The one time I met GRRM the one thing I said to him was (truthfully) "I'm a big fan of The Armageddon Rag!" He paused, peered at me suspiciously, then said, mordantly. "Oh. You're that guy."
@rpresser #18 -- '"The corporations are today's Medicis," he said.' That's a fascinating glimpse into both the author and the period...
Huh. You know, when summarized it almost sounds like a Philip K. Dick novel (though it really didn't feel like one, at least to me.)
I admired Wolf Hall more than I loved it, mostly because I seemed to be allergic to that kind of milieu (and because really Cromwell was the only character in the book whose company wanted to keep) but there's no denying its brilliance.
It is worth noting, for those who like A Man For All Seasons and its Thomas More, that here More is depicted as an awful human being who (more or less) got what he had coming. It's an interesting contrast.
"The book was called A Clockwork Orange for various reasons. I had always loved the Cockney phrase 'queer as a clockwork orange', that being the queerest thing imaginable, and I had saved up the expression for years, hoping some day to use it as a title. When I began to write the book, I saw that this title would be appropriate for a story about the application of Pavlovian, or mechanical, laws to an organism which, like a fruit, was capable of colour and sweetness. But I had also served in Malaya, where the word for a human being is orang." - Burgess
I think the victories of "Bicentennial" and "Tricentennial" could be put down to a fit of American patriotism.
I second the mention of Crowley's BEASTS - it's a great book.
I've been known to argue that The Silver Chair is really a horror novel dressed up as fantasy. (Though honestly it's been so long since I read it I'm not sure I could defend that now. Clearly it's time for a re-read.)
Minor nit - I'm pretty sure you're thinking of the Aral Sea, not Lake Baikal, which remains pretty much untouched.
I can't tell either, but I've decided to interpret it as one; it's way more fun that way.
"I Will Fear No Evil", is a book most yoga enthusiasts know (at least here in Los Angeles, anyways)
Boggle, boggle, boggle. Well, that's a claim I (a yoga enthusiast who used to live in Los Angeles) have never before encountered. And I really never dreamed that I would. Out of curiosity, is that from anecdotal evidence or hard data?
It has been argued that the Rolling Stones were more influential than the Beatles, not because they were better, but because what they did required less (although still considerable!) skill and talent, and so was easier to mimic. Same might apply here.
You're very welcome! Glad you liked it.
This spoiler-laden blog post
on the real (and not-so-secret) meaning(s) of Inception
is very worth reading, if and only if you've already seen it.
truly spectacular adaptations of bad literature are rare
Hmm. Picking a few from the IMDB top 100: The Godfather? Jaws? Fight Club? Dr. Strangelove? Forrest Gump? The Treasure of the Sierra Madre? I'd argue they're actually surprisingly common.
I do love Nine Princes in Amber, but I have to say, its opening is extremely reminiscent of a sequence from a noir novel I read once - was it Chandler or Hammett? - I misremember now, but I remember reading it and thinking: Wow, Zelazny totally ripped this off.
(But he did it brilliantly, which is the important thing.)
For the record, I don't think much of either writers' groups or NaNoWriMo, because
a) If you can't force yourself to write without some kind of artificial/social incentive or schedule, then you're probably screwed to begin with;
b) both come with a long and worrying list of downsides that generally outweigh whatever benefit you might get from them.
(But I will grudgingly accept that reasonable people can disagree.)
I once compared writing a novel to taking a long cross-country road trip in a balky car. Sometimes the engine is running, or you're going downhill, and the scenery is wonderful, and everything's great. That's how your trip inevitably starts.
But then one day you hit the Rockies, or the Appalachians, and then your engine gives out, or you run out of gas - and you have to push your car uphill - and then it starts to rain. And it's miserable. Especially if you've gone on a comparable trip before, and that one was a whole lot more fun.
But if you really want to get to the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or wherever you're going, you're just going to have to keep pushing the car over those mountains, and then maybe across the Great Plains, and then maybe across the mountains on the other side, even if in any given moment it feels like you're going nowhere for no good reason.
(Haruki Murakami, a far better writer than I, compares it to rock climbing in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a book that all would-be novelists should read, even though it isn't really, or at least not directly, about writing novels.)
One of my all-time favourites. I reread it last time I was in India, and didn't for a moment regret sacrificing almost two full days of my travels to its 1349 pages.
I found this book slight and immensely fun.
