masqthephlsphr: (TGFV)
Yesterday, I finished the chapter I wanted to have done by the end of the month. It's gone back and forth from being referred to as "chapter 14" and "chapter 13" multiple times. Currently, it's chapter 14 again, because I realized there was an additional scene I needed to insert earlier in the story. That earlier scene isn't written yet, and I don't know when it will be written. By some of my previous standards of "done," chapter 14 isn't technically finished either, even though I'm calling it "finished."

Let's face it, no amount of perfectionism is remotely useful in the first draft. I have had way too many experiences where I slaved over the prose, research, technical detail, and plotting of a scene in a story, only to find that once I analyzed the plot after the first draft was done, it just didn't serve a useful role. Then you have to jettison it, but you don't want to because you worked so hard on it.

The interesting thing about actually "finishing" chapter 14 this week is that it is about four times longer than I had planned. It was supposed to be a transition scene between one setting and the next, the "quick road trip", so to speak. As I started writing it, however, I saw that the relative isolation of travel (in this case, in interplanetary space) was actually a good opportunity for the antagonist to ambush the protagonist and ratchet up the action while also forcing her to face some of her inner story issues head-on.

At the same time, bringing the antagonist in at this juncture makes it all the more obvious I really need to add a few more scenes to establish my antagonist's evolving motives better for the reader.

Which means changing the outline, and the schedule, because what’s coming out is good stuff that is both a logical plot development and more exciting as well.

Outline? Who needs a bloody outline. It's the first draft.

Working title: The Girl From Venus
Planned # of chapters: 27 28
Planned date of first draft completion: Jan 31st, 2016
Current chapter: 15
Finish last week's goal? Yes
This week's goal: Get at least part way into chapter 15
This month's goal: Chapter 14 15

In other news, I am sticking with the audio books. I finished The Girl in the Spider's Web in about three days and am currently "reading" Saturn Run by John Sanford and Ctein.
masqthephlsphr: (books)
I haven't been much for posting lately, mostly due to busy-ness (work, my novel, my new writing class). But I have been reading on line. And I've noticed a trend lately of dissing e-books in comparison to paper books.

I guess it's the inevitable backlash new technology always brings. In this case, the primary argument I've seen is the Rupert-Giles-esque claim that the visceral experience of holding a book, touching it, smelling it, turning pages, etc, provides a sensory context that allows for greater comprehension and retention of what one reads than with eBooks.

This may be so, I can't say without seeing the scientific evidence. But here's what I know:

(1) For a long time after I got my PhD, I wasn't much interesting in reading recreationally. "Reading burnout" was my excuse for a long time, until I realized it'd been years since I graduated. Then I had to face up to the fact that I just wasn't reading as much anymore. I felt guilty about that. Unintellectual.

My recreational reading has increased dramatically since I started reading eBooks. It's just more convenient. You can take all your books with you anywhere, and have a book on hand to read in the doctor's waiting room, or at work (while looking busy staring intently at the computer screen).

(2) I like being able to "un-highlight." Does this ever happen to anyone else: you're reading, you find a passage you want to remember, you highlight it, and on the next page, the author says the same thing even better, or in more detail, and you highlight that, too? Pretty soon, you're over-highlighted. It's good to be able to just have the parts you really want to return to marked. This goes for bookmarks, too (especially in recipe books).

And who knows? Maybe more precise highlighting leads to greater comprehension and retention.

(3) Reading paper books has become physically challenging for me. With a book-book, you usually are holding it in your lap, or on your knees, or on a table, and looking down. For extended periods of time. This hurts my neck something fierce. Or alternatively, you have to hold the book at or above your line of sight. Ditto, strain on the arms. I have looked into inventions that will hold a book up in your line of sight for you that don't hold the pages so tight you can't change them every minute or so, but such inventions don't work as well as devices that hold computers and tablets up in your line of sight.

I believe the physical ability to read a paper book is something that should be fought for with physical therapy and gumption. But in the meantime, my difficulties is what they is.

Sometimes, I don't have a choice but to read a paper book. Not everything is available in eBook format (like my current class textbook!) And certainly, I worry if I will still "have" my eBooks twenty years from now the way I have my old books from my younger years. What happens when the technology changes, as it will?

Today, though, I'm reading.
masqthephlsphr: (glob)
What I just got done reading: Fluency, by Jennifer Foehner Wells. Finished. Wasn't into it.

What I'm reading now: Paradox: Stories Inspired by the Fermi Paradox, by various authors.

