Monday, August 22, 2011

(Another) Update Rapido

First Worldcon:  done and done.  Overall, a great experience.  But (again) its late, so I'll make this update a quick one:

Friday:  some phenomenal panels, treating subjects such as creating consistent magic systems; writing fantasy outside of the classic, and overdone, medieval european setting; the existence of hope, or the lack thereof, in the zombie genre; and post-modern fantasy.  I went to the masquerade in the evening, which ended up being my worst decision of the convention; I was expecting a Phantom of the Opera-like party/performance, but was unpleasantly surprised by what seemed like a glorified costume contest :-s.  Out of a sense of (albeit fickle) politeness, I'll refrain from going into more detail on why the event didn't exactly appeal to me.

More panels on Saturday.  I eventually found some old friends from the Utah writing scene who run Elitist Book Reviews (a fantasy/science fiction review blog).  We had lunch with Dan Wells, and in the evening met up with Paul Genesse (both Dan and Paul are local SF/F writers who are starting to make fairly big names for themselves) to watch the Hugo Awards.

The Hugos themselves were actually rather disappointing as far as who I thought earned the awards went, although Lou Anders receiving the Best Editor for Long Form award was well-deserved indeed--Anders is doing a lot of great things for the genre right now.  I wouldn't mind creating a whole post on how the Hugo's went, along with a slightly more detailed account of my overall impressions from the convention.  Such a post may (or, as always, may not) appear in the near future.

Today (Sunday) was fairly low-key; the most interesting panel I attended, by far, discussed "Twenty Years of The Wheel of Time," (Wheel of Time being one of the most popular, and formative, fantasy book series since The Lord of the Rings).  Wheel of Time was essentially the first "epic" fantasy series that attempted to span more than three books, and opened all sorts of doors for the fantasy genre (similar to the influence the Harry Potter books are having on the YA genre right now).  The panel's discussion of the books was very interesting.  (I feel like this post is riddled with parentheticals; does anyone else feel that way?)

And now I'm back at my hotel.  Headed back to Provo tomorrow morning.  I'm ready to be home, but the past few days have been great.  Definitely worth it.

Anyway, that's all for now.  I have a few posts in the pipeline that I'm interested in discussing, from my thoughts on a recent article in the Huffington Post by Mark Charan Newton to some of my opinions on addiction and their most recent catalysts.  Hopefully I'll get around to actually posting them; they might end up being remotely interesting :-).

Ci vediamo!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Speedy Update

Worldcon is going well.  Interesting panels, interesting people, cool stuff, the works.

Highlight of yesterday was probably walking around the dealer's room checking out all the crazy stuff on sale--vintage books, nerdy t-shirts, costumes, and so forth.

Highlights of today include meeting some new people, catching up with some old friends, Brandon Sanderson reading (from a new project of his called Steelheart--pretty interesting), Pyr panel, and hitting up the Tor party.

And, of course, people watching at these things is always a hoot.

All in all its been a good couple days.  But its late, and I'm tired...and there's a lot more to come!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Quick update:  I'm about to hop on a plane to Reno, NV for my first Worldcon, this year aptly titled Renovation.  I've been to a few conferences and conventions before, from BYU's Life, the Universe, and Everything and CONduit in Salt Lake City (both very fantasy-heavy) to AWP last year in Washington, D.C. (a literary/academic conference).  Most conferences I've been to have been worth it; while there are always a few aspects I dislike, overall they're very enjoyable, interesting, and educational experiences (with a few exceptions--I've been to one or two that really were not worth my time).

But Worldcon is the Ron Burgundy of fantasy conventions (its kind of a big deal), and I'm excited to see what its all about.  I'm really not sure what to expect, which is exciting.

I'll try posting updates periodically for the rest of the week on how things are going.  And, of course, if you're going to be there, look me up (or whatever)!  I'll probably be following/stalking people like George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, N.K. Jemisin, and Brandon Sanderson around for the most part, and otherwise meeting people and generally having a good time.  So if you're there, let me know, and if not, I'll let you know how things go (easy on the rhyming)!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fantasy on the Other Side of the Pond

What I mentioned in my last post regarding Neil Gaiman and China Mieville got me thinking:  they're both British.  And they're both very significant names in the fantasy genre these days.  Here's some reasons why:

Neil Gaiman has written some great books, first of all.  American Gods is the first that comes to mind.  It won the Hugo* for Best Novel in 2002, along with a few other honors (and by few I mean a LOT), and its really a fantastic piece of literature all around--all awards aside.  Seriously.  I mean, if you haven't read American Gods, you should go read it right now.  Beyond that, he's also written StardustCoraline, and The Graveyard Book, all of which have been nominated for and/or won a deluge of Hugo, Nebula, Bram Stoker, Newberry, and World Fantasy awards.  And, to top it all off, he co-wrote Good Omens with Terry Pratchett (who I'll mention later)--a book that is hilarious, endearing, and a brilliant take on a generally over-done subject.

China Mieville's record is no less (okay, only slightly less) prestigious; his books (particularly Kraken, Perdido Street Station, and The City and the City) have also been nominated and/or won a slough of awards including but certainly not limited to those mentioned above.  He is also spearheading the revolutionary movement of the "New Weird" within the fantasy genre.

