26Aug

Old But Good Socialist SF List

A blast from the past (well, in my narrow time frame) admittedly, but thought I’d link to it for more recent converts to the genre. China Miéville’s fifty fantasy & science fiction works that socialists should read.

This is not a list of the “best” fantasy or SF. There are huge numbers of superb works not on the list. Those below are chosen not just because of their quality—which though mostly good, is variable—but because the politics they embed (deliberately or not) are of particular interest to socialists. Of course, other works—by the same or other writers—could have been chosen: disagreement and alternative suggestions are welcomed. I change my own mind hour to hour on this anyway.

I’ve only read about ten or so of these titles, but it’s worth dipping into. Very much recommend Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, William Morris’s News From Nowhere, and Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita.

25Aug

Will Someone Think Of The Children?

Ex-Children’s Laureate says that books for our youngsters are too bleak.

Speaking at an event organised by Children in Scotland, called Compelling Novels, Vulnerable Children, she told The Times: “In the Fifties, when a strong child was dealing with difficult circumstances, there was always a rescue at the end of the book and it was always a middle-class rescue.

“The child would win a scholarship to Roedean or something, and go on to do very well. That was felt to be unrealistic and so there was a move away from that. Books for children became much more concerned with realism, or what we see as realism.

“But where is the hope? How do we offer them hope within that? It may be that realism has gone too far in literature for children. I am not sure that we are opening doors for children who read these books, or helping them to develop their aspirations.”

However, she added: “I can’t see how we roll back from this without returning to the sort of fiction that is no longer credible – books with a Blyton-ish view of things.”

(I could have linked to the Daily Mail article, but that would have been too easy.) Good lord, where to start with this crap. Let’s shelter our little cherubs from the real world, because we want the middle-class gene-pool to ignore the kind of bad stuff that happens to kids from, you know, poor places. (If we close our eyes it doesn’t happen.) Let’s whisk them brainwashed by gentle wish-fulfillment into the real world where bad things never happen.

As Bookninja says, “Your ideal is the Fifties? Need I remind you that the children of that decade are the Boomers currently in charge of the planet? Case closed.”

23Aug

On The Writer’s Ego

It’s easy to see how it happens, how some writers become divas.

And you know the ones I mean. (I’m not pointing out names here. Hell, my ex girlfriends would probably say I’m a diva before I became a writer.)

So you put your book out there, and people talk about it. That’s cool. People on the internet become reasonably animated. They bicker, they praise you, they slag your work off. It’s taken you a year or more to write a book and someone has blasted through their weekend and is most upset at what you’ve written. White noise and flame wars. You understand why many writers decide to go offline entirely. Everyone has their opinion, quite rightly, and many believe their opinion is objective fact, that you should listen to it. And at first you try…

Your first major realisation is that you must build a wall in your mind to protect yourself. If you listen to a hundred opinions on you and what you’re doing, your mind will bubble over – you simply cannot listen to them all, you can’t please everyone. There are still books to write, from behind the sanctuary of your wall. The wall stops you worrying, lets you concentrate and get on with writing (remember that?).

Once you’re behind this wall though, it’s easy to believe yourself, rather than believe in yourself. Behind the wall, there’s largely your own voice, telling you to get on with writing, that you’re good enough. If that’s the only voice you’re listening to, then you’re in big trouble too. You might start to ignore editors, or forget that you write to be read – you know, by real people. Pretty soon you’re kicking off on forums because people don’t get your latest magnum opus. (How can they not understand you?) Or worse, you kick off on Amazon about it.

It’s a very fine line between protecting yourself, and divahood.

21Aug

Weekend Music

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3b9E1p9uOA] [youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2ywVy3ei7I] [youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EeTR9j8pVwI]
20Aug

Review In Total Sci-Fi

Another one in, this time in Total Sci-Fi Online:

The characters gracing these pages are filled with a bleak sense of determination – whether it’s for love, life, power or all three. Key in instigating this sentiment is the inescapable threat of the coming freeze, a welcome change of tack in a genre that thrives on conflict. A foe that cannot be stopped by sword or magic, this adversary has no face, and adds to the impressive ambience of Newton’s multi-tiered Villjamur…

Written in an offbeat, literary and often uncomfortable style, Newton’s technique serves to compliment the uneasy atmosphere that surrounds the story itself. The world he creates is almost palpable in its reality, demonstrating the author’s skill at generating atmosphere and bringing his setting to life.

I’ve been emailing Alice, the reviewer, on and off, so had hoped she might like it a bit more, but you can’t win ’em all. Still, chuffed with this one.

17Aug

The Real Jumping On Points (Or Some Fantasies That You Should Read)

Aidan at A Dribble of Ink directed me to this largely unremarkable list of jumping-on points for the fantasy genre. I said that this was unimaginative, ironically, for such an imaginative genre. I’m not saying individually the selections are bad (apart from one, and I very much like a couple) but that this smacks of nothing more than wiki research. Fantasy is a vast and diverse genre – but you wouldn’t think so from this.

And as an aside, I didn’t think Goodkind wrote fantasy anyway… 😉

Aidan said: dude, where’s your list? – and here it is. I’ve probably gone on about these books before, so apologies if I’m repeating myself.

The Scar by China Miéville.

Let’s get things clear from the start: this book made me want to write fantasy. Nothing beforehand was inspirational enough. This book clears the deck of everything you knew before, and says: yes, secondary worlds don’t have to be bland, cod-medieval dramas. You can do stuff that’s, quite frankly, bat-shit crazy and make it work. It’s grungy, alive, intense, vivid and varied and dripping in brine. Reading this is a bit like having the best sex of your life; when you’re inhaling on that post-coitus cigarillo, you realise sadly that anything afterwards just won’t hit the spot.

Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

A meditation on the nature fantasy itself – set in an ancient English woodland. Fucking brilliant book, digging deep into Celtic mythology, and written with such a gentle grace too. It’s real-world setting also makes it very easy for that first step across…

The Book of the New Sun sequence by Gene Wolfe

Okay, some books are slow reads. And you know what? THAT’S OKAY. Reading books isn’t a race. If you stuff a meal down your gob, you taste nothing. If you take your time, chew slowly, you’ll marvel at the flavours within. This is what this book is: Michelin quality cuisine for the literary palate. Take your time, and be amazed at the depth, the symbolism, the beautiful, heady descriptions.

The Book Of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges

It’s a bestiary, not a fiction book. There are monsters in it. Lots of them. Dear readers, please remind yourself there are more than the usual two or three done-to-death creatures out there for use in fantasy books. You need to know this early on.

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

Fantasy doesn’t really get more ambitious in scope than this series, and with my workload it could be years before I get around to finishing it off, but hey, it’s vast, complex, engaging, and hugely divisive. Whether you love of hate his writing, he’s a fantasy writer that tries to do things, and do things differently.

The Fortress Of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem

Letham is an amazing writer, and has that cool factor. His writing is Miles Davis cool. More than a hint of the DeLillo to the prose, this charming tale of a New York youth covers a vast swathe of pop culture and racial observations. It’s easily accessible fantasy-cool. With a magic ring.

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

If you want to write or read about a fantastic city, you must read this book first. Calvino is a brilliant stylist, and uncovers the psycho-geography of urban spaces like no other writer. This is the starting point.

16Aug

Noah And The Whale (On A Train)

I love it when you get musicians on a train or the tube. You can imagine the morning commuters being snapped out of a bland routine.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GijLH986ho8]
15Aug

Review Via The Medium Of Google Translate

A review on a Russian forum, and Google translate gives us a most entertaining translation into English:

Villdzhamur – a huge city in the world, where the dying red sun. People understand that they are ahead of Ice Age.

The main character – Brinda Latrea, albino, the commander of an elite squad of Imperial Guards Night. The emperor committed suicide, and now on the streets of the city there is chaos. Throne passes to the eldest daughter of the emperor, Dzhamur Rica. In the meantime, the treacherous intrigues pletet chief villain – the Chancellor Urtika. He had his far-reaching plans – for example, it is going to launch a war to strengthen their political influence.

Urtika is not one. He liaises with Kultistami – individuals, who practice black sorcery. Kultisty outlawed, they hoped not only to the Chancellor to increase its power, but the warring clans стравить magicians in Villdzhamure.

If Brinda – this «white» hero (until the color of the hair), and Urtika – «black», then Rendur Estevo – «gray». This thief, who will remind you to Errol Flynn. Rendur zamutil romanchik with Princess Eyroy, younger sister successors. Missed small – should have been to the Empress podkatyvat … Their attitude will be pink nozzles run through the entire novel.

There is a novel, and other heroes – but Mark Newton focuses on these three. Epic battles and humming anthill characters he has left to other writers. However, rubilova and krovischi will bulk. Not for nothing is remembered Abercrombie.

The main characters and geography (aka lokeysheny) – these are the main advantages of the novel, scientists believe a hobby. City, where the action will remind you Virikonium (of the same works of M. John Harrison) and Lankmar (from «swords Lankmara» Fritz Leybnera).

The plot is a novel built around a murder investigation. One after another, killing the city consuls. People would be happy – every day at sea was the imperial officials. However, the investigation will not Brinda. At the scene is a new character – Investigating Lawyer Jerid, reymel (well, a race, Race). This is a classic hero-detective, descended from the Noir. Do it mate – Three hundred, but to work with the Three hundred and easy. Do that and the problem with his wife, and by raising the nose flying.

Most of these novels the reader begins to flounder, – who is who, and why the necromancer is not Ate Crown Prince for lunch. But, fortunately, the book is not from Newton. Action, action and re-operation, – the author does not give the reader a break. Dark alleys and mysterious tower, terrible monsters and ancient magic, unusual race and the struggle for power – the author skillfully brings together all these pieces of exquisite mosaics.

Hobby called «Night Villdzhamura» remarkable book. The author uses the familiar, we plot turns, but as soon as they gets the inside out – so that remains the only firm to hold a chair. The finale comes in time – not protracted and did not stop at the same time, we understand that he will leave a good zadelchik to continue.

Does the novel weaknesses? Of course! Once you have finished reading it – you just want to continue. And the author just wrote it … «This is the best book of the year – believed hobby. – Or I was very wrong ».

Do you hear that? Yeah.

13Aug

We Have A Title For Book Two

Yes, we have a title for book two of the Legends of the Red Sun series. I’m just not telling yet.

I will say that nearly all the action goes on in the city of Villiren. It’s a much darker place than Villjamur, seriously more violent. Yakuza-styled gangs pretty much run the show. Hybrid creatures shamble through the city’s underbelly. Citizens are shacked up in bland, oppressive buildings. The Night Guard are trying to organise the city’s defence and you have to wonder if such a cesspit is worth saving in the first place. The architecture isn’t great – think Los Angeles, where Villjamur was more like London.

Oh, and there’s a giant serial-killing spider…

More news soon.