Sunday Links for August 29, 2010

I didn’t post links last week because we had guests from out of town, so this week’s helping is especially large. Fasten your seat belts!

SF Signal continues its wonderful Mind Meld feature with one on favorite fantasy and science fiction settings (Amber, anyone?) and another on what sword and sorcery mean to me. Great reading, and your “to be read” list is likely to lengthen significantly after reading these two features.

There’s a website I didn’t find until this week, where the participants are reviewing the science fiction and fantasy novels deemed “masterworks” by the publisher Gollancz. Called, sensibly enough, SF and Fantasy Masterworks Reading Project, this site contains hours of wonderful work by some of the best reviewers and critics out there. Highly recommended.

Every now and then, it seems like everyone gets all worked up about the future of science fiction. Is it dead? Is it sleeping? Or is it healthy, fine and feist? World in a Grain of Sand says the sky isn’t falling for science fiction.

How have e-readers and e-books changed publishing? Dean Wesley Smith has the answers, and it mostly amounts to: books are no longer like fresh produce.

Does literary fiction have a future? The Atlantic ponders the question, spurred on by Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Freedom. And then it reconsiders the question. Be sure you read the comments to each post, many of which are very thoughtful or funny or interesting – or all three.

Memoir seems to be the hottest selling type of book these days. I’m working on my own, as a matter of fact (I have at least two of them in me, and several additional shorter pieces that don’t fit either planned book). Charlotte Higgins of The Guardian’s blog discusses the ethics of the memoir, something every writer – and every reader – needs to keep in mind while perusing an entry in today’s confessional sweepstakes.

Damien Walter suggests there is an untapped market for SF magazines. Implicit in his post is some rather harsh criticism of the current lot of magazines – criticism that the blog It Doesn’t Have to Be Right dismisses as “rubbish.”

As threatened, Torque Control has restarted its short story reading club. The first story being considered is Peter Watts’s “The Things.” The story is available online, so read it and then join in the discussion.

Black Gate considers all of Jeff VanderMeer’s Ambergris novels and stories in a well-written critical piece.

Lingua Fantastika writes about the excellences of critical reading. It might be fun to shut off the censor and get lost in a book sometimes, but if your critical faculties are engaged you might find you have even more fun.

The Speculative Scotsman has been getting a bit critical himself. Niall Alexander, the Scotsman himself, rather wonders about the quality of fantasy literature of late. And boy, does he ever get folks riled up by doing so, enough so that a second post was necessary just to deal with all the comments. Everything is Nice has a good response, too. Definitely worth reading, along with the comments to each post as well as some of the other posts linked in, if you care about the state of the genre.

Nicola Griffith points out the women still get the short end of the stick in the publishing world. Heck, they even get the short end of the stick when they’re characters in movies and books. We’re just too dangerous, we reading, writing and thinking women.

If you’re reading Ken Scholes’ fantasy series, The Psalms of Isaak (and you should be! I reviewed Lamentation, the first book in the series, here), you’ll want to read this short story set in the same universe. It was first published in 2009, but I only just became aware of it, and thought perhaps some of you might have missed it as well.

The Guardian had a list of best and worst writers recently, but The National Post has gotten more specific, listing the most overrated Canadian authors and the most underrated Canadian writers. I recognized only three names on the two lists combined, which just goes to show that I need to read more Canadian literature.

The book for today’s many reviews is Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery, edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders. I’m looking forward to reading this anthology, which promises many riches according to the reviews.
SF Site
The Mad Hatter
Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review
Sacramento Book Review
BSC Review
Asphalt Eden
Black Gate

I’ve long wished that science fiction and fantasy from other countries appeared in translation more frequently in the United States. Fortunately, to read books from Australia, all we have to do is get our hands on them; we share a language. Even that, though, can be difficult unless you have a huge pile of money. That means many Australian authors are unfamiliar to us. But Janeen Webb, Jack Dann and Yaritji Green will be names you look for after reading this group interview of them from BiblioBuffet.

The New Gay interviews Hal Duncan, author of Ink and Vellum and a very thoughtful writer. Outtakes from the interview are here. Visit Duncan’s own website, to learn more about his rules for writers.

Peter Orullian interviews Daniel Abraham, author of the Long Price Quartet – and, under the pen name H.L.N. Hanover, The Black Sun’s Daughter series. I’ve recently finished Abraham’s wonderful Leviathan Wept and Other Stories, and will be reviewing it here soon.

Strange Horizons interviews Jonathan Maberry, author of the Joe Ledger books (I reviewed the first of them, Patient Zero, here) and the Pine Deep Trilogy (named among my best books read in 2009 here).

Matthew Cheney interviews Nnedi Okorafor for Amazon’s Omnivoracious. By the way, Omnivoracious is a great blog that really ought to be on your favorites list. Far more than merely a place where Amazon pushes its goods, this blog publishes lots of interesting news about books.

SF Signal has a lost Rod Serling interview. A must for fans of The Twilight Zone or even Night Gallery, sad shadow that it is of Serling’s earlier work. interviews Elizabeth Hand, one of the finest writers in the SF/F/H field.

Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist interviews Ian Tregellis, author of Bitter Seeds.

Rose Fox of Publisher’s Weekly is interviewed by Jeff VanderMeer for Omnivoracious. It’s interesting how her upbringing all seemed to be leading her straight to that publication.

The New Yorker has a podcast of an interview of Oliver Sacks. He talks about his own neurological disease: prosopagnosia, an inability to recognize human faces. Anyone else reminded of Ted Chiang’s story, “Liking What You See: A Documentary,” in Stories of Your Life: and Others>?

It’s hard to resist this podcast of an interview of A.S. Byatt. The Guardian piques your curiosity with the quote, “I don’t believe in God. I believe in Wallace Stevens.” I like the way she thinks.

