Mar. 25th, 2013 12:51 am
akashiver: (avatar)
So I once again had a lovely time at ICFA, the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts down in Florida. The final day of the conference was interrupted by a tornado passing overhead -- excitement! -- but there was no damage. Just a green sky and the smell of ozone, which Kij Johnson pointed out to me and is indeed pretty remarkable.

I'll do a fuller write-up later. In the meantime -- it was great to see you all.


Nov. 1st, 2011 02:02 am
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...was in San Diego this year. Palm trees, sunshine, a hot tub... True, I spent a lot of time indoors attending readings and events, but wow. What a great location for WFC!

True, the hotel was rather... strange... and had some odd policies (e.g. not issuing guests blankets and barring wheelchair access ramps). But the people more than made up for the confused dystopia of the compound. If I'm ever interred in a 1950s style bordello-turned-Prisoner-Village, let me be interred with SF fans. They make everything so much more interesting.

And what lovely people! I finally got to meet [livejournal.com profile] douglascohen and Neil Gaiman; I caught up with my Indiana/CW posse, and I ended the weekend in an exhausted heap.

Highlights included swapping R.C. stories and listening to the early version of DC's forthcoming Game of Thrones rap. Also: I caught some wonderful readings by NK Jemisin, Karen Lord, and the wall-thumping [livejournal.com profile] ninja_turbo. I didn't get to everything i wanted to see, and I didn't get to talk to everyone I wanted to talk to. That, I guess, is what WFC 2012 is for.
Short version: I had a fantastic time. Now for Toronto!
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Back from WFC.
Happy but exhausted.
More later.

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Oh mighty lj! I turn to you for aid.

I'm looking for examples of high fantasy novels that follow the Tolkienesque pattern in which an agricultural / pre-modern community is threatened by an outside force associated with techology/modernity.

What novels might fit this pattern?
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Fellow CW alum DJ Muir has a new story out at Strange Horizons. I have fond memories of The Fourth Board from workshop and I'm excited to see it in print:

akashiver: (Default)
So I never mentioned Sady Doyle's George R.R. Martin piece in part because I didn't think it warranted the attention. Doyle clearly wanted to skewer the series. She makes some good points, she makes some funny points, and she also misses the mark.

Alyssa Rosenburg had a thoughtful response. To this I'd add that I have a problem with Doyle's pre-mockery of her respondents, and specifically her portrayal of them as 'nerds upset that she doesn't like their toys.'

For the record, when you begin a blog post with  sentences like "George R.R. Martin is creepy," you are not talking about toys. Last time I checked, Martin was a person.  

The fact that Doyle then uses this "toys" rhetoric to justify deleting critical comments is disturbing. I don't have a lot of respect for the author of an article about rape who  a) objectifies others b) uses this objectification to deny that she is actually talking about Real People and c) silences her critics rather than allowing their voices to be heard.

But reading Doyle's article did make me wish that I could point to a couple scenes of male rape in the GoT books, or in "gritty" high fantasy in general. It's not as though men don't get raped. They *particularly* run the risk of getting raped in war. But it's not a problem society likes to acknowledge in real life or in fiction.

Which brings me to this very interesting article in the Guardian: The Rape of Men.

Twenty-one per cent of Sri Lankan males who were seen at a London torture treatment centre reported sexual abuse while in detention. In El Salvador, 76% of male political prisoners surveyed in the 1980s described at least one incidence of sexual torture. A study of 6,000 concentration-camp inmates in Sarajevo found that 80% of men reported having been raped.

Not only does male rape happen, but all indicators point to it happening a lot in war. But it's almost never  reported. The reasons for this are steeped in patriarchy's construction of masculine power, and can have consequences that differ from those facing female rape victims.

Often, she says, wives who discover their husbands have been raped decide to leave them. "They ask me: 'So now how am I going to live with him? As what? Is this still a husband? Is it a wife?' They ask, 'If he can be raped, who is protecting me?' There's one family I have been working closely with in which the husband has been raped twice. When his wife discovered this, she went home, packed her belongings, picked up their child and left. Of course that brought down this man's heart."

In short, I think Martin's overdue to address male rape in Westeros. We've had at least one man get sexually tortured and mutilated, but so far male rape hasn't even been threatened.

(Or has it? Those books are so damn long I might have missed something.)
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Marie Brennan's fourth and (so far) final Onyx Court novel is out, and it's set in the Victorian period. (Hurray!) For those of us fond of London fairies and Victorians, I think our reading list is set.

