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Topic: 2Q 2012 SF Challenge "Firsts" /DISCUSS

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Subject: 2Q 2012 SF Challenge "Firsts" /DISCUSS
Date Posted: 3/17/2012 2:59 PM ET
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Welcome to the 2012 SF Challenge for the second quarter of 2012, which runs from April 1, 2012 through June 30, 2012. 

The topical theme of this challenge ( Firsts - ten categories of author's first works, and other things playing off the word "first" ), as well as the ten categories within it, were chosen through a group-consensus process of voting on this forum.  If you are interested in that process, see the Let's Choose Topic thread and the Let's Choose Categories thread.  The process for selecting the third quarter challenge will begin approximately June 1, 2012, on a new thread.

The challenge is to read one book in each of the ten categories within the quarter.   To participate, create a tracking post according to instructions on the /TRACK thread.  If you have questions about the challenge, or want to discuss the challenge or books to fill the categories, then post here.



Last Edited on: 4/1/12 8:26 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Subject: question
Date Posted: 3/17/2012 11:15 PM ET
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When you say Last novel of a writer does that mean the most recently published book, or the author is dead and this was his last publication?

Date Posted: 3/18/2012 12:17 AM ET
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I interpreted it to mean the last novel any writer had published.  So it could mean both.

Date Posted: 3/18/2012 8:28 AM ET
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Hmm.  Interesting.  I was thinking of the last novel of writer who had died - such as Fledgling by Octavia Butler - but I can see that it could also mean most recent novel of a living writer.   Since it is a bonus category, you can use whichever definition you like. 



Last Edited on: 3/18/12 8:29 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/22/2012 6:48 PM ET
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Question: Can I count first solo novel? So, for instance, Brenda Cooper's first novel was The Silver Ship and the Sea. . . but before that she was co-author of Building Harlequin's Moon with Larry Niven. Thoughts?

Subject: writer combos
Date Posted: 3/23/2012 7:58 AM ET
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You guys just keep coming up with these dilemmas! (1) We can think of each writer combination as a "writer". In other words, there is a first Niven book, a first Niven/Cooper book, and a first Cooper book. But while the first Niven book is a first book by a male writer, and the first Cooper book is a first book by a female writer, the first Niven/Cooper book could not be counted in either of those categories. (2) The alternative, to consider only the first appearance of a writer in any combination of writers, would probably also be workable. The wierdness in that case, would be that it is possible for some book to be counted both as first book by a male writer and first book by a female writer. I think I personally prefer Option 1, because it makes more books eligible for the challenge. So my short answer would be yes, Brenda Cooper's first solo novel can be counted as a first novel. If anyone feels strongly the other way, you can choose Option 2 for yourself, so long as you remain consistent with it in all your categories.

Last Edited on: 3/23/12 8:13 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 3/23/2012 10:26 AM ET
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PhoenixFalls,

I saw you put Agent of Change on your list for "First in a series".  I would recommend that you start off with Conflict of Honors.  Much of what I like about the Liaden series is the interplay between the Terran culture and the Liaden culture and the workings of the clan structure.  In my opinion, Agent of Change just doesn't explain the Liaden culture very well and what it does explain, it doesn't until rather far into the book so you'll miss a lot of little things in the beginning by reading Agent of Change first.  It's still readable and understandable but I think it's more enjoyable to read Conflict of Honors first.

Conflict of Honor takes place a little before Agent of Change chronologically and other than brief mentions of the characters in the other book, there's no overlap on characters or plot.

You could also start off with Local Custom, which could be called the first of the series in chronological order (it's about Shan's parents), but it's a much more recent book so it might be a bit weird.  They started doing more with the psychic powers as they wrote, so there's a significant difference in styles between the original books and the recently written ones.

Edited to add:  I might be biased since Conflict of Honors was one of my favorite books when I was a teen and I didn't read Agent of Change until a couple years later.



Last Edited on: 3/23/12 10:57 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/23/2012 7:14 PM ET
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Tom -- Thanks. I was hoping you'd come down on the side of what you called option 1. ;)

Melanti -- Harrumph. Be difficult like that. I thought most people agreed on publication order for Liaden! I swear I researched this! ;p

And there doesn't seem to be any way to view Conflict of Honors as a "First" book!!!

