywood. PD's stories are naturals for them, though not for the reasons you & I like his stuff.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #209 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Mar 5, 2000 at 21:48

To be honest, Gregory, I've liked almost every novel I've read of his. Though I haven't read as much as you might. I enjoyed _Valis_, _Ubik_, _A Scanner Darkly_, _The Man in the High Castle_, _Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep_ and _Eye in the Sky_ (though maybe to a lesser degree). With his short stories, I've read and enjoyed, "Frozen Journey," "We Can Remember it for you Wholesale," "The Big C," "Second Variety," "The Variable Man," "Impostor," "Human Is," and "Colony." Also, I've just read _Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick_ by Lawrence Sutin over the weekend, which is a fascinating read about his life. If you think that his fiction is strange, his life was just as strange if not more so than his fiction.

More than any other SF writer I can think, PKD was a wickedly brilliant mind, who could put more strange and interesting ideas into one novel than most SF writers today or then could put into their entire career of novels. Perhaps his writing was not always up to par and his stories, I'll admit, are sometimes so confusing that it's easy to get lost in his worlds. But I feel his assets well makes up for his flaws.

Also, with the exception of perhaps Heinlein, no other deceased SF writer is being tapped as much for his work by Hollywood. They're making "Minority Report" and "Impostor" out of his stories and I'm sure they won't be the last.

I also hope to get the time to read some of Dick's other books, including, _Confessions of a Crap Artist_, _Time out of Joint_, _The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch_, and _Flow my Tears the Policeman Said_.

Message #208 left by Gregory Koster on Mar 5, 2000 at 19:55

For John Savage: Of the three links you have cast out, only the SURREALITY CHECK one works for me. For Fred Obermeyer: You've been talking about Philip Dick in other topics, and seem to have read most of his stuff. Here's a question for you: I've read most of Dick's SF novels (haven't read the novels that came out after his death) and just about all of his short stories. With the exceptions of THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, and SOLAR LOTTERY I couldn't stand the novels. Yet his stories I thought excellent. I can't even say why his novels failed with me. Do you find the same sort of split? Hope to hear from you.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #207 left by John Savage on Mar 4, 2000 at 14:25

Oops. Left out a zero. Try Hugo and Nebula Awards.

Message #206 left by John Savage on Mar 4, 2000 at 14:22

The Nebula list this year, for the first time since 1992, contains six excellent novels. (It's posted in the Hugo and Nebula Awards topic. Or you can see my acerbic comments at Surreality Check.) For once, internal SFWA politics appear to have left the novels alone, probably because of the script category . . .

Message #205 left by Anonymous on Mar 4, 2000 at 1:39

The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife are rather good. I would have to disagree that they are for an older audience. Instead I would say that they embrace a wider spectrum of people. They embrace more depth of thought than the Potter series does, but I think they would be just as enjoyable for children. Though I loved the Potter books quite a bit and read them multiple times, I think these books of Pullman's are more in the vein of C.S. Lewis and those other books that capture the attention of children and adults alike at multiple levels. They are a definate 'should read.'

Message #204 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Mar 3, 2000 at 20:04

I disagree, Andrew. I feel the latter is a very well-written work, especially considering some of Heinlein's other novels, especially _Starship Troopers_, suffered from his excesses.

But I do feel your comments about Rama are valid. The first book was good enough for me.

Message #203 left by Andrew on Mar 3, 2000 at 19:29

Two caveats:

Don't bother with any of the Rama sequels. They're pretty thin stuff throughout, not even worth carting over to the really bad books section.

Stranger in a Strange Land is much improved by being read only in the earliest version issued. The later, uncut version released posthumously is a very, very flabby novel.

Message #202 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Mar 3, 2000 at 16:25

One SF book I thoroughly recommend is Heinlein's _Stranger in a Strange Land_. While true, the book is sexist and often preachy, I can't think of a better protagonist than Valentine Michael Smith (Hell, he was so good that Charles Manson named a kid after him...creepy). What Heinlein did with that character, I feel, was nothing short of amazing. It was like he (the author) managed to disassociate himself from his own personality and author's voice and write an unforgettable character who reveals the nature of man. If you've read a lot of Heinlein as I have, you tend to notice that a lot of his characters sound like him talking. But not in VMS's case. Also, the plot is well defined, the characters interesting and the ending is sad, yet funny and hopeful at the same time. Overall, a great book.

BTW, if and when they do make the movie, here's my pick as to who should play VMS: Guy Pearce, that great Australian actor who played Ed Exley in "L.A. Confidential."

Can you grok that?

Message #201 left by Freon on Mar 1, 2000 at 8:35

True enough, the bigger picture is probably much bigger than simple me. Thought I'd pass on the sentiment, though. Interesting irony, your second point - it is a case of biting the feeding hand, but my impression is that it's permitted (out of desperation?) if the hand also beats you. <g> Anyway, John's right. No more of it in this topic - It'll come up somewhere more appropriate later.

As we were...

Message #200 left by John Savage on Mar 1, 2000 at 0:00

This is way off-topic, but two wrongs don't make a right. The FSF people may choose to disagree with what Amazon is doing, but (1) it's perfectly legal, and (2) the FSF couldn't exist without certain other assertions of patent rights.

Message #199 left by Freon on Feb 29, 2000 at 19:16

Cross-posted Not too off topic, but you're probably aware of this:

""The Free Software Foundation is calling for a boycott of amazon.com, due to their abusive use of software patents to stifle competition. (They've patented one-click ordering and clickthrough sales affiliate programs. This is obviously not innovative--obviously, that is, to everyone but the US Patent and Trademark Office.)

Tim O'Reilly (the O'Reilly in O'Reilly and Associates) has a nice

article, including a petition you can sign to ask Amazon to stop enforcing its patents.

I have been very satisfied with Amazon in the past, but I am boycotting them over this issue. Software patents are stifling the ability of independent developers to create commercially-successful programs; the PTO has proven time and time again to have no clue whatsoever about "prior art" in the software industry. Visit the site. Sign the petition. Boycott Amazon. Or watch software patents continue to strangle innovation."" ~Seth Blumberg

BTW amazon.com employees, nothing personal. Yours in the spirit of free information, Freon

Message #198 left by Lynda R. on Feb 27, 2000 at 23:51

Has anyone read the first two books by Philip Pullman in his trilogy, starting with The Golden Compass (says inside it was originally published as Northern Lights in Britain)? The second book is The Subtle Knife. These are aimed at a somewhat older readership than Harry Potter (which is not to imply that Harry's adventures aren't engaging us all no matter how old we are) and they are really, really, really good books. Sad and thrilling and imaginative and wonderfully ambitious--this is the kind of scope that actually merits a trilogy.

Good suggestion up there, BTW, about ordering the Harry Potter books from the UK. I think I'll pass on the Americanizations for the rest of the series and do the same.

Years ago I read a review of the movie Paperhouse that started out with the line "Nobody does childhood like the British." There are exceptions, of course, but overall they really do seem to outdo us Yanks when it comes to writing for kids.

Message #197 left by MWA on Feb 27, 2000 at 1:49

Well, it may be a stretch to consider these books as speculative fiction, but they are widely considered to be works of Magical Realism:

William Kennedy's "Ironweed" & Toni Morrison's "Beloved"

I recently read those two back to back, and was very impressed with both books.

Message #196 left by Micah on Feb 20, 2000 at 1:15

I just finished S. Viehl's Stardoc, her first novel... and what a first novel! Anyone else pick this one up yet?

Message #195 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Feb 18, 2000 at 23:31

_Rendezvous with Rama_ by Arthur C. Clarke is one of the best SF novels I've ever read. Although the characterization is paper thin, Clarke's portrayal of an alien vessel and the life within its walls is so strange and yet so concise, that I have yet to see another book so realistic and inspiring in terms of its vision and scope. To this day, I can still imagine those three enormous spiral staircases spinning round and round, down into the heart of Rama.

I haven't read the later Rama novels, nor do I want to, seeing as how the 2001 series didn't fascinated me a hundredth as that one book did.

Another book I'd recommend is Nancy Kress' _Beggars In Spain_, which has a well-written protagonist, Leisha Camden, and one of the best SF extrapolations I've read in years. Sleepers and sleepless, man, I wish I had come up with that idea. But I might recommend you only read the novella, since the whole novel tended to lose momentum after the first book. Again, I avoided the sequels.

Finally, I love Kurt Vonnegut's _Slaughterhouse Five_. This is one of the few books that made me laugh out loud constantly while I was reading it; it has a cool, serio-comic tone and a superb way of fooling around with time and place and strange people. It is also sad in a way and zany and bizarre, but wonderful just the same. And if nothing else, you'll find out what Tralfamadorians are.

I'd also suggest reading some of Vonnegut's other great books like, _Cat's Cradle_, _Breakfast of Champions_, _and _Timequake_.

Message #194 left by Lenora Rose on Feb 10, 2000 at 2:06

Hear hear, John.

HOWEVER, we in Canada get the English ones, as far as I can tell. at least, I was the Philosopher's stone. and I think they discussed boots (not trunks) & al. I'd have to double-check.

Message #193 left by John Savage on Feb 9, 2000 at 20:00

And after the inept "Americanization" of the first three books, I'm ordering from England anyway. Down with territorial rights!

Oops. I'll get mine in mid-May (grad school friend at Bloomsbury). But I'll be embargoed, so don't ask for details.

Message #192 left by Naomi Kritzer on Feb 9, 2000 at 14:26

And its sales rank is #1! I love the Harry Potter books, but I still think that's hilarious. (It's only #3 on their British site; alas, it's being released the same day, so I can't get it six months earlier by buying the British edition.)

Message #191 left by Barry on Feb 9, 2000 at 14:01

Was just over at Amazon.com and noticed that "Harry Potter and the Doomspell Tournament" is on pre-sale, and will be released on July 8, 2000.

Message #190 left by Lenora Rose on Feb 7, 2000 at 18:11

Never given out Swordspoint, but I'm not entirely sure if I bought it or Mom did originally, though it seems to have landed in my collection since... I'm getting rather impatient for her next novel, which is supposed to be 50 years or more in the future in the same world.

Can't ID the Italian novel; sorry.

Message #189 left by John Savage on Feb 6, 2000 at 19:52

Victoria Strauss's The Arm of the Stone and The Garden of the Stone are good gifts for readers who like something to ruminate upon, but don't want preaching or pontification (rather ironic, since "religion" is one of the core themes . . .).

Message #188 left by Beth N. on Feb 6, 2000 at 18:03

I've give Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint to a bunch of people, and they all loved it. Come to think of it, though, I don't often give a single title to several people, although I frequently do that with music. A book seems like a more personalized gift, somehow, and when I give one that doesn't take I feel a greater sense of failure.

Message #187 left by Mary on Feb 6, 2000 at 16:10

  • Celestial Matters* by Richard Garfinkle

A really different work. A hard SF story, based in a Ptolemiac solar system.

Message #186 left by Lenora Rose on Feb 6, 2000 at 4:27

Stephen: No worries; that happens all the time.

That's actually a pretty good criteria. I've been burned a couple of times on that, though, when the people who read it didn't like it anywhere near as much as I did (Will Shetterly's "Elsewhere" and Emma Bull's "Falcon" both got mildly speared by the same guy). However, the last book I did that to was "To Say Nothing of the Dog", which was given to two people with decidedly different book tastes, and went over great.

Message #185 left by Stephen Couch on Feb 5, 2000 at 23:51

Well, doo-doo. My first-ever post, and I screw it up by duplicating it. Sorry, all!

Message #184 left by Stephen Couch on Feb 5, 2000 at 23:50

I was thinking--there are many books I love, but very few books I've ever given as gifts. It seems that pays an extra level of compliment to the book; not only do I like it, but I think the recipient would enjoy it, too. But there are only two books I've ever given to multiple people--presumably putting them at the top of my "really good books" list:

_Glimpses_ by Lewis Shiner. A must-read for music fans, and proof that good fantasy lit doesn't have to adhere to the standard, predictable trappings of the genre.

_The Light at the End_ by John Skipp & Craig Spector. One of the few worthwhile things to come out of splatterpunk, as well as the most deranged, unpretentious, and refreshing vampire story I've ever read.

Unfortunately, both books are out of print. Guess I won't be giving them as gifts to anyone else....

Message #183 left by Stephen Couch on Feb 5, 2000 at 23:50

I was thinking--there are many books I love, but very few books I've ever given as gifts. It seems that pays an extra level of compliment to the book; not only do I like it, but I think the recipient would enjoy it, too. But there are only two books I've ever given to multiple people--presumably putting them at the top of my "really good books" list:

_Glimpses_ by Lewis Shiner. A must-read for music fans, and proof that good fantasy lit doesn't have to adhere to the standard, predictable trappings of the genre.

_The Light at the End_ by John Skipp & Craig Spector. One of the few worthwhile things to come out of splatterpunk, as well as the most deranged, unpretentious, and refreshing vampire story I've ever read.

Unfortunately, both books are out of print. Guess I won't be giving them as gifts to anyone else....

Message #182 left by Jeroen Koning (Netherlands) on Feb 4, 2000 at 8:23

Reaction to: Message #172 left by MWA Message #173 left by Lenora Rose

I was ill for a period and only remembered to check the site today.

I was looking for the title and/or author of a book by an Italian writer, in which a duel takes an important place. Situated in a village. Remember it as an impressive book - but can't remember more details. Would love to read it again (and remember).

Only those extra facts I could think of: The book would rank as Historical Fiction, memories of what happened in the 1st person's (a woman?) family and village, situated in the 20st century. About 200/300 pages?

Promise to check quite soon this time! Thanks! Jeroen

Message #181 left by Lenora Rose on Jan 29, 2000 at 2:24

Maren: I plan to. But I've heard a couple of good reviews of Ender's Shadow, and nothing much about the other two. Thanks for all opinions, anyhow.

Message #180 left by Maren Henry on Jan 27, 2000 at 1:38

Don't forget to read Ender's Shadow, which just came out this fall and follows Bean from the original Ender's Game. I enjoyed Ender's Shadow more than either Xenocide or Children.

Message #179 left by Tim on Jan 26, 2000 at 18:29

Card acknowledges that Xenocide and Children are "talky"; at one point (I think) he considered doing another book following Children, concerning a character other than Ender, but decided not to because it would be more of the same, "nothing but people sitting around and talking."

That said, I read them both, and enjoyed them.

Message #178 left by Tom Williams on Jan 26, 2000 at 7:21

Xenocide: not as good, more philosophical. Children of the Mind: less good again, less action and even more philosophical.

But someone else might disagree for the same reasons.

Message #177 left by Lenora Rose on Jan 26, 2000 at 1:51

Finished Speaker for the Dead about 5 in the afternoon yesterday - having not yet showered, done anything more useful than cooking French Onion soup, or set the book down since I crawled out of bed for longer than it takes to chop onions or grate cheese. And not having breathed for about an hour straight towards the end.

Now, a question: I know they'll be a let-down after the first two, just by the sheer fact that nobody can keep that pace up, and that I've heard a lot less about them, but are Xenocide and Children of the Mind good, better than good, or weak? In other words, should I keep going? The library, which seems not to have Ender's Game at all (This after visits to three different branches in the city), definitely has those two.

Message #176 left by Karina on Jan 23, 2000 at 16:38

I bought myself a used copy of The Art of Michael Whelan the other day. Actually, it wasn't that easy, but my local bookstore was a great help. They helped me find a place nearby that actually had a copy in good condition, bargained, ordered and shipped it for me. I paid a lot of money for this book--maybe too much, but I'd do it again in an instant. This book is absolutely wonderful! I was a Michael Whelan fan already, and was thoroughly impressed with his work, but some of the images in this book are beyond belief. I've spent hours studying it, reading the interviews, checking out his sketches and seeing how each piece developed. This man deserves every one of his Hugos.

I highly recommend this book to absolutely everyone. It's amazing.

Now all I wish is that I had the money to buy a print or two. Even a poster. Or (gasp) an original. Now if only I could win the lottery...

Message #175 left by Lenora on Jan 23, 2000 at 6:02

Just started, Tom. Granted, I only bought it on Wednesday.

Message #174 left by Tom Williams on Jan 19, 2000 at 21:54

Lenora, now read "Speaker for the Dead", which I believe is an even better book than "Ender's Game".

Message #173 left by Lenora Rose on Jan 19, 2000 at 15:43

Jeroen: that's a little too vague for me to have even half a guess. Italian, in a village, with a duel... Is there anything more at all you can come up with? Was it a recent or an oldie?

As for myself; the last two books I read were Ender's Game and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. In both cases, this is a rave review, and in the first case, an "about time!".

Odd, considering that I'm an Orson Scott Card fan, that I never read any of his most famous SF series till now - but there was a long time when, for some reason, I was avoiding any book with the words science fiction classic associated with it. Well, okay, I was avoiding crossing the line from Fantasy into SF in general, except in a few cases of authors who did both. I still haven't figured out why, although the names Hubbard and Heinlein might be part of it (Battlefield Earth got a raving AAAARGH! from my mom, and I tried and rejected Heinlein on my own). But I broke it over a year ago, meaning I finally got to sample things like Alfred Bester and the like. And now Ender Wiggin. Boy was I missing something.

Message #172 left by MWA on Jan 11, 2000 at 12:30

Is the story/novel SF or Magic Realism, Surrealism, Historical fiction?

The only Italian author I'm familiar with is Italo Calvino (and recently at that).

Message #171 left by Jeroen Koning on Jan 11, 2000 at 4:13

This time I'd like to ask ye others whether someone can help me with the title and/or author of a book by an Italian writer, in which a duel takes an important place. Situated in a village. Remember it as an impressive book - but can't remember more details. Would love to read it again (and remember). As for a positive contribution: "The Riddle of the Sands" (Erskine Childers) Thanks for digging into yer memories! Jeroen

Message #170 left by Greg Mays on Jan 10, 2000 at 1:29

Actually, the part of John's website that I referred to above is called The Basic Bookcase. (Free plug, John!)

Message #169 left by Greg Mays on Jan 9, 2000 at 1:20

I managed to get quite a bit of reading done in the last few weeks while visiting my folks over the holidays. So here's what I read:

_The Handmaid's Tale_ by Margaret Atwood. Well, it's been about fifteen years since this was written, so I think qualifies as a classic now. And anyone who says that it's not really SF is a mo-ron. IMHO.

_Norstrilia_ by Cordwainer Smith. There was something about the style and subject matter that just didn't click with me. Maybe too many cutsey mutants running around. Although, I imagine it was pretty original in 1960.

_Moonseed_ by Stephen Baxter. One of the few hard SF novels I've read where geology is the main science used. There's also some nanotech and string theory thrown in, too. Quite an original combination. I think there was one or two too many movielike disaster scenes in the book (buildings falling on people, etc.) but overall, I liked it.

_The Jehovah Contract_ by Victor Koman. A very irreverent little book. And very funny if you're not a fundie.

_The Anubis Gates_ by Tim Powers. Good quirky characters and clever time twists, but there seemed to be an awful lot of chasing and capturing and escaping going on. I always like some action, but when it's almost nonstop, it gets a little tiring. (I must be getting old.)

_Dying Inside_ by Robert Silverberg. Definitely a classic, IMO. I haven't read a psi power/telepathy novel this good since Bester's _The Demolished Man_. I'm gonna have to read more Silverberg.

_Way Station_ by Clifford Simak. One of the few Hugo winners I hadn't read. Kind of an old-fashioned story (in a good way). Thought I had the ending figured out early on, but I didn't. In fact, I thought the ending was pretty ballsy for early '60s SF.

_Winter's Tale_ by Mark Helprin. I was about a quarter of the way into this book on New Year's eve, and I must say I would have been royally pissed if the world had come to an end before I had a chance to finish it. Beautifully written. Probably deserves classic status, too.

I decided to read some of these books (five, I think) after checking out John Savage's must-read bookshelf over on his website, which I'm sure most of you know about. Thanks for the tips, John.


--Greg

Message #168 left by Lenora on Jan 6, 2000 at 17:27

However, in the Otherland book I read (Just the first so far), it DIDN'T take me almost 800 pages to find out why one character existed at all, and why she hadn't just been blended in with another character. Tad Williams made it clear each person had or would ahve a purpose the first time you saw them; maybe they didn't connect to the other characters yet, but you knew they would.

Message #167 left by Tom Williams on Jan 5, 2000 at 8:30

The Otherland series has the same jumps from scene to scene. I keep finding myself sneaking a look through the upcoming pages to try and follow the current storyline...it's like a soap opera, full of cliffhangers.

Message #166 left by Lenora Rose on Jan 5, 2000 at 4:13

On the subject, form before Christmas, of books that were good, but not great, and discussion thereof;

I recently had George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones thrust at me by a friend (And I mean thrust. I don't think I could have refused it). I don't disbelieve in epics if well done, though I don't like to have to open a gigantic tome of a book without knowing I'll like it; so much effort involved, and I usually plough through to the end of a book. And in this case, the settings were interesting, most of the pov characters were well-developed (some of the lesser ones were too caricatured or too little developed; but most either got killed off or promise to be developed more later), and all through the 800-page book, I was enjoying the various storylines, except for one frustration.

He never stayed with one plotline for more than about fifteen pages at a time. He switched between a total of seven points of view, and at one point in the book, those points of view were scattered between five different geographic locations. It seems to me this is a little much even for an epic? The number of geographic locations, considering that characters move about, isn't even that bad alone. But combined with the number of people whose eyes we're looking through, it seems like Mr. Martin should ahve been able to pare down at least one of them.

And the biggest frustration, I couldn't figure out, until the very last time we saw her, why one of the points of view (one of two sister characters) was there at all. Everything she saw or felt with the exception of her very last scene, could probably have been conveyed just as effectively (in the case of one key scene, MORE effectively) from either another point of view, or from a scene where she described the events after the fact to one of the other major characters. Nor was she ever, until the end, in a place where there was no other point-of-view character to carry the story. There was NO hint, until the very end, that she might be a necessary piece, or not following another point of view character meekly.

In fact, until the last two scenes with either of them, I couldn't figure out even why he had decided on two girls at all. The sisterly rivalry was too exaggerated even for some of his other carictures. Nor were their major traits ones that couldn't be blended. Sure, one likes swords and the other likes court pageantry, but until it became plain at the very end that the two girls would wind up in very different places from one another, and probably in the second book be doing very different things, I could not see any reason why they couldn't be the same person. It's not that big a leap from admiring the court Knights and the system of chivalry, and wanting to BE a knight. In the case of the character whose presence I couldn't figure out, it would certainly have added a lacking depth to her character.

So, I like the book. I'll probably willingly read the second when that gets shoved at me (And I know it will...) But the above flaws seemed to me to be ones people should watch out for; when your characters multiply too far, take a good hard look at them. And if their point of view is not necessary, don't show things from their point of view. if it is - let them do something early enough that it becomes obvious they are a necessary presence.

Message #165 left by Carlton Mellick III on Jan 5, 2000 at 1:42

Yeah, Animal Farm is great. Just the type of thing I like.

Right now, I'm reading Kathy Acker's "Blood and Guts in High School." It's quite interesting, but pretty twisted. So far it's about a breakup between a girl and her father who has been her boyfriend since her mother died. However, it's not as twisted as the last book I read. Doug Rice's "A Good Cuntboy is Hard to Find" from Cyber Psychos Press, is about a little boy whose mother dresses him up like a girl to prostitute him to foreigners in the basement. Both of these are harsh, but worth reading.

Message #164 left by Laura Jane on Jan 4, 2000 at 16:40

My favorite book of ALL time is George Orwell's Animal Farm (1984 was good also but I LOVE animal farm) It's a wonderful book so read it!!!!! :)

Message #163 left by Tom Williams on Jan 4, 2000 at 2:22

I haven't finished the second book yet, but you have a good point. The man *does* have a habit of creating a tv-serial type cliffhanger. He even apologises for it in the intro to book 2. Perhaps he does it again. Maybe you need to wait until the series is finished, then read it in one hit.

Message #162 left by Karina on Jan 4, 2000 at 0:26

Tom: Is it worth reading? I read the first one, Otherland: City of Golden Shadow, which I believe I discussed somewhere earlier, and though I enjoyed it I left feeling dissatisfied because it just ended. I didn't enjoy reading all of that and then just having the book stop, as if there should be another chapter after it and someone just forgot to put it there. If, however, the other books are worth reading, maybe I'll just have to put my irritation behind me and go to the bookstore...

Message #161 left by Tom Williams on Jan 3, 2000 at 23:44

I've been reading Tad Williams' (no relation) River of Blue Fire, the follow-up to Land of Golden Shadow in the Otherland series.

This is a big, big project. If he pulls it off, it's gonna be the series of the decade (which Wheel of time looked like being, until it started to drag and drag).

Message #160 left by DaveK on Dec 22, 1999 at 9:25

Terry: such things in your msg#159 only go to show it's not what you know, but who. More and more, it seems to me that if you scratch beneath the surface, one finds a connection of some sort. It's one of the few explanations that refuses to go away. Otherwise why aren't some of the better writers being published?

Message #159 left by Terry on Dec 22, 1999 at 9:17

Maybe Kent could re-name this one. There's lots of good info in this topic.

What stimulated this question was that I got hold of Tim Powers' Expiration Date. (99c in a bargain bin). I don't usually read fantasy, but this was cheap & looked interesting, so I read it. It is fantastic, all right, in the genre meaning. I enjoyed it (I'd give it a 7.5 out of 10). But what *really* struck me was how much he got away with that I spend my *life* trying to hammer out of *my* writing!!! And this was a Tor hardcover novel!

1. Endless examples of "was running," "was watching," you know, all those "was" passive things that could better be changed to "he ran," "he watched," etc. My local writer's group would hand me my head on a platter if I did this! Does Tor employ editors?

2. At least 3 -ly adverbs *per page*!!! Plenty 'o' Tom Swifties, too, which are hard to avoid, I guess, if you're going to depend so much on adverbs.

Maybe those points wouldn't bother a non-writer reader, but they bugged the heck out of me because I work so hard to vanquish them in my own writing. Once again, one is left to scratch one's head in bafflement. It was a fair-to-good book, very eventful, but IMHO, my books are just as page-turny and they *don't* sport an adverb and a passive verb every other sentence. She was saying brightly.

Message #158 left by postlboi on Dec 22, 1999 at 2:36

karina: you're right about the length of her novels, it has to take time to write that much. and, add to that, it's almost as good as some of stephen king's better novels, and we all know it takes him a while to put out any good work, even though he has been putting them out pretty quick recently.

i think that karina's got a point. maybe we should put in for a new topic area or whatever.

Message #157 left by Jason on Dec 20, 1999 at 17:50

Really good books.... hmmmm... (Hope they don't have to be contemporary)

Most novels by Heinlein On the Beach, Nevil Shute (sp?) Alas, Babylon, Pat Frank Airframe, Michael Crichton The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell The Monkey Wrench Gang, Edward Abbey Sexing the Cherry, Jeanette Winterson Most novels of Arthur C. Clarke David Drake's military SF (Hammer's Slammers, etc.)

many, many, more...

Message #156 left by Karina on Dec 19, 1999 at 18:05

Postlboi: Well, This Alien Shore is new in paperback, anyway. No word on a sequel yet, but then C.S. Friedman isn't the fastest of writers. Maybe that has something to do with the length of her books....

As for the good book/okay book/etc. discussion, I realized a few months after the creation of this topic that what we needed was probably not topics for good books and bad books, but rather a topic where we can discuss books that we're currently reading and what we think of them, good, bad or somewhere in between. And some people have been saying that the RM is too big anyway. Should we create a new topic and send the current book topics to the archives?

Message #155 left by DaveK on Dec 19, 1999 at 10:18

Since the title of this topic isn't "Great Books," I don't see why less than perfect books can't be discussed here. Besides, not everyone agrees with what constitutes a great book. Some of the books I've seen hailed as great, which I've also read, certainly failed to bowl me over or earn that degree from me. On the other hand, some books that others might feel are trash have been great in my personal opinion. Then again, if we didn't have differences of opinion, why bother writing any new books once a truly great one is written?

Message #154 left by Terry on Dec 19, 1999 at 9:43

Hi Jay Arr, I guess I was wishing for something more like "Book Discussion." "Mediocre" is sorta damning with faint praise, and unless a book's *really* bad (when it would go to the Bad Books topic), I prolly wouldn't be interested in talking about it. But I often find a book with interesting elements, or that's entertaining, that I wouldn't call "Great."

Message #153 left by Jay Arr on Dec 19, 1999 at 4:29

Terry, we have a topic for Great Books and a topic for Bad Books (or used to have). So why not a topic for Mediocre Books?

The Gunslinger Series: Like most of King's work, it has its merits. But I'd love to see it abridged to about 35% of the length it is now. Roland is a much more interesting character when we don't know quite so much about him. In fact, there's one entire 500-page sequence on Roland's past I'd like to cut from one volume. Still, it has had some interesting moments.

Message #152 left by Postlboi on Dec 19, 1999 at 1:20

Terry: i think that we should have a site just about "OK" books, etc. that's a very good idea.

Message #151 left by Postlboi on Dec 19, 1999 at 1:17

Karina: i'm not sure that "this alien shore" is new, but is was good, wasn't it? have you heard anything about a sequel? just curious... soooo....anybody out there like King's "Dark Tower" series? very highly suggested by me, except i think that the second one should be read first, then the first and the rest in order.

Message #150 left by Terry on Dec 18, 1999 at 22:39

OK, looking again at the Intro way up at the top of this topic--what *about* the Just OK books* or the ones you just liked, or that you're reading right now & have questions about? Or just ones you want to discuss with others? Should we start a new topic for that?

Message #149 left by M. W. Anderson on Dec 3, 1999 at 20:31

Lenora Rose said she was in love with a book--it's been awhile, but the last book I felt that way about was Irving's "A Prayer For Owen Meany". Other all time fav's:

Straub: Ghost Story, Shadowland, Koko

King: The Green Mile, The Shining

Barker: The Great and Secret Show, Everville

Orwell: 1984

Uris: Trinity

Herbert: Dune

Message #148 left by Gregory Koster on Nov 30, 1999 at 9:26

Two books I've recently reread on the practice of writing:

HOW TO WRITE by Richard Rhodes. This is a look at the tactics he has used in his own career, which includes THE MAKING OF THE ATOMIC BOMB.

ON WRITING by George V. Higgins. Gee, now I don't need to write a book on how to write, since Mr. Higgins notions and mine couldn't match more closely. There is someone out there who admires John O'Hara's short stories.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #147 left by Frank T on Nov 24, 1999 at 11:49

I've got a Brandywine Books hardcover signed copy of Jack Vance's "Rhialto the Marvelous," and I only paid $2.99 for it at the local Waldenbooks. The book was sealed in its slipcase, brand new -- how they got it, and why they let it go for three bucks, is a happy mystery to me.

By the way, I did point out to the clerk as I purchased the book that the price marked was certainly wrong. "No, it's right," she said. "We've been trying to get rid of it."

I was happy to help them out. I had no idea it was signed until I opened it up (though I knew Brandywine offered a lot of signed first editions) Vance has always been a favorite of mine, and having a signed clothbound Brandywine Books edition fall out of the sky was great fun.

Message #146 left by Naomi Kritzer on Nov 24, 1999 at 11:19

The Pink Motel! *nostalgic sigh*. How could they let that book go out of print?

Message #145 left by Terry on Nov 24, 1999 at 11:04

Kelly, if you're not too particular about a book's condition, you might try small-town jumble shops. I'd been searching for a childhood favorite, The Pink Motel, for years, when I had to attend a meeting in a small town miles from home. During lunch I wandered downtown to their JCC Auxiliary Club's jumble shop, wandered to the book shelf, and gues what: There it was, big as life! I think it cost me 25 cents. Now I never miss a chance to check out a little second-hand store. I've found a couple of other treats that way, too.

Message #144 left by Dionys Murphy on Nov 24, 1999 at 1:48

Let me know if Powells has it and I'll pick it up and mail it to ya if it's cheaper than Powell's will charge.. Powells is in my town (Portland, Oregon) and does have quite a few out of print and difficult to find books. I found a copy of Tolkein's Tree and Leaf for $7 in perfect condition. A great read on writing and beautifully done book. How could they not know what they had? How can I complain? :)

Dionys

Message #143 left by Gregory Koster on Nov 22, 1999 at 19:40

For Kelly: the best out of print book search engine I have found is : www.bookfinders.com. This searches several of the out of print search engines (bibliofind, powells, antiqbooks, and ABE) at once. Tried searching it for you, and came up empty. Also could not find it in MELVYL, the union catalog of all the University of California libraries. Gee, this is a tough one. If you absolutely must have it, try bookfinders from time to time. If a photocopy would do, get in touch with your local library and see if they can do an interlibrary loan. Better hurry though: many libraries shut down their interlibrary loan departments during christmas because of the heavy volume of mail (mine shuts down on 3 December.) Good luck!

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #142 left by DaveK on Nov 22, 1999 at 15:20

Powells listed on P&E and Anotherealm is supposed to carry used and out of print books.

Message #141 left by Naomi on Nov 22, 1999 at 13:41

A good source for finding out-of-print books is usually Bibliofind (http://www.bibliofind.com), but I just checked and they don't have it. I also searched on Altavista and found -- of all things -- a college library that seems to have it in their collection, at http://www.endicott.edu/test/academic/children.html. They're in Beverly, MA; if you're close by, maybe you could go to their library and photocopy the book, if nothing else.

Message #140 left by Maren Henry on Nov 21, 1999 at 23:48

Kelly: you could try doing an out-of-print book search. Go to www.borders.com and click on "Harvest Booksearch." You tell them the book you're looking for, they check used bookstores until they find it. Should take about three days.

Message #139 left by Kelly on Nov 21, 1999 at 19:37

This may not be the most perfect forum for this, but, my absolute all time favorite book is "The Gruesome Green Witch" by Patricia Coffin. I read it in (yikes!) second grade.

Now, my fond memories are (assuredly) skewed by age, but it's a treat. It's written in GREEN ink, and it's about two kids who find a "leafy, ferny tunnel" in the back of a closet...

I've been trying to FIND this book for YEARS. I've checked every on-line book store, had it traced, etc. If anyone has a copy of this book.... I'd love to make a deal...!

Message #138 left by Karina on Nov 21, 1999 at 17:10

A few weeks ago I read C.S. Friedman's new book, "This Alien Shore," and absolutely loved it. As long as it was, I was still sad when it ended and wished that there was just a little bit more.... Though I've loved all of her other books, this one is by far my favorite.

Message #137 left by Maren Henry on Nov 21, 1999 at 2:31

I greatly enjoyed Gregory Maguire's novel, Wicked, about the life story of the misunderstood, so-called wicked witch of the west. Now tomorrow I get to pick up his new book--the story of the equally misunderstood stepsister to Cinderella. Can't wait!

Message #136 left by Lenora on Nov 18, 1999 at 4:46

Noticed something odd about Pamela Dean's book I raved about above. On Amazon, almost everyone gave it either 5 stars... or 1. NO middle ground. Very odd.

Message #135 left by S.N.Arly on Nov 14, 1999 at 23:10

Like Barry (waaay back in August) I have just read the first Harry Potter book after being nagged to do so for... well. Probably since it first came out in the UK. I liked it enough to order the next two via our friends at Amazon. As a writer, sure there are things that I'd chjange. As a reader, I enjoyed it and wish I could skip work tomorrow to read the next two.

Some of my favorite books are: The Dark Half - Stephen King. How could any ambidextrous writer not love this thing.

Deryni Rising - Katherine Kurtz. I could never make so short a timespan into an entire novel without putting people to sleep.

Dragon Riders of Pern - Anne Mc Caffrey. I had to get interested in fantasy somewhere along the way, didn't I?

Message #134 left by Joe Shosty on Nov 13, 1999 at 3:27

Ten best books I've read this year. I'd easily recommend any of them.

1. Slay and Rescue by John Moore 2. Night of the Ripper by Robert Bloch 3. Gun, With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem 4. Shakespeare's Planet by Clifford D. Simak 5. Belwether by Connie Willis 6. Replay by Ken Grimwood 7. The Productions of Time by John Brunner 8. The Eclipse of Dawn by Gordon Ecklund 9. The Devil's Game by Poul Anderson 10. For Texas and Zed by Zach Hughes

And yes the last one is a sf novel. It just doesn't sound like it. Most of these are old, and you'll probably have to go to a used bookstore to find them.

Message #133 left by DaveK on Nov 10, 1999 at 12:05

Me? Help a competitor? ;)

Message #132 left by Lenora Rose on Nov 10, 1999 at 4:40

Dave: someone buying one of Terry's won't make you happy for HER, then?

Message #131 left by DaveK on Nov 9, 1999 at 19:35

Remember, some of our books are electronic. That means no customs fees! No shipping and handling! No tax! Speedy delivery! No trees killed! A smile on my face! Oh, uh, only if you buy one or more of mine, that is. ;)

Message #130 left by Lenora Rose on Nov 9, 1999 at 17:40

They could also read our books... :>

Message #129 left by Terry on Nov 7, 1999 at 20:52

Um, pardon me, but how is a person who lives on the other side of the planet supposed to find out about American social mores? Oh--I know! They can participate in the Rumor Mill! Yeah! That will give them a good idea of what's Normal here! (wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more)

Message #128 left by Lenora on Nov 6, 1999 at 2:06

While Pamela Dean is a Minnesotan, I'm a Canadian. And I've got a really great mom.

Message #127 left by Mary on Nov 5, 1999 at 18:20

Yes, some people will speak of "parenting" around here. Other people will break out in hives at the expression.

(And people who get their idea of the US from TV and movies deserve what they get. :)

Message #126 left by Tom Williams on Nov 4, 1999 at 21:54

That's funny. Having seen so many American movies/tv series where the parents are never around, I thought that's how you were parented (is that a word?) over there.

Message #125 left by Lenora Rose on Nov 4, 1999 at 15:06

I mentioned this one in the Cliches topic, because somebody was grumbling about Good vs. Evil.

