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Re: Fantasy Novels - are they based on True World Events?
Joe Abercrombie. The Union is clearly The United States under Bush. an idiot in charge who has some faked battle ground experience, controlled by shady forces with a sinister advisor who is the real power behind the throne. Disastrous involvements in conflicts in other countries.incompetent military. Need I go on?   

I think the Union could equally as easily be modelled on Regency period Britain. An incapable leader succeeded by an incompetent one (Union=Britain), a powerful enemy just across the water (France&/orSpain=Ghurkul), a potential ally/rival riven by its own internal conflicts (Styria=Netherlands) and a formerly little more than lawless northern neighbour becoming a genuine threat (Reivers into Jacobite Scots=Raiders into Bethod's Northern Kingdom). You've even got a wide open and exapansive relatively unexplored expanse of land to the west (North America), not to mention the presence of the old and formerly powerful Empire now little more than bickering city states with no real impact on the wider world stage any more (The various city states, duchies and principalities which will become modern Italy).

April 13, 2011, 02:54:36 PM
Re: Things that annoy you in fantasy book blurbs I get annoyed by blurbs that decide to bugger off for a quick ciggie when it comes time to get on the book cover, instead leaving behind nothing but review quotes and author blurbs to do the work for them; lazy little shits!

Nothing puts me off buying a book more, than a conspicuous lack of information of what the book might actually be about. That evil looking horse on the cover could just be a bait and switch to get me to buy a My Little Pony novelisation, for all the information you've given me. Hmph!

April 24, 2011, 07:57:44 PM
Re: Books that changed your life Three books, Two Decades, One life in fantasy novels:

1990s (Part One): Redwall, by Brian Jacques - I had a difficult and confusing childhood. I was a bookish and imaginative child with too much in my memory that could colour my imagination in unpleasant shades and too much time for it to happen in, having cleared out the interesting bits of the school and both municipal libraries. Out of desperation, I turned to a book in the school library I hadn't noticed before. It was about talking animals battling each other. It swallowed me whole, gave me a place to escape to; a life raft at a time when I felt like I was drowning. For many years afterwards, long after I should have really outgrown such childish books, I still turned to Redwall when things got too much.

1990s (Part Two): Legend, by David Gemmell - While the Redwall novels gave me somewhere to escape from the world, I was still me while I was reading them. I really didn't like me very much back then, so I tried to be someone I wasn't. I got into fights, lots of fights; started stealing things, not in a cry-for-help way but in a make-a-quick-profit way; learned the pleasures of intoxication and went a little bit mental with it, drugs, booze, glue, lighter fluid, the gas at the bottom of aerosols and so on. A lot of teenage girls love a bad boy, so I wasn't shy about taking advantage of that and using girls in an emotionally manipulative way that turns my adult stomach* when I look back at it. In short, Public Me was the kind of dickhead who would give Secret Me a kicking for being a weird little nerd.

As you might imagine, it wasn't working out too well for me. I had problems with misdirected rage, culminating in an assault on a schoolteacher, an arrest, an expulsion from the school system and a life placed firmly on a particular track.

I'd tried Legend once before, when I was about ten or so, and really didn't get it so took it back to the library not just unfinished, but barely started. I'd continued visiting the library in secret over the years since Redwall of course and had run out of SF&F and horror books to read, so decided to give Legend a second chance. For all its faults, and they are many and easy to see - even to a fifteen year old forbidden from taking his exams, it chimed; rang through me like the vibrations of a tuning fork when the right note is played. Druss' determination to die as himself rather than live on as a pale shadow, Rek's journey from cowardice to acceptance of the fear that dominated him and learning to control the berserker side to his nature all had parallels in my own life. Even that embarrassingly clunky scene where Druss 'cures' a rape survivor's traumatic break-induced murderous inclinations with his sheer manliness had a certain... resonance I'm not going to dwell on too much; suffice to say that scene didn't 'cure' me of my rage issues, but it shone a torch on the place to start looking for one.

Within a week of finishing the book, I'd applied to go to college after my sixteenth birthday to take the GCSEs my actions had left me restricted from, approached my GP for some help to begin the process of dealing with some things and informed the street gang I was in that I was leaving. If the gang hadn't given me multiple and severe beatings for leaving, culminating in my being hospitalised and then forced to leave the town I grew up in for my own safety, this would be a tale with a happy ending. Life's never that simple, of course. There were a few more years of terrible mistakes on my part, but when my moral compass began spinning too wildly and I had no clue where to look for guidance I would read Legend again and reaffirm my decision to be the person I wanted to be, rather than the person my background, upbringing and experiences would lead people, myself included, to expect me to be.

