From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

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Literature News: Hugo Awards, Metaphorical Racism, World Fantasy Nominees Announced

And More


Puppet Strings: J M McDermott

J M McDermott, author of “Gods of the Spiderhole,” has very strong opinions about politics (and really, who doesn’t?). But how do authors who want to convey that nugget of political philosophy in their writing do so without turning their audience off? As the author says, “it would be about as effective as influencing change as a fart on a crowded bus.” In this week’s Puppet Strings: Behind the Story, J M McDermott meditates on how he accomplished it with his tale.


Aryan Elves and Damsels Distressed: a Librarian-Writer’s View of Bias in American SF

One of the most important principles that librarians follow in expanding collections is that of propriety. I’m not talking bustles or corsets, but about whether a given work is appropriate for the library’s community. We use many tools to measure this, from patron request forms, to historical circulation patterns, to the mission statement of the library (e.g., is it to “educate” or “serve” patrons?). In essence, we must divine whether our patrons want it, need it, and are going to use it. And here we approach the general question of bias in American SF, particularly as expressed by author Ashok K. Banker on his blog, Confessions of an Epic Indian.

Mr. Banker accuses the American SF community of racism, sexism, bigotry, cultural insensitivity, and all manner of biases, both in its practices and its literature. That his general argument is true is, at least in part, beyond question. The pages of SF are replete with sexist, white, male, imperialists who go forth and conquer, whether nations, worlds, or galaxies.

The rub, however, is that many SF readers crave Tolkien’s offspring, along with those of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert Heinlein, H. P. Lovecraft, and other authors guilty of the evils Mr. Banker names. For all their flaws, and however many biases may be encoded in their works, these authors have resonated deeply with American readers since the Golden Age of pulp SF. While it would be untrue to say that all SF readers want is the next Dune or Harry Potter, and while readers shouldn’t be denied the chance to expand their repertoire, typically they step from leaf to leaf or twig to twig, not jump from tree to tree.


Excerpt from Blood Magic by Matthew Cook

With the power of her blood magic–a dark sorcery even she does not understand–Kirin avenges her twin sister’s murder. Alone, except for the grotesque but loyal creatures she can create from souls and dead flesh, she fights to survive. When the inhuman Mor crawl up from their underground world to wage war, Kirin serves as […]


Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik

I’ve never liked traditional alternate histories. That must be why I love the Temeraire series so much, because in her latest book, author Naomi Novik goes completely off the alternate history rails.

I have no doubt that readers who prefer true alternate history will be disappointed with the direction that Novik has gone. The Temeraire series stopped being “the Napoleonic wars with dragons” a long time ago. Instead it’s become something that I, at least, find more interesting: a none-too-subtle examination of egalitarianism, humanity’s place in the universe, and the interconnectedness of life.

With dragons.


Blogging News: How Blogs Can Save Books, Oscar for the Dark Knight

Will Blogs Save Books? The Huffington Post Has an Answer and a Challenge … Catherynne Valente: How to Write a Novel in 30 Days Nerd Tunes Abound in io9’s SF Mixtape of Doom Wired Magazine Reveals the Rejection Letter that Time Forgot John Scalzi Doesn’t Think It’s Too Early to Speculate about “Dark Knight”‘s Oscar […]


Excerpt from Blackness Tower by Lillian Stewart Carl

Lillian Stewart Carl spins a magical tale of a young Texas woman who travels to northern Scotland to learn about her ancestry. Lauren Reay discovers much more at Blackness Tower, an ancient sacred site damaged by a tragedy that resonates through the centuries. Only Lauren and the enigmatic owner of Blackness Tower have a chance of healing that damage–if they can survive the dark energies of the past.


J. Kathleen Cheney, author of Masks of War

Masks of War was inspired by an article that ran in
Smithsonian Magazine last year called ‘Faces of War‘. It took several months for me to come up with the story I wanted, and I spent that whole time worried that someone else was going to write my story before I figured it out.

What are your favorite words?

Defenestration, penultimate, and lugubrious. Although tenebrous is really nice, too. And I’ve always wanted an excuse to use ‘antimacassar’.


“The Chosen One” vs. The One Who Chooses

“The Chosen One” is a very specific trope in F/SF. Whether by a seer, some higher power or force, or simply because of their particular bloodline, characters are chosen for some great destiny that often includes a fight between the forces of good and evil. A prime example of this is Harry Potter from the very popular series by J.K. Rowling. Like most “Chosen One” heroes, Harry leads a normal life before his difference is revealed. From that moment on his life is no longer his own but pledged to the service of destiny. Although in Harry’s case this is complicated by the fact that there are two revelations; the revelation that he’s a wizard–which while amazing to us just makes him normal for a wizard instead of normal for a human–and the revelation that his ability to repel Voldemort’s attacks are what set him apart. This type of character usually spends the remainder of the story, book, or series fighting evil but obsessed with trying to revert to his previous life where everything was normal and the shadows under the bed were just shadows. This is very different character from the protagonist that I like to call The One Who Chooses…


Lit News: Remembering Thomas Disch; Dave McKean Gallery Show; Hindering Science

Salon Books: Liz Hand Remembers Thomas M. Disch Dave McKean Show Opens at Merry Karnowsky Gallery New Books This Week: Year’s Best SF, Naomi Novik, and More Interview with Vera Nazarian @ Bibliophile Stalker Interview with Robert Silverberg @ Pyr-o-mania SF Stories That Inspire and Hinder Real Science, @ io9