The Fermi Paradox, ICYDK, coined by physicist Enrico Fermi, is simply the question, "If there is intelligent alien life in the universe, why haven't we seen any evidence of them?"(Yes, I know, I am reading stories that might have aliens in them. "Might" and/or "indirectly" is why.) Various sci-fi universes have offered different answers to this question. Star Trek, famously, has the Prime Directive which, among other things, prohibits contact with planets that have yet to develop interstellar flight. Other stories have answered, "They're too far away/they're too few and far between/they're aliens, they don't communicate the way we do/they're already here, just hiding/they all died out long ago", etc. etc.

The short stories in this anthology offer various answers to the query. The most amusing so far implies we forget the visiting aliens as soon as we see them. Alien brain technology, doncha know.

What I'll likely be reading next: Stephen Baxter's Proxima was just released. He is said to be the "heir" to Arthur C. Clarke, and co-authored books with Clarke before his death. I also think Baxter has permission to write in Clarke's story universes now. This novel does not take place in any Clarkian storyverse.
masqthephlsphr: (books)
What I just got done reading: I have an assignment in my writing class to read ten short stories in publications and/or the genre I want to write in. I will probably post story reviews after I turn in the assignment, but publications/online venues I've been looking at include Analog Science Fiction & Fact, Apex Magazine, Clarkesworld Magazine, Strange Horizons,, 365tomorrows, Daily Science Fiction, Encounters Magazine, Escape Pod, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, International Speculative Fiction, Jupiter, Lightspeed, Luna Station Quarterly, Nature, Pantheon Magazine, Perihelion Science Fiction, Quantum Muse, and Robot and Raygun.

What I'm reading now: Fluency, by Jennifer Foehner Wells. Still. I am crawling through this book, mostly via five-minutes-a-night-right-before-sleep. At this point, I am reading it because I bought it and so I'm going to finish it (GoshDurnIt). Apparently, it is part of a series, but I'm getting the impression from where the story seems headed at 85% finished that I won't read the other books.

What I'll likely be reading next: Who knows? I'm developing a list. Some of the sci-fi has aliens, but as best as I can tell, the aliens are the end result of human exploration, rather than "they suddenly appeared, hovering over Earth menacingly," or "In the future, Earth is part of a galactic Federation...," both premises which, at the moment, make me hit the back button.

Exploration science fiction:

Titan, by Stephen Baxter
Proxima, by Stephen Baxter
Endeavour, by Ralph Kern, J Scott-Marryat
Blue Remembered Earth, by Alastair Reynolds
Crater, by Homer Hickam
2312, Kim Stanley Robinson

Edge of Infinity (anthology), by various authors
Paradox: Stories Inspired by the Fermi Paradox, by various authors

Other sci-fi:

Influx, by Daniel Suarez


Mars Up Close: Inside the Curiosity Mission, by Marc Kaufman


As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, by Cary Elwes, Joe Layden, Rob Reiner
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour: A Novel, by Joshua Ferris
Reconstructing Amelia: A Novel, by Kimberly McCreight
Deception Point, by Dan Brown
Digital Fortress, by Dan Brown
masqthephlsphr: (drula)
"Can't an astronaut wreak a little havoc without there being an alien involved?"

Still reading Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells, which got 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon with 1,115 raters. Honestly, I am not sure how it got that rating. The story was pretty good up to the point where spoilery for Wells, AC Clarke, J.S.A. Corey )

But honestly, I am searching for something that just doesn't get written very often: space exploration in which humans are venturing out and the plot is classic "man-vs-nature" (I'd even settle for classic "man-vs-man" human political stuff re: outerspace), rather than OMG!Aliens.

Not that I have anything against stories with aliens, but there is a perception out there in sci-fi land that Aliens is why people want to read about space. Which isn't always the case. Sometimes, stories about space are the story of us. Human beings.

I have the Edge of Infinity anthology in my queue. It's supposed to be about colonizing our solar system. I am also searching for similar short stories in SFF periodicals. I am hoping they're not all "our solar system, plus (butofcourse) aliens."
masqthephlsphr: (muse)
Been meaning to do this meme for a while.

What I just got done reading: I've been searching for books to fill my "realistic solar system exploration" story kink, and there aren't a lot of them. I read James SA Corey's Expanse series, of course, and Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars series. Alas, searching book lists for novels featuring specifically what I'm looking for invariably returns noise: interstellar travel or aliens hovering over Earth. So I returned to the classics, and read all of Arthur C. Clarke's Odyssey series.

The first and most well known, 2001 (1968), was written simultaneously in the mid-sixties with the movie script, but actually veers from the script in that the big climactic stuff takes place at Saturn, and its moon, Iapetus. Kubrick, who was collaborating with Clarke, presented a monolith orbiting Jupiter instead.

