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Showing posts tagged: literature click to see more stuff tagged with literature
Dec 30 2013 12:00pm

Pull Your Team Together for Some Classic Heist Stories!

The Italian Job

There is nothing quite like a great heist story for pure awesome escapism. You can create a fun and spine-tingling escape sequence, ala The Italian Job or Oceans Eleven. Or, you can be Breaking Bad, and use the format to break the audience’s collective heart. But in the end, they’re just about the teams, and the way all these weird skills like lock-picking, acrobatics, phone phreaking, and Cockney Rhyming Slang can come in handy in tight situations.

With some help from your answers on Twitter, here’s a list of some of the best capers in film, television, and literature!

[We’re pulling you all in for one last job...until the sequels!]

Nov 4 2013 6:00pm

Literary Bastards of Magnificence

Moriarity Sherlock

We took to the hive mind on Twitter to ask for the great Magnificent Bastards of literature, and you, also all Magnificent Bastards, created a fabulous list! So, imagine us, I don’t know, throwing glitter and confetti in the air as we ask some literary characters to take center stage. Below is a series of blindingly magnificent literary bastards—look upon them, ye readers, and despair! Or be really happy and excited that your favorite anti-heroes made the list, either way.

[Click through to be blinded!]

May 22 2013 1:00pm

(Trying-Mightily-Hard-To-Be) A Comprehensive Reference Guide to Good Omens

Tchaikovsky's Another One Bites the Dust Good Omens

Part of what makes Good Omens such a fantastic read is the plethora of referential material that the book offers up in categories ranging from history to art to literature. Here’s a list (though it’s a titan’s feat trying to be comprehensive in this case) of shout-outs this book manages to pack into every crevice, be they sneaky or hammer-worthy on the Obvious Scale.

[Real-life witches to goofy-looking aliens]

May 22 2013 10:00am

What a Piece of Work is Star Trek? Star Trek Into Darkness Forgot to be Literary

There’s a lot that has been written and said about the inspirational power of Star Trek. From astronauts to social workers, engineers and beyond, do-gooders galore have been borne out of Trek. Good for them! Surely, aspects of Star Trek may have taught me how to be a better person, but that’s not the most profound impact on my adult life. Instead, Star Trek is partially responsible in inspiring me to read great books and become a writer.

And it did this by sneaking classic literature into my silly sci-fi any chance it got. So, it is with a heavy heart I complain about the biggest oversight that I saw in Star Trek Into Darkness: it’s not literary!    

[Read more]

Apr 18 2013 11:00am

One Tuesday with Freeman

One Tuesday with Dyson FreemanOn April 1 at 3 p.m. room 413 in Columbia University’s Dodge Hall was vibrating with anticipation, excitement, anxiety—Freeman Dyson would be arriving in one hour to answer questions about his many works of non-fiction and his experiences as a legendary physicist.

Just a quick refresher: Dyson is a theoretical physicist and mathematician who worked closely with Robert Oppenheimer—the man that is sometimes referred to as the “father of the atomic bomb”—and invented the Dyson Sphere, the method of searching for extraterrestrial civilizations by looking for large objects radiating in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Dyson is nothing short of a testament to the power of myth in the physics world: He is so revered as a writer and a scientist that he has become something of a science fiction—even an alien—character, a fantastical version of himself that exists only in his admirers’ imaginations.

[Read more]

Mar 25 2013 12:00pm

A Lifetime Burning In Every Moment: Rumer Godden’s A Fugue In Time

Rumer Godden A Fugue In TimeYou won’t believe how delighted and astonished I am to see A Fugue in Time back in print. It’s been out of print and impossible to find for my whole lifetime. I’ve only owned it myself for a relatively short time (thank you for finding it for me, Janet!), and it’s probably the book I have most frequently read from libraries. It’s in print! And I can therefore recommend it in good conscience!

