I recently read The Red Knight by Miles Cameron and it provoked a mixed reaction in me. Without getting too long-winded, I absolutely loved some bits – for example, I thought some of the action scenes in particular were far better than even the biggest names in the genre offer up – but had significant issues with other parts. Of those, one that really struck me was the use of Christianity as the significant religion and while I stand by my opinions on it, at the same time I felt a certain inherent absurdity in my own argument.
Put simply, in a world with monsters and magic (whether or not it was sortof England) I found it looked rather ridiculous to use Christianity as a religious background. Now I might be an atheist, but even I have to admit Christianity is at the very least, no less illogical and baseless than a religion Cameron might have made up, yet I found its place in the book far less plausible.
Now logic doesn’t play a large part in religion. Whether you’re talking Norse myths where (as memory serves) a god’s born of basically nothingness and the first thing he sees is a cow, or Japanese where a god creates the land by stirring the sea with a spear (presumably creating all raw materials needed for spears let alone reasons to need a spear such as hunting anything but spontaneously-created cows), doing the 5-year-old thing of asking where the cow came from doesn’t serve much good. Continue reading
Last week Aidan wrote a post stating, quite simply, that he had decided to take the Goodreads Challenge to read a certain number of books this year. He also wrote that he was going to consciously strive for “an equal split of gender” in his reading. There was no judgment of others’ reading habits in the post, just a pledge on his part to find more female authors and diversify the range of novels he was reading. And while some commenters applauded Aidan’s idea, others found it problematic, if not implicitly damning of their own method of choosing novels to read. A spirited discussion ensued and as I followed it I wondered about my own reading patterns and habits in relation to balance and diversity.
I read a pretty narrow range of fantastic fiction, mostly space opera and epic fantasy, when I started reading fantastika intentionally. I had a soft spot for sword-and sorcery and for dystopian writing, for planetary romance and, briefly, military SF. Early in my mature reading life (early 1980s) I was fortunate to be pointed to authors from more diverse backgrounds – authors such as Delany and Disch and Russ – but they were a few different voices in a much wider realm of heroic fantasies and crackerjack adventures. It took some conscious thought to branch out further into the much wider field of fantastika. It was exciting and comfortable to keep reading the literary descendents of Asimov, Heinlein, and Bradbury, but I soon felt like a magpie looking for more shiny things that could line my nest. And that was not what I was looking for out of literature. Continue reading
Fiction, it often seems to me is becoming more preoccupied with deaths, both death itself and the manner of it in nasty, gruesome ways. Why? Many reasons I’m sure – a more cynical age for one. Another is the western obsession with Youth and Beauty as though they alone can stave off Death and Decay. As a society we are more personally removed from death than at any time in history, yet via media at the same time we are exposed – at an emotional distance – to deaths we would once never have known about. Where once bodies were laid out by their family, washed, dressed, respects given, now they are hidden away in their coffins, dressed by strangers, almost as though we’re ashamed that one of us let death overtake him. It is no longer a part and parcel of our lives in the same way – ably demonstrated by my co worker, who moonlights as an embalmer. When she tells people, almost every reaction is a variation on ‘Ewww, you touch dead people!’. So, with death removed from our real lives, less matter-of-factly “there”, perhaps we delve into it more in fiction, because it’s one of the few places we have left. Continue reading
An author from an online writing group once offered some advice. He said a homosexual character should never be included in a story unless his/her sexual preference figured into the plot. Otherwise, it was a distraction, he said. To him, a gay character stood out—didn’t fit—and anything non-default about a character should be important to the plot.
Sometimes I get a dizzy feeling and I think I’m communicating with someone from another planet. This was one of those times. The idea that all characters must fit to some ‘default’ expectation threw me. How would I know who all my readers were, and what the ‘default’ was for them? Were they all straight? White? Middle-class? I didn’t think so. And where does one have to live so that homosexuals stand out as unusual? Yes, I have lived in urban areas most of my life, but still. Still. Even for an extremely plot-oriented writer (for whom characters are tools of the story), this guy was missing something.
So. Reader expectations. I cannot possibly guess what they are. I can comment only on reader behaviour, and that may reveal a bit about their expectations. And the first thing that comes to mind is that, as a member of both the fantasy/sci-fi community and the adjacent gaming community, I see a lot of discomfort with gender issues.
A few weeks ago, when I asked Justin Landon for a review to run on A Dribble of Ink, he offered me two. The first, which I ran, was for The City’s Son by Tom Pollock. It had great cover art, sounded intriguing and didn’t look like just another gritty Urban Fantasy novel. The other was Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone, which I’d never heard of.
Justin Landon, Staffer’s Book Review:
Gladstone’s uses dynamic prose and a unique voice to communicate that intent. It’s poetic at times, and laconic at others, switching between the two, and in between, depending on the point of view from whence the story is told.
For fans of the legal thriller, and they are legion in the fiction marketplace, Three Parts Dead is an intriguing starting position for a fantasy enfilade. Elements of mystery, verbal fencing, and suspenseful confrontations stand tall throughout, set neatly into a fantasy world. I have concerns that traditional fans of fantasy may feel some frustration about the lack of development in Gladstone’s setting, but his excellent characters and interesting plot carry the day, making it a novel I can easily recommend.