January 20, 2020, 01:55:27 AM

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Fantasy-Faction Facebook Group
« on: January 17, 2020, 03:24:16 AM »
Cat fights, pfft. Dog fights, any day! <g>

I don't think it's age, I think it's the format. Conversations on FB are nearly impossible because of the format. Same goes for Twitter, and Instagram isn't even in the running. Anyone who thinks a picture is worth a thousand words should try having a debate on Instagram. *chortle*

When I taught online, I used forum software. Started out with PCBoard (talk about old!), then WebBoard. Only went to Blackboard when the university forced me to do so. IT people should not be allowed anywhere near education, says the teacher who worked in IT for 30 years.

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Religion in Fantasy
« on: January 16, 2020, 06:22:22 PM »
>Red/Grey/Holy sister books are weird. Despite set in a monastery and all characters are sister/nuns, it has almost zero religion.

There you go, that's an example of what I mean. The author chooses the setting because he has certain assumptions about what it is to be a monk. So he gets ready-made a whole structure of oppression and regulation and rules. And that's fine. You can tell a good story within that. It's not that author who bothers me, it's that almost no one seems able to see further.

>Even Atheism is ultimately a faith, a religion, because there is no scientific basis for belief or rejection of the idea of a God, gods and there is the problem of morals.

Just a small note here. I wish there was the word Antitheism because that's what I see in most people who identify as atheists. There's nothing intrinsic to being atheist that leads to being critical of religion. In a specifically Christian context, it means someone who has not heard the Word, who hasn't experienced a conversion. That's a peculiarly Christian thing. To be a Muslim, you need only declare yourself to be one and to observe the rules of the faith. Similarly with Buddhism. Judaism is odd because there's an identification as a people--inheritance--but there's still a door open to converts. I'm not at all sure about Hinduism, but for the most part I think it's a birthright. Anyway, Christianity is unusual (unique?) in that it insists on a spiritual conversion.

I mean, right there, without even going into sects and heresies, is a rich panoply of religion and individual and society.  IMO, the reason why it doesn't get done much is because we're fundamentally secular as a society. Religion doesn't resonate, save for the one area of religion as oppression and exploitation. To go further would require the book to do a bunch of hard work bringing the reader into it.

How many modern readers are going to be moved by Pierre's spiritual crisis in War and Peace? How many will think the issues raised in Narcissus and Goldmund are interesting? Or can feel the epic scale of A Prayer for Owen Meany?

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Religion in Fantasy
« on: January 16, 2020, 01:40:31 AM »
>Would you write real life religion into your fantasy books ?
I do. It hasn't been central to any story I've told so far, but I can see a couple of places where it might be. So, not in the next book, but down the road, maybe. I write historical fantasy, so the raw materials are there.

Fantasy writers by and large do poorly with religion. Many think "religion" is the same thing as church, theology, doctrine, and practice. They tend to think there's a clear line between religion and superstition, and overlook the wide range between formal doctrine and popular belief. They also tend to present a religion as if everyone believed the same things in the same ways. In short, they have a shallow view of religion.

Secondly, fantasy writers use organized religion as a scapegoat. They take all the worst elements and manifestations of historical religions and make these normative. They also vastly overestimate the power of a church to dictate belief and practice. In short, they have not only a shallow view, but an overblown one.

I'm an atheist. But I'm also a medieval historian, and you don't get far in that field without taking people's beliefs seriously. Religion is filled with wonderfully rich fields to explore. Alas, too many writers only want to go into the one field, stand in the middle of it, and shout.

The above (and more) explains, at least to my own satisfaction, why so many fantasy works do such a poor job of representing religious practices of non-humans. We and SF writers have this extraordinary opportunity to explore religious themes *without* explicitly referencing known religions. SF writers do a much better job than we do.

Anyway, what was the question? Oh. I would answer: yes.

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I can think of two current examples. One is Josiah Bancroft's Books of Babel series. It's about a man whose wife disappears in a crowd. He is absolutely dedicated to finding her again. Along the way he undergoes many changes, and he's certainly not trying to save the world. And it's a world filled with fantastic fantasy.

