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Spring indications:
lawn mowers buzzing long greens,
light heating branches.

What on Earth moved me to buy three Heinlein novels and one short story collection Friday? I have serious and persistent problems with his fiction, because Uncle Bob does not know best, and yet, I still pick up these skinny time-faded paperbacks. I blame Heinlein's ability to actually tell a story and write witty prose, which means I still remember most of the stories from The Green Hills of Earth. That's a testament to skill, since I tend to lose short stories out of memory faster than I misplace my keys. (Fortunately, the keys keep turning up.) Heinlein is one of the greats of his SF cadre for a reason. Even if picking which Heinlein to read next is much like picking one's way through a minefield. (Citizen of the Galaxy: greatness. The Puppetmasters: erk.)

If one were going to pick the formative authors for a generation of SF fans, I'd point to Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov. I am not asserting they were consistently the best writers, but you can invoke the Foundation or "I'm sorry, Dave", or "the one with the lunar revolution and Mike" and people know what you're talking about. It's the background against which everyone reacted (and )is still reacting).

Who are the top authors of my generation, and the next?

I think Bujold, Pratchett and maybe Gaiman are the Big Three authors who everyone in my fannish age cohort has read; I could be wrong, because I am wildly biased about Bujold, and Gaiman really depends on whether you count Sandman or just his novels. The up and coming cohort might include some combination of Scalzi, Doctorow, Gaiman (version YA), Novik, and/or Stross. That totally ignores non-genre novels widely read by fans (Laurie R. King's mystery novels come to mind), and media fannishness, comics (see Sandman), and fan fiction, some (but far from all) of which has surprisingly cool speculative fiction content. And once you open the floor that much, you have to question what pool of readers you're talking about, anyway, and that changes the game (and Big Name Author list) significantly.
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Tonight I'm thinking about the current "Open-Source Boob Project" drama on LJ, and am torn between "gee, this is a big reaction to a small group of consenting adults at a con" and kneejerk rage because the context changed when people brought this out of the con and online. There's a post to be written about context and behavior. Meanwhile, have some thoughts on romance novels.

I lent [ profile] hourglasscreate the first two Sharing Knife books, and thanks to discussion of same I've gotten a solid handle on why I lose at romance novels:

1.) I want the relationship to put the protagonists more in harmony with themselves and/or the people around them. This is why I can see rereading Pride and Prejudice in the future: Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet's pairing-off upholds social expectations, but their relationship is a compliment to their personalities and landed British gentry values. "Unsuitable on the surface, compatible in core values" is tough to pull off. As a corollary, I cannot abide Us Against The World unless The World (tm) is a complete dystopia and the protagonists' forbidden love is their one chance at a desperate scrap of happiness.

2.) The world is larger than two people. I want to know where all your friends are while you're diving into this mismatched relationship. Again, where is your community? Where's the context? And I want to know what both of you are getting out of it.

2a.) Acknowledging character... not flaws, but incompletions... is okay. In a "no, really, I know exactly why you're single, and some of these reasons make us a good fit and some of those reasons are why we will quarrel over breakfast some days" way.

3.) I am really, really bad at Happily Ever After. I see the problem of living alone and without love solved, but ask "so what about this other list of things? What about 20 years from now? 'Will you still need me, will you still feed me...' seriously, will you?"

This may explain why I love Mark and Kareen's romance in A Civil Campaign beyond all reason - it's a problem, it's character development, it's who you are and how that's defined by the social space you inhabit - while I have a harder time getting behind some of LMB's other romances. But Mark and Kareen are presented as both being aware that what they have is a relationship that can't be taken for granted, but must be worked at. (Miles... doesn't always get this.) Mark's humanity is a wonderfully grounding trait.