A Fugue in Time is one of those books I could easily talk about without re-reading, because I love it so much and know it so well. But as soon as I thought about doing that I realised that no, I could give myself the treat of reading it again. It’s not a very long book, after all.

It’s genuinely hard to pin down as to genre. It was published in 1945 and set in 1941, but it covers the years from 1841 to 2000. It’s arguably science fiction and contains science fictional assumptions about the future, though it was published initially and republished now as standard mainstream fiction. What makes it especially interesting is the way it is written as if all that time is taking place at the same moment—the use of tenses and of interwoven plots in different generations of the same family is really quite amazing.

[Read more]

Mar 8 2013 12:00pm

What’s Reading For Part 2: Books Do Furnish a Mind

What’s Reading For Part 2: Books Do Furnish a Mind

My post What’s Reading For? developed a lively comment thread in which the majority endorsed my Epicurean view that “Reading is usually the most fun I can have at any given moment.” But there were some very interesting dissenting voices, and I’d like to have a look at them too. There’s a way in which I do read in all of kinds of different ways, and in which they are interesting ways to think about how and why we read.

[Read more: “What’s reading for, part 2”]

Feb 21 2013 11:00am

What’s Reading For?

In the comments to my post “Is There a Right Age to Read a Book,” I noticed an odd thing. I’d written it mostly thinking about the comment that you shouldn’t read Jane Eyre until you’re thirty or Middlemarch until you’re forty, and I was thinking about reading pretty much entirely for pleasure. I was talking about spoiling the enjoyment of a book by reading it too early—or too late. In the comments though, people started talking about prescribing childhood reading and talking about books as if they were vitamins that you should take because they’re good for you. There were comments about the immorality of re-reading because it causes you to miss new books, and comments about learning morality from reading. It all became surprisingly Victorian.

I think this may have happened because I had started off discussing classics, and lots of people have these kinds of feelings about classics, as if they’re things you “ought to” read, educational reading, rather than things you read because you want to. And this led me to think about what I read for, and how that might be different from what some other people seem to read for.

[Read more: what I read for]

Sep 14 2012 3:00pm

Celebrating Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived In The Castle

A discussion of Shirley Jackson’s books The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Many think of Shirley Jackson primarily as a short story writer, due to her much-anthologized classic “The Lottery.” But for me it’s Jackson’s novels that really demonstrate her lasting contribution to her field.

[Read more]

Aug 8 2012 3:30pm

Awesome Future Timeline Compiled from Science Fiction Literature

Over on the great website The Awl, they’ve created a fascinating/amusing/very cool timeline of our future! Drawing upon SF novels and short stories from across the canon, this timeline includes everything from the events of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? in 2012, to the 2026 first colonial voyage to Mars depicted in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars. It puts the date of The Hunger Games at 2108 and points out a second first Mars landing occurs in 2096 in John Wyndham’s The Outward Urge.

But our favorite entry is without a doubt the year 2027 in which Lady Gaga is arrested. This is taken from the Charlie Jane Anders story “Six, Months, Three Days” published right here on!

We are very impressed by the depth of this timeline. Good work Jane Hu!

Check out the whole thing on The Awl.

Jun 19 2012 3:00pm

What’s Gothic Now?

Alma Katsu asks.. what’s gothic now?

What with the popularity of vampires on television, Dark Shadows and The Raven in movie theaters, and a new paranormal romance paperback coming out every day, you might think that Gothic was more popular than ever.

But is it really? What is Gothic, anyway? It’s one of those terms that you think you know until you have to define it. Is True Blood part of the Gothic tradition?

Though it’s sometimes looked down on as a mixture of horror and romance, Gothic literature has been and continues to be a tremendously influential and popular genre. For instance, think of Dracula and the enormous influence that book has had on culture. How many single books can claim to have had the same impact on the minds of so many people—many of whom have never read it?

[Defining Gothic: dread, madness, the supernatural and the sublime...]

Feb 7 2012 10:00am

Happy 200th Birthday to Charles Dickens: A Man Integral to Science Fiction/Fantasy

Charles Dickens turns 200

In a 1991 episode of Cheers, psychiatrist Frasier Crane tries to drum up interest in the works of Charles Dickens among his fellow bar-denizens. Specifically, he tries to read them A Tale of Two Cities. Initially, no one cares, but after Frasier adds in some ass-kicking and contemporary violence, Norm, Cliff and everyone else end up chanting “Dickens! Dickens! Dickens!” as though he is the greatest writer since Sly Stallone.

Interestingly, the enduring power of Dickens can not only be found in his original work (Re-read A Christmas Carol now! It’s better than you think!) but also in the ways he influenced storytelling forever. Today, on his 200th birthday, let’s take a look at five ways in which Charles Dickens was integral to science fiction and fantasy.

[Read more]

Oct 13 2011 6:10pm

What the Dickens? Famous Authors as Science Fiction Characters

After, aliens, spaceships, time travel, and serious and artful mediations on the human condition, there’s almost nothing science fiction and fantasy enjoys more than a good allusion to literature. Nicholas Meyer brought a bunch of Dickens, Melville, Doyle, and Shakespeare to Star Trek, while more contemporary steampunk science fiction, like Lev Rosen’s All Men of Genius has its roots in Twelfth Night and Oscar Wilde. Meanwhile, the forthcoming film, The Raven sees Edgar Allan Poe himself as central character in a creepy murder mystery. Arguably the most famous and outlandish science fiction film of all time, Forbidden Planet delivered not only a flying saucer and a talking robot, but derived its storyline from The Tempest. Pretty highbrow stuff for a sometimes “trashy” genre!

Occasionally this literary reference goes an extra step. Sometimes famous authors themselves appear as characters in works of science fiction. Here’s a smattering of some of the instances we discovered.

[Read more]

Oct 7 2011 4:00pm

The Art of Disbelief

When you hear “suspension of disbelief,” what do you think? Do you think, like Samuel Taylor Coleridge, that it is a willingness to fall into a “poetic faith”? Maybe Coleridge is not your thing, and Wordsworth is more on the right track with “…to give the charm of novelty to things of every day, and to excite a feeling analogous to the supernatural.”

Whatever your take on it is, at the end of the day you are basically turning off a little logical piece of your brain and allowing the excitement of the fantastic to take you away. We may not realize how often we do this already in our everyday lives, but from the book you are reading on the train to work to the magician using a little prestidigitation to pull a coin out of your ear, we frequently suspend our disbelief for just a moment. Even though we logically know our protagonist is not real or that we most certainly did not put that quarter in our ear for safekeeping, we allow ourselves to be pulled in and enjoy the moment.

[Read more]

May 23 2011 2:21pm

Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris Turns Owen Wilson into a Literary Time Traveler

The last time a Woody Allen film could be actually be called science fiction, was most certainly his 1973 dystopia /slapstick farce, Sleeper. While I’m sure the prolific writer/director is unconcerned with what genre any of his films fall into (Allen has claimed many of comedies aren’t actually comedies) there is nonetheless something exciting about a Woody Allen romantic comedy futzing around with the notion of time travel.

From the nature of the previews and a few interviews with the stars, it seems like Woody Allen and company want to keep some of the specifics about the time travel in his latest film Midnight in Paris, out this past weekend, under wraps in order to actually surprise the audience. So, if you don’t want to find out what era Owen Wilson time-travels to in Midnight in Paris, stop reading this review now!

[Spoilers for Midnight in Paris]

Apr 11 2011 1:19pm

Where does dystopia fit as a genre?

