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Topic: 2013 SF Challenge /DISCUSS /Oct-Nov-Dec

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Subject: 2013 SF Challenge /DISCUSS /Oct-Nov-Dec
Date Posted: 10/1/2013 1:37 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
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The 4th quarter is here, so I thought I might start up a fresh discussion thread regarding our annual challenge.  If you are new to this, the explanation can be found on the 2013 SF Challenge /TRACK  thread.

How're you doing?  Problem areas?

Personally, I'm working on a set of expansions.  It looks like I am filling the "#1 Hard Science Fiction" and "#21 Work written by a Grand Master" expansions first (Who's surprised?)  My request is still out for recommendations for "#31 First novel of a female writer" expansion.  I've identified one of C.J.Cherryh's two "first" books (It's complicated) and a copy is on its way to me through PBS.  I could use more suggestions.

Date Posted: 10/3/2013 4:51 PM ET
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Home stretch, I guess?  

I think I have 7 books left -- Military, Alternate History, Time Travel, the 3 major award winners, and First landing on the moon or mars.

For alternate history, I really want to read The Plot Against America, which I think you recommended to me, Tom, during last year's challenge.

For time travel, I've got either the second in Kage Baker's Company series, or I can shuffle things around and read Calvino's Cosmonics - either of which sound good.

I've got a couple of possibilities lined up for most of the other categories but nothing that I'm absolutely dying to read right away. And nothing at all lined up for the Military category.  I'll be saving that one for last!

Considering I only saved up for half a challenge, I'm doing fantastic!

Date Posted: 10/3/2013 4:56 PM ET
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PS. Still can't think of any female author's first books for you.

Every author I can think of, either their first book was more fantasy-is than SF, or I think I've recalled you saying you'e read already.

I'll keep trying to think of something...

Brad -
Date Posted: 10/4/2013 1:57 PM ET
Member Since: 1/27/2009
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Doing fine.  It'll be close I think, but I'm guessing I'll just miss having the full "completed" this year; "completed" meaning books read in all categories but not necessarily finished (my criteria for "completed" is I need to have read around 100 pages or so).  To try and get the full completed, I may try and find works that qualify that are shorter (novellas, etc).

Currently reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jesimin.  Enjoying it thus far, I'm 100 pages in by coincidence.  Once I get futher into books, they tend to get boring to me, but so far this one hasn't.

I really want to get to The Passion of New Eve by Angela Carter, but I haven't found it in any other the southern MN libraries.

I'm pretty positive the very last category I'll read is the best of the year anthology, that just doesn't appeal to me.

 

Subject: It's November, do you know where your SF Challenge is?
Date Posted: 11/13/2013 8:23 PM ET
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You know, I really enjoy the expansion phases of the challenges we've had.  I find it interesting not only to read the books, but to compare/contrast a few that fall together into a category.  I've finished the hard sf expansion right off, no surprise there.  I'm pretty well boxed in on the nebula winners expansion - the planned list includes the only two winners I've not previously read.  For the grand master expansion, I've found that I can shuffle in already-read challenge books, and re-open the original categories.  But the first novel by a female writer has got me researching and bookhunting.  So far, I've identified three of them - the first novels by Catherine Asaro, C.J.Cherryh, and Ursula LeGuin.  None of them are the authors' more well-known novels.  Here's my review of one of them...

BROTHERS OF EARTH, by C. J. Cherryh, 1976 ***

This was C.J.Cherryh's first novel written, although the publisher decided to release her second novel written to the market first. It is considered part of her Alliance/Union universe, but I think that was a later positioning as it does not really relate in an important way to the main body of her work.

This was a quick read, with fairly simple plot and characters, reminiscent to some extent of Andre Norton. The main character is the sole survivor of a space battle, who crashes onto a planet with variously regressed human and human-derived populations. The society he is inserted into is feudalistic and extremely bound by codes of honor. It is an engaging story, but without any of the speculative psychology of Cherryh's later characters.

Stylistically, I was momentarily tripped up by important plot developments that took place off-camera, so to speak. But it is easy to figure out what has happened, and it contributes to the impression of the planetary culture where so much goes unspoken.  It was fun to see the beginnings of C.J.Cherryh's writing.

