I started reading Jirel of Joiry a while back, and got distracted from it – easy enough to do, as it’s a series of loosely connected short stories, rather than one novel – but came back to it again as this time I needed to absorb some of the flavor of sword and sorcery for an upcoming project. I can recall reading this genre many times in the past, with Edgar Rice Burrough‘s John Carter of Mars, some of the later Tarzan books, the Pellucidar stories. I also read Robert E Howard, and not just the Conan stories. H Rider Haggard’s tales of barbarism and romance (and not in the sense of finding a romantic partner) color my past reading as well. I asked, as I do, for suggestions of good Sword and Sorcery titles to read and deepen my experience… and promptly realized that how I define the genre is not how others define it. There is a book list of crowd-sourced recommendations on my blog, but this post is my thoughts on what the genre is.
Posts tagged ‘fantasy’
So I was on three panels at LibertyCon… Wait, you’re saying, you did your AAR yesterday? Yes, I did. But the beauty of having two posts to do this in is that I can now talk about the nitty-gritty of writerly stuff that wasn’t the overall con. This is more about interactions with fellow panelist – ie writing professionals – and the audience, who are rarely if ever ‘simple readers.’ For one thing, the audience at a lit con (which LibertyCon is) is already self-selected to be interested in reading, and also in the process behind what they are reading, since they attended one of the most author-heavy events in fandom. So. Three panels, plus a bonus panel I literally was dragged onto. Read more
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about using folktales in fiction, especially fantasy. I bought a CD of Songsmith, filk written to go with the novel of that title. The book was a collaboration set in Andre Norton’s Witchworld, and the songs are about events in the book, or are referred to by one of the main characters (a bard). Norton uses a lot of folk tale and historical references in the Witchworld series, but so deftly that unless you are really looking for them, you’ll miss how she weaves them in.
That’s what I want to focus on. Not on re-working fairy tales and folk-tales as Mercedes Lackey, Diana L. Paxton, Robin McKinley, and others have done, but using details from folk-tales and history as story elements. Read more
For those who, like me, would like to reward creators with awards which actually mean something, there are a couple of alternatives I’d like to suggest, and I’m sure more will be, ah, nominated, in the comments.
There’s the Dragon Awards, which are part of the huge convention and much more that is DragonCon.
The website describes them as:
Welcome to the first annual Dragon Awards! As a part of our 30th Anniversary as the nation’s largest fan run convention, we are introducing a new way to recognize excellence in all things Science Fiction and Fantasy. These awards will be by the fans, for the fans, and are your chance to reward those who have made real contributions to SF, books, games, comics, and shows. There is no qualification for submitting nominations or voting – no convention fees or other memberships are needed. The only requirement is that you register, confirm your email address for tracking nominations and voting purposes, and agree to the rules. This ensures that all votes count equally.
Once you have submitted a nomination for a category you cannot change it. If you are not sure about a category, then leave it blank. You can come back at a later date and add nominations for any category you leave blank using this same form. Make sure your name (First and Last), and the email address match your original submission. No need to fill in your original nominations, the form will append the new nominations to your prior list.
Nomination Deadline: July 25, 2016. We encourage you to get your nominations in early.
And then there is the Neffy.
(Full disclosure – through the machinations of a long time barfly, and the President of N3F, I’m the Art Editor of the N3F which came as a bit of a surprise to me. Anyway, if any of you fans have art you’d like to contribute to an unpretentious fan newsletter, give me a shout.)
The Neffy, awarded by the National Fantasy Fan Federation, is the oldest fan award for achievement. It was first given in 1949 to Ray Bradbury. Last year, we gave two awards, one to Toni Weisskopf for Best Editor and one to All of Hugo Fandom for Heroic Achievement in renewing that ancient and honorable fannish custom, the all-hobby fan feud.