So to make a long story short, these are two great authors, and they both happen to be from Britain.  But that's not all.

Let's not forget the aforementioned Terry Pratchett, who's been turning the fantasy genre on its head, and making it hilarious, since the 1980's.

There's Joe Abercrombie, whose work with characterization, voice, and style (not to mention his vivid, gritty battle scenes) has been absolutely brilliant.

And there's Mark Charan Newton.  He's a newer voice in the genre, following partially in the path of the New Weird (if the New Weird does indeed have a path to follow), but his exploration of identity, gender, and sexuality have opened up brand new directions for contemporary fantasy.

Anyway, the point is that there are some incredible writers across the Atlantic, and it makes me wonder what they've got in their water over there, or what they're feeding their babies, or whatever, that makes them so great.  Don't get me wrong--there are definitely some top-notch fantasy authors in American right now, too.  But so much of the real innovation of the genre seems to be happening in England.  Maybe its because of Grandaddy Tolkien (to steal Brandon Sanderson's affectionate dubbing of the master of all fantasy).  He's from England, isn't he?  Maybe its because the People of the Isles are more liberal-minded in general, driving them to explore issues and situations that we on the New Continent aren't quite comfortable with, yet.  It could be any manner of things, and more likely than not a combination of all of them.  But I really think that, right now, Britain is the hot spot for fantasy fiction.  I've even heard (and this is pure hearsay, I'll admit it) that fantasy fiction in general is much more accepted in academic/educated/literary circles in England than it is here in America (which wouldn't be too hard to do, I don't think--I still feel like I have to tip-toe around the fantasy genre in my own MFA program, and I think I'm at one of the more accepting programs in the country).  There's something going on over there, something that I'm sure could warrant a few dozen full-blown graduate dissertations.  Of course, I won't be doing any those dissertations--I can hardly manage my own Masters Thesis--but when they start showing up (if they haven't already), I'll try not to say I told you so.

So those have been my thoughts lately about how fantasy is faring, and who the movers and shakers are at the moment.  Take it or leave it, and if you'd like, tell me what you think.

*  Speaking of Hugo Awards, I'm going to Renovation this week...!  Pretty crazy.  I may or may not publish a post all about my thoughts regarding my first WORLDCON in a near-future post.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

NPR's Top 100 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Books

A trend has been circulating the sci-fi/fantasy blogosphere regarding NPR's new list of the top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy books, and I figured I'd follow suite and put in my brief two cents.  I think, for the most part, its a pretty accurate representation of the genre(s).  I've read around half of the books listed (as you'll see below), and half a dozen more are literally sitting on my shelf at home, waiting to reach to top of my "to-read" list.  Not to mention the other score or so that I've always meant to read but haven't gotten around to it.  Anyway, I'm glad to see Neil Gaiman well-repsresented (I think he might be one of the most important sci-fi/fantasy minds of our time), and some newer authors as well (Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss).  I'm actually surprised that Perdido is China Mieville's only contribution; he's one of the newer voices in the genre that, I think, has quite a lot to offer.  Fantasy is undergoing a fairly serious change of direction, and I think people like Mieville and Gaiman are at the head of that revolution.

Anyway, in the end its just another list.  And like I said, its a good representation of the genre.  A better representation than other lists I've seen?  No, not really.  But not much worse, either.  

And because I'm a sucker for lists :-), I'll provide the following interpretation of said list:

Bolded - books and series I've read before
Bolded books in red - are series that I've started but haven't finished yet

1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide the the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
3. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
4. The Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert
5. A Song of Ice and Fire Series by George R.R. Martin
6. 1984 by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
8. The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
11. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
12. The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan
13. Animal Farm by George Orwell
14. Neuromancer by William Gibson
15. Watchmen by Alan Moore
16. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
17. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
18. The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss
19. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
22. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
23. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
24. The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King
25. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
26. The Stand by Stephen King
27. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
28. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
29. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
30. The Sandman Series by Neil Gaiman
31. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
32. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
32. Watership Down by Richard Adams
33. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
34. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
35. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
36. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
37. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
38. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keys
39. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
40. The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny
41. The Belgariad by David Eddings
42. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. The Mistborn Series by Brandon Sanderson
44. Ringworld by Larry Niven
45. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
46. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
47. The Once and Future King by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
49. Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
53. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
54. World War Z by Max Brooks
55. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
56. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
57. Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
58. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson
59. The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
61. The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind
63. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
66. The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Shannara Trilogy by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan the Barbarian Series by R.E. Howard
69. The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
72. A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
73. The Legend of Drizzt Series by R.A. Salvatore
74. Old Man's War by John Scalzi
75. The Diamond Age by Neil Stephenson
76. Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series by Jacqueline Carey
78. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
80. Wicked by Gregory Maguire
81. The Malazan Book of the Fallen Series by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series by Iain M. Banks
84. The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series by Jim Butcher
87. The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn
89. The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga by Michael Moorcock
91. The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
92. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
94. The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
95. The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson
96. Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
98. Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
99. The Xanth Series by Piers Anthony
100. The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis