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Topic: 2011 SF Challenge -- DECEMBER DISCUSSION THREAD

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Subject: 2011 SF Challenge -- DECEMBER DISCUSSION THREAD
Date Posted: 12/1/2010 2:04 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
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2011 SF Challenge -- LISTS ONLY THREAD

As we get started, some explanations of various categories are in order.

Part A: The subgenre definitions that should be followed are:

Biopunk: A work that portrays the underground side of the "biotech revolution." Usually explores the struggles of individuals or groups, often the product of human experimentation, against a backdrop of totalitarian governments or megacorporations which misuse biotechnologies as means of social control or profiteering. Examples include The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi and Octavia E. Butler's Xenogenesis trilogy.

Graphic Novel: A narrative work in which the story is conveyed to the reader using sequential art in either an experimental design or in a traditional comics format.

Meta-SF: A type of fiction that self-consciously addresses the devices of fiction, exposing the fictional illusion. Examples are Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren.

Mundane SF: A type of science fiction that focuses on stories set on or near the Earth, with a believable use of technology and science as it exists at the time the story is written. Generally, mundane SF novels will have no interstellar travel, alien races, or alternate universes. Some examples are Geoff Ryman's Air, or Have Not Have, Nicola Griffith's Slow River, and John Hersey's My Petition for More Space.

New Wave SF: A type of science fiction that is characterized by a high degree of experimentation, both in form and in content, and a highbrow and self-consciously "literary" or artistic sensibility. Some authors usually characterized as "New Wave" are John Brunner, M. John Harrison, and Roger Zelazny.

Pulp SF: Science fiction of the type published in the pulp magazines of the first half of the twentieth century. Some authors who wrote for the pulps are Edgar Rice Burroughs, Leigh Brackett, and Jack Williamson.

Second Contact SF: Science fiction novels where First Contact has already occurred before the start of the novel, but whose major concern is with developing real communication between humans and aliens. There is usually a focus on language and/or cultural expectations. Some examples are C.J. Cherryh's Foreigner series and Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead.

SF Comedy: Any science fiction novel that is primarily humorous in tone and usually includes puns and parodies of other works of science fiction. Examples include Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat series and Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series.

SF Mystery: Any science fiction novel that uses a mystery structure for its plot. Examples include Isaac Asimov's R. Daneel Olivaw/Elijah Bailey novels, The City & the City, by China Mieville, and almost all cyberpunk.

SF Romance: A science fiction novel that has a strong romantic subplot; usually the resolution of the romance is the true climax of the novel, even though there may be a political or adventure plot as well. Some examples are Sharon Shinn's Archangel series, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller's Liaden series, and Sandra McDonald's The Outback Stars.

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Part B: Some topic definitions that should be followed are:

Big Dumb Object: Any mysterious object (usually of extraterrestrial or unknown origin and immense power) in a story which generates an intense sense of wonder just by being there. Some examples are Michael Crichton's Sphere, Arthur C. Clarke's Space Odyssey series, and Carl Sagan's Contact.

Secret History: A revisionist interpretation of either real or known history which is claimed to have been deliberately suppressed, forgotten, or ignored by established scholars. Some examples are Kage Baker's first three Company novels and Octavia Butler's Wild Seed.

Singularity: A hypothetical event occurring when technological progress becomes so rapid that it makes the future after the singularity qualitatively different and harder to predict. Usually thought to occur with the technological creation of superintelligence, and therefor a post-singularity world would be unpredictable to humans due to an inability of human beings to imagine the intentions or capabilities of superintelligent entities. Some examples are Greg Bear's Blood Music, Vernor Vinge's Marooned in Realtime, and Charles Stross's Accelerando.

 

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Part C: Some places where you can find lists of the award winners are:

Arthur C. Clarke Award: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_C._Clarke_Award

BSFA Award: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BSFA_Award

Aurora Award: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurora_Award

Gaylactic Spectrum Award: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaylactic_Spectrum_Awards#List_of_winners

Lambda Literary Award: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lambda_Literary_Awards_winners_and_nominees_for_science_fiction,_fantasy_and_horror

Kurd Lasswitz Preis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurd-La%C3%9Fwitz-Preis

Prometheus Award: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus_Award

Seiun Award: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seiun_Award

Hugo Award: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_award_for_best_novel

Nebula Award: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebula_Award_for_Best_Novel

Banned Books list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most-commonly_challenged_books_in_the_United_States (note: there are longer lists, but this is a good place to start.)

1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list: http://www.listology.com/list/1001-books-you-must-read-you-die

The Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010: http://locusmag.com/Magazine/2011/Issue02_RecommendedReading.html

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Part D: Some explanations of the miscellaneous challenge categories:

Themed Anthology: Any anthology of short fiction created around a central theme. (This will be almost all anthologies, btw.) For example, the anthology Vanishing Acts is centered around the theme of endangered species; the yearly "Best SF of " anthology is themed around, well, the best SF of that year. :)

Fix-up Novel: A fix-up novel is a novel that the author put together by combining several of his/her (usually) previously published short stories, often with some kind of framing story and almost always featuring the same characters, or at least set in the same universe. Some very famous examples are The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury and Foundation, by Isaac Asimov.

