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Re: Am I Sexist?: Males reading female authored fantasy I too found the book hard to get into--there's a lot of info thrown at you and you have to get used to very different worlds with a lot of different cultures, which is a big change from the rather comfy (European) history based fantasy that is a lot of what's out there and doesn't require a lot of brain-stretching.

I think a point that needs to be made regarding complaints that the book is overtly 'preachy' or political, is that writing the status quo is in itself a political act.  So all those writers portraying a world that is either strongly representative of current societal norms or some supposedly-historical social situation are (perhaps unconsciously) supporting a system that many people find problematic.  Yes, some present it in order to examine it, subvert it, etc, but others try to pretend it's 'just the way things are'.  Just saying we shouldn't present that as a sort of 'neutral' position.

March 14, 2015, 06:10:58 PM
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Re: Women Write Fantasy (The Giant 'Women in Fantasy' Database) So, possibly a little off-topic again but I've been really interested in this for a while, and decided (as usual) the way I like to deal with such interesting questions is to look for some sort of data.  I'm sure somebody has done it before (any links to the like would be welcome) but I decided to make a Great Big List of authors and then see where the differences lay. 
  • I used Goodreads for the data, which is has some problems (very skewed to recent books, and--apparently--YA).
  • I got the names from 1) lists on goodreads (the recommendation factor) 2) my own experience 3) other internet lists (including this one) and 4) a 2000-era Encyclopaedia of Fantasy that I have.  So the list is by no means complete!
  • Because I had to eliminate some things, I pared down the uber-list by removing writers with under 25k ratings, overwhelmingly YA/Sci-Fi/Romance/Other catalogues but, naturally, my own prejudice comes in.  (For example, I didn't want pure Vampire-Paranormal Romance style Urban Fantasy, but should if I kick out Charlaine Harris do I then exclude Jim Butcher?)
  • I also removed Tolkien because he was skewing everything (on balance, JK Rowling and Suzanne Collins were skewing everything back if I let YA in).
The result is (so far) a list of 73 men and 65 women theoretically representing "Major Traditional Fantasy" authors.  The interesting things to come out of it (to me) are:
  • The men have twice as many ratings as the women (an indication twice as popular).
  • The men are rated higher by a significant amount (overall avg: 4.09, men: 4.13, women 4.02)
  • The top 10 by rating has 1 woman in it, the top 25 has 7.  By number of ratings, the top ten has 3 woman and the top 25 has 9.
So, what's going on here?  I think this goes hand-in-hand with the anecdotal evidence about people overwhelmingly recommending men on 'what to read' or 'best of' lists.  Goodreads is a recommendation site, with data.  Clearly, the data support this perception that men write better fantasy.  (I AM NOT SAYING THEY DO.)  Even the women that DO come up in recommendations like Robin Hobb and Ursula LeGuin fall way down this list (29 and 52 respectively)--as do some men widely recommended--but even after the troubles with exposure there seems to be something working against women.

A lot of other things could be going on, obviously.  Looking at the names, there's a strong chance that a certain model or type of fantasy gets higher ratings, and that this model is male-dominated.  It's fairly clear that complex and potentially controversial stories suffer in the ratings, so perhaps women write more of these.  There's also a chance that dudes-reading-dudes are less critical as reviewers.  I'd love to know what people think, and perhaps look at some more stats and studies...

Interesting, the full list (including YA/paranormal/etc) is bossed by the women, though that is largely down to JK Rowling and Suzanne Collins--even Tolkien can't stand against them!

Anyway, I was going to blog on some of this but wanted to try it out here first.  Is there anything to be read from this or is it not helpful?

March 22, 2015, 12:09:51 PM
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Re: Highly Regarded Books that You Have Struggled Through For those struggling with the Worm Ouroboros (which I loved but is completely unlike anything else I've read), Eddison's 'trilogy' of Zimamvia is written in a more accessible style.  Mistress of Mistresses has some really good feudal bickering (an Edwardian Game of Thrones if you will!).  But overall, unless you can get on with the archaic style it's hard--I still found quite a lot of it a slog, but there are some moments of haunting genius in there that are worth the perseverance.  A bit like Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, actually!

I've slogged through too many 'highly regarded' books by now that I don't see the point any more.  I'm just going to read things that work for me, no matter what others' say--unless I'm absolutely sure it's worth it, I'm not going to push through things I put down and don't want to pick up again (there's a difference between 'want to read' and 'want to have read'!). 

March 22, 2015, 12:19:17 PM
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Re: Sword & Sorcery - Recommendations and Opinions Interesting to see this exploration of S&S evolve.  Still can't believe there's no love for Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, but perhaps because the fighting isn't as important as the adventure.  I have read some of the other short stories that the OP liked (Conan, William King's Cormack [have you tried his Gotrek & Felix Warhammer books?], Glen Cook's "Empire Unacquainted with Defeat" [Black Company is not in this sub-genre], the first Witcher set), and enjoyed them...but not as much as Leiber or Moorcock.  And I can't really think of anything else off the top of my head, but, as others mention, Jen Williams and Sam Sykes might be good places to look.
April 07, 2015, 05:15:29 PM
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Re: Where's the Wow Factor in Books Gone?
I think the more you read, the more you become a bit jaded (this is especially true if you study books/storytelling)  so it takes more to really hold your interest. It's not that the book is bad but.....
Definitely agree with this, especially when compounded with reading one type of book for too long (as somebody else said).