Okay, let's put it this way. a reason that I didn't mention why I didn't write yesterday was because I couldn't possibly write a word with the ending of Juniper, Gentian and Rosemary (Pamela Dean, whose Tam Lin is another of my faves.)still to read. And despite one major quibble with the end (That aware and through-the-rest-of-the-book responsible parents left a fourteen year old girl to deal with one very huge problem for a very long time without intervening; their justifications afterwards mostly ring true, however.), I was just as blown away as I thought.

I don't know if anyone else would be. Pamela Dean writes her novels with a creeping pace (that inevitably pounces right at the end; think stalking cat. It only *seems* not to be moving), and with so many layers of literary allusions and emotional complication that some people get tired or bored of trying to work their way through. I haven't yet; I find that I get so caught up in the language and in the layers that I come out of her books in a weird state of happy exhaustion. I wish I could write that deeply.

Despite its flaws, I'm in love with a book again...

Message #124 left by Greg Mays on Nov 4, 1999 at 2:34

Thanks for the suggestions, everybody. I've only read a couple of Sturgeon's stories and definitely should read more. I haven't read any of F. M. Busby's books yet, and _Cage a Man_ is quite short, so I shouldn't have any problem fitting that in. Several years back, when I was reading a lot of Frederik Pohl's old stuff, I looked around for _The Space Merchants_ but wasn't able to find it, so I'll definitely read that, too. Haven't read any Hal Clement either, and I know I have _Mission of Gravity_ in an unread pile somewhere, so I may read it along with _Close to Critical_. Everybody seems to think that _To Kill a Mockingbird_ is a must read, and since I usually try to mix in a little mainstream/slipstream with my SF/F reading, I imagine I'll get around to reading it along with _Steppenwolf_. About the only thing I know about _On the Beach_ is that it was made into a movie in 1959, starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner, but I'm pretty sure I never saw it. Maybe after reading _To Kill a Mockingbird_ and _On the Beach_, I can go out and rent the movies and have a Gregory Peck movie-fest. Maybe throw in "Moby Dick" too (another classic I have yet to read). Didn't Ray Bradbury write the screenplay for "Moby Dick"? I think so.

Anyway, all the books you all suggested are fairly short, so I'm sure I'll be able to squeeze them in. Trying to keep up with all the new books, while catching up on all the old books and trying to write.... Well, I'm sure all of you are aware this pesky thing called time.

Thanks again,

Greg

Message #123 left by Gregory Koster on Nov 3, 1999 at 20:00

Greg, I would go with SPACE MERCHANTS first, then CLOSE TO CRITICAL, then ON THE BEACH. After that it's about even. Considering you haven't read any of them, you have remarkably good taste. And you got a hell of a bargain.

Best Regards Gregory Koster

Message #122 left by Tom Williams on Nov 3, 1999 at 8:34

On the Beach is an Australian classic (the science is probably a little dated, but the characterisation is the key.)

To Kill a Mockingbird is an American classic (for the same reasons). I think you've got a bargain with just those two. Start reading, man.

Message #121 left by DaveK on Nov 2, 1999 at 14:50

Out of all those, I read only The Space Merchants. I recall that I truly enjoyed it.

Message #120 left by Jay Arr on Nov 2, 1999 at 9:51

Greg, you have to read Busby's *Cage A Man.* It's not only a great read, but there are some concepts in there that are highly thought-provoking and may cause you to take your own writing in new directions. Hesse's *Steppenwolf* is wonderful, like a waking dream. And of course, *To Kill a Mockingbird* is one of my all-time favorites. Some of the others that I've read were good, but these are three that I'd recommend wholeheartedly. Haven't read *Case and the Dreamer,* but Sturgeon wrote it; therefore, I would definitely read it.

Message #119 left by Tim on Nov 2, 1999 at 8:51

Greg,

Case and the Dreamer is a great book; "When You Care, When You Love" is one of my favorite Sturgeon stories.

Message #118 left by Greg Mays on Nov 2, 1999 at 1:53

The local library recently had a three-day book sale, and they finish up with "dollar-a-bag" day: you fill up a big grocery bag full of whatever books they haven't sold yet for one dollar. Well, I couldn't pass that up. What I'm going to do here is list the books I got--there's 25 of them--and ask for opinions on what's worth reading, because I may not get around to reading all of them. So here goes, in no particular order:

1) _Gilgamesh the King_ by Robert Silverberg (pb) 2) _Shockwave Rider_ by John Brunner (pb) 3) _Homeward and Beyond_ by Poul Anderson (pb,c) 4) _Mirkheim_ by Poul Anderson (pb) 5) _Oaths and Miracles_ by Nancy Kress (pb) 6) _Close to Critical_ by Hal Clement (pb) 7) _Cage a Man_ by F. M. Busby (pb) 8) _Phoenix without Ashes_ by Ed Bryant & Harlan Ellison (pb) 9) _The Space Merchants_ by Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth (pb) 10) _Fires of Eden_ by Dan Simmons (hc) 11) _Neanderthal_ by John Darnton (hc) 12) _Starfarers_ by Poul Anderson (hc) 13) _Case and the Dreamer_ by Theodore Sturgeon_ (hc) 14) _Land's End_ by Frederik Pohl & Jack Williamson 15) _Eye of Cat_ by Roger Zelazny (hc) 16) _The Devil's Day_ by James Blish (hc) 17) _Cradle of Splendor_ by Patricia Anthony (hc) 18) _Time Storm_ by Gordon R. Dickson (hc) 19) _Seven Steps to the Sun_ by Fred & Geoffrey Hoyle 20) _On the Beach_ by Nevil Shute (pb)

And a few "mainstream" books:

21) _To Kill a Mockingbird_ by Harper Lee (pb) 22) _War Year_ by Joe Haldeman (pb) 23) _Arc d'X_ by Steve Erickson (hc) 24) _Ironweed_ by William Kennedy (pb) 25) _Steppenwolf_ by Hermann Hesse (pb)

Jeez, that's a lot. But for four cents a piece...

Some of these books I know nothing about, some I know a little, and some are classics of a sort. So if anybody out there has a thumbs up (or down) for any of these that you've read, I'd appreciate the help in deciding what to read first. No need for any long detailed explanations (unless you want to). You could just refer to them by number, top five picks, or whatever.

Thanks,

Greg

Message #117 left by Greg Mays on Oct 8, 1999 at 21:57

Lenora: I checked in the library today, and they had both _Elsewhere_ and _NeverNever_, and I also noticed that _NeverNever_ was a sequel, but thanks for pointing that out. It also looks like all the stories in _The Essential Bordertown_ were written after _Finder_, so I may just read _Finder_ on it's own, and then if I want to read more about that "universe," I can pick up the other stories later.

Thanks, Greg

Message #116 left by Lenora Rose on Oct 8, 1999 at 15:26

Umm.. Oops. Nevernever is a sequel to Elsewhere; in that it DOES lose something for not reading the other first. If you don't want to go that far back just to read Finder, you DEFINITELY DON'T have to. I read NeverNever after Finder: all NeverNever gives you that Emma doesn't is a nice bit of, 'how we met' between her main character and Woof - er, WOLFboy.

Message #115 left by Greg Mays on Oct 8, 1999 at 3:22

Thanks, Lenora. I may go to the library again tomorrow (or today, actually) and see if they have any of those other titles. The only one I know they have for sure is _The Essential Bordertown_, but I might want to look at _NeverNever_ if it introduces one of the characters in _Finder_. I doubt if they have all those anthologies, though. And I doubt if I have time to read them all if they do.

Well, anyway, thanks again.

--Greg

Message #114 left by Lenora Rose on Oct 7, 1999 at 23:53

The first appearance of the Borderlands series was the Anthology _Borderland_. Then the antho _Bordertown_. Then Will Shetterly's novel _Elsewhere_ (he's Emma Bull's husband). Then the antho _Life on the Border_. Then Will Shetterly's NeverNever (Which took a couple of stories from the anthologies, rewrote them to vast improvement, and added a lot of new plot and connective tissue. It works better than it sounds. You also first meet Orient, the Finder, at the start of it). Then Emma's _Finder_, then the most recent antho _The Essential Bordertown_

I'd say Elsewhere and Finder, and the novella Mockery from Bordertown are my favourites so far. Haven't read the Essential Bordertown.

Message #113 left by Jeroen Koning on Oct 7, 1999 at 11:24

Jack Vance's tetralogy Tchai (City of the Chash, Under the Wankh, the Dirdir, the Pnume) must have been mentioned a lot. Extremely pictorial (I constantly saw paintings in my mind - above my painting skill), sharp whitted and vivace. Ranks as SF, but even SF haters must love this. Saw Vance mentioned next to Dickens and Mervyn Peake (Gormenghast, a MUST), and totally agree.

Message #112 left by Carlton Mellick III on Oct 6, 1999 at 14:26

I just read "The Song of Percival Peacock" by Russell Edson, Coffee House Press. He is a genius, I must say. If you like absurdism, go buy it. Very smart and hillarious book.

Message #111 left by Greg Mays on Oct 6, 1999 at 2:39

Thanks, Alec. I checked in the library yesterday, and they do have a book called _The Essential Bordertown_ (or something like that), which appears to be a collection of Borderlands stories. I might just check that out before I read _Finder_, but like you said, I'm sure I could enjoy _Finder_ on its own.

Message #110 left by Tom Williams on Oct 6, 1999 at 1:33

Anyone else read the Night's Dawn Trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton? Big, doorstop books full of big scope, space opera. "Big men with big guns" as one of the cover reviews says. Very entertaining.

Message #109 left by Alec Austin on Oct 5, 1999 at 2:51

Greg: I read Finder without having read any of the other Borderlands stories and enjoyed it immensely; as far as I can tell, there's really no great need to have a background in the other stories to appreciate it.

Message #108 left by Mary on Oct 4, 1999 at 19:51

Oops. I meant "without leaving the reader feeling cheated."

Message #107 left by Mary on Oct 4, 1999 at 19:49

I picked up Lois McMaster Bujold's *A Civil Campaign*. Good, though I will warn people who have read her stuff before that it's rather less focused than the earlier work.

Those of you who haven't read her stuff before probably ought to start with the beginning; it builds: *Shards of Honor*, *Barrayar*, *The Warrior's Apprentice*, *The Vor Game*, *Border of Infinity*, *Brothers in Arms*, *Mirror Dance*, *Cetaganda*, *Memory*, and *Komarr*. (Both *Mirror Dance* and *Memory* begin with such nasty painful scenes that I never reread those chapters--but once you get through, they too are good.)

While I have series on the mind, I'll throw a few more in (which I recommend reading in order).

Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydian are good children's fantasy: *The Book of Three*, *The Black Cauldron*, *The Castle of Llyr*, *Taran Wanderer* and *The High King*.

Dorothy Sayers's Lord Peter mysteries: *Whose Body?*, *Clouds of Witness*, *Unnatural Death*, *The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club*, *Strong Poison*, *Have His Carcase*, *Murder Must Advertise*, *Nine Tailors*, *Gaudy Night*, and *Busman's Honeymoon*.

Lewis Carroll's *Alice's Adventures in Wonderland* and *Through the Looking Glass* are great fun. Also, they are the only books that end "It was all a dream," with leaving the reader feeling cheated.

There. That ought to keep all of you busy for at least five or six minutes. 0:)

Message #106 left by Greg Mays on Oct 4, 1999 at 4:21

I took Lenora's advice and picked up Emma Bull's _Bone Dance_ at the library. She's a very good writer. In fact, I liked it so much I got another book of hers,_Finder_, at the local used-book store. I haven't gotten around to reading it yet, but I noticed in the front of the book it says that it's a novel of the Borderlands. Evidently, the Borderlands is a creation of Terri Windling and several other authors. A sort of "shared universe" (I guess).

So I have a question for Lenora (I'll assume she's our resident authority on Emma Bull): Would it be helpful to have read some or all of the other Borderlands stories before reading _Finder_, or is it pretty much a stand-alone novel? This is, of course, assuming (I make a lot of assumptions, don't I?) that you (Lenora) have read _Finder_. Or, if anyone else has read it, feel free to comment. I usually don't like reading a story or novel that makes a lot of references to earlier works that I haven't read.

Thanks.

--Greg

Message #105 left by doug lain on Sep 15, 1999 at 7:08

One of my favorite alternative history novels is Philip Roth's "the Ghostwriter." I've been reading more "lit" lately, and I'm noticing that the fantastic in literature is hardly relegated to SF circles. Or, more to the point, a lot of what is considered mainstream is actually just as Speculative as anything Michael Swanwick might write.

Doug Lain

Message #104 left by Mark Rapacioli on Sep 15, 1999 at 0:37

Wow.

I just read Nalo Hopkinson's Brown Girl in the Ring. It's been sitting in the study for six months now, and I finally picked it up today -- and finished reading it in one sitting. Once I got used to the Afro-Caribbean-Canadian dialect (which only took a few pages), I couldn't put this book down. Very exotic, very strange, very gripping.

(Yes, Mark read. Mark read really good. Mark read more. Read, Mark, read!)

Message #103 left by Greg Mays on Aug 24, 1999 at 22:03

Thanks for the suggestion, Terry. I found the ADL website, but haven't had a chance to really browse around there. It looks interesting (and big), but it seems like it would be kind of impersonal having their search engine suggest books to read. Think I might prefer talking to you folks about good books.

--Greg

Message #102 left by Terry on Aug 24, 1999 at 12:30

Rigel: Hooray! Another Delany fan! I **loved** Dahlgren--when I finally was able to read it. I tried to, several times over a year or so, and just couldn't get into it. I let it sit for a few months, and then, for who knows what reason, it did that Famous Sucking Thing--whoosh, it had me. I **adore** Delany.

Greg: The web site, Alexandria Digital Library,has a "similarities engine" where you fill out a questionnaire about stories & books You've read & liked, and which ones you haven't read, then they go compare your likes and unread stories/books with others' questionnaire responses, and come up with a list of books/stories you haven't read but might like. Can't remember the URL, but search on the site title and you'll get there.

Message #101 left by Lenora Rose on Aug 24, 1999 at 1:30

Greg: Gwyneth... hmm, yeah. I can see that. Good choice.I *Haven't* got a crush on her, but she's risen so quickly because, simply, she's actually talented. Unlike a certain Leonardo DiCaprio... (Personal opinion)

On the subject at hand, I just reread one of my old faves: _Green Grass, Running Water_, by Thomas King. And decided it was worth mentioning here. His dialogue is just amazing, considering that in most of it, neither character is actually listening to what the other person is saying. . .

Message #100 left by Lori on Aug 20, 1999 at 3:48

I *love* The Phantom Tollbooth. Got a place of honor on my bookshelf.

Message #99 left by Mary on Aug 19, 1999 at 20:15

Speaking of children's books for all ages: Norman Juster's *The Phantom Tollbooth*. A while back, I gave one of my cousins it for Christmas, and she took it with her when her family went visit their grandfather, and left it behind. She was upset, but her parents assured her that he would send it back to her.

Which he did, but it took a while, because he read it first.

Message #98 left by Barry on Aug 19, 1999 at 14:44

My Book Report Class: English Teacher: Mr. Savage Book: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, 309 pages. Author: J.K. Rowling


I really liked this book. It was about Harry Potter and his friends. When Harry starts to a new school he finds new friends, and a deep secret. He almost gets killed.

The end of my book report.


Okay, now I'll try to be serious. I loved this book, and it made me feel many years younger. I swear that it will take you back to where you were when you learned to love reading. I'll have trouble explaining this next part but that never stopped me from trying before. I haven't read a youth book like this since I started writing, and it pointed out (at least to me) several difficulties of this genre. First of all, how to keep your hero so innocent. Harry meets a girl, but she's almost one of the guys. Harry confronts evil but comes away unstained. Next, I would have trouble letting a child of Harry's age solve the mysteries and battle the antagonist, I'm sure I would have had the adults do everything while Harry watched. I now have the next one, and this time I plan to read it while the author in me isn't watching.

Message #97 left by Patrice on Aug 19, 1999 at 11:45

My favorite de Lint book was Yarrow, and after that Greenmantle. One of the things I like about de Lint is that he writes about people who are damaged, outsiders who have had it rough, and who are rough, but who nonetheless show courage, friendship, and loyalty. I know we are supposed to make things tough for our characters, but de Lint sort of breaks that rule. He makes things rough for them in their *past,* and then tends to give them happy endings. Like he just can't bear to hurt them anymore.

Most recently I've read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. A really good Stephen King novel. The only thing wrong with it is that the "horror" aspects feel tacked on. But in the main it is a really good yarn.

Message #96 left by Jon Hodges on Aug 19, 1999 at 0:05

I'm sure most everyone here has already read it, but I can't help but mention it. I read it for the first time about three or four years ago. This morning, on a strange tangent, I ran to Barnes & Nobles and bought a hardcopy so I could read it anew and again whenever I wanted.

The book in question: Inferno, by Dante. Like I said, I feel rather certain most of you have read it, but if anyone here hasn't . . . read it. It's spectacular.

Also, my favorite novel of all time: Grendel, by John Gardner. Was written in the seventies, I believe, and is a retake on the ancient, classic Beowulf, except from the monster's point of view instead of the hero's. It is a fantastic book with amazingly poetic, tight prose. Great novel, and I think I'll read it again after I finish re-reading Inferno.

Jon

Message #95 left by Greg Mays on Aug 18, 1999 at 22:19

Ack! I spelled Gwyneth's name wrong. I should know better than that. :)

Message #94 left by Greg Mays on Aug 18, 1999 at 22:08

Lenora: Actually, as I was reading the book, I had Gweneth Paltrow in mind for Jacky (I usually cast the characters in a book). In fact, I've been casting her a lot lately. Think I've got kind of a crush on her.

Another reason I think _Jack the Giant-Killer_ would make a good movie is its relative shortness in length (~215 p). A lot of good books don't translate well onto the screen because so much has to be left out in order to fit it into a two-hour movie. 215 pages would probably be about right. Of course, if CdL could write the screenplay, too. . .

--Greg

Message #93 left by Lenora Rose on Aug 18, 1999 at 3:11

I can't believe I didn't mention Terry Pratchett. I'll second that; my favourite choice to start the Discworld books is Small Gods, one of the most thoughtful and definitely one of the darker. Partly because it skewers not only religion but rabid atheism with it. And Greek Philosophers. And apparantly, it got him almost no hate mail. He got more from Wiccans when he made fun of elves.

Message #92 left by Lenora Rose on Aug 18, 1999 at 3:07

Apparantly, Charles has said that he dreads seeing any of his books go to Hollywood, seeing what happens to most films based on novels. However, he considered Jack the Giant-Killer one of two that would make good movies (if it survived the Hollywood committees). His wife suggested Drew Barrymore for Jacky, and he agreed.

(Aughh NO!)I must respectfully disagree with him.

Message #91 left by Micah on Aug 17, 1999 at 13:35

I also enjoyed Duane's young adult wizard series (there are three more, and the second, Deep Wizardry, is the best in my opinion!).

I also just finished the first two novels in Katya Reimann's Tielmaran Chronicles, Wind From a Foreign Sky and A Tremor in the Bitter Earth and found them both excellent... though I can't pin down why. I think it's because the magic for once isn't scientific, but derived from a pantheon. That's a switch from the current trend.

Message #90 left by Frank T on Aug 17, 1999 at 12:56

Ditto on Naomi's enthusiasm for Duane's "So You Want to be a Wizard." Great stuff!

Message #89 left by Naomi Kritzer on Aug 17, 1999 at 11:52

Just read "So You Want to Be a Wizard" by Diane Duane (re-read, actually, but I read it for the first time over ten years ago and had pretty much forgotten how it went). _Wonderful_ book. Not only because it's a great story, but because it describes so perfectly how the world _ought_ to work, in my mind.

Message #88 left by Greg Mays on Aug 17, 1999 at 4:10

Thanks, Lenora, for the suggestions on contemporary fantasy. I haven't read any of Emma Bull's books yet, but I'll keep an eye out for them at the library or the bookstore.

Finished reading _Trader_ by de Lint. It was pretty good, even though the premise has been done to death (the ol' body switcheroo). And I'm just about done with _Jack of Kinrowan_. Really liked _Jack the Giant Killer_. While I was reading it, I was thinking what a good movie it would make, especially with the computer animation they have now. All those trolls, brogans, gullywudes and Spriggans would come across much better than that Star Wars Ju Ju Bean, or whatever his name was. Do you suppose Spielberg or Lucas peruses the RM? Probably not. :)

Well, anyway, thanks again.

--Greg

Message #87 left by Mary on Aug 16, 1999 at 20:35

Sharon Shinn's *Archangel* Something new and different. We have a theocracy where the "miracles" are obviously advanced technology, and a fight between the iconoclasts and the theocrats--and the theocrats are the good guys.

Poul Anderson's *Operation Chaos* and Robert Heinlein's *Magic Incorporated* The two best books on the modern world with magic-technology.

Terry Pratchett His best book is not a Discworld novel but *Only You Save Mankind*. I don't know if it's available in the U.S., so you may have to find a friend who has a copy, or get one from the U.K. (It's a children's book, so check out that part of the bookstore.)

The Discworld books are also good. Be forewarned that the Discworld and the characterizations are not always consistent from book to book, and there may or may not be explanations for inconsistencies.

The series begins with two noticeably inferior books, *The Colour of Magic* and *The Light Fanastic*. I'd advise skipping them for one of the stand-alone books (*Pyramids*, *Small Gods*) or one that begins one of sub-series (*Mort*, the Death series; *Equal Rites*, the Witch series; or *Guards! Guards*, the Watch series). However, picking up one of the subseries in midbook shouldn't be too bad. (I'm guessing, since I started at the third and read on.)

Message #86 left by Lenora Rose on Aug 16, 1999 at 19:43

A couple of comics got missed;

Brian Talbot's _The Tale of One Bad Rat_ is amazing. I came damn close to not returning this to the friend who lent it to me. I also think that Paul Chadwick's _Concrete_ collections are very worth reading. Both of these are unusual in that neither is based on action, or adventure, or even the mythology and folklore that Gaiman and his followers have used. They're based on normal people, beautiful art, and highly intelligent stories. And a tiny taste of magic.

About Charles: I actually found _Someplace to Be Flying_ to be disappointing, in that his fictional city, Newford, is already so full of little secret magics that the apocalyptic powers weilded in that one story, already a bit much on their own, are a serious overdose. Not that it's bad, and I've liked his crow girls since I met them (In a comic story in Charles Vess' Book of Ballads and Sagas, collected as _Ballads_. Another comic recommendation, though best for those with an interest in the actual old british ballads.) My choices would be the Collections (_Dreams Underfoot_ and _Moonlight and Vines_), and _Jack of Kinrowan_.

Other good contemporary fantasy; Emma Bull's _War for the Oaks_, and _Bone Dance_. I vastly prefer the latter, although its slightly futuristic setting leads a lot of people to label it science fiction. Since the only technology we see is at our present level, and there's voodoo-like magic involved, I can't see how...

Jane Yolen is one of my favourite authors, period, and I think _Briar Rose_ is her best book by a wide gap. The odd thing is, it's not fantasy, although it's contemporary, and fantasy readers seem to love it.

Probably my favourite book of all time is still Susan Cooper's _Seaward_.

I dare not underline the titles for fear of summoning the underline sprites again...

Message #85 left by Alan on Aug 6, 1999 at 9:17

Cooking with Liquors. I ate the whole book.

Message #84 left by John Shanahan on Aug 6, 1999 at 8:41

Not a book per se, but one of the best literary listens I've had in a while is the funky little collection I found at the local library. "Dimension X" was a radio series in the 1950s dramatizing SF shorts. "ADVENTURES IN TIME AND SPACE," the announcer tells us over organ and Theremin, "TRANSCRIBED IN FUTURE TENSE! " (dramatic music burst) And then, with an almost obscuring echo over the voice: "Dimension X..X..x..x.."

Hysterically wonderful--I laughed out loud when I heard about the "Martian Deathmarch of 1997."

For the books I've read lately, by the way, go to my website.

Message #83 left by Rick Brooks on Aug 1, 1999 at 2:51

Jay: Unfortunately, Gambit turns out to be a hired killer. But he spares the hero. I gather that we will learn why in the next book.

I get a lot of comics from Mike Robertson, PO Box 372, Maple Valley, WA 98038. home page:www.a1.com/sfbooks/robertson.html

Many at 25 or 50 cents each. And some pulp magazines for you poor deprived sorts that are too young to have read any.

I've done businees with Mike for years and recommend him.

Alec: Thanks for the comics listing. Ordered one of THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN from AnotherUniverse.Com, but it's on back order.

Liked YOUNG HEROS IN LOVE, a gentle and sexy spoof of superheros. Read the first issue, and Off-Ramp inspired nearly 1000 words of the start of a story.

Rick

Message #82 left by DaveK on Jul 29, 1999 at 7:28

Yes, it depends upon your browser. I use several because I have accounts with different servers. Consequently, I generally get to see pages in three different browsers. They do differ.

Message #81 left by Lori on Jul 29, 1999 at 1:45

I'm sure this belongs in the computer topic, but it's so relevant here--I'm like Alec. Goofs in formatting don't last past the post. Why is that? Browser stuff?

Message #80 left by Alec Austin on Jul 28, 1999 at 22:33

I'm sorry about the problem with the underlining, people, but on my browser it ended at the end of my post. Serves me right for trying to get the names of every comic book I like in the right format for a book title, I suppose.

And to keep on topic, I concur with Mary's recommendation of One for the Morning Glory. Great book.

  • Alec crosses his fingers and hopes that the underline demons won't get him again.*

Message #79 left by Mary on Jul 28, 1999 at 19:05

  • One for the Morning Glory* by John Barnes. It's the only book of his that I can stand, but it's glorious.

Message #78 left by Anonymous on Jul 28, 1999 at 10:56

Hey, I think it's gone.

Message #77 left by Anonymous on Jul 28, 1999 at 10:56

I though the first one was Harry Potter and the Underlining That Wouldn't Die

Message #76 left by Barry on Jul 28, 1999 at 10:14

Thank you. I'm going to give it a try.

Message #75 left by John Savage on Jul 28, 1999 at 10:08

The first one is Harry Potter and the Philosopher's [Sorceror's] Stone

(Scholastic, for some unknown reason, changed the title from British to US edition.)

The second one is Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

The third one is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Akbaijan (I think I have that spelling right)

Message #74 left by Barry on Jul 27, 1999 at 11:14

What is the title of Harry Potter's first book? It's kind of difficult to tell these things at Amazon.

Message #73 left by Anonymous on Jul 27, 1999 at 11:08

?

Message #72 left by Karina on Jul 27, 1999 at 10:56

Underlines OFF!

Message #71 left by Alec Austin on Jul 27, 1999 at 5:40

Frack! And I thought I'd gotten all the tags right, too...

  • grumble grumble grumble*

Message #70 left by Alec Austin on Jul 27, 1999 at 5:38

No, Jay Arr, the renaissance in comics is not over. You just have to know what to look for.

You mentioned Kurt Busiek's Astro City, which remains one of the best superhero comics in the field, along with Warren Ellis' The Authority, and Alan Moore's new projects under his America's Best Comics imprint (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Tom Strong, Promethea, and Top Ten). All of these are great comics; they're illustrated with beautiful art and written by creators who are very aware of the history of the genre they're dealing with.

Alan Moore's work, especially, is written with full knowledge of the history of SF and the genre: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is written with the characters and sensibilities of the fiction of Wells, Verne, and Stoker, while Tom Strong hearkens back to the pulp heroes of the 1920s and 30s. If you're willing to put aside any prejudices you may have about reading comics, there are a whole lot of good books out there; hell, there are GREAT books out there, being published on a monthly basis.

So, for the record, I present-


Alec's Recommended Reading List:

If you haven't read Neil Gaiman's Sandman or Death: the high cost of living yet, you need to. They're all in trade Paperback.

Transmetropolitan, by Warren Ellis (DC/Vertigo)- The only survivor of DC's ill-fated SF comic imprint, Helix (and deservedly so). Imagine a mix between the visions of Phillip K. Dick and Hunter S. Thompson. Vicious and funny. The first twelve issues are collected in two Trade Paperbacks, Back on the Streets for issues 1-3, and Lust for Life for issues 4-12, while the comic continues to be published.

All the Alan Moore Titles listed above, and Watchmen and V for Vendetta, also by Moore, if you haven't read them already. Watchmen and V should be available in Trade Paperback at your local Borders.

Astro City is available in TPBs too, but those are probably more likely to be found in a local comic book store. Continuing.

For those interested in horror or goth, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Squee! by Jhonen Vasquez are very amusing. If you have to pick between the two, pick up Squee! in trade paperback; it has most of the funniest stuff in it. Something in less cute and more profane and violent vein is Garth Ennis' Preacher. Only Preacher is still a continuing series, sadly.

In any case, I'll stop ranting now. 90%-95% of all comics out there are crap (particularly the mainstream DC and Marvel stuff- ewww...), but that doesn't mean that good comics are dead. Not by a long shot.

Message #69 left by Jay Arr on Jul 27, 1999 at 2:18

Rick: Any book that mentions Gambit goes right to the top of our reading list. Ray Bradbury used to get a lot of his reading material from the children's section of the library. I guess I'm going to have to check out this Harry Potter, as I've heard so many strong reccommendations I can't ignore them.

I just bought about 200 comic books and that's all I've been reading lately, except for articles on the web. I can strongly reccommend Astro City # 1 and the first few issues of Starman. Unfortunately, I picked up a lot of Image comics in the deal. The company logo should be "By idiots for idiots." All the super-heroines have the same special ability: to magically cause their breasts to defy gravity. *sigh*

Comic books went through a wonderful period of heightened creativity in the eighties and early nineties when they were providing some of the best storytelling and art in the world. I suspect that age is over. *sigh*

Message #68 left by Greg Mays on Jul 27, 1999 at 1:30

Thanks, Karina. I stopped by the library today to check out which Charles de Lint books they had and saw that they had a copy of _Memory and Dream_, so I imagine I'll be reading that before too long. I'm pretty sure I saw a copy of _Jack of Kinrowan_ at a local used bookstore about a week ago, so I may get that, too, if it's still there when I go back.

When I was at the library, I noticed they had John Crowley's _Aegypt_ which I'm sure wasn't there the last time I checked (not even listed). Has anyone read it? As I mentioned in the above post, I recently read _Little, Big_, and I also read _Engine Summer_ a long, long time ago before I really knew how to appreciate good writing. I've heard _Aegypt_ mentioned in various places, but don't recall if anyone really liked it or not.

Well, anyway, thanks again, Karina.

--Greg

Message #67 left by Karina on Jul 26, 1999 at 11:35

Greg, I read Someplace to be Flying a couple of months ago and agree with you completely. It was a wonderful book.

Charles de Lint is actually one of my favorite authors. _Trader_ is good, but not as good as some of his others, I think. My personal favorite is _Memory and Dream_ which was the first de Lint book I ever read. I think that it's by far his best, though I'm certain some would argue with me.

Also well worth the read are his short story collections, _Dreams Underfoot_ and _The Ivory and the Horn_. There's also a new one out with a title that's something-or-other and Vines (sorry, can't remember) which I've yet to find in paperback. Hopefully I can get that one soon.

Other de Lint books I've really enjoyed were _Jack the Giant Killer_ and _Drink Down the Moon_ which Tor re-issued together as _Jack of Kinrowan_. Both of these take place in Ottawa, and draw on a lot more of the "traditonal" fantasy elements, such as elves and other beings from Faerie. Of course, these things are done with a particularly de Lint slant, such as a faceless biker gang riding down Ottawa's streets on a Wild Hunt.

Message #66 left by Greg Mays on Jul 26, 1999 at 3:47

I finished reading _Someplace to be Flying_ by Charles de Lint a few days ago. An excellent book.

Usually my reading habits tend toward hard science fiction, but in the last few months, I've developed a taste for contemporary/urban fantasy after reading _Fool on the Hill_ by Matt Ruff (a really fun book) and _Little, Big_ by John Crowley (beautifully written). _Someplace to be Flying_ is the first book by Charles de Lint that I've read, but I liked it so much I went out and got _Trader_ (by de Lint) and have just started reading it. Looks like it'll be good, too.

I was wondering if anybody out there has any suggestions on other contemporary/urban fantasy books, kind of like: "If you enjoyed _Someplace to be Flying_, then you'll probably like _____."

I was thinking primarily of other Charles de Lint books, but if you have any suggestions on books by other writers, I'd be interested in hearing about them, too.

Thanks, Greg

Message #65 left by Rick Brooks on Jul 26, 1999 at 2:28

My apologies. It was the July 23rd Chicago TRIBUNE with the Harry Potter article.

Rick

Message #64 left by Rick Brooks on Jul 26, 1999 at 2:26

Dear Alec, et. al.:

Andre Norton writes that there will be a sequel to SHADOW OF ALBION. I thought there were too many loose ends.

I liked the echoes of the Man From UNCLE in the book. I was soaking in the bathtub reading (I've had arthritis 34 years and a hot soak is the best medicine that I've found) and Icracked up when the hero's partner Illya came thru the window.

Suddenly the part of going thru the booth in the taylor shop and the hero's boss whose name began with M fit in.

also references to the Saint, Gambit of the X Men, Hecule Poirot, and Dracula.

A well-paced story with the gentle spoof of spy novels that I loved in the Man From Uncle.

Harry Potter is great fun. I love Ron's father who is always impressed by the ingenius methods Muggles (read non-magical folk) use to do things without magic.

My sister brought home the Tempo section (Section 5) of the Chicago TRIBUNE. Pages 1 and 3 contain an article on the books and the craze among kids. Including one Allie Brudney who calls herself "Harriet Potter" or Harry for short, and rides a broomstick around the neighborhood. She is having a Harry Potter birthday party for her 10th birthday.

The third book is out in England and topped HANNIBAL on the best seller list. The GUARDIAN headlined, "Hannibal Eaten for Breakfast by 13 Year Old."

I think the best part is how JK Rowling has thought out her technology of magic. I do find it hard to believe that Harry keeps going back to his very disfunctional Muggle family.

It seems like author uses this for comic relief.

It is a pity when juveniles feature more reliable story telling than most adult books. Getting so I automatically ignore Hugo and Nebula winners.

Rick


Message #63 left by Mark H. on Jul 18, 1999 at 22:02


I finished The Passion by Jeannette Winterson a couple of days ago. For me it was one of those rare books that you read and as you near the end you unconsciously slow down because you don't want it to end. One of the more beautiful books on love I've read, the other that comes to mind is Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Mark

Message #62 left by Rigel Chiokis on Jul 6, 1999 at 22:53

I have two books I would like to recommend.

Dhalgren by Samuel Delaney. It is an SF novel written by a man who has always been able to suck me into his worlds so thoroughly that I hear the characters, hear the background noises, smell everything around them and am slightly shocked to come out of it and find myself in the real world. And Dhalgren is his masterpiece, IMHO.

And for a healthy dose of surrealism, as well as learning the seven stages to becoming a better person, there is Skinny Legs And All, and please forgive me but I don't remember the author's name. It may have been Tim Robbins. It is the story about a young woman struggling to be an artist and how her life intersects with Painted Stick, Miss Conch Shell, Can O' Beans, Miss Silver Spoon and Dirty Old Sock as they journey across the U.S. in an attempt to get to Jeruselam. And yes, the main characters are a painted stick, conch shell, can of beans, silver spoon and a dirty old sock. A marvellous tale!

Message #61 left by Kent Brewster on Jul 6, 1999 at 0:32

I finished Cryptonomicon the other day ... very good stuff there. Most Stephenson books--Snow Crash and The Diamond Age, for two--lose me about three quarters of the way through and require some time on the To Be Read stack before I can finish 'em, but Cryptonomicon is about My People.

Fun stuff, down to the typo in the Perl script. Like Greg said, there's way too much going on to boil it all down ... there's kung-fu, code-fu, tech-fu, military-fu, and a constant stream of interesting Stephenson digressions that would've been chopped out of a first novel.

Message #60 left by Carlton Mellick III on Jun 28, 1999 at 11:17

Just finishing up an excellent book.

It is "The Rat and the Rose" by Arnold Rabin (Black Heron Press). This book is exactly the type of thing I like to read/write. It is written in the classic surrealistic way and is about a little boy who looks like a rat.

I believe it must be difficult to sell such a book, because there really is no plot. Right now, I couldn't tell exactly what it is about because it is too complicated, it is about many many different things at once.

This is how I write as well, and writing a synopsis becomes very difficult. I might try Black Heron Press with one of my completed novels. They seem like they would publish it.

The Rat and the Rose purposely tells rather than shows, which I also do. Surrealism often calls for telling. Sometimes this gives characters a two-dimensional feel, but one with imagination doesn't need three dimensions.

I wish surrealism would make a come back. I think amazon.com is the only place you can get this novel. I recommend it to everyone who appreciates this style of writing.

Message #59 left by Alec Austin on Jun 28, 1999 at 9:37

Whoa. John Savage and I actually agree on a book recommendation. The end of the world must be nigh.

More seriously, though: The Harry Potter books kick ass. I'm not sure if I like the second book as much as the first, but then I usually have that problem with series books. I won't claim all children's fantasy books are under-rated but J. K. Rowling's books have reminded me why I love reading good children's books: the writing is clearer, simpler, and makes a good adventure story that much more enjoyable to read.

Message #58 left by John Savage on Jun 27, 1999 at 10:46

Two words:

Harry Potter

Yes, the first two books really are (almost) as good as the hype—rather the late-90s Chronicles of Narnia. Particularly delightful for anyone who has lived in England. (And there's a lot more boiling beneath the surface than another well-written "kid's book series.")

Message #57 left by John Savage on Jun 27, 1999 at 10:42

That's right, Greg. In fact, I can't even say (1) which three-letter agency has the final say or (2) what the exact limits of the agreement are.

No, I didn't work for the National Book Awards, Mark. And my method of stealing the ball tends to leave stud marks on the shins and lower legs of opponents, which is sort of frowned upon by the hoops guys. (It's the studs they object to.)

Message #56 left by Mark Rapacioli on Jun 27, 1999 at 9:43

Aha! Now I know what three-letter agency John used to work for -- the NBA.

Message #55 left by Greg Mays on Jun 27, 1999 at 2:22

John: Wow. They won't even let you comment on the non-cryptography parts? Can you even say if you've read the book or not? There's a lot more going on there than just cryptography.

--Greg

Message #54 left by John Savage on Jun 27, 1999 at 0:57

Sorry, Greg. My nondisclosure agreement, even as modified recently by court order, prohibits me from commenting on matters related to cryptography. The three-letter-agency people have already rejected my request for an exception for this book, even though it is clearly labelled fiction.

So, a very firm "no comment."

Message #53 left by Greg Mays on Jun 26, 1999 at 3:34

I just finished reading _Cryptonomicon_ by Neal Stephenson, and I highly recommend it.

Though not strictly sf, there is quite a bit about the workngs of crypto technology (and some math). I imagine some readers may think there's too much expository stuff on crypto, but I'm sure other readers will just eat it up. In either case, it's not necessary to understand all the technical details to enjoy this book; it's about much more than just cryptography.

I won't attempt to give a plot synopsis; there's just too much going on for me to do it justice, so I'll simply mention a few of the things that come up: There's some WWII crypto history; modern-day data havens; a love story (three love stories, actually); a treasure hunt; blood-and-guts battle scenes; a goofy German U-boat captain; a born-again Japanese soldier; a secret society; Paranoia; the birth of digital computers; lawyers; intelligence gathering; counterintelligence shenanigans; and Neal Stephenson's twisted sense of humor on just about every page.

Yes, the size of the novel (900 some pages) is a bit daunting, and it does require some time-investment. But I think it's well worth it. I can't wait for the second book of the cycle to come out next year. (Stephenson said he and the publisher decided to call it a "cycle" instead of a trilogy or series, because "cycle" sounded more pretentious.) I understand that part of the second book, called _Quicksilver_, will take place in the future and part will take place before WWII.

There's a website that Stephenson set up to help answer some of the questions readers may have. (Don't worry if you haven't read the book yet; he doesn't give any surprises away.) It's at: http://www.well.com/user/neal/cypherFAQ.html

P.S. What with all the computers, lawyers, counterintelligence and such, I expect John Savage will like this book (or at least find it interesting). So John, if you're reading this post, I'd be interested to hear your take on the book, that is, if you decide to read it.

That's all for now.

--Greg

Message #52 left by Alec Austin on Jun 25, 1999 at 7:15

My mother borrowed a copy of Andre Norton and Rosemary Edghill's The Shadow of Albion from the library for me, and I loved it to death. Anyone with a taste for stories of adventure, intrigue, and romance set in Regency England should check this one out. I may even have liked it more than Patricia C. Wrede's Mairelon the Magician and Magician's Ward, which are in a similar vein, and some of my favorite books.

Message #51 left by Carlton Mellick III on Jun 4, 1999 at 21:26

Actually, I don't think A Clockwork Orange has been printed without the 21st chapter anywhere since 1986.

Message #50 left by Alec Austin on Jun 4, 1999 at 19:56

Not to disagree too much with you, John, but I believe that I have a complete 21 chapter edition of A Clockwork Orange on my desk which was published in the US. It has a rant/introduction by Burgess in which he talks about how the movie and the US edition cut off his ending.

If Burgess had yet another version of the novel published which he preferred to the version I have, I'd like to know about it so I could hunt it down.

Message #49 left by John Savage on Jun 4, 1999 at 0:59

Not to disagree too much, but Gies and Gies aren't all that well respected among professional historians, due to overreliance on some shaky "primary" sources.

Carlton, don't bother returning to Wolfe's latest. It's one of the worst books to get "critical acclaim" this decade. The only character is Tom Wolfe's considerable ego, and the plot exists only so that he can make as many snide in-jokes about things Atlanta as will fit on the page.

Finally, having written a couple of academic articles on Burgess, I have to defend him a little. One problem with A Clockwork Orange is that there are at least three different versions of the book; Burgess's preferred "cut" has never been published in the US. What Burgess hated about the American version is that it completely cuts out the last chapter, making for a very different book. And those who concentrate on the violence miss the point—the book is "about" varieties of evil and the difficulty of comparing and choosing among them.

To that end, what Burgess really said (I've got the clipping from the TLS somewhere) was that, after having honed his technique in the 1970s, he would not write A Clockwork Orange the same way. Instead of the slang, he would include passages actually in gutter Russian. In other words, he felt that his technique was actually not extreme enough to do what he wanted to do. (IMHO, that would have weakened the book and made it completely inaccessible to those not bilingual. Then, Burgess did not have contempt for the monolingual; he felt them beneath contempt.)

Message #48 left by Alec Austin on Jun 3, 1999 at 15:47

Carlton: Haroun and the Sea of Stories is one of my personal favorities too. Enjoy.

And to keep this on topic, I just read Life in a Medieval Castle and Life in a Medieval City by Francis and Joseph Gies. I heartily recommend their work to anyone who intends to write medieval fantasy and wants to get their historical details right.

Message #47 left by Robert Stephenson on Jun 1, 1999 at 23:46

Just finnished reading Jack McDevitts MoonFall. Good read, well worth the cover price.

Robert S

Message #46 left by Carlton Mellick III on Jun 1, 1999 at 13:38

I know what you mean, Tim. I don't think Burgess is a very good author. He was just writing a story and it came out the way it did. Most of the stories that I write that I wish I never did are the ones that people seem to like most. I hate that. I know Burgess hates A Clockwork Orange. He's said so. It is probably because it receives more credit than his own personal favorites. Too bad for him.

His language does soften the brutality of the story...but he's missing the point. The book didn't sell because it was violent, it sold because it was an unconventional tale. And his violence wouldn't have been any good anyway because he is not a violent person. What he was trying to accomplish is what Stewart Home accomplishes. Home is a skinhead author who writes about skinheads beating the crap out of people. The stories are blunt, simple, and seem mindless, plus the characters are bland as well as the language...but guess what? That is the whole point. I like Stewart Home but i can't read too much of his work because it is so bland...if Burgess wrote a clockwork orange bland it would've been even less successful than Homes' books.

Message #45 left by Tim on Jun 1, 1999 at 12:41

Interestingly, Burgess wrote years after _A Clockwork Orange_ was published that he regretted using so much made-up slang and other linguistic tricks. He said they were amateurish attempts to soften and obscure the brutality of the tale, and that if he had it to do again, he would write in a much more straightforward fashion.

I enjoyed the book very much, so I'm not necessarily agreeing with Burgess; I just find his hindsight-opinion interesting.

Message #44 left by Carlton Mellick III on May 31, 1999 at 17:00

Alec: Yeah, A Clockwork Orange is the type of book you can read over and over. That's why I always say the language should be the central character in stories.

I've started "Harourn and the Sea of Stories," by Salman Rushdie. I've gone one chapter and I already know this is going to be one of my personal classics. His voice is similar to my own, even more so than Kurt Vonnegut. I was reading Tom Woolf's "A Man in Full" but Rushdie caught all my attention and old Tom is going to have to wait.

Message #43 left by Alec Austin on May 31, 1999 at 8:51

I just re-read Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange. His use of language is even more brilliant the second time through.

I also picked up a copy of Stephen Donaldson's Daughter of Regals and other Tales at the library; while patchy in overall quality, the title piece, along with Animal Lover, The Conqueror Worm, and Ser Visal's Tale impressed me quite a bit.

Message #42 left by Hilary on May 28, 1999 at 13:09

I'm reading The Clone Age: Adventures in the New World of Reproductive Technology by Lori B. Andrews, and it is fascinating. This is a non-fiction book about all the societal implications of cloning, surrogate mothers, egg & sperm donors, multiple births (human litters), genetic testing, genetic manipulation and so on. The book manages to be frightening, funny and informative all at once. If any of you want to do horror stories involving biotechnology, this book would provide you with excellent source material.

Hmm

Message #41 left by Micah Lionette on May 26, 1999 at 14:44

_The Wild Road_, by Gabriel King. I just finished that one, and I'm not usually one for books about talking cats (really!), this one was charming. There's something about British English....

Message #40 left by SJ on May 25, 1999 at 12:50

I find just about anything that won either the Hugo or Nebula is worth reading and often times leads me to authors I never would have been interested in. Lists of past winners are easy to find (there's probably about 7 million if you surf around enough). On that same note, I also recommend working your way through the Pulitzer Prize winners. There are some amazing books out there. A few months ago I read The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer. Wow! What a great read!

Message #39 left by Chrysoula on May 22, 1999 at 10:55

Here I am, avoiding my dance with discipline. Ah, well, one more shift to go and then my schedule recreates itself and I lose many of the associations that trigger the bad habits.

Patricia McKillip. While I'm not as enamoured of her Riddlemaster of Hed trilogy as many of my friends, The Book of Atrix Wolfe, Winter Rose and the Forgotten Beasts of Eld all dazzle me. More than just entertaining or moving me, her work is an inspiration that drives me to the word processor to write myself, which is rare among things I read these days.

Message #38 left by Karina on Mar 31, 1999 at 22:42

I love Octavia Butler's work. Just about did a dance-for-joy when I found Kindred and Bloodchild in the World's Biggest Bookstore--I'd been told that they were both out of print. Both were excellent.

Message #37 left by Trey on Mar 31, 1999 at 16:50

I recently finished The Hippopotamus by Stephen Fry (of Jeeves/Oscar Wilde fame). A delightful read, this tale of an acerbic, over-the-hill poet's bemused, semi-voluntary investigation of the "miracles" occuring on a country estate.

I've just started Mara and Dann by Doris Lessing. So far it reminds me a little of Octavia Butler.

Any opinions on the works of Doris or Octavia? On Mr. Fry?

Message #36 left by Jay Arr on Mar 28, 1999 at 23:14

Something's happening. I can feel it moving around under my scalp. It's moving. It's about to burst forth. Wait for it. Don't rush it. Ahhh, here it comes...

Zombies make grave mistakes, but vampires don't: There's too much at stake. Little people make mistakes, but they forgive thems-elves. Frogs have never made mistakes; they've always toad the line.

Ahh, it was nothing. Sorry I interrupted.

Message #35 left by Froget on Mar 28, 1999 at 19:47

ZIP!

Ribbitt... deeeelicious.

Message #34 left by The Fly on Mar 28, 1999 at 12:41

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I hate it when people write on me! Takes forever for me to get it out of my bristles and off my wings!

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Message #33 left by Hilary the undead librarian on Mar 28, 1999 at 10:25

Hey, I just remembered! I don't have a life, either :-).

"Frogets?" Mark, have you been writing on the fly again?

Hmm

Message #32 left by Mark Rapacioli on Mar 28, 1999 at 10:08

Anonymous frogets that, among my qualities, I am undead too.

Message #31 left by Anonymous on Mar 27, 1999 at 23:57

No, Mark. Zombies make grave mistakes. Vampires make grave mistakes. You're not qualified--I hope . . .

Message #30 left by Mark Rapacioli on Mar 27, 1999 at 23:49

Ummm.... throw chocolate at me?

DwBW -- I challenge you to a duel of wits -- oh, never mind. It's against my principles to fight an unarmed man. (Hoo, boy, am I asking for it now -- and something tells me, after reading the review for WFEFF, I'm making a grave mistake.)

Message #29 left by Hilary on Mar 27, 1999 at 23:32

Uh, what fan club?

Actually, Mark, I had the same list of suspects. It's getting to the point that I recognize most of the "anonymous" postings of RMers by their style. While I knew that RWANB was joking, I also know that anonymous cheap shots are generally not a good idea. They can get out of hand way too easily. And I still think that you are literate, whether you read the longer works in the genre or not.

DaveK, have you ever noticed Mark's distressing habit of flaunting every dirty little secret we come up with for him? First it was cross-dressing. And then it was being a lurking burglar. And then it was being an alien, albeit a cool one. Now it's his illiteracy. What will we do with him?

Hmm

Message #28 left by Dude with Butterfly Wings on Mar 27, 1999 at 23:08

Would I accuse you of having a dirty little secret? Probably. :)

Message #27 left by Mark Rapacioli on Mar 27, 1999 at 22:55

Wow, give that gal a free membership in my fan club. ;-)

Truth is, Hilary, I've confessed elsewhere that I spend a miniscule amount of time on reading longer works in the genre. So whoever that anonymous poster is (I'm suspecting either a dude with butterfly wings, or a Canuck in a kilt), they obviously know my dirty little secret.

RWANB -- heh heh. I can read reel good (almost as reel good as I kin rite), as long as the words are small enough... uh, what does "prolific" mean again?

Message #26 left by Hilary, who posted anonymously by mistake--Aargh! on Mar 27, 1999 at 20:02

<sigh.> At least I remembered to sign my name at the bottom.

Hmm

Message #25 left by Anonymous on Mar 27, 1999 at 19:53

Reader, behave yourself. Rumormill etiquette strictly prohibits taking cheap shots at your fellow RMers while you remain anonymous. Since I am not anonymous, I can take all the cheap shots at Mark that I want :-). Ah, so tempting. But I will refrain.

Mark, what an awesome collection of books! I envy you the reading experience that awaits you. :-) Now, Mark, I want to talk about you behind your back for a few minutes, okay? So close your eyes and do not read the rest of this post! Eyes closed?

Still waiting for Mark to close his eyes...

Okay, everyone, here's the truth about Mark. He may be a cross-dressing alien who cannot control his own peeves, but he is also disgustingly literate. He's a pretty good writer, too. Don't anyone tell him I said so, though. He might get a swelled head or something.

Hmm

Message #24 left by Reader Without Any New Books on Mar 27, 1999 at 17:04

Mark can read? Shouldn't someone let Mark know those aren't picture books?

Message #23 left by Mark Rapacioli on Mar 27, 1999 at 15:47

I got something very cool in the mail from Event Horizon today. Apparently, I had entered some contest (don't ask me how) and, apparently, had won five books. All five are the nominees for the '98 Philip K. Dick Award. 253 by Geoff Ryman looks quite interesting, I think I'll start with that one. The others are Steve Aylett's Slaughtermatic, Paul DiFilippo's Lost Pages, Nalo Hopkinson's Brown Girl in the Ring, and Paul McAuley's The Invisible Country.

Has anyone read any of these? (If so, don't give too much away, just let me know what you thought.)

Message #22 left by Mary on Mar 8, 1999 at 18:42

Lord Dunsany.

I have often heard The King of Elfland's Daughter described as his best work; my own favorite is The Charwoman's Shadow.

There is a disadvantage in reading him, in that most would-be writers who do end up writing very bad imitations of him for a while--LeGuin called him "the First Terrible Fate that Awaiteth Unwary Beginners in Fantasy." On the other hand, his style is gorgeous, so trying to imitate it can teach you a lot about writing.

Message #21 left by Naomi Kritzer on Mar 5, 1999 at 12:59

While on vacation, I read "Memoirs of a Geisha," recently out in paperback. I read very little mainstream fiction, but I heard an interview with the author on the radio and just the minor tidbits he mentioned about geishas sounded absolutely fascinating. The book was excellent, I highly recommend it. Geishas -- the whole CONCEPT of geishas and their place in Japanese society -- falls into a category I've got mentally labelled as "stranger than science fiction."

I also read a bizarre murder mystery set at an SF con, called "Bimbos from the Death Sun." It's a hoot; I think I've met every character in the novel, and I haven't even been to all that many cons. (My husband, who has never attended a con, was laughing out loud while reading the book on the flight home, and periodically turned to me to ask, "Is this an accurate depiction of cons? You actually GO to these things?")

Finally, I read "Nature of Smoke" by Anne Harris, and enjoyed it even though that was the day I was sick with the stomach flu. And I started "China Mountain Zhang" by Maureen McHugh on the way home; it's excellent so far.

Message #20 left by Marcus on Feb 18, 1999 at 10:01

CNN has an article on Daniel Pinkwater, who was one of my favorite authors when I was a kid. He usually wrote kids books about large kids doing really wierd stuff (one of my favorites was also about a chilli-loving biker gang with psychic powers)

Here's the article if you're interested. http://cnn.com/books/news/9902/17/pinkwater.ap/

Here's a quote from the article....I love it :) Many of Pinkwater's older books are out of print and difficult to find, a problem he blames on the publishing industry. (Killing a publisher should be a traffic violation, he pronounces. Now it's a felony, as if you were killing a regular person.)

Message #19 left by J. Thaddeus Skubis on Jan 12, 1999 at 13:41


I have the drive and dedication to write but I'm afraid I don't have the attention span to read much. H.P. Lovecraft material holds my attention, however. Correct me if I'm wrong but most writers write the kind of books they would like to read. The problem with much of my material is that my standards are, well, sure they're high, but also ecclectic. I'm very picky and there is really very little material out there befitting to my tastes. Some books that others consider classics and extraordinary, I consider a bore. Anything technical turns me off, I like reading stories that are stories not textbooks in disguise. I appreciate attention to detail but I don't need dragged out justifications and theories supporting the plot (hence, I don't read Sci-Fi, but I do write it from time to time).

It takes all kinds I guess.

To me, a good book is the dictionary. I've been known to curl up with it for hours on end :>

Message #18 left by Karina on Jan 7, 1999 at 18:41

I just finished reading Starlight 1 and Starlight 2. Excellent books both, but I think that 2 was an improvement over 1. Not that there was anything wrong with 1--there were some excellent stories in it. (Of course, there were also a couple in it that I did not like, but that's just personal preference.) What I particularly liked about 2 was that it had more stories in it that really had something interesting to say, as well as being entertaining. (Again, I can think of an exception, but I don't think it would be quite appropriate to talk about individual stories here.) In any case, I recommend picking up a copy of Starlight 2--there's bound to be something in it for almost everyone.

Message #17 left by Jay Arr on Dec 10, 1998 at 2:08

I think it w

Unless otherwise noted, all contents of this site are copyright Speculations, 1111 West El Camino Real #109-400, Sunnyvale, CA 94087-1057. Please direct all e-mail to Kent Brewster, publisher.university press book, and I no longer have my copy so I can't give you the details that would make it easier to find. Mark taught History of Ideas among other courses when I was attending Shawnee State University.

Message #693 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on May 8, 2001 at 0:27

I don't know. Storm of Shears or Storm of Slaughter just doesn't have the same ring as Martin's title does. Personally I'd give highest body count award to Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest. Man, in that novel Hammett offs his characters with a hyperactive thresher.

I'll have to borrow a copy of the first Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire when I get a chance.

Message #692 left by Marti on May 7, 2001 at 20:20

Storm of Swords.

Very good, although I think it deserves some kind of special Nebula or Hugo for "novel that kills off the most main characters in violent bloody ways." It was like Martin went though the cast of characters with pruning shears.

Message #691 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on May 5, 2001 at 17:42

Finished City of Baraboo by Barry Longyear and I enjoyed it a lot. It had a lot of interesting characters and unique insights into the circus life--perhaps a bit too many of the former. But I still had fun while I read it, which is the most important thing. Plus I also learned some interesting information about grifters and the circus trade. One small nit I had, though. Longyear tended to use "he felt" too much in the prose, thus distancing me more than if he had used more active descriptions like "Drops of cold sweat spilled down the back of his neck." After reading James Van Pelt's definition in The Jargon File topic, I'm looking out for that more often in both other writers' work and my own.

In any case, I recommend City of Baraboo.

Message #690 left by Joe Shosty on May 5, 2001 at 2:13

Silver Birch, Blood Moon, edited by Datlow and Windling. Good book. I liked the second one in the series, but didn't really like the others until this one. It's still the same old woman as victim stuff as before, but there are some real gems here. Pamela Briggs' reworking of Rumplestilzkin is a good one, as well as Pat York's look at Sleeping Beauty. It's nice to see stories like these. I much prefer York's story to most of the others in the way she shows the woman as both mother and wife. She's devoted to the plight of her son, yet yearns for her husband thousands of miles away. So often in this series we see the woman shackled to some big brute (which I find offensive, as I am the proverbial "big ol' boy" myself) that she doesn't love and finds sexually repulsive. While it's obvious from the get go this story won't end well, it's nice to see a story filled with love and heartbreak instead of no love at all.

My only problem with this series is they seem to be doing the same tales over and over again. It seems every one contains a Frog Prince, Rumplestiltzkin, Sleeping Beauty, and Puss in Boots. I'm a little upset that they haven't chosen to mine other tales for inspiration.

Message #689 left by Jason D. W. on Apr 23, 2001 at 2:11

I'm in the midst of "Tales of Earthsea" by Ursula K. LeGuin, an anthology of short stories and novellas. An excellent book, on the whole. And I can't wait til her next Earthsea novel, "The Other Wind" comes out.

Message #688 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Apr 22, 2001 at 17:42

About two weeks ago, I finished Ben Bova's Venus and I found that upon recollection I still enjoyed the novel. Although the characterization in the novel is less than stellar, I found it to be an enjoyable science fiction adventure novel. It doesn't claim to be great literature, but it entertained me a great deal and I found it one of the more interesting planetary exploration novels I've read recently in terms of good, hard science. One revealation I found, however, was absolutely ridiculous and some of the plot points are telegraphed from a mile away. If you can ignore these critiques, though, I recommend Venus as a really good weekend read.

Message #687 left by Jay Arr on Mar 29, 2001 at 16:29

Just finished "I Dream of You," a collection of the Strangers in Paradise series. Also read "A Game of You," a Sandman collection. I'm trying to find more of Alison Bechdel's work (Dykes to Watch Out For.) I love her people.

Message #686 left by Jan S. on Mar 25, 2001 at 17:13

Mentioned ages ago in Favorite Characters but not elsewhere according to the RM search-critter is Anya Seton's _Katherine_. I would give my left arm to be able to write that well. I've read this book so many times I've lost count. All those writers busy churning out those so-called bodice rippers should each be made to read this book at least once as a primer on how to do not only historical fiction, but a historical romance. Why, oh why has no one made a film of this? Perhaps the author's descendants or whoever owns the book rights won't sell. But with the right script and some really intelligent casting, this would be a monster. A long monster -- maybe a series? -- but a monster nonetheless.

For those who don't know, this is a historical novel about a woman called Katherine de Roet when she was born, who first married a knight named Swynford (who later died) and then became the mistress of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (lands he acquired from his first wife, Blanche) and son of King Edward III. They separated during a virulent plague epidemic, then later reunited and married, and their children started the Tudor line of English royalty, which includes Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Antonia Fraser's _The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England_ has some mentions of both John and Katherine.

Enough, before I start blathering.;>

Message #685 left by RHole on Mar 23, 2001 at 14:12

Kenn Kaufman's "Kingbird Highway" I think it's the best travel-sort-of book I've ever read. It's about the author's search to see more birds in North America in 1973 than anyone else. All by hitchhiking. It's got character studies of many obsessive people (and while some of us are obsessive, you've not met obsessive until you've met a true bird watcher), and lots of other people he meets on his way. It's also a pleasant and fast read, and you don't have to be interested in birds to enjoy it. I found it very well written and just a fun book, and it captures a spirit of adventure and movement that might be of interest to those writing episodic odyssey-type novels. -Robert

Message #684 left by Tim Pratt on Mar 20, 2001 at 19:10

Peter S. Beagle's Folk of the Air is wonderful. The story is solid, the characters fascinating, and the prose is as beautiful and inventive as anything I've ever read.

Message #683 left by Mary on Mar 20, 2001 at 18:54

Oh, yes.

_The Tough Guide_ was reviewed in _Weird Tales_: "the trilogies it could have prevented."

Message #682 left by Jason D. W. on Mar 20, 2001 at 11:20

Speaking of Diana Wynne Jones, has anyone read her "Tough Guide to Fantasyland"? It's an encyclopedic listing of every fantasy cliche known to humankind. Very funny in spots.

Message #681 left by Antonia Mitchell on Mar 19, 2001 at 20:05

Jay Arr: I find Diana Wynne Jones's books are funny and charming. "Deep Secret" should be the easiest to find.

I'd recommend my all-time fav book "Good Omens" but since you mentioned Pratchett and Sandman, you've probably already read it.

Message #680 left by MWA on Mar 18, 2001 at 22:16

Bentley Little's "The Ignored." It took me a while to find it (at a Border's in Atlanta), but it was well worth the search. A very intriguing concept for a novel.

Message #679 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Mar 17, 2001 at 22:55

I just finished Courtship Rites, an excellent novel by Donald Kingsbury. I never thought a novel about a cannibalism would be this interesting. But it was quite well written, had many interesting characters (particular Oelita and Teenae) and a good, complex plot. The novel had few minor similarities to Dune, but it was enough of its own work to stand out on its own. I highly recommend this novel.

Ironically I found out about this novel after listening to a Realaudio interview with Robert Sawyer. He mentioned it and I'm glad that he did.

One other interesting thing I've been noticing is a lot of science fiction novels with atavistic themes, specifically how certain socities are reverted back to more primitive states and must relearn technology. Souls in the Great Machine by Sean McMullen, An Alien Light by Nancy Kress and of course Courtship Rites.

Message #678 left by Jamie Rosen on Mar 17, 2001 at 9:50

I'll fifth the opinion on Mythago Wood. Certainly one of the best fantasy books I've read, and it definitely qualifies for the "wish I could have written it" category.

Message #677 left by Brian L. Blalock on Mar 17, 2001 at 5:35

I'll fourth that opinion on Mythago Wood. Definate must read.

Re: Clash of Kings: You could always do what I do with multi-viewpoint books with too many multis: Just skip ahead and read three or four chapters per character before switching characters. =)

Message #676 left by Lenora Rose on Mar 17, 2001 at 4:12

I loved Mythago Wood - and I liked Lavondyss (the first sequal, and one that some peopel found an easier entry point), but could never bring myself to bother with the rest - it looked a bit too much alike when I read the blurbs.

Hammering away at A Clash of Kings. Still the same problem as in the first book - not just that there are a lot of characters, but that so little time is spent with each before moving on, and Sansa STILL seems redundant (though now it's not with her sister, it's with the much more interesting POV of Tyrion, in the same castle) and cipherous. Still, fine writing, many-faceted story, and most of the other 'important' characters are complex enough to keep interest.

Message #675 left by Lori on Mar 16, 2001 at 16:32

I liked Darwinia quite a bit, and I've heard very good things about Mythago Wood, but I haven't gotten to it yet. On the pile, I guess.

Message #674 left by Megan on Mar 16, 2001 at 16:21

Yes, I liked that one--though I really should go back and read it again. I've tried a couple of the sequels/related works within the past year or so. The Hollowing was fine, but I was much more enthused with The Fetch.

Message #673 left by Jim Van Pelt on Mar 16, 2001 at 15:21

My personal, all time favorite fantasy novel (single volume) is Robert Holdstock's MYTHAGO WOOD. Have any of you read it? It blew me away in '88 when I read it the first time (it won the World Fantasy Award), and it's held up every time I read it since then. He's written some sequels that I haven't been able to get into, but MYTHAGO WOOD is a darned good book.

Message #672 left by Jae on Mar 16, 2001 at 15:17

Jason: To add another perspective, I was disappointed. I enjoyed #1 and #2 very much, but #3 was real let down, especially when compared to Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. I'll probably read #4, because it got interesting again in the last five pages of #3, but I'll wait for paperback.

Message #671 left by Barry Hollander on Mar 16, 2001 at 14:09

Jason: I think the Tad Williams series is quite good. I know the last book of the series is just now coming out (finally!). That said, my wife enjoyed his other, more fantasy S&S series but couldn't get into the Otherland story, which is more SF/Cyber/touch of fantasy.

Message #670 left by Jason D. W. on Mar 16, 2001 at 12:26

How good is Tad Williams' "Otherland" series?

Message #669 left by John Savage on Mar 15, 2001 at 19:38

Never been near the website. And, if it was a "fan," it's a consistent (and rather stupid) one—the two groupings of spam all originated in the same narrow IP address range, and it's a "real" range (i.e., not an anonymizing proxy).

Message #668 left by Terry on Mar 15, 2001 at 16:06

John, are you sure it's Lemony his/her/itself? And not a fan, or just someone using the name? Had you visited the web site, and is that why you think you got the spam? I'm wondering, because I went over there a couple of times and now you've got me wondering about cookies.

Message #667 left by John Savage on Mar 15, 2001 at 14:41

Commenting on an issue up the chain:

"Lemony Snicket" is also a spamster. I've gotten messages labelled "Who is Lemony Snicket?" and variations thereon about 25 times in the last week. And there was a similar pattern in mid-November. For that reason, I'm not reading the books.

Message #666 left by Lindsey on Mar 15, 2001 at 13:48

I think it's the last one in *that* series, although she may have more planned for the world in general. I haven't seen any promotions for new books yet, though. You could check Bantam's web site and see if they say anything.

-Linz

Message #665 left by Jason D. W. on Mar 15, 2001 at 13:14

Quick question: Is the third book in Robin Hobb's "Liveship Traders" series the last one?

Message #664 left by John Savage on Mar 13, 2001 at 11:34

Trade paperback just after WorldCon, mass market paperback sometime in late 2002. At least, that's according to the schedule I've seen. Bantam is notorious for slipping paperback reissues on books that sell well in casebound editions, even when that involves breaching distribution contracts and preordering agreements from the stores.

Message #663 left by Joe Mahoney on Mar 13, 2001 at 10:26

Anybody have any idea when Storm of Swords will be coming out in paperback?

Message #662 left by Terry on Mar 12, 2001 at 13:45

Has no one mentioned Sluggy Freelance? It's presented online like a newspaper serial--b & w panels during the week then color on Sunday. www.sluggy.com. It's been running for several years and I'm working my way forward through the archives before getting to current issues. The archives are accessible via the URL I gave. Insane, dark, goofy--it's got a homicidal, sadistic and cute bunny rabbit and a constantly-morphing alien secretary, among other delectables.

Message #661 left by Lindsey on Mar 12, 2001 at 12:09

Jay Arr, for comic book humor also try "Quantum and Woody," one of the funniest spoofs/bouts of silliness I've ever read. But then, I'm weird and twisted. Which is why I think you'll like them. Priest, the author (or illustrator, or both, I forget) apparently didn't want it to be funny, and is a little put out that it is. Don't let that stop you from laughing at him. I think unintentional ridiculousness mixed generously with sarcasm is hysterical. I highly recommend it.

-Linz

Message #660 left by John Savage on Mar 12, 2001 at 11:36

It's looking like 2002 now. Her own and family health have not been the best of late.

Message #659 left by Lenora Rose on Mar 12, 2001 at 2:46

Alas, a serious comic to recommend (thus, not for Jay Arr) - The Tale of One Bad Rat, by Bryan Talbot. My favourite comic of all time - possibly barring Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind (But it takes a couple reads of the first Part of five to figure out all the political sides). But only possibly.

Also, just finished Mary Doria Russell's Children of God (I must say, this seems to be a time for me to list seriously dark subject matter...). Seemed to drag at first compared to the Sparrow, but by the conclusion I was almost as transported as I was with the first book. Almost. (With the Sparrow I had bought my own copy before the library book got back to the library. With Children of God, I haven't been quite as hasty.)

John, any word on when her next book is coming out? (I know it probably won't be 'in genre', but then, I found the other two in the general fiction section in the bookstores (but in SF in the library) as it is...), and frankly, I don't give a damn anyhow.

Message #658 left by Jamie Rosen on Mar 11, 2001 at 22:01

Hey Jay, if you like quality comics and are looking for humour (and haven't tried these yet) you might want to look into Madman and The Flaming Carrot.

And I'd like to second your reccomendations and add V For Vendetta to the list -- from Alan Moore, the writer on Watchmen, and surprisingly overlooked.

On the book front, I enjoyed VMR by Robert Frezza, but it may not be to everyone's liking.

Message #657 left by Mary on Mar 11, 2001 at 21:59

Astro City is indeed marvelous. There was a limited series, and now a continuing series, and all but the last arc in the series are available collected.

Message #656 left by Sean Klein on Mar 11, 2001 at 21:18

Jay, try Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events." There's six books in the series at the moment. In the children's section of your local bookstore or library.

Message #655 left by Terry on Mar 11, 2001 at 17:38

Jay Arr: (yes, I'm following you around the RM) If you aren't prejudiced against mysteries, try Parnell Hall for humor. I have on occasion literally almost embarassed myself (ahem) laughing at his books. They each stand alone but it's best if you start with the first. You're going to ask me which that is now, aren't you. I'll check...Okay, here are some of them, in order (there are later ones which I haven't got yet): DETECTIVE MURDER FAVOR STRANGLER CLIENT JUROR SHOT ACTOR Stanley Hastings is the funniest sleuth between board covers, IMO. He bumbles through the books coming to all the wrong conclusions for the right reasons and vice-versa, and somehow lives through it all (you thought I was going to say "solves the cases," didn't you? HA!)

Message #654 left by Jay Arr on Mar 11, 2001 at 14:42

For those who can get over their prejudice against "comic books," ASTRO CITY is a really beautiful work. THE WATCHMEN should be required reading for writers, right up there beside 1984. MIRACLEMAN, SANDMAN... just incredible stuff. Beautiful.

Those who read the "Crummy Life" topic know I could use a few laughs right now, so I will definitely check out *Cosmic Banditos.*

Library still has no Pratchett in. Drat! I'm re-reading a Kinky Friedman though, and that is a treasure. Okay, so his plots don't always make sense and he uses the same tired word-play time after time. But he has done what we all long to do: he has created his own little world. It's a world I wouldn't mind living in.

More recommendations of humor, please! I need to laugh.

Message #653 left by Sean Klein on Mar 11, 2001 at 10:54

Not quite spec fic, but I can't recommend this book highly enough: Cosmic Banditos by A.C. Weisbecker. It's just back in print after a criminally-long stretch in the OOP purgatory.

It's the only book I've ever read that combined drug running, quantum physics, South American banditos, a dog, a snake, and more. Quite possibly the funniest book I've ever read in my life.

Message #652 left by Brian L. Blalock on Mar 8, 2001 at 20:13

Maybe first written, but not first sold?

Message #651 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Mar 8, 2001 at 16:56

I just finished reading Cirque by Terry Carr and I enjoyed the book a lot. Cirque was a very interesting world and I believe that Carr did a great job populating it with interesting characters and technologies. In truth, I was going to pass this book over in the library. But now I'm glad that I read it.

The back of the book says that this is Carr's first novel he wrote. I could've sworn that he wrote another one (Warlords of Kor, I believe)--I know he wrote some short stories as well. It's a shame that he never got the chance to write another novel.

Message #650 left by Jon Hodges on Mar 7, 2001 at 23:39

MWA: I've been trying to mentally classify The Tin Drum since I finished it, and I can't. It has plenty of literary aspects, but it does have some magic realism aspects, and it probably even has some horror aspects, depending on how loose you are with the word "horror." I wouldn't necessarily, though, approach a group of horror readers and say "Read the Tin Drum, you'll love it." I don't have a good grip on what "magic realism" really is, to be honest, so I'm not sure if I could approach a group of magic realism readers and say, "Read The Tin Drum, you'll love it" or not.

All I can say is that it's a literary book, but Oskar Matzerath has some mannerisms that are very definitely supernatural, no matter how he plays them off as true traits. And there are a couple other small things that occur that are supernatural, but that's also questionable as to whether or not it was just in Oskar's head, or if it really did happen.

So yes, I think it could be labeled as magic realism, but I think giving it ONLY that label would be cheating it a bit. Not that magic realism is a bad label, just that there's so much more to this book than just that.

Message #649 left by MWA on Mar 7, 2001 at 20:41

Jon:

I've seen comments online describing "The Tin Drum" as Magical Realism--what's your take on its "classification"?

Message #648 left by Robert Hoge on Mar 4, 2001 at 22:27

Haven't read them in nearly 10 years but have just noticed that M. K. Wren's Phoenix Legacy trilogy is back in print.

The books are: Sword of the Lamb Shadow of the Swan House of the Wolf

I remember them being a very good read. They should be suitable for younger readers too.

Message #647 left by Jon Hodges on Mar 3, 2001 at 12:04

I finished reading The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass last month. Wow. That's officially my favorite book of all time, and I'm now going to go and read the entire Danzig Trilogy.

It's not speculative. It's a German fictionalized autobiography of one Oskar Matzerath, who leads *quite* an interesting life. He stunts his height to less than four feet until he's 18, he tells his life stories through a tin drum, and he can scream at such a pitch it shatters windows, except he learns how to control his scream to shatter only the windows he sees fit. I recommend this book to *anyone*.

Message #646 left by John Savage on Mar 3, 2001 at 10:19

You'll find out a couple of those answers in Children of God. Or at least be able to infer them.

Message #645 left by Sean Klein on Mar 3, 2001 at 10:05

Just finished "The Sparrow" which is a great book, but I have two questions. Both relate to plot events in the book and both are spoily, so don't read ahead unless you've read the book.


Spoiler alert!!! . . . . . . . . . . . 1. How is it that this group of brilliant and clever people can let themselves get stranded on the planet by not leaving enough fuel in the lander? This really bugged me and seemed to fall into the category of characters doing stupid things just to advance the plot. How easy would it have been for D.W. to say, "Don't use the lander, we only have enough fuel in it to go back to the Stella Maris." And don't say, "To spare George's feelings." I'm not buying that.

2. How did Emilio survive in the Stella Maris on the return trip alone, with no hands? I'm wondering how he did basic things like prepare food and some basic hygene.

3. Did anyone feel that the last 50 pages were a bit rushed, in comparason to the first 350? There's an awful lot of stuff happening in those last 50. They didn't quite have the same pace as the first 350 to me.

Overall, "The Sparrow" is a great thought-provoking read. Thanks to Ron Collins and John Savage for pointing it out to me.

Message #644 left by Marti on Mar 2, 2001 at 20:08

Well, Kage Baker's books of the Company were pretty darned good. In the Garden of Iden, Sky Coyote, and Mendoza in Hollywood were all good fun to read. Time travel novels, although with cyborgs. Very enjoyable stuff.

Message #643 left by Terry on Mar 2, 2001 at 14:24

I've been reading the first two books in Julie Czerneda's Trade Pact Universe series (A Thousand Words for Stranger, Ties of Power) and I found myself liking them more than I expected. I generally have little patience for ESP-type stuff in my SF. Hers is okay, though--and in the second book it turns out it (the basis for the ESP stuff) may be more SF than you're led to believe in the first. But what *really* sold me were the Drapsk in the second book--this is one of the coolest, most appealing alien species I've come across. I could even see a Drapsk stuffed alien figure! Ha! I also liked the hero's best buddy, Huido. A lot. I hope we see more of the Drapsk AND Huido in subsequent books!

