Congratulations to the fine folks at the Golden Bough, who were (as far as I know) the only ones to spot my little April Fool’s Day joke in PW‘s April 2 issue: all nine SF/F/H reviews began with the phrase “In a world where…”. This is, of course, an homage to the late, great Don LaFontaine, whose voice graced countless SF/F movie trailers. PW reviews, like trailers, have to very quickly set the scene, summarizing an often complicated background and setting in just a few words. LaFontaine had a real genius for this. The “In a world where…” construction has become a cliché, but it really is very efficient and effective, and it respects how important worldbuilding and scene-setting are in SF/F. I was delighted to have this opportunity to honor LaFontaine and his work while giving PW‘s readers a little extra fun.
Here are the SF/F/H-related April Fool’s Day posts I’ve seen so far:
- Tor Books will publish manga editions of John Scalzi’s fabled fantasy trilogy The Shadow War of the Night Dragons.
- Scott Lynch finds this outrageous, since he feels Scalzi’s trilogy rips off his own The Night Shadow of the Dragon War.
- Readercon’s book club selections are announced.
- Mary Robinette Kowal reveals her true identity.
- Book View Cafe will be publishing some modern classics.
- Blizzard is launching a line of educational games. (h/t Adam Lipkin)
- Jim Butcher announces his next project. (h/t Harry Connolly)
- Jay Lake has something similar in the works. (h/t Harry Connolly)
- Lawrence Watt-Evans has an innovative way of distributing his new story. (h/t Harry Connolly)
Got any others to add to the list?
I’ve seen a “holiday wishes” meme making the rounds of my friends’ blogs. The idea is to tell people about ten things you want for the holidays, and then to look at your friends’ wishlists and see which of their wishes you can fulfill. It’s a sweet sentiment, and I’d gladly join in if I gave a fig for holiday gifts. My philosophy, however, is that gifts find their own time to be given, and while I’m not at all averse to telling one’s friends and family what one wants, I don’t see a point to tying it to a particular event like a birthday or a holiday (especially a holiday that many people don’t celebrate). I’m in favor of making people happy all year round.
What I will do instead is post my ten wishes for 2012. These aren’t wishes that anyone can fulfill for me–or, indeed, that I can fulfill for myself. They’re just my hopes and dreams for the year ahead.
- For PW to continue thriving (as I believe it will).
- For more readers and reviewers, especially those with big audiences, to talk about female and minority authors and their books.
- For more writers to get paid well for their work.
- For more publishers to take chances on amazing unusual unclassifiable books.
- For more readers to take similar chances.
- For more independent bookstores to thrive on the increased support of their local communities.
- For more chain bookstores to decide that they have a serious responsibility to stock as broad a selection as possible and encourage shoppers to consider small press titles, unclassifiable works, debuts, and other books too often overlooked.
- For the industry to shift back toward reader ownership of purchased works rather than licensing.
- For more libraries to be well-funded and well-managed.
- For the spec fic community to collectively lose interest in classification debates, especially those debates that have the intended or unintended effect of shutting people out of the community rather than bringing them in.
How about you?
Last year, Hannah Neurotica declared February to be Women in Horror Recognition Month. She writes, “It is a month to celebrate all the women in the horror industry. Not just actresses but fx artists, writers, directors, female fans, etc.” Maura McHugh has been blogging about it from the writing and editing side; here’s her list of all the women who won Black Quill Awards and were shortlisted for Stokers this year. Women are doing tremendous work in this end of the field and I’m glad to see them getting some recognition.
February is also Black History Month in the U.S., so I’d like to give a special shout-out to black women who write and edit horror. There aren’t many! Off the top of my head, the only ones I know of are Linda D. Addison (the first African-American to win a Stoker Award), Tananarive Due (two-time Stoker nominee), Nalo Hopkinson (whose excellent anthology Mojo: Conjure Stories is often overlooked), and the late Octavia Butler. Nnedi Okorafor writes some fairly grim fantasy but I’m not sure whether she’d call it horror; likewise N.K. Jemisin. L.A. Banks’s urban fantasy might occasionally cross the line into horror, depending on how you define the two. I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any of these authors to the discriminating horror fan.
Who’s missing from that list? I’m sure I’ve left out some short story writers, since I don’t read much short fiction these days (to my sorrow). Please share your recommendations in the comments.
I love the idea of National Short Story Week; just because the nation in question is the U.K. doesn’t mean we can’t observe it on this side of the Pond. Maybe I’ll read one of the enormous collections that can really only be consumed in full over a four-day weekend. If you’re a SFWA member, you could get started reading and rereading Nebula-eligible works, now that nominations are open.
