When You’re Prepared to Give Up Name and Face

I’ve known for a very long time that I want to write for a living. Been writing since childhood, y’see, and at some point it occurred to me that being a writer was the most sensible thing to do for a person who was decent with words and wanted to be lots of things. A writer can vicariously be whatever they damn well please. A writer can spend all day every day fantasizing, and get paid for it.

So yes, I knew by my teens that I wanted to be a writer. And I began doing all of the things necessary to become one. Literature classes. Creative writing classes. Job in book store. Change name.

Oh, yes, the name change was essential. I share my legal last name with a well-known retailer. It isn’t the done thing to crack your adoring public over the head with your latest hardcover for cracking jokes. And a character of mine had filched my first name and refused to give it back. And stalkers. And I wanted to be taken seriously. That, I thought, required picking a male pseudonym – or at least masquerading by initials. [Read more…]

Answering an Aspiring Author: What I Loved

A friend o’ mine is about to embark upon a program of self-loathing and torture a bit of sci fi writing. He turned to me for advice. A few questions have been asked, and I figured answering in public may perhaps be useful in case anyone else in the cantina plans to embark upon the same soul-destroying madness career.

"This artist concept illustrates how a massive collision of objects perhaps as large as the planet Pluto smashed together to create the dust ring around the nearby star Vega." Alternatively, it describes the brain of a speculative fiction writer. Image and part of the caption courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

“This artist concept illustrates how a massive collision of objects perhaps as large as the planet Pluto smashed together to create the dust ring around the nearby star Vega.” Alternatively, it describes the brain of a speculative fiction writer mid-novel. Image and part of the caption courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

One of the questions was this: “What kind of stuff do you like to write?”

Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say like. Love is a safe word. It’s the right word for the kind of tempestuous, tumultuous relationship a writer has with their fiction. Like is too mild, too constant a word for this passion we share, this rollercoaster of high and low and in between emotion. So. What do I love to write? [Read more…]

The Joye of Ancient Literature

Literati observing me as a youngster might have despaired. I had no real interest in musty old tomes. For a long time, my tastes ran to mysteries and Westerns. Then I became addicted to fantasy and science fiction. I still adore all that stuff, and I believe some of the best fiction ever written is genre. Michael Hann and his ilk would faint at the idea. These, mind you, are the very same people who wouldn’t be ashamed to see clutching Homer in public – a patina of age, apparently, puts a suitable shine on monsters, demigods and other tropes of fantasy.

The poor buggers will need a fainting couch when I tell them it’s a Western writer who helped get me hooked on ancient literature. But it’s true. Louis L’Amour wrote The Walking Drum, which brought some very old texts to vivid life. I’ve sung that book’s praises more than once, and I’ll sing them again: it was one of the best books I’ve ever read.

While the Michael Hanns of the world clutch their Trollope and Proust, I’ll turn to my fantasists, thanks ever so much. Guy Gavriel Kay. Susanna Clarke. That’s all I’m saying. Oh, and these folks, too, among about a billion others. I’ll put the best SF authors in a ring with your literary greats any day, and I know who I’m putting my cold hard cash on.

So yes, I loves me my modern SF, and quite a lot of genre (excepting most romance, although there was that one book by Catherine Coulter that I picked up and read because the blurb contained this aside: “What is a marten, you ask? A marten is a sable; a sable is a weasel. What is a weasel, you ask. See marten.” And I figured anything that snarky couldn’t be half bad, and it actually wasn’t). But there are times when I love to immerse myself in ancient literature.

[Read more…]

Why SF Is Important

Last Sunday, I posted my own thoughts on the importance of speculative fiction. Okay, yes, it was a rant. I do that sometimes, when things get up my nose.

We’re going to follow up here today with a fantastic post that inspired me to post that one. It’s called In Defense of Geekery: Why Society Needs SF/F. It’s written by Becky Chambers. I want to buy her a drink. I want to buy her several. Because she managed to say what I needed to say in far fewer words:

[Read more…]

People With No Understanding of Fantasy Probably Shouldn’t Review It

I have now, like every other fantasy fan with tits on the planet, read Ginia Bellafonte’s risible review of HBO’s adaptation of A Game of Thrones.

I’ve spent most of the week now trying to determine which planet she’s from.  I’m still not sure.  It hasn’t got the same color sky as mine, and the fact that she seems to think rape, incest and other varieties of less-than-romantic sex are thrown in to Martin’s harrowingly gritty books just to give the ladies something to love frankly concerns me.  I have to question the psychological health of a woman who thinks that’s the sort of erotica women go for en masse.  But never mind that.  What’s even more ridiculous than her bass-ackwards ideas of why GOT will have sex scenes is her insistence that Martin’s epic is somehow about global warming.