That said, I'm pretty sure I'm going to read Agent of Change first just because I have to take series in some kind of order, and it seemed like nobody really recommended going by internal chronology. But Conflict of Honors comes second by publication order, so I'll make sure to read it before writing off the series if I don't like Agent of Change. (I already own both, so that's an easy promise to make, lol!)

Date Posted: 3/23/2012 9:56 PM ET
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I live to be difficult.  I would recommend publication order too, other than the exception I mentioned, but it's still understandable with Agent of Change first.  And yes, please give Conflict of Honors a chance even if you don't like Agent of ChangeAgent is action oriented (albeit with a large romantic sideplot) whereas Conflict of Honors is more of a traditional romance and very minimal action.  It's the more Heyer-esque of the two.



Last Edited on: 3/23/12 9:57 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/24/2012 12:21 AM ET
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Oooo, Heyer-esque. . . always a plus. I was reading the Liaden books because Vorkosigan fans and Liaden fans overlap so much, so it makes sense that you'd describe them in relation to Heyer. . . but it's always nice to get confirmation. ;)

Date Posted: 3/24/2012 11:12 AM ET
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Just don't expect them to  be just like the Vorkosigan series.  They're both heavily influenced by Heyer, just in different ways.  Vorkosigan is definitely the better of the two series, but that doesn't mean I can't like the Liaden series too.

Date Posted: 3/25/2012 1:27 PM ET
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I think I'm going to pass on this quarter of the challenge. 

Subject: And they're off...
Date Posted: 4/1/2012 8:35 PM ET
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I'm starting the 2Q challenge with Arthur C. Clarke's first novel The Sands Of Mars.  It was the March Hard-SF of the month, but I postponed reading it to now, knowing there was a First Novel by a British Writer category.  It's a 40 years ago re-read for me, so that could be interesting.

I've picked five books from my TBR shelf (and probably can find more), and ordered one Eschbach I've been interested in.  I've left a few open for now to see if you guys come up with something I would match you on.

What're your plans?

-Tom Hl.



Last Edited on: 4/1/12 8:37 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 4/2/2012 12:18 AM ET
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I'm planning to (hopefully) read Courtship Rite, by Donald Kingsbury, and Warchild, by Karin Lowachee this month. Courtship Rite won the Compton Crook Award, and it won it in the first year that award was given, so I have two options for it; Warchild fits first novel by a woman and first novel in a series.

I assume you've read Courtship Rite at some point, given its age. . . any non-spoilery thoughts on it? 

Date Posted: 4/2/2012 3:15 AM ET
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I read Courtship Rite in high school when it first came out in 82 and a couple of times since then.  It's difficult to talk about without mentioning a number of spoilers.  The world building is fascinating and complex but keeping track of some of the characters was a bit of chore for me the first time around, a bit like the Dune series.  It causes one to rethink what morality means and if we ever have a challenge category for social darwinism, this will top the list.  I like this book and I'm disturbed by it.

Subject: Question - need a ruling
Date Posted: 4/3/2012 7:29 PM ET
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Lev Grossman won the John Campbell Award for best new writer in 2011.  (The link goes to the NEW WRITER award.)  Does that mean I can use any of his books?  Cause the book I'm reading is his third book.  (But it was published in 2011.)  I already read his first book a month ago.



Last Edited on: 4/3/12 7:33 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 4/3/2012 10:15 PM ET
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It seems so weird to see a "best new writer" award go to someone who wrote his first novel fifteen years ago.  But by the rules of that award he still qualifies.

If you're reading his new one, you're actually reading his fourth.  From what I understand, his first was such a huge flop that no one talks about it.

Subject: Warp: A Novel
Date Posted: 4/4/2012 11:39 AM ET
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Huh, didn't see this on Amazon until I looked under his name.  Reviews are bad.  Looks like the book's theme is repeated in The Magicians but better executed.  Don't think I want to read this "first."

Date Posted: 4/4/2012 1:57 PM ET
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@PhoenixFalls - I'm not sure who you were asking, but I have not read Courtship Rite.  TheRevMrs has read it and advised me that probably I wouldn't like it; not sure why.  I read the synopsis, and it seems to have things like "priest-clans" and "sacred plants"; so she might be right - that sort of thing always reminds me of old Dr. Who episodes.  But I could be totally wrong; looking forward to reading reviews.

@Zylyn - I take the category to include the "John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer", since the other Campbell is a best novel of the year sort of award - so I think any book by any of the Best New Writers would qualify.

