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Messages - cupiscent

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: New Tropes and Cliches
« on: February 18, 2019, 02:08:24 AM »
I have felt recently that the anti-hero, the grimdark MC, the jaded-bitter-warrior-who's-all-shades-of-grey is the new cliche/trope. I'm enjoying a bit of a swing away from that in stuff I'm reading recently, some books that are subverting that by having characters who are genuinely and earnestly trying to do good and the right thing, though that is sometimes a very complicated thing.

So maybe Skip's right, and the subversion is swinging back to the "hero genuinely does the right thing". :)

These days we have to look for a science fiction/fantasy category to separate us out from the teenage romance and light porn.

Speak for yourself, I don't mind a little light porn in with my sci fi or fantasy. ;)

Writers' Corner / Re: Unreliable narrator
« on: February 03, 2019, 09:44:32 PM »
Broadly speaking, an unreliable narrator is a viewpoint character who, for whatever reason, the reader cannot trust to be telling the truth. (Sometimes the narrator just leaves out stuff that they don't want to share, sometimes they are actively lying to the audience, sometimes they just have a misplaced or incomplete understanding of what's actually going on.) This is most commonly seen in first-person (which isn't as common in fantasy as in other sorts of literature) and I personally think all first-person narrators should be slightly unreliable, because we all have a subjective, not objective, view of the world.


For further exploration of unreliable narrators in spec fic and fan fic, I particularly recommend the "Be the Serpent" podcast, who did an episode all about them. (Episode 4: the Bastard's Lying to You!)

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: What did you read in January 2019
« on: February 02, 2019, 09:40:04 PM »
I have a big pile of actual purchased books that I am slowly working my way through, which is its own sort of exciting because I'm really keen on all of these books. This month I knocked off:

Vengeful by VE Schwab. Not quite as good as I was hoping. Part of that is probably related to how much I  absolutely loved Vicious, but this one widened the lens and, to my mind, diluted the driving central power. Schwab writes with punchy eloquence, but this just felt a little too meandery.

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman. My goodness, WHAT a book. I described this to my husband as "Tess of the d'Urbervilles meets Puss in Boots and the picaresque tradition", which is really just a silly way of saying it's a story about a young woman struggling against societal expectations, gender roles, and her own nature, while going off on Adventures. So, basically, it's the stuff of YA, but delivered with such scope and language and depth and nuance and I LOVED IT. (Set in the same world as Seraphina, and in fact Seraphina is a side character in this, but while there's amusing resonance and additional depth from knowing her story, I feel that this definitely stands alone and can be read without having read the author's other works.)

I feel like this would really be a good prompt for @cupiscent if we're lucky enough to get some of your attention :)

What's hilarious about this is that another friend just sent me this Trope Roulette tweet with a note basically saying "You've written this already, right?" I haven't yet, but I might be actually halfway through playing with a fanfic idea involving genderswap, so now I'm sitting here going, "HOW DO YOU PEOPLE KNOW??"

The problem is that I seem to take 1500 words just to clear my throat these days. (The fanfic I'm playing with is at 2300 words and all I've established is "X is now a girl; Y is somewhat flustered about this".) So... thank you for thinking of me, I am very amused, and I will actually have a think about it! But I doubt anything will bite within the wordcount.

Writers' Corner / Re: Writing Software Recommendations
« on: February 01, 2019, 07:25:15 AM »
I used to write in Word (before Google Docs existed) with one chapter per document. It kept things manageable and I could just print/send the parts I wanted. But then I needed to do a big edit of the whole novel (cutting 50k words). And it seemed like a completely impossible job until I put it into Scrivener, and could see the whole thing at once, and move scenes around and mark the ones that needed to be cut, or trimmed, or rewritten entirely, or where new ones should be. I've never looked back. (Though I do sometimes do a "zero" draft in Google Docs for the portability, depending on the circumstances I'm in when drafting.)

For the record, Scrivener saves all your "bits" (scenes, notes, documents, scraps; everything that's a page with words on in the project) as .rtf files within a folder structure, though admittedly the files are not named intuitively (numbered in order of creation, as far as I can tell). But it does mean all of your words are available; I've pulled my files up through Google Drive outside of Scrivener before, but it's not an easy way to work.

One thing Word and Docs have over Scrivener, for sure, is working with tracked and tracking changes at the reader / edits stage. And Docs capacity for sharing is fantastic.

Writers' Corner / Re: Writing Software Recommendations
« on: January 30, 2019, 11:30:17 PM »
I'm another Scrivener user and lover. I know I don't even use half the potential functionality of the program, in terms of organisation and keeping my notes in it as well. (I use Evernote and also physical notebooks for planning and research.) But it's just so easy and helpful. (And the auto-back-up is so reassuring.)

And as I understand it, Scrivener for Mac is actually bigger, better, smoother, awesomer than Scriv for Windows!

The software does come with a price tag, but half-price coupons for it are handed out to NaNoWriMo winners, so if you ask around, someone may have one they don't need... :)

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Gritty fantasy set in large city??
« on: January 24, 2019, 02:29:41 AM »
Yeah, my first thought was Daniel Polanksy's work. Very gritty, very urban, the first one looks at class issues (from memory) though the latter two are more set down in the slums.

Perhaps also consider Douglas Hulick's Among Thieves, which is very urban thieves-in-the-alleyways sort of fantasy.

The king of the rogue-shenanigans-afoot-in-the-city is of course Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora, which I can never recommend highly enough.

For more always-recommends, and if you're looking for urban settings with a modern slant but fantasy sense of wonder, try Max Gladstone; start with Three Parts Dead.

I never mind seeing a, for example, "this society doesn't have gender conformist politics JUST BECAUSE" world, because there are so many invented worlds that DO have gender conformist politics just because (for whatever default reason).