Interestingly, Clarke ret-conned himself in the sequel, 2010, by relating that the events of nine years earlier took place as they did in the movie. It was the early 80's by the time 2010 came out, and the Voyager probes had shown us how complex the Jovian moon system was, so Clarke wanted to stage the events around Jupiter's moon, Europa, which remains the best chance of life in the solar system beyond Earth even to this day. And also interestingly, the book differs from the film version of 2010 because, although it depicts a still-intact Soviet Union, there is no use of Cold War hostilities as a subplot to push the action forward as there is in the film.

2061 is a great third book in the trilogy, and Clarke ret-cons himself yet again just so he can refer to actual space exploration history he had to invent in earlier books. Only downside to this book is he sets up a necessity for a fourth book, 3001, he didn't need. Frankly, I found the events of 3001 hard to follow. Which might have something to do with the fact that I read it mostly right before bed each night. I think 3001 only existed so Clarke could start a new interstellar series featuring the monolith aliens.

Amusingly, though, more re-con: Soviet Russia gets written right out of Earth's 21st century, as if Clarke had never featured it in his earlier books. He is refreshingly honest about his ret-cons in his numerous late-1990's forwards.

What I'm reading now: Fluency, by Jennifer Foehner Wells. Not sure it's totally what I'm looking for, but it's good so far.

What I'll likely be reading next: K.S. Robinson's 2312 is still on the back burner, as I'm a bit burnt out on Robinson. And I have a gazillion short stories to read for my fiction writing class. So must get on that.


Sep. 24th, 2014 01:11 pm
masqthephlsphr: (robotsonmars)
(1) I am reading stuff. But it's all trashy true crime, so, we'll skip that part.

(2) I had the stomach flu over the weekend and still feel crappy.

(3) Nevertheless, I climbed up on my roof on Sunday and cleaned off all the pine needles so roofers could come and give me a bid on resealing the flat part of my roof. Bid was humongous. *croak*

(4) We are moving to a new building at work on Friday. This will in no way be TOTAL CHAOS (/ sarcasm)

(5) I am taking an online writing class through a local community college. It is a LOT of work. Between that and the constant dental appointments (root canal, crown prep, crown...) I am feeling a bit stretched. Which explains (2).

(6) Mars! NASA MAVEN and ISRO's (India) Mars Orbiter now circling the red planet. September has been a cool month at least in that regard.

(7) Not prepared for new TV season. Just don't know when I'll have the time for any of it. Planning on watching Disney's Frozen as homework this Saturday, though. When did TV start having homework?

(8) Friend visiting in a couple weeks for OctoberFest. I hope it feels like fall by then, 'cause it doesn't right now. September is, traditionally, still summer here, except for the early mornings, which finally begin to cool down. We've been known to have 100+ in early October. I am losing my tolerance for this *&^%.

In conclusion, chocolate.
masqthephlsphr: (yay)
I've done a few posts about James SA Corey's Expanse novel series, which is being turned into a 10-episode series on Syfy.

New news about the team they've pulled together for the TV showso far. People who have worked on everything from Breaking Bad To Cosmos to Doctor Who to Star Trek to Farscape.
masqthephlsphr: (robotsonmars)
Just finished/Reading now:

Green Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
Blue Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson: this series is beautifully written, if a tad rambling. It's interesting seeing Robinson show his equally comprehensive knowledge of biology and ecology now that Mars is being terraformed and the Martian humans are visiting Earth. Still, this guy can spend chapter after chapter on character development and scientific or philosophical prose without doing anything to move the plot forward. Then it's insane for several pages (revolution! war!), and you're back to walk-abouts, drunken parties, and philosophical dialogue.

Cibola Burn, James S.A. Corey (The Expanse) - W00t, this book was finally released yesterday. I like it so far, but leave it to the James S.A. Corey authors to take one of the turning points in human history spoiler-spoiler-spoilerdom )

That said, the characters and world-building are good as usual, which is why these books scratch my itch to see realistic depictions of the future of space travel. The writers are nowhere near as poetic as Robinson, but except for some over-used descriptive phrases, you don't notice much.

What's next:

Another in Robinson's solar system series, TBD.

ETA: due to the recent Amazon bad behavior, I bought the two most recent books I'm reading using B&N Nook. My Android tablet lets me have Kindle, Nook, and Kobo apps, and probably others as well, which is awesome. I do read a fair bit in a regular internet browser during breaks at work, and so far, the Nook for Web does not perform as well as Kindle Cloud Reader. It logs me out every few hours, and then loses the page I was on, and sometimes does not sync the current page with my Android Nook app. None of this is a deal breaker, though.
masqthephlsphr: (kilgharrah)
Spoiler warning: Skin Game (The Dresden Files)

A while back, I posted an angst about point of view and the pacing of information reveals in my novel. My novel is, at its core, a mystery. The answers to the mystery gradually unfold for the reader as the protagonists investigate and make discoveries. In the first draft, I set a major "reveal" towards the end of the novel. The challenge was setting the stage for that reveal without giving it away.

