reading · science fiction

What’s the most terrifying book you ever read?

This is a question that a BookEnds asked: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/26/books/review/whats-the-most-terrifying-book-youve-ever-read.html

The writers chose books for various reasons, including how real the book felt.

He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.

For me, the scariest book I ever read is Nineteen Eighty-Four. It’s dystopian, not horror, but the way they changed the newspapers after publication? Yeah. Not taking it back, not apologizing for a print error, but changing it altogether.

That kind of thing wasn’t possible when it was written, it wasn’t possible in 1984, but it is possible now. And that’s scary.

I love ebooks and reading online in general, but that kind of thing is possible and it scares me. It really does.

fantasy · science fiction · Writing

Dare I call myself an Indian Speculative Fiction writer?

This article in Strange Horizons talks about Indian SF. It asks what Indian spec-fic is and what elements define it.

It strikes home, because I am Indian and I write fantasy. Yet I don’t know if that makes me an Indian speculative fiction writer.

Nine Indian writers try to answer this question. Some of them say Indian spec-fic is spec-fic that’s written by an Indian.

A lot of them talk about what it means. Do you have to be Indian? Do you have to live in India? Does it have to be published in India? Does it have to be set in India or inspired by India in some fashion? What if you are non-Indian living in India?

A lot of them couldn’t really say what elements make a particular work Indian spec-fic. Probably because there is so little of it, you can’t point to any single element and say: this makes it Indian spec-fic.

As for me, I am Indian. But I left India so young I remember hardly anything. Visits are infrequent. So I will likely never be published there. A few of my stories are inspired by Indian things –  folktales, music, movies – but no one has ever recognized the influence (too diluted, I suppose). But people invariably comment on the creativity of those stories, a lot more than my other stories.

I doubt that’s enough to call myself an Indian spec-fic writer. That’s odd. I’ve puzzled over the oddness for years, ever since I realized I want to write fantasy and there are hardly any Indian fantasy writers on the library shelves. I suspect there might be more SF set in India than there are Indian spec-fic writers. I’ve no words for how weird that makes me feel.

Then there’s the third question posed by the article. How does the audience (western/eastern) affect the style/content of a story? I tend to think of this as part of that are the usual world-building issues – what and how and when to describe something. The other part is using things like existing rituals or clothes or dance and things like that. I usually don’t use stuff like that, because I don’t want to devote the word-count to describe in the detail required to see the thing and doing less would be confusing. Also, because it isn’t important enough to the story to require lots and lots of description.

This last is probably the reason why even the Indian inspired stories don’t come off as Indian. The details that would make people think “Oh, Indian” are not present.

The thing is, if I knew my readers were Indian, I probably would put them in. Just a line or two, probably, as opposed to a paragraph or two.

So . . . I am editing details out. I have mixed feelings about that. It’s why the Strange Horizons article hit me so hard.

I am still not sure if I am right to do so. It finally depends on the needs of the story, yeah. But still. I don’t want to confuse anyone. I don’t want to use a hundred words to describe a minor, almost non-existent event. Especially when the story is less than thousand words long.

General · reading · science fiction

Does flying cars make a book science fiction?

English: Icon from Nuvola icon theme for KDE 3...

A book has flying cars, a space resort and takes place in the future. Is it science fiction?

What if the plot has a mystery and maybe enough romance to make it the main plot line?

Maybe you could call such a book science fiction, a mystery and a romance all the same time.
What would you call it? How would describe the book to someone?

As a reader, I suppose it depends on two things.

1) Which, if any genre, dominates.
2) How strictly you define science fiction, mystery and romance.

Me? I don’t have strict definitions. As long as it meets the genre’s tropes, I’ll call it by all three genres. That doesn’t help with actually picking one.

For marketing purposes, I suppose you need only ask one question: which genre has the largest readership?

I am talking about the In Death series by JD Robb. They are marketed as romantic suspense. I’ve found them in the romance and general fiction isles.

On my nook, I have decided to go with the marketers and shelve it under romance. I am just wondering if I could also shelve them under science fiction. I can’t decide.

General · reading · science fiction · Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesday: Eye of the World

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Why am I reading this book? I explain here.

My teaser:

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades into myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist.  The wind was not the beginning.  There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time.  But it was a beginning.

– Eye of the World by Robert Jordon

flash friday · science fiction · Writing

Friday Flash: Clouds

I used this image prompt from Rochelle Wisoff-Fields blog! It inspired me!

She touched the window with gentle fingers. Transparent-clouds wafted around them. Fluid-clouds would be under them, she knew. Perhaps heat-clouds would be beneath those. She prayed so.

Her people desperately needed a home.

The ship descended smoothly past the transparent-clouds to land on odd, white-colored stones. She stepped out. The pilot and her general-sister followed, weapons out.

Soldiers. They did insist on an aggressive protocol. But she could hardly demure. Perhaps it was even the course of wisdom. Hard to say.

The fluid-clouds were blue and lapped at her feet. This place was crowded with native animals. Some had four legs, some had two legs. Some had no legs.

And some, she saw, shocked, held a long, slender length of some material, perhaps metal, attached to the throat of other animals. 

If the they could work metal . . . That wasn’t in the briefing. She hadn’t expected that. With any luck, they would prove to be primitive.

If they weren’t . . . She wasn’t going to think about that. That was a worry for another day.

General · reading · science fiction · Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesday: Replica

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!  

My teaser:

“Shouldn’t you be off talking to important dignitaries instead of flirting?” Nadia asked Nate.

Nate frowned, but at least he stopped looking down Jewel’s dress. “I believe that’s my father’s job. I’m the ne’er-do-well son, remember?”