It's GREAT to see a work where the author has really thought about what made our Western/European civilisations so misogynist/racists/homophobic/whatever and has dissected that through making well-demonstrated alternative worldbuilding choices. Love that stuff.

But female/queer/trans/black/whatever people get to have unthinking escapist fantasy too.

An amusing thing related to tropes I've been seeing lately is the growing tendency for authors/fans to describe stories with "AO3 tags".

So, for the uninitiated, Archive Of Our Own (AO3) is a broad fanfic archive. To help people find the sorts of things they want to read, and avoid those they don't, authors add tags to their stories noting which characters in involves, any warnings (for death or violence or consent issues), but also authors add additional descriptive tagging. These might be things like "hurt/comfort", denoting that it's a story wherein something bad happens, but the characters get to make each other feel better about it. Or it might be things like "only one bed", if it's a story where, for whatever very serious plot reasons, the characters are forced to share a bed.

YEP, it's trope tagging.

And as fanfic authors and audiences move more comfortably into fiction, I'm starting to see this happening for published books. For instance, when an agentsib of mine had her forthcoming Tor.Com novella, "Silver in the Wood", announced, it included a list of "applicable AO3 tags": "Many Feelings About Trees; Hurt/Comfort; Protective Dryads; Monster Hunting With Your In-Laws; Now That You’re in Tree Jail; Bring Your Crossbow; Bad Hair Centuries; You Can Never Have Too Many Sharp Knives Or Warm Socks; What A Beautiful Library You Have; Faustian Bargains (Implied)"

It's a bit like a dotpoint list version of a blurb, except that it includes terms that speak to common fiction elements - tropes. So that people can avoid stories that contain elements they don't like, and wallow in the stories that have things they enjoy. Everyone wins.

To get back to actual point: tropes are just things that occur more or less commonly in stories. Enjoyment of any specific one is subjective. All of them can be done well or poorly.

That said, I don't know if there's any that a book of the fantasy genre MUST have in order to be a book of the fantasy genre--unlike how a romance-genre book (as opposed to a story with a strong romantic line) MUST have a Happily Ever After (or Happy-For-Now) ending.

They’re not traditional, they’re alt history, but Sarah Gailey’s American Hippo duology features LGBT characters.

I just picked this up from the bookstore the other day and now I'm even more excited to read it!

Hmm. I mean, yes, there are books on there I've never heard of. But I've read four on that list, but there's another fifteen that are on my "eagerly looking forward to but haven't made it there" list, and another eight that are later works in series or from authors that I tried but didn't like that much so won't be reading further. There are definitely unorthodox inclusions, but there's plenty of well-known, traditional-source reads too.

Given the annual scuffle about where the line is drawn between paranormal romance/fantasy romance and "straight" fantasy, I was amused to see Karen Marie Moning on the list. :D


Magic's Pawn - my search for quality LGBT fantasy continues; aside from (contrived) cuteness there was nothing here to make me remotely interested in the rest of the books in its shared universe.

@cupiscent was raving about an LGBT book a while ago if I remember correctly.

Well, look, when am I not raving about an LGBT book. :D

I see you've been tipped the master link, @Jake Baelish but if you want to talk more about what specifically might be what you're after, feel free to send me a message and we can chat. (I don't want to say READ MAX GLADSTONE if actually you're after traditional-fantasy-but-gay. Though, I mean, read Max Gladstone. srsly.)

ALSO, relevant to this, author K.A. Doore (who has a lovely book coming out in March featuring a homoromatic asexual assassin protagonist) put together a list of LGBT debut novels coming out next year, many of them spec-fic or adjacent, and there is some EXCITING stuff on there. I am particularly looking forward to Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth which looks AMAAAAZING. (...where IS our "what are you looking forward to this year?" thread? Have I missed it? Do I have to MAKE it? UGH GUYS.)

Last year, my goal was broadly one fiction book a week, plus one non-fiction per month. I fell down on that because I spent a month at one point reading fanfic instead of fiction novels, and my daily routine lost my window for non-fic reading halfway through the year.

But I'm determined to try again. I'm tinkering with my schedule to make space for non-fic reading, because I read some great books full of fascinating information and ideas last year, and I want to do more of that this year. I'm also going to try and read as much fiction as I can, because there are already 39 books on my "published in 2019" sublist of my to-read list, without even getting into the 78 books published in 2018 I still want to read...

- The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
 - The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Garcia-Moreno
 - The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso
 - Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly
 - The Two of Swords trilogy by KJ Parker

Coming back to this list at the actual end of the year...
  • Shout-out to @Elfy, I think Armistice actually supplants Amberlough on the list; SO GOOD, and much more my sort of thing. :)
  • Two of Swords trilogy definitely not let down by the third book, which to my mind made ALL the right choices and brought it romping home.
  • Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik was a cracking good read and probably deserves a spot on my list; I think it would probably knock Tethered Mage off (though I may feel differently once I read Melissa Caruso's second book!)
  • Ruin of Angels by Max Gladstone was similarly really quite smashing, but I don't know that it's actually better than either Garcia-Moreno or Lee. Both of those books were masterful.
  • One of my absolute top reads for 2018 is actually only going to be released in 2019, so it's a cheat: The Perfect Assassin by K.A. Doore (we share an agent, so I got my hands on a review copy). Expect to see me raving a lot about this one in anticipation of its March release, because it's a wonderful Middle-Eastern-ish steampunky-post-apoc-urban setting with amazing assassins but also such strong themes of justice and hope and doing-the-right-thing. It's just a beautiful book and a great adventure romp all rolled into one, and I am so excited to see what comes next.

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