Subject: Where's my challenge? More or less the same spot it was last month.
Date Posted: 11/13/2013 9:30 PM ET
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I'm kind of stalled on my challenge at the moment. I've got books on my TBR for the remaining 6 categories, but I'm not terribly interested in reading them right now.

I've shuffled things around to make room for Italo Calvino's Cosmocomics - which I kind of feel guilty about since it's more fantasy-ish than sci fi, but I suppose it technically fits.  It was excellent!  Lots of very short humerus stories all centered around how the cosmos was formed.

I read J.G. Ballard's Drowned World which is a post-apocalyptic novel that really reminded me of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.  Unfortunately, I don't have any place to put it.

Let's see... I also read William Shakespeare's Star Wars, which is hilarious, but again, it doesn't fit any of my open categories.

Subject: The Drowned World
Date Posted: 11/14/2013 2:40 PM ET
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Melanti - The Drowned World happens to be one of the remaining books on my tbr shelf right now.  I could probably pull it into my challenge, by shuffling an Andre Norton novel to GrandMaster, creating an opening in Science Fantasy.  Apparently The Drowned World starts like hard-sf, but diverges from realism, which is one of the patterns of Science Fantasy.  What do you think?  Did you like the book?  

Date Posted: 11/14/2013 3:36 PM ET
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It really reminded me of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (the inspiration for the movie Apocolypse Now).  If you liked that book, you'll probably like Drowned World.

I wouldn't really call it hard SF, even at the beginning, but I'm not sure it ever crosses over into fantasy territory.  It does diverge from realism a bit, but IMO more because the characters are hallucinating than because anything unreal is truly going on.  I guess it would depend on whether or not you accept the author's explanation of events.

Basically, the premise is that being in the extreme heat/humidity of the flooded and tropical London has triggered some devolution, at least in mental state of mind, of some people who spend too long there.  The devolution is mostly strange dreams, a stupor like state, irrationality, not wanting to leave the jungle and go back where it's civilized/cool.    Personally, I think a bad case of heat exhaustion is a whole lot more likely than the author's explanation of tapping into the collective unconscious, but hey, I'm just a reader.

I wasn't a huge fan.  It has some problems with racism and bad science.  Nothing unforgivable, but annoying.  Here's my review



Last Edited on: 11/14/13 3:40 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Brad -
Date Posted: 11/15/2013 9:18 AM ET
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I've had the Drowned World on my list for a while.

Funny it's being mentioned, since I'm currently reading Flood by Stephen Baxter.  I'm about 370 pages in, with 100 left.  I'm kind of surprised that I'm going to finish it, because books that long I almost never finish.

It's a good book.  Basically it's simlar to the Noah's Ark scenario; not exactly what science would say is possible, but the world is covered by water.  There's actually arks in it, three of them, but the books isn't talking about religion much and the arks are more just for how do we cope in this situation thing.



Last Edited on: 11/15/13 5:17 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: The Drowned World
Date Posted: 11/16/2013 2:36 PM ET
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Well, that settles it.  I just finished Zoe's Tale, and The Drowned World is going to be my next read.  I haven't read Heart of Darkness, but I have read Flood.  It will be interesting to see if there is any connection between The Drowned World and Flood.  As for the challenge, I'll do the Science Fantasy shuffle I mentioned above.  Seems a little iffy, but I am willing to err on the side of inclusion on these categories.

Brad - Is your taste in SF changing?  I would not have expected you to go for Flood.  I had read it for a hard-sf group, and in that context I took a close look at the plausibility of the science.  There just isn't enough water on the Earth, even in the mantle, to do what is described in this book.  But still, it does start with a good hook, and maintain a gripping plot.  If you noticed a rocket taking off from Colorado at one point in the background of the story, and wondered about it, then you might be interested in the sequel Ark.  It is a parallel story with a significant amount of plot spent on board.



Last Edited on: 11/16/13 6:13 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Brad -
Date Posted: 11/16/2013 8:05 PM ET
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Brad - Is your taste in SF changing?  I would not have expected you to go for Flood.  I had read it for a hard-sf group, and in that context I took a close look at the plausibility of the science.  There just isn't enough water on the Earth, even in the mantle, to do what is described in this book.  But still, it does start with a good hook, and maintain a gripping plot.  If you noticed a rocket taking off from Colorado at one point in the background of the story, and wondered about it, then you might be interested in the sequel Ark.  It is a parallel story with a significant amount of plot spent on board.