– Replica by Jenna Black.

reading · science fiction

Quotes from the Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, Part Three

So I was reading the Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction again these past few days. Despite trying for a long time now, I have yet to actually finish this dense, gigantic tome.

I have posted random quotes from it before here and here.

I felt inspired to read the feminist theory chapter. 😉 It was written by Veronica Hollinger.

Although sf has often been called ‘the literature of change’, for the most part it has been slow to recognize the historical contingency and cultural conventionality of many of our ideas about sexual identity and desire, about gendered behaviour and about the ‘natural’ roles of women and men.

See, if it really was the literature of changes (or ideas, which I have also heard SF called), you would think odd and new ideas about gendered behavior would be right up SF’s alley. Don’t you think? It shouldn’t have been slow to recognize things like that.

Feminist theory contests the hegemonic representations of a patriarchal culture that does not recognize its ‘others’. Like other critical discourses, it works to create a critical distance between observer and observed, to defamiliarize certain taken-for-granted aspects of ordinary human reality, ‘denaturalizing’ situations of historical inequity and/or oppression that otherwise may appear inevitable to us, if indeed we notice them at all. The concept of defamiliarization – of making strange – has also, of course, long been associated with sf.

This, yes. As a writer, I don’t believe lofty goals like this should be the first aim of fiction (any fiction!). IMHO, the first aim of fiction is entertainment. But this makes a dandy secondary goal to shoot for. How to do it is another question . . .

It is also significant that many challenges to the conventions of male/female relations have focused on a radical critique of these relations as based in the inequities of what Adrienne Rich first identified as ‘compulsory heterosexuality’.

I am not entirely what this means, but it sounds interesting.

flash friday · General · science fiction · Writing

Friday Flash: Fourth Birthday Parade

This fridayflash is for the fourth anniversary bloghop at the friday flash website. The idea is to write a story 400 words long about the 4th anniversary/birthday of something. After several false starts, I finally managed. I was inspired by this picture:

A few excerpts from the Annals of Dead or Lost Colonies:

Dear Julie,

The colony has just gotten the order for the hyperspace module. It’s taken a year, but we finally have it. This will be the first of many letters until you can come here.

I have a house. It’s small, but it has a garden. It’s ours, free and clear.

The hypo gardens are not doing well. Except for the lantern cherries. I don’t understand it. There is a group studying the problem.

Yours always,

Ben

 

Dear Julie,

I miss you. Will you come soon? I’ve added two bedrooms to the house for the children. There is plenty of space. Hyperspace travel is very safe, don’t worry.

The colony celebrated our third birthday with a grand parade. I was in the lead float, as the directory of horticulture. It was quite wonderful.

The lantern cherry have become our biggest – our only! – export. They are in demand and tasty. I suppose it’s good they grow bigger here than anywhere else. They look more like giant melons than cherries. But I don’t quite understand why nothing else growing.

Yours always,

Ben

 

Dear Julie,

I’ve been promoted, dear. I am now president of the horticulture department. The last president died quite unexpectedly in the Greenhouse A. Poor Jerry. At least he died at work. Greenhouse A is where we first started the lantern cherries. We have ten, now.

The colony’s fourth birthday is in a month and we are providing cherries for the decoration. The last of the flowers died months ago and we haven’t been successful in growing any others. Not even marigolds. It’s baffling.

I do wish you would come. I know the ships scare you, but hyperspace travel is so fast these days. You wouldn’t have to spend months on a ship in normal space. I dearly want to see the children, dear.

Love yours,

Ben

 

Dear Julie,

Don’t come! Stay away! God, I am glad you never came.

The cherries destroyed the parade. It was mad. They exploded and attacked and will take over the planet shortly.

This will be the last message I send.

I am going to blow up the greenhouses and take as many of the cherries as I can.

This is why nothing else grew. They’ve been devouring them, the murderous, subtle lantern cherries.

I bet they killed poor Jerry.

Yours forever,

Ben

General · reading · science fiction · Teaser Tuesdays

N is for Necessity’s Child (Teaser Tuesday)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Yes, I chose to start Necessity’s Child yesterday exactly because the title starts with N and I needed an N post. Also, this book has been on my TBR list for a couple of weeks now and I figure it’s time to move the book to the top of the pile. It’s Liaden Universe book, which are usually fun.

The first two lines are:

Inside the duct, it was hot and wet – nothing new there, thought Kezzi, shifting her weight carefully. The metal snapped in complaint, and she made herself be still.

–  Necessity’s Child by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

This is a Baen book and the first nine chapters are available on Baen’s website.

fantasy · reading · science fiction

H is for Hard Fantasy

I may be behind the times, but I never heard of hard fantasy before. In fact, I only discovered this sub-genre on a Goodreads discussion forum. (One of those where people try to figure out what the difference is between science fiction and fantasy.)

The person provided quite a few links, including a wiki article. Wikipedia says the Recluce Saga, a Song of Ice and Fire and Magic, Inc. are examples of hard fantasy. Looking through Goodreads and LibraryThing shelves, people have also tagged Lord of the Rings, the Farseer trilogy and The Family Trade as hard fantasy.

There is an article that was posted in 2008, but I’ve never heard of hard fantasy until now. Well, shows what I know, huh?

From what I understand, hard fantasy is the fantasy where magic has rules. Truthfully, I am stunned there is even a sub-genre for this.

Though, yeah, the magical rules of most fantasy don’t have scientific rigor. Some books do treat magic just like it was a science, have schools and everything. Though truthfully, of the books I’ve listed here, only the Recluce Saga comes close to doing that. The others? I don’t know.

I haven’t read a lot of hard science fiction. Maybe that’s where my own disconnect is coming from. But most science fiction don’t have a lot of a scientific rigor, either.

But since people have tagged them as hard fantasy, I don’t think I understand what makes a book hard fantasy at all.