Favorite SF Books

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ED: Here’s an old draft that I published elsewhere. Stuff is busy today, so I’m bailing on blog posts that are actual work.

There’s supposed to be a short snippet at the OWG about your favorite SF novel. I can’t do it. I just can’t. 50 words about a single title is just too confining.

I guess I will have to settle with which changed me the most in a lasting way. With this, I have narrowed it down to three.  They are… Fairy Land, The Diamond Age, and A Brave New World.   Fairy Land is a book I read in 2001. It broke my head.  Beautifully written, a compelling story with a gut wrenching twist at the end. The style is reminiscent of “When Gravity Fails” except the world is even more layered vivid and intense.

The Diamond Age is a wonderful character driven story that happens to be about how people socialize and learn.  Expect the usual zany Stephensonian world features, and the death of cyberpunk.  But, it was a good death.

I don’t even have to write about A Brave New World. So I won’t.

Woah, wait! That’s not fun!  We can’t have what’s good for you be The Best Science Fiction ever.  It’s about which was the most exciting and engrossing SF, right? I guess I could come up with three.  Fun is a big category, and it’s hard to measure, let alone rank.  Those are– man, do I have to choose?  There are a fist full of Bujold, so I will arbitrarily pick Brothers in Arms.  Weber gave us Honor Harrington– we’re up in the 20-30 range? Pick one. Take two, they are that good.

I’m also partial to Cherryh, from The Pride of Chanur to The Foreigner series.  One of my favorite Elizabeth Moon SF stories is “Remnant Population”.  Then there’s Sarah Hoyt.  Her short stories are overlooked, but let’s make our life simpler and stick to novels.  What, you mean I have to pick… one?!

Oh, no, it’s about mind altering worlds and strange concepts and the wonder in the universe. So Count to A Trillion by John C Wright tops that list.

Should it be all dancing about architecture? well, maybe not. We are storytelling about science. Science in real life is filled with great stories, many of whom are never told.  This is why the System of the World trilogy is technically science fiction. Even if its’ also historical fiction,and a swashbuckling epic romp through at least eight novels woven together into three great ox stunning books.

So… you see the problem?  Wait… this is a PROBLEM?!

The War on Fandom– By Fandom

The War on Fandom– By Fandom

Comikaze_Expo_2011_-_Cyberman_from_Doctor_Who_(6324615505)

By The Conmunity – Pop Culture Geek from Los Angeles, CA, USA (Comikaze Expo 2011 – Cyberman from Doctor Who) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This.

Background here. And this. And this. And this.

Sigh. What happened to that happy amoeba of “we all share our weirdness together”?

I matriculated in the fan culture that built fan run conventions. Yes, I’m talking about cons like Worldcon. Working from the inside, the original culture of fandom was inclusive, welcoming– a veritable melting pot of shared love of our various obsessions. There are many obsessions, but these are mine! See, this is how I enjoy them and we can be our geeky awkward selves in a shared space! For a time, those values overtook barriers of politics, false identity and economic differences and put all that BS aside to have a special place. Then, somewhere along the line, fandom got… popular.

We weren’t really sure what to do about it.

Since then, some values from the outside our ranks have gotten their way in.

They say sinister things, like:

  • Some fans are more fannish than others. They don’t belong among us.
  • You aren’t safe here. We’ll make separate, safe spaces under our broad tent, so you will not be harmed/tainted by these other nobs.
  • You aren’t really inclusive if you don’t specifically check all the check-boxes we say you need to check.

 

All of this boils down to one toxic message:

People who are different from each other cannot hope to get along. Strangers will attack you. Separate into your comfort zones and be safe.

Let me give some people who claim to be our leading lights some insight.

THESE ARE NOT THE VALUES THAT DIY FANDOM STARTED WITH. If they were, mass fandom would not exist.

Why?

First: you live or die by how many people you could entice into the community.  These awesome cons cannot survive without attendees– and fresh blood.  And while families do come to cons, there aren’t enough to support us– or replace us.

Well, if we really believed the new school, why would be bother creating big diverse organizations to begin with? Who would bother to attend conventions in hotels surrounded by people? We’d invite those safe people to our homes, and tell the rest of the universe to go hang. We would be content with local clubs. Under circumstances like these, who would bother inventing WORLD CON?

