Posts Categorized: Feature Article

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If the books and TV show seem to be revelling in the worst aspects of human nature, that’s partly because those aspects are what Westeros helps us to recognize in ourselves.

In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, George R.R. Martin discussed the past, present, and future of his mega-popular series, A Song of Ice and Fire, and its television adaptation, Game of Thrones. Some of the most interesting moments in the interview concern the future of HBO series and the potential that it might catch up with Martin’s work on the novels.

“The minute you have a series [of books] and a book comes out,” Martin explained (surprising no one), “people immediately begin asking, ‘Where’s the next book?’ And the more successful the series is, the more people ask that question, and the more pressure you begin to feel.”

Martin’s struggle against that pressure is one of the most publicized and scrutinized stories to hit SFF fandom is the past decade. Here’s a creator working on a seminal work of fantasy, adored by millions of people around the world, who is also crushed under the weight of his fame, criticized for his own fannish activities (such as watching football, or attending conventions) and condemned for not writing fast enough. As if works the calibre of those he’s producing can come over night.

Prominence of this issue hit its peak when Neil Gaiman, another writer who understands the intricacies of dabbling in many mediums, wrote an open letter to Martin’s detractors. “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch,” he famously said. “This is a useful thing to know, perhaps a useful thing to point out when you find yourself thinking that possibly George is, indeed, your bitch, and should be out there typing what you want to read right now.

“People are not machines. Writers and artists aren’t machines.” Read More »

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It’s no secret that I believe we need to do a better job at engaging in positive discussion about genre’s best works in relation to award season. We’re really good at getting annoyed, upset and frothy at the mouth about some things (as Abigail Nussbuam recently wrote about with much finer words, and more hands, than I could ever hope for), and it’s important to also apply that passion and energy to screaming loudly enthusiastically about the books, films, and people we love.

Over the past six months, I’ve discussed my own ever-evolving list of recommendations for Hugo nomination. I’ll do so once more before the close of the nomination period on March 31st, 2014. However, those posts are very distinctly one person’s opinion, and the genre fanscape is much larger than one opinion (no matter how highly I think of it.) In fact, the reason that I’ve decided to post various versions of my ever changing nomination ballot is because the good people of the Internet (they do exist, we’re not all bad!) have alerted me to so much cool stuff that I’ve had no choice but to revise my ballot several times.

So, here I’m curating a collection of publishing Hugo Award recommendations, in the hopes that you (like me) might find something of value in there that makes it onto your final ballot (if you’re a Hugo voter), or just makes you smile. Read More »

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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. Read More »

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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. Read More »

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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. Read More »