Nominators must be members of the National Fantasy Fan Federation, but you can join at http://N3F.org Alternatively, you can send your suggestions to the N3F President, George Phillies. “Paper” publication is a book from a traditional publishing house. “Electronic” publishing is modern self-publishing via SmashWords, Amazon Kindle, etc. but includes “Print on Demand”, e.g., Third Millennium. The length divisions for written works are based on the published recommendations of Eric Flint on his blog. Series novels must have had at least one novel published in 2015.
Best Paper Novel (> 100,000 words)
Best Paper Short Work (< 100,000 words)
Best Electronic Novel (>100,000 words)
Best Electronic Short Work (< 100,000 words)
Best Paper Series Novel (> 3 volumes)
Best Electronic Series Novel (> 3 Volumes)
Best Fan Author
Best Fan Artist
Best Fan Editor
Best Fan Web Site
Fan of the year
Best Pro Author
Best Pro Artist
Best Pro Editor
Best Live Film
Best Animated Film
Best Video (includes TV series)
Best Comic Series
Best Comic Single Issue
Best Paper Game
Best Electronic Game
Some great alternatives for rewarding the folks who entertain and amuse us. What else is out there for us Wrongfans who love to have wrongfun and encourage folks who write great stories to keep ’em coming?
This post is going to be a little late, and thank you for your patience – I was under the weather and although the clouds are thinning, I’m still not in sunshine. Actually, I woke up this morning and had forgotten it was Saturday, and it wasn’t until I was talking with my friend that I realized I didn’t have a post. Or a topic. Or, really, much of a brain. Fortunately, we’d been discussing her writing work-in-progress, and when I brought this post up, she suggested a topic.
How to balance hard science and fantasy in writing?
There’s a bit of an assumption about writing fantasy I run into from time to time. ‘That’s so easy to do, you just make it all up.’ I suppose it’s possible that there are fantasy authors out there who don’t bother with any research, they just make it all up. But reality as an underpinning to fantasy is essential to my reading pleasure, and I suspect strongly that this is the case for most readers. So the ability to blend science with fantasy is essential. You can’t disobey the laws of physics because ‘it’s magic’ any more than you can in Space Opera, unless you want your books to take regular flying lessons.
The friend I was talking to – I’ll call her Thing 2, since that’s her nickname in our group, and using her real name is confusing here – was commenting on the fact that she couldn’t find images as generated from the latest night-vision system. Since it’s not legal for civilians and all. She’s trying to research her work, and to blend science in with her fantasy. She’s doing it right. Her imaginary world isn’t going to have capricious magic use that exists for the convenience of her plotline. When vampires show up, they won’t be ignored and dismissed, actual science will be done on them and their traces.
This is what I like to read about. Magic that is limited, has a price to use, and it’s not like turning on a tap. Well, if it is, it’s with the understanding of where the tap is connected to pipes, and a pressure tank, and a well, and the well WILL run dry if you try to pull out too much, too fast. Just like in the real world, magic could be handled like chemical reactions: you can react some substances with others, bot not all. Reactions should be endothermic or exothermic. A catalyst will help the ‘spell’ get over the initial activation energy need to make it proceed faster (or proceed at all, in some reactions). if we’re going to keep this chemistry as magic metaphor, we should also keep in mind that the ‘water’ coming oout of our tap matters, a lot. You don’t use regular tap water for chemistry, it’s got contaminates in it, and ions and goodness-knows what-all. No, you want deionized water that is from a controlled source so you aren’t reacting with something unknown like calcium carbonate. You also want clean glassware. Some of these fantasy novels with their oddball ‘organic’ wood or stone containers *shudder* I don’t know what you’re going to get out of that and when was the last time you read about a witch scrubbing and sterilizing their workspace? Heck, half the hurdle in Analytical Chemistry is learning how to properly wash dishes. Also, some magical reactions will be more, ah, energetic than others. And if my fantasy writer readers want to play with THAT concept, check out “Things I won’t Work With” a series of chemistry blog posts.