Message #642 left by Barry Hollander on Mar 2, 2001 at 13:32

On the Martin books, I am amazed at his willingness to kill off some major characters. As long as Tyrion survives, I'll be happy. The jumps in POV only annoy me when they are of a character I really care little about...of which there aren't many, though Sansa (spelling?) is among them.

As someone who has read way too much fantasy over the last 30 or so years, his series is a refreshing break from the usual S&S stuff. A brother-in-law lent me a batch of Goodkind novels and I've honestly tried to get into them, but I can't. I may try again this summer.

Oh, on good books. Reading a collection of John Cheever short stories. Amazing stuff.

Message #641 left by Joe Mahoney on Mar 2, 2001 at 12:22

Yeah, I suppose you're right. But I still find it a bit jarring just getting into one character and then phlumpff! You're off to the next. I wonder if there wasn't a less jarring way to switch viewpoints. Lots of viewpoints in Lord of the Rings, I seem to recall, and I don't recall feeling bounced around so much. Don't get me wrong, though... I liked the books well enough.

Message #640 left by NMcVey on Mar 2, 2001 at 11:32

Not to be a disagreeable sort, but I believe that the scope and breadth of Mr. Martin's plots and character interaction is what impresses me the most. To restrict him to one character viewpoint would mean the loss of 80-85 percent of the plots. Simply put, Tyrion can't be everywhere he would need to be to advance the plots under the watchful eyes of the reader.

On another point, Tyrion Lannister is my favorite character... next to Gregor Clegane. ;)

Message #639 left by Joe Mahoney on Mar 2, 2001 at 8:49

Clash of Kings started off slow for me, but picked up quickly enough. If the entire series had been written from Tyrion Lannister's POV I don't think much wouldn've been lost, though.

Message #638 left by NMcVey on Mar 1, 2001 at 12:10

I thought the second book, Clash of Kings was a bit too slow for its size. It lumbered a bit, but to say that Storm of Swords didn't move the plot forward enough for it's size strikes me as odd. An absolute ton of events happen in it and the plot strides forward.

Message #637 left by Mary on Feb 28, 2001 at 19:34

I regret to inform you that _Storm of Swords_ is not as good. It doesn't have sufficient moving forward on the plot to justify a 900 page book.

But some important things do happen in it. I doubt you will be able to understand book 3 without it.

Message #636 left by Joe Mahoney on Feb 28, 2001 at 12:10

'A Clash of Kings' is even better -- Tyrion Lannister is such a great character. Although the constantly switching viewpoints drives me a bit nuts.

Message #635 left by Martin on Feb 25, 2001 at 16:14

I just want to say that following the recommendations on this thread I went a bought George RR Martin's 'A Game of Thrones' and you were all right - it's excellent.

Message #634 left by John Savage on Feb 25, 2001 at 11:22

Jason, by "small" I meant in perspective, not in physical size.

One of the aspects of allegory that is a real stumbling block is Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" from The Republic—which is not, under most useful definitions of the term, an allegory at all. It is, instead, an extended metaphor, because it does not have a precise, explicable correspondence with anything. Try reading I.A. Richards' translation of The Republic and you'll see what I mean.

Message #633 left by MWA on Feb 25, 2001 at 0:52

I think one of the best explanations I've heard for the term "literary" is that the work lends some insight into the experience of being human. Of course, one might ask just what the hell other kind of experience we humans can write about--I tend to think of the stories I utterly hate for various reasons, and that's my own answer. In some way, those stories lack (human) elements that I can relate to.

But I do occasionally find a story in Plowshares, Glimmer Train or other lit mags that, on the brief glance, seem to be about nothing at all--no real action, no disturbing or fantastic elemenst--but when the story is fully read and understood, gives me a feeling that the author has hit upon a simple element of everyday life in a way that is enlightening to me. And that, if such a definition is indeed valid, goes a long way in explaining why nailing literary stories down to a strict story type is so difficult. It's all very opinon oriented. One person's literary story is another's pointless drivel.

Message #632 left by Jason D. W. on Feb 24, 2001 at 23:31

Re #627: Camp Concentration isn't small enough to be an allegory.

I didn't know allegories had a size requirement. Besides, Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene is nothing but a big huge allegory. In book form, it's almost two inches thick.

Message #631 left by John Savage on Feb 20, 2001 at 17:03

The first rendition of An Enemy of the People in the US was Arthur Miller's 1955ish version, which is the one most Americans know. That version removed a lot of the ambiguity in Ibsen's play in the name of attacking McCarthyism. For example, in Ibsen's version, the doctor is not an unalloyed hero, but a self-serving SOB who is not much, if any, better than the townsfolk. More-recent translations—since the late 1980s—have restored much of the ambiguity.

This is, itself, a hint, folks: Don't assume that illustrious translators will always be faithful to the original work.

Message #630 left by Joe Shosty on Feb 20, 2001 at 12:35

John: Thanks for clarifying. I agree the common definition is a bit too loose. And I agree that An Enemy of the State is not an allegory. It has more an absurdist bent to it than anything. You mentioned something about Miller's work that I'm not clear on. Are you saying he's written an interpretation of Ibsen's work, or has he done something else altogether that is similar in form?

Message #629 left by Sean Klein on Feb 20, 2001 at 11:00

I'll second the vote for "A Deepness in the Sky" as a really good book. It had me saying, "Oh my God, oh my God," out loud at one point.

Message #628 left by Joe Mahoney on Feb 19, 2001 at 14:18

Best book I've read recently would have to be A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge. Just a deeply satisfying read, from an author who I understand has a day job, which makes me like him all the more. If he can produce such a great book while working for someone else, maybe I can too (insert wistful sigh here).

Message #627 left by John Savage on Feb 19, 2001 at 9:24

It's neither. Camp Concentration isn't small enough to be an allegory, and the paranoia is merely (to borrow what I think you were referring to) a technical aspect.

The definition in most nonspecialist dictionaries of "allegory" is too loose an imprecise to be useful. I'm using the definition implied in Frye's, Booth's, and Auerbach's works, which is something like a roman a clef keyed to specific, explicable types, as opposed to specific, identifiable persons/places/things/events, although it's quite a bit more than that. Examples include Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Spenser's Faerie Queen, and the play Inherit the Wind (a far less powerful piece than either a nonfiction rendition of the Scopes trial or the short story the play was based upon). Compare, on the other hand, Ibsen's An Enemy of the State in the original or a recent rendition, which is not allegorical, with Arthur Miller's popularization, which is.

Message #626 left by Joe Shosty on Feb 19, 2001 at 6:26

John, I'm a little bit unclear here. You say allegories suck, yet you stand up for Disch's Camp Concentration. What else could that book be called but a paranoid jerkoff fantasy? I'm not about to argue with you again about the book's validity as a piece of outstanding literature -- obviously we'll have to agree to disagree about that. I'm interested why you could support it yet condemn allegories as a whole. Unless, of course, you liked the writing but not necessarily what the book stood for. That I could see.

Message #625 left by Joe Shosty on Feb 19, 2001 at 6:15

I'd like to add that authors like Steinbeck, Hemingway, and even sf's own illustrious Ray Bradbury are considered "literary" geniuses but also possess easy to read styles.

Literary is another word I see kicked about these days without most even knowing what it means. I try to use it sparingly because to be honest it's really a neutral sort of word. Does it really add to your selling point if you say a book employs techniques such as allusion and symbolism -- or carries some great meaning -- rather than it exists simply to delight and astound? Only if a person is actively seeking out books that are strictly literary.

Oh, and I consider myself a literary writer, btw, but that is simply because I actively employ such techniques in my writing. I use sf and fantasy as vehicles, not as the end-all and be-all of my writing. In fact, if I knew how to get to the point of some of the things I want to say without a robot or a poodle with bat wings thrown in for good measure, I'd abandon the fantastic elements of my work altogether. But I wouldn't say I'm a pompous prig because I consider my work literature.

That said, I'd like to mention I'm re-reading Chabon's Wonder Boys for a second time. Speaking of allusion, I've caught something like six or seven hidden references to comic books that I hadn't noticed on the first read. I'm really enjoying myself. This book is definitely on my recommended list, especially as it will some day (even though that date seems to be continually pushed back) be released on video for the millions of people who haven't seen it to enjoy. But I really recommend the book because the movie is a separate entity unto itself. Michael Douglas does a spectacular job, but he doesn't convince me he's Grady Tripp. Not by a long shot. Nor does the movie convince me it's an adaptation of the book. It does have the same series of actions in it, but the film's style, and the inclusion of an enormously powerful soundtrack that packs an emotional wallop at just the right times, transforms it into something else entirely. Just as good, but different.

Message #624 left by John Savage on Feb 18, 2001 at 17:02

The working definition of "literary" in the book-review trade is "aspires to more than just entertainment/escapism." Leaving the loaded terms aside, that works for me, with one exception: If the work reaches more than entertainment/escapism, regardless of authorial intent (cf. Wimsatt & Beardsley's "The Intentional Fallacy," which should be required reading for all reviewers), I put it into the "literary" camp.

OK, another exception: Pure polemic is not "literary." This is why allegory in all its various guises sucks (to use another technical term). Far-right military jerkoff fantasies are as nonliterary as far-left economic-genocide jerkoff fantasies; I'm an equal opportunity curmedgeon.

On the other hand, I disagree vehemently with the distinction cited in the previous post. There are a helluva lot of "popular" works that are much more difficult to read than some of the subtler "lit'rary" works. Compare anything by Clark Ashton Smith to Le Guin's original Earthsea Trilogy; there's no question which one is "popular," and which one is "easier to read."

Message #623 left by Mary on Feb 18, 2001 at 16:20

I read _Corrupting Dr. Nice_. Didn't like it much and don't recommend it.

The difference between "literary" and "popular" is that popular works are easier to read than literary works. Therefore, all works that survive will move from the popular category to the literary, because the vocabulary will change and shift, and allusions that were obvious have to be understood, etc. etc.

Message #622 left by Sean Klein on Feb 18, 2001 at 10:43

I think literary is like pornography. People can't really define it but they know it when they see it. Consider that Raymond Chandler was pulp fiction until fairly recently. Now he's considered literature. Philip Dick is another good example.

Burroughs is a great example of non-literary. Plain, action-oriented writing that does nothing but provide a great thrill ride for the reader. I'd go out on a limb and say that most pre-60's new wave SF is non-literary also. One exception that comes to mind is Fritz Leiber who may not be literary, but is in a gray zone between the two. He's damn good and never got the acclaim he deserved.

To me, literary needs to be a title that comes from outside. If a writer says to me, "I write literature," it sends up a red flag that that person is a pompus prig I'm better off avoiding. Story is paramount always.

Message #621 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Feb 17, 2001 at 22:16

Can someone give an example of an unliterary story (maybe Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan novels or Susann's Valley of the Dolls)? No offense intended, Gail, but a lot of people throw around the words "literate" and "literary" when writing about books and screenplays but for the life of me I can't understand it.

Also, is there such a thing as an anti-literate or an anti-literary piece of fiction?

Message #620 left by Gail on Feb 17, 2001 at 21:43

Have any of you read "Corrupting Dr. Nice" by John Kessel(sp)? It is imaginative, literary, and fun. I believe it deserved more public notice than it got.

BTW, my introduction to Terry Pratchett was through audio books. It was his story about Death and Music With Rocks In It. The reader did an excellent job of creating voice personalities, and I'm sure I got some strange looks as I listened, driving around the neighborhood with a mad grin on my face.

Message #619 left by Lenora Rose on Feb 9, 2001 at 21:40

I won't quite agree that Terry Pratchett's books are all good (His first three Discworld books are weak, with moments of great humour, but only moments - and Equal Rites, in my not humble opinion, is perhaps lacking even that). BUt overall, he's done A lot of wonderful stuff, and "the Truth" was definitely a good addition to his canon. I'm also liking the serious bits and his steadily improving skill in real dramatic tension as he goes on.

In other books - have I mentioned Kij Johnson's "The Fox Woman"? Quite lovely tale set in medieval Japan -and the language evokes it well. The concluding moral was a bit more onbvious than I'd like, but well within forgiveable limits, and the rest of the work makes up for it.

Message #618 left by Andrew on Feb 9, 2001 at 4:05

I'll recommend the Pratchett as well, even though I haven't bought that one yet (I've got all the others, though). Terry is bloody funny throughout all twenty-something discworld books to date. The insights into the world of journalis arise, I suspect, from the fact that Pterry was a journalist himself up until about five years ago, when the discworld books made enough that he could give up the day job. In fact, if you look at the earlier author bios, you note that he got a job as press officer for four nuclear power stations ... three days before Three Mile Island.

Message #617 left by Steve on Feb 8, 2001 at 11:51

Yeah, but no one's posted there for a while. You gotta go where the woik is...

Message #616 left by Sean K on Feb 8, 2001 at 10:35

Shouldn't the above post be in the "Really Bad Books" thread?

Message #615 left by Steve on Feb 8, 2001 at 10:20

The Turner Diaries, by Andrew Macdonald -- excellent. Already in chapter one, the "blacks" in the "System" have enforced the Jewish "Cohen Law" and rounded up all white, God-fearing gun owners and put them in camps. The revolution is about to begin. Timothy McVeigh musta been REAL gullible. The publisher calls it "a dreadful book," but I think it takes real talent to write such awful stuff in such awful prose

I win an award from myself (a steel-rope flogging) if I finish Chapter 2.

Message #614 left by Mary on Feb 6, 2001 at 22:22

Donn Kushner's _A Book Dragon_ is a charming piece -- a fantasy that starts in the medieval era and leads to the present, and I think gets all its facts straight (and hands the expository prose so well that it doesn't form lumps), with an interesting lead character, the title dragon.

Message #613 left by Barry Hollander on Feb 6, 2001 at 19:29

Terry Pratchett's The Truth is a slim but funny book. It takes the arrival of a printing press and the early stages of journalism and dumps both in a bizarre medieval fantasy world of dwarves, vampires, trolls, a mysterious disappearance, and city politics. Wicked stuff that, at times, offers insight into journalism you won't find elsewhere.

Message #612 left by Jason D. W. on Feb 3, 2001 at 22:41

I'm about halfway through Barbara Hambly's "Dragonshadow," which is a sequel to "Dragonsbane." Hers are consistently well-written books, in that they contain fantasy with a sense of realism, if it can be called that. She seems to start out with the question: If dragons actually existed, what would they be like? How would they operate? And how would a human being go about slaying them? She has also done the same thing with vampires in "Those Who Hunt the Night," and "Travelling With the Dead."

Message #611 left by Joe Shosty on Feb 3, 2001 at 4:53

Just finished Jeffrey Ford's The Physiognomy. I enjoyed the whole thing immensely. It's a great example of tight writing and sparse description.

Message #610 left by Lenora Rose on Feb 3, 2001 at 1:13

Finally got around to Mary Doria Russell's the Sparrow.

These days I literally don't have time to read. So this week I didn't sleep instead. The trade was worth it.

Message #609 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Feb 2, 2001 at 18:11

I just finished Wil McCarthy's Bloom last night and I enjoyed it a lot. Very interesting story with a unique enemy, the Mycora. However I felt that the ending was disappointing, considering how great the story before it was. I think I would've liked more of a sense of wonder or awe or something more complete. I'm not sure. Also, I found John Strasheim to be an interesting character and having him work as a shoe maker was a nice touch. If I get a chance, I'll see about reading Murder in the Solid State and The Collapsium. Loved the tickler capacitor in the captain, BTW. Great idea.

On the other hand, I tried reading David Brin's Glory Season and stopped after about one hundred pages. Actually I thought it was a decent story, but it moved at an abysmal pace and I had 400+ pages to go. Also, he threw out a ton of terms that I couldn't understand like var and summerling and I didn't find a glossary to translate. But it least it didn't have any Uplifted flippers swimming around spouting haiku--thank goodness. I may go back and re-read when I have some time.

Message #608 left by Mary on Jan 25, 2001 at 19:23

_All of An Instant_ is available in the US. I got it out of library. (I will say that I greatly enjoyed _Celestial Matters_ and didn't like _All of An Instant_.)

Message #607 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Jan 24, 2001 at 23:19

It's available on Amazon.com if you wish to buy it. The publisher is Tor Books. I found a hardcover copy at my local library and it's copyright is 1999, so I think it should be available. Here is the link:

All of an Instant .

Message #606 left by Jason D. W. on Jan 24, 2001 at 22:56

I didn't know Richard Garfinkle had written a second book! I've read "Celestial Matters," and I thought it was great. So exactly what is "All of an Instant" about (I saw a reference to time travel, but I'd like to know more)? Is it available in the US? Who publishes it?

Message #605 left by Shannon on Jan 24, 2001 at 19:59

Just starting the 3rd installemnt of 'His Dark Materials' by Philip Pullman entitled The Amber Spyglass. Excellent so far - and the 1st two books (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife) are recommended as well! Guy Gavriel Kay did an amazing job with The Sarantium Mosaic, as well as the Fionavar Tapestry - a favorite author of mine.

Message #604 left by Willis Couvillier on Jan 10, 2001 at 18:56

Well, gee guys, you are making me feel my middle age now. When Asimov's started I was there eagerly waiting for the 1st issue, oh, I guess in my mid-late teens. Joe -- if you have the opportunity to read the original, do it! You'll wonder why you thought so highly about the book, you will.

Plenty works from that time were moody -- we all lived in the full shadow of the cold war and everyone who watched news expected to be nuked at any time. You think the nuts thing with y2k was something? The subtler constant tension of the full cold war was far worse. At least with y2k we felt we could do something about it. With the cold war, it was out of our hands. We could only sit and wait for people we didn't know to decide whether we lived or died. A lot of tension left when we saw that wall torn down, in the 80's.

Will.

Message #603 left by Timprov on Jan 10, 2001 at 6:07

Though I was only seven months old when "Enemy Mine" was in Asimov's, it's one of my formative SF memories; my mom had a subscription to IASFM until I was eight or so, and about that time I went through about 15 years worth of back issues. "Enemy Mine" was the one that stood out most. The short story is much better than the novelization or the movie, IMHO.

Message #602 left by Joe Shosty on Jan 10, 2001 at 3:51

Willis: Well, I'm a bit young to have read those two works when they were serialized, but I've enjoyed what I've seen of them both in recent printed form.

Speaking of digging up old bones, I just finished Damon Knight's The Futurians. Man was that a depressing book! I don't care how you slice it, Knight's look at the first family of sf was so downcast I was practically slicing at my wrists with a dull knife as it ended. It also makes me look at the old novels by Blish, Pohl, Asimov, Knight, and Kornbluth in a drastically different way. It's hard to believe something as grand and as far-reaching as science fiction could have been made world famous by these people, for their lives were so chaotic and dreary. This is not to say the book wasn't good. Quite the contrary. Even if Knight's look at the group is uncompromising and a bit harsh at times the writing is top-notch. If you haven't read this book do whatever is in your power to find it. In fact, this book should be required reading of anyone wanting to publish speculative fiction.

Message #601 left by Willis Couvillier on Jan 9, 2001 at 18:29

Just read Orson Scott Card's Ender's Shadow. Also Raymond E Feist's Krondor: Assassins and Brian Lumley's Invaders. All very fine additions to great series.

Barry B. Longyear's Enemy Mine as it was originally printed in IASFM was incredible. When the movie came out and the shorter work novelized, it lost something. For one thing, the conclusion was different. Another tale that suffered was The Postman.

Message #600 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Jan 9, 2001 at 17:40

Great, that should be All of an Instant. Sorry, R. Garfinkle. You can flog me at your leisure.

Message #599 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Jan 9, 2001 at 17:37

I just finished Richard Garfinkle's All in an Instant and I found it to be one of the most interesting science fiction novels I've read in a long while. I really found his ideas about time fascinating. Admittedly I didn't think his characters were all that well developed, but I didn't care, since his ideas were staggering. Makes me wish I could go into the Instant right now and grow a tail. Anyway, I'm so intriguing that I'll probably go back and check out Garfinkle's first novel, Celestial Matters.

Message #598 left by Joe Shosty on Jan 8, 2001 at 4:27

Not technically a book, but I just finished Barry Longyear's Enemy Mine (Tor Double with Kessel's Another Orphan). I was greatly impressed with it. The cool thing was one evening I was sitting on the couch reading it when the movie came on television. Talk about coincidences! I'd forgotten how much I liked the movie as well, and it made reading the book all the more enjoyable.

Message #597 left by Mary on Jan 3, 2001 at 18:51

It is Patricia Wrede. Not only has she written more books, she has written three more books set in the Enchanted Forest with (some of) the same characters.

Message #596 left by Barry Hollander on Jan 3, 2001 at 12:55

Over holiday break read Martin's latest fantasy epic. God, it's good, and now I have to wait for book 4. Also read King's On Writing and thoroughly enjoyed it. Looked at the latest Jordan opus and passed.

Also reading shorts from Year's Best SF 5 edited by Hartwell. Already found a couple of typos and, to be honest, some of the stories don't really (to borrow a term) grab me.

Message #595 left by S.N.Arly on Dec 29, 2000 at 12:29

Haven't had time to really post these previously.

The Circle and The Cross, by Caiseal Mor, takes place chronologically a short time after the standard Arthurian breakdown. The subtle magic is reminiscent of Tolkein's work. It has a similar "feel" to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon, in that the author presents a civilization at the crossroads of change. In The Circle and The Cross, the druids and clan chieftains recognize that their culture and way of life is likely to be subsumed by another. They plan to imbed their own traditions within the new culture being forced upon them, thereby providing the outward appearance of obedience.

Rather than focusing on the people and associated mythologies of Scotland and England, as has been done by other writers, Mor takes us to Erinn, and presents his version of the old Irish people and their mythos. He has created believable characters on both sides of the conflict.

The Circle and The Cross is both the first book in a trilogy and the author's first book. It may look somewhat intimidating, but it is a remarkably quick read. None of Mor's books are available in a US imprint. You may find them in stores that carry or special order imports. It is also available through Amazon UK. I picked my copy up at DreamHaven Books in Minneapolis, MN.

Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine, was recommended by others on the RM, which is why I picked it up (that and I'm researching the YA market). For all that the book is marketed as a retelling of Cinderella, that really belittles the story. Levine did indeed use some details from the traditional Cinderella story, as well as blending in a number of fairy tale tropes. However, there is much more to Ella Enchanted than merely telling the same story, with the same events, in the author's own words. Levine took a very drastic twist on the traditional tale, with some entertaining and tragic results.

Levine's has a number of books out now and I look forward to reading more of them (I'm really just a very large kid). I've noticed that YA sections of American bookstores are uniformly sloppy and disorganized, so it may be tough to find. It is popular, as well as being a Newberry award winner, so most bookstores should carry it. I am unsure how available it is elsewhere in the world.

I also recently read Dealing With Dragons by Patricia Wrede (ooh - I think that's her first name). It's another YA novel and it was high on the amusement factor. Not exactly stellar writing, but definitely a fun romp, and I would read another of her books.

Message #594 left by Gregory Koster on Dec 26, 2000 at 12:51

THE COMPLETE SHORT STORIES OF H.G. WELLS, published by Orion Press. It includes 22 items not in the "Complete" volume published by St. Martin's. None of these new items is a masterpie ce, but they all have something for the SF reader. More to the point, you can reread all the great stories HGW wrote when he was putting science fiction into overdrive. Grand Xmas day rereading this.

WOLVES OF DARKNESS, the second volume of Jack Williamson's collected less-than-four-part-serial work. If you like old pulp, marvelous stuff. Even if you don't, the title story is worth the 32 bucks you shell out. Finally, damn few trade publishers manufacture books this well any more. Haffner Press deserves all the support it can be given for starting this series.

Finally the second volume of Hal Clement's collected works from NESFA Press, MUSIC OF MANY SPHERES. This collects seventeen of Clement's stories, again in a superbly manufactured volume, fit for the quality of the stories. That none of them ever grabbed the awards that seem to make such a difference inliterary valuations these days is a damn disgrace.

Buy all these books. You won't be sorry. These have made 2000 a fine reading year all by themselves.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #593 left by Lindsey on Dec 19, 2000 at 11:51

I have the feeling I've recommended this author before, but I don't remember for sure, so here goes. Kage Baker, "The Garden of Iden" and "Sky Coyote." Those are excellent books, I love her style and the concept of going back in time to create cyborgs to preserve the past ... well, read them. They're exceedingly neat.

-Linz

Message #592 left by Tim Pratt on Dec 18, 2000 at 13:05

I just bought William Gibson's _All Tomorrow's Parties_ in trade paperback, and there's no plot synopsis on the cover, and not much in the way of blurbs, either. The back cover is just a big picture of Gibson. I assume that the hardcover had some inner-jacket copy about the plot...

Maybe the publishers figure "Hey, it's Bill Gibson; the people know what to expect, right?"

Message #591 left by alex on Dec 18, 2000 at 8:57

Jason: Maybe book pushers are like political advisors; they think the less you know about a book or candidate, the more likely you will be to buy it. Why narrow an audience by giving away any details which might turn some readers off? Not supporting the practice, mind you. Just trying to make some sense of it.

Message #590 left by eyeplode on Dec 18, 2000 at 3:04

responding to Jason: Unfortunately a lot of those synopses make the book sound kind of stupid, especially high fantasy (i.e. "The Dark Lord Blabbermord has stolen the Big Crystal and young Earnestyouth must discover his magic powers before Really Bad Things happen..."). Many genre books, when reduced to plot, sound cliched, and yet they can still be good books if the realization of that plot is fresh, the characters are intriguing, or its just really violent(joke). So...what I really like to do is either read books that have been recommended to me by someone I know, or read the first few pages to get a feel for the tone. If publishers know that people like me exist, they might not do the synopsis thing. IMHO.

Message #589 left by Jason D. W. on Dec 17, 2000 at 21:48

Some people were talking about reviews, marketing blurbs, and plot synopses earlier, and I would like to broach the subject again, if I may. Personally, I don't read reviews to determine if a book (movie, etc.) is good or not, but to find out what the book is about. Of course, when the review is reduced to a few words on the back of a book ("A tour de force!"--if that isn't the most overused word in book reviewing, then I'm Shaquille O'Neal), then it isn't much help in that respect. But then, that's what plot synopses are for.

Which brings me to another point: every once in a while a book is published that has no plot synopsis, and the book reviews give no clue to the book's contents either. Example: "The Quincunx," which is most likely a non-SF book, though I would have no way of knowing. As I said, no plot synopsis, the reviews weren't any help, and I could gather nothing through skimming the pages. A more widely known example would be Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series. Pick up any volume, read the back, and you get some mystical mumbo jumbo about "The Wheel of Time turns and ages, come and go," blah, blah, blah. My question: how can one be expected to buy a book if one has no idea what the book is about? What possesses publishers to put out these books (few though they are) in this way?

Message #588 left by Gregory Koster on Dec 13, 2000 at 16:44

For Ibtissam: A book that has a chapter on "The Undefeated" is THE SHORT STORY IN ENGLISH by W. E. Allen, Oxford University Press, 1981. Also there's ERNEST HEMINGWAY A TO Z by Charles Oliver. Have not been able to find any criticism online for free. Good luck.

Best rgards, Gregory Koster

Message #587 left by ibtissam zaatari on Dec 13, 2000 at 13:06

i'm looking for critical information about hemingway's 'undefeated' .i'd be glad to receive any. thanks.

Message #586 left by Hilary on Dec 7, 2000 at 22:43

I liked it all, and I must admit that I took great heart when King gave his opinions about plotting. I come up with marvelous plots before I write any story, but invariably my pesky characters decide that they're not going to cooperate. So I wind up plotting on the fly most of the time anyway.

By the way, I didn't read the book. Just listened to it. The audio version is about eight hours long, and is great. It felt like I was having a personal conversation with Steven King over a series of days in my kitchen...

Hmm

Message #585 left by Mary on Dec 7, 2000 at 19:22

The parts on writing, not on his life, were the best, I think. Then, I'm not big on biography.

On the other hand, I read his section about "plotted" stories -- and I was saying, Okay, what do you mean? What is a plotted story, and how does it differ from what you are recommending instead?

Message #584 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Dec 7, 2000 at 16:21

Just finished Stephen King's On Writing. And I thought it was pretty enjoyable book. I liked his C.V. the most, although I've already heard most of the advice he gives in the "On Writing" in one form or another. However I disagree with his apparent aversion to plot (but if it works for King, then more power to him) as well as his belief that you probably shouldn't take more than three months to write the first draft of a novel. However I do believe he's right when he says you should write the first draft of a short story or novel as fast as possible, before the story embers burn out.

Message #583 left by Terry on Dec 7, 2000 at 15:24

Yikes--I had forgotten that a saint has to be past tense, Gregory. That will never do. But..."Pope"? How would you look in the funny hat? And I don't think you insist on your own infallibility enough. Sorry.

"Deacon"? You're too young to be "Father Koster." Lord High Executioner Koster? The Big Kahuna?

This reminds me of the Sherman's lagoon cartoon I've got pasted (and yeloowing) on the side of my file cabinet. There's a girl fish and a boy fish (Ernest) hovering around above what's obviously an ocean-bottom dump site.

She says: "If I'm going to be queen of this trash pile, I need a better name than Lady Boogerface."

Ernest says, "How about Lady Dogbreath?"

"Ernest! I need something more ladylike than that!"

Scanning the jetsam below, Ernest says, "Lady Pooperscooper?"

"No! Something that sounds like royalty."

"Lady Wilkonson Disposable."

"Perfect."

Message #582 left by Gregory Koster on Dec 7, 2000 at 12:21

Late as usual, I thank those who tossed roses, not minding at all that I managed to catch them by the thorns...Alas, it is all to easy to stump Gregory. It is often done by deranged patrons swinging axes at what they claim is my wooden head, trying to stump me. More, they follow up with the next step that is used with stumps: blowing them up with dynamite. I must also remind everybody that much of the time, it is not Gregory speaking, but the vast resources of the Fresno County Free Library, resources that are likely available to you in your own home towns. For Sean: Alas, I am not going to be at Potlach, and am glum that you won't be there for the next Baycon. Hell! As for going to heaven, I'm with Mark Twain:

"Heaven for climate, Hell for company."

You are also bang right about A FIRE UPON THE DEEP. I think this is the best book for showing what science fiction (and ONLY science fiction) can do with literature.

As for GLORY ROAD, I am not ordinarily a Heinlein hater, but this one didn't do anything for me. It wasn't Heinlein's fault, because all the virtues Joe ascribes to it are there, in force. The fault is in me. Hmm, time for a checkup by the docs, I think.

As for being a saint, I object. If I recall the canonization process correctly, the first step is that the proposed victim has to be dead, and for all the crabbing and squawking I do about computers, I am not yet ready to roar off the bliss eternal, or maybe something warmer. I am surprised that the Sage of Omaha has forgotten that. Doubtless all those late hours spent devouring the Harry Potter books. Or maybe she DIDN'T forget this. Hmm, sinister currents here. In any case, I have given the matter of a title for me some thought, and conclude that if we must bow to the prevailing current that a religious title is in order, than I would like to be Pope. There is precedent; no fewer than sixteen popes (and two antipopes) have been named Gregory, and still the world spins on its axis once every twenty four hours, except in three counties in Florida. Besides, those who differ with me on this subject would always be free to replace the first "P" with a capital d. I await the white smoke coming out of the College of Cardinals's room, thank you.

Trying to be a bit more serious and on topic, I am about to start the second volume of Ian Kershaw's biography of Hitler: HITLER: NEMESIS 1937-45. The first volume had much merit, though I didn't thinkit deserved the torrents of ecstasy the mainstream press dumped on it. It was worth reading for those with an interest in German social history of that period.

Skyward ho! whatever his title is

Message #581 left by Terry on Dec 7, 2000 at 7:44

Finished the 4th Harry Potter book. My opinion: Ms. Rowling deserves every penny of the money she's making on this series. I think she's a witch herself; there are so many ways she finds to charm.

Hrmm. I read Vernor Vinge's "A Fire Upon the Deep" several years ago, and virtually the only thing I remember was being unable to get my brain around his concept of -- deep space? (See? Still haven't figured it out.) That's just my limited mind, though--he's obviously brainy and creative.

Message #580 left by Joe Shosty on Dec 7, 2000 at 5:56

I'm reading Glory Road again just for the fun of it. You really can't beat Heinlein's writing in the first three chapters as he sets up the story. It definitely shows his quick-wittedness as a writer. I think even some of you Heinlein haters might like this one.

Message #579 left by Anonymous on Dec 7, 2000 at 0:19

Isn't that Saint Red Dragon Koster?

Message #578 left by Terry on Dec 6, 2000 at 18:20

I second that, Fredrick. Definitely. From here on out, Saint Gregory it is.

<evil chuckle>That'll getcha for the "Sage of Omaha" moniker, St. Gregory!

Message #577 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Dec 6, 2000 at 17:12

Saint Gregory of Fresno. Has a nice ring to it, I think.

Message #576 left by Sean Klein on Dec 6, 2000 at 11:25

Dammit! Did I kill this thread? Hope not. Let's get back on track:

Finushed Vernor Vinge's "A Fire Upon the Deep" last night. I highly recommend it. At one point I was saying "Oh no" and "Oh my god" out loud as I read.

Message #575 left by Sean Klein on Nov 30, 2000 at 11:11

I'm contemplating a new thread called "Stump Gregory." But I can't figure out what to start it with. I'm beginning to think that librarians automatically go to heaven.

And a private message for Gregory: Are you going to be at Potlach in February? I'll be out of the country for the next Baycon. (Bummer.)

Message #574 left by Gregory Koster on Nov 30, 2000 at 11:00

For eyeplode: DUNCTON WOOD is by William Horwood. I'm told that it is fine book, moles or no.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #573 left by eyeplode on Nov 30, 2000 at 3:07

re Watership Down on that list above: another good book about small animals is Duncton Wood by somebody or other. That one was about moles, no kidding.

Message #572 left by Jason D. W. on Nov 29, 2000 at 21:40

I have read all six DUNE books (I think I am one of an elite few who can say that). The way I see it, the series can be divided into two halves, with "God Emperor of Dune" being the borderline between the two. DUNE, written circa 1965, was excellent, and did just fine as a stand-alone book. The next two, "Dune Messiah," and "Children of Dune," make no sense without the first book, but both are good continuations of the story. The fourth book, "God Emperor of Dune," marks a changing-point in the series. First off, it takes place a couple thousand years after the last book, and is told almost exclusively from the viewpoint of Leto II. Also, it was written almost ten years after "Children of Dune," and so may have reflected the maturation--or change, at any rate--of Herbert's writing. The last two books--"Heretics of Dune," and "Chapterhouse: Dune"--were a bit hard to fathom. I personally wasn't sure if the series was supposed to end at six books, or if Herbert just died too soon. But it turns out the latter was the case. In the afterword to "Dune: House Atreides," Brian Herbert relates how he found his father's notes for "Dune 7" in a safety deposit box.

On a side note, I am really looking forward to the new miniseries on the Sci-Fi Channel. I can't really pass judgement yet, but at least the Paul Atreides in this version *looks* like he belongs in a desert. Kyle MacLachlan is too much of a pretty boy. And I hope they stay away from doing voice-overs of the characters' inner thoughts, as in the David Lynch version.

Message #571 left by NMcVey on Nov 29, 2000 at 15:56

I just finished reading Storm of Swords last week and I think it was great. I started reading Winter's Heart then switched to SOS when it became available at the library. Winter's Heart is just not nearly as well written. Quite depressing actually.

It's official for me with Jordan's latest installment. The shine is off his series. It's just too slow and too much of the same in the last three books. Although I suppose there is hope for the last half of Winter's heart.

Nick

Message #570 left by Robert Stephenson on Nov 29, 2000 at 6:16

If you don't want to read the first two martin books then Storm of Swords does stand up well independently. I told you this was a great book. My prediction is that it will win the Fantasy Award this year. So far nothing else come close. But then again judging is always bloody fickle in awards.

Robert Stephenson

Read Harlequin Bernard Corwell and Namelss day Sara Douglass. These three books put new life back into fantasy. Well doen all of you.

Message #569 left by Hilary on Nov 28, 2000 at 22:31

Go away italics! Dang it, I was certain that I had typed the final slash. Bother.

Hmm

Message #568 left by Hilary on Nov 28, 2000 at 22:30


Just finished Storm of Swords. My god, I didn't think it was possible for Martin to get any better. I was wrong. This series is a must read.

Hmm

Message #567 left by Anonymous on Nov 28, 2000 at 10:15

Message #566 left by Typographyman on Nov 28, 2000 at 10:15

Never mind the little man behind the curtain, folks.

Message #565 left by Harvey on Nov 28, 2000 at 4:06

By the way, a short synopsis for suggested good reads is plenty--not necessary to reveal the endings within the post. hehehe...