Anyway. So that's why I'm off romance novels, take three or four or ten. I want them to be buddy stories with character studies and engagement rings.
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If any of you know a biology student, or someone who is planning to start a stint in a biological research lab, point them at At the Bench: A Laboratory Navigator, by Kathy Barker. It's basically "lab for newbies" and is awesome. I picked a copy up on Friday, and I really, really like what I've read so far. The first chapter talks about things to do in the first day and week in a new lab, most of which I learned by trial and error. I've only skimmed the rest of the book, but it looks like subsequent chapters take a similar approach to the subjects they cover. This is a book for getting you started in lab at the most basic level, and will be superfluous for someone doing a known procedure, but should help lab newbies get up to speed. My most significant complaint so far is a lack of information about recovering from mistakes; this may be just as well, since it forces people to say, "help! I broke my gel (cracked a tube, added the wrong reagent)!" and talk to other people before compounding their error. I also wish there were a section on dealing with people issues, but that may be beyond the scope of a book whose stated focus is getting new people started. I'm going to talk to my boss about getting a copy for the lab; good luck prying mine out of my hands.
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Dear everyone: please encourage me to do my homework. Which does require a computer. Curses.

Dear book junkies: please update me on what Steven Brust, Kage Baker, and Rosemary Kirstein have been up to. Also, when's the last book in Kim Stanley Robinson's "Science in the Capitol" trilogy coming out?

Dear Cherryh fans: according to her online journal-ish thing, Cherryh's working on the Cyteen sequel again. (Best way to check for yourself: use a text function to search on the obvious.) Join me in laying odds it will see publication in this decade.

[Poll #848988]

Homework. Evil. But necessary. Sadness, despair, gnashing of teeth, and possibly ripping the ethernet cable out of the lab computer.

Edit: poll error. Obviously, scale should be one to ten, not one to five as in question.
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I am staring into the paper, and the paper is staring back into me.

Sadly, if I were trying to write about science fiction, or insane internet fangirls, this would be a thousand times easier. Possibly because I don't feel apathy toward the source material. Unlike my feelings toward Lucy and The Piano. I feel love, cynicism, mocking and wonder (or, Ase Misses the GRRM Boat and Contemplates TV Shows), but it's rare for me to have such a flat reaction.

Okay, I lie. I think The Piano is an okay movie, but the academic derivatives are liberal arts craziness. The authors need better thesauri and some clarification on the difference between useful communications of new information and writing because you want to make tenure. The male gaze is way overdiscussed, and needs to be countered by some serious mocking, and possibly some witticisms on women objectifying men by thinking they can change them. There's probably a really evil parody paper to be written on how men just want to possess the bodies of the women they objectify, but women want to possess and transform the men they objectify. With some side notes on transformation as destruction, and violation of interior space, and how this all makes women-created structures more evil and soul-destroying than the patriarchy. Consider, say, A Fire Upon the Deep and Doomsday Book (conveniently tied for the 1993 Hugo), and wait for reactions. (What I really want to do is something with The Handmaid's Tale, Cyteen and Native Tongue, but that's probably a skewed data set to analyze.)

Actually, that's not an entirely bad idea. How women and men write violence and the impacts of violence in fiction. Compare and contrast with real life PTSD data or something, and see what happens.

This is not getting my paper written. Stupid paper!
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Spring break isn't over until 1 minute before my first class. That's my story and I'll stick to it, even as I'm doing my women's studies homework and angsting over my postgraduadtion plans. Because hey, nothing says science love like ignoring the world to reread midlist novels and contemplate the nature of the universe. Doris Egan's Ivory books are not mindblowingly thoughtful, creative, inspirational high literature, but they're great comfort reading.

"I'm not even a novice! I'm not qualified to be a novice! I'm still at the beginning of the beginning!"
"Well, never mind that," he said. "I've been doing this for half a century, and I'm just at the beginning of the middle."

-The Gate of Ivory, Doris Egan

This was a source of unreasonable reassurement as I tried to do my Arabidopsis crosses, whose success I need to check on today. Hand cross-fertilization? So evil. If I ever wind up in charge of an Arabidopsis lab, I am so looking into insect pollinators. If it turns out it's bees or bust, or some poor person has a moth allergy, we'll keep Epi pens on hand for the allergic. If it's spiders, I'm hiring a hypnotist and getting rid of my arachnid dislike.

