The Unrecognized Trajectory of Slow Burn Success
Bring on the controversy, and strap in for a devil’s advocate view through some eye-opening history, because certain game-changing books were never ‘discovered spontaneously.’ Notably, the profile of these landmark fantasy authors share a profile of mature scope and depth, and stories that open with adult protagonists.
First, busting the myth that Tolkien was ‘discovered’ and broke out by readership word of mouth is not true: Betty Ballantine’s actual account relates how Tolkien’s career blossomed through a publishing scandal.
Allen Unwin first published Professor Tolkien in Great Britain in hardbound. At the time, copyright law in the USA protected up to 2000 unbound copies of a book to be imported as loose pages, to be bound and sold by a US firm. Houghton Mifflin handled Tolkien this way, in routine partnership with Allen Unwin. Nobody paid much attention, though Ian and Betty Ballantine loved the story and offered for paperback rights. Professor Tolkien declined, avoiding what he considered a tacky American edition. Over a period of ten years, when the British edition underwent reprint, repeated lots of unbound sheets of were brought in and sold by Houghton Mifflin in quiet obscurity. Enter a certain paperback publisher’s back room lawyers, who tracked publication records, trolling for the loophole that titles compiling more than the allotted 2,000 loose sheets slid into the public domain. On that legal technicality, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was reprinted as the very lurid paperback professor Tolkien had wished to avoid, and worse, with no royalties owed to the author. Continue reading
Female Protagonists, Bridget Jones, and Marguerite de Valois
They were easy to spot: each was an accidental heroine, wholly unaware of her strengths, concerned to the point of obsession with her shortcomings.
In 1996 Helen Fielding burst onto the scene with Bridget Jones’ Diary, a novel-in-journal entries featuring a hapless, slightly overweight thirty-something struggling to land a boyfriend. The book went on to sell 2 million copies and, soon after, became a blockbuster film starring Colin Firth and Renee Zellweger. Predictably, in the years that followed, we began to see the “Bridget Jones” character everywhere. They were easy to spot: each was an accidental heroine, wholly unaware of her strengths, concerned to the point of obsession with her shortcomings.
From Twilight’s admittedly problematic Bella, to Game of Thrones’ ineffectual Sansa Stark [Editor's Note: Just keep reading/watching, Anna. ], women who were the recipients, not the perpetrators of action began to overwhelm our fiction. And these women, often depicted as heroes, succeeded in spite of their insecurities: after encountering a guide or a mentor, each experienced a pivotal moment that guided her inner heroine out of the shadows and into the light. Continue reading
They Didn't Have to Earn It
Editor’s Note: Myke Cole submitted this essay on November 21st, 2013, parallel to the historic graduation of three women from the Marine Corps’ Infantry Training Battalion course It was the first time in the 238-year history of the Marine Corps that this happened. As we know, however, it is far from setting precedent for the rest of human history.
Today, the first three women graduated infantry school for the US Marine Corps. I don’t have to tell you how big a deal this is. It marks the start of an era where our military steps out of a dark age that has limited not only our esteem, but our combat effectiveness, permitting us to tap a resource we have ignored for years for a host of non-reasons too numerous and too farcical to review here.
Life imitates art, folks say. The inverse is also true, so it’s not surprising to see military fiction taking females more seriously, especially in combat roles. The Oh-John-Ringo-No set is seeing its twilight. It no longer represents the military we know, where women hold combat arms roles. It lacks the authenticity that readers of military fiction crave.
People are saying that this is a victory for women, that they have struggled and fought and finally earned the right to be held as equals behind the gun.
I call BS. Continue reading
On Hugo Eligibility & the Best of A Dribble of Ink '13
Hugo season is among us. With it comes a lot of enthusiastic discussion about the best that the science fiction and fantasy community had to offer in the previous year. 2013 was a big year for science fiction and fantasy fans. Yesterday, I posted a list what I expect to put on my own Hugo ballot when I cast my nominations in a few weeks.
This, on the flip side, is a collection of A Dribble of Ink‘s finest moments over the past year. For writing and editing A Dribble of Ink, I’m personally eligible for the ‘Best Fan Writer’ Hugo Award, but I believe there are many more suitable writers more prolific and deserving of the award than me (think Jared Shurin, Liz Bourke, Kameron Hurley, Justin Landon, and Foz Meadows.) So, instead, just like last year, this eligibility and ‘Best of…’ post will not focus on my personal output, but instead the wonderful content I had the privilege to publish in 2013. As A Dribble of Ink‘s audience continues to grow, the community and conversation has grown around it, and has contributed positively to the ongoing discussion of Fantasy, Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction in general.
Of note was Kameron Hurley’s tremendous “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative”, which was read over 135,000 times in 2013. Some early Hugo voters are suggesting that it be nominated for “Best Related Work,” and idea that is equally humbling and flattering for both Hurley and A Dribble of Ink.
I hope you’ll consider A Dribble of Ink when you’re making your nominations during this Hugo Award season. Continue reading
Best of '13 — Hugo Award Nominations & Recommendations (ver. 0.7.5)
Last September, in the wake of the 2013 Hugo Award announcements, I decided to put together an early draft ballot for 2014, a look ahead at what I’d already enjoyed in 2013 and hoped to see awarded at the next WorldCon. Now, with nomination period open, I am revisiting that list, with revisions.
Below are the writers, books, movies, videogames and other SFF-related goodies that, if I were filling it out today (I won’t be, I’ll fill it out in March, after I’ve had time to digest more work), would appear on my ballot. Tell me why I’m right (or, more likely, wrong), and let me know what is going to make your ballot (or would, if you’re not a WorldCon member.)
Note: New additions to the list have been marked with a red asterisk, like so *.
So, onto the awards. Continue reading