More than any other I could name, Legend is a book I owe a debt to.

2000s: Talon of the Silver Hawk, by Raymond E. Feist - I'd gotten into something of a rut with my fantasy reading. Always the same kind of thing, always by the same authors. Gemmell, Feist, Pratchett, the very occasional book from Neil Gaiman (The man's highly gifted, but not what you'd call a prolific novelist) and the odd bit of forgettable Epic Fluff plucked at random from the library shelves. Fantasy was, in my mind, for only three things; consolation, satire or entertaining but slight fauxry tales and the only substance was satirical in nature. Being in a consolatory action frame of mind I picked up Talon, started reading and it occurred to me that the novel in my hands was, not to put too fine a point on it, crap. Not enjoyable, pulpy crap; just crap. The genre that had got me through the bad times seemed irrelevant when I was a happily married man with his life on the right(ish) track. Surely that wasn't all fantasy was good for?

I went to the library and began reading all the fantasy novels I'd dismissed as 'boring', 'slow' or 'faffy' in my younger and more turbulent times (Mythago Wood?! I'd once dismissed Mythago Wood!). To my surprise, fantasy as whole was broader, deeper and filled with greater meaning than I'd ever realised, being too wrapped up in my own troubles to read anything that didn't provide some kind of anaesthetic from, or mirror image of, my own life. I haven't looked back since.

So there you have it, three books. One escape hatch, one catalyst for change and growth, and one which encouraged me to read more widely in the genre that, to get a bit forgivably hyperbolic, ensured I didn't end it all, either by my own hand or through self destructive habits.

Please forgive the long post, but it's a question that deserved an honest answer and honesty is sometimes lengthy.

* Yes, I was just a kid myself, but I was a kid who knew better than to treat people as objects. I just didn't care, which is the part that still shames me years later.

January 20, 2012, 12:46:20 AM
Re: You know you're a writer when... ...you don't mind waiting rooms in the slightest and are quite happy for appointments to run late, since it gives you some alone time in which to plot and plan.
April 30, 2012, 12:30:38 AM
Re: Bigotry in Fantasy I think SF/F is inherently sexist, because society as a whole is inherently sexist. It's also patriarchal, (usually) unintentionally racist, often idiotic about class and heteronormative. This is the society we live in, these are the problems people face in their lives every day, so naturally they're reflected in the little microcosm of society that is fandom. If you think there's no sexism, ask how many women never read men authors, then ask how many men never read women - marvel at the disparity on show. Check your SF/F shelves and see how many non-WASP writers are there. Ditto for openly LGBT writers. How about genuinely working class (blue collar) writers?

As to the 'nerd' stereotype, it depends where you live. I grew up on a council estate (read: project) in the north east of England and being a SF/F fan was never that big of a deal; the kids who read books got loads of grief, but everyone watched ST:TNG or Quantum Leap. It wasn't what you read that got you into trouble, but the fact you were reading at all. I got into just as many fights for carrying around westerns or thrillers as I did for SF/F.

If anything, SF/F fandom is too complacent about these matters and too quick to congratulate itself on being tolerant, open and inclusive. There's a tendency to think that being aware of the issues is the same as having solved them, or moved beyond them, or transcended them. Well, that's so much self-congratulatory horseshit. We're not there yet, we're nowhere near there yet. No more so than the rest of society.

So there's my two penn'orth. SF/F fandom is exclusionary. All the bullshit, male entitlement and outright sexism surrounding the very recent 'real geek girl' vs 'fake geek girl' thing shows it up pretty starkly. I just like to convince myself that our collective ability to create and imagine better worlds eventually outweighs the bullshit we carry with us from this one.

August 02, 2012, 07:56:59 PM
Re: Baked beans who love/hates them here Beans are magnificent little things. Delicious, filling, cheap (depending on brand), extremely easy to prepare and -most importantly of all- they provoke great flatulence, which is both hilarious in its own right and a much needed talking point in a relationship that's approaching 15 years old. We have all the same friends, consume mostly the same entertainments (and actively dislike our partner's choices in the ones we don't share) and have broadly similar ethics and politics, but by GOD we play a fine duet on the bum trumpet. Beans aren't just a meal, they're a way of bringing couples closer together*.

Also, +1 on the cold beans thing. I like to make sandwiches with them.

* By dint of making them compete to see who can gross the other one out the most.

November 10, 2013, 07:25:29 PM