@anyone - I'll be reading Revelation Space soon, for first book of a series.  Can it stand alone, or do I need to start acquiring the subsequent titles?

-Tom Hl.



Last Edited on: 4/4/12 7:23 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 4/4/2012 3:08 PM ET
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Re: Revelation Space

When I read it, I felt like it didn't really stand alone. . . there's some pretty big "to be continued" stuff in it. But then when I read the second book, it was in a different part of the galaxy, with a lot of different characters, a chunk of time later. So. . . it doesn't satisfy standing alone, but it also doesn't necessarily satisfy if you get the other books? :)

Subject: Revelation Space
Date Posted: 4/4/2012 6:28 PM ET
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I felt like it stood alone.  I thought all his books were stand alone, albeit in the same galaxy.  Lots of time, lots of galaxy.  Kind of the same way Larry Niven's Known Space or Iain Banks Culture series was stand alone.  But that's space opera for you....

Subject: #1 First novel of a British writer
Date Posted: 4/5/2012 1:43 PM ET
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The Sands of Mars (1951), by Arthur C. Clarke - finished 4/4/12 ****

I last read this 39 years ago, as a freshman in college. It's hard to believe this novel was approximately 20 years old then, and approximately 60 years old now. I re-read it now because it was the yahoogroups Hard-SF book of the month for March 2012, and in order to count it in the paperbackswap 2Q2012 SF Challenge as a first novel of a British writer. This could be considered a precursor, set in the same universe, as Clarke's Space Odyssey books.

I'm afraid I remembered next to nothing about the novel from my first read. I enjoyed it more than I was expecting, but probably mostly those were feelings of nostalgia for a past era of science fiction. At this point, even though Clarke aimed for a scientifically accurate description of Mars, distancing himself from the misconceptions of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom, his descriptions seem quaintly optimistic with regards to life on Mars and the Moon.

Some aspects of this novel are probably auto-biographical. The one well-developed main character - a science fiction writer - had a single traumatic female relationship in his past. Two years later Clarke himself had a brief and failed marriage. Given what is generally suspected about Arthur C. Clarke's private life, there seems to be a lot left unsaid in this writing. I also noticed that the colonists of Mars included few or no women whose purpose was other than to be the wives and families of the men. This is so unlike the contemporary science fiction vision of Mars colonization, more like a large military base. It could be Clarke's own military background, or possibly an indication of an over-idealized and unrealistic understanding of women.

I thought the book was well written for its time, but expect it to be of limited appeal now in the 21st century. 

-Tom Hl.

Date Posted: 4/5/2012 2:30 PM ET
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Is there any unofficial limit to how significant the award has to be for the "first year of an award" category?  I would like to read Stewart's The Earth Abides eventuallyIt won in the first year of the International Fantasy Award which is an obscure award that only lasted a handful of years. 

Date Posted: 4/16/2012 1:19 PM ET
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@Melanti - first year of *any* SF Award.

@PhoenixFalls - Regarding Revelation Space, when you say you read the second book, do you mean Redemption Ark or Chasm City

-Tom Hl.



Last Edited on: 4/16/12 1:46 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 4/24/2012 12:46 PM ET
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George R. Stewart's The Earth Abides was excellent.

It was one of the first post WWII era apocalyptic novels, and the first (according to Connie Willis) true disaster novels where the disaster is as important as the characters living through it.  A plague wipes out the vast majority of mankind, and the book takes an observer's role - showing how ecology would be affected, the cities would decompose/degrade, and how communities would begin to reform.  The first third of the book, Ish travels across the US, witnessing the various landscapes then fast-forwarding decades to imagine how it'll look in the future, and then the second half he returns to California and reforms a community -- again, fast-forwarding a couple of decades every now and again so we can see how things develop over multiple generations.

It's sort of drifting and mostly plotless, but since one of the themes is that nature really doesn't care one way or the other if humans exist, it works very well.

I also read Kurt Vonnegut's Timequake which was also drifting and mostly plotless, but in this case it didn't work for me.  It's a weird combination of an autobiography and a pseudo-auto-biography of his alternate ego.  There's lots of amusing one-liners and vignettes, but I like having a plot to go with my satire and neither “I’m old, so my career is over” and “there’s no such thing as free will” was enough of a plot for me.

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