The novel uses rotating third person subjective points of view. This created a problem for my reveal, because there was more than one character whose point of view I wrote through who knew a lot more about what was going on than my putative protagonists. It seemed rather contrived to me that we could be in the head of a character who knows important information about the events unfolding around them, and they would fail to think about those events using the knowledge they had. It would be one thing if the novel's point of view was the omniscient narrator, dancing around from head to head. But this is the subjective third person, where the narrator just is the character.

In the second draft, I moved the big reveal to a few chapters in from the beginning, and took the point of view of characters who knew too much out of rotation until I was ready to reveal what they knew. Better to have them remain enigmatic then let the reader enter their heads and have them somehow just not think things that would give the mystery away.

As a result of my struggle with this, I now have a low tolerance for published authors who hide the "big twist" at the climax of their novels by having characters who are already aware of this twist conveniently not think of it.

This is something Dan Brown has done flagrantly in his past couple novels. In both Inferno and The Lost Symbol, he reveals facts about particular characters towards the end designed to change the reader's whole perception of the events of the novel. But he does this by taking us into their heads throughout the book and just not showing them thinking of things that are no doubt on their minds, like, "How am I going to pull blah-blah-blah off without giving myself away?" That would really be foremost in their minds, I would think. Sometimes, Brown has characters think of events in their lives that are later revealed to never to have happened. Were they rehearsing their fake backstories to help pull off the con?

It just seems to me a simple fact of psychology that, if the stakes are high, and you are a character deliberately withholding information from other characters, you would think about what you knew. Because people? Don't control their thoughts. We think what we think.

In retrospect, you can see the clues Brown scatters for you throughout his books that reveal the twist, which a twisty story should do, but you also see the cheating attempts at misdirection.

I'm not surprised by this sort of clumsiness from Brown, who knows oodles about history and archeology, but much less about writing. But it is also a reason I was less than fond of the latest Dresden Files novel, Skin Game. There's a "big twist" towards the end of the novel in which Harry is in dire straights and an unexpected alliance is revealed that comes as a surprise to the double-crossing head of the expedition Harry is on, and to the reader.

Hiding that information from the reader is even clumsier in Skin Game than it is in Dan Brown novels, because Butcher's readers spend the entire book in Harry Dresden’s head (indeed, it is written in the first person), and if anyone is an up-front guy, narrating his every thought and bit of reasoning (so much so it breaks up action sequences awkwardly), it's Harry Dresden.

Maybe I shouldn’t worry about writing in the head of a character and not revealing highly relevant things s/he knows. Heck, if bestselling authors get away with it, why shouldn’t I?
masqthephlsphr: (gc)
Just finished:

Skin Game, Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files)

I enjoyed this book well enough, although not as much as some of my flisties. I think I am a little Butchered out at the moment, and a bit weary with the spoiler spoiler )

Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson

I read this book about ten years ago, and it's amazing what you forget, or how the same material effects you in different ways when you have become yourself a different person. Robinson's Mars trilogy are books of staggering scope. They cover decades of time, dance between science, engineering, philosophy, sociology, politics, and spirituality. The books are divided into four or five sections. The story advances in each section through a different point of view character. One of Robinsons' favorite tropes is to have his characters hit the road--either for business, exploration, or on "walk-abouts" (in rovers). This allows him to wax on for pages about the geology and meteorology of Mars, which he is intimately and exhaustively in love with.

His characters are entirely three-dimensional and intriguing as well, and so you keep turning pages even as you begin to tire of another description of a valley, mountain, or crater.

Worth reading if you're willing to take the mountains with the moholes.

Reading now:

Green Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson

What's next:

Cibola Burn, James S.A. Corey (The Expanse)
masqthephlsphr: (books)
Just finished: Every durned book in James S. A. Corey's Expanse series, to wit:

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse, #1)
The Butcher of Anderson Station (Expanse, #0.5)
Caliban's War (Expanse, #2)
Gods of Risk (Expanse, #2.5)
Abaddon's Gate (Expanse, #3)
The Churn (Expanse, #3.5)

The integer-numbered books above are the novels, the decimal-numbered books are short stories or novellas. All in all, I prefer the novels, which follow the futuristic outer space drama. The novellas are planet-bound and more about the state of human culture 150 years from now. Which means they are, in short, all about showing how humankind has not progressed morally or politically in that time, and so they lack the sense of wonder that is part of the novels. Other than a few gee-whiz technological gizmos, the world depicted in the novellas could be the here and now.