Message #564 left by Harvey on Nov 28, 2000 at 3:58

Quite a collection of S/F titles and authors.

http://www.adherents.com/lit/sf_lists.html


Amazon.com's 25 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of the Century:

Rank Book Author 1 1984 George Orwell 2 A Canticle for Leibowitz Walter M. Miller, Jr. 3 A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess 4 Brave New World Aldous Huxley 5 Camp Concentration Thomas M. Disch 6 Dune Frank Herbert 7 Ender's Game Orson Scott Card 8 Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury 9 Foundation Isaac Asimov 10 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams 11 The Hobbit J. R. R. Tolkien 12 The Last Unicorn Peter S. Beagle, Mel Grant 13 The Left Hand of Darkness Ursula K. Le Guin 14 The Martian Chronicles Ray Bradbury 15 The Mists of Avalon Marion Zimmer Bradley 16 Neuromancer William Gibson 17 Norstrilia Cordwainer Smith 18 The Once and Future King Terence Hanbury White 19 The Princess Bride William Goldman 20 Shadow and Claw: The Shadow of the Torturer/the Claw of the Conciliator Gene Wolfe 21 The Stars My Destination Alfred Bester, et al 22 Snow Crash Neal Stephenson 23 Stranger in a Strange Land Robert A. Heinlein 24 Ubik Philip K. Dick 25 Watership Down Richard Adams

Message #563 left by eyeplode on Nov 28, 2000 at 1:44

I hate italics

Message #562 left by eyeplode on Nov 28, 2000 at 1:42

I think you could start directly with the Miles Vorkosigan books if you wanted to, without missing too many nuances. The Warrior's Apprentice is the first one of those, but Shards of Honor is very good itself, so it is not much of a hardship to start there. And if you are like me you will start with the first book first because that is really the only correct thing to do. :)

Message #561 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Nov 28, 2000 at 0:17

I just finished reading Children of Dune by Frank Herbert. My verdict stands as follows: better than Dune Messiah but not as good as the original Dune. I liked the story, though, it was a bit long, I felt, and some parts felt redundant, with all those plots within plots. I liked the Laza Tigers, though, and Leto II's transformation and ascendency (but I don't understand why he's #II, since Paul and Chani had a son named Leto that died in the first book. Shouldn't he be #III?). I think it rounded out the first series nicely, and I find Herbert's views on power and politics fascinating to read. Though I do wish there was some more action in the book, like the first one. I won't leap to God Emperor of Dune right away though, since I need time to digest this one and also since the Dune mini-series on the SF channel is starting on Sunday.

Another book I really liked was Lois McMaster Bujold's Falling Free. I love the idea of quaddies. What an interesting concept. Quaddies. Even saying the name makes me feel happy. About the only thing I might complain about is that Bujold uses a bit too many adverbs in the book for my liking. But that didn't detract a great deal, since I thought it was a great story to begin with. I'm looking for to reading some of her Miles Vorkosigan's books, starting with Shards of Honor, though from what I've heard Miles isn't even born until the second or third book. Oh well.

Message #560 left by Jason D. W. on Nov 26, 2000 at 18:09

I have to take exception to the "clench-racing" comment about Donaldson's books. I opened "This Day All Gods Die" to page 183 and didn't encounter the word "clench" once. Terry don't let Andrew throw you. Donaldson's books are really quite brilliant. If nothing else, he at least *tries* to give us something besides the usual mind candy (can you say "Robert Jordan"?). I second the earlier recommendation of starting with the Mordant's Need Duology. There are plot twists on top of plot twists, and it all works out in the end; also it's the most upbeat of his series. As for the Covenant series, I will concede that it's not for the clinically depressed, but I still recommend it highly. And as for Thomas Covenant being a whiner: how chipper would you be if everyone ostracized you simply because you'd caught some disfiguring disease?

Message #559 left by TomW on Nov 25, 2000 at 23:15

Hmm, couldn't get past Ms Douglass' "Battle Axe". Very poor. May be time to forgive?

Message #558 left by Robert Stephenson on Nov 24, 2000 at 21:16

Just finnished Sara Douglass' The Nameless Day

Highly recomended

Rob

Also took a look at Jordan's Winters Heart. no go I'm afraid.

Message #557 left by Terry on Nov 24, 2000 at 9:53

..."clench"? Oy! Methinks I'll skip Donaldson.

The local SF bookseller told me there's a similar game they play with John Norman's Gor series, except you're waiting for some form of female submission. Yeesh.

Message #556 left by Andrew on Nov 24, 2000 at 8:55

I'll second the Cornwell recommendation: while ninety per cent of his output is all essentially the same book with different words in, It's a Damned Fine Book and Worth Re-Reading.

As for Donaldson, there's a great game you can play with his works, called "clench racing". Each player opens a randomly-chosen page of a randomly-chosen Donaldson book and, at the starting gun, starts to read aloud as fast as possible.

The first to reach the word "clench" or some inflection thereof wins.

Message #555 left by Jamie Rosen on Nov 23, 2000 at 15:26

Personally, I enjoyed The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, although every book was a pain to get through.

Let me elucidate:

Thomas Covenant is an unpleasant protagonist. He whines, complains, and generally does jack-squat. Donaldson is guilty of over-writing on occasion (although no more than, say, ER Eddison or Mervyn Peake.) And yet, somehow, not only did I slog through all three books, but I wanted to know what happened next every time. I thought the books were fascinating.

I've tried and failed to read any of his other series. I made it through 1 or 2 Gap books, and partway into the first book of both Mordant' Need and The Second Chronicles.

As far as really good books go, I'd have to say Jonathan Lethem's first two, Gun, With Occasional Music and Amnesia Moon, were real stand-outs. I was reminded of how much I enjoyed them by his story in The Best of Crank!, which isn't as good but stil has the trademark "what the hell?" sort of premise. Haven't gotten to his other books yet, which I really should.

Message #554 left by Mary on Nov 21, 2000 at 20:49

Just found myself (at Philcon) a copy of James Stoddard's *The High House* and *The False House*. I had only found The High House in libraries (I believe I've already mentioned it here), and I hadn't found The False House at all.

Good books, both of them. Very strange in many respects. Not your typical fantasy.

Message #553 left by Gregory Koster on Nov 20, 2000 at 13:01

After blasting Ronald W. Clark's QUEEN VICTORIA'S BOMB in the Bad Books topic, it's a pleasure to say that when he tried again with THE BOMB THAT FAILED, he came a lot closer to success. Premise of the book is straightforward: Alamogordo 16 July 45, three, two one, FIRE THE FIRST ATOMIC BOMB!!! And...it fizzles.

What next? Well, Clark uses several narrators to give us his notions. First, the November 1945 invasion of Japan, a bloody affair. The Russians sit on their hands so far as invading Japan from the mainland. Clark wrote this novel in 1969, before the revisionists had their say about how Japan was on the verge of surrendering when the bombs were dropped, and it was a crime to have done so. He does not believe that Japan was on the verge of surrendering, and makes a vivid case for it. He has the Allies try to starve out Japan by dropping biological weapons that will destroy the food crops. Doesn't work, but shows how the bomb wasn't necessarily the worst weapon that could have been used against Japan.

Next, the United States. After the 16 July fiasco, the Manhattan Project is shoved into the deep freeze. Congress tries to investigate, prodded along by a state judge from Wisconsin, who has learned about the fiasco, and has broken the story, charging the Roosevelt/Truman administrations with treasonable incompetence in spending two billion bucks that could have gone to equip the Allied forces in the Pacific. The judge is elected on the strength of his charges. His name? Joseph McCarthy. This was the part of the book I liked best, because Clark has come up with a notion that could easily have happened if things had turned out a bit differently. I'm tempted to steal this notion myself.

The third part has the Russians invading Europe. They get away with it because the American/British/Commonwealth forces have been withdrawn to finish off Japan. So Russia helps herself to all of Europe. Churchill is recalled to power, and manages to save the day, thanks to a neat bit of bluff.

The principal thing wrong with this book is that it is much too short, only 250 odd pages. Each individual part would have rated a novel by itself, or an epic in the manner of Herman Wouk's war novels. Still, it works well enough that I commend it to everyone's attention.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #552 left by eyeplode on Nov 19, 2000 at 1:53

I just finished The Golden Compass and I thought it was great. I haven't read "Paradise Lost," but maybe I will do that and then hmmm, perhaps I will have to read the book over again. Many juvenile books have the adult characters as rather simplistic good or bad or wise, etc. Pullman manages to get the complexties across without being overly adult about it.

Message #551 left by Peter E. Morgan on Nov 18, 2000 at 21:23

I am very lucky that I read The Gap and Mordant's Need before Thomas Covenant, because if I'd read TC first, I would have been put off Stephen Donaldson forever and never read his other brilliant works. What can I say? The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant were so utterly, unbelievably bad it is hard to believe they came from the same mind as the brilliant, flawless Mordant's Need. All six TC books were a repetition of very similar events followed by about thirty pages of Tommy whining and feeling sorry for himself. No other characters were developed in any detail except Linden Avery, who is almost as annoying as Covenant himself.

I loved the Gap series. The fascinating, flawed characters he's renowned for were there, but he didn't sacrifice plot for character development like he did in TC. The characters that interested me the most was Fasner's ancient mother and Warden Dios.

I think the two Mordant's Need books are the best ever written. His creative magic system, imagery, was very original and believable because he portrayed the Imagers almost as scientists rather than stereotype wizards with magic wands. Donaldson has given his charcters believable motives and raised the art of the multiple double-cross to new heights. These books are close to perfect. Anyone who hasn't read them, DO SO NOW!

Message #550 left by Robert Stephenson on Nov 18, 2000 at 19:38

As I review books, I am lothe to give away plot line, story lines etc as I feel these take away the readers true discovery of what is written. I tend to focus on style, ease of reading, whether or no the plot actually works and whether or not the characters are in the least believable.

Some say my reviews are too short. Averaging around 150-200 words, but to say more on a book is a waste of wor\dage and becomes, in my opinion, a reviews way of saying 'look at me, ain't I clever'.

My reviews simply tell people who I felt the book was and if I would recomend it. Considering the cost of books these days that is about all the review reader really is interested in.

Rob

I'll probably only write a single sentence for Jordan's book. Pity really.

Message #549 left by John Savage on Nov 18, 2000 at 11:07

Amy, the problem is with a certain reviewer whose "reviews" are nothing more than marketing blurbs and plot summaries with a short personal evaluation attached that seldom seems to have anything to do with said blurb/summary. That's not a "review." The "mainstreamers" have been even worse; "reflexive" doesn't seem to be in their vocabulary, and neither do "irony," "satire," or "oral history."

"From the beginning" means starting with The Golden Compass, Terry, not trying to jump into The Amber Spyglass. That's sort of like trying to read the Bible jumping in after Mark, ignoring the Torah, the remainder of the OT, and the other gospels. (Hint: That's what a lot of "mainstream" reviewers seem to be doing.)

Message #548 left by Terry on Nov 18, 2000 at 10:13

Oops--that Anonymous in #546 was me. <blush>

Message #547 left by Amy Sterling Casil on Nov 18, 2000 at 9:44

They didn't like Ursula Le Guin's book, John? Shame on them!

Yet more proof that nobody should trust reviewers. Read and see for yourself.

> Amy :)

Message #546 left by Anonymous on Nov 18, 2000 at 9:09

John, I went & downloaded Paradise Lost after reading your note--it was just the push I needed to go get it; that's one of those on my lifelong "I really should read that" list.

It'll take a little while before I get to it, I know, but why do you say about Pullman's book "starting from the beginning"? Why on earth *wouldn't* I start from the beginning?

Message #545 left by Robert Stephenson on Nov 18, 2000 at 5:20

One to read if you like solid history in your fantasy or mediaval fiction. Bernard Cornwell's Harlequin. This guy can really write. Much to learn from him.

Rob

Just got Robert Jordan's Winter's Heart to review. I have tears in my eyes already. Do I really have to read it?

Message #544 left by John Savage on Nov 17, 2000 at 19:49

If you like some meat on your fiction, consider:

Ursula Le Guin's The Telling, which is a much more subtle work than Certain Prominent (Marginally Literate) Reviewers at Locus seem to comprehend

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, starting from the beginning, preferably after having actually read Paradise Lost (not just the Cliff's Notes)

Message #543 left by Tim on Nov 17, 2000 at 18:58

Yeah, there's a "My Favorite Science Fiction Story" and a "My Favorite Fantasy Story"-- products of the Martin Greenberg Anthology Machine, if I recall. It's a neat premise for an antho, and leads to really diverse contents... though one could wish there'd be more obscure, underappreciated writers brought to light...

Then again, most of my favorite stories are by fairly well-known writers...

Message #542 left by Jason D. W. on Nov 17, 2000 at 0:03

Re: message # 541: I believe there's a similar anthology for fantasy writers. I don't remember what the title is, but I'll go look for it.

Message #541 left by MWA on Nov 16, 2000 at 23:07

I'm currently reading a Horror anthology, titled "My Favorite Horror Story". Good stuff. Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Richard Laymon, F. Paul Wilson, Ed Gorman, Ramsey Campbell, Peter Straub, Joyce Carol Oates, Dennis Etchison, Harlan Ellison & others select their favorite horror tales, which includes stories by: Ambrose Bierce, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson, Phillip K. Dick, M. R. James, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert Aickman...and the list goes on. Excellent so far. Each selecting author introduces the story they selected, and tells why. Particularly interesting is F. Paul Wilson's selection of Richard Matheson's "The Distributor", and what Mr. Wilson has to say about his own writing, as related to the story. The story is exceptional.

Message #540 left by Joe Shosty on Nov 15, 2000 at 5:08

Alex: I had a similar incident happen to me in that very grade. There was a teacher who didn't like me because I was, as she put it, a "problem child." I did one of my book reports on Elfstones of Shannarra, and she gave me a D- with the note "inappropriate choice of material." However, no doubt showing my obvious problem child roots I took it to the principal and had it overturned so that I got an A instead. His note to her was something to the effect of, "He's probably the only student who actually read the book he reported on."

Forgot to mention in my last post Space Paw by Gordon R. Dickson. I wouldn't say it's "really" good as the thread's title implies, but I thought it was neat and off center. It probably won't change anyone's life should they read it, but it was a good yarn.

Message #539 left by Andrea on Nov 14, 2000 at 19:35

I believe it's Robert McCammon's short story collection, _Blue World_, that contains the story about the evil kid who can summon and control yellowjackets. Maybe if I didn't have a big ol' insect phobia, this wouldn't have been the absolute most horrifying piece of fiction I ever read. But it'd still make the top five. ::shudder::

Message #538 left by alex on Nov 14, 2000 at 8:39

The Wolf's Hour?

Oh, my. I got in trouble for doing a book report on that book in sixth grade (wasn't appropriate?). I thought the name McCammon sounded familiar. Well, I loved the book then (I was 12 years old, I guess, but I was also heavily into Stephen King at the time). Silly me, I figured this was just another author I'd probably never get to.

Thanks for the memories.

Message #537 left by Christina on Nov 14, 2000 at 4:52

Would have liked to read more of his books. I hope it is not true that he won't write anymore. As is, I have read all his books several times over.

Wolf's Hour is my second favourite. They Thirst and Stinger are pretty good as well.

Message #536 left by Joe Shosty on Nov 14, 2000 at 4:20

Rather enjoyed McCammon's The Wolf's Hour. Care to debate how it would be impossible for a werewolf to infiltrate Nazi Germany as well, Dave? Glad to see folks around here are still needlessly confrontational.

Hmm, let's see. Haven't read many books this year, and most of the ones I've read weren't that great. Enjoyed the hell out of Dave Duncan's Sir Stalwart, and I'm really kinda digging Nancy Springer's Fair Peril, though I haven't finished it yet.

Message #535 left by Tim on Nov 13, 2000 at 19:15

Re: Robert McCammon.

This is from a McCammon website:

"At the request of Robert R. McCammon, the McCammon web site, LIGHTS OUT!, has been shut down.

In November 1999, Robert R. McCammon announced his official retirement from writing. Since he won't have any new material coming out, McCammon asked me to shut down the web site."

Don't know how true this is...

If he has given up writing entirely, it's sort of a bummer; Swan Song is great, and Boy's Life is really good, too... I liked them enough to read his other books, even though I didn't like any of them nearly so much.

Message #534 left by FranW on Nov 13, 2000 at 17:00

Has anyone else out there read "Rats, Bats and Vats" by Dave Freer and Eric Flint (Baen)? While it's neither high literature nor hardcore need-a-degree-in-physics-to-read stuff, it's quite good. I for one was delighted to finally find some _humorous_ SF. Check it out.

Message #533 left by DaveK on Nov 13, 2000 at 10:50

Christina: is that the one with the nuclear holocaust in the beginning and a bus is tossed up high enough by a nuclear explosion to knock the President's plane out of the air? If so, then it was awful. Give me a break. It had so many scientific flaws in it that it was ridiculous.

Message #532 left by Christina on Nov 13, 2000 at 5:02

Robert McCammon's Swan Song is the best book I've ever read. Does anyone know what happened to him? I haven't seen any of his work for the last few years.

Message #531 left by TomW on Nov 10, 2000 at 20:58

Anyone read Stephen Baxter's "Time"? Very interesting, with a scope literally spanning universes. Still some awkwardness in the structure/writing, but bursting with ideas. And his characterisation is much improved on the only other book of his that I've read, "Raft", which I believe was his first.

Message #530 left by John Savage on Nov 10, 2000 at 17:08

No, not obscure, Tim. Although I've heard rumors of people going blind reading Roth's book <ducks and runs>.

Message #529 left by Tim on Nov 10, 2000 at 13:57

_Dying Inside_ is the _Portnoy's Complaint_ of sf.

Which is good, if you like that sort of thing.

Hmm. I hope the above doesn't count as an obscure literary allusion.

-Tim

Message #528 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Nov 9, 2000 at 22:31

Maybe it's just me but there's something about Robert Silverberg's writings that I find pretentious and perhaps even a bit smug and arrogant, like he wants to flaunt the fact that he knows so much on the rest of us rubes. Which was why I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed one of his novels back from the 60's, Hawksbill Station. Although there was nothing overtly stunning or amazing about it, I thought it was a good time travel story, well-told and with an interesting premise about sending political dissidents on a one-way trip to the Precambrian Era. Also I didn't feel like Silverberg was trying to bombard me with strange literary allusions, obscure characters and places I've never even heard of. Even the protagonist, Jim Barrett, was a good, likeable and sympathetic character.

About the only problems I had with the story was that there wasn't anything surprising about the plot--in other words it followed the paces through and through. Plus like a lot of PKD's work it suffered from near futurism syndrome--I doubt we'll have time travel by 2005, but I can forgive it easily. It was a short novel (around 170 pages) and a very good read. In fact I liked it so much I make go and check out some more of his earlier works from the 60's and 70's, like Dying Inside, that is if I can find it.

Message #527 left by Captain Ed on Nov 5, 2000 at 21:48

And tomorrow I'll take my remedial HTML class. Sorry about the blown coding!

Message #526 left by Captain Ed on Nov 5, 2000 at 21:47

It may have already been discussed here, but I just finished Stephen King's On Writing. I found it very readable and enlightening. If you haven't read it yet, the first half is a memoir of sorts, mostly about how he came to write and recapping his less-than-successful years. The second half is his view of writing and writers. Some of it is cast in 'you must do this' mode, but for the most part it's King talking about what works for him and what doesn't. I found it fascinating, not preachy at all, and full of very good advice. I didn't necessarily agree with everything, but it's clear he's no idiot savant; his success is not a result of unthinking luck.

The last section deals with the accident that almost resulted in his death and his slow and painful recovery from his injuries. He tells the story without any significant animosity towards the driver, although it's clear that King hadn't forgiven the man by the time this was written (and the man is dead now, he died this summer, but that didn't make it into the book). To me, knowing it was true made it even more harrowing than some of his fiction. I haven't read anything from King since The Dark Half</>, but I may give some of his recent material a look now.

I'd highly recommend it to people who love to read King or writers, especially newbies such as myself.

Message #525 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Nov 5, 2000 at 21:18

Just finished reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling and I enjoyed it immensely. At last I've finally read a bestseller that actually lived up to its hype. The story was funny and smart and exciting. I really liked Hagrid, sympathized with Harry and hated those terrible Dursleys. And I didn't even mind all of Rowling's said bookisms. Not to mention the fact that it was a solidly-told story overall. About the only qualm I had was that the climax and ending seemed a bit rushed--though the former was surprising. I would read Chamber of Secrets except I just read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and didn't like that at all, plus I have a hundred other books to read for college. Perhaps I'll go grab a broomstick and play some Quidditch in the meantime.

Message #524 left by Hilary on Nov 3, 2000 at 13:02

Lindsay --

Note Martin's comment about dragons the size of chihuahuas. Dragons were extinct, until someone finds a way of making some petrified eggs hatch. The resulting dragons are minor (in all senses of the word) characters but I have the distinct feeling that they will be a royal nuisance by book six.

Don't let the dragons deter you. If what Martin does with them is as different as what Martin did with the rest of heroic fantasy, they should be pretty memorable.

Hmm

Message #523 left by Lindsay M on Nov 3, 2000 at 11:04

Hilary: You almost sold me on reading the series... I just got put off by the dragons! I don't know what it is but I just don't like reading about dragons... although I suppose I could be sold on that as well. What are these dragons like?

I recently read "Beyond the Pale" by Mark Anthony, which I really loved. I have the second one although I started on a horror kick before I got it so I'm working through that. Anyway I loved "Beyond the Pale", for a start I enjoy books where people from this world go into other worlds (I have recently managed to attribute this to my love of the Narnia and Alan Garner books as a child). Anyway, it's humorous and I liked the fantasy world, it was nice and grim and I love what the main evil dude does to his minions.

I think it's well written and intriguing and most of the characters are well rounded and are not interchangeable, I would definitely recommend it to someone.

Lindsay M

Message #522 left by Sean Klein on Nov 3, 2000 at 11:03

I was talking about Tolstoy, then Tolkien.

Perhaps I should start a thread called "Really Good Books by Writers Who's Names Start with T"

Maybe I'll check our Mr. Martin during my next buying spree.

Message #521 left by Hilary on Nov 3, 2000 at 10:48

Jase --

Please read the Martin books before you cast judgment on them. Let me take a moment to talk about what I love about these books. Before Martin came along, I had just about given up on psuedo-medieval heroic fantasy as a genre. I did not want to read a Game of Thrones because I was certain it was going to be another awful quest story. Scott at Uncle Hugo's bookstore literally had to force the book upon me.

It was wonderful! A diverse and interesting set of flawed characters. While a few characters are more heroic than others (and several are downright evil), no one side is really better or more pure than any other. The most sympathetic (and, in his own way, honorable) of the characters (Tyrion) works for the most despicable of the throne contenders. Who do you root for? How can you tell? Characters continually shift their alliances as they grow and change and learn about eachother. I found myself utterly swept away by the intrigue, unable to tell which way the cards would fall.

The setting is equally interesting: a gritty fantasy world with so little magic that almost everyone has to rely on their wits and their political maneuvering. There are may diverse human cultures and the non-human ones are not the expected stock races of fantasy.

I agree that book one seemed faster paced than book two, but not by much. Every plot advanced in book two and every character changed. Did they wind up where they started? No. But Martin's series chronicles a struggle for power between six different families, and also struggles for power within those families... Some gain ground only to lose it again.

Interestingly enough, while books 1-3 take place in a continuous time line, Martin said at World Con that book 4 will leap forward in time a few years. Why? "I'm tired of writing about eight year old children and dragons the size of chihuahuas," he said. "It'll be more exciting if the main contenders grow a little before the next book." So while it is one story, you could look at it as two successive trilogies if it'll make you happier. Just read it, please? You will not regret this one.

Hmm

Message #520 left by Robert Stephenson on Nov 3, 2000 at 1:18

I think Sean is talking about Tolstoy not Tolkien. Two very different and equaly proficient writers.

Rob

Message #519 left by NMcVey on Nov 2, 2000 at 15:29

Sean: I don't even want to get started arguing about Tolkien. There are some who love him, maybe even most, but there are some of us who find him so boring that we must suspect his books in many cases of wilfire over the years.

Message #518 left by NMcVey on Nov 2, 2000 at 15:27

Jason: I found that quite a lot happens in Clash of Kings. Not as much as happens in Game of Thrones, but that's to be expected as the first book of a series has to do all the work in setting up the various plot threads.

All of the threads in the series were significantly advanced and quite a few new ones were conceived as well. If this were Book 2 of a trilogy as it was originally thought to be then I would be as upset as your friend. As it is only Book 2 of six then an acceptable amount of movement in the events of the story can be found.

Message #517 left by Jason D. W. on Nov 2, 2000 at 11:09

About Martin's books: A friend of mine recently read Book 2 in Martin's series (she thought Book 1 was brilliant, so she bought Book 2 in hardcover), and she was woefully disappointed. She said that events in Book 2 went in no direction, and the plot wound up almost exactly where it started. Is this Martin's way of expanding a trilogy into six books?

Message #516 left by Sean Klein on Nov 2, 2000 at 10:53

I read Tolstoy because I wanted to read Tolstoy. I enjoy Russian literature. However, before reading Anna Karenina I read some writing advice that said "Don't do X." Then, when I read AK, I saw how Tolstoy handled the "Don't do X" thing. It's hard to explain, but a little light went on in my head and my writing was forever changed.

Message #515 left by Lindsay M on Nov 2, 2000 at 9:59

Marti: Why on earth would you read a series not in order?? :o)

Message #514 left by Lindsay M on Nov 2, 2000 at 9:58

Nick: Okay, Okay you can get rid of the darn book. You only said you didn't like it not that it was so awful :p

Sean: I also don't just read to be taught about reading, sometimes I actually just read for enjoyment, although these days I have to deliberately turn off the inner critic... although sometimes that's really really hard to do.

Maybe I will try "Anna Karenina" again, my English teacher gave me it to read it because it was very good and he thought I'd enjoy it. I did find it a little tedious, but then at 17 reading classics wasn't exactly a priority, maybe I'll try it again with a little maturity under my belt.

Also I don't seem to recall Jordan doing the same descriptions again and again, but then I last read it as a reader, not as a writer, which of course may explain my current view on it... maybe it will change when I re-read them, we'll see.

John: You know I don't recall him going over things again... I read the last few as they came out and sometimes struggled to remember things, I don't recall getting any help from Jordan in that respect.


So it's been a while since I last read any, and I read them as a reader who has learned a lot from writing since then... as I do intend to re-read them maybe I will agree with these comments at a later date, or maybe I will be back here again arguing :o)

Lindsay M

Message #513 left by Marti on Nov 2, 2000 at 9:11

Just a minor note: You must read the Martin books in order. I read book 2, loved it, and went back to read book 1. Big mistake-- so much of his "plot" is the detailed play by play of these characters and not knowing what will happen next. If you already know what's going to happen, it leaves your mind to wander and notice all the little annoying things he does.

Message #512 left by Sean Klein on Nov 1, 2000 at 11:12

Point taken about Tolstoy. It came to mind because I noticed the same description used twice. So...

How often does Tolkien repeat descriptions in LotR? Probably not as much as Jordan does in WoT.

I'll have to look up the Martin books. Maybe when I get the ten foot tall stack of unread books in my office down to three or four feet.

Message #511 left by NMcVey on Nov 1, 2000 at 10:07

Maybe this should be in the Bad Books topic, but I thought that the Otherworld series was awful. I couldn't get through the second book. It was interminably slow-paced and the characters annoyed me to no end.

Luckily I didn't pay any money for the books although book one was a gift from my wife.

As far as Robert Jordan goes, I think he suffers from lack of serious editing whether self imposed or outside influence. His book are too long and the early ones are especially hard to get through. I never thought I'd get through Eye of the World. Even book 2 was more than a bit slow.

That being said, I think Jordan's Wheel of Time is the second best epic fantasy series on the market behind Martin's. It may not credit the reader with being able to follow a intricate plot, but at least it has more than an ample amount of plot. The characters aren't great, but they're acceptable vehicles for the plot. The world is well thought out if not engrossing to me personally. All in all quite good.

As far as Tolstoy goes, could we stay with apples and apples for comparison's sakes; examples of speculative fiction would be appreciated. Or even stick with someone who wrote in English for that matter.

Hey Robert I'd let you have my copy of Otherworld: Book ONe if my wife would let me part with it. Otherwise it sits in a great number of bargain piles out here in Colorado for 3.99 as hardcover.

Nick

Message #510 left by John Savage on Nov 1, 2000 at 8:56

I'd have to disagree with a couple of people . . .

Jordan does not give readers credit for intelligence to follow things. Virtually every time something is reintroduced, there's an "As you know, Bob . . ." recapitulation, even if it's spread across three or four characters.

I didn't like King's book. There's nothing in it that's not in Melissa Scott's Conceiving the Heavens, Card's two WD books, or John Gardner's The Art of Fiction. Except, perhaps, King's own self-appreciation.

Message #509 left by Lenora Rose on Nov 1, 2000 at 0:36

For short and not so lihgt, but really stunning, I'm just slowly climbing out to Patricia McKillip's the Tower at Stony Wood. I say climbing out because I feel like I was in the world. Very different from ours, more poetic, and way too full of mirrors -but isn't it a sign of great writing that a world so far into high fantasy that it removes itself from the idea of reality and plunges straight into myth/folklore should feel real for the duration?

Of course, once again I'm wooed by the presence of selkies...

Message #508 left by Robert Stephenson on Oct 31, 2000 at 23:18

I've got book two and three of Tad William's series and I'm trying to get a copy if the first one. From OZ that can be hard, especiallynwhen some stores are still asking huge prices for the H/C _ which I want.

Rob

I also agree with G R. R. Martins work being brilliant. He will certainly become known as a master if Fantasy circles and in the greater writing world.

Rob

Message #507 left by Sean Klein on Oct 31, 2000 at 18:58

Lindsay: count how many times in Jordan's Book 2 (don't remember the title) that the wookie guy's smile "split his face." I can guarantee you that it's more than four or five times in the 800 pages. And that's only on one book. Jordan used it in book one. God knows how many times he used it in books 3 to infinity.

Compare with Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" (and perhaps I'm being unfair here, comparing Jordan to the master) and how many times Tolstoy repeats a description like that. I remember seeing him describe a baby's wrist twice as looking like it had string wrapped around it. But Anna nor Vronsky nor any other character gets a "tag" that is repeated every time the character appears. (Plus, "his smile split his face" is fairly poor writing.)

If you want to read some great long books, I suggest Tolstoy (who will teach you more about writing in 100 pages than Jordan will in 1000) or Tad Williams' Otherworld series. "Gravity's Rainbow" by Pynchon is also a good one. "One Hundred Years of Solitude" while short in comparison to these other tomes, is also brilliant.

Perhaps I should start a "Really Good, Really Long Books" topic.

Message #506 left by Lindsay M on Oct 31, 2000 at 12:25

Well I'm 18th in line at the library for "On Writing" and there are six copies... so I should get it... ah whenever, I write I don't do maths.

Anyway I disagree, I would put Jordan in really good books. My reasons...

Well for one thing, Jordan actually credits the reader with an attention span and enough intelligence to actually follow an intricate plot and numerous characters.

I will admit he is a little weak on the female characters in that they do tend to be more or less alike, however it's much better that they are more or less alike in a strong way rather than a weak permanent victim of circumstance, tag along, annoying way. Of course this goes into the gender argument again doesn't it.

As for the length and the wait, well I don't mind waiting for what I think of as well written books, I much prefer it to quickly churned out drek. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy fluff books the same as I enjoy fluff films and fluff tv shows, but I don't like a constant diet of it. I want to be challenged now and again, I want something that takes effort to read now and again, something where I have to concentrate. That's why I think Robert Jordan is good.

Of course this leads onto what is and isn't good, my personal definition of good doesn't include all action all the time, I like slower bits, I like getting to know character and place bits. I like a strong plot driven story which includes all components to make it a strong and believable plot.

This is on Jordan so far, the last book was slow, yes, but not bad in my opinion. He hasn't finished them and so maybe by the end I will have changed my mind. I still believe they are well written, but then maybe that's because I'm such an amateur writer myself.

I would also like to say that I love waiting for books to come out, it's a delight I can look forward to. I read far too quickly and am often saddened when I've finished, I like the enforced wait and the excitement when I know the next book in whichever series is coming out. The wonderful anticipation. Maybe this personality quirk is why I'm one of the few people I know who isn't peeved at having to wait for the next book in yet another series.

Lindsay M

Message #505 left by Sean Klein on Oct 31, 2000 at 11:36

Any mention of Jordan should probably belong in the Really Bad Books thread. I got one and a half books into the Overstuffed Wheel of Neverending Time series before becoming angry and annoyed. Forced myself to finish book 2 then donated both to the library.

As for really good books, I finished Stephen King's "On Writing" last night. Excellent stuff that every RM'er should read.

Message #504 left by Hilary on Oct 31, 2000 at 10:37

Most long fantasy series drag interminably for me. I couldn't read Jordan, and David Edding's Mallorean was the Belgariad all over again, only written even more poorly.

However, I will make an exception for George Martin. He has done something amazing: he has created a pseudo medieval fantasy universe that is fully realized and gritty. His series is long because he has enough characters and subplots to justify it. Six major families are contending for a throne, there is a civil war, and characters die or become transformed left and right. It's a damn good series and it is the length it needs to be. Does quantity diminish the quality of the writing? In Martin's case, I'd say no.

Hmm

Message #503 left by Terry on Oct 31, 2000 at 7:53

"an empty bookcase"? What's that?

Message #502 left by Robert Stephenson on Oct 31, 2000 at 6:04

Two books which are a must. Three actually if you throw in Greg Benfords Deep Time

Time by Clifford A. Pickover "Oxford Press" Non-fiction The Five Ages of The Universe by Fred Admas and Greg Laughlin " Free Press"

The last book is superb for the SF writer. Mind blowing facts and even greater extrapolations and pseculation that will take your breath away.

Rob

Message #501 left by TomW on Oct 31, 2000 at 5:51

Or fill an empty bookcase.

Message #500 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Oct 31, 2000 at 0:58

Look on the bright side: if you can't stand reading these monster fantasy books, you can always use them as paperweights or to whack your annoying neighbor upside the head.

Message #499 left by Jason D. W. on Oct 30, 2000 at 23:24

Re: Martin's 6-book series: At whose behest was that series expanded from a trilogy to six books? Was it the marketers or Martin himself? Each of the first two books are more than an inch thick in paperback, and one would guess that the following books will follow suit. And then there's Robert Jordan's series, which is currently at 9 (?) books. My point is that dragging a story over this many pages would tend (I think) to diminish the quality of the writing. Or are these authors, when they sit at the typewriter, thinking of V.I. Lenin's theory, "Quantity has a quality all its own"?

Message #498 left by Robert Stephenson on Oct 27, 2000 at 20:42

according to HarperCollins George Martin has another three books to write, though it did start out as a trilogy.

Rob

Message #497 left by Robert Stephenson on Oct 27, 2000 at 20:41

according to HarperCollins George Martin has another three books to write, though it did start out as a trilogy.

Rob

Message #496 left by Terry on Oct 27, 2000 at 11:11

In case you hadn't noticed, there's a mutliple-posting epidemic happening. To thwart it, the FIRST time you hit the post button, if you're timed out, then hit the Back button, then Refresh. Your message may already be there. Hilary and I both have alerted (or tried to) Kent via the Future of the RM and the Urgent Announcements topics.

Message #495 left by TomW on Oct 27, 2000 at 11:06

I'm sure you're right, John. I wasn't saying that Tolkien invented the multi-book fantasy, but he certainly popularised it. The infection spread rapidly after his initial "outbreak".

Just to be sure you get this, it'll probably appear 4 times.

Message #494 left by TomW on Oct 27, 2000 at 11:05

I'm sure you're right, John. I wasn't saying that Tolkien invented the multi-book fantasy, but he certainly popularised it. The infection spread rapidly after his initial "outbreak".

Just to be sure you get this, it'll probably appear 4 times.

Message #493 left by TomW on Oct 27, 2000 at 11:04

I'm sure you're right, John. I wasn't saying that Tolkien invented the multi-book fantasy, but he certainly popularised it. The infection spread rapidly after his initial "outbreak".

Just to be sure you get this, it'll probably appear 4 times.

Message #492 left by TomW on Oct 27, 2000 at 11:02

I'm sure you're right, John. I wasn't saying that Tolkien invented the multi-book fantasy, but he certainly popularised it. The infection spread rapidly after his initial "outbreak".

Just to be sure you get this, it'll probably appear 4 times.

Message #491 left by John Savage on Oct 27, 2000 at 10:26

Just a couple of quick notes:

  • Martin's series is currently planned for six books (at least, that's what is contracted)
  • Series certainly did not originate with Tolkein. For example, E.R. Eddison's Zimiamvian Trilogy predates LOTR by over a decade; Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time (like LOTR, properly classified as a "serial novel" rather than a series) included a dozen volumes started in the early 1940s. Farther back, one can look at Amadis of Gaul, which ran to over 20 volumes—in the early 1500s.

Message #490 left by TomW on Oct 27, 2000 at 8:20

Once upon a time a fantasy could be told in one book. Then a bloke named Tolkien came along. And lo! Every fantasy required 3 books. Now...

Robert Jordan has hit 8 (or is it 9) in the Wheel of Time Terry Goodkind has hit 6 in the Sword of Truth. The first couple were good, but... George RR Martin is up to 3 (and I believe there are a few more, though I'm sure it was initially meant to be a trilogy). Raymond Feist sticks to trilogies, but he can't leave Midkemia behind, it seems. Nor can David Eddings abandon the world of the Belgariad.

Still, who am I to complain? If that's what the readers want...

It's a bit like the movies and the tendency for sequels/and or re-makes of old movies/television shows. The potential for failure is lessened if you stick to the familiar. Familiarity definitely does NOT breed contempt.

Message #489 left by TomW on Oct 27, 2000 at 8:19

Once upon a time a fantasy could be told in one book. Then a bloke named Tolkien came along. And lo! Every fantasy required 3 books. Now...

Robert Jordan has hit 8 (or is it 9) in the Wheel of Time Terry Goodkind has hit 6 in the Sword of Truth. The first couple were good, but... George RR Martin is up to 3 (and I believe there are a few more, though I'm sure it was initially meant to be a trilogy). Raymond Feist sticks to trilogies, but he can't leave Midkemia behind, it seems. Nor can David Eddings abandon the world of the Belgariad.

Still, who am I to complain? If that's what the readers want...

It's a bit like the movies and the tendency for sequels/and or re-makes of old movies/television shows. The potential for failure is lessened if you stick to the familiar. Familiarity definitely does NOT breed contempt.

Message #488 left by TomW on Oct 27, 2000 at 8:18

Once upon a time a fantasy could be told in one book. Then a bloke named Tolkien came along. And lo! Every fantasy required 3 books. Now...

Robert Jordan has hit 8 (or is it 9) in the Wheel of Time Terry Goodkind has hit 6 in the Sword of Truth. The first couple were good, but... George RR Martin is up to 3 (and I believe there are a few more, though I'm sure it was initially meant to be a trilogy). Raymond Feist sticks to trilogies, but he can't leave Midkemia behind, it seems. Nor can David Eddings abandon the world of the Belgariad.