Angry Robot is–pardon me, they’re British, Angry Robot are–observing the holiday by announcing the December 1 launch of individual digital short story sales through their online store. You can buy stories individually or bundle them in a sort of make-your-own-anthology setup. I’ve wanted this sort of thing for years, though of course in my ideal world the store wouldn’t be limited to stories from a single publisher, and you could share your anthology TOCs and see which ones were most popular and turn them into POD print books as well as e-books. As I see it, the short story is the closest publishing equivalent to the song. It’s high time we started treating anthologies and magazines like albums, and giving customers the opportunity to make their own mix tapes.
In nonfiction news, the Science Fiction Oral History Association (which I did not know existed until this weekend) has launched an extraordinary podcast, Space Dog, which will broadcast recordings from SF history. The first episode features Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Lester del Rey, Frederik Pohl, and Gordon R. Dickson shooting the breeze in 1976. Wow.
Happy USian Labor Day! Last year Josh wrote a great post about the working class in genre fiction. This year I’m specifically trying to think of examples of unions and collective bargaining in fantasy. There must be some. I’d love to see historical fantasy or alternate history that focuses on the heyday of America’s labor unions; is it out there? (Reminds me of Alaya Johnson’s supernatural suffragettes.) What happens in medieval fantasy settings when the wizards go on strike, or the shoemaker elves demand better wages? It’s a bit hard to bring in scabs if magical talent is innate or takes decades of study to be trained into usefulness.
There are probably lots of older SF novels and stories that feature or mention union action, but again, I can’t think of any. I don’t count The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, as colonial uprisings are not the same thing as strikes. “The Roads Must Roll” is a bit closer. What else?
Unrelated to unions, the story I most want to read today is Pohl and Kornbluth’s “Mute Inglorious Tam”, in honor of any worker who has ever paused to daydream.
Military SF doesn’t get a lot of respect, but there’s no denying its popularity; likewise epic fantasy, which might as well be called military fantasy these days given the ubiquity of enormous armies and perilous espionage missions. The vast majority of alternate history books seem to focus on the outcome of pivotal battles. Urban fantasy and paranormal romance novels tend to take place against a backdrop of fighting between paranormals and normals, or among paranormal groups, or between Heaven and Hell. In fact, it seems to be sort of an open secret that a great many genre titles contain a whole lot of military action of one sort or another. Look at this year’s Hugo nominees for best novel, which otherwise seem quite diverse: an alternate U.S. Civil War steampunk adventure, a police procedural set in two cities that seem to be under something resembling military law, a fable of near-future warfare in Canada, a surreal tale of a city recovering from a terrible civil war, a hard SF adolescent self-discovery novel with secondary threads involving civil unrest in China, and a warning story of global political machinations and eventual popular uprising. WWW: Wake is the least military-inflected of all of them, but that’s not saying much.
I grew up knowing pretty much nothing about warfare or the military (my grandfathers both served in WWII, but neither ever spoke to me about it) and science fiction sparked my first real contemplation of the moral and political issues surrounding the waging of war. I read The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and The Forever War and other overtly military tales, but the one that actually got me thinking was–perhaps predictably–the first book I read where the teen female protagonist went off to war, that being Patricia Kennealy’s The Silver Branch. The main characters, all members of the nobility, undergo military training as a matter of course; the British might not blink at this, but to an American teen it was quite shocking. When the young and absurdly powerful Queen Mary Sue Aeron destroys an inhabited planet in revenge for the sneak attack that killed her parents, the psychic backlash of having all those lives on her conscience leaves her nearly comatose, and Kennealy takes pains to show the grief and anger of those she has bereaved, even though they’re “the enemy”. The political thrust of the book and its sequels is unquestionably pacifistic, but there’s plenty of respect for the members of the military. These are pretty much planetary romances with a hefty dose of romance-romance and prophecy-magic mixed in, and I remain impressed that Kennealy put that much effort into discussing the nuances of the interstellar war that could have simply been used as an engine to drive the story.
Given the solemnity of the holiday, I’d like to take this in a slightly different direction than the usual rec thread. Which fantasy and SF books have you read that take war seriously? Where have you read good discussions of the moral nuances of waging war and being in the military? Which authors go beyond the big explosions and talk about what happens when the dust settles? Who are your favorite fictional troops? Rec away–and please, if you would, confine the discussion to works of speculative literature and steer clear of here-and-now politics.