Yes.  Really.  Here, for those who don’t want to give her the satisfaction of another page view, is her take on the whole thing:

Here the term green carries double meaning as both visual descriptive and allegory. Embedded in the narrative is a vague global-warming horror story. Rival dynasties vie for control over the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros — a territory where summers are measured in years, not months, and where winters can extend for decades. 

How did this come to pass? We are in the universe of dwarfs, armor, wenches, braids, loincloth. The strange temperatures clearly are not the fault of a reliance on inefficient HVAC systems. Given the bizarre climate of the landmass at the center of the bloody disputes — and the series rejects no opportunity to showcase a beheading or to offer a slashed throat close-up — you have to wonder what all the fuss is about. We are not talking about Palm Beach. 

I have to wonder why Blogger doesn’t offer Comic Sans as an option, because any passages quoted from Ms. Bellafonte’s review deserve to be in said font.  Who here has read Martin’s series and thought it was about global fucking warming?   She obviously hasn’t.  Read the series, I mean.  And after that bizarre last sentence, which upon fourth reading still makes no sense, she drops the global warming question all together and instead asks why the show’s even on HBO.

Because, Ms. Bellafonte.  It is an epic series conducive to adaptation, popular with huge swathes of male, female and otherwise-gendered people.  It’s such a gripping story that even those of us who hated it – literally hated reading it – had to keep reading, and are ready to beat George R.R. Martin bloody (sparing his hands and skull) if he once again delays the release of the next book.  Some people at HBO, David Benioff chief among them, believed in its potential and saw the project through.  And HBO stands to rake in the cold hard cash, because, and this is important, not everyone is a sneering, fantasy-hating, too-avante-gard-to-live genius-in-her-own-mind lackwit with culturally piss-poor female friends such as yourself, Ms. Bellafonte.

I mean, seriously.  Not one of your female friends could clue you in?  You have never met one single, solitary woman who would prefer The Hobbit over the latest navel-gazing based-on-the-author’s-pathetic-excuse-for-a-life schlock offered up by book clubs that only seem to exist in order to make people who like good books cry?  Not even one?  Do you even leave your house?  Do you even talk to other women?  I have to wonder.

You apparently belong to that pathetic subset of the human population who think it makes them unbearably hip to bash fantasy at every possible opportunity.  You see armor and dwarves, and you’re in instant sneer mode, too busy looking down your nose to look beneath, at questions of what it means to be human and what morality is and how twisted society can be that would make your hair curl.  Fantasy can be brutal.  Fantasy can be uncompromising.  And it can make us think in ways we never would have been able to think if the issues had been presented through any other medium.  Unfortunately, it can’t get through to the likes of you, Ms. Bellafonte, because you seem to be operating under the assumption that this isn’t something good girls should like.  Your fucking loss.  And believe me, it is a loss.

Upon rumination, I can only come to the conclusion that your review is the result of a pathological hatred of fantasy combined with a serious lack of insight into the vast majority of your fellow females.  It seems to me to be a cry for help.  You should meet some new people.  People like me and my lady friends, who think nothing of spending an evening geeking out over shows like Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, and (oh, yes) Game of Thrones.  Speak to women who would move to Middle Earth in one second flat if given half the chance.  Listen to women whose bookshelves groan under the weight of more fantasy tomes than can be listed in one small blog post.  Your sample size has been skewed by the fact your head has been firmly lodged up your posterior.  There are legions of female fans of fantasy and science fiction.  And two things you should have realized before penning something so incredibly stupid from start-to-finish:

1. We don’t appreciate being told we don’t exist.  And

2.  Trying to review a genre you’re clueless about leads only to humiliation.

Keep this in mind the next time you plan to heap scorn upon a show you’re reviewing.  Especially if HBO decides to do a Thursday Next series.  Because, while Martin’s fans can be brutal, Fford ffans are just downright terrifying.

P.S. I get the impression from your article that you must have obtained a college education of some description.  Were I you, I’d be asking for my money back. 

For further entertaining dissections of one of the dumbest reviews in the history of television reviews, see:

George R.R. Martin’s brilliant response (and delightful shout-out to his fangirls).

Annalee Newitz explains why the show’s actually targeted at women only.

Geek With Curves demonstrates why you should not piss off someone whose next tattoo is inspired by Joss Whedon.

Margaret Hartmann demonstrates the art of the short, sharp smackdown.

And our own Stephanie Szvan digs in, plus bonus story!

I’m sure I’ve missed about five gajillion.  Pop your faves into the comments, and/or any ranting you feel moved to.  Epic length comments welcome.  We are talking about fantasy here.