Still, who am I to complain? If that's what the readers want...

It's a bit like the movies and the tendency for sequels/and or re-makes of old movies/television shows. The potential for failure is lessened if you stick to the familiar. Familiarity definitely does NOT breed contempt.

Message #487 left by TomW on Oct 27, 2000 at 8:17

Once upon a time a fantasy could be told in one book. Then a bloke named Tolkien came along. And lo! Every fantasy required 3 books. Now...

Robert Jordan has hit 8 (or is it 9) in the Wheel of Time Terry Goodkind has hit 6 in the Sword of Truth. The first couple were good, but... George RR Martin is up to 3 (and I believe there are a few more, though I'm sure it was initially meant to be a trilogy). Raymond Feist sticks to trilogies, but he can't leave Midkemia behind, it seems. Nor can David Eddings abandon the world of the Belgariad.

Still, who am I to complain? If that's what the readers want...

It's a bit like the movies and the tendency for sequels/and or re-makes of old movies/television shows. The potential for failure is lessened if you stick to the familiar. Familiarity definitely does NOT breed contempt.

Message #486 left by Lenora Rose on Oct 26, 2000 at 22:47

ROb - Is Storm of Swords the last book, or are there yet more to come? I've heard both that it was going to be a trilogy, and an ongoing series.

Message #485 left by Jay Arr on Oct 25, 2000 at 12:48

World-be writer? I like it.

Message #484 left by Robert Stephenson on Oct 25, 2000 at 5:38

Has any one mentioned George RR Martins "Storm of Swords" ?

Brilliant stuff. For the world be writer read this. Characters well drawn, scenes beautiful, plot engrossing, sub plots intriuging (spell checker please) Overall world building almost faultless. Great style as well. Another book I could recomend for the same reasons is a much older work by Jack Vance. "Araminta Station"

By for now

Rob

Message #483 left by Terry on Oct 24, 2000 at 22:44

But Lenora, don't we all anyway?

Message #482 left by Lenora Rose on Oct 24, 2000 at 21:40

The fact that Patricia McKillip's recent novels have had Kinuko Craft covers (Which are almost worth the cover price alone in my estimate) just adds icing to the cake, but yes, she does some pretty lovely books...

I've been trying to find a copy of Dark Lord of Derkholm at our library, but their Diana Wynne Jones collection seems to be rather eccentric in its hit-and-miss.

Her recent semi-serious Deep Secret was rather nice, although I continue to have unanswered questions about centaur anatomy.

Message #481 left by Lindsay M on Oct 24, 2000 at 18:18

I just finished reading "The Dark Lord of Derkholm" about 10 minutes ago. I enjoyed it, as I love most of Diana Wynne Jones' kids books. It is based on "A Tough Guide..." as it's set in a world where they have tourists and have to arrange the stuff for that, it's quite amusing, but I see "A Tough Guide..." as adult, "The Dark Lord of Derkholm" is definitely for kids.

I got my copy to read from the library and I wouldn't purchase it unless I had kids of an appropriate age, unlike some others of her books which I would get for myself :o)

Lindsay M

Message #480 left by Hilary on Oct 24, 2000 at 17:13

Mary --

Based on A Tough Guide to Fantasy Land? Based how? Are they guides in similar vein, or are they novel spoofs? Either way, I'm going to have to purchase them. I loooved the Tough Guide!

Hmm

Message #479 left by Beth Long on Oct 24, 2000 at 15:52

re #477: Williamson's "With Folded Hands" has been one of my favorites since the day I read it. I love it when authors take something that's widely accepted and say "But what about this..."

Also, I just read my first Patricia McKillip novel last month, The Book of Atrix Wolf. Sigh. Beauty, power, elegance. I loved it.

Message #478 left by Mary on Oct 18, 2000 at 20:36

Diana Wynne Jones's *The Dark Lord of Derkholm* and its sequel, *The Year of the Griffin*, are out in America. Both of them (particularly the first) are based on her *A Tough Guide to Fantasyland*.

Good books.

Message #477 left by Jay Arr on Oct 16, 2000 at 22:12

Fredrick's mention of *The Space Merchants* brought to mind Shepherd Mead's *The Big Ball of Wax.* Anyone read this? It was not only quite inventive for its time, but some of the ideas would seem cutting-edge today.

Just read Williamson's *With Folded Hands* again. Love to see how Williamson's Prime Directive fits in with Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics. A lot of cross-fertilization going on there.

Message #476 left by Sean Klein on Oct 16, 2000 at 10:57

Has anyone mentioned Redwall in this thread? Gail Sproule, here and elsewhere, has been debating the merits of good writing v. good story. Redwall is an example of mediocre writing attached to great characters and a great story. My writerly eye picked out cliches a plenty, but I read on because I wanted to know what was going to happen.

Message #475 left by Gregory Koster on Oct 15, 2000 at 19:39

For Fred: You are bang right about THE SPACE MERCHANTS. If you feel like another one of theirs, I'd suggest SEARCH THE SKY. Also agree with you on Varley, though I think the novel expansion of the story is rather weaker than the short version.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #474 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Oct 15, 2000 at 18:32

I just read The Space Merchants by Fredrik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth. I enjoyed the novel a great deal, and it did not seem that dated even though it was written back in the 50's. Some of the inventions, like the pedicabs, strained credulity, but other than that it was a good vision of consumerism gone amok. I especially like the Coffiest spiked with alkaloids that got people addicted--no wonder I'm drinking Starbucks coffee so much.

I am also rushing to read through John Varley's short story collection The Persistence of Vision before it has to go back through InterLibrary Loan on Thursday, and though I haven't read the title story yet I did read "Air Raid" and liked it a lot. But I would suggest staying away from the movie "Millenium" that's based on the short story--it's not nearly as interesting or enjoyable as the short story. I would run out and borrow the novel Millenium to read the rest of the story, but right now I'm balancing the rest of Vision with the Gaean trilogy and all of my school reading.

Message #473 left by Jason D. W. on Oct 13, 2000 at 0:34

re: #463--

You're calling Stephen R. Donaldson a derivationist? Sounds like you're lumping him in with Robert Jordan. And I don't think that would be doing him justice at all. What makes me like SRD so much is his plotting. In the "Mordant's Need" duology, for instance, he tightens the screws on the protagonists to the point that you don't think they can get out. And then--slowly, and with perfect logic--the whole Gordian knot unravels, and the villains' machinations come crashing down. Same thing with the Gap series. And if you like villains that you love to hate--villains that, in the end, always get theirs with a vengeance--look no farther than Holt Fasner, Master Eremis, and of course, Lord Foul.

Message #472 left by Lenora Rose on Oct 11, 2000 at 23:16


Praise for one book, and random musings regarding another. I like Neil Gaiman fairly well, but his Neverwhere (The novel - I ahven't seen the mini-series) loses a lot when compared to Viido Polikarpus & Tappan King's "Down Town" a young adult novel set in a magical underworld to new York, where the unwanted people and things go.. Gaiman's is grimmer, and naturally enough, meant for an older audience.

Now, writers borrow, by accident or intent, all the time, and write similar themes, sometimes without even having read the first book. But in this case, the two felt similar iun all the wrong ways. Not so close as plagiarism, or even shameless but affectionate copying (A la Terry Brooks vs Tolkien) - but just "I've seen this before and better done".

Message #471 left by Marti Booker on Oct 11, 2000 at 17:39

For really good horror, read 999, edited by Al Sarrantonio. Not an anthology that one can really relate to as a writer (I mean, he got Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Joyce Carol Oates to send him stuff. From his introductions, it seems that begging was involved.) but as a reader, it's pure joy. Ok, joy for those of us that love horror anyway.

Message #470 left by Jay Arr on Oct 10, 2000 at 10:09

In the "Good Enough to Read" category, I would put *Island of the Sequined Love Nun* by Christopher Moore. It's one of those stories that makes you say, "Why didn't I think of that?" It involves a cargo cult, a fake mesiah-figure, and the selling of human organs on the black market. Not marketed as science fiction, but it's close enough for line-dancing.

Message #469 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Oct 3, 2000 at 22:40

Yes, please.

Message #468 left by lori on Oct 3, 2000 at 21:04

Hmm--do we need a "not Earth-shattering but a good enough read" topic? :-)

law

Message #467 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Oct 3, 2000 at 14:16

I finished Catherine Asaro's Primary Inversion just recently, and it was reasonably entertaining. Although the battle scene at the end of the first section with all those inversion was confusing and hard to follow. I liked the technology like nervoplex and Jumblers. The characters were all right, though Sauscony Valdoria was a weird name to say the least. I had taken out the book from the library a few months back and read only the first chapter. But I thought it was good enough, so I came back later and read the rest.

Somebody on Amazon said that this book was like Romeo and Juliet except with a happy ending, and I suppose that's a fair assessment of the book. It was not Earth-shattering, but it was a good enough read.

Message #466 left by T. Rex on Sep 25, 2000 at 22:10

Dear Elizabeth:

What are you trying to do? Restore my faith in public education? ;-)

Message #465 left by Elizabeth on Sep 25, 2000 at 15:49


For T.Rex, in re #461:

Several of the stories in that book were assigned to me in school. What's funny is that many have an SF *feel*, even if the story isn't actually specfic (such as "The Most Dangerous Game").

I had to read "The Lottery" and "Harrison Bergeron" (Jackson and Vonnegut, respectively), both of which are undeniably SF. "The Yellow Wallpaper" can be interpreted as spec-fic, too.

I'm sure I had other spec-fic literature assigned as well, though at this date it's hard to recall what was assigned and what was recreational. But "The Lottery" and "Harrison Bergeron" were in my sixth-grade reader (along with several of the tales you list). Rah-rah, New York City public school system, and rah-rah Mr. Feldman for assigning them!

--E

Message #464 left by S.N.Arly on Sep 25, 2000 at 14:21

I liked the "Mordant's Need" books enough to plow through both of them (back in HS)without glasses, which resulted in a horrific 12 hour headache. Could not get past the beginning of the Thomas Covenant books. What a godawful whiner. I have been told that there's worthy stuff therin, but I don't know if I have the stomach to go spelunking for it.

Message #463 left by John Savage on Sep 24, 2000 at 19:58

I give Donaldson only the points for originality due a moderately successful pioneer; or, from another perspective, derivationist. Yes, it was "original" to have a leper as the hero, and to have a blind military genius the focal point of one book—at least in speculative fiction. The one, however, calls to mind one of Patrick White's early works (I can't recall the title), and the other Admiral Nelson. What Donaldson did was put a whole bunch of different elements gathered from elsewhere into a pot of religious ideology and stirred it for a while. The soup as a whole isn't bad, but one must wonder exactly what those chunks of meat were. Same problem with the "Gap" books.

Message #462 left by Jason D. W. on Sep 24, 2000 at 18:14

About #458: Actually, I just saw a trade paperback "omnibus collection" of P.C. Hodgell's first two books ("God Stalk," and "Dark of the Moon") at a Barnes+Noble, published under the title "Dark of the Gods" by Meisha Merlin Publishing. It's good to see her in print again, especially considering the hell I heard she went through.

By the way, what do you people think of Stephen R. Donaldson's works? The six volumes of "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" are, I grant you, not for the clinically depressed, but I really enjoyed his "Mordant's Need" duology, and I found his "Gap" series (in which he rewrote Norse mythology in a science fiction context) to be a real page turner. You have to give him points for originality.

Message #461 left by T. Rex on Sep 24, 2000 at 18:09

Some time ago I bought a literature textbook at a secondhand shop for $1.00. It was titled, simply, _Stories_, and was, in fact, unused. (Besides being in Excellent condition, the usage log pasted on the inside front cover had no names on it.)

The reason I bring this item up is the following: Had I, as a high school junior or senior, had something like this to read, I would have enjoyed literature far more than I did. Here are the tales collected in this book:

_Stories_ Co. 1957 Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.

Stories of Impact:

The Sniper. . . . . . . . . . . . . Liam O'Flaherty Bill's Little Girl. . . . . . . . . Zona Gale Romance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . William Saroyan The Blanket . . . . . . . . . . . . Floyd Dell Snake Dance . . . . . . . . . . . . Corey Ford Thus I Refute Beelzy. . . . . . . . John Collier Yep, a real John Collier tale. A boy invokes "Mr. Beelzy" to save him from an abusive father. The anti-witchcraft forces would probably burn this book today. BTW, I while I think John Collier is remarkably imaginative and is one of my favorite writers, his works appear stained with technical flaws. Here in the title "Thus I Refute Beelzy," the "I" refers to the father, but the boy is the main character, and this is much confusing at first. Collier's most famous work, much anthologized, is "The Chaser," in which almost every paragraph tells you what's coming at the end and, when the end comes, you're _still_ surprised. The Father. . . . . . . . . . . . . Bjoernstjerne Bjoernson The Unpopular Passenger . . . . . . Robert Bingham A Girl from the Queer People. . . . Carl Sandburg The Golden Kite, The Silver Wind. . Ray Bradbury After Twenty Years. . . . . . . . . O. Henry The Upturned Face . . . . . . . . . Stephen Crane

Stories of Depth:

The New Kid . . . . . . . . . . . . Murray Heyert The Undefeated. . . . . . . . . . . Ernest Hemingway The Necklace. . . . . . . . . . . . Guy de Maupassant GdM also wrote a bizarre tale called, I think, "The Woman Who Bore Monsters," about a woman who could generate fetal deformities in her children and thus sell them to circus owners, etc. The Minister's Black Veil . . . . . Nathaniel Hawthorne Nancy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Elizabeth Enright The Great Automatic Grammatisator . Roald Dahl Another speculative fiction story: a machine is designed to compose fiction and threatens the livelihood of all writers. The Quiet Man . . . . . . . . . . . Maurice Walsh A Time of Learning. . . . . . . . . Jessamym West The Cask of Amontillado . . . . . . E. A. Poe An "evil wins" story in a high school text. Gasp! The Most Dangerous Game . . . . . . Richard Connell The archetypal man-hunts-man tale. Haircut . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ring Lardner The Duchess and the Smugs . . . . . Pamela Frankau

Stories to Think About:

Paul's Case . . . . . . . . . . . . Willa Cather Barn Burning. . . . . . . . . . . . William Faulkner My First Two Women. . . . . . . . . Nadine Gordimer Molly Morgan. . . . . . . . . . . . John Steinbeck A story about drunkenness and abandonment. The Rocking-Horse Winner. . . . . . D. H. Lawrence Another specfic tale: a boy learns to predict race winners by riding his rocking horse to victory. Bernice Bobs Her Hair . . . . . . . F. Scott Fitzgerald The Answer. . . . . . . . . . . . . Philip Wylie P. Wylie of _When Worlds Collide_ (w/Balmer) fame offers an SF/faith cross-genre piece. Mario and the Magician. . . . . . . Thomas Mann

My comment: I can only recall being offered TWO specfic stories throughout school. One was about a man finding a Martian coin on the steps of a government building; the other was Bradbury's tepid "There Will Come Soft Rains." Talk about mediocre. The stories in this collection are far better. Does anyone remember ever seeing or USING this text? Or was this a case of a text being too good for the market?

T.

Message #460 left by Lenora Rose on Sep 20, 2000 at 18:57

Terry, I thought we were expressly forbidden to leave those hairballs on Kent's nice rugs...

Message #459 left by Terry on Sep 19, 2000 at 21:56

...ththu! ...ththu! ...ththu!

I *always forget that second "th" in Wraeththu! (msg #456)

Message #458 left by Hilary on Sep 19, 2000 at 21:44

Other suggestions for Barry: The Game of Thrones by Martin, The Golden Compass by Pullman, and Godstalk by PC Hodgell (oh, dang, that one's out of print too...) All are strikingly original fantasies with a very dark edge.

Too bad the SF spot is taken though, because I came here to praise one of the best books I've read in a long time. The Bridge by Janine Ellen Young. Aliens have built one half of a starbridge and have sent us a message with everything we need to understand their culture and build the other half of the bridge to come join them. Only one problem: when the message arrives, it's a virus that kills four billion people and leaves the rest with heads full of half-understood, nutso ideas... Great stuff. It's a book that dares to throw out big ideas and run with them. The characters are all memorable, too. What an amazing second novel. Makes me want to go out and buy her first one.

Hmm

Message #457 left by Lori on Sep 19, 2000 at 21:17

You know, I don't know which of Powers' books got a Stoker. My bad. Earthquake Weather? Last Call is fun for Vegas fans.

You could get Dark Cities Underground by Goldstein, except I don't think it's out in paperback yet. Then why do I mention a useless piece of info? Just one of those days, I guess.

law

Message #456 left by Terry on Sep 19, 2000 at 8:52

Barry--have you read Storm Constantine's Wraethu series yet? I've got them at home so can't recall the titles but I'm sure if you search on her name on the Net you'll find a biblio. I couldn't put the darn things down!

Message #455 left by MWA on Sep 19, 2000 at 2:18

Barry:

I'm about 150 pages into "Mr. X"--excellent so far. I'd say go for it.

Message #454 left by Lenora Rose on Sep 18, 2000 at 19:30

Lisa Goldstein. Short but very very good. Pick any; none of them are series', so you can start with whatever you luck into finding. (I'm personally not very fond of the Red Magician, her first book, but it started her career with an award and a bang.)

Message #453 left by Barry Hollander on Sep 18, 2000 at 15:08

Funny, my wife just bought the Klasky book. No way she'll let me take it, heh heh. I'll read it when I get back.

Tim Powers is a possibility. Hit a web page of his stuff. Which of his won a Stoker?

Message #452 left by Lindsey on Sep 18, 2000 at 13:59

Barry: I just finished our own Mindy Klasky's "Glasswright's Apprentice" and it was good, with lots of fun intrigue. It's not exactly horror, but there's some blood and torture. You could try that.

-Linz

Message #451 left by Lori on Sep 18, 2000 at 9:48

Barry: Something by Tim Powers?

Message #450 left by Barry Hollander on Sep 18, 2000 at 8:56

Ok, I have room for one more fat paperback on a trip I'm taking Friday. What'll it be? Suggestions?

Got SF covered. Don't want S&S. Would prefer fantasy with a dark edge...anywhere from dark to almost horror but not slasher stuff (contemplating the Straub paperback). Readable stuff, though, for a looooong plane ride. I'm not looking for challenging here, I'm looking for help on a 10-day business trip to Ukraine.

Fire at will.

Message #449 left by Terry on Sep 16, 2000 at 23:18

Tippi: A MUCH-belated correction to #414 about the author of Watchers at the Pond: It's Franklin Russell. The copy I have is a handsome paperback from Time Reading Program Special Edition, with drawings by Robert W. Arnold and Intro by--drum-roll--Gerald Durrell! The copyright date is 1961.

Message #448 left by John Savage on Sep 16, 2000 at 21:02

I missed the messages . . .

Eric (438): No, I meant that literature doesn't deserve to be sullied by the comparison. In a way, though, your rant was more accurate than you might have thought; I was (almost) an English professor. I was working on that nasty old dissertation, with an appointment at the Air Force Academy in the offing. Then some nastiness in the Gulf intervened. I went over to the Dark Side, and became a lawyer. I find your lack of faith … disturbing.

Message #447 left by Jim Palmer on Sep 16, 2000 at 17:37

Dear Greg, Right on all counts about Avram. Yeah, his stuff does need to be read with a fine-toothed comb, and preferably repeatedly. And life did have a pretty rough time with him. I'm envious that you got to actually see the guy (and under such odd circumstances--didn't happen to see which library books he was borrowing, did you?, but, like you, I think I would have just let him be and not bothered him either.

Yes, I'm glad Wildside is reissuing his work, and I personally think the St. Martin's anthology has better stuff in it than the Tor one. And Owlswick Press is still churning out the Esterhazy compendium, with an introduction by Gene Wolfe.

And since I'm here, I'll throw another couple of titles out for consideration: anyone else here familiar with Milorad Pavic? His stuff is so strange that I'm not exactly sure where it should go--spec fic, literary avant-garde, or any other category. But a brilliant talent, and, like Davidson, a man of encyclopedic knowledge of many arcane subjects. Again, like Davidson, he requires a little time and effort to get into.

Jim

Message #446 left by MWA on Sep 15, 2000 at 23:50

I just got my hot hands on the paperback release of Peter Straub's "Mr. X". It won the Storker award for novel in 1999, so I'm anxious to see if it lives up to that status. I shall make a full report next week (if it takes that long).

I also just finished Elizabeth Massie's "Sineater". It also won a Stoker--all I can say is that ('95-'96?) must have been a lean year. The writing is good, and the basic story is good. The problem is with an excessively long build up to a story that could have been told just as well in a novelette.

Message #445 left by Dennis on Sep 15, 2000 at 16:32

I really, really enjoyed The Light of Other Days. Wow, I was surprised (so much SF today is such unbearable crap).

I'm half way through Pegasus in Space right now. Not sure if I'll finish it, or maybe stab myself to death with a number 2 pencil instead.

Message #444 left by Gregory Koster on Sep 15, 2000 at 15:25

For Jim: Stop! The last thing we need is another riot here on the Mill. Besides, you don't need to do it. Tor has brought out THE AVRAM DAVIDSON TREASURY, a fine selection of his shorter work. It's still in print in hard- or trade paperback. Better, St. Martin's has published THE INVESTIGATIONS OF AVRAM DAVIDSON another story omnibus that does not overlap with the Tor effort so much as you might think. Best of all, Wildside Press is making a determined effort to bring his stuff back into print, having brought 11 of his books (including some dubious "posthumous collaborations") back into print in trade paperbacks. All these are available via Amazon. What are you waiting for?

As for AD himself, it took me quite a while to warm up to his stuff. It is rewarding, but reading his stuff is quite exhausting for me, thanks to my mental limitations. The attention his work demands to be appreciated is such that it does not surprise me he remained a "caviar to the general public" writer, or that many folks razzed him as a pretentious mountebank. I find the insistence of his estate on hiring Michael Swanwick to finish all the fragments he wrote as "posthumous collaborations" a bit disturbing. The results aren't bad, but they aren't up to either Swanwick's or Davidson's best, or even second best. The estate would do better to keep AD's best work in print, and stop trying to grab some easy money.

Finally, I saw the great man once. Like you, Jim, I didn't know where he lived, but I had seen his photograph. One Sunday afternoon, I was at the Central branch of the Kitsap Regional Library in Bremerton WA. PA system booms, "Avram Davidson, your bus is here." (One of those dial-a-rides for the handicapped.) The names--- it couldn't be a coincidence. So I went to the front and watched. It was him, in a wheelchair, going out into the rain. It was a jolt. He was recognizable from his photograph, but all I could think of at the time was Hemingway's description of himself as "a beat up old bastard." It seemed to fit the outward appearance of AD perfectly. I do not mean that AD was a bastard, but instead that life had launched a full bombardment at him, and he was dreadfully battered by it. Looked him up in the phone book, and found he lived about six miles from me. I never called, wrote, or visited. Shyness in part, and also the notion that authors should write, and the way for the fans to help is to let them write. Buy the books, don't bother them with letters. Yet it should have been evident to me that a fellow in a wheelchair might have been able use the help of someone who was able-bodied, if witless. But this did not occur to me until after he was dead. In any case, from what I know of his life, he had a rough time. Great talent, but he never got the audience he deserved for us. A cautionary tale for all of us hear as we strive for that brass ring of publication that we know will make all the struggling worthwhile.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #443 left by Jim Palmer on Sep 15, 2000 at 12:25

I already praised him to the skies on the "Classics" list, but I'm still surprised no one has mentioned Avram Davidson. What a stylist. What a funny man. And sooooo daaaarned SMART. "The Inquiries of Doctor Esterhazy" was one of the few books that made me want to meet the author. After I did a little more research, it metamorphosed into one of the very few books I've read that made me really, really sad that the author is dead.

I'm going to keep singing his praises until I've generated enough interest in him that spec fic fans riot to bring his books back into print, and then maybe I won't have to pay thirty bucks for a mouldering paperback of his that I found in a used bookstore. Not that I begrudged a single cent of it...

Jim

Message #442 left by Jan S. on Sep 10, 2000 at 20:23

Must mention here Neal Stephenson. _Snow Crash_ was just plain great fun, but _Cryptonomicon_ is outfreakin'standing. I have been laughing for the last two days whenever I have the time to pick it up and read more. His use of the English language is delightfully free and he has more cool ideas in one paragraph than a lot of other writers can sweat out in a whole book. Though comparisons are not something I much like to make, when reading Stephenson I'm strongly reminded of Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus books and John Calvin Batchelor's _The Further Adventures of Halley's Comet_. Yeah, NS is _that_ whacked. Now go have some fun. <g>

Message #441 left by Kenneth Burke on Sep 6, 2000 at 23:57

Be careful who you praise on this site. Over on "Bad Books" we're discussing Shakespeare and Hemingway. Talk about high standards.

Message #440 left by Fred Lloyd on Sep 6, 2000 at 21:00

Emily, I really have to disagree with you about Angela's Ashes. I kept waiting for something, anything, to happen. I found nothing heartening in the book. All I wanted was for it to end. I know so many people who think this is a great book. I can't for the life of me figure out why. My childhood wasn't as primitive as his but is was definitely as bad. Is it something akin to watching a car accident?

Fred

Message #439 left by Emily on Sep 5, 2000 at 17:48

Anyone who enjoys memoirs should definitely pick up a copy of Angela's Ashes by Frank McOurt. It's wonderful.

Message #438 left by Eric Snyder II on Sep 5, 2000 at 14:11

John: I assume you meant the theory assumes Star Wars deserves comparison to any form of literature. IMO, it does. Is Luke Skywalker the most important mythic figure to come around lately? Probably not. Is Harry Potter? Probably not. The fact remains, however, that they are both popular mythic figures. Popular almost to saturation. Nearly everyone between eight and fifteen, and a good number of people older than that, have read the Harry Potter books. Everyone twenty and up has watched the Star Wars movies. And as we go back generations, we encounter other mythic figures who took the populace by storm. My parents' generation had Frodo Baggins and Paul Atreides.

Whether any of these characters, books and movies are part of the hero-myth cycle--which is IMO a pretty nebulous term to begin with--is an academic problem left for the English professors in their halls of knowledge. But they will be compared to each other by the public, because of their similarity, and because of their popularity.

Me... I've always disliked English professors. I like having my own interpretations of literature :)

[/rant]

ES2

Message #437 left by Lenora Rose on Sep 4, 2000 at 23:46

John: Most of the people who came up with the theory came up with it because, as far as I can see, they feel any hero who resonates with a lot of people must be mythical. Oops, I mean, 'of mythical stature'. (Well, take it as you please, I think both might be accurate.) Luke does resonate with a lot of people, as does Han.

However, as for "Lucas' moneymakers", the theory was put forth after they made the money, but only because it couldn't exactly help being so. However, I do think that when Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back were made, Lucas Knew he was doing an ambitious project, and that he had a vision - but I don't think he was *yet* deluded into believing he was changing the face of modern myth, culture, peoples' mentality, or that everything he did was significant. I think at the outset, he thought "cool ambitious project, likely good crowds, new steps in special effects", and not much more.

And why is it that the only part of all of Joseph Campbell's books anyone focuses on is his example of Luke Skywalker as a modern myth figure? It's the only part that seemed to hit anyone's consciousness for more than two seconds, and it was far from one of his main points.

Message #436 left by John Savage on Sep 4, 2000 at 22:21

No. I don't buy this at all, for a very simple reason:

It assumes that any variety of literature deserves comparison to Star Wars. I've ranted in detail on this before; suffice it to say that one can believe that Lucas's moneymakers are in the "hero-myth cycle" if, and only if, one believes in the Easter Bunny and the integrity of Presidential candidates. Lucas might believe such, but he's far better at suspending disbelief than he is at creating such suspension.

Message #435 left by Sean Klein on Sep 4, 2000 at 13:23

Harry Potter = Luke Skywalker because both stories are following the hero-myth cycle. Will Dumbledore die fighting Voldemort in book six? Perhaps. Harry will emerge victorious over Voldemort at the end of seven, but I sincerely doubt we'll hear, "Harry, I am your father" from he-who-cannot-be-named.

Message #434 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Sep 3, 2000 at 13:53

Luke = Harry? Guess I'll have to read the books and judge for myself.

Here's an interesting study in opposites.

On one hand, Alan Nourse's _Trouble on Titan_. A very well-written book that I zoomed through. Though I admit the story wasn't groundbreaking, Nourse executed it very well. It had a good story and plot, fine 2-D characters (I can still remember Tuck Benedict and David Torm), a fast pace and it did not seem at all dated for a book published back in 1954. I read the first three chapters earlier, then zoomed right through the rest of the book, over a hundred pages, in a few hours. I'll see about _Star Surgeon_ next.

On the other hand, I had to read about twenty pages on a book about British Romanticism and my question is, do scholars purposefully make their books dull to read? It took me over an hour to read the damn thing, and I still have trouble remembering anything that the author said. My mind kept wandering away from the information, even stuff I underlined. Perhaps it wouldn't hurt scholars to write their books in a more jaunty prose style, with less blocks of huge texts. All I can say is I'm thankful that I don't have to read law texts. If I tried, I'd probably faint after the first few pages.

Message #433 left by Eric Snyder II on Sep 1, 2000 at 18:24

Kenneth:

I agree with you whole-heartedly on those choices. I would also recommend Double Star to you, Frederick.

As an aside, I just (finally) got around to reading Harry Potter IV. In about eight hours. Excellent book, though I dare say not a kids' book. And I reassert my claim that Harry Potter = Luke Skywalker.

ES2

Message #432 left by Mary on Sep 1, 2000 at 17:23

Just read James Stoddard's *The High House* Good book. A different sort of fantasy, even though it has a fair number of the cliches.

Message #431 left by Kenneth Burke on Sep 1, 2000 at 3:16

Fredrick: start with Tunniel in the Sky, if you haven't read it. And if you haven't read "The Door into Summer", do so immediately. (That's an order). Other than an imbecillic bit on economics, it's Heinlein's best, in my opinion. (Not counting Harsh Mistress, of course.)

Message #430 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Aug 31, 2000 at 23:28

I just read _Have Space Suit--Will Travel_ by Robert Heinlein and enjoyed it a lot. It's amazing, aside from a few 50's references like soda jerk and slide rules, how modern the book feels, esp. in light of how dated a book like _Slan_ reads. It was a well-written story and as usual, Heinlein has that wonderful authoritative tone. About my only complaints were that Kip and Peewee sounded a bit too adult, even if they were kid geniuses, and Mother Thing sounded too Heinleinish for an alien. But other than that, it was a great read, full of interesting characters that you could care about and a great story that hopped around the galaxy and beyond. I look forward to reading some more of his earlier works.

Message #429 left by Kenny on Aug 14, 2000 at 13:01

I just finished Calulating God by Robert Sawyer; it hurt to read (those of you who know what's been going one will know why), but it's a wonderful book that points out why Sawyer is one of the consistently best writers around.

Message #428 left by Sean Klein on Aug 14, 2000 at 11:09

Any book by a guy named Sean can't be all that bad.

Message #427 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Aug 14, 2000 at 8:55

Sorry to hear you were ill, Gregory. Hope you're feeling better.

As for your fate upon the field of battle, I would not worry. For there will come a time when the name of Koster will become legend in the annals of history, and Fresno.

So I say to you, mighty Koster. March forth unto the fray! For the spoils of war are fleeting But legends live beyond their day

Message #426 left by Beth on Aug 13, 2000 at 20:38

Gregory Koster -- the new High Liber. Yowzah!

btw, the author's name is Sean McMullen. Publisher is Tor (iirc).

Message #425 left by Gregory Koster on Aug 13, 2000 at 18:39

Holy cow. I stay away from the Mill for ONE day, fighting a losing battle against the microbes that have developed a taste for my carcass, and what happens? I find myself marched out onto the field of honor by that scalawag Fred, flintlock in hand, assigned a moniker (Dragon Red Koster) that will raise eyebrows in Paris and snickers in Fresno, given the line "Best regards, a**hole" and then BANG! What that villain Fred did not do is show what happened next: A colossal explosion followed by a cloud of smoke. The smoke clears, revealing ol' Dragon Red, holding on to the remants of his blown up gun, clothes shredded and afire, in blackface (thanks to gunpowder combustion products) that would make Al Jolson proud, tottering, mumbling, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed astern," as he topples to earth, wishing that he could have been Sam Spade instead. Great racucous belly laughs from the crowd, save for the Three Stooges, who are worried that finally someone has come along who could upstage them. What a fate, to be the Mill's flintlock stooge, fit only for threatening precocious ten year olds! Fred, Fred, what have you done?

BANG! Dragon Red who will have to look up that book, SOULS IN THE GREAT MACHINE

Message #424 left by Lenora Rose on Aug 12, 2000 at 22:41

> to all (Even Kenneth, who would die before using a smiley.)

I have been paid for something I wrote. Once. I'm sure it'll happen again sometime. Maybe when I'm eighty.

Kenneth - my mom has the Rabbi books - or at least most of them. I've heard of a lot of authors who started late. I personally will not feel bad until I'm fifty, have almost as many novels as years piled up around me, and not one sold. Until then, I plan to try and be hopeful (except for those dark depressing nights. but I intend to be thoroughly distracted then O;>

Terry: why do you think he chose that particular pseudonym? Of course he's cruel. That's why we love him - he's OUR cruel...

Message #423 left by Kenneth Burke on Aug 12, 2000 at 20:21

Lenora: I was thirty-three before I got paid for something I wrote, not counting a brief stint in my late teens when I was a stringer for the Fresno Bee. Fifty cents a column inch was my munificent salary. The guy who wrote a whole string of best sellers beginning with "Friday the Rabbi Slept Late" was in his sixties when he got started. (He's my hero.)

Everybody: Has anyone read Caesar's Gallic War? (The Conquest of Gaul, as Penguin has it.) Does anyone agree with me that it's a useful book for both fantasy and sci/fi writers? I'd be interested in knowing why, if so, because I'd like to know if your reasons are similar to mine. (If anyone drops by to tell us that you can only enjoy it in the original Latin, I'm hiring an assassin. Maybe Craig Kilborne.)

Message #422 left by Terry on Aug 12, 2000 at 20:07

John Savage, you are cruel!

Message #421 left by John Savage on Aug 12, 2000 at 18:28

Lenora, if it makes you feel any better, at least it's not eligible for a Nebula (since it's not in a North American publication).

Message #420 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Aug 12, 2000 at 17:09

<pat-pat> It's all right, Lenora. Grandma Moses didn't publish her paintings until her later years. You'll be fine.

Message #419 left by Lenora Rose on Aug 12, 2000 at 16:03

TEN? Aaargh!

<Wanders away with all the slow weight of her twenty-four years upon her, grumbling under her breath about uppity youngsters....>

Message #418 left by Beth on Aug 12, 2000 at 11:22

Fredrick: (Message #417) If I recall correctly, the various religions didn't like rockets, either. (And why they used wind and galley trains.) It was the High Liber who insisted on using them, for her own purposes. Avoiding the antibiotics may have been a holdover from the genetic experiments, which produced the bird people. The plot got rather thick near the end, but I think that was part of the setup for _The Miocene Arrow,_ which takes place in North America.

btw, the author was at Readercon. Friendly fellow, and very proud of his daughter, who recently got published in Interzone at the age of ten.

Message #417 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Aug 12, 2000 at 10:55

Just finished _Souls in the Great Machine_. It was a pretty good book, although there seemed to be an awful number of convenient coincidences in the novel and a question that kept bothering me is why would a society embrace old weapons like rockets, yet shun using antibiotics in favor of eucalyptus leaves.

But I really liked the parts with the librarians dueling with flintlock pistols. Funny thing was everytime I read one of these duels, I couldn't help but think of Gregory Koster marching out onto the field like Barry Lyndon, with a flintlock pistol in hand.

"Dragon Red Koster, are you prepared to return fire?"

"Yeah." He smiles. "Best regards, a**hole!"

BANG!

Message #416 left by S.N.Arly on Aug 7, 2000 at 13:29

Growing Wings by Laurel Winter.

I think it's being marketed as a kids' book, but it's the sort of thing that a lot of us nonkids might enjoy. I did, anyway. It's available over at Amazon; don't know how easy it will be to find in bookstores as it is her first novel.

Message #415 left by Tippi on Aug 4, 2000 at 10:29

I haven't read the Beebe. I loaned that to someone in college and never got it back. *grumble*

And ditto on the Jacques Cousteau books! I got a set as a kid but I couldn't read yet. I wanted so badly to know what the words said that I think I learned to read almost through will. And Sesame Street. I then made up stories about all the pictures in the book. :-)

I didn't go into biology, though. In high school, I kept losing my lunch during dissections. I'm not sure if it was the dissection itself or the formaldehyde. But I still pursue marine biology via books and Discovery Channel specials. I must have 8 tapes of various shark documentaries.

Message #414 left by Terry on Aug 4, 2000 at 7:45

Oh, Gregory, I read that so many years ago I can't even remember it!

But wasn't The Water's Edge by Rachel Carson? She wrote several biology books for lay people, plus some children's books, too, I thought. Tippi -- this isn't marine biology but it's a forgotten/overlooked jewel: Watcher at the Pond. The author was, I *think* william Russell. It's an amazing book--almost a spiritual journey, though there's not a single human in it. He just goes through an entire year's seasons at a little pond, in minute detail about all the life forms around and in the pond. About halfway through, I thought I couldn't go on--everything was all the time dying! But I kept reading, and then came to realize--everything IS all the time dying. But it's also renewing all the time, too. Wow. It's old, and probably out of print, but you might find it at a good used bookstore. (Or maybe Gregory can unearth it for you?)

My life was altered forever by (all of) Jacques Cousteau's books, and in particular that "Ocean World" encyclopedia he produced -- stuck in a farmhouse in the middle of Iowa in the early 1970's, I subscribed and got every one of the volumes--and read it a dozen times or more. And--guess what--here I am, 25 years later, an aquatic biologist! (Nobody told me about the meetings and paper-shuffling, though...)

Message #413 left by Gregory Koster on Aug 3, 2000 at 23:50

For Terry and Tippi: Let us hear your opinions on William Beebe's foray into deep water biology, HALF MILE DOWN, published in 1934 with those marvelous drawings of viperfish. Great stuff.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #412 left by Tippi on Aug 3, 2000 at 21:51

LOL! I haven't read that but will keep an eye out for it.

