Stuff Authors Like

OK, despite the post title, I’m not really planning to speak for all authors here. Just me.

Active Nora is active! As I continue to recover from hardcore novel-writing mode, I’ve begun once again exploring activities that had become all but lost in the abyss of time and labor. Like… I went to a movie! I know, it’s been awhile. But I went last week to see “Inception” with the folks in Altered Fluid, and we absolutely loved it. The layers of storytelling; exposition delivered in infodumps that didn’t (to me) feel dumpy, the director’s obvious assumption that his audience would be smart enough to get all that was happening… Ah, it’s been so long since I’ve seen a Hollywood film I actually liked. It wasn’t perfect; I thought the characterization was shallow. But then this was clearly “idea” science fiction, and despite my longtime preference for “character” science fiction, even I can be wowed by an idea for 2 or 3 hours. (Then I get bored. But anyway.) Go see it!

Also, bookses! Recently read the whole of the Running With The Pack anthology, which I had the pleasure of having a reprint in (“Red Riding-Hood’s Child”). I was pleased to find that the whole anthology is full of chewy goodness, as is only to be expected from World Fantasy Award-winning editor (and author) Ekaterina Sedia. Despite the inclusion of my retold fairy tale, I’d been half-fearing a book full of Team Jacob stories, all about hot animalistic guys wangsting over sexually repressed women… yeah, OK, believe it or not I’m not really a fan of werewolf stuff. But that’s only because I’ve read so much of it that’s cliched and terrible — which this anth is not, in any way. So I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Also finally finished Kay Kenyon’s The Braided World, another of her hard-SF adventures and a sort-of sequel to her earlier Maximum Ice. I had a harder time getting into TBW than MI, but ultimately I liked it better, because MI was burdened with some randomly villainous characters I just didn’t care about. The villain in TBW is similarly driven by bigotry, and is similarly over-the-top in her villainy, but in this case I could almost understand her feelings. The story focuses on an alien world, where travelers from Earth unexpectedly find humanlike aliens called the Dassa. I say humanlike because some of them reproduce in typical human fashion, and others reproduce in an inexplicably disturbing way. The story is one of cultural conflict: the Dassa are alarmed by the humans, whose method of reproduction is scorned and considered “degenerate” in their society, and the humans are similarly freaked-the-hell-out by the Dassa. They must work together, however, to solve a mystery that has implications for all sentient life in the galaxy.

I’ve always liked Kenyon’s work because she doesn’t flinch away from the soft science in her hard SF. All of her books contain plausible diversity, sociological conflict, psychological reactions to extreme stress, and of course craploads of biology (which is considered a soft science by some, mostly because of the girl cooties). But she also writes solid characters, each replete with flaws yet doing their damnedest to save the world. I wanted to get a thorough grounding in her SF before I tackled her more recent fantasy novels (“The Entire and the Rose” books), mostly because I’ve had bad experiences with SF writers trying fantasy in the past and I wanted to be sure before I took the risk. So next up is the first book of that trilogy.

Aaaaaand, I’m currently reading Naomi Novik’s latest book in the Temeraire series, Tongues of Serpents. I’m only about 2/3rds of the way through thus far, but am very much enjoying what’s here so far. More on this later.

So what shenanigans have you guys been up to, lately?

6 thoughts on “Stuff Authors Like”

  1. I just picked up Tongues of Serpents myself and I’m debating whether to read it next, or to go with Sedia’s The Alchemy of Stone, or Don’t Panic, Neil Gaiman’s book about Douglas Adams. I’ve got some plane rides coming up so I’ll probably read all three in short order.

    Currently I’m finishing up The Assassins of Tamurin by S.D. Tower (a pseudonym for a thriller author; I haven’t tracked down who s/he really is). It took a while for me to get into it, thanks to some clunky exposition and a lot of reliance on summary over action, but I’m very curious as to how it’s going to end.

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  3. Was reading Lian Hearn’s Across the Nightingale Floor and was deeply disappointed. Maybe I had gotten the wrong expectations for the book, but I found its treatment of its women characters to be subpar. Which is too bad, because at least one of them was really interesting and I wish the book had actually been about her. Also, some of the cultural details made me flinch, but that may have just been me being super-picky. Either way, I won’t be picking up the sequels and don’t really recommend it (I tried really hard to like it too).

    Also, suffering from writer’s block.

  4. I LOVED Inception, although I do agree with you regarding the characterisation. The two people we saw the most of were Cobb and Fischer. Then again, I don’t think there would have been enough time in the movie to really explore the characters the way that I would have liked, given that, while I would gladly watch forty hours of character development and interaction (how did all of the characters meet? Why did they decide to go into the dream business? What was Mal like before the events covered in the movie? What kind of history and relationships do they have with each other? How did they all choose their totems? I want to know everything!), I’m not sure it would sell so well, alas. Which is a pity, because Inception was one of the most interesting movies I’ve seen in a while.

    And thanks for the book recs!

  5. You might try “A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia” by Viktor Pelevin, in his collection of the same name. Not your usual lycanthropy. “The Prince of Gosplan”, in the same volume, also points in the direction of F&SF, by way of text-based games and Communism.

    Not that I’m a regular here (yet), but since you ask, currently in progress are 2666 by Roberto Bolaño, The Making of the Georgian Nation by Ronald Grigor Suny (since I live there) and a “lost” novel by Heinrich Boell. Recent finishes include Ha’Penny by Jo Walton, Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts, Slam by Lewis Shiner and The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk.

    I’ll be in a First World country next week, so I might be able to pick up some F&SF things, The Dervish House (Ian McDonald), The Fuller Memorandum (Charles Stross) or the latest Novik that you’re enjoying.

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