Steampunk fans will probably enjoy Escape the Clouds, billed as “a musical journal around a steampunk world.”

Did you read about the six-year-old who got a 23-book deal? A blog with the tantalizing title Writers Beware Blogs! explains just how misleading that story is.

Whether you’re a writer or a wanna-be, you’ll want to know just what your publishing options are. Editorial Ass runs them down in a detailed post from inside the industry.

Here’s a wonderful essay from The American Scholar on 19th century American writers who struggled to define both themselves as individuals and Americans as a group. It’s some of the best critical writing you’ll read this year.

Looking for something unusual to read? How about five great books about obscure presidents? You can find all you ever wanted to know about Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Warren Harding, Andrew Johnson and James Buchanan in the pages of these books.

Or maybe you just want to know what’s new in science fiction and fantasy this fall. IO9 has the goods.

Laird Barron, one of the best new horror writers around (you’ve got to read Occultation, reviewed here), has his own list of great horror novels and stories for you to read here.

Jeff Ford offers his own list of great books to read during September, all of them having to do with the circus. I’m a bit surprised that The Pilo Family Circus isn’t there (it’s reviewed in brief here).

Eos Books offers a long list of young adult novels for the youngster on your list – or for you, if you like great science fiction and fantasy.

Fantasy Book Critic offers a shelf full of books published by small presses. I’ve been rather surprised to find how important small presses are to my SF/F/H reading these days. For instance, right now I’m reading A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files, published by ChiZine Publications – not a publisher you hear about every day. (And it’s very entertaining, this book; I’ll review it here in a week or two.)

And if none of these lists does you any good, it might help to read Book View Café’s suggestions on how to find a new favorite author.

Nicki Leone writes about shelving, packing and unpacking books -- and about how the best-laid plans for organization can be defeated simply by one’s love of what one’s packing.

Rose Fox and Graham Sleight give their opinions on the best books of the year in a podcast from Readercon, a convention held yearly just outside Boston. It’s a great convention; I wish I’d been there this year. But podcasts are the next best thing!

Got itchy writing fingers? Here’s your chance to have a micro-mini story in an anthology. Jeff VanderMeer is taking submissions for The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities. Be sure you read carefully exactly what he’s looking for; no point in spending your precious reading and writing time coming up with something that doesn’t fit the criteria.

Book theft is a highly specialized crime. But the thieves are actually sort of interesting – and so is the crime. To tell you the truth, I can really sympathize!

Why do humans have imaginations? Philosopher Timothy Williamson explains in a New York Times blog post.

In the dating market? I know if my husband and I hadn’t had books in common, we never would have met – and, in fact, we met in person for the first time at the World Fantasy Convention in 1998 (a story we love to tell to those who don’t know that “fantasy,” in this context, means elves, unicorns and dragons (among, of course, many other (more palatable) things)). Now there’s a website to match up readers: Alikewise.

You probably won’t be surprised by who the top earning authors in the United States are according to Forbes, but you might be depressed. It bothers me not a whit to see Stephen King there; the guy knows how to write. But James Patterson stopped actually writing books a long time ago (now he writes bestsellers, not even close to the same thing in quality), and Stephanie Meyer and her sparkly vampires are crowding out a lot of far superior young adult fiction. A pity.

Money often screws up the story, it seems. Steig Larsson’s popular “The Girl Who” series finishes with a fourth book that might never see the light of day. Why? Because his girlfriend has the manuscript but isn’t getting any royalties from the first three books, that’s why. I don’t know who is at fault in this scenario, but it sure seems like someone’s being greedy.

Music seems to be inextricably intertwined with some novels. I’ve a few of the things that actually came with discs of what the author was listening to while he wrote (collected by attending author signings, where occasionally the author will hand out these freebies). The website Booklife, a must-read for writers and would-be writers, offers some thoughts on writing and music.

Want to see something pretty, as well as pretty inspiring? Take a gander at these pictures of people reading. Most enjoyable.

Or you can look at pictures of books used as decoration in a Quebec park. I find such photos both beautiful and disturbing. Books collected in such a way as to turn them into mushrooms; it just doesn’t feel right. And yet: so pretty and colorful!

Science fiction movies often have infodumps: minutes at a time taken up by explanation of the scientific (or pseudo-scientific, in most cases) premises that support what’s going on in the rest of the movie. Here’s how the infodump was used to effect in some recent SF films.

It wouldn’t be a true science fiction movie if some magnificent piece of machinery didn’t go deliciously awry. Cracked writes about the six most baffling flaws in SF technology.

Scientific American considers visions of the apocalypse in movies and literature, breaking the possibilities down by source of catastrophe.

Science marches on: astronomers have found a sun with five Neptune-sized planets orbiting it, and one very possibly as small as Earth. And to think that it wasn’t all that long ago that we couldn’t even prove that there were planets around other stars!

That is a lot of goodness to

That is a lot of goodness to sift through. I can see my TBR pile getting longer. I plan on finishing Leviathan Wept this afternoon. I'll be interested in your comments.

You have to be the most diverse reader out there; my eyes bulged and I couldn't help but smile when I saw you read cracked.

Ghosts of Manhattan

From Publishers Weekly: "Mann (The Affinity Bridge) combines the trendy superhero and steampunk genres, but his cardboard characters and laughable dialogue (I had never loved, until I loved you) never attain even the level of parody."

Not everyone loves it.


That's good to know

The writing is really dreadful in places -- like a parody of noir, rather than a real bit of noir. I'll try to have the review up tomorrow with a good quote I've already picked out, so you can see what I mean.

Looking forward to it!

I keep checking the website. I love your reviews.


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