Posts Tagged: Reading

Becoming Gandalf

“Petite, her silver hair shining, Le Guin shrugged and grinned when Neil Gaiman placed the medal around her neck,” described The New Yorker of Ursula K. Le Guin when she accepted the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters presented by the National Book Awards on November 19, 2014. Le Guin might be petite in stature, perhaps, but her words in acceptance of the achievement were anything but small.

“Hard times are coming,” she said, her voice ringing out over an awed crowd. . “We’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.”

Le Guin is a legendary figure in science fiction and fantasy, author of many classics, such as The Left Hand of Darkness and The Wizard of Earthsea, and a champion for literature’s place in the every changing landscape of modern society — a “realist of a larger reality” is there ever was one. Her acceptance speech rang through the SFF community and beyond, a tolling bell of optimism. Through her ongoing insistence to use fiction as a lens through which we examine ourselves, Le Guin, and writers like her — poets, visionaries, realists of a larger reality — has continued to challenge speculative fiction to be a catalyst for positive change, a limitless medium that can offer hope to a world that obsesses over hopelessness. Read More »

Conversations with
My Favorite Author

“Guess how long the space ships are in this book!”

“Guess how long the space ships are in this book!”

The conversation often starts something like this. Sometimes it’s, “Guess how many different genders are in this world!” or, “Guess what Gwenna just discovered about Annick!”

I’m not the person asking. My husband poses these questions, and it is my job to answer them. If I don’t guess correctly, I’ll get another opportunity in a few minutes, a few hours, a day or two. When he’s reading a new book, each masterful bit of world-building is fodder for a conversation like this one. When he’s writing a new scene, each plot point or moment of character development is an opportunity for a pop-quiz.

“I don’t know,” I reply. “Half a galaxy long?” I think this is a plausibly impressive size, given his enthusiasm, given the volume and intensity with which he has asked the question. He knows that I cannot tell a furlong from a parsec, but he refuses to believe that a person can live in the world without understanding basic measurement and scale. Read More »

On the Power of Fantasy Fiction: ‘A Single Dream is More Powerful than a Thousand Realities’

Art by John Howe

One evening, I had the chance to sit down with Steven Erikson and several other people over a glass of wine and dinner. It was a wonderful evening, full of laughs, camaraderie and discussion. Despite what you might think, me being a book blogger and Steve being a popular author, only a small portion of the evening was spent discussing fiction, books or writing. However, one short conversation, not with Mr. Erikson but with one of his friends, led me to think a lot about why I read, and when I read.

The conversation began with a question, “Do you read before bed?”

Some of us answered no, others, including myself, said, “Yes, I can’t fall asleep otherwise.” Those who answered “no,” had some interesting reasons, though they escape me now, but one of the other diners, a woman whose name I’m sorry to say I can’t remember, began talking about why she reads before bed. She made an observation that has stuck with me since. You see, she reads before bed because it allows her to put aside the events of her day, the events that might be coming the next day, and immerse herself in the emotions, problems and triumphs of the people living in the fiction she holds in her hands. Instead of falling asleep thinking about what needs doing tomorrow, or how her exam went poorly, she falls asleep wrapped in thoughts of these characters, wandering through these other landscapes. Read More »

I came across this on Tumblr, and thought it was worth a read:

Science fiction, speculative fiction, whatever, is the perfect choice for that kind of behavior. Someone […] once wrote that poking fun at science fiction, as a genre, is so silly, considering that mystery novels (which are also great!) are about death and murder and crime, while sci-fi is about reimagining the world and making it better and new and different. And, honestly, these are the books and pulps and magazines and comics that have done more than any other genre to begin the process of playing with race, and gender. No one is claiming that Heinlein is a social justice blogger, or anything like that, and it’s not a super-great book, but ANY KIND of science fiction, even of the Tits in Tight Silver Outfits variety, is implicitly saying that the world we currently live in is not the only way a world could be, that things could change. That’s really revolutionary, when you think about it. And, jeez, if you want to talk about “the story not the storyteller,” let’s think about Orson Scott Card. The man is a bag of dicks, when it comes to his personal politics, but Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, and Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus could actually make you a better person.

Science Fiction

This is an excerpted piece of from Nicole Cliffe‘s review of Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, I’ve always appreciated this aspect of Science Fiction and, like Cliffe, feel that the sensawunda, the insistance that the world, the universe, humanity has the potential to be better is a very strong reason why Science Fiction is so important to the history of human society and the future development of us as a people and a species. I’ve written something similar about Fantasy, come to think of it. Whether you agree with Cliffe or not, the whole review is worth reading, and I hope we can discuss some of these arguments that she raises.


MeOne of my favourite weekly features in the blogosphere in Mieneke Van Der Salm’s Blogger Query interviews. Every Wednesday, she pulls one blogger or reviewer and puts them to question. It’s a fun way to get to know some of the personalities in SFF fandom. And, well, this week was my turn.

A little snippet:

You’ve been quite outspoken about the lack of regard for blogs as fan publications and bloggers as fan writers, mostly in regard to the Hugos. Do you think regard for blogs as fan publications from awards and the way the publishing industry regards blogs are intertwined? Would increased respect from the publishing industry also increase respect for blogs and bloggers from awards committees or are awards too insular for such cross-pollination?

Yeah, I’ve raised a stink or two, and been successful at opening at least a small dialogue about the matter between the incumbent fan publications (fanzines) and the up-and-coming ones (blogs). It’s something I feel very strongly about.

To be honest, I wouldn’t be so quick to link the perception of blogs and online fan writers by the publishing industry to the struggles they’ve had in being recognized by the award committees and voters. Conversely, I’d say that publishers, large and small, pay a heck of a lot more attention to blogs and the online space than they do to the traditionally published fanzines. This is keeping in the tradition and origins of fanzines, which by their nature are independent and often focus more on exploring the natures and issues of fandom, than in being a part of the PR circle that runs the publishing industry, a pitfall that blogs have to be sure to avoid. Instead, you have a new generation of writers, many of them a bit younger, in their mid-twenties to late-thirties, that is trying to break into an area that is often run and heavily influenced by an older generation that has long been entrenched in their ideals and tendencies.

Whether they’re older men or not (and, in the case of the Hugo Awards, there are over a 1,000 eligible voters, so they’re not all old men, of course), old ideas and habits still exist. It’s always been a challenge for the young whipper-snappers to push against the older generation, trying to promote new ideas and the fast-moving world that has grown up around the original foundations of awards like the traditional awards. Right now, bloggers are those young whipper-snappers, and we just need to make enough noise to ensure that, when the time comes, voters take us as seriously as we deserve.

With all that said, I think the addition of SF Signal, which I’ve contributed to on occasion, on the recent Hugo ballot is a huge step for online fan writing and blogs in general. I hope to see a continued drive in that direction. Not at the expense of great fanzines and fan writers working in more traditional mediums, but as a joining of the two, recognizing the best writing, period.

If you want to hear a bit about my thoughts on reading, writing, the Hugos and blogging, I encourage you to read the whole interview.