The characters are compelling and well-drawn in the series as a whole, and the world building as I have mentioned before is well-done, so these books are a good read I managed to whip through in no time.

Which is kind of amazing to me. One of the things I've been grumbling about in this LJ/DW since... its inception is that I don't read recreationally as much as I used to. I could no longer blame it on "grad school burnout" fifteen years (going on twenty) since graduation. I could only fuss and throw up my hands about why watching teevee was so much easier than cracking open a book, and in many cases, equally rewarding.

There is definitely extra effort required in reading--the effort of taking in and understanding chicken scratches rather than passively absorbing sounds and images, the effort of the imagination to fill in the "you are there" sensory modalities handed to you on a television or movie screen.

And for me, I've framed this problem around "finding the time." Which is the wrong frame, I think. It's not that I don't have the time, I'm simply that I'm the sort of person who will fill up all the available time with writing (at home) and work duties (at work) if I don't stop to think about it and create new habits for myself.

Reading can also be a chore if you pick the wrong book. The science fiction short stories I've reviewed have become that for me because I'm doing it for educational purposes, not pleasure.

The solution has been switching to eBooks, especially cloud reading on my computer when I'm at work. This has actually been helpful at my job because wandering over to the novel I'm reading for a few minutes helps me relax in the middle of the day. And then during my off hours, reading for a few minutes at bedtime helps put me to sleep.

Reading now:

While waiting for the next installment in the Expanse series coming out next month, I have scratched my itch to read solar system exploration stories by returning to a series I started ten years ago and then drifted away from without finishing it, Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars series. I am re-reading Red Mars. I was enthralled reading this book, which is about the first settlers on Mars. I remember becoming more disenchanted in the middle of the sequel, Green Mars, because they were remaking Mars in Earth's image, and science and exploration was giving way to politics-as-usual in the plot line. But you can say that of the Expanse series as well, which somehow manages nevertheless to hang on to its sense of wonder. So I am giving the Mars series another shot.

What's next:

Skin Game, Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files)

Cibola Burn, James S.A. Corey (The Expanse)
masqthephlsphr: (robotsonmars)
So, I read a thing. Or, I am in the process of reading some things: James SA Corey's Expanse series.

I've got an itch to scratch )


Apr. 11th, 2014 09:44 am
masqthephlsphr: (compgeek)
"Every few years there appears a movement to improve or modernize or even "futurize" the writing of science fiction. The classic example was the New Wave, which had an effect on the style of SF literature and has been comfortably tamed and digested. Now there is something called "cyberpunk, " of which we have yet to learn a clear definition. It has something to do with computers and their programming and possibly— considering the derogatory term "punk "—with snubbing accepted traditions. This short story is said to be an example of "cyberpunk." It is certainly different from anything H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, or Hugo Gernsback would have dreamed up." - preface to Pretty Boy Crossover
William Gibson )

Pat Cadigan )

Bruce Sterling )
masqthephlsphr: (art)
The "New Wave" era represented the coming of age of science fiction, both when it started to enter the mainstream, and also when it attained a level of sophistication that could claim itself as "literature", as opposed to just entertainment. This, not coincidentally, coincided with the 1960's, when television shows such as Star Trek and Lost in Space drew mainstream audiences.

Interestingly, quite a few of the short stories I read for this era ended up as full-length feature films, but not until the 1990's.

Judith Merril )

Harlan Ellison )

Philip K. Dick )

Samuel Delany )

Harlan Ellison )

Pamela Zoline )

Brian Aldiss )

Joanna Russ )
masqthephlsphr: (ev0l)
January talking meme, Jan 29. From [profile] harsens_rob: Choose 2 Joss-verse characters who've died. One that you believe was handled very well and one that you think... wasn't.... How were they handled differently and why do you feel one worked and the other just didn't?

As usual, giving thought to this put it beyond two characters.

It's said one of the hallmarks of urban fantasy (this also obviously applies to contemporary horror) is that all characters are Fair Game. The potential death of any character, no matter how central to the narrative, ups the stakes and lets the reader/viewer know the characters are playing for keeps.

Joss Whedon, of course, isn't just an example of this, he's the King.

Joss sets the tone for his attitude towards character death in the very first episode of BtVS with the death of Jesse. It's well-known that Joss wanted to put Jesse in the main credits of Welcome to the Hellmouth just so he could stun the audience by killing him off. And behind-the-camera troubles aside, I'm pretty convinced that's (the writers' reason) for the death of Doyle in Season 1 of Angel. Both deaths were, IMO, non-gratuitous. Jesse's death occurred to instruct both viewers and the characters (in particular, Xander and Willow) that This Is Serious, Folks. Doyle, on the other hand, chose to die for a noble cause. It was no less shocking than Jesse's death, though, and you can imagine Joss' glee at finally being able to kill off a credits character.

