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An Appreciation of J.G. Ballard

J. G. Ballard died last week, April 19, 2009. His distinctive writing led the Collins English Dictionary to define Ballardian as “resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in J. G. Ballard’s novels and stories, especially dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments.”

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Blog For A Brass Button

This week, we’re opening that up halfway and saying, “What do you hate — as well as love — about steampunk?” What are the books that should or shouldn’t be included in the genre, and what is it with all the clockwork gears, after all? Do we need steampunk laptops? Clocks? Corsets?

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More Ways To Waste Time: Fantasy Magazine on Twitter

Fantasy Magazine launched three Twitter streams: @fantasymagazine, @fantasycon, and @fantasytrivia this week. Check us out to find out about convention coverage as well as tomorrow’s trivia contest!

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Taboos and Tropes: Part II “Rhetoric and Writing about Rape”

As discussed in “T&T: Part I,” taboo tropes are risky endeavors for any story; however, if a story does necessitate one it must address, with added attention, balance and thematic sincerity. Rhetoric, or the art of persuasion, is the key to addressing these elements. In Part II, we’ll look at how rhetoric can improve readers’ reactions to the taboo trope, rape, and how research can improve the accuracy of the issue. Be aware that to write about such a graphic thing, I’m asking you to experience some graphic details and language first.

Rape Scenes in Literature

Taboo tropes–child abuse, rape, racism, etc.–have secondary associations and should be used carefully, if at all. Such secondary associations can often include readers’ personal experiences, and strong, sometimes unconscious, responses from readers can follow the involved characters throughout the length of the story.

If the story requires a taboo trope, these rhetorical tools may help shape the connection between a reader and the trope.

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Steampunk Fashion Show

We know that Fantasy readers dig steampunk stuff. Not just the fiction and the gadgets, oh no. We’ve seen you at conventions in your corsets and clockwork jewelry and monocles. (We noticed because a few of us were wearing them, too.) So let’s inaugurate the Cafe Lounge with a Steampunk Fashion Show!

Participants: Post a picture of yourself in your steampunk finery in the comments. You can either embed the image (make it no wider than 400px, please) or paste a link. Only one entry per commenter is allowed, so choose your best. You may post multiple links to the same outfit, though.

Gawkers: Vote for your favorite entries (see the little stars in each comment? Yeah, use those). Which is the most creative, the most complex, the most punk?

The outfit with the most votes by 12PM EST Sunday, May 3, wins! There may be a special prize, who knows?

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2008 Nebula Award Winners Announced

Last night SFWA held their annual Nebula Award ceremony amid much glitz and glitter. The winners are:

  • Best Novel: Powers by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Best Novella: “The Spacetime Pool” by Catherine Asaro
  • Best Novelette: “Pride and Prometheus” by John Kessel
  • Best Short Story: “Trophy Wives” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
  • Script: WALL-E Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter

Andre Norton Award: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand Her Vocabulary, Confront a Bouncing Boy Terror, and Try to Save Califa from a Shaky Doom (Despite Being Confined to Her Room) by Ysabeau S. Wilce

Solstice Award: Kate Wilhelm, A.J. Budrys and Martin H. Greenberg.

SFWA Service Award: Victoria Strauss

Bradbury Award: Joss Whedon

Grand Master Award
: Harry Harrison

Author Emerita: M.J. Engh

Congratulations to all of the winners!

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Introducing: The Fantasy Cafe

This week we’re introducing a new section on Fantasy Magazine: Fantasy Cafe. This space is for our readers and friends and fans to kick back, sip a dark roast cuppa sweetened with the finest fairy sugar, and chat about fantasy-related stuff. There’s a small stage in the corner of the lounge for our Open Mic Nights, shelves filled with books, and a kiosk in the back that may open up when you least expect it and tempt you with shiny trinkets. There’s also a TV Den in the basement where you can chat about the latest episode of your favorite shows.

We’re still putting the finishing touches on the place, but you’re welcome to come in and hang out right now. This space is for you, so if you have suggestions on things that would make it an even friendlier place to hang out, let us know!

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Cyberabad Days by Ian McDonald

This collection of seven stories is subtitled “Return to the India of 2047,” but what it really is is a return to the India of McDonald’s 2004 novel River of Gods. The novel won the British Science Fiction Association Award, as did one of the stories, and it would not surprise me to see this collection nominated as well. McDonald displays the assurance of a mature talent immersed in his fictional world — yes — but also the deep, multi-layered understanding of an intelligent and compassionate man immersed in the 21st Century.

First, the world. Cyberabad Days is essentially cyberpunk, keeping company with William Gibson’s Idoru and Neil Stephenson’s Diamond Age. Nanotech has blurred the line between hardware, software, and wetware; AI is here and scaring the pants off a lot of people; programming is the new oil; information is the new gold. Unlike many of Gibson’s heroes, however, McDonald’s protagonists are not the web-jockeys and hackers, the people getting dirty on the pipelines or in the mines. McDonald is mostly writing about the people affected by the new economy a few steps away from production, the people who have to live in the world others are building, and tearing down, all around them. He is writing about the inheritors, and inheritance is one of the themes running through these stories.

He is also writing about India one century after the nation achieved independence from the British Empire, and, in his fictional future, just a few years after the nation fragments into half a dozen nation-states — another inheritance, of a kind. A bold move, you might even say a risky move, for a white guy living in Northern Ireland to be writing about India. He isn’t coy about it; with one exception, his characters are all Indian, Hindu and Muslim. He is an outsider writing with an insider’s perspective, and that turns out to be one of the great strengths of these stories. Because what he is showing us is a society so complex, so fractured and yet so bound into interdependence, that everyone is both an insider and an outsider in their own country.

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Taboos and Tropes: Part I “Necessity, Balance, and Thematic Sincerity”

Why do taboos stay with us? They are the dark underbellies. Incest, rape, torture — we can’t ignore them. As distasteful and decrepit as taboos are, we keep them around like crusted scabs on our collective skin. Taboos dare us to pick, but as enticing as they can be, taboos can also be barriers. The difference between hook and barrier depends upon thematic sincerity. Tropes, however, are a different matter.

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Returning My Sister’s Face And Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice by Eugie Foster

In this elegant collection of stories Eugie Foster bridges the gap between the traditional fairytale and historical fantasy. Throughout the collection she alternates between re-tellings of Chinese and Japanese legends and original stories with elements drawn from the same deep wells. There is a formality to the writing that suits the traditional strain, giving a timeless authority to all the stories without making them unapproachable. On the contrary, they are charming to read.

The first story, one of the strongest, called “Daughter of Botu,” opens with a rabbit giving us a lesson in Buddhism: Buddha teaches us that this existence is one of suffering. And of all the Middle Kingdom, my people, the Clan of Botu, bears the greatest burden of suffering. We are fodder for all — tiger and owl, fox and man — and only those with fleet limbs, strong hearts, and good fortune survive. This is practically a template for all the stories and legends in the book: “Life is hard, but with a bit of quick action and good luck you might pull through.” In this story, the young rabbit finds her way into the human world in order to save her mother and grandmother from starvation. She finds love, betrayal, sacrifice, and redemption at a cost — all of them themes that recur in Foster’s stories. Likewise recurring are the characters whose courage, loyalty, and trust in the teachings of Buddha, gods, grandmothers and ghosts sees them through to the sometimes bitter end.