I thought of another book. At the Water's Edge. I can't remember the author's name but it's a really fascinating work. It's the story of the origin of life in the sea, how that life evolved to land, and then went back again (dolphins and whales). I'm particularly passionate about sharks, rays, and deep sea fish. I also have a fondness for the ocean sunfish (mola mola) because it's just so damn freaky.

I also have The Octopus's Garden somewhere and I need to read it. The author, I think, is Van Dolen.

Message #411 left by Terry on Aug 3, 2000 at 21:02

I swear to God I'm not stalking you, Tippi, but I can't believe you've come up with yet another passionate interest of mine--oceanography/aquatic biology??? Were we like, separated at birth or something? Have you read the (older--early 1970's maybe) nonfiction book titled The Abyss? The opening chapter of that is SO COOL!

Message #410 left by Tippi on Aug 3, 2000 at 18:46

Some of my favorite books are by Richard Ellis. They're marine biology, but they are absolutely as riveting as any fiction bestseller I've read. The Deep Atlantic is probably my favorite because I'm enthralled by ceratioid anglerfish, but his Monsters of the Sea is also good. I think that's the name of it. It's an exploration into cryptozoology, digging up the origins of mythological sea creatures, some of which turn out to be real.

Message #409 left by Beth on Jul 30, 2000 at 11:24

Just finished reading Souls in the Great Machine. After talking with the author at Readercon, and hearing snippets at his reading, I *had* to buy it. Was not disappointed. That I was in the depths of programming hell (known as crunch week), simply added to the delight.

Message #408 left by Terry on Jul 18, 2000 at 8:15

TomWon--that's been happening for awhile, methinks. I remember in some Dorothy L. Sayers' mystery, one of the characters had a habit of talking like a 1920's Chicago gangster, much to the amusement and annoyance of his acquaintances, since he was Londoner born and bred.

This homogenization is distressing--it's ongoing in the US, among the different regions, becuase of TV of course. And MTV is now homogenizing our youths' dialects. Bah, humbug!

Message #407 left by TomW on Jul 18, 2000 at 6:51

Welcome, oh, Americans, to the world inhabited by those of us benighted souls in other English-speaking realms of this planet Earth. Know that we must translate Americanisms almost every time we read a book or watch television/movies.

Message #406 left by Mary on Jul 17, 2000 at 17:40

Interesting. S.N. Arly's dictionary does not have the only clothing definition that I've ever heard of.

My dictionary does, though: "a sleeveless dress worn over a blouse or sweater."

Message #405 left by Terry on Jul 17, 2000 at 13:26

Point taken on the British dictionaries. However--answer me this, then: If our paternalistic publishers continue to weed out the Britishisms, how are our American readers wever going to even KNOW about the delightful diversity of the language? Already too many kids think their local variation of MTV-taught Valley/Compton-speak is the language of Earth.

Message #404 left by S.N.Arly on Jul 17, 2000 at 12:57

Terry - Just for the heck of it I looked up jumpers in my dictionary here at work. Our options include: a person who jumps, a loose blouse or jacket worn by workmen, or a child's coverall. None of these are quite right, so it's not just a case of people looking stuff up, since most of us don't have a british dictionary. It's just a fact of life that there are differences between British English and American English and not everyone can be expected to know what all the differences are. I'm used to a lot of them, my grandmum having come from over the great pond, but every once in a while my cousins and I run into something odd. They couldn't figure out why the hell I would want a hutch in my kitchen. As far as they were concerned a hutch is a kennel, not a place for nice china.

Message #403 left by Captain Ed on Jul 17, 2000 at 12:15

Has anyone ever read the book by Jeremy Leven with the exhausting title of "Satan: His Psychotherapy and Cure by the Unfortunate Dr. Kassler, JSPS"? It's not for everyone, but I thought it was outstanding. Definitely creative and features many memorable characters, and very well researched. It's both funny and depressing at the same time. I've never met anyone who read it who didn't have a strong opinion about it, and most love it. It's out of print but can be found in used bookstores.

Message #402 left by Martin on Jul 17, 2000 at 9:58

For Fredrick - An oik is an ignorant and uncouth person. This term is often put into the mouths of upper class characters for them to describe in negative terms members of the lower classes. No-one uses it in real life.

Message #401 left by Terry on Jul 14, 2000 at 23:41

I guess I have to keep in mind that not every Yank has spent 25 years reading mysteries--of course at least half were British--so they aren't as familiar with things like "jumpers." But--darn it, when did we get the idea that we shouldn't EVER be inspired to LOOK THINGS UP?????

Message #400 left by Mary on Jul 14, 2000 at 19:54

Have you tried your local library, Terry?

On the Americanisms issue: I have to agree with one that I have heard of. The American publisher change Mrs. Weasley's Christmas presents from "jumpers" to "sweaters."

I assure the British that you don't want to give boys jumpers for Christmas.

Message #399 left by Terry on Jul 14, 2000 at 11:29

You're all driving me crazy--it's going to be quite awhile before I'll be able to afford the H.P. books and I really wann read them!

Jay Arr--I'm thrilled you love DHALGREN! Me, too! It took me several tries over a year or so to get into it, but when it finally "took" -- I didn't get anything else done for two days until I'd finished it. I ADORE Delany. The writing-in-ink is bliss--but as you say, the writing between-the-inky-bits is even better. I don't know if this is technically correct or not, but for *myself* I've decided that THAT'S what "semiotics" is.

Everyone else: What do you say we start a letter-writing campaign to Harry Potter's American publisher and beat him up for his stupid attitude about our ability to "understand" non-Americanisms? (I suppose I should actually have read at least one of the books before I launch my letter...) Maybe that'd larn 'im...

Message #398 left by Sean Klein on Jul 14, 2000 at 11:06

That last message is from me. Forgot to sign it. I'll take my lashings now.

Message #397 left by Anonymous on Jul 14, 2000 at 11:05

John: my source for Harry Potter merchadising news is none other than the mighty Sacramento Bee. My citation:

http://www.sacbee.com/lifestyle/news/lifestyle02_20000707.html

There was another, earlier article that was more about the merchandising (and the $$$ it's expected to generate), but it's not showing up when I search Sac Bee for "Harry Potter."

Message #396 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Jul 14, 2000 at 9:08

_Moby Dick_, John! Why, how could you? That's one of the best American books ever written, even if it is slow in many parts. The middle two I haven't read, but Gatsby I do agree, though, is nothing to cheer about.

In any case, I just finished reading _Feet of Clay_ by Terry Prachett. Very funny book. And what surprised me was that for a book written by an English author, it had a lot of American puns in it. It also had a good murder mystery in it and a lot of interesting characters. Esp. liked Corporal Nobbs, Cheri Littlebottom and Angua.

But I do have one question. What is an oik? Maybe Andrew or Gregory could help me out on that one. Also, since this is first Discworld book I've read, I'm afraid I might have jumped ahead a bit. Any recommendations for earlier books to read.

Message #395 left by John Savage on Jul 13, 2000 at 20:25

I don't think you gave it long enough, Meredith. The first thirty or forty pages of Philosopher's Stone (the American publisher changed the title because he didn't think us uneducated Yanks would get it—and, instead, everyone who does is pissed off) are somewhat slow, but necessary, scene-setting. At least get through the Sorting Hat before you give up.

Now, that's not to say that people can't dislike classics. For example, I'd apply a whole bunch of unfavorable adjectives to Moby Dick, Great Expectorations, The Scarlet Letter, and The Great Gatsby, and I think I could make them stick . . . but I'd still be shouted down.

Message #394 left by Meredith on Jul 13, 2000 at 16:09

I'm not sure what the hell's wrong with me, but I can't seem to get into the Harry Potter books at all. I tried reading the first one (tangent: does anyone else think it's curious that it was marketed in America as "... and the Sorceror's Stone," but everywhere else as "... and the Philosopher's Stone"?) in B&N, got through maybe twenty pages, and utterly failed to see what all the hype was about. I was expecting a sort of kids-grok-the-action, adults-grok-the-more-subtle-bits story, like just about anything by Madeleine L'Engle, C.S. Lewis or even Susan Cooper, but ... no. That sense of depth just wasn't present.

Or maybe I've turned into too much of a literary snob in my old age. I wouldn't discount that possibility at all. But I still like the Time Trilogy better. No accounting for my tastes, I guess.

Message #393 left by John Savage on Jul 13, 2000 at 15:00

Sean, your statement of timing doesn't match the information I have. Warner's lawyers said "no physical merchandise until the movie is released," which is November 2001—and Warner owns the merchandising rights in the US/Canada. Is there something overseas that I don't know about? With Amazon, etc., if Hummel starts making a Harry Potter series of overcute little porcelain figures, you can bet they'll be in the US in a heartbeat.

Message #392 left by Sean Klein on Jul 13, 2000 at 11:35

Licensed Harry Potter products, which should be hitting our shelves this fall, are expected to generate over a billion dollars in sales in the upcoming year or two. Those of you with kids, start saving your pennies...

Message #391 left by TomW on Jul 13, 2000 at 7:37

I can just see the USA's good 'ol toymakers turning out millions of plastic figures...

Message #390 left by Gregory Koster on Jul 12, 2000 at 20:00

On Harry Potter: for me, the most remarkable feature of this series is not the current flood of sales of HP 4 (reflected in our library system's buy of 89 copies with 253 reserves on them as of today) but the figures for the first three titles:

HP 1: 191 copies with 59 reserves (published 1997) HP 2: 143 copies with 45 reserves (published 1998) HP 3: 136 copies with 36 reserves (published 1999)

This series has stamina. I do not think there has ever been such interest of any book or series.

Best reagrds, Gregory Koster

Message #389 left by Jay Arr on Jul 12, 2000 at 14:50

All the talk about Gene Wolfe reminded me of Samuel Delaney's *Dhalgren.* Beautiful writing, float along for a hundred pages and realize nothing actually happened. Well, *something* happened, but it's like it happened *between* the lines the author actually wrote.

For a quick fun read: Herbert's *The Santaroga Barrier.*

Harry Potter is the kind of book I usually shy away from, but I'd heard so many good things about it from you guys... And then I read the first book, thanks to Corey K. And I loved it!

There is a certain sense of "place" that needs to be satisfied before we can rally make a book ours. If I read a book or see a TV show and think, "Yeah, I can see myself living there or working there," it's got a good chance to become a personal favorite. (Thus the odd popularity of the amateurish BBC production, "Are You Being Served?" I can picture myself coming to work there every morning.)

Hogwarts is so well-drawn that I can shiver in the chilly rooms, feel the mattress give way as I sit on the edge of the bed, feel the weight of the heavy oak doors as I pull them open. I know how it *Feels* to be in that place. When I re-read the book, I begin with Harry's first sight of Hogwarts. Everything up to then is okay, but it's just reading. But when Hogwarts shows up, I settle into the book as if it were a cozy chair.

Message #388 left by Sean Klein on Jul 12, 2000 at 11:21

Re 386

The American cover of HP4 is pretty awful. (New thread(s)? Really Bad Cover Art and Really Good Cover Art?) I contemplated ordering a British edition just to get the really good cover. I also rushed out Saturday morning, bought the book, then proceeded to let it sit ignored on my desk while I read other books.

Message #387 left by S.N.Arly on Jul 12, 2000 at 11:10

I had heard that she didn't write the book with a target audience in mind. She had a story so she wrote it, and her publisher marketed it to kids. I have also heard that this is more prevalent in America.

Message #386 left by Lenora Rose on Jul 12, 2000 at 3:09

Not underestimating. Harry Potter seems to be read by everyone, even people who, unlike me, haven't touched a children's book since they were one (Child that is, not book). However, kids also read them, kids *were* the target audience originally.

I'm personally very proud that the Canadian cover seems to feature a boy on a broomstick fighting a dragon, not that godawful Disney-fied grinning shmuck on the American one.

Message #385 left by S.N.Arly on Jul 11, 2000 at 12:10

I think people are drastically underestimating the average age of the readers of Harry Potter. I have no kids. Most of my friends don't have kids in the supposed age range for these books. Yet most of my friends have read the books. I work with a grandma who read them, not for her grandkids, but for herself and she loved it.

This, I think, is what has made Harry such a phenomenon. They don't simply appeal to one group, but they appeal across the board.

Message #384 left by John Savage on Jul 11, 2000 at 11:04

What amazes me about the Potter novel (yes, it's planned as one novel, even if it's seven volumes long; that's a theoretical rant for another time, although part of it may be in the archives of this topic, Bad Books, or Dumping Theory on You) is that thus far, it looks like it is sticking to the plan. Very few novel-length works of any value turn out exactly as planned; it will be interesting after volume seven is published to ask Rowling if/when anything took on a life of its own and just couldn't be made to fit the plan. Volume IV shows some serious signs of stuffing Ginny Weasley back in the prefitted box, although that may well just be setting things up for Volume V.

Totally irrelevant aside: For last Halloween, my oldest son (then 9) went dressed up at Harry Potter. His little brother (then 6) went as a hippogriff, dragging a black Lab (apparently Sirius Black) along. They've been bugging me for a month to read the book to them; it's been tough to keep explaining why I couldn't. Now I just have to get enough audio tapes for Dad's private reading set up—one complete set for each of them. That's going to cost more than the book, even with 10 c90s for $4 at Meijer. (The kids hate Jim Dale's readings; the older boy says they're "passionless, as if he doesn't really care.")

Message #383 left by Lenora Rose on Jul 11, 2000 at 2:32

Maren: don't feel bad. I've only read book one. And that was damn good.

You realise of course that J.K.'s average reader was 10 when she wrote the first book, 11, when she wrote the second, 12 when she wrote the third...

Message #382 left by Maren Henry on Jul 11, 2000 at 1:31

Eric, I don't think it's redundant at all; a while back there was a discussion of Tolkien over in "Bad Books," so it's nice to see someone who appreciates them.

Everyone has read Harry Potter so much faster than me! I better get to it!

Message #381 left by Patrice on Jul 10, 2000 at 23:27

Eric obviously goes in for those quick reads. ;)

I just finished Harry Potter IV, and it was good. Well worth it. Rowling has a job to do, to sustain the sense of wonder she established in the first two books (the third book was less light and airy and more somber), and I don't think she succeeded quite so well, but the book sets the stage for the next three installments. She had said this was the pivotal book and it is. So far she has managed quite a feat.

Message #380 left by Eric Snyder II on Jul 10, 2000 at 22:38

Maybe it's incredibly redundant to mention something that everyone considers a classic, but I'm finally reading _Lord of the Rings_... and I can't get over just how good it is. I wish I hadn't waited so long :)

(And, of course, Harry Potter IV is next.)

ES2

Message #379 left by Mary on Jul 10, 2000 at 20:19

Oh, yes, Harry Potter. I reserved a copy in February. I'm glad.

Like Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydian, the reading age for the book seems to be going up.

Message #378 left by Jason Schmetzer on Jul 10, 2000 at 14:10

Does anyone here happen to read Glen Cook's Black Company novels? I've read only the first four, but I like them alot.

Just curious... want to know if my taste in movies (bad ones) extends to books...

Jason

Message #377 left by Naomi Kritzer on Jul 10, 2000 at 13:50

What S.N.Arly said ("You'll laugh, you'll cry, it'll hurt a lot if you drop it on your foot.") I stayed up last night until 1 a.m. reading it. My husband was planning to read it as soon as I'd finished, so I had to restrain myself and NOT read any of the funny bits out loud to him, which was more than a little frustrating.

Message #376 left by S.N.Arly on Jul 10, 2000 at 12:12

Maren - about Harry Potter 4: You'll laugh, you'll cry (honest, I did both, but I'm such an old softie), it'll hurt a lot if you drop it on your foot (just a guess). I read it this weekend and really liked it. Liked the others, too, but I think this one's the best to date. My copy did have a slight printer error so I had to run out to Barnes and Noble at 11:30 Saturday night to exchange it for one that wasn't missing those 30 pages. Didn't want to be left hanging at bedtime.

So's not to give away anything (I hate spoilers), I will simply say this is one book that is definitely worth the full hardpack price.

Message #375 left by Maren Henry on Jul 10, 2000 at 0:14

I remember reading The Most Dangerous Game in school, too. Good story.

As for very good books, let me just say: Harry Potter. Ahhhh. I'm slipping right back into his world, and I like it. This fourth book is thicker than the previous three, too. More to love.

Message #374 left by Kenneth Burke on Jul 9, 2000 at 3:51

Mary: Sorry. Feel free to disregard the above message.

Message #373 left by Kenneth Burke on Jul 9, 2000 at 3:49

The Most Dangerous Game meets the plot requirements but it's a not-very-long short story. It's also old enough to have been in my English anthology back in high school. I graduated in l958. I've got a copy around the house somewhere if anyone wants to know the author's name.

Message #372 left by Elise on Jul 9, 2000 at 1:37

Me again. I did some digging tonight on the web, and it may be Deathwatch, by Robb White. I still seem to remember jungle as opposed to desert, though. Hmm.

Message #371 left by Elise on Jul 9, 2000 at 1:03

I know it was a novel. I seem to remember a one-word title. Sigh. Getting older sucks. ;)

Message #370 left by Mary on Jul 8, 2000 at 20:03

I also read "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell in school. Great story. Everyone should read it. (http://www.bnlhost.com/shorts/stories/danger.html)

But the guy got swept off a boat and manages to make it to an island, where he discovers a lone inhabitant, who hunts men, and decides to hunt him. No safari, and he wasn't invited. Furthermore, since there was a 1932 movie based on it, it certainly wasn't in the 1980s.

It may be the same story, if you're not sure about the details, Elise.

Message #369 left by John Savage on Jul 8, 2000 at 16:25

I recall something similar as a novelette entitled "The Most Dangerous Game." It can't be 80s—I read it in high school. Perhaps Jim Van Pelt knows . . .

Message #368 left by Elise on Jul 8, 2000 at 15:46

Didn't there used to be a "hard to find" books topic? I've lost it! (Checked the archive, too.)

Annnyhow...maybe someone here can help. I remember a book from long ago (early 80s, perhaps), about a man who is (maybe) invited to a safari and hunt. He soon discovers that he's the thing that will be hunted. The book is about him evading the hunter and such.

Does this ring a bell with anyone? I remember it being good and would like to track it down again.

Message #367 left by Gregory Koster on Jun 30, 2000 at 8:31

"The Man Who Saw Through Heaven" by Wilbur Daniel Steele. A very fine short story. Trouble is, Steele's work is largely forgotten these days, completely out of print, and his stories (as opposed to his novels, which are dreadful stuff) are only available at the larger (say 100,000+ population) public libraries.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #366 left by Joe Shosty on Jun 30, 2000 at 6:36

Was thumbing through some of my favorite books last night. Came across Nina Kiriki Hoffman's The Silent Strength of Stones, and before I knew it I was halfway through it. Such a great novel.

Message #365 left by Lenora Rose on Jun 29, 2000 at 3:07

A Mask For the General. Which does have a few more flaws than my favourites of hers (the Dream Years and Tourists).

Different is fun!

Message #364 left by Lori on Jun 28, 2000 at 16:12

Lenora, which Lisa Goldstein book? I really like her stuff too.

As for The Book of the New Sun, I think "no accounting for taste" pretty much covers it. I can only say how it struck me--it built to an over-whelming mood or atmosphere that surrounded me as I read it, and I can't explain it any better than that. I can't say, well, this plotline was totally engaging, or I really identified with that character. The series as a whole evoked something in me, and I can argue until I'm blue in the face but if it didn't hit you that way, nothing I can say will change that.

We're just different, that's all. :-)

law

Message #363 left by Lenora Rose on Jun 28, 2000 at 2:47

Lori: definitely no accounting for taste - I was expecting *more* people to respond saying they liked it, and poossibly giving me a reason why that would help make sense of it to me.Thanks for trying - but I love words, too, and while there were a few short passages, and striking scenes, that were beautifully written or beautiful in general, they were surrounded by scenes and descriptions and word passages that either confused me, or failed to evoke any feeling at all, or struck me as ponderous, or... One of the things that I think bothered me was that i could not get hold enough of any one character to like them, even Severian himself. They were all so obviously symbolic characters, but I could never figure out what they were symbolic of, and none came to life for me as a character in and of him/herself for me to get past not knowing what they meant. Nor what the story symbolized - it had so much feeling of a parable, or maybe an allegory, that I assumed it all "Meant" something - nor the settings, nor...

However, I am truly curious why others like this series and recommend it. if someone gives me a line of reasoning, or shows me something I missed, it might encourage me to continue.

Meantime I am still shamelessly devouring Bujold's Vorkosigan books whole, though I took a break to read a Lisa Goldstein book - the only one of hers I've seen and actually not grabbed to read isntantly. I took it out of the library twice, and didn't read it either time, in spite of knowing every other book she wrote was damn good (excepting only the Red Magician, which was only good), and that she was an author whose works I wanted to collect in force. Well, now I'm reading it, and I like.

I have this theory that some books wait until their proper time to be picked up - it's the only way to explain how some books catch my attention, make me desperately want to find out what they're about NOW, yet which I don't read for a year or two - in the most extreme case, I think it took almost four years between instant attraction and actual reading. Once more, in spite of having taken out of the library, been presented with it in a bookstore, reading a good review....

Message #362 left by Mary on Jun 27, 2000 at 17:59

I, too, got rather lost in *The Shadow of the Torturer* and all. On the other hand, I rather like Wolfe's *Pandora by Holly Hollander*.

Message #361 left by Lori on Jun 27, 2000 at 15:55

I'm sorry, John. I realized that Martin was supposed to be some sort of comic relief but only found him rather savagely snide (no pun intended). He was generally too nasty to be funny.

Oh, lord. Another nine hundred pages? (Deep breath.) :-)

law

Message #360 left by John Savage on Jun 27, 2000 at 15:51

Lori, I'm afraid you're only halfway through . . . you won't get a get grip on Hyperion until you read Endymion and Rise of Endymion.

And no jokes? Just what is Martin saying that whole time, eh? I think what bothers you is the insulation of the jokes from direct dialog—they're not character-wiseassing-to-character, they're character-telling-about-wiseass-incident.

Message #359 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Jun 27, 2000 at 14:14

I agree with you about _Hyperion_, Lori. I got about a hundred pages in and I couldn't stand reading it anymore. I stopped after that ridiculous story about Father Dure (I think that was his name) and his meeting with the little people who stick that cross into his chest (it's been a while since I read it) that causes his immense pain. I know that the book is supposed to be based on Chaucer's _The Canterbury Tales_ but that still wasn't an excuse for the book to have no real plot or interesting characters to speak of. A better book by Simmons was _The Hollow Man_, not to be confused with the upcoming movie starring Kevin Bacon.

As for Wolfe, the only thing I read from him was a section from _The Fifth Head of Cerebus_ and I found it to be ponderous and confusing. All I can remember was that it was this planet where there were these aliens called abos that supposedly defeated mankind when they came and then took their shape and that somehow the protagonist wasn't sure if he was really an abo or not. Anyway, I didn't care for much of anything in the story, least of all the words, and I doubt I will read anything else by him anytime soon.

On the other hand, one book that stunned me was Frank Herbert's _The Dosadi Experiment_. Now here is a compelling book that bears no relation to _Dune_ and yet is just as amazing. I loved the whole conceit of Calebans, Fannie Mae and the sentient stars, Jory X. McRie, Keila Jedrik, Wreaves, the planet Dosadi where there is almost no room and violence is a way of life. Why they haven't turned this novel into a movie is beyond me. It has everything, even a great courtroom scene near the end that John S. and Andrew might appreciate. Also, in terms of prose style, no one can match Herbert. He has such a unique way of writing, that is so Herbertesque, if you've read _Dune_ you know how he writes, and it is interesting to say the least.

Message #358 left by Lori on Jun 27, 2000 at 10:58

Huh. No accounting for taste. I loved the Book of the New Sun. I flat-out like words, and Gene Wolfe can write so beautifully, I'm just in awe. Plus, I liked a lot of the surreal aspects, as well as how Severian's fate played out.

But I agree his short fiction is also wonderful. /The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories and Other Stories/ is another good collection.

On the other hand, I just finished /Hyperion/ and /The Fall of Hyperion/ and I cannot understand what the fuss was all about. This book (they do *not* stand as separate volumes) desperately needed four things: another rewrite, a good edit, decent characters, and a sense of humor. That last point amazed me the most. This was one of the most humorless books I have ever read. True, the characters were dealing with Important Issues(tm) like love and death and pain and faith and God and fate, but even Jesus told jokes, fer chrissakes, and this book had not one thing that even made me crack a smile.

law

Message #357 left by Joe Shosty on Jun 27, 2000 at 2:23

I'm 2/3 of the way through one of Richard Laymon's first books, The Woods are Dark, and it, like the rest of his work, is that good, old-fashioned buckets of gore horror circa the 1980s that I read when I want a break from the "important books." The difference this time is I'm reading it aloud to my wife during car trips, on the couch in the afternoon, and at night before bed. She's completely enrapt in the story, which I jokingly compare to rubbernecking at a fatal car crash, but she's really, really hooked. Most of the time she has me read until my throat is raw, and a few times she's taken over and started to read to me after I can't go on anymore. I've created a monster, I know, but in doing this I've also found a new and enojoyable pastime. I've bought several more books to read to her whlie we travel, which is almost every weekend. Seriously, people, if you've got a spouse or a loved one who's a fan of books of any sort you've really got to try this out. I didn't think reading could get any more exciting, but I was wrong.

Message #356 left by FrankT on Jun 23, 2000 at 17:50

Lenora:

I share your befuddlement concerning The Shadow of the Torturer and the Claw of the Conciliator and the Whatsis of the Whathteheck.

A friend loaned me the whole series. I dived in, enthusiastic. I dived back out, wondering:

A) What happened?

B) Who did it happen to?, and

C) What?

Oh, individual scenes stuck in my mind -- still do. The ruined starships resting on a hill, filled with humming wonders that will never fly again. The ancient cities, the ancient landscape, the hints that we were seeing something that might have been familiar, half a million years ago from the story's point of view. But, I repeat, what the heck happened?

In the end, I just didn't care enough to try again. That's probably more a reflection on me, though, than on Gene Wolfe.

Message #355 left by Joe Shosty on Jun 23, 2000 at 17:25

Lenora Rose: I read Shadow of the Torturer myself, and I have to tell you it's not my favorite book. I love Gene Wolfe's short fiction, but I'm not a big fan of his full-length works. I have a similar problem with his novel Castleview. It just didn't make much sense, and he doesn't explain anything. My suggestion is you read his fiction collections, Storeys from the Old Hotel and Endangered Species. Very impressive stuff.

Message #354 left by Lenora Rose on Jun 23, 2000 at 16:30

Can someone explain to me why so many people seem to recommend/like Teh Book of the New Sun series? I finished Shadow of the Torturer in a permenant state of befuddlement, and found that the befuddlement didn't clear up through the second book. I haven;t bothered pursuing that oen to the end yet. if someone can clear up the sheer confusion it created, I might give it another shot.

Message #353 left by Lenora Rose on Jun 19, 2000 at 23:05

Expendable was actually a really incredible book. it's my favourite of anything I've read by James Alan Gardner, and I'm an unashamed fan. He followed it up with Commitment Hour (Same universe, but back on the first Earth), which was an interesting look at gender and almost as good, then the disappointing Vigilant. He's got a new one coming out, too; I hope it's at the level of the first two.

Message #352 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Jun 19, 2000 at 20:59

_Expendable_ by James Alan Gardner, maybe?

Message #351 left by Mary on Jun 19, 2000 at 17:47

  • Jumper* was his first book. He also wrote (in order) *Wildside*, *Helm* and *Blind Waves*.

I think his skill went up as he wrote. (I never got through *Jumper*.)

Message #350 left by Lindsey on Jun 19, 2000 at 17:08

Fredrick, I read "Jumper" several years ago, and I really enjoyed it too. I thought it was fun and really clever. I haven't really seen anything else from Gould, though.

Another book I read at that same time and liked was "Expendables", but I can't remember the author right now. Both good SF books. This one was a bit more dark as I recall.

-Linz

Message #349 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Jun 18, 2000 at 1:05

I've read a number of good books lately. _Jumper_ by Steven C. Gould was great, a brilliant new riff on the old idea of teleportation and an excellent action novel. Davy Rice was a very human and compelling character. Also, I read _The Three Stigamata of Palmer Eldritch_ by PKD. It was good, although a bit confusing and weird, even for PKD--but hey, what did I expect? But if you want to see where some of the ideas for "The Matrix" came from it's a fun read.

I've only read _Ender's Game_. It was a very good book, but I don't recall it being all the expository. Oh well, maybe I wasn't paying attention. And in any case, I guess you can get away with long exposition and overanalysis more easily in a novel than in a short story.

Message #348 left by Tom W on Jun 17, 2000 at 10:42

Ok, i've read "Ender's Shadow."

How to describe it? Hmm, typical Orson Scott Card. Minimalistic prose, full of tell not show, over-analysis of every nuance of the the things around him by the protag, and yet...I devoured it in no time at all, even down to the we all live happily ever after ending.

Message #347 left by Terry on Jun 16, 2000 at 22:46

Sorry to take a bit of the wind out of your sails, Gregory dear, but if I don't still own NIGHTMARE TOWN, I did at one time. For approx. 26 years almost 100% of what I read was in the mystery genre. Since 1994 I've read NONE that I can think of. Oh, maybe a Hiaasen or two. Anyway, I'd go on a tear for one author and dig up the earth to get everything they wrote, so yeah, I came across NIGHTMARE TOWN. That, too, was well-named. But man, didn't Hammett just create a trademark *air* in the first sentence of his stories & books? Amazing.

Message #346 left by Lenora Rose on Jun 16, 2000 at 21:47

Over the many many weeks that I've been reading them, I went from enjoying Lois McMaster Bujold's books to REALLY liking them. Anyone who hasn't met Cordelia Naismith or Miles Vorkosigan should check them out.

(I have a friend who's making himself a Barrayaran uniform for the next con. But he's decided {only partly based on figure}, he's going to be going as MARK Vorkosigan, not Miles....<eep>)

Message #345 left by Gregory Koster on Jun 11, 2000 at 2:25

For Fred and Terry: Waking up from my witless sleep, I just remembered a new book by Hammett that came out last fall. NIGHTMARE TOWN collects twenty of Hammett's stories. Most have been out of print since the Dell paperbacks of the early fifties. Trying to get hold of those versions is a) expensive and b) frustrating, because the books are usually in such poor shape that they won't stand reading. Terry, if you think RED HARVEST was violent, wait till you read "Nightmare Town." Also, this coming fall, the Library of America is planning to publish a volume of Hammett's stories. Can't get the details, but it likely will have most, if not all of them, especially all of the Continental Op stories that we seem to like best. They've already published his collected novels in a handsome volume. Good stuff, as this eccentrically edited series often provides.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #344 left by Jan S. on Jun 8, 2000 at 16:04

One other work I keep forgetting to mention. Ursula K. LeGuin's "The Word for World is Forest." Stellar.

Message #343 left by Terry on Jun 8, 2000 at 7:40

I like all of Hammett's stuff, but RED HARVEST, it should be noted, is one of the bloodiest books I have ever read. The title really *does* tell you what it's about.

Message #342 left by Gregory Koster on Jun 7, 2000 at 23:40

For Fred: hear hear. Also Hammett's short stories about the Continental Op (the detective of RED HARVEST) are fine stuff. Just for the records, Hammett and Faulkner did a fiar amount of drinking together in the early thirties. Wonder what they had to say to each other.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #341 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Jun 7, 2000 at 19:55

Although I'll admit that this isn't a SF/F/H genre book, I have to recommend Dashiell Hammett's _Red Harvest_. It is, simply put, one of the best crime novels I have ever read. And when I first read it, I was hesitant, considering that I already read _The Thin Man_ and didn't care for it, and _The Maltese Falcon_ and thought that book was just all right. But _Red Harvest_ literally blew me away. I loved the dialogue, the plot, the characters, the setting (Personville/Poisonville), the language, the action, the plot twists, the humor--everything was near perfect. Above all, Hammett knew how to write. I love the economy of language he used in the book and the spare style. Whereas Faulkner could go on for a two page sentence describing every little aggravating nuance of a scene or character and get nowhere, Hammett could nail a character or a setting or a plot point down with two or three lines on a single page. If for nothing else, I recommend Hammett and this book to learn how to economize one's writing to pinpoint accuracy.

Message #340 left by Jan S. on May 25, 2000 at 11:49

Just in case I hadn't mentioned them before, I'm very impressed with Jane Fancher's Dance of the Rings books (Ring of Lightning, Ring of Intrigue, Ring of Destiny). Her Groundties books are pretty durn good, too. And she hasn't even written a stand-alone book yet! -- but wants to, and soon, so she tells me.

George R.R. Martin's _A Game of Thrones_ is also very impressive, and as soon as I get through the stack of books on my shelf over there ===> I'll go get a copy of _A Clash of Kings_ and see if he's maintainted the energy of the first book.

Message #339 left by Lenora Rose on May 24, 2000 at 0:29

Friend of *Mine*...

Message #338 left by Lenora Rose on May 24, 2000 at 0:19

Watts Martin: Moonheart is indeed very overt (And, being a relatively early work, has a few stumbles; how many times can it be "Too quiet"?) - but it happens not to be set in Newford. That removes the supersaturation by previous works set in the same place. It's also one of the ones I liked less, though my complaints about it are less strong than those about Someplace to Be Flying. LIke sI said, though, My opinion is swayed by his other work - I find it very hard to look at Someplace to Be Flying without the context of his previous books. If it were somewhere other than Newford, I'd probably have handled it better. In othewr words, it all coems down to my opinion.

His upcoming, "Forests of the Heart" is already getting a rave review from a friend of hime who got a reading copy....

Message #337 left by Greg Mays on May 23, 2000 at 21:50

Okay, here's what I think is a great first line from a pretty good book:

Suzi crapped the Frankenstein cockroach into the toilet bowl, then pushed the chrome handle halfway down for a short flush.

--From The Nano Flower by Peter F. Hamilton.

Message #336 left by Mary on May 23, 2000 at 17:38

Saberhagen's *The Face of Apollo* and *Ariadne's Thread* are good. They're actually sf, but that isn't definitively shown until the end of The Face -- and having read Thread second, I can't be sure, but I don't think it actually proves that it's sf in the book.

Message #335 left by Joe Shosty on May 23, 2000 at 17:18

Fredrick: It's good that you did. The first half of Battlefield: Earth is good, but after they destroy the . . . hmmm, memory slip . . . the whatchamcallit it starts to go downhill.

For those interested, I just finished Way Station by Clifford D. Simak, and it was brilliant.

Message #334 left by Lindsey on May 23, 2000 at 11:26

It did make it funny though, Fredrick. A typo in the first line of a crap book. I think they should make a practice of that, to warn people. -Linz

Message #333 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on May 23, 2000 at 7:09

Actually that should be "Man is an endangered species." Not "in."

My bad.

Message #332 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on May 23, 2000 at 7:08

"Great first lines of crap books"

"Man in an endangered species," said Terl--Battlefield Earth.

Actually not bad as first lines go, but after I skimmed through the first page I put the book back on the shelf and moved along.

Message #331 left by Robert Hoge on May 23, 2000 at 2:16

What about "Great first lines of great books" and "Great first lines of crap books" and vice-versa? I can't add much at the moment 'cause I'm 1000km away from my book collection but for starters:

"Great first lines of great books" It was a pleasure to burn. - Farenheit 451 (or Celsius 232.78 for the more right-minded :-) )

Cheers, Robert H.

Message #330 left by Watts Martin on May 16, 2000 at 23:19

Hmm. Well, I've read a couple of de Lint's other books and short story collections. Perhaps there's something about the way he handled the 'world-stopping magic' that appeals to me, even if it's certainly more up-front than in his short stories. (I'm not sure it's much less overt in MOONHEART, though, the first novel by him I'd read.)

Message #329 left by Lenora Rose on May 16, 2000 at 11:20

Watts: Actually, I found Someplace to Be Flying one of Charles' weakest books - partly because it's one of many set in that particular city. Newford is a city chock full of magic, from multiple different cultures already; but most of it is fairly quiet (as Charles has remarked, there are books called mainstream that have five times the magic of many of his stories.) IN fact, Charles' magic is at its best when it is quiet, or underground, or hidden. It provides a beautiful contrast to the huge world-bending powers tossed about in a great many 'imaginary-world' series'. My problem with Someplace to be Flying is that on its own, it seemed to me saturated with really blatant magic - the world-stopping kind. Now, yes, he chose to take that world-stopping magic from a different culture than most, but it still had the same overwhelming effect of the most common fantasies. Now, the book was literally saturated with magic; so strong nothing else could fit. Now set that book in a city with a great many magics already in it - the result is that it becomes too much.

Does this mean I would like it more if I weren't looking at it as part of a larger body of work? Maybe. It's not a bad book- Charles at his worst is still creative and his prose is still smooth and real (And I think he did worse early in his career). But I can't help look at it in the wake of the Newford tales previous to it: two novels, and three books worth of short stories. And in a more standard comparison to those other books, some of what came before was better.

This is particularly frustrating because I rather like the Crow Girls.

Message #328 left by Andrew on May 16, 2000 at 4:09

Frederick,

I think you need to get to know more hackers. The Captain Crunch scene makes *perfect* sense if you've ever suddenly realised that you've been inveigled into a conversation about UNIX.

Message #327 left by Watts Martin on May 15, 2000 at 22:51

At this moment, at least, my favorite novels are probably ANIMAL DREAMS by Barbara Kingsolver, THE FALLING WOMAN by Pat Murphy and SOMEWHERE TO BE FLYING by Charles de Lint. Alfred Bester's THE DEMOLISHED MAN would probably also be in there if I'd read it in the last ten years or so.