Characters die for all sorts of reasons on BtVS and AtS, but one of the main reasons they die is to signal a change in the character who killed them. For Joss, this is usually a character we've come to trust, but sometimes, it's the rise of the bad guy (or both). Showing a character murder someone is Joss' signal that "something's changed." Examples abound: Jenny Calendar (Angel(us), Deputy mayor Allan Finch (Faith), Maggie Walsh (Adam), Katrina (The Trio), Warren (Willow), the wine cellar W&H lawyers (which Angel allows through inaction), Lilah (Beast-Master!Cordelia). The problem isn't that Joss does this. The problem is, he does this A LOT.

There are lots of other ways you can signal a change in a character and a change in the direction of a season. Wesley's betrayal of Angel in Season 3 was an effective way to change the stakes mid-season and resulted in interesting developments for both characters, without anyone having to die during the act of betrayal.

Joss' over-reliance on this trope lead to a lot of "the devil made me do it" story lines in which trusted friends (e.g., Angel, Cordelia, Spike [season 7 *oy*] must be robbed of their agency in order to make them kill somebody.

The other thing Joss overdid was Beloved Character Has to Die to Enact Change in the Hero or Season. Now, this can be an extremely powerful plot development. The first episode Joss did this in, Passion (Jenny Calendar's death), remains one of my favorites.

But there is a tipping point in keeping the stakes high where you start to lose a viewer or reader's investment, where it becomes so common for characters to die, viewers are no longer willing to invest emotionally in the characters. When a viewer reaches this point, they can either take a more flippant attitude towards the show, or stop watching it all together. I doubt either of these outcomes is something show-runners want.

I think the tipping point for me was Tara in Season 6 of BtVS. I could deal with Joyce dying in Season 5 to mark the transition of Buffy into adulthood. But Tara's death taxed me. Follow up that up with Cordelia's slow fade in AtS, and Fred's gratuitous assault in Season 5 of AtS, and I pretty much held my "giving a shit"-edness together only by sheer force of will to the end of AtS season 5. My issue with each of these deaths went beyond "too much is too much." They were also each out-and-out slaughters. None of these characters had a chance against their killers (Cordelia was effectively killed by Jasmine in Inside Out, despite her coma and brief return in Season 5). They were ruthlessly slaughtered by a Baddie just to shake things up.

For me, when it comes to major characters, the best deaths (1) show a victim dying against their killer after a valiant defense and because no other, alternative plot developments can effectively accomplish what their death can in the story (hence why Jenny Calendar's death works better than Tara's or Fred's); or (2) someone (directly or indirectly) causing their own death because their actions, or deliberate inaction, either heroic or villainous, resulted in it. When this happens to a villain, it's poetic justice. When it happens to a hero, you get Doyle, or Buffy (but she always comes back), or Darla in Lullaby (although there is a Madonna/Whore element to her death that annoys me a little).
masqthephlsphr: (alias will)
January talking meme, Jan 21. From [personal profile] cornerofmadness: what draws you to the urban fantasy type of story lines?

I am drawn to urban fantasy stories because I like stories that show a secret supernatural world existing in what is ostensibly the mundane, scientifically skeptical world we all live in, and characters who lives are recognizable to the average reader, who are nevertheless part of that supernatural world.

Stories like BtVS, Harry Potter, or Dresden Files, make it easy to imagine that the supernatural exists around me in the world I see everyday. Stories like this allow me to think, "Underneath all this drab, dreary mundanity is a fantastic world full of excitement and magic." All I need is the right book/movie/TV show to reveal what's hidden all around me.

And that makes the mundane world I see outside my window seem just a little bit more magical.

Take Buffy, for example. As I understand it, the BtVS/Angel world is supposed to be our world. Not an alternate universe or anything like that. It's our world, but what most of us don't realize is that magic is real if you know how to tap into it. Demons exist, just hope you don't run into one.

Why do I have this need? I guess because I'm an agnostic, and an empiricist, but what I feel compelled to believe is not the same thing as what I wish were true. "Urban" fantasy lets me step away from that for an hour or two.

This is the reason I am not drawn much to High Fantasy (e.g., Lord of the Rings). High fantasy stories are set in completely imaginary places that aren't Earth, nor even historical Earth. They often contain humans, dogs, oak trees, and other earthlike things to make them more accessible, but the resemblance to our world is usually a pseudo-resemblance to some historical era I have little connection to. I don't mind fantasy or science fiction set in a historical period on Earth, as long as the historical period is genuinely drawn outside of its supernatural elements.

So the "on Earth" is important to me. As is the "secret." I want a story world where the supernatural is considered debunked and its delights and dangers lurk in the shadows, only known to a select few. For this reason, I also don't care much for urban fantasy where the supernatural elements of the story are out in the open (e.g., Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton). Partly because the supernatural being "secret" makes it easier to pretend all this really is going on all around me. But also, I have always had a kink for "the big secret" that only select characters know and the rest of the world is oblivious to.
masqthephlsphr: (robotsonmars)
Depending on who you ask, the "Golden Age of Science Fiction," is either "undisputedly," or just "widely recognized" as the 1940's (and possibly 50's). Of course, one person's Golden Age is another person's capital-E Establishment, but historically, the 40's and 50's are the era when a younger generation of very talented writers weaned on the pulps and unafraid of speculative-fiction-that-incorporated-science took up pen or typewriter. Among them: Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov.

It is interesting that of the three biggies I review here (Clarke, Bradbury, and Asimov), Asimov was always my favorite, but (perhaps due to story choices?) this time around, I was much more impressed with Bradbury.

All of these writers are masters of creating fully-realized portraits of everyday life in the future, or on space stations, or the Moon, in very few words.

Isaac Asimov )

Ray Bradbury )

Arthur C. Clarke )

Tom Godwin )

( Robert Heinlein )
masqthephlsphr: (fk)
Yeah. So. I might have been a little hasty in my prediction that all 30's pulp sci fi would be melodramatic. Too much (over)exposure to Captain Proton. That said, the sci-fi of the 1930's still seems to have an earnest straight-forwardness to it. That is, with the exception of minor details, it does not read as particularly revolutionary to the contemporary eye. But you know, neither does a Mondrian abstract painting.

Looked at from a purely 21st century perspective, your gut reaction to such paintings (or such short stories) is "So what? Lots of stuff looks like that." Yes. These days. But then you glance at the year the painting or the story came out and contrast it with what passed as popular design or entertainment in its day, and the work is friggin' revolutionary. Indeed, any one of these stories can be classed as a primordial example of what is now a common sci-fi trope. If H. G. Wells is the grandfather of modern science fiction, these writers are his sons:

John W. Campbell )

Stanley Weinbaum )

A. E. Van Vogt )
masqthephlsphr: (don't fuk)
Not sure how I feel about this. OTOH, I loved the Millennium trilogy and the character of Lisbeth. OTOH, the author is deceased, and I don't know if any ghost writer "gets" Lisbeth like her creator does. OTTH, I get to use my Lisbeth icon!

Originally posted by [profile] abebooksblog at Lisbeth Salander to return in Millennium Trilogy sequel

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson  The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson  The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

Fans of Lisbeth Salander probably weren’t expecting to meet her again, considering Stieg Larsson‘s best-selling Millennium Trilogy was published posthumously.  The widely popular series was originally intended to include 10 parts, but it ended with just three titles due to Larsson’s death in 2004.   Norstedts, the Swedish publisher of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, has signed up ghostwriter David Lagercrantz to produce a fourth book, expected to be released next summer.  The yet-to-be-titled novel is said to have a different plot from the unfinished fourth book Larsson was penning before he passed away, but it will include the characters Lisbeth and Mikael Blomqvist.

masqthephlsphr: (books)
As threatened/promised, a brief review of the science fiction short stories I have read so far in my chronological tip-toe through the genre. My descriptions/reviews below are somewhat spoilery in terms of premise and tone, although I don't out and out describe how the stories end.

The first two stories have been dubbed 'proto science fiction' in that they were written well before there was any such genre as science fiction, and were labeled in hindsight as "science fiction-like." H. G. Wells is the first of this batch to be truly a "science fiction" writer, although he would not have used that term, since it was not invented until the mid-twentieth century.

Edgar Allen Poe )

Nathaniel Hawthorne )

H.G. Wells )

Edmond Hamilton )

Robert Heinlein )


Dec. 6th, 2013 06:39 pm
masqthephlsphr: (Default)
In the past couple weeks, I have been reading science fiction short stories. In typical fashion, I have this need to be systematic and thorough, so I am choosing my stories in a chronological fashion. Obviously, I am not reading all of them, just a smattering, but here is the reading list so far:

Poe, Edgar Allen. "The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall", 1835
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Rappaccini’s Daughter”, 1844
Wells, H.G. “The Star”, 1897
Hamilton, Edmond. “The Man Who Evolved”, 1931
Robert Heinlein. "--All You Zombies--" 1959

I actually started with the Heinlein story, which was just bizarre and rubbed me wrong. That's when I decided I could use the benefit of historical context with the chronological approach.

The first two on the list have the characteristic overwriting typical of a lot 19th century romanticism (why use two words when twenty will do?)