Pulling myself reluctantly away from that metaphor (what? I really like chemistry) I’m not sure that’s what Thing 2 wanted to concentrate (heh, heh… concentrated vs dilute magic. Back away from the Chemistry jokes, Cedar) on. Science, in the purest form, is the study of the universe using mathematics and measurement. This is done with observations, experiments, and hypotheses that can be tested, repeated, and proven. I don’t see any reason why a well-written fantasy can’t adhere to the same rules of the universe as our known sciences. It does mean the author should have at least some grounding in basic science, though.
My point, if you managed to follow me through this odd ramble, is that you can’t just make it all up. Not an make it into a good book with a solid story. If you want to blend hard science and fantasy believably, you have to do your homework. Thing 2 is on the right track, and I am hoping she keeps at it – this would be her debut work, and it’s got a lot of promise. I do enjoy a well-done fantasy, especially an urban fantasy that pays attention to the rules of the universe and doesn’t break science without a very good reason. Or some kind of explanation afterward when the main character demands to know what the &*^$ that was!
Operating on limited brain, I can only think of two titles offhand that did a really nice job of pairing the two fields of magic and science. I am sure you all can come up with more, and please do. The first, and highly recommended, is the Lord Darcy series by Randall Garrett. The second much more recent is Julie Frost’s Pack Dynamics which gets into (lightly) the mad science of vamps and weres.
What can you suggest for blending hard science and fantasy in a story?
We were talking, my First Reader and I, about what to write for you Mad Geniuses. He suggested writing about old hats. Not literal hats, although it is a lot of fun to look at costume through the ages and see how fashions have changed. But what about writing? he asked, how can you pick up something that is old hat, knock the dust off, and create something fresh and new?
I’m not entirely sure you can, but it sparked another thought. Prose styles have changed over the years. What was once eminently readable and made for a book you could curl up with and while away an afternoon now reads leadenly, making it more work to read than it is worth.
I walked from the office into the library (well, sitting room, but it’s where the books are kept in our house) and called for him to follow me. I opened the hutch where I keep my antique books and started trying to decide where to start. The First Reader reached over my shoulder and tapped a spine. “Fantasy,” he suggested.
So we begin with a century-long voyage through time with fantastic tales, to see how prose has changed, and remember fondly stories that we may have outgrown, but affect us to this very day. Before the genre we call Fantasy came into being, there were fairy tales and folklore, like the collected tales that Andrew Lang put into the ‘color’ fairy books. I have a couple of these, and pulled The Red Fairy Book off my shelf. This was originally published in 1890.
“Well, I can’t stand it.’ says Koshchei the Deathless. ‘I will pursue.’
After a time he came up with Prince Ivan, lighted on the ground, and was going to chop him up with his sharp sword. But at that moment Prince Ivan’s horse smote Koshchei the Deathless full swing with its hoof, and cracked his skull, and the Prince made and end of him with a club. Afterwards the Prince heaped up a pile of wood, set fire to it, burnt Koshchei the Deathless on the pyre, and scattered his ashes to the wind. Then Marya Morevna mounted Koshchei’s horse and Prince Ivan got on his own, and they rode away to visit first the Raven, and then the Eagle, and then the Falcon. Wherever they went they met with a joyful greeting.
‘Ah, Prince Ivan! why, we never expected to see you again. Well, it wasn’t for nothing you gave yourself so much trouble. Such a beauty as Marya Morevna one might search for all the world over – ad never find one like her!'”
I have in my hands a 1920 edition of Arabian Nights. (If you’d like to see some of the illustrations from these two oldest books in the post, look here).
“The captain of the thieves, with a bag on his shoulder, came close to a rock, at the roots of the tree in which Ali Baba had hidden himself. Then he called out, “Open, Sesame!” Instantly a door in the rock opened; and the captain and all his men quickly passed in, and the door closed again. They stayed there for a long time. Meanwhile, Ali Baba was compelled to wait in the tree, as he was afraid some of them might see him if he left his hiding-place.