I've noticed a fair number of non-genre books in the lists people are giving. (ANIMAL DREAMS is non-genre, and Barbara Kingsolver is probably my favorite author, even though her most recent book, THE POISONWOOD BIBLE, struck me as her weakest--her most ambitious, perhaps, but her weakest.) That's interesting; lately I've found myself reading less and less sf/fantasy and more "mainstream," mystery and non-fiction works. I'm not sure whether my tastes are changing, or whather it's really getting harder to find genre stuff that's within my tastes. (I admit I've developed a bias against novels which start out planned as series.)

Message #326 left by Alex Finch on May 9, 2000 at 14:57

Senor Vivo and The Coca Lord by Louis De Bernieres is a must read witty, imaginative, clever and thoughtful - one of the few books that I never wanted to put down for a second. Plus 'High Fidelity' by Nick Hornby's pretty special too, though maybe I like it so much because I relate to the lead character a hell of a lot. Oh, and whilst I'm here, 'Heart of the Matter' by Graham Greene astonished me.....

Message #325 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on May 8, 2000 at 11:44

I can say that I only half enjoyed Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. On one hand, I thought Bobby Shaftoe was a great character, hard a** marine and a nutball to boot. But everything set in the present, w/ the exception of Avi, his family and the Israeli nannies was pretty boring. I thought Larry Waterhouse and his descendant, Randy (I think that's his name) were a yawn. Plus, Stephenson takes like three pages describing Randy eating a bowl of Captain Crunch. What's up with that? And the basic info about cryptography was so boring that I tuned out about a quarter of the way into it.

I suggest that if you read Cryp, read every section with Bobby Shaftoe in it and then ignore the rest.

Message #324 left by Andrew on May 8, 2000 at 3:43

Getting back to the topic, I mentioned earlier that my bedside cabinet was groaning under the weight of Neil Stephenson's Cryptonomicon.

I return here to praise it mightily: screamingly funny without once leaving the real world. The comedy depends on the native wit and intelligence of his characters and the plot is one of thosen that looks like a complete mash halfway through and then drops into perfect alignment like the teeth of a zipper as the last chapter rolls in.

The plot doesn't matter much, though, as the whole thing is simply a vehicle for verbal pyrotechnics and a lot of very, very good jokes. There's a scene where they Van Eck Phreak someone's screen. Not of itself funny, but the thing the guy is typing nearly gave me an embolism laughing.

Message #323 left by Lenora Rose on May 7, 2000 at 21:18

I had to read Marquez' IN Evil Hour for high school -and I detested it. I loathed that book, and I couldn't make sense of it, which for me is rare. I got an F on the test for it, in a course where I was getting overall good marks for everything I did and completely aced the final exam.

Since then, I've read two of his short stories, and I rather liked them. Because of that, I've been tempted to try rereading in evil hour without all the accompaniment of school class. Although I doubt the class had so much to do with my dislike as the book itself did, I have grown a lot since then, and I have changed opinions of books before.

Message #322 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on May 6, 2000 at 20:31

I think that LWFC is a good book, but not a really good one. And the end was terrible IMHO, esp. with Rosaura and Tita's bad deaths. I think the foremost magical realist is Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I'd also have to include Harlan Ellison as a great practioner of MR.

Message #321 left by Mary on May 5, 2000 at 21:17

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel is an excellent book and a fine example of magic realism -- anyone care to recommend any other examples?

Message #320 left by Andrew on Apr 30, 2000 at 14:10

I'd say a proper trilogy is one that's planned as such right from the get go - that is, three complete sequences of beginning middle and end that themselves form a complete sequence of beginning, middle and end. There's a few ways of doing this, of course. Make each book a separate, separately-released novel; make them a complete cycle and release them together in a boxed set or a fat single-volume edition (this used to be a lot more common - the last famous one was LOTR) or fold them all in together like Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, which is about five short novels all folded into one dirty great big thousand-page doorstop that I'm currently having trouble putting down and lord, do I wish I could get away with writing like that...

Series and sequels are just that - books with a connection one to the other and intended to depict stories at different times in the same milieu. Sometimes planned that way, sometimes not. I've got one at the publisher now that generated a sequel while I was working up a bit of framing story at the end; I thought of a character (who at no point appears in the book I just wrote) whose personality and exploits make a logical next step in the sequence of ideas I'm playing with, and set down to tell his story. It'll be a sequel, not a step in the trilogy (and, given how much I learned from doing the first one and the fact that I ain't got a contract yet, there's a real chance that it'll be the first to see print - the editor loves the world but has doubts about the book on his desk at the moment.)

I'm rambling; my grasp of literary theory is not great (I have trouble taking a lot of it seriously enough to get deep into the thickets) but I do have some fixed ideas about wht ought to be doing when I set out to achieve a particular literary goal.

Message #319 left by Lori on Apr 29, 2000 at 16:50

Thanks, Lenora, for bringing up Lisa Goldstein. She feels strongly about not inflicting series on her readers, but also wonders if she'd be more successful if she did.

Message #318 left by Lenora Rose on Apr 29, 2000 at 0:43

Marti: No, it wouldn't make them selkie books. To be selkie books, they'd have to be fully amphibious, and I have yet to meet a book that isn't ruined by prolonged contact with the bathwater.

As for sequels - thus far, the only sequels I have written to any of my own books have been because the book grew too long to be a single novel, and I split it as neatly as possible. However, some books have planned sequels - of Tom's description as a stand-alone complete in itself book. And most of the creation of the sequel is based on writing in a particular country, not necessarly with the exact same people.

As for the conjecture that all fantasies are series': Peter Beagle has only once ever written a second story in the same UNIVERSE as a previous story (One of the s-s's in Giant Bones uses the characters from the Innkeeper's Song) And he's one of the best. Robin McKinley has two books set in the same country, but they were written in the wrong order for the second to be a sequel. Charles deLint writes in the same city a lot, but with the single exception of Spiritwalk (Sequel to Moonheart), only his short stories ever get the feel of a series. Lisa Goldstein. Emma Bull mostly.

I ahve to admit, most of my other potential examples have written a trilogy or a series at some point. However, most of them have done so quite obviously because they wanted to (Ursula LeGuin, Diana Wynne Jones).

Can someone tell me why Alvin Maker *wouldn't* qualify as Fantasy?

Message #317 left by Tom Williams on Apr 28, 2000 at 22:53

OK, write a sequel. But make it a stand-alone/complete-in-itself book. There's nothing worse than reading a book that gallops along and then just...stops.

Message #316 left by DaveK on Apr 28, 2000 at 21:22

When I wrote Rust Bucket, it was intended to be a stand-alone single book. It wasn't until a few months after it was finished that the idea came to me for a sequel that absolutely demanded to be written and filled out two more books to make it a trilogy. Actually, from that point on, it grew considerably past being a trilogy, but that's what's been published so far. That's also the marketing angle the publisher took on the series even though I informed them up front that there are 15 books in the series. Yes, they're all completely written, though several need editing to fit the publisher's preferences. Also, they've said no to three of the series as too erotic even though the sexual content later provides a pivotal conflict hinge. I suspect that they will want some scenes cut or toned down in two of the other books, as well. Again, the scenes provide necessary motivation for later events and behavior.

Message #315 left by Marti Booker on Apr 28, 2000 at 20:58

To stay on topic.... Tamsin by Peter S. Beagle. Absolutely. Thanks to whomever upstream recommended it.


And, is the whole trilogy thing even a writer's choice after the book is finished? I kind of got the idea that trilogy books were written with sequels in mind. And that editors bought them with their expectations (and contracts) tailored to that end. Most "stand-alone" type books just wouldn't fit the traditional trilogy mold, for, if they're any good, the central issue has been resolved. Maybe you might squeeze another book of of some fantastic universe but it wouldn't be the "Quest that takes 3 books and maybe 4 to finish".

And anyway, if you did sell a book and people were demanding sequels, it would be hard to resist, no?

Message #314 left by Fredrick Obermeyer on Apr 28, 2000 at 19:50

Although I'm not sure this is in the right topic, I'll give it a go as the Brits say. One pattern I've noticed in the fantasy genre for almost every fantasy book I can think of is part of a series: The Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis, the Discworld series by Terry Prachett, the Amber series by Zelazny, the Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, the Alvin Maker series by Orson Scott Card (though I'm not sure it qualifies as fantasy), MZB's Trillium Books, Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series and on and on ad nauseam. I wonder, though, are there RMs out there who would stop after one book. Deep down, I'd like to think I'd stick to my guns and say one is enough (of course, one is also the loneliest number as the song goes) but if I had written a really good fantasy book and the publisher offered me a whopper of a contract to write two or three more in a series I fear I'd cave in and write them, even if the other books stunk like limburger cheese.

So, would you stop at one book or go for a few more. And if so, why?

And by the way, just so I don't stray completely off topic here, I thought that Robert Heinlein's _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_ was a really good book.

Message #313 left by Francis W. Porretto on Apr 28, 2000 at 7:53

"Trashy Books You Love But Hide." Marvelous! Guilty pleasures seem to be the only ones left, sometimes. That could well be one of the reasons for the current trend toward flapping them in others' faces: guilt fatigue.

My own contribution to this category is David Eddings's four fantasy series: "The Belgariad," "The Malloreon," "The Elenium," and "The Tamuli." Two reasons for this: 1) Eddings's characters are color-coded, and his heroes always have such enormous advantages over their adversaries that victory for the forces of goodness is guaranteed going in. 2) I have to admit that the man tells a rollicking tale rollickingly well, and I yearn to discover how he does it.

Strangely enough, Eddings's mainstream novel "The Losers" impresses me from about fifty different directions. It shows none of the weaknesses or two-dimensionality of his fantasies. I find myself asking, "Why can't he do this all the time?" Maybe it's a matter of the audience he was steering toward.

Freedom, Wealth, and Peace, Fran Porretto

Message #312 left by Naomi Kritzer on Apr 27, 2000 at 17:24

I'm guessing that this isn't so much a question about guilty pleasures (Mercedes Lackey is in that category for me, as well -- I have most of her Valdemar books, I'm embarrassed to admit) as it is a topic about books you both like and admire, even as you have to admit that they're flawed.

I've got a book to add to this list: "The Girl from the Emeraline Island" by Robert Blum. Flawed, but very, very memorable. (The author is apparently a Speculations subscriber, so if he wanders by this topic, I hope he won't be _too_ offended to be described in this way.) I originally read it checked out of the library, and snatched up a copy of my own when I found it used. This book had a ball-busting female protagonist, who strongly influenced my own storytelling during a period when most of the girls I read about were wilting victims of one variety or another. (_Sympathetic_ wilting victims, but subject to the whims of fate nonetheless.)

Message #311 left by Marti Booker on Apr 27, 2000 at 13:49

Hmm, does this need its own topic? "Trashy Books you Love-- but Hide behind that old copy of War and Peace"?

I must admit, I actually own Mercedes Lackey books. I have those two books you mentioned, Lenora, with the elves. I couldn't stand them, personally, I got them in a grab-bag, but I have to admit that I own not only all the Shannara series but also enjoyed them when I bought them. I also have several Anne Rice books. Would they go on the desert island? No, but they're fine for reading in the tub. Maybe that makes them selkie books?

Message #310 left by Lenora Rose on Apr 27, 2000 at 5:16

Actually, Barry, my point was that he's still really damn good - but it's a different good. His style is changing, moving away from even pointed and extremely sophisticated humour (which some of them do contain, between puns) into something SOMEWHAT more serious. Serious isn't bad, and it's not like he's abandoned his puns...

I don't have as poor an opinion of Carpe Jugulum as some people here do, but I have to say, isn't it time he stopped *almost* killing Granny Weatherwax in every damn witches book? Her triumphs are getting predictable and outright silly, not in a Discworld way, but in the 'thing to be avoided' way Terry himself describes silliness. I find that even though the witches are interesting as characters, their stories have become the weakest sub-series in the series. This despite an abiding fondness for Lords and Ladies' take on elves....


ON an unrelated note - about favourite books as opposed to classics.

Fran just said "Of course, some of you are thinking, "How could anyone like *that* clinker?" about some of the abovenamed books."

I've found that my top ten list does not include very many classics, even those I very much liked (And ones on many peoples' favourites lists right here. I'm not talking about Dickens). It includes an erratic list of things which influenced my personal taste and style, including some stuff I know damn well is flawed, but like anyhow. I wondered for a long time if this meant I had something wrong with me; a few years ago, I decided it didn't.

But much more recently, i was reading an interview in which Robin McKinley pointed out that her two biggest influences are Tolkien and Kipling. This IN SPITE OF her own irritation with both writers' sexism and racism, and Tolkien's over-wrought prose, and Kipling's occasional plain awfullness. She ahd a longer list in her description of the things they did wrong than I give some books I don't like - but these were her oldest favourites, and the ones she'd have on a desert island.

Based on this, what are some books you guys n' gals like that you know will never be considered classics? Books with deep flaws, but which suit you anyhow?

I can give a couple of that kind of books right now:

Mercedes Lackey and Ellen Guon's Knight of Ghosts and Shadows. One of the earlier "elves in the modern world" books, with some moments of deep silliness, and a rather weaker sequel (Though Ellen Guon's solo prequel, Bedlam Boyz, is not bad)

Nancy Springer's Sea King Trilogy (Starting with Madbond) She's a bit too crude with the language in a few places, but inconsistent about it, sometimes fudging about the same things she described clearly earlier. And there are some unnecessary extras to the story; minor plot twists that I might have questioned or asked removed were I her editor. But it caught me up anyhow.

I confess the selkies might have something to do with that. They usually do...

Message #309 left by Francis W. Porretto on Apr 26, 2000 at 10:50

Gee, what happened to "Really Good Books" -- ? I dialed in hoping for a few recommendations.

Oh, well. Here are a few of my favorites. I've stuck to post-World-War-II speculative fiction.

Piers Anthony: "Macroscope" Greg Bear: "Anvil Of Stars" Gregory Benford: "Timescape" David Brin: "Startide Rising" Steven Brust: "To Reign In Hell" Orson Scott Card: "Ender's Game", "Wyrms" and "Treason" Ramsey Campbell: "Midnight Sun" Glen Cook: The "Black Company" series Robert A. Heinlein: "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress" P. D. James: "The Children Of Men" Stephen King: "Pet Sematary" and "The Green Mile" Ursula K. Leguin: "City Of Illusions" and "The Left Hand Of Darkness" C. S. Lewis: "That Hideous Strength" Ayn Rand: "Atlas Shrugged" Thomas T. Thomas: "First Citizen" J. R. R. Tolkien: "The Lord Of The Rings" Jack Vance: "Lyonesse," "The Green Pearl" and "Madouc" Vernor Vinge: "A Fire Upon The Deep" and "A Deepness In The Sky" Paula Volsky: "Illusion", "The Wolf In Winter", "The Gates Of Twilight" and "The White Tribunal" Roger Zelazny: "Lord Of Light" and "A Night In The Lonesome October"

This list is far from exhaustive, but it's a good start for anyone who's a newcomer to the richness of the field in the postwar period. I return to all of these books frequently, for stylistic reinforcement and moral support.

Of course, some of you are thinking, "How could anyone like *that* clinker?" about some of the abovenamed books. You're entitled.

Freedom, Wealth, and Peace, Fran Porretto

Message #308 left by Barry on Apr 26, 2000 at 8:03

I'll admit that I'm too much of a Discworld fan, but the newest one, The Fifth Elephant, is pretty good again. After the last one about the vampires I was wondering if I wanted to read them anymore. Also, the book stores are selling economy copies of the first few for around four dollars to get new people started on the series.

Message #307 left by Lenora Rose on Apr 26, 2000 at 4:05

I have this to say about Terry Pratchett.

A lot of the standard Discworld style-jokes are weakening a bit now, but as the humour, which was at its peak somewhere around Soul Music, Small Gods and Interesting Times, is getting weaker, he's getting better and better at building real suspense. Soul Music had drama, and a climax, and all that, and all well done, but there was a lot less _tension_ than there has been in the last couple of books.

Now I just want him to come up with another new string of comedy; if he does, the combination of killer suspense and killer laughs will be the best yet....

Message #306 left by Dionys Murphy on Apr 24, 2000 at 16:07

"The Dead Boy At Your Window" is linked from Bruce's page(http://www.sff.net/people/Bruce/), but here is the direct http address for those who want to jump directly from here:

http://www.ifdpublishing.com/AMClark/deadboy.html

Bruce's Page The Dead Boy...

Message #305 left by Lenora Rose on Apr 21, 2000 at 18:24

Gregory: That was because it was intellectual, not emotional on my part, too. My emotional reaction was nowhere near that deep; I thought it a well written fable.

Message #304 left by Gregory Koster on Apr 21, 2000 at 13:56

For Tasha: Wow, that story you can't remember the title to sounds impressive. I've been a subscriber to ASIMOV'S for some time, but that does't ring any bells. Which proves precious little. As for making an ass of yourself, gee, you will have to take your turn behind me. When I had to think about what I was to reply to Dom, I found (to my dismay, and not for the last time) I didn't have the knowledge I needed to defend my point of view. So it's off to do some reading and find out what I'll think after I'm done. I think you are right about "Evening Primrose," by the way. Thanks for your reaction to "The Dead Boy At Your Window." I should mention even at this late date, that you can read the story at Bruce holland Rogers's home page on the (I think) SFWA website. I think it is something in me that prevents me from responding to it in the way so many people do. What Lenora Rose said about it makes a lot of sense to me, but that is still an intellectual, not an emotional response. What the hell---if a story works for a reader, it has succeeded, no matter what everyone else says. Including me.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #303 left by tasha on Apr 21, 2000 at 4:48

Oh yeah, one more horror story that struck me, but I can't remember the name of it. I think it appeared in Asimov's originally. Does anyone remember a story about two German children (older now) who go back to the home they lived in before WWII. People talk of seeing ghosts, particulary the ghost of a man with a star on his jacket up on the roof. There were two children in the hidden room--there bodies still there--that had been abandoned by the woman who was hiding them because she saw her opportunity to escape at their expense. The man with the star knew they'd been betrayed and had tried to get them out but fell off the roof and died, leaving the children locked in that room, quietly starving to death. I found that terrifying because one woman's cowardice had caused those three deaths, and who can know how brave one is?

Message #302 left by tasha on Apr 21, 2000 at 4:38

Gregory Koster: Way back when, you asked about people who were moved by "The Dead Boy at Your Window." I bought the book that it's in because of that story (I'd heard it was good and so wanted to see what the fuss was about). When I got home with my book, I was a little ticked to see it was only three pages because I could have read that on the sly in the bookstore. What I couldn't have done, if I hadn't bought that book though, was call my relatives and read it aloud to them, which I did. I read it three times out loud, and I never made it to the end without crying. I don't know why I cried so much (I'm not talking a few little sniffs--I'm talking wracking sobs and I had to get off the phone to wash my face). Everyone liked it but was mystified by my reaction. I am too, and all I can figure is maybe there is someone or some spirit that I miss and love that I can't remember while I'm in this body (yeah, I know that makes me sound like a fruitcake, but who knows?). Or maybe it was just that it was beautifully written--I can be sort of arty-farty now and then (Carmina Burana makes me cry too). All I can say is that story affected me more than any I can remember.

About the horror brouhaha: Wow. Can't believe I missed all that in real time, but I'm sort of glad I did since I'd have made an ass out of myself defending the genre. I like a lot of horror--"I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" is a favorite of mine. "The Autopsy" in David Hartwell's horror anthology (can't remember the name of it, and it's upstairs where my husband is sleeping) was good, but my favorite from that book was "Evening Primrose." Another horror story I liked a lot was "Richard's Head," in _Obsessions_ (might have got the name wrong--some guy's head though) by Al Sarantonio. I don't read a lot of novel length horror, but that's mostly because prefer shorts.

Tasha

Message #301 left by Dom on Apr 16, 2000 at 19:41

Greg: glad you're willing to check out a few of the more recent releases in the genre. As for Rex Miller, I'll agree that he was an extremist, though I really enjoyed his first Chaingang novel SLOB. Sadly, Rex had a stroke a few years back, and from what I've heard he really hasn't recovered much.

Best, Dom

Message #300 left by Gregory Koster on Apr 16, 2000 at 18:10

For Dom: Oh dear. Having been called on this, I turn to my armamentarium, and find---nothing there. I was thinking of Rex Miller,(who has a contract with a dozen slaughterhouses to provide the special effects he needs in his work) but he doesn't have anything in print in the "big" press at least. Thought some more, and came up with nothing. It seems that I was thining about a phase that the horror field has passed through, and is no longer representative. So I'd best get at those authors you suggested, and get my knowledge of horror up to date. Thanks.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #299 left by Dom on Apr 15, 2000 at 22:29

Hi Greg: I'm not sure we're working with the same definition of "small press." Almost all the names I've mentioned in my last few posts have recently had mass market paperbacks available, and while that's not bestsellerdom by any stretch of the imagination, it's not small press either. These guys have at least one or two books out a year from the likes of Leisure, Berkley and TOR, with print runs of 60-80k copies, so their effects are a lot broader and far-reaching than "small press," which makes me think of copy market magazines or print runs of 250 books. It is true though, that a lot of these guys also do work for Cemetery Dance, Subterrenean, Dreamhaven, Terminal Frights and other independent publishers, but hell, almost everybody does, Michael Shea included. Arkham House can be considered small press by today's standards, and so the likes of Ramsey Campbell, Charles L. Grant and other "major" names who continue to work with them are in effect working with smaller presses. I think the best writers cover the spectrum, doing a little of everything, working in various genres, and running the spectrum from big houses to medium to tiny. By the way, good call on "The Autopsy," it's long been one of my all-time favorites. I've probably read "Windows," since I own and have read the BEST HORROR OF F&SF some years ago, but for the life of me I can't recall anything about the piece right now. Also, since we keep talking about gore, can you name me a book outside of those by Clive Barker, that is so heaped with gore and can be found in the "big time?" (And Clive has toned down his work significantly, especially in Galilee, which can hardly be considered fantastical at all). You guys seem very committed to this idea, but despite my reading just about everything that comes out, I'm not sure I understand why you think gore sells and solid horror writing doesn't. A certain amount of gore is probably going to be found in most horror novels, which goes hand in hand the way that crime&murder goes hand in hand with mysteries, but I just don't see that many bigtime gory novels. Then again, maybe it just doesn't bother me as much as it does you and Andrew and John, and so I don't notice it as much.

Message #298 left by Gregory Koster on Apr 15, 2000 at 21:00

For Dom: Bang! How could I have forgotten Jack Cady, who is all you say he is? I also like the Bachman novels up to the point where King started making a joke out of them (THE REGULATORS was a bore.) I'm not familiar with the other friters you mention, and will have to give them a look. I think I'll pass on Clark Ashton Smith, though. I don't like flowery writing that is fertilized by gore. I've thought of a couple other horror tales. Fellow named Bob Leman wrote a few for F&SF years ago. One of them, "Windows"(has nothing to do with Bill Gates, though there's a horror story for you) is high on my list. Trouble is, I don't think Leman's tales have been collected. The other is Michael Shea, whose "The Autopsy" while full of gore, made it essential to the tale, and made the tale a huge success. But while Shea publishes books, they seem to be high fantasy not horror. Both of these tales are collected in THE BEST HORROR STORIES FROM f&sf. This also brings me to another of Andrew's points, which I fear is too valid for my liking: there does seem to be a Gresham's Law at work in horror publishing, at least in the "trade" press. I think all the writers you mentioned are pretty well stuck in the small press. (Correct me if I'm wrong.)There's nothing wrong with small press publishing, except that the profits aren't very big. What an awful development if the only way a "good" horror writer can get published is to stay with the small press, which is a ghetto financially, if in no other way. What is it that makes only the stupid, gore filled work publishable in the big time? I hope this will change, but I don't rightly know what will do it.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #297 left by Dom on Apr 15, 2000 at 19:10

Hi Greg: thanks for the comments. I agree that there was a period where horror authors tended to offer a top-heavy amount of extreme graphics in their fiction, but I believe that for the most part those days are thankfully over (despite the success of authors like Richard Laymon, who I do enjoy and who is finally easily available in the U.S.). Even small press houses such as Necro Publications, who originally published only "extreme" work, are now doing less of that sort of thing and broadening their initial horizons. I too find Anne Rice tedious as hell, and I'll also agree that much of King's shorter fiction is some of his strongest material. Personal favorites of mine include his earliest short novels now known as The Bachman Books. If you want work that has little to no graphics in it, I suggest you try Jack Cady, whose novel STREET and collection THE DAY WE BURIED ROAD DOG are two of the most literate and lovely works of horror/dark fantasy to be found. Also, you might enjoy the new anthology THE LAST CONTINENT, NEW TALES OF ZOTHIQUE out from Bereshith Publishing, which is a gathering of new takes on Clark Ashton Smith's creation. Seek out Tim Lebbon's "White" as well, which does have some viscera, but is really just a good old fashioned creepy story. He'll have a novel out from Leisure Books sometime next year, I believe. And stick with Piccirilli, he has a new novel THE DECEASED due out in July, I believe, and from what I've heard, there's just plenty of wild weirdness to be found in it.

Message #296 left by Gregory Koster on Apr 15, 2000 at 16:38

Game set and match to Dom. I say this despite agreeing with Andrew's position that (to me, and no one else is bound by it) far too much of modern horror writing depends on gross-out effects and will all too soon be dead. Example: I find Anne Rice tedious, and acted on this conviction by donating the copies of her books that I bought to a medical school, anatomy section. But I find most of Stephen King's short novel collections (DIFFERENT SEASONS, HEARTS OF ATLANTIS, and above all FOUR PAST MIDNIGHT) excellent. Whatever it takes, I guess. Dom, I don't think our tastes will match closely at all. But that is due as much to my own limitations as anything else. Good luck to you, and to what you write, and stand fast in your reasons for appreciating it. Also stand fast in your courtesy, and refraining from using Anglicisms. After all, you don't need to imply that the only reason you are holding back is because you don't want to cause Kent any work. Your arguments work well without condescension, or trying to shut the discussion down when you are losing. Keep up the good work.

Best regards, Gregory Koster

Message #295 left by Dom on Apr 15, 2000 at 2:03

John: fine, we'll leave it at this. Unfortunately, your double-edged sword doesn't cut either way. The main mistake I see with your initial point and proposition is that "gore is not horror but it is all that one sees." I'm not sure why that's all you see, since fine horror works without gore (or with it, as the case may be). If you see only weak fiction then I'm afraid your tastes simply aren't up to par. You make grandiose suppositions that the genre tries to "claim" Graham Joyce but they simply don't work. Joyce is a horror writer, enough said. Why you'd feel he's anything but is beyond me, except that you seem to feel that your blatant statements of such is all that it takes to make it so. Bad writing is horror and good writing is something else? Very thin ice you stand on in your criticisms. Also, I'm not sure where you feel this topic has degenerated to name-calling. This hasn't been off-topic for me, as I've named numerous really good books, whereas you haven't mentioned one (though you did name a really good movie). As for ugliness, I've seen none other than you trying to heave your weight around by stating yourself as a lawyer. I'm afraid I've dealt with too many of them in the past to be much impressed in any case.

Message #294 left by John Savage on Apr 15, 2000 at 1:31

Dom, I'm afraid I must disagree with the strawman recasting of my position. Please go read my website position (linked above), and recall that I'm trying desperately to respond here in language and terms accessible to the readers. Unfortunately, that means that the technical points become less clear.

My ultimate point is that gore is not horror, and yet that is all one sees. I am simply not impressed by flying body parts, copious quantities of bodily fluids, possession by yet another reject from the Old Ones, or tired "vampirism is a metaphor for sex" stuff, because it doesn't horrify. This is not limited to splatterpunk; and, as I noted earlier, the problem is a "genre" (wrong term, but that's what's being used here) built around an "effect" that seems to effect only those whose backgrounds have sheltered them from the horrors of reality. Frankly, that willful rejection of psychological reality makes me quite ill. Maybe that's what horror should be doing instead of trying to shock. That's why, despite the horror community's attempts to claim (for example) Graham Joyce, it doesn't fit.

Don't play "change the label" games with me, please. Things'll get really ugly, really quickly. As Andrew can attest, that's not a game to play with a lawyer—particularly one who did all but dissertation under theoretically oriented faculty. Nobody wins.

This is my last comment on this issue. It has turned into a religious argument, and is off-topic. I stated an initial opinion, supporting Andrew's comment. This thread then degenerated into personal attacks. I would gladly use several Anglicisms that seem appropriate to me, but would rouse the ire of Our Esteemed Sponsor.

Message #16 left by Martin on Dec 8, 1998 at 10:27

No-one so far seems to have mentioned 'Lord of the Rings'. An absolute must for all fantasy writers if only because it took someone who was a world authority on Anglo-Saxon and Norse mythology forty years to write it and he wasn't writing it for publication. So much better than all the imitators.

Message #15 left by Jim Van Pelt on Dec 8, 1998 at 7:15

Here's my eclectic very good book for writers about writing book list:

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Doubleday, 1994. ISBN 0-385-48001-6. Anne Lamott's inspirational, autobiographical, anecdotal description of how she writes and teaches writing is a laugh out loud/cry out loud look at writing and writers.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. MacMillan Publishing, 1965. ISBN 0-2-418220-6. So much has been said about this skinny, little volume of writing jewels that I can add nothing to it here. Own one.

How I Work as a Poet & Other Essays by Lew Welch. Grey Fox Press, 1983. ISBN 0-912516-06-2. Welch says, "If you want to write you have to want to build things out of language and in order to do that you have to know, really know in your ear and in your tongue and, later, on the page, that language is speech. But the hard thing is that writing is not talking, so what you have to learn to do is to write as if you weretalking, and to do it knowing perfectly well you are not talking, you are writing." I return to his collection of thoughts about writing and the nature of language over and over again.

Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain. University of Oklahoma Press 1965. ISBN: 0-8061-1191-7. A straightforward look at fiction techniques from handling conflict, to creating convincing characters, to plotting, and then accurate advice on preparing manuscripts and marketing.

The 10% Solution by Ken Rand. Fairwood Press, 1998. ISBN: 0-9668184-0-7. News writer, radio reporter, copy editor and science fiction author Ken Rand's short, no-nonsense approach to editing your own work, properly applied, will do more to make your writing appear professional than anything I've seen like it. Ken's style is funny and concise. He shows you how to go through your manuscript to tighten it, emphasizing accuracy, clarity and brevity. Order from Talebones.

Writing Without Teachers by Peter Elbow. Oxford University Press, 1973. ISBN 0-19-501679-3. Elbow's seminal work changed how writing teachers looked at the whole art of creating words on the page. Instead of emphasizing "product" (the traditional way of teaching writing) it emphasizes "process": how real writers go about their business.

Paragons ISBN 0-312-15623-5 and Those Who Can ISBN 0-312-14139-4 edited by Robin Wilson. Both from St. Martins Griffin, 1996. Robin Wilson has gathered science fiction and fantasy stories from the very best in the field: Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Ursula K. Le Guin, Greg Bear, Pat Cadigan and numerous others, following each story with lengthy commentary from the writer. An invaluable look at the best in short fiction with insight from the writers of each.

Revising Fiction by David Madden. Penguin Books, 1988. ISBN 0-452-26414-6. Madden's approach to revising fiction is to break the topic into short chapters devoted to each problem. Chapter titles are all questions, as in "Do your characters evolve out of point of view and style?" or "Are there flaws in the structure?" Then he illustrates how professional writers handled the problem by comparing the text of their work in rough draft to the finished piece.

Message #14 left by Jon H. on Nov 27, 1998 at 18:59

My personal all time favorite is Grendel by John Gardner. Never enjoyed reading a book as much as that one.

Message #13 left by Lawrence M. Schoen on Nov 27, 1998 at 15:37

Two writers and their works come to my mind, and I envy any of you who haven't read them yet because it would be glorious to read them for the first time again.

Gene Wolfe's Shadow of the Torturer will make you gasp in amazement at the sheer intelligence of the writing.

John Crowley's Little Big will make you weep at the simple honest and lush beauty of his language.

I once had the profound pleasure of sitting on a convention panel with both authors, talking about human memory. Certainly my best convention experience ever.

Lawrence

Message #12 left by Jens on Nov 26, 1998 at 10:46

Re: Message #1 Matt, what you wrote reminds me of the reactions when the movie first came out. It split the people I knew into two groups: those who had read the novel first hated the movie, while those who didn't know the movie loved it. I didn't see the movie until it was on TV because I had read the novel, loved it, thought it's impossible to film and didn't want to be disappointed. Some very good novels are Mary shelley's Frankenstein and Charles Dickens's Christmas Carol. In the movies, Scrooge is always shown as a "rotten doity bastich," but the book makes it clear that he's really just a bitter and lonely old man who was disappointed by life. Makes sense; if he were as evil as the films usually make him out, the ghosts couldn't have done anything. Especiallly the Ghost of Future Christmas would've been a lost cause ...

Message #11 left by Jens on Nov 26, 1998 at 6:56

My favorite novel, and I think it is a really damn fine book, is Eiji Yoshikawa's _Musashi_. It's a novel on the formative years of the legendary Japanese swordsman. The American paperback edition came out as 5 volumes, because the novel weighs it at well over 1,000 pages.

Message #10 left by John Shanahan on Nov 23, 1998 at 14:55

At the risk of sounding snooty and elitist, I think every fantasy writer needs to read the "War in Heaven" section of "Paradise Lost" (Book IV, perhaps?). Aside from being astounding poetry, the images (especially the seraphim dropping a mountain on Satan's armies) are amazing. And a damn fine fight scene, to boot!

Message #9 left by Naomi Kritzer on Nov 23, 1998 at 11:01

I'll second John Savage with Mary Doria Russell's "The Sparrow" and "Children of God." My favorites of Ursula Le Guin's work are "The Dispossessed," "Four Ways to Forgiveness," and the Wizard of Earthsea sequence (no longer a trilogy). Finally, Marge Piercy's "He, She and It" (called, I think, "Body of Glass" in England) is one of the best books I've ever read.

Message #8 left by John Savage on Nov 23, 1998 at 11:01

Jay Arr, you should try Ursula LeGuin's recent collection of linked novellas, Four Ways to Forgiveness. Very Cordwainer Smith-esque. You should also try MDR's The Sparrow.

Message #7 left by Jay Arr on Nov 22, 1998 at 22:06

John was right, Karina, there used to be a topic for great books, and I'm glad to see it back. My choices haven't changed in the last few months since I mentioned some of them in the other topic, so I'll just run through them quickly.

Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson; Way Station, Clifford Simak; 6XH, Robert Heinlein; You Will Never Be the Same, Cordwainer Smith; The Stars My Destination and The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester; More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon; The Circus of Dr. Lao, Charles Finney; The Gormenghast Trilogy, Mervyn Peake; Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury; Stand On Zanzibar, John Brunner; Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula LeGuin.

I must be in a nostalgic mood tonight; most of these are from my impressionable youth. Most of them are over 35 years old. That doesn't mean I haven't found any good books in 35 years; these are simply the books that blew my socks off.

And that's something SF/F/H very seldom does these days. The occassional Pat Cadigan story will knock me out, but no one's put out a *BOOK* lately, either novel or collection, that really floored me. I'm probably the only person I know that isn't crazyi about Orson Scott Card, but while several of his books have been well above average, there are none that rank with Bester or Jackson.

I don't care much for fantasy games and every new novel I saw for years seemed to be a tryout for a new game: set in a world of wizards, thieves, cat-people who speak English. Bah! Humbug!

Anyway, thinking about all those writers who showed promise but then dropped off the scene before they could write the book-length work that would make my socks roll up and down my ankles has prompted me to start a new topic. Whatever Happened To...?

Which also may have been a topic at one time...

Message #6 left by Ken on Nov 22, 1998 at 14:31

Octavia is fantastic. Orson Scott Card uses her work to show how to write in his 'How to Write SF and F.' My favorite books are written by Vance (Tschai Series, Demon Princes), Van Vogt( The Weapon Shops of Isher), and of course, Zelazny (Lord of Light, Nine Princes in Amber) and Ellison (Repent Harlequin said the Tick-Tock Man and Dangerous Visions). I'm going to stop here, but there are so many others (I have 127 books in what I call my favorties bookshelf) like P.G. Wodehouse, Shakespeare.

Message #5 left by Karina on Nov 22, 1998 at 13:47

So, I've re-created a topic instead of inventing a new one, eh? Ah well, such things happen, I suppose.

I'd like to recommend Mind of My Mind by Octavia E. Butler. Of course, I'd recommend almost anything by Octavia Butler--I absolutely love her work. Once I start reading a book of hers, I just can't stop. I'll be in the middle of a chore, and suddenly find myself reading! The problem is trying to find her books in stores. It's taken me approaching 2 years to build up this collection of mine, and I'm still searing for a couple more.

As it so happens, Dune was the last book I read. I figured that everyone should read it sometime, and that this was my time. My opinion falls somewhere between Matt's and John's. I enjoyed the book, but there were things about it that definately bothered me. One was the narration style. It distracted me to have the POV keep flipping from one character to another. Overally, however, I thought it was quite good.

Message #4 left by John Savage on Nov 22, 1998 at 8:22

I've listed some good books over on my website. (I started the "Bad Books" topic because there was an active "good books" topic that appears to have fallen off the face of the planet.)

Anyway, I particularly recommend Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow and Children of God, many books by Ursula LeGuin, and Dan Simmons's Hyperion Cantos among fairly-recent publications.

I'll betray my taste with a vehement disagreement with Matt's recommendation of the Dune books . . . but that's for another time.

Message #3 left by J. Thaddeus Skubis on Nov 22, 1998 at 4:08


Anything by H.P. Lovecraft is a superb read, assured to dwarf whatever writer ego you might have had :>

Message #2 left by Mark Rapacioli on Nov 22, 1998 at 1:23

The Amityville Horror. MUCH better than the movie, which actually wasn't all that bad.

Message #1 left by Matt Doeden on Nov 21, 1998 at 22:35

Well, this is a no-brainer, but everyone has to read Dune at least once. I don't think any other book has had as much of an impact on my own writing as that one. I know a lot of people who saw the movie, having never read the book, and they never wanted to go near the book becaue of it. If anyone out there is among those people, trust me on this one. Read it.

I also highly recommend the third book in the Dune series -- Children of Dune. #2 isn't great, but it's worth it to get to #3.

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