I'm terrible at descriptions, so I'll let PW do it for me:

With Fate Conspire

Gifted storyteller and world-builder Brennan returns to the Onyx Court, a faery city that coexists with London, in her fourth historical fantasy (after 2010's A Star Shall Fall). As the Onyx Court is threatened by 19th-century advances in technology, the faeries and humans increasingly come into conflict. Eliza O'Malley is caught between the two worlds, both of which are often cruel and indifferent to her desperate search for her childhood friend, Owen, who was captured by the faeries seven years before. Unless Eliza can find Dead Rick, the dog-man who betrayed them, Owen will be lost to the faery kingdom forever. Series readers and fans of the Tam Lin myth will be captivated by this complex and vibrant depiction of a magical Victorian era.
akashiver: (write)

In the Gardens of the Night has been reviewed over at Locus. Lois Tilton calls it a "neatly twisted tale of conspiracies and plots" and gives it a "Recommended" rating. (Woot!)
akashiver: (People who read too much!)

So, on the advice of a CW friend, I gave Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind another try, and... liked it.

This is unexpected, because TNOTW is very much a wish-fulfillment story about a Super-Talented, Awesome Character Whose Only Flaws Make Him Yet More Awesome. In short, it's the kind of thing I usually despise. But TNOTW works, in part because of the confidence of the storytelling, and in part because of the layered narration.
Kvothe is presented as a figure of mystery in the first two chapters, which means by the time he gets around to telling his story, I genuinely wanted to find out more about him. It's a clever narrative trick, and one I'll have to remember.
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My very first CW story, In the Gardens of the Night, is now up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Thanks to a lively crit session, it is now forever known as the "I want an army of undead concubines!" story. This despite the fact that (spoiler) there are no undead concubines appearing in this story.

I'm particularly proud of the opening paragraph, which I worked on for a looooong time:

In the open court they call her Nakshedil, “Embroidered on the Heart,” as the prince does. But in the shadows they call her “the Great Whore” or “the Viper,” and they watch her with narrowed eyes. She is beautiful. Nobody can deny that, though there are many beautiful concubines in the palace and many who are less ambitious than Nakshedil. But when she dances, she is more than beautiful. Even those like me, who wish her dead, cannot help but love her a little.

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Meteorologists in Westeros seem to have a fairly easy job. Seasons can last decades, after all, so predicting the weather involves little more than looking out a window and saying, "the next ten years will be kinda like this."

Seeing the number of people who get slaughtered in this series makes me think that the Westeros meteorologists (and SPOILER     this book suggests they do exist     )  could enhance their services by offering a "Vengeance Index." It'd be like a pollen index, only showing the likelihood of your being killed horribly for something that you may (or may not) have done.

Example of the Vengeance Index in action:

Wife: "I'm thinking we should cancel the children's picnic today."

Husband: "Why? Does it look like Rape and Murder?"

Wife: "There's supposed to be showers of Rape and Murder all week."

Husband: "We could always move the picnic inside."

Wife: "I would, but the Vengeance Index is set at 'People Baked Into Pies."

Husband: "Not again."

See what I mean? Useful.
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... the book also known as "George R.R. Martin, hurry the hell up."

It's a propulsive read, a real page-turner, and I read it with a sense of exhilaration. It's nice to see some of these characters back in action again, and - yes - it's much better than the last book.

But its plot lacks an arc. At the end of the novel, the surviving characters are in different locations, basically dealing with the same issues they were at the beginning of the book. One of them *may* have decided to handle her problems a bit differently in the future... but the emphasis is on the "may." Her section closes without revealing what her future course of action will be.

If there was another book waiting, of course, I wouldn't mind that much. But facing another indefinite wait makes me cranky.

It's not that stuff didn't happen. Plenty of stuff happened. But plot didn't really happen, or if it did, it was confined to a few scenes in which a) characters met new Significant Characters, b) characters "leveled up" and c) a character apparently dies.

Speaking of which, if you want your deaths to have power, those corpses need to stay down. Likewise if you want to have a cast of thousands, and keep introducing new characters. Keep those corpses dead. I'll give you the odd shambling corpse, particularly North of the Wall, but this book's subtitle is not "Everybody Loves Zombies!" because we don't.