“At length the door opened, and the forty thieves came out. The captain stood at the door until all his men had passed out. Then Ali Baba heard him say, “Shut, Sesame!” Each man then bridled his horse and rode away.
“Ali Baba did not come down from the tree at once, because he thought the robbers might have forgotten something, and come back. He watched them for as long as he could, and did not leave the tree for a long time after he had lost sight of them. Then, remembering the words the captain had used to open and shut the door, he made his way to it, and called out, “Open, Sesame!” Instantly the door flew wide open!”
Now, despite the rather stiff writing style, I love that later in the story Ali Baba’s clever friend Morgiana boils the thieves in oil, but then again, I’ve been known to be a bit bloodthirsty.
In 1937 a little book called The Hobbit appeared in print for the first time, and the genre we now call epic, or classic, fantasy was born.
“So they laughed and sang in the trees; and pretty fair nonsense I daresay you think it. Not that they would care; they would only laugh all the more if you told them so. They were elves or course. Soon Bilbo caught glimpses of them as the darkness deepened. He loved elves, though he seldom met them; but he was a little frightened of them too. Dwarves don’t get on well with them. Even decent enough dwarves like Thorin and his friends think them foolish (which is a foolish thing to think), or get annoyed with them. For some elves tease them and laugh at them, and most of all their beards.”
I don’t know when the crossover genre of science fiction so far advanced as to become fantasy was born, but I know my favorite example of it is Glory Road by Robert A Heinlein, which originally appeared in 1963. I’ve quoted the roc’s egg passage recently, so here is a little more playful passage.
“Singing birds are better than alarm clocks, and Barsoom was never like this. I stretched happily and smelled coffee and wondered if there was time for a dip before breakfast. It was another perfect day, blue and clear and the sun just up, and I felt like killing dragons before lunch. Small ones, that is.
I smothered a yawn and rolled to my feet. The lovely pavilion was gone and the black box mostly repacked; it was no bigger than a piano box. Star was kneeling before a fire, encouraging that coffee. She was a cave-woman this morning, dressed in a hide that was fancy but not as fancy as her own. From an ocelot, maybe. Or from Du Pont.
‘Howdy, Princess,’ I said. “What’s for breakfast?”
Here we see that the prose and story-telling begin to become more informal, more natural to the way people spoke and interacted on a daily basis. Or maybe they really did talk like that back in the turn of the century, but somehow I doubt it.
Bringing the stories up to a much more modern, and funny, standard, I have Terry Pratchett’s Mort in my hand now.This was published in 1987, but his tales of Ankh-Morporkh are somehow timeless, as they capture humanity with all its warts, and sometimes regret that capture, as you will see; his characters are not always housebroken.
“‘And they was kings in those days, real kings, not like the sort you get now. They was monarchs,”continued Albert, carefully pouring some tea into his saucer and fanning it primly with the end of his muffler. “I mean, they was wise and fair, well, fairly wise. And they wouldn’t think twice about cutting your head off soon as look at you,” he nodded approvingly. “And the queens were tall and pale and wore them balaclava helmet things -“
“Wimples?” Mort asked.
“Yeah, them, and the princesses were beautiful as the day is long, and so noble they, they could pee through a dozen mattresses -”
Marching forward with time, we come to the book published in , a random one of my Dresden File books, Proven Guilty. Urban fantasy, as Butcher writes it, is night to the day of Tolkein, but still, as you will see, with common threads drawing them together in the genre tapestry.
She prowled across the room to us, all hips and lips and fascinating eyes, looking far too young to move with such wanton sensuality. I knew better. She could have been a century old. She chose to look the way she did because of what she was: the Winter Lady, youngest Queen of Unseelie Court, Mab’s understudy in wickedness and power. When she walked by the flowers that bloomed in Lily’s presence, they froze over, withered, and died. She gave them no more notice than Lily had.
“Harry Dresden,” she said, her voice low, lulling, and sweet.”