Why do I go to conventions? I go to MEET OTHER FANS. I could care less what the vast majority of these media conglomerates want to sell me. If I want to buy something? I will go and find that thing on the internet. I don’t need to stand in line for hours for a brief glimpse of some movie star I’m in love with. I can write fan fic in the privacy of my own basement.

Honestly, it is the characters I care about, full stop. The actor wears the visage for a brief shining moment (he or she calls it work) and shares himself with that character so we may all love him. This is awesome, but not my area of interest.

The second thing I want, is meet the minds who came up with these characters, and script their lives. I’d like to buy them a drink (doesn’t even have to be alcoholic) and have a social chat with them. That is why I chose to join fannish society– and that is why I still love the idea of Worldcon.

Maybe DIY fandom can’t scale the way Media West and Dragon Con can. You know what? Unequal numbers don’t bother me. Local smaller groups just makes it easier to find time to spend with the folks who socialize in consuite. I’ve talked to some incredibly famous writers– including Terry Pratchett even a hand full of movie stars. I have truly been blessed to be part of Fandom. And my old stomping ground convention wasn’t even that big, or that rich. We just had a good culture that ran a reliable con, so we got some big names for treating everybody well.

But if the big tent is divided into ever smaller warring factions– all these cool things won’t even be possible.

What bothers me is that these apparent leading lights of DIY fandom have forgotten their roots, their purpose– and that is a threat to ALL fandom. Because, once we forget our roots, we forget who we are, period.

This divide and conquer strategy is lethal. Because sooner or later, folks will realize they don’t have the money to be a part of this global social club where they only meet the people they are comfortable with. Why can’t they just meet those safe approved people somewhere cheaper? Aren’t there a hundred different ways to have a private safe gathering that exclude people we don’t like? Suddenly, you don’t need a con anymore.

Because, surprise, the con is SUPPOSED TO BE THE SAFE PLACE FOR ALL OF US. Not just the special ones, but everybody.

Take a risk and meet someone new.

Books coming up in the New Year

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Books in the New Year:

I’m afraid I took a look through my “accepted reading list” and some things fell of the back end of last year. Some of them I looked at long ago as early 2014.  Sadly that pushes back some things I said I’d get to early this year.  This is my only slightly arbitrary list for  first quarter 2015.

NOTE: I don’t have dates on most of these yet.  That’ll take another assessment and how quickly I get through each book, as well as just how much LTUE  will disrupt February.

Farm Hand (Second Week of January, most likely) As promised… here. 

Underlake Kia Heavey

Codename: Winterborn Declan Finn

Tears of Paradox by Daniella Bova

Sword and the Serpent by Taylor Marshall

I try to stick to indie authors, but for this I will make an exception–

The Many Deaths of Joe Buckley  by Assorted Baen Authors

If I have time before summer, I’ll squeeze in a few other titles.  The Eternity Symbiote,  and a special something I’ll save up for announcing a little later. 🙂

The Color of Fear and Loathing

This is just awesome.

Argonne National Laboratory and Idaho National Laboratory
-CC- Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

In high school I took a tour of a small nuclear reactor site. They had one of these pools, and the light coming out was this fantastic shade of impossible blue.  I had this amazing discussion with a physics teacher who wanted me in one of his classes. Alas, due to my learning disability, the school board blocked my entry into his class. After all, they couldn’t give a learning disabled kid a calculator.

(This has since changed, or so I hear… a year after I graduated. Oh, well.)

The top photo at the Wikipedia site (second link) comes *close-ish*(pictured- left) to that mutable shade of cyan, but the ripples of the water on the pool were differently shaded– green-blue, yellow-blue, colors I couldn’t name– and they changed depending on what angle you were staring at the thing.  If you transliterate the color to orange, it is how I imagine octarine.

It is a real shame that no photo I have ever seen seems to capture the effect properly.  I wonder if some real photographer (ie. not me)will ever be brave enough to try.  Or maybe they all know enough physics to know why it’s impossible to capture. 

The irony is, that the background radiation is so faint that you could take a walk in certain neighborhoods (especially ones with lots of slump block) and get more of it than where I was ever allowed to go.