The other is SF, but it's so fantastical I think it earns a place here: James S.A. Corey's The Expanse. The main character has a set of ethics that he adheres to. They're wonderfully ... not quite naive, but plain. Everyman ethics. Jimmy Stewart sort of ethics. He does not waver, though he is fiercely challenged in his beliefs and he can doubt himself without wavering. Adherence to those ethics cause *huge* consequences. With a different set of ethics, he'd make a good villain.

Anyway, these books get written. I don't think they are any fewer than in earlier times. When we recall the reading of our youth, we tend to recall what is good, forget what was forgettable, and overlook the fact that *most* books back in the day we never read in the first place. And alot of it was garbage.

And, of course, this being a writers and readers forum, the conventional advice applies: go write what you want to read.

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Sci-Fi, Horror, YA & Urban Fantasy Books / Re: Dune, 50 Years On
« on: January 08, 2020, 05:33:02 PM »
Yup. I never noticed it on my first read either. Only when I read aloud.

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Sci-Fi, Horror, YA & Urban Fantasy Books / Re: Dune, 50 Years On
« on: January 08, 2020, 02:01:52 AM »
I read Dune as a teen back in the 60s. Then I read it aloud to my wife some time around 1972. It still held up except for one thing: the barking. Duncan barked. The Baron barked. Sooner or later, everyone barked. It got to the point where I would use "said" just because it was sort of embarrassing.

Looking back now, that was my first lesson in dialog tags. :)  And, I suppose, in the difference between reading silently and reading aloud.

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Self Publishing Discussion / Re: Is it worth using Goodreads?
« on: January 06, 2020, 06:44:45 PM »
I dont' find it a good way to connect with readers. Then again, I don't have all that many readers. :)

But I do visit regularly because that's my library. It's my record of books read, and people do read my reviews. Not entirely sure why, and GR doesn't give me any tools for finding out. The main thing, though, is that it's a record. I've found it to be the most useful after years of keeping lists by hand, in a Word document, in a spreadsheet. It also serves as a reference for when I'm trying to decide what book to buy my (grown) children for birthdays. Books are always my birthday gifts.

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Writers' Corner / Re: Unrepentant Characters
« on: January 06, 2020, 06:41:32 PM »
My first question is why do you want to write an unsympathetic character and then want people to feel sympathetic?

Second is an observation. It's personal but I don't think I'm alone in this. I'm not much for any character who is "purely" any one thing. It's the very definition of one-dimensional, which in fiction is pretty much synonymous with boring.

To look for truly appalling characters, look outside of fantasy. The main character in John Fowles' The Collector is as shocking a character as I've ever encountered. But I was fascinated. I couldn't look away, even though that sort of story is not at all the sort of thing I read.

For another example, try Brighton Rock by Graham Greene. Another beast in human form. He makes the main character of A Clockwork Orange look like the minor leagues.

But if you look closely at these stories, you'll see that however thoroughly psychotic are the characters, the author gives them more than one dimension. They are not purely evil. They are, to coin a phrase, beyond good and evil, at least in their own minds. Each story raises this question: what sort of person would do these things? And the answer for each is something more than merely that they are acting purely out of self-interest. There's more too them, however abhorrent.

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Writers' Corner / Re: Characters with a mind of their own
« on: January 05, 2020, 03:04:55 AM »
My characters don't tell me things. They don't do unexpected things. What they do comes out of the end of my pen.

And yet....

I have this funny sense of obligation to them. The more important they are to the story, the more I want to do right by them, to tell a story that is worthy of them, whether villain or hero. I hate thinking that readers will get the book and not care about the characters as much as I want them to, and that if they don't care, it's my fault.

Because it is.

But saying I want the story to be worthy of the character in some way does give a kind of separate standing to that fictional creation. It's a little silly, but there it is.

As for planning scenes, I feel quite differently than Matthew (and many others). I may know what must happen, and I may even know how each character ought to react. But the excitement and the craft lie in creating that in words. If a character is supposed to be outraged by something they witness, there are thousands of ways to portray this. My job is to get the reader to feel it along with the character. That's challenging and fascinating and deeply gratifying (when I can manage it).