I'm a semester and a half from graduating, and I'm just leaving the nice, neat, false models of the classroom for the messy, uncertain real world explanations. (Cue Fiddler on the Roof. "And why do our cells do this? I'll tell you: I don't know.") Part of it's my fault for not getting in more lab work, but some of it's the field. Someone on the Bujold list once quoted, "all models are wrong. Some are useful," and this is so true. I mean, look at electron resonance forms, or the usual genetics track. )

Conclusion: anyone who thinks science is about studying the tidiness of the world is so wrong. Biology seems to thrive on discovering new ways to clutter up its reductive principles. The "central dogma" of DNA->RNA->protein is undermined by retroviruses, transcription factors, self-catalyzing RNA - and these are examples I'm pulling from the top of my head. Saying all this makes me feel a little better, because if I can BS for multiple paragraphs I must be at least qualified to be a novice, but it's also a nice reminder that in bio, even the best minds may just be making it to the middle of the middle.
ase: Book icon (Books)
There are Darkover discussions going on across two different entries on [ profile] coffeeandink's journal. As [ profile] coffeeandink puts it:

Darkover! Planet of the Bloody Sun! World of broody redheaded grey-eyed part-alien telepaths who called their powers laran! Extended polyamorous marriages, thinly disguised consciousness-raising feminist groups stuck down in a medieval patriarchy, contradictory but strangely convincing world-building, mountains, cold, horses, virginity as a requirement for psychic power except maybe not, great dollops of the Golden Bough, shiny blue stones called matrices used to amplify psychic power, bare is the back without brother, what's done under the four moons need be neither remembered nor regretted, ohmygod I loved this stuff.

Let's have a moment of Darkover love. Many of the books are terrible - particularly City of Sorcery, Heirs of Hammerfell, and Two to Conquer - and have not worn well - parts of Thendara House come to mind - but who cares? The series had atmosphere and kinky telepathic romances and weird embedded author attitudes and such elaborate character relationships you could draw six-generation family trees. Reading the Darkover novels at 12 or 14 is just great; if I were introduced to them today I'd throw 'em across the room. But when I was a teenager I was hooked.

So, why should you read these? Honestly, I'm not sure you should. People marry their cousins, and lust after their older half-brothers, and have orgies, and fall in love with their obnoxious husband's ex-wife, and have touching slashy relationships right until the author realizes it's time for them to do their duty and sprog.

(Granted, no one character did all of those. But some of them did two of those.)

There's a particular sort of sf/f novel series which has nothing but evocative worldbuilding and elaborate character genealogies to recommend itself to readers. Everyone is related to everyone else, and each character on the tree has a story (novel plus) of their own. There's made-up vocabulary to describe ideas and artifacts and relationships that don't exist or aren't legitimized/institutionalized in the "real" world. Oh, and fake geography! (How many Towers can you name? There's Neskaya and Arilinn and Tramontana, and if it hadn't been at least a year and a half since my last reread I could probably get the rest of them.) Darkover does it, Asaro's Skolia series does it, the Vorkosigan series edges into it - don't tell me it doesn't, you can draw a four- or five-generation Vorkosigan family tree, and if lecture's really boring you can try to hang Vorvaynes and Vorsoissons on there too. Tolkien does something similar with the Silmarillion material. Following the concept of the "fantasy of manners", I'd call this the "fantasy of genealogy" subgenre or something. I'm not sure it's exclusively SFnal, it just goes well with some of the SF gimmes. (I'm thinking of romance series where an entire family gets romanced and married off one character/novel at a time.) It's trashy stuff which you'd never recommend, but which makes great comfort reading.

So. What was the last fantasy of genealogy you read?
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kd5mdk: I've seen a play of Murder Mysteries, and it creeped me out
Alia Elena: I haven't read Murder Mysteries, but since Gaiman's mission in life seems to be putting the fantastic (in the older sense) back in fantasy, I can't say I'm surprised.
kd5mdk: heh
kd5mdk: interesting theology and all
kd5mdk: but creepy setting
kd5mdk: and people
Alia Elena: *Blinks*
Alia Elena: Did you just describe Murder Mysteries, Sandman, or American Gods?
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Dear contemporary poets of America:

Words cannot describe my loathing of Walt Whitman's "confessions of an eighteenth century hippie" style. Please purge this pernicious abuse of the english language from your poetic influences, lest I compare your deathless free verse to thirteen year old girls' atavistic fan fiction.

Should said purge leave you without muses, I suggest looking up the work of Robert Frost, Tennyson, Emily Dickinson, Ezra Pound, William Shakespeare, John Donne and W. B. Yeats, all of whom can knock most contemporary poetry into a cocked hat in two stanzas or less.