Non-SF novel by a Genre Author: Just what it says. Find a science fiction author that has written something that can't, by any stretch of the imagination, be called science fiction. They will often do this under another name. For instance, Sheri S. Tepper writes mysteries under the names B. J. Oliphant & A. J. Orde.

Non-Fiction work related to the Genre: This is a really broad category. It can be interpreted fairly strictly by finding one of the works of literary criticism analyzing science fiction or by reading a biography of a science fiction author; it can be interpreted more broadly by reading a work of science, social science, history, psychology, etc. that explores a topic you've seen in science fiction novels. As long as you can make an argument that it applies, it applies. ;)



Last Edited on: 2/3/11 2:12 AM ET - Total times edited: 4
Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 12/1/2010 9:17 AM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
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Sweet!  Lots of new and good stuff to get to! 

Subject: discussion
Date Posted: 12/1/2010 11:25 AM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
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Wow, you put a lot of work into this.  I started to nit-pick the definitions then decided I needed to think it through.  This is gonna be a challenge alrighty.

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Expanded Challenge: Read one novel in all 35 categories in Parts A-D; expand one category in each Part to five novels, each from a different decade. A maximum of 6 titles may double-qualify. (Total of 45-51 titles)

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Awww man........  It's gonna be hard with the different decades thrown in there.....

I still got three books to go on the 2010 challenge.  Yay!



Last Edited on: 12/1/10 11:28 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/1/2010 12:27 PM ET
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Yeah, I made the biggest option REALLY hard. . . to try and stave off boredom for the one or two people that were done in JUNE last year. :D

If there are any definitions you think I got off just lemme know in the discussion thread. . . I'll *consider* amendments. ;)

Subject: translations
Date Posted: 12/1/2010 2:11 PM ET
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I don't suppose you know of a list containing translated to english versions originally published in Japanese/German award winners? -- No?  I didn't think so, but I had to ask.

The only Eschbach which was translated was The Carpet Makers and I've already read it.  I don't know a foreign language and I've never heard of these other authors.......

Anyone?  Feel free to give me recommendations........... but the book has to be in english. 

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 12/1/2010 2:21 PM ET
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I guess I could nitpick a little...I would argue that Robert Heinlein is not a pulp fiction author.  He was published in some of the pulp magazines, but he also emerged into the mainstream market and his novels became overall bestsellers, not just within the genre.

ETA - several of Herbert W. Francke's novels have been published in English, but I believe they all predate the awards.  I have one (The Orchid Cage from 1970, translated in 1973). 



Last Edited on: 12/1/10 2:24 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/1/2010 2:44 PM ET
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Alison -- Alas, no. I did a little searching but didn't come up with much. That was why I made the requirement that it be a German-language novel originally only the extra credit portion; I'm planning on reading one of the english-language books that won. (I read The Carpetmakers already too.)

Matt -- Yeah, I was a little iffy on Heinlein. . . he's listed on the Wikipedia pulp page, and I had the impression that his early stuff was early enough it was in the pulps, but I haven't actually read much by him so I didn't know for sure. Do you have another author to suggest to replace him in the examples?

Subject: I'm dizzy
Date Posted: 12/1/2010 2:57 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
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Matt:  Hey gotta be award winners, but I like that some of these authors were translated, 'cause what if we discover that the Japanese (German) author is good and then go and search out more books?  I suppose I could laboriously use an on-line translation program.......

I've been bouncing back and forth between wikopedia and the awards list just trying to find a translated copy of ANY German/Japanese sf book - nothing on Amazon yet......... 

I can't believe time travel isn't a category....... oh well. 

For consideration: authors never read before and 5 books from the same author. I'll probably just make these my own personal challenges for 2011. 

Date Posted: 12/1/2010 3:13 PM ET
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I can't believe time travel isn't a category....... oh well.

I decided not to repeat any categories from last year. But there *is* the secret history option, which some (maybe a lot of) time travel novels would fill. . . :)

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 12/1/2010 3:26 PM ET
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I'd consider the early work of Poul Anderson and Robert Silverberg to be pulp writing, as well as James Blish, Eric Frank Russell, Jack Williamson, A. Bertram Chandler, Frederik Pohl, Jack Vance, and Clifford D. Simak.  I'd even consider Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke to fit better than Heinlein, since they published far more in the magazines, but I guess it's not worth being picky.  The problem is, of course, that any of the authors that became really famous were because they managed to transcend the pulp market, so in that respect Heinlein does fit into the group.