I haven't found an unputdownable page-turner in a while, but then I have so many other demands on my time that I have to put any book down before too long. Most of them I want to pick up again, but I also find myself reading more than one book at once so I have a bit of choice. The last two books I can really remember blazing through were ones I read on holiday - Ancillary Sword and Joe Abercrombie's Half the World (as a YA, it's short, and as an Abercrombie, almost every chapter is a cliffhanger). Oh, and also the draft of my own latest, haha!

Another thing I thought of was the fact that a lot of times I choose books on content and sub-genre rather than whether it's necessarily a gripping read (though hopefully both!). Being picky about what kind of story I'm most likely to enjoy means I don't always get a page-turner, but I usually enjoy the books nonetheless. And some of my favourite books have been really difficult to read, but worth it in the end.

November 02, 2015, 05:37:48 PM
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Re: Final Round: Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off
Time to finally create that Reddit account!  ;)
Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate...

March 10, 2016, 03:41:32 PM
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Re: Is Sword & Sorcery outdated? And how can it move forward?
Not ignoring or excusing the subjugation and exploitation of more traditional cultures and civilisations beneath the white man's yoke, but the inverse still holds a boyish appeal, leastways in my perspective. The notion of a wild, savage realm, the call to adventure, the exotic and unknown - to tame a land, conquest and glory - the very fabric, I would argue, of any good fantasy, and certainly exemplary of S&S.

... I'm more inclined toward the idea of the classic stalwarts of sword and sorcery being refractory - historical revisionism would dilute them.

How does one compose a politically correct sword and sorcery novel without utterly tripping over every well-intentioned but often ham-fisted attempt at creating an accurate and sympathetic portraiture of a particular demographic? I think I'd lose the plot, figuratively and literally, if my primary focus for any composition was to avoid any catalyst that may engender offence in a particular demographic.

That said, I'd still be curious as to whether S&S could move forward and retain such a dynamic and recognisable charm and character.
I don't see the inherent dissonance between what you say is the essence of S&S, "a wild, savage realm, the call to adventure, the exotic and unknown - to tame a land, conquest and glory" as you put it, and any potential modern take that was sensitive to racism, colonialism, sexism and otherwise "politically correct". But then, I don't find a lot of "charm" in racism, sexism, etc...

You could just as well write a Conan story where the iron-thewed iconoclast is a black lesbian fighting the stormtroopers of colonial oppression, recovering a plundered sacred object, rescuing the learned, well-dressed high-priestess along the way (not expecting sexual gratification in return, of course), and not making any judgments based on outdated pseudo-science along the way. Or you could invert it and have Conan learn how the "savages" he underestimated actually have a rich and admirable culture, and that he has been duped into assassinating their "demon" queen by treacherous slavers who want access to the riches, and that he's going to have to rely on more than his "natural superiority" to get him through.

I mean, the fact that S&S like Conan engage with non-western cultures make them a lot more diverse than, say, Lord of the Rings - if you take out all the racist, sexist and colonialist bullshit (probably doable with a red pen) that is often in the margins anyway, I don't see how it would affect the fantastic, action-packed adventure at the core. What's wrong with a bit of sensitivity? How does not being an asshole ruin the fun of fantasy?

Sword and Sorcery from the 60s was already subverting the attitudes of the past, anyway, so I don't see why we can't do just as well now. I'm pretty sure Kameron Hurley could write S&S like a boss, though it might well offend some demographics... ::)

*I use Conan as an example because I've read some, along with Moorcock and Leiber, but no Lovecraft or Karl Edward Wagner.

March 18, 2016, 04:57:47 PM
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Re: The Great Ordeal by R. Scott Bakker I remember back in the early 00s when there was a bit of a dearth of "serious" fantasy (at least, what seemed "serious" to me at the time) and a lull in the publication of ASOIAF (iirc), I remember looking at Amazon reviews and elsewhere and trying to decide between Bakker and Erikson - that seemed the big choice on the next big thing at the time. In the end, I plumped for Malazan, but I never got that far with it, and moved on to other things.

Years later I picked up TDTCB on a whim and it really clicked for me (two prologues and all!), so I reckon I made the wrong choice all those years before. One of many lessons that I should take a few more risks and not listen to popular tastes. (Haven't got round to the second book yet, but then I rarely complete series these days!)

August 02, 2016, 04:41:21 PM
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Re: SPFBO - An Update for you Can't say that any of the ones in FF's list this year really captured my interest (though I did check out the sample of Song of Blood and Stone). Some of the ones in other lists have done a bit better (I've read a few of them already), and I'll take a closer look at all the finalists, but they still seem to suffer from some general indie problems of either seeming too generic, or too strange, or (for those that don't care for it) too romance/PNR. For me anyway, and I'm picky enough with published books!

The runaway success so far is not even a finalists - Senlin Ascends.

EDIT: One of the books in here that I really enjoyed, Matt Heppe's Eternal Knight - seems to have vanished without a trace over at Elitist Book Reviews, where they've only reviewed two books, one of which is their finalist. :/

October 13, 2016, 03:13:28 PM
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Re: Smiler's Fair I really liked both Smilier's Fair and the sequel. It's not normally the sort of book I'd like, but I was drawn in immediately. Ironically, I only picked it up because I had heard good things but it isn't very well described in the blurbs (and the cover is pretty but doesn't match the book), so I was intrigued more than anything. I ended up getting a free copy at Bristolcon 2015, and gave it a try - if I'd know it was grimdark and relatively Epic I probably would passed, but I ended up being fascinated by the blend of grimdark morality and shocking events with some really creative High Fantasy worldbuilding. (Grimdark worlds are usually as grey and uninspiring as their morality.)
May 10, 2017, 12:54:28 PM
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