Err.  Yes and no?  Maybe?  It doesn't seem that Flood would be hard SF to me.  Maybe I don't understand what Hard SF means, but I think of Hard SF being full of science terminology that I don't understand which Flood certainly isn't.  I think of books like Charles Stross' Saturns Children as being Hard SF.  Like the book describing in great detail the science behind the technology.

Why I mentioned the Noah Flood thing is that lately I've been looking at the science when it comes to Christianity, which as far as I can tell there's not much that makes sense as far as being what we know of the world (great flood, knowing Jesus existed, etc).  There's been a lot of YouTube videos that I've really found intersting that have given me a lot to think about.

 

 

 

Subject: The Drowned World
Date Posted: 11/18/2013 9:47 PM ET
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So, I finally had a chance to read J.G. Ballard's New Wave classic The Drowned World. I think it suffers from the imprint of its era - cigarettes, booze, loose women, and a hero who bears the crushing burden of a psychoanalytic stress. Still, the physical descriptions of the fantastic world of post-civilized and rotting London drowned in rising waters, and filled with rapidly devolving flora and fauna captured my imagination. He makes some attempt to rationalize what has happened to the Earth through solar flares and melting ice caps - but the internal landscape of the main character soon dominates, even while the external world makes very little sense. However original this was in 1962, the style has become predictable and a little pretentious.

I'm sure Stephen Baxter knew of The Drowned World when he wrote Flood, but the books don't really have much to do with each other.

As for racism, I know it's more about impact than intent.  But I felt that Strangman's crew was intended more as a reference to Caribbean pirates than blacks per se.  I'm not sure what Caribbean pirates are doing in submerged 22nd century Europe, but then not much in the book makes actual rational sense.  Along the same lines, the character of Beatrice is overtly stereotyped if taken at face value.  I think she is intended more as a focus for some vestiges of Keran's diminished relationship with modern reality, than as a character.  By the end, she has lost even that meaning to him.

My hardcover also includes J.G. Ballard's The Wind From Nowhere, so I guess I will also be reading his first published novel soon.



Last Edited on: 11/19/13 8:26 AM ET - Total times edited: 6
Subject: Samuel R. Delany
Date Posted: 12/11/2013 9:08 PM ET
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The SFFWA has named Samuel R. Delany as the recipient of the 2013 Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award.  I read his Babel-17 a few weeks ago in category #11 Nebula Award, but now it would also be eligible for category #21 Grand Master.  It was a good book, I thought.  Here's my blurb...

Babel-17, by Samuel R. Delany (1965) ****

In spite of the fact that it has been 40 years since I last read this, I recalled it fairly clearly. I was at that time a college freshman, and I have to admit that Delany's writing style blew past me. I was reading at a fairly literal level, having been taught by my high school English classes about "Symbolism" as if interpretation was a matter of clear algebraic substitution. This time, I saw several levels of meaning, sometimes directly referenced (I/Thou dichotomy) and sometimes obliquely (an altered racial landscape of humanity).

On the other hand, while I found the idea that any particular language enforces conformity to its particular world view to be well developed and perceptive, Delany's notions about computers are humorously primitive. (Like destroying a computer by feeding it a word-play paradox). Ironically, this is probably rooted in the language we use to describe language. Computer language and human language are two different concepts for which we use the same word.

-Tom Hl.

Brad -
Date Posted: 12/12/2013 12:46 PM ET
Member Since: 1/27/2009
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For the first time I will call my Challenge "completed".  yes

Just finished Year's Best SF 17, really enjoyed Thick Water by Karen Heuler.

Before that I finished The Road by Cormac McCarthy, which I found kind of dull, which is too bad considering how people have said it's so grea..

# of double-counts: 4 (counting as 8).

# of re-reads: 4

Total books read:  36 (obviously not counting read books not counted for challenge)

 

 



Last Edited on: 12/12/13 12:47 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/14/2013 12:43 PM ET
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Brad - I read The Road too and didn't like it either.  

I know at least a portion of its fans come from non-sci-fi readers - which might help a bit since they'd have less experience with post-apocalyptic fiction in general. 

I have no clue why some authors think leaving out apostophies and quotation marks is a "literary" thing to do... Seems very silly to me!

 

Subject: Ain't gonna make it
Date Posted: 12/16/2013 2:06 AM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
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Once again I've lost my "challenge" focus.