I think "slight" because I never quite
bought the milieu - not that it was internally inconsistent, but it didn't seem to have much depth to it. It felt like one of those Hollywood Western false-front movie sets.
Actually, the whole thing felt like a 1950s movie, with that kind of intentional distance between the story and the readers. (Which Wilson kind of riffs on in the "movies" in the book itself.)
Does that sound like a complaint? It isn't, really; it's just that it's a cinematic 19th century story, with Heros and Villains and swashbuckling, as opposed to, say, a Blood Meridian
-style visceral-intensity 19th-century story ... and I tend to prefer the latter.
I found the parts set in Montreal particularly odd from that point of view. I expect readers in New York might find the same from the Manhattan sections.
As a former Montrealer and former New Yorker, I found the NYC section more convincing - but I think that's just because thanks to this book
I have a much better image of nineteenth century New York than nineteenth century Montreal.
Speed Racer was my favourite movie of 2008. I am not being ironic or sarcastic. (For context, my favourites of all time include Dr. Strangelove, Lawrence of Arabia, and Repo Man.)
It's basically a $200 million arthouse film for kids. What's not to adore?
Are you by chance a diver? I went diving in the kelp forests off Catalina once - it was so cold that my skin turned blue, but so beautiful that I didn't mind.
(Let's not even think about why New York.)
Actually I think it's kind of fascinating the way that New York is, or has become, a mythical city in the way that few other North American cities have. That is, there exists a mythical NYC in parallel with, interwoven with, the real NYC.
This isn't true of any other North American cities. Well, L.A. a little, I guess. And Montreal should be mythical but somehow isn't, yet.
London is sort of mythical, but across Europe, the weight of thousands of years of history (and historical myth) chokes new myths in the same way that unchecked weeds choke gardens.
(For the record, I firmly believe SF and fantasy can be "literature." THE ECONOMIST agrees: THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS was in their top 100 books of the 20th century.)
That's nice. But I feel like the 20th century is where this debate belongs. After Atwood, Rushdie, Le Guin, Cormac McCarthy, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem, Junot Diaz, David Mitchell, John Crowley, Gene Wolfe, etc etc etc, the belief that SF and fantasy can't be literature is like any other harmlessly bizarre antiquated worldview; strange, maybe, but really not worth the effort to dispute, and now mostly held only by an irrelevant coterie of antediluvian cranks.
I'm sorry if this sounds harsh, but I'm really quite taken aback that you think it's worth proudly proclaiming that you believe SF and fantasy can be literature. I think that's been self-evident for a very long time.
Perhaps Atwood has chosen to "risk" her "stellar" reputation by "coming down" and writing Oryx & Crake and The Year of the Flood.
Leaving the eyebrow-raising "coming down" part aside -
Atwood's best-known book for most of her career was The Handmaid's Tale, dystopic SF. (Which I don't think that much of.) She then won the Booker for The Blind Assassin, a multilayered narrative built around a fantasy novella. (Which I utterly adore.)
After those two phenomenal successes, both of which were SF to some degree, what in heaven's name makes you think that Oryx and Crake was some kind of risk? That's like saying Salman Rushdie risked his reputation by writing The Enchantress of Florence - it's just baffling.
Time-travel romances in general, not just in Heinlein, tend towards the creepy: The Time Traveller's Wife, which is sort of a book about grooming, leaps to mind.
Of interest: this video
includes 1930s footage of first contact between Papua New Guinea highlanders and Australian gold miners.
This was terrific, in a fuligin-dark way.
(For the curious; Wikipedia's Vilcabamba entry.
Call me a sky-eyed optimist, but I like to imagine that if The Hurt Locker wins all the major awards, this is best interpreted not as a sign that the Academy's voters hate genre films, but a sign they thought it was, you know, a better movie.
Perhaps, rather than being unjustly snubbed, Avatar is in fact getting exactly the love it deserves. I think it's a great movie. But I also think The Hurt Locker is better.
@4 Clay Cox
I may be naive, but it just doesn't seem like it would take a lot to translate books...
It's expensive - first you have to pay the author for the translation rights, and then you have to pay the translator. It's time-consuming. It's difficult to do well. And while there are a lot of people in Brazil, the GDP per capita there is about 1/5 that of the USA, so there's much less money there to make up for all that expense.
It is indeed a shame. I am vaguely reminded of that Orson Scott Card story - "Unaccompanied Sonata"? - in which talented musicians are kept from any music so that their genius can grown uninfected by other influences. One of Card's dumbest notions, which is saying quite a lot. Almost without exception, genius grows by cross-pollination, not isolation.