Subject: TomHl's feedback
Date Posted: 12/1/2010 9:42 PM ET
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1. Eliminate double-counting.  I think it makes things unnecessarily complicated.

2. I would like to be able to count re-reads if it has been more than 25 years.  :)

3. Heinlein is golden age, but not pulp.  Jack Williamson is a better example.

4. Romance SF?  I think you must be trying to make me suffer.  In fact if you want to really see me in pain you could make it Christian Romance SF.

It looks really good.  I'm signed up.

 

-Tom Hl.

Date Posted: 12/2/2010 12:28 AM ET
Member Since: 12/14/2005
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What? No extra credit for reading Canadian books (Aurora Awards) originally written in French? Do we get double extra credit if we read it in the original language?

Romance SF? Misery loves company... ;)



Last Edited on: 12/2/10 12:31 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/2/2010 1:38 AM ET
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Now see, Tom, THIS is why I included things like the extra credit and double-counting. Because it allows you to cheat -- but only a little -- if there's really a category you hate with a passion. *I'm* not going to cheat if I can help it. . . but it is within the rules. ;)

And yeah, totally blanked on Jack Williamson. I've edited it to exchange his name for Heinlein's.

Jasmine -- D'oh! Lemme go back and add that. I made a mental note that reading the French-language winners of the Aurora award should count for extra credit, then forgot to include it. Thanks!

Date Posted: 12/2/2010 7:15 AM ET
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Well, sometimes I like a romantic storyline within SF, but if it is a stock romance novel just set in space or with implausible time travel, blech. I expect I can find something I like to fill the category though. Hey, I can't find any rule against counting re-reads this year. Is that intentional? -Tom Hl.
Date Posted: 12/2/2010 12:10 PM ET
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No. . . just forgot to put it up there. (Y'know, I figured everyone would know this year. . . *wink*) But 25 years seems a reasonable time limit, so you may reread something you haven't read in 25 years if you really want to. :)

Subject: re-reads
Date Posted: 12/2/2010 2:02 PM ET
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I estimate that I've read about 2000 sf titles in my life, including a large portion of the well-known ones.  Some categories can get more difficult if I exclude all those.  By reducing the black-out to the most recent 25 years, it puts about 1000 titles (all from before 1986) back on the eligible list.  So it matters quite a bit with regard to what I select to fill a category.

-Tom Hl.

Date Posted: 12/2/2010 9:40 PM ET
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To be perfectly honest, Foundation is technically a reread for me.  BUT keep in mind it was nearly 20 years ago, and I was about 12 at the time. Yeah. Something about psycho historians and a mule...?? ;)

Date Posted: 12/3/2010 9:56 PM ET
Member Since: 1/14/2009
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I failed miserably in the '10 challenge, but I'm ready to try again in '11!

 

Are you all interested in a new spreadsheet? I can pull one together if you are. But if it's redundant, I won't bother. Either way is fine with me. What say you all?

Date Posted: 12/3/2010 10:22 PM ET
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What's the spreadsheet for?  I've never done a challenge before, but want to try this one.  I'm about to go work on my list now.

Date Posted: 12/3/2010 10:46 PM ET
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The spreadsheet is just another way to track the books you've read or are planning to read, and you can refer to other people's lists too, if you need help filling a category. It's really just a different format of the Lists Thread that's also in this forum. You can see the spreadsheet we used for the 2010 challenge:

https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AhiNp0P5Ypp2dHpvMl9nZVNXLWZvT3hJdUw3a0pYd3c&hl=en#gid=3

I'll probably use the spreadsheet myself, but I won't post one with a link on Google docs if it's not needed by other people in the challenge.



Last Edited on: 12/4/10 12:25 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/4/2010 10:52 AM ET
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That sounds useful, and if you make one I'd like to see it.  I haven't filled all the categories yet, and the spreadsheet sounds like an easier way to look through what other people are reading.

Date Posted: 12/6/2010 9:09 PM ET
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Here's the basic format.

https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AhiNp0P5Ypp2dGtQTHhhMTQxNXBHQmNiZEVBOHZPN2c&hl=en&authkey=CPzFl9IH

 

Date Posted: 12/7/2010 12:53 AM ET
Member Since: 12/14/2005
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I populated one of the spreadsheet pages with books I've already read that fit the categories. I thought most of these were pretty good (enough to keep, which is saying a lot coming from me) except I'll warn you that Helliconia Spring was NOT as good as its premise. Amazon reviewers seem to agree. If you want to read that one, check it out from the library. 

Brad -
Date Posted: 12/8/2010 8:38 AM ET
Member Since: 1/27/2009
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What is the Challenge List thread about? 

Is it a running total of what you've completed?  So, are you editing your post when you've done something, rather than posting a new reply?

Date Posted: 12/8/2010 8:45 AM ET
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I thought the challenge list thread was for posting lists of what you plan to read.

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