Dystopias have been written by mainstream writers—they are the form of science fiction mainstream writers are most likely to attempt, and most likely to succeed at. The more I think about this the more I wonder if it makes sense to think of dystopias as a subgenre of science fiction, rather than a mode of mainstream fiction that science fiction writers use from time to time, similar to noir. Dystopia was forged outside of SF, by Huxley and Zamyatin and Orwell. It’s largely been writers outside of SF like Atwood and Levin who have carried it forward. This recent burst of young adult dystopias are mostly written by YA writers and not by SF writers. Dystopias existed when SF was a still very young genre. And when I think of canonical dystopias it tends to be ones by mainstream writers that leap to mind.

[Read more]

Mar 22 2011 7:20pm

Books for Every Dimension: The Non-SFF Novels that SFF Fans Love

SFF not considered SFF

Like many authors of genre fiction, George R.R. Martin famously advises wannabe writers to read as much as possible in ALL genres, not just SFF. We think that’s just fine, because as many have pointed out before (including this very blog), fans of science fiction and fantasy are often extremely well read in other genres, too. Because explores the universe and related subjects, we are always dedicated to highlighting all sorts of writing. From Jo Walton’s rereads of the wonderful Patrick O’Brian novels, to Sarah Monette’s musing on Ellery Queen, to the recent addition of Ryan Britt’s Genre in the Mainstream series, it’s pretty clear we love various genres.

Today we asked our ever-vigilant Facebook and Twitter followers to tell us which non-SFF books they love. We also threw a little bit of a curve ball with this one by qualifying the question to include books that “sort of feel like SFF.” This might have been a tricky one, but you rose to the challenge!

[Here’s what you said along with a selection of some of our favorites]

Mar 4 2011 4:49pm

Glimpses: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Searoad

Searoad (1995) isn’t science fiction or fantasy, it’s a set of interlocking stories about the small Oregon town of Klatsand. Most of it is modern day vignettes, little moments of people’s lives in the town, or as they pass through it or connect to it. The last third is the intertwined history of a family and the town from 1899 to 1983.

It’s a strange book, a book about place and people and glimpses of them from inside and outside and the way everything connects up. It’s a slim book that’s deeper than it seems, it skims along with hints and images and very precise descriptions of very small things and makes of them a wider lens than you’d think you could possibly get from something like this. I picked it up for the same reason you’re interested in reading about it, because Le Guin is one of the greatest writers of fantasy and science fiction, and I’m going to buy whatever she writes. But this is something else, something elusive that comes at you sideways. I love it. But I find it hard to wrap words around what it is.

[Read more]

Dec 8 2010 5:18pm

I am Not a Blogger and this is Not a Blog: Adventures in Meta-Fiction with Paul Park

I have a confession to make. I am not a blogger. I am actually a strange person who never learned to write and can barely even read. I live in a secret room somewhere in Brooklyn where I drink soda-pop, listen to Morrissey albums and think about a variety of topics. Deep inside my brain is a tiny chip which telepathically sends all my ideas to my various blog-bots, who in turn go and write my blogs for me. The blog-bots do the research, gather the images, and occasionally speak to science fiction authors. Recently, while I was at home watching a DVD, one of my blog-bots got a chance to speak to SF writer Paul Park on the subject of meta-fiction. This is what my blog-bot discovered.

[Read more]

Oct 26 2010 11:24am

The Common Ground of the Punk

Difference Engine steampunkMore than once, I’ve heard that steampunk is a reaction against the world that cyberpunk gave us. The argument is fairly straightforward. Modern life is smooth and plastic and seamless. We’ve created a life out of near constant connectivity, powered by endlessly upgradable and ultimately disposable tools that are themselves mass produced in some distant territory. Our friends are online profiles that we refresh, our communities are by subscription service. For many of us, the work of our days and our lives comes down to little more than lights on a screen. Disposable.

Steampunk means to put that on its head. The hope is to build an enduring community of Makers and musicians and writers who dream of yesterday’s future that never happened. The intention is to create some kind of permanence in our increasingly fractured lives, to ground ourselves in things that we’ve made with our own hands, to find solace in the act of creation.

[Read more...]