In the interests of hard data, here's the scene from the script, via IMSDB
Hail them -- now!
NERO appears on screen from the Narada bridge -- the Narada's on its last legs -- a beat before Nero TURNS, realizing Kirk's fucking GRINNING at him from the screen:
This is Captain James T. Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise -- your ship is compromised -- too close to the singularity to survive without assistance -- which we are willing to provide.
Captain -- what are you doing?
We show them compassion-- it may be the only way to earn peace with Romulus. It's logic, Spock! I thought you'd like that.
No, not really, not this time.
I would rather suffer the death of Romulus a thousand times than accept assistance from you.
You got it.
Lock phasers! Fire everything we've got!
a lot of people in the SF world seem to carry the scars of having had their tastes and interests traumatically dissed by such teachers at some point.
Armchair-psychologist mode: I speculate (with only anecdotal substantiation) that among SF writers or would-be writers, this leads to both anger at having had one's tastes slighted and the deep desire to write something that will impress their once-disdainful teachers, and the combination of those not-exactly-compatible reactions tends to provoke clouds of irrational dissonance when the subject comes up.
(This is at best secondhand, mind you; mine own degree is in electrical engineering...)
I can not think of a single writer in genre fiction who has anything on someone like Nabokov or Beckett
I think one of the problems here is that relatively few people have read both deeply and widely in both literary genre fiction and the genre of literary fiction. The latter has something of an established canon, and thousands of carriers of the canon in English lit departments around the world, but the former is entirely ad hoc and subjective.
You may be an exception to that problem - I don't know. I'm certainly not; the only Nabokov I've read is Pale Fire.)
No first person book from a male point of view can pass the Bechdel test
Pedantic nitpick: I don't think this is technically true. My sources
indicate that the test is:
1. It has to have at least two (named) women in it,
2. Who talk to each other,
3. About something besides a man.
Which is entirely possible, indeed quite easy, within a first-person male POV.
...er, by which I mean Orb, of course.
I am appalled to learn that it is not in print. Paging Orbit...
heresiarch @42 - Evidence? I suspect we're still several generations of auto-text-mining/tagging software away from having any hard evidence on the subject. Shall we drop the debate for now and take it up again in 2020?
...and I'm arguing that you're wrong; that the numinous is a normal, unexceptional element in any number of sf works; that they do not constitute an easily-dismissed minority but a vital strand within science fiction.
I gather you're conceding it's a minority but arguing that said minority is vital and not easily dismissed? Well, fair enough; I am unconvinced, but it's probably an unresolvable disagreement. (Or maybe we could ask someone who reads incredibly copiously for an opinion. James Nicoll, say, bringing this whole conversation nicely full circle.)
So, let me get this straight--
I fear that either I have misspoken or you have misinterpreted. The moot point I meant is whether the dichotomy - well, actually, dichotomies: utopic/dystopic, numinous/not - are descriptivist or prescriptivist, not whether or not they're real.
Foxessa @37 - I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying that James Cameron and JRR Tolkien (the only writers cited by name so far here) are perceived as infested with "girl cooties"? That's, um, certainly not my impression.
heresiarch @34: Sure, there are counterexamples, but I'm not arguing that they don't exist, I'm arguing that they're very much a minority.
Is this is because of actual intrinsic differences between the genres? A moot point. It's at least partly because a) "if this goes on..." type stories that warn of the consequences of new real-world technologies don't much exist in fantasy, and b) we tend to relabel seriously grim dystopic fantasy as horror.
JeffV @1, Nick Mamatas @3 - Shoulda been more explicit: I'm talking symbolically here. Obviously there's a lot of (reasonably high-quality) technobabble in the movie that sciencizes the Na'vi; when I say "the humans are Science Fiction" and "the Na'vi are Fantasy", I'm talking about the semiotics.
KateNepveu @4, Foxessa @8 - Thanks! Never seen it cited before.
Heresiarch @9 - Oh, I agree that AVATAR's deck is highly stacked in fantasy's favour.
Milio1313 @11 - Wouldn't surprise me if the sci-fi/fantasy thing is unintentional, but then, so is the WTPNIAH subtext; both are very much there regardless of intent.
JJS @14 - "Belly up"?! It made $232 million in its opening weekend.
Stanley Lui @15 - Yeah, exactly. (And hi!)
R. Emrys @24 - The antigrav/unobtainium mountains notion is interesting, but poses more questions than it answers, eg: why hasn't HomeTree lifted off, if the biggest deposit is beneath it? If there's that much in the mountains, why not mine them? And if the mountains are antigrav, why haven't they flown into space already?
Robotech_Master @19: I've heard of it, haven't read it, am amused by the notion. I think new versions written by other people are a different issue, though - like cover songs, they don't really affect the original.
Ursula @22: The difference an editor makes really varies by author, by editor, and by book. In general, though, in my experience, editors have more to say about taking things out than putting things in.
Backwardation797 @23: It's pretty much a given that there will be some rewriting to editorial order after a book is sold - that's part of what they're buying. In my experience, agents don't get involved with those rewrites except maybe in extreme cases.
PNH @3 - Oops. I hereby apologize to the ghost of RAH.
wsean @7 - Heh. Yeah, I like Borges a lot. I once visited the Borges Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, and was disappointed to discover that it wasn't an endless labyrinth full of all possible books.
dglewis @12 - Exactly!
Vikram Seth's masterpiece A Suitable Boy (1349 pages in hardcover) included this epigram in its introductory pages:
Buy me before good sense insists
You'll strain your wallet and sprain your wrists
Maybe King should borrow that page for Under the Dome.
I read a lot of Fowles in my late teens, and none since, and now I am both tempted to and dissuaded from returning to him.
Sandikal @14: No.
(The book is nonfiction.)
It is perhaps worth noting that AGYAR was written in a single six-week sprint. (Source: Mr. Brust himself, at a con in Cambridge in 1997.)
I have always been impressed by the alienness of the aliens in Heinlein's Methuselah's Children. (His later work, not so much.)
I wonder if there is some analogy to present-day fictional/subtextual treatment of, say, immigrants from poor nations. Or, more accurately, previously poor nations - once America and Europe stood head, shoulders, and torso above the rest of the world; now others (first Japan, now China and India) are catching up, and many Americans and Europeans are a little resentful at having lost their pride of place.
There's plenty of textual and subtextual treatment of this resentment, from Crichton's Rising Sun to District 9, while Carter's The Fortunate Fall (hey, Jo, you should review/reread that, if you haven't already) and Ryman's Air sort of deliberately subvert it; but no postapocalyptic cosy-catastrophe examples leap to mind offhand.
Using "genre" loosely: Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Amazon.ca; Polar Star by Martin Cruz Smith, last-week-in-business sale in a mystery store in Camberville; Spook Country, William Gibson, clearance hardcover in Chapters.
I can't recall offhand if this has ever come up in conversation: how do you feel about Three Men in a Boat?
Me too. Mission Child isn't flashy, and as you say it can be difficult, so it was one of those books that I thought merely good while reading it; but it's stuck with me far more than most in the fifteen years since.
I also liked Half the Day is Night an awful lot, though I get the impression that that's a minority view.
Extemporanea - thanks! I had no idea about the Parkdale Prawn.
Shadar Auditor - ha! Also, what exactly is "the Van Der Merwe joke"?
I've been struggling this with myself for a long time, and have just settled on what I'm going to try to do to shock myself out of it.
There are a bunch of books out there that I am almost 100% certain I would absolutely adore, but I've never read - because I liked knowing they were out there, unread. McCarthy's No Country for Old Men. Martin Cruz Smith's Stalin's Ghost. Atwood's new SF novel. Murakami's A Wild Sheep Chase. Stephenson's Anathem (well, I'm less sure about this one, as I gave up on the Baroque Cycle about 200 pages into The Confusion, but I have high hopes.)
Basically, I've been saving them for a rainy day, I guess - and I'm declaring this reader's block as that rainy day, and am about to break 'em open. In between I'm going to reread a few books I read more'n a decade ago, and loved, and think I'll still love today.
The idea is, I guess, to break the block by smashing it with greatness.
The death ray is actually reasonably well-documented:
What puts Tesla's death ray in a league of its own is that his design actually had competent, even inventive, engineering about it. His idea was to use a gigantic electrostatic generator run by one of his turbines to accelerate tiny particles of mercury until they became a stream of super high-powered bullets of several million volts. Since they were accelerated in a vacuum, Tesla needed a way to spit them out of the accelerator sphere without letting air in. He proposed to do this with a special nozzle which blew high-pressure air around an open tube leading to the evacuated sphere and acted like a constantly renewing plug to preserve the vacuum. What happen to the mercury stream after it left the nozzle and had to travel through the atmosphere was another matter that was never quite figured out.
Incidentally, by "particles" Tesla did not mean protons, neutron and the like, but tiny droplets. Tesla had little truck with atomic theory and for an electrician he had no time for electrons.
Slight correction; Midnight's Children
won the Booker Prize in 1981, the Booker of Bookers (best of the first 25 years of the prize) in 1993, and
the Booker of Bookers II (best of the first 40 years) in 2008. (source
I've read it several times; last time, I read the first half in Mumbai (those tetrapods he writes about? They are entirely real. You too can go and look at them today) and the second half on the train from Mumbai to Goa
. It is one of my very favourite books, and that is one of my very favourite reading memories.
The Moor's Last Sigh
is very nearly as good.
I always describe The Space Merchants as a book fifty years ahead of its time.
While I agree with everything said here, I still enjoyed the movie tremendously. But then, I've always had a very soft spot for Big Dumb Fun blockbusters.
I suppose I'd feel more upset about the lack of Big Ideas or subtext or meaning or anything other a frenetic space-romp if I took Star Trek more seriously to begin with; but movies V through X, along with mention the bits I've seen of Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Enterprise and Voyager, collectively sanded off any grander hopes and expectations I might once have had.
Oh, also, for those who don't know, it's being adapted into a movie, starring Keira Knightley, and with a screenplay by Alex Garland (which gives me hope; he wrote the books The Beach and The Tesseract, and the scripts for 28 Days Later and Sunshine.) I believe principal photography has already begun.
This is, as I've mentioned in the past, one of my very, very favourite books. And I'm not even sure it's my favourite Ishiguro; I'm also a huge fan of The Unconsoled...
I do have one ... not exactly bone to pick; more like unresolved uncertaintly wrt NLMG. I didn't quite get that discovery-of-the-abandoned-boat sequence near the end (which now I'm hoping I remember correctly!) It was oddly and inexplicably moving, perhaps because Ishiguro is a genius, but it seemed somehow disconnected from the rest of the book.
11) Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
12) Zelazny, Lord of Light.
R1. "Christ," he said, "what an imagination I've got."
R2. Tension, apprehension and dissension have begun.
Heart of Darkness? Thematically, at least. Also, Graham Greene might have written the Great World Oeuvre.
Friday is sort of a World Novel, but I'm not sure I'd call it Great. (Good, sure.) But of all the nominees to date I think I like Stand on Zanzibar best.
I once mused about putting together an anthology of spellbinding standalone openings to books that afterwards become quite different (but remain superb.) Thus far it would include the first eighty pages of Stars In My Pockets..., the first fifty pages of DeLillo's Underworld, and ... um ... actually, so far that's it.
Wasn't a fragment of Splendor and Misery of Bodies, of Cities published in some small magazine once upon a time? I have a vague memory of references to such in rasfw, way back when.
I was totally going to write a post entitled "On Reading Brasyl in Brazil" - but I couldn't find a copy anywhere in New York City! It's apparently in the post-hc pre-pb dead zone of unavailability.
Your timing is eerily good - TheMediaIsDying
, a usually (though not always) reliable source, just reported major layoffs at DC.
All I know about mine off the top of my head is that it would include Heinlein's "All You Zombies -" and Sterling's "Dori Bangs" back-to-back. Sort of a combined solipsistic requiem.
Huh, yeah, I guess it is SF horror. I didn't respond to the horror at all (in fact, I chuckled all the way through) but then I almost never do.
I should check out Mass Effect.
By "extrapolative" I mean something more than just "set in the future, with spaceships and/or alien monsters." A world that shows or explores one or more genuine what-if elements. Space opera might or might not count, depending. the zero-gee environment in Dead Space sounds like it definitely does.
Is that clearish, or should I expound further?
You can sometimes get away with coincidences because they make sense in the larger context of the story. For instance, if you have two separate storylines going on in one book, readers are preconditioned to expect them to intersect at some point, so it won't feel contrived when it happens. Or if you open a book with a coincidence, it's an inciting event, not a contrivance.
You can also play the "hand of Destiny" card, although I don't personally much care for that.
Some authors - I'm thinking of Paul Auster, here - can milk this larger-story-structure/theme to somehow get away with repeated coincidences that don't seem like complete contrivances. I'm not entirely sure how Auster manages this, but he does.
Man, I would so love to join this, but my schedule does not allow (writing 'til February, then travelling 'til mid-March, both of which tend to impinge on schedule reading.)