And I said, “Hello, Maeve.”
So what do you all think? Is the old worn out and needing to be discarded? I don’t believe so. Rejuvenated with modern language, perhaps. Retellings of old stories are something I enjoy, as I have done a version of Little Red Riding Hood which I really ought to expand on. And I could keep pulling books off my shelf for hours, but the First Reader is sitting here patiently reading Daniel Hood’s A Familiar Dragon and waiting for my attention. Time to spend some real-life time outside the covers of a book, methinks.
I had an epiphany today. Yes, I still have those, even at my ancient age of 36. No, senility has yet to strike.
Wait, what are we talking about?
Seriously, I was out mowing the lawn when I was struck by a thought. What if, an insidious voice whispered in my ear as everything else was drowned out by the roar of the 17.5 horsepower Honda engine, unsavory individuals are insulting Sarah, picking fights with Larry, and ostracizing a healthy chunk of science fiction fans and writers alike in order to cover the possibility that, if judged by an unbiased crowd, said unsavory individuals would be found wanting of talent and skill?
What a terrifying prospect indeed. The very possibility that individuals are preying upon people’s innate distrust of “outsiders” in order to cover their own failings, especially in such a manner in which to instigate, ostracize and shame writers who have tried to help newcomers to the field is a horrible thought. I’d normally be the first to slap such an evil and unbidden thought from mind if it weren’t for the admitted libel, constant and baseless attacks, and the general smear campaign which has blown up in the past six months (I could theoretically suggest the last ten years, but I’m not feeling that ambitious today) across the internet and in the “hallowed halls” of the SFWA itself.
But Jason… that insidious voice continues, unabated by my own doubts, what if? You cannot ignore the signs any longer, the open declarations of hate directed towards you and your friends, nor can you dismiss the blatant attacks upon innocent individuals. One cannot ignore a war that has been declared upon thee, no matter how much one does not wish to fight an opponent who uses fear, public intimidation and subversive tactics as their only method of battle.
My insidious voice is a bastard, for the record.
Of course, this same methodology being employed can be ascribed to terrorists. And, thinking about it a little more, the similarities are quite striking. Both use social media to spread hate, both use tactics that are typically frowned upon, both complain and scream out “No fair! They hit back!” when the tide of battle turns. They both enjoy anonymity, and the cover of unwitting accomplices of “their own kind” as protection to hide behind and use as shields. This “war”, so to speak, is treacherous, and much like the sea, is both merciless and unforgiving, cold, cruel, and remorseless.
Steady as she goes. This storm, too, shall pass.
You see, even now the backlash against their unsavory tactics has begun, their lies and misdeeds being brought to light for casual observers. The tide is changing, and while the waves are still high and choppy, smoother waters can be seen. This fight, this… struggle (yes, revolutionaries and socialists, I am totally hijacking your word) for the so-called soul of science fiction is being won as one side continues to show that they are willing to do anything, including lie, cheat, misinform and distort in order to stay in control.
Vladimir Lenin once said “A lie told often enough becomes truth.” This tactic, employed by such self-inflated individuals like Damian Walters and others, is backfiring. Liberals and conservatives alike are now looking at these individuals and wondering, jointly and independently, how people (some of whom haven’t written a book or read anything other than Wikipedia summations of novels that they mock) took the reins of the genre that we all have grown to love and cherish, and steered it onto a crash course with a deep, dark abyss of irrelevancy. They’ve taken to feasting on their supporters who dare suggest they may have gone over the line, and cast stones at those allies who they once supported due to transgressions they have half-imagined.
Steady as she goes, for this, too, shall pass (yeah, you see what I did there?). The tide changes, the pendulum swings, etc etc. Hope is not lost.
Keep reading, keep buying and supporting the authors who write what you love to read, be they left or right. Because while some might think that they can destroy this genre from without, strength comes from within.