I've made the analogy with jazz before, but that won't prevent me from making it again. The musicians know the song. They know the key and the chord progressions and phrases of melody. But that doesn't take the life out of the performance. Instead, it gives structure to the performance. To me, "pantsing" is the equivalent of random people getting on stage, grabbing random instruments, and playing whatever each one feels like. Sure, once in a while something like a song might emerge, but why do it that way when there are better ways?

That said, I have to acknowledge that many writers write many good stories in "unexpected" ways, however improbable that may seem. At which point I just shrug and call it art and admire the results.

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Writers' Corner / Re: Who is writing?
« on: January 04, 2020, 04:55:42 AM »
I R writing. Just finished second draft of a short story I'll be entering in a local contest. Yes, I'm supposed to be working on The Falconer, and I am. Really. It's just that this contest came up and I had this story idea and, well ...

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: What books did you read in 2019?
« on: December 28, 2019, 04:46:49 PM »
Caliban's War
Abaddon's Gate
Nemesis Games
Babylon's Ashes
Persepolis Rising
Tiamat's Wrath
all by James S.A. Corey. Hands down the best SF going. Best in decades.

Flashman, George MacDonald Fraser. Yuck and yucky. Don't know what the fuss is about.
The Hod King, Josiah Bancroft. Bring on Book 4!
The Reverse of the Medal, Patrick O'Brian. I turn to these when I want a reliable read.
Children of Time, Adrian Tchaikovsky. Grand design, dull writing.
Medieval Maritime Warfare, Charles D. Stanton
Children of Earth and Sky, Guy Gavriel Kay. Very good.
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini. Good early on, but toward the end he manipulated the plot too much.
Night Has a Thousand Eyes, Cornell Woolrich. Bizarre.
Malice, John Gwynne. Shrug.
A Rare Benedictine, Ellis Peters
The Story of the Barbary Corsairs, Stanley Lane-Poole.
A Red Death, Walter Mosley
Murder In Absentia, Assaph Mehr
Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson

Did not finish
Elantris, Brandon Sanderson
The Godstalker Chronicles, P.D. Hodgell

I'm pretty comfortable coming in at 20 or so books per year.

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: What did you read in December 2019
« on: December 28, 2019, 04:34:29 PM »
A Red Death, Walter Mosley
Easily my favorite current detective novelist. Tight plotting, clean writing, and memorable characters.

Murder In-Absentia, Assaph Mehr
Another detective novel, but this one's set in pseudo-Rome with plenty of magic. A good story with a fully-realized setting, and great use of the magical element. Recommended to detective fans and history fans and fantasy fans alike.

Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson
A classic, but a decidedly odd one. I read it because Ray Bradbury said it influenced him as a young writer. Winesburg is episodic, which is fine, though back when it was published I think it caused more than a few scratched heads. More odd to me is the emotionalism, sudden changes in emotion. It's a style we rarely see any more. I'm not sure if I liked the book, but I'm glad I read it.

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Writers' Corner / Re: Who is writing?
« on: December 24, 2019, 06:21:48 PM »
I'm pretty much always writing. Current project is The Falconer, which is an Altearth take on a couple of years in the life of Emperor Frederick II.

I also have a short story drafted but I'm not entirely happy with it. I'm letting that one sit for a while, over there in the corner. Every once in a while I walk by and glare at it. I think it's pouting.

Like others have said I don't tend to have many writing questions any more. I have three novels behind me, two novelettes, and three short stories. Every new project is a blind stumble, but I've come to accept that this is the Way of Things for me. It's not like I can find answers and somehow all will come clear.

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Is Grimdark still popular ?
« on: December 23, 2019, 06:26:31 PM »
Too difficult to answer this question. Not only because there's too little agreement on what constitutes grimdark, but also how do we measure "popular"? Number of sales? Pretty much any genre of fantasy is going to have sales in the thousands on up. How many marks the line between popular and not popular?

Not a fan of the genre myself, no not even Abercrombie.

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Fantasy Movies, Comic Books & Video Games / Re: The Witcher ( tv series)
« on: December 23, 2019, 06:21:20 PM »
DNF first episode. It was too ham-handed, poor acting, poor directing. It's fine. I enjoyed Witcher 3 and I'll keep that version in the memory banks.

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