General · reading · science fiction

E is for Ecology in Books

Webster defines ecology as:

1: a branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environments

2: the totality or pattern of relations between organisms and their environment

3: human ecology

4: environment, climate <the moral ecology>; also : an often delicate or intricate system or complex <the ecology of language>

World-building is one of my favorite parts of reading and some authors spend a lot of time on it. They build elaborate worlds, specify plants and animals, how they are all interrelated. Lots of times they focus on definition number two: he totality or pattern of relations between organisms and their environment

Or at least it feels like some writers spend a lot of time on the ecology. Maybe they don’t; maybe they are just winging and it’s hard to tell.

I loved the creatures in a lot of the books I read as a teenager and how they were all interrelated. It was one of the things that drew me to the books (really, to science fiction and fantasy) in the first place.

They include the Pern books. It has the little dragons that people used to engineer the big dragons, and the seafood they eat, the crevices where they lay their eggs, the oil from the sea birds she used to moisturize their skin. It all fit so wonderfully together. I loved it.

It’s one of the little details I love in books, how all the creatures relate to each other. Weather they use other or use the remains in some odd way or something else. It is still one of the things that I look forward to in books.

And, yeah, lots of times I am disappointed, but looking for that magic is one of the reasons why I keep looking for new books.


General · reading · science fiction

Finished Reading a Truly Excellent Soap Opera

You know that feeling you get when you read a truly good book? The sense of completeness, feeling like emerging from a dark room out into garden drenched with sunlight?

That’s how I feel right now. I’ve just finished A Talent for War by Jack McDevitt. It’s fantastic. More like an Indiana Jones movie than Star Wars, it’s engrossing and engaging and all that. It manages that with hardly any action at all and very few battles. Very few the main character is engaged in anyway; others are described to him.

I wish it wasn’t over. There are other books in this series, but I cannot imagine what it will involve. This story is over.

reading · science fiction

What’s the most terrifying book you ever read?

This is a question that a BookEnds asked:

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.


Concealed in Death Out Tomorrow

Tomorrow, Concealed in Death by JD Robb comes out. 

Some lucky people snagged a review copy. (I was not one of them. But I haven’t been looking for review copies of any book, not even JD Robb.)

There is fan art and even videos made by the fans. (These people are clearly more talented than me.) Some of the videos are to fun watch. One uses Stana Katic from Castle to portray Eve – this is not a portrayal I would’ve thought of, but I understand it.

Why do I love this series? I am not so sure I can say.

I love the fact that it takes place in the future, complete with flying cars, AutoChefs that do the cooking, droids that can do the cleaning and illegal, unregistered computers one uses to do illegal computer stuff.

I love the mystery plot-lines – murder and mayhem. The whole police-procedural feel of it is really nice (and would go wonderfully on the silver screen, IMO).

I love the romance, too, that’s woven throughout. Well, Nora Roberts is known as a romance writer, so it is marketed as romantic suspense. Truthfully, I feel that if you take the romance out, there is still plenty of story left. (But that’s me.)

Not many stories combine these three elements. The mix varies, depending on the book, but all three are always present. I love it for that.

I just wish I could get a copy tomorrow. Or even this month. Instead, I will be haunting the review sites. 😉


Judging a SciFi Book by its Cover

I was searching the web for more info on books I read a long time ago and happened across several covers:

If I had seen these covers in a bookstore or library, I would have thought they were general fiction or something like that.

Except I know that Kate Elliott (the writer I was looking for) writes fantasy/science fiction. These covers don’t look science fiction to me. Not at all! And these books are supposed to be science fiction, i. e. take place on a different planet.

Is that odd? For me to decide a book’s genre from the cover alone?

You’re not supposed to judge  a book by its cover, but I was. I don’t think I ever realized before that I pigeonhole books based on the cover. I thought I did that from the back cover copy.

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.


Hugo Awards 2013

The Hugo awards were announced last night. I found out when I saw this tweet:

Than I discovered that the ceremony was going to streamed live. That never worked for me, by the way. It apparently worked for other people, but also had a habit of conking out. Maybe I was too impatient and didn’t wait long enough for it load when it was working. Don’t know.

Too bad the Hugos aren’t big enough to get TV coverage. That would be nice.

Instead, I found a place where someone was transcribing what people were doing in text. That was interesting. More amusing than the twitter #hugoawards hashtag, which I was also following. Too bad I found it when the ceremony was half over.

So . . . the awards. Redshirts by John Scalzi won best novel, which does not surprise me all that much. I haven’t read it, but it is pretty popular.

No, according to the Hugo statics, Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed placed fourth. I thought it would be closer to the top. Maybe second place.

I am also really happy Writing Excuses won a Hugo, too, for Best Related Work. The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature is good, too, the little I’ve read of it (only snippets here and there.) It placed fourth, which makes me wonder. But Writing Excuses is really good, too. And less expensive. LOL

I read hardly any graphic stories, but when Saga won, twitter really exploded. It felt like it exploded. It felt like people were more excited than when the avengers won the long form dramatic award.

Also, Dr. Who was nominated three times in the same category? What’s up with that? So they are three different episodes, but still, it’s the same show!!!

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.