[ profile] ase
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[ profile] fairestcat was watching "Bringing Up Baby" with [ profile] norabombay's brother when I called to confirm she knew about the belated birthday party I'm pulling together. "I don't think I've ever heard Katherine Hepburn described as 'bangable' before," she said.

The things we learn from when roommates' siblings move into the third bedroom.

Talking with [ profile] fairestcat reminded me that I need to hook her on Kage Baker's Company novels. The series premise revolves around the discovery of effective immortality and time travel during the 24th century. Both disoveries come with catches: only a certain portion of the population can be rendered immortal. It is impossible to jump forward in time; people and objects can only travel backward in time. Recorded history cannot be changed: Archduke Ferdinand must be shot in 1914, the passenger pigeon will vanish from the face of the earth, Keats cannot be stopped from dying at the age of twenty five.

Unrecorded history, however, is an entirely different game.

The Company novels focus on a group of the immortals raised and trained by Dr. Zeus Incorporated as they carry out the assignments given them by the enigmatic Company, hiding "lost" art, "destroyed" documents, and endangered or extinct plants and animals for company officials to find in later centuries. Kage Baker writes excellent novels with a comedic sensibility that would fit in nicely with 1930's and '40's Hollywood. And I plan to hook everyone I can on her novels so I have someone to talk to them about.

Significant amounts of the information presented here is derived from the author's website. (When in doubt, go to the source.) The Internet Speculative Fiction Database was also used, especially to clarify what short stories had been anthologized.

Edited July 14, 2003: "Her Father's Eyes" added to the "Uncollected Stories" section.
Edited July 12, 2003: Information about hardcover/paperback availability added to novels section.

What's out so far, and where to look for it. )
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Edited July 25, 2004: Cleaned up a few links and updated the "forthcoming" section.

Originally, this was going to be in precisely the same style as the Bujold/Vorkosigan post I did in February; however, things got delayed when the "Other Stuff" section mutated into commentary and became longer than everything else put together. I think I've managed to get it and the rest of the writeup back under control by integrating more material than originally intended; apologies for the delay. To keep this from getting too messy and overly annotated, I've tried to clarify which novels are "main sequence" and which can be read independently by putting "secondary" or mostly unrelated books in parentheses () in the internal and publishing chronology sections.

Selection of novels published over 27 prolific years. This entry's a bit of a doozy. )

*Blinks* I think overexposure to Cherryh's narrative style has rearranged my use of language for life. This could be a problem.
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I'm taking this opportunity to write up a semi-detailed list/guide to Lois McMaster Bujold's novels, with the intent of waving it in people's faces when I'm trying to persuade them to read the series and they ask me, "where do I start? What is that in?" Some of this was cribbed from the chronology in the back of Diplomatic Immunity; a lot of it's from memory. I leaned heavily on the English language bibliography and American bibiliography found at the Bujold Nexus for the publishing order. Use those for the full list of every hardcover, paperback, foreign language, etc. edition published. This was written with the goal of giving people new to the Bujold canon a clue where to start (and to burn off some nerves this evening; it's been a long day), not to duplicate the Nexus' excellent bibliography. The focus is on the Vorkosigan novels; other works are briefly mentioned. For more information, check out the Bujold Nexus, which to my knowledge is the largest, most comprehensive Bujold website currently available.

At the moment, I'm planning on sticking this in my memories folder and occasionally editing it to keep it up to date.

Edited Feburary 10, 2004: "Winterfair Gifts" and "Forthcoming" information updated.
Edited October 21, 2003: "Winterfair Gifts" and Paladin of Souls information edited; The Hallowed Hunt added to "Other Stuff" and "Forthcoming."
Edited March 23, 2003: cleaned up some SNAFU code.
Edited March 17, 2003: added an online section; added the SFBC omnibuses to the omnibus section.

Me? Die hard fangirl? Now that you mention it... )

No new Vorkosigan books are scheduled at this time. A third book in the Chalionverse, The Hallowed Hunt, is in progress. [ profile] pewtergryphon has posted some notes about the first chapter, which Lois read at the Toronto Worldcon. Warning: the post has spoilers. Don't read her post if you don't want to be spoiled.


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