Now I sounds as though I didn't like the book, and I did. I ate the whole thing. I just felt it lacked arc-ishness.
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While in Britain, I participated in Locus's roundtable on N.K. Jemisin, and had the pleasure of reading Jeffrey Ford, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and Rachel Swirsky's thoughtful analysis of Jemisin's work so far. I'm glad to see that the universe has responded to our well-wishing by rewarding The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms with a well-deserved Locus award for Best First Novel.
akashiver: (write)

There's a very flattering review of "Strange Case" over at Fantasy Literature. I appreciate the fact that Terry Weyna also reviews Goss's "Folkroots" column and Bear's and Witcover's review columns. RoF supplies some very thoughtful non-fiction, but it's often overlooked in people's discussion of the magazine. 
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My anti-Twilight story(?) "Remains" just went live at AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review.

I was very glad to publish this one, given that I'd made my entire CW class suffer through the first Twilight film as part of my research. My sadism has born fruit.

For the record I've decided to start using my real name for my Serious stories and "Von Carr" as the byline for my "Woo! Fun!" stories. Hopefully, this will let readers who really hate Tales in Which Everyone Dies know which ones to avoid.
akashiver: (evil)

Realms of Fantasy's April "Dark Fantasy" issue just came out, and it includes stories by me and my CW classmate Randy Henderson. 

The entire issue has been getting very positive reviews. Over at Locus, Rich Horton declares it "a very strong issue.... Every story is good, and the definition of ‘‘dark’’ is loose enough to include a comic story, ‘‘The Strange Case of Madeline H. Marsh (Aged 14 ¼)’’ by Von Carr" (that's mine). Horton singles out Euan Harvey’s ‘‘By Shackle and Lash’’ and Lisa Goldstein's ‘Little Vampires’’ as must-reads.

At Adventures Fiction, Keith admits that he isn't a fan of feminist fairy tales such as Henderson's "A Witch's Heart" but thinks the story is "well written" and that he'd "probably read something else by this author."  He quite liked "Strange Case" and writes that "Other than the author not making the timeline clear," [oops] "this was a superior piece of fiction.  Humor is hard to do well, and Carr, a writer new to me, does it well." (Hurray!) Like Horton, Keith really liked Harvey's "By Shackle and Lash," and calls it his favourite of the issue.

I haven't finished reading the issue yet, so I can't comment as to my own favourite story, but the art & fiction I've seen so far is splendid, as always. Shawna and Doug have done beautiful work in what, last year, were some pretty disruptive circumstances.
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I've been remiss in sharing publishing news. Or rather, being a cautious person, I've been waiting until things are actually published to declare that they're coming out. I gather from friends that this is a Silly Thing To Do.

So, I'm pleased to say that  "The Strange Case of Madeleine H. Marsh (Aged 14 1/4)" will soon be in bookstores as part of Realms of Fantasy's April issue. My fellow CW classmate Randy Henderson (aka [livejournal.com profile] quantumage) also has a story forthcoming in this issue, which RoF is devoting to Dark Fantasy.

Lois Tilton has already reviewed the issue over at Locus and declares "Strange Case"  "clever and entertaining humor in the tone of teenaged angst." 

I also made some sales last week: I'm happy to say that "In the Gardens of the Night" (aka the concubine story) will be appearing in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, while my anti-Twilight story "Remains" will be forthcoming in AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review. Both of these are first-time markets for me, so I'm excited to be working with them.

Finally my poem, "Birthing Monsters," is forthcoming from Basement Stories. It's been a while since I've written any poetry, and this one is dear to my heart. I'm looking forward to its release into the wild world of the web.
akashiver: (People who read too much!)

I just told my Fantasy class about Jones the other day. I hope some of them seek out her books.

I think what stood out for me when I read DWJ as a child was that her books were so different.

Most famous children's authors hit on a formula for success and run it into the ground with a 30 books series. DWJ's books weren't just different in subject matter and setting, they were different in tone. Howl's Moving Castle is hilarious; The Homeward Bounders is chilling;  adventures like Dogsbody are engaging and poignant. And each universe she created was different: I never got the sense that she was cut-and-pasting some ye universal setting into her books. Well, except for The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, which is both hilarious and one of the best guides to generic fantasy writing out there. 

To paraphrase de Lint, "she rearranged the insides of my head, for whch I am grateful."

For the record, my favourite book of hers is The Lives of Christopher Chant, but it's a tough decision.

I'll end with my favourite DWJ story opening:

"In the land of Ingary where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of the three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes."
— Diana Wynne Jones (Howl's Moving Castle)


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