I attempted Shaman by KS Robinson and Pirate Cinema by Doctorow.  The library only had these titles as audio books. My mind kept wandering off.  I think I need the act of actually reading.  That Shaman was good though, I always wondered what to call duff (the dry stuff that catches sparks to start a fire).  I'm gonna hunt down hard copy and finish.

This year I put off reading my favorite authors.  Agggg.  Read a lot of Doctor Who.  Saw Ender's Game at the theatre, walked away sad.  Not at the movie.  Just remembered the book and decided not to finish it.  I know I know, lots and lots of people loved the book.  I'm not one of 'em.

I am currently reading The Master and Margarita on the recommendation of one of my husband's friends.  It's Russian, heavily censored, I think in the public domain, on the Locus Magazine Century Poll.  No awards, but Wikipedia had a big page on it and the book was chosen as Le Monde's 100 best books of the century (French).  So that's kinda a foreign award.  Anyways, it only cost a buck fifty on the Kindle.  Just make sure you get the uncensored version and be prepared for wonky formatting issues.

Got several books in my que to read as they came off library holds all at once.  I am enjoying Love Minus Eighty, got 10 more days to read it.

Almost forgot, read the last Diving Universe novel, (can't remember the name); Rusch had published several related stories in SF mags and on-line and this last book brings it together.  This is one of my fav series.

Looking forward to 2014.

 

 

 

 



Last Edited on: 12/16/13 2:22 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: Shaman
Date Posted: 12/19/2013 10:23 AM ET
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Yay!!  Shaman is a Thursday daily deal on Kindle.  Got it for three bucks.

Brad -
Date Posted: 12/19/2013 10:52 AM ET
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Melanti - I saw over on Goodreads you were talking about Fractured Fair Tales.  I really liked the musical Into the Woods.  I hadn't thought of looking at books.  Can you recommend any?

Tom - I got a Goodreads friend request.  Was that you?

Date Posted: 12/19/2013 12:02 PM ET
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Brad, I don't have a separate Goodreads shelf for fractured fairy tales, though I do have one for fairy tales in general. 

I really enjoyed the one I just finished: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. (Which was the whole reason I mentioned fractured fairy tales in the first place...)  

Angela carter's The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories or the omnibus that includes it (Burning Your Boats: Collected Stories) is fantastic, and while not all the stories are fractured, the vast majority of them are at least twisted in some way.  She's sort of regarded as the grandmother of the modern fairy tale retelling movement.

Let's see.. What about a dark version of Peter Pan?  The Child Thief by Brom

Most of the other books I'd consider "fractured" I don't think I'd want to recommend without knowing your tastes a lot better.  (A lot of fairy tale retellings tend to be geared towards a female audience, a younger audience or both...) 

One more I might suggest would be Catherynne M. Valente's novella Silently and Very Fast -- which is technically Sci-Fi though it reads a lot like a fantasy book.  You can read it online for free here.  Valente's sort of an acquired taste, but I love her work.

Brad -
Date Posted: 12/19/2013 1:11 PM ET
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I'll look into those.  I've had Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making on my to-read list for a while, so maybe that's where I start (likely wait until new year and see if I can fit one or more of these into the SF Challenge).

If something is geared towards a female audience, I'll still try reading it and see if I like it.

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Date Posted: 12/19/2013 2:49 PM ET
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deleted



Last Edited on: 2/11/15 1:07 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Brad -
Date Posted: 12/19/2013 3:14 PM ET
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That's what I though.

**Slaps my head**..... just noticed you have the same exact profile image, I should have noticed that.

Approved.

I've definitely had categories either this year or in the past where putting it in a certain category was kind of a stretch.

Date Posted: 12/19/2013 3:17 PM ET
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Tom - I did that to myself too, for the Fantasy challenge this year.  For some reason I thought it'd be a good rule to say you couldn't use more than one book for a series on a particular task.  It's been a lot more frustrating than I thought it was going to be!  I dropped that rule for this year's challenge

 

Brad -
Date Posted: 12/20/2013 1:32 PM ET
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Melanti - Come to think of it a friend of mine was telling me about Tom Holt, who it looks like some of his works may be fractured fairy tales.

Date Posted: 12/20/2013 2:14 PM ET
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I haven't read anything by him but they definitely look like they fit!

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