Obligatory self-promotion time: Jason Cordova is a novelist who lives in Virginia. He writes everything from horror to science fiction, with a smattering of fantasy and space opera thrown in because, hey, it pays well. He is currently working on the second book of his “Murder World” series, Kaiju Dusk. He can be found at www.jasoncordova.com
No, it’s not “Talk like a pirate day” nor am I trying to cough up a hairball. What I’m trying to do is keep from throwing my laptop across the room. Over the last few months, Dave, Sarah, Kate and I have written about the idiocy that has been happening in SFWA specifically and in publishing in general. I honestly thought things had calmed down a bit — until a couple of days ago that focused more on what our ethnic background and sexual preferences were than about what we liked to read and why. I could fisk that survey and the reasoning behind it and, to be honest, had planned to but then the latest bit of idiocy came across my facebook feed and, well, I can’t let it pass.
To start, I’ll admit that I have issues with companies and publishers making decisions like the one DC Comics has apparently made regarding Batwoman. Part of the current iteration of Batwoman story arc is that she is gay and is in a relationship with a Gotham City policewoman. This isn’t something that is alluded to but something the readers are well aware of. Yet the powers that be at DC have decided that they will not allow the couple to get married — which would, from what I can tell, be a natural progression of the story arc and character development. But the corporate suits said no and that was the final straw that broke the back of the current creative team for Batwoman. They will be leaving after issue #26 in December.
I don’t care if the suits are afraid such a wedding would draw attention to Orson Scott Card and his association with Superman. Frankly, I don’t care what Card’s beliefs are. He can shout them from the rooftops if he wants, no matter what a certain faction in the SF community thinks. This is the US of A and that means he has the right to say pretty much anything he wants (with a few limitations) just as he has the right to believe what he wants. You don’t have to like it nor do you have to agree. All I care about is if he writes an entertaining book. Part of that means he doesn’t beat me over the head with his beliefs in some attempt to “educate” or “enlighten” me, something his naysayers are all too often guilty of doing.
Then there is this next piece of “what the bleep were they thinking?” also from DC. I appreciate the fact the suits are looking for new art talent. I even appreciate the fact that the character involved, Harley Quinn, isn’t your normal girl next door. Far from it, in fact. However, one of the required scenes the artists entering the contest have to depict is a naked Harley in her tub about to kill herself. Here’s how DC describes the scene:
Now, and this is where I’ll get in trouble with the “right thinking” folks, I don’t really have an issue with Harley being naked. She’s in a tub filled with water, after all. My issue is in the set-up. If you read the previous three images DC is looking for, they are all out of the ordinary — and dark humored — scenes where Harley is putting herself in the jaws of death without success. This last panel is an all too real scene and there is nothing humorous, evenly darkly humorous, about it.
But the PC folks are screaming because Harley is to be depicted naked in the scene. That’s wrong. It shows what’s wrong with comics and graphic novels and SF. It’s anti-woman and perpetuates all the bad things men think about us. Gah and gag and arrrrrrrgh.
No, as with refusing to let Batwoman marry her female partner, is goes against character and story arc. Harley is anything but normal. Just adding more electrical appliances about to drop into the water doesn’t make it fit her. So, nope, don’t buy it.
And that brings us to the true source for my irritation. Part of me wants to follow the example set by a friend when he commented about the article on Facebook. He didn’t link to the article because he refused to give the author any more PR than he’d already received. (Hat tip to Steve Simmons). However, to properly fisk the article, I have to link to it. Besides, there are some interesting comments — from both sides of the argument — following it.
So, here goes and you can blame Sarah for what happens next because she’s the one who inflicted this article on me in the first place.
Let be start by saying I was already in the mood to not like what I was about to read simply by looking at the headline: It’s time for science fiction to face up to discrimination
Followed immediately by: Why are most SF authors straight, white western men? Science fiction writers can’t ignore the diversity that exists on planet Earth
Basically, according to this author, science fiction is just too darned conventional, too darned white, too darned male and too darned heterosexual. Oh, there’s more, but I’ll let you read the post for yourself. It’s too darned early for me to go back to it and get upset all over again.