The H.G. Wells story was gorgeously written, despite being a doomsday tale.

I am now into the 1930's pulp fiction, which is about as melodramatic as you'd expect.

A few quotable quotes:

It was not love, although her rich beauty was a madness to him; nor horror, even while he fancied her spirit to be imbued with the same baneful essence that seemed to pervade her physical frame; but a wild offspring of both love and horror that had each parent in it, and burned like one and shivered like the other. - Nathaniel Hawthorne

Few people without a training in science can realise the huge isolation of the solar system. The sun with its specks of planets, its dust of planetoids, and its impalpable comets, swims in a vacant immensity that almost defeats the imagination. - H G Wells

Here's my Friday poem, from back in my college days:

A woman's hands

Her hands were smooth, gentle, and able
One rested on her thigh
the other moved across the table

It made me feel secure, seeing her hands
They had a soft-spoken grace unlike a man’s

I could sit and wonder at all they’d done
When they were strong
When they were creative
When they were playful
When they were still

I could sit and wonder what it would be like
to hold one of those hands in mine.
masqthephlsphr: Halt and Catch Fire (girl geek)
... but I know why.

First, a rec from the man behind Wesley Crusher:

I have only been aware of this misogyny-in-geekdom problem in the past year or so via LiveJournal links and posts on the topic. I've been a girl geek all my life )

So, in conclusion:

"Geeky is just shorthand for enthusiastic and enlightened" --[personal profile] scrollgirl
masqthephlsphr: (ex-philosophy prof - alliterator)
Latest book: The Echo Maker by Richard Powers

I enjoyed this book. If the goal was to bring me back to reading, and to feed my writing with eloquent words, then this book succeeded.

Spoilery for entire book )
masqthephlsphr: Halt and Catch Fire (girl geek)
Lately, I have been pondering ways to do more pleasure reading. As a kid, I always had a book on hand. I devoured them by the gross. In the years since grad school, however, I have found myself reading a lot less, and I know that is effecting my writing.

Okay, stop: just the fact that I am thinking about this in terms of how it "effects my writing" tells me I am not really framing this as "reading for pleasure," and that's one problem right there. Reading has become a means to an end, an obligation or chore, and that's not a great start.

Anyway, there is plenty of advice out there about how to "find more time" for reading (much less, however, on how to make it a pleasure again). The most relevant suggestions:

Computers are my problem )
masqthephlsphr: (books)
I am now on LibraryThing as well:

Another book nerd site like Good Reads, FYI.

Good Reads

Jun. 14th, 2012 07:42 am
masqthephlsphr: (books)
So I'm setting myself up on Good Reads, which is proving more difficult than it should be. 'Cause there are books

(1) I own, but read so long ago, I don't remember if I liked them or not,

(2) I think I remember reading, but that was so long ago, I am not sure if I read them, or maybe it was my sister that read them, or my best friend in junior high....

(3) I read during that period of time when I was poor and living in San Francisco and got all my new reads from the library, so I didn't keep a record of them,

(4) I own, but for the life of me, can't remember if I read, or if I just bought them intending to read them but haven't,

(5) I own them, read them, maybe even liked them, but don't want to admit it,

(6) I'm pretty sure I only saw the movie. But maybe I read the book. Or maybe not. If it's the former, it's tough to judge a book by its movie.

(7) I read, I hated... do I dare list it to let everyone know of the hate, or risk giving it the attention it doesn't deserve?
masqthephlsphr: (masq)
Yes, she is an actual person. No, she is not an academic. She is a cartoonist. But not a political cartoonist, although her politics come into her art, as they do for many artists. Lately, she's been writing memoirs, but for nearly thirty years, I've known her as the artist and writer of one of the best lesbian soap operas ever. Two decades before the L Word, there was

Dykes to Watch Out For

Even her website is named after her real claim to fame:

The strip appeared initially in gay community newspapers, and then was made into a series of books. It follows the adventures of the neurotic Mo, a clerk at Madwimmin Books*, her best friend Lois, and their buddies Clarice, Toni, Ginger, and Sparrow. Over the years, the cast of characters expanded as their relationships evolved and as Bechdel explored the cultural signposts, trends, and cliches of lesbian life.

Before the serial drama following the lives of these characters began, the Dykes to Watch Out For strip was a series of comic vignettes featuring one-off characters. One of the cartoons that appeared in 1985 was this one:

Quote it out of context if you want to, my pretties, but just remember the source.

* The fact that the initial community gathering spot for the DTWOF characters was a feminist/lesbian bookstore tells you how old this strip is. Buns and Noodle Barnes and Noble put Madwimmin out of business years ago, and we all know what happened to monster chains like B&N when a bigger fish came along.

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