However, here’s my issue with the article. Well, my issues. First, the author states that the majority of sff authors are white males from the US and Great Britain. But what’s his source for this? We don’t know because he doesn’t say. As one FEMALE author pointed on in the comments, by SFWA count as well as by another survey, that gap between male and female authors in the genre isn’t much and I’d put to you that it is closing even as we speak.
But my issue goes beyond that. Everything this person decries as happening in SF/F is because of the editors and publishers. Authors have tried for years to write stories with persons of color and characters that might be gay or bi or whatever. Editors have rejected those stories, saying the public wouldn’t read them. Publishers refused to publish them or buried them by refusing to give the book any push. For years these same publishers demanded women write under pen names or use only their initials because the sf/f reading public wouldn’t read science fiction written by women.
BTW, that’s the same argument that’s been used when men have tried to sell romance books to publishers.
So if you are going to take anyone to task for not publishing books which meet the diversity of the world, look no further than those publishers and editors in their ivory towers in New York and London. These self-proclaimed liberals (in most cases) who have no problem telling their authors they need to write socially relevant books decrying big business, the military and pushing global warming and socialistic policies. Ask yourself why these so-called enlightened editors and publishers weren’t pushing their authors to write novels with these more diverse characters in them.
Oh, I can already hear that side of the argument saying it isn’t the fault of the editors and publishers any more than it is the fault of the authors. It’s the reading public’s fault because most readers of science fiction are pimply faced boys who also like to play video games like Grand Theft Auto (whichever the latest number is) and other video games where they can beat and rape women and kill persons of color for the hell of it. Give me a break. Those guys aren’t reading — at least not much — and if you want to reach other readers, you write books they want to read. End of story.
But if you buy into that argument, why aren’t you out there protesting a lot of the urban fantasy/paranormal romance genre with equal vigor? After all, the driving plot device in many of the books in those genres is sex, often non-consensual sex until the girl realizes that the hunky male creature of whatever flavor is her life mate. I guess the only reason those books aren’t condemned is because most of them are written by women. Funny, seems like a double standard to me.
Back to the article. Another problem I have with the basic premise of the article is that it demands we put today’s so0-called sensibilities and “diversity” into our stories about the future. Stories that might not take place on this planet and, even if they did, time and events have changed the way the world looks and people act. I would like to think that in a thousand years, we will have gotten past the issues that plague us today. Even if some of those same issues still exist — and religious conflict certainly may — most will not. We’ll have other things to worry about.
There’s something else to consider and I’ll go back to gaming for the example. Borderlands 2 from Gearbox has been out about a year now. It is an over the top science fiction action/shooter game set in what could be called a dystopian world. It garnered rave reviews when it was released.
And then, as people started playing through it, there came the naysayers. Why? Because of one character, one non-playable character. Suddenly there was a spate of posts calling the game racist because it had an over the top white, female character talking in what the detractors called a bad imitation of black slang. How dare Gearbox allow this. It was insensitive. It was racist.
It was a lot of bull.
And it is what I’ve seen happen in the science fiction community as well. All you have to do is go onto Facebook and see how some — and it is a very small minority — writers of color (as they call themselves) condemn any writer who doesn’t happen to fall into their group and who then tries to write a character of color. According to this small group, we can’t do it because we can’t identify with the generations of prejudice, etc., that they can. Funny, we can imagine what it is to be an alien from another planet or to live on a spaceship traveling across the cosmos but we can’t do the research and talk to our friends in order to get a handle on what a character of color might feel and do IN THE FUTURE.
So, for the author of the article saying we need to start showing the diversity of today’s world, I have one thing to say: that’s fine for stories set now and in the near future. For stories set in the distant future, the realities will be different and if we’ve done our world building right, we will have characters that are necessary for the story, no matter what their color, religion or sexual orientation. The key is to write a story that the readers will enjoy. Instead of telling the rest of us what needs to be done, perhaps the author should have taken the time necessary to write the article to do a little research and look at the number of female authors and authors of color there are in the genre. Compare it with a list from a hundred years ago and tell me things aren’t getting better.
If you think we need more diversity in SF/F, write it. Ask your publishers why they aren’t putting it out. If they won’t, then put it out yourself. Believe me, science fiction fans have reveled in the new selection offered by Amazon and Kobo, etc. As long as you write a good story, you can slip your message in. Just don’t make it a sermon.
In the meantime, look at your bookshelf. How many of your science fiction novels have female lead characters? Gay characters? Characters of color? How many were written by women? Now, how many of them are by a certain publisher that most of the “right thinking people” love to condemn because it is conservative and — gasp — pioneered e-books?
Now pardon me while I go look for the brain bleach to get the after-effects of that idiotic article out of my head.
(Note: I was away from the computer most of yesterday and didn’t see that Rowena’s post didn’t go live. So I’m putting it up now and will be back to put up my own post around noon CST — Amanda)
This weekend I’m at the crime writers convention in Melbourne. SheKilda. This is run by Sisters in Crime, the Australian branch of an international organisation. My para-crime (no sparkly vampires, I promise) is coming out next March with ClanDestine Press.
My short stories have covered near future sociological SF, through horror (now called Dark Fantasy), steampunk (before I knew it was called that) to fantasy. Funnily enough, I don’t write much fantasy in the short story form.
My published books adults have all been fantasy, until now. Not that I haven’t written other books. I have two SF novels based around mysteries.
In the past publishers tended to like you to write in the one genre so they could retain your readers. I don’t know why they thought readers only read in one genre, because from what I’ve heard people say, they read widely and will follow an author they like across different genres.
I’ve been doing a series of interviews with authors on my blog and many of them write across age groups and/or across genres, even across mediums. Rebecca Moesta has written across ages and genres and, with the publication of the comic, Grumpy old Monsters, across mediums. She says: ‘For a writer, there’s a exceptional joy that comes from seeing a story that I wrote come to life in illustrations.’
Sean Williams writes tie-in novels, like Rebecca, books for YA and adults, and across the fantasy and SF genres. When talking about writing for YA he says: ‘ I’ve written eight books for kids and four for young adults, and I’d have to say that I find the YA mindset much more difficult. I like to write characters who see the world through a fairly rational lens, and of course being a teenager isn’t really about being rational. That’s one of the reasons why it’s such a wonderful, terrifying time, and why it’s such a rich vein to mine, creatively speaking. I’m drawn to doing difficult things–each book is a new challenge–hence my focus on YA in my solo work at the moment.’
Tracey O’Hara‘s books are marketed as paranormal, but they contain a strong element of mystery/thriller. She says: ‘I loved the Arthur Upfield, Napoleon Bonaparte (Boney) books when I was a teenager and I’m a big Agatha Christy fan, however mainly the TV series and movies rather than the books which I sometimes find a bit tedious.’
And then there’s Trent Jamieson, who has a humourous dark fantasy in Death Works and is now releasing a steampunk duology The Nightbound Land. Trent would have to be the cross-genre king. His short stories are particularly hard to define. He’s won both the SF and YA sections of the Aurealis Awards and been nominated in the fantasy section (often for the same story). He says: ‘I like to mess around in various genres. Believe it or not, my first published works were nonsense poems. But I don’t set out to write in a specific genre. Stories start as either a particular image, or a weird sentence or even a beat, I just follow the pulse to end.’
I’m happy to see my para-crime finally reach and audience. Like the authors mentioned, the story takes me and I just have to write it. I find it is the themes that can be similar across different genres, some genres give a writer more freedom than others. Some have great tropes and toys to play with that might suit a particular idea. Who doesn’t like a steamship dirigible!
Do you write across genres? What draws you to other genres?