pameladlloyd: icon from <lj comm=musesrealm> (Not All Who Wander Are Lost)
A young writer, whom I'll call Jaylin, recently asked me an interesting question: "Who are the best new science fiction writers of the decade?" Jaylin mused about the issue of literary versus genre fiction and their different writing goals, and we discussed the fact that there are some authors whose work crosses the great divide between these two. But, the focus of our conversation was really about what makes writing really good, and the difficulty of knowing which current and contemporary writers are likely to stand the test of time.

One thing that became very clear to me over the course of the conversation is that my awareness of what is current in science fiction, who our most respected authors are, is very outdated. So, I'm hoping that my readers (if I have any left) will help out by sharing their thoughts on the new and emerging writers of this century, by answering this question:

Who would you nominate to be on the list of the best science fiction authors of this century? Please explain, if you can, why they should be on this list.

Thank you!
pameladlloyd: Green Woman West - Self Awareness by  Johanna Uribes, c. 2009-2011 (greenwoman)
According to an article on Co.EXIST, Can Science Fiction Writers Inspire The World To Save Itself? there is a new collaboration between science fiction author Neal Stephenson and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination. Project Hieroglyph, Co.EXIST reports, suggests that science fiction writers should stop writing stories about dystopian futures and instead focus on visions of a rosy future. Their hope is that this will result in a resurgence of the optimism that has marked more prosperous eras and, thus, to create a contemporary culture that encourages the creation of a more desirable prospect.

But, is the idea that science fiction writers can directly influence the future a realistic one, or is it little more than an application of sympathetic magic to the complex problems of the day? And, is it even necessary, or can the very literature to be eschewed, of dystopian, apocalyptic, and post-apocalyptic futures, a part of the solution that can help to bring about the same push to create a better future?

Neal Stephenson writes about his perspective on the need for a more positive approach to the future in his article, Innovation Starvation, and I get the impression from his article and from the Project Hieroglyph site that their actual vision is far more interesting and complex than simply asking writers to stop writing about what's wrong with the world, and start focusing on what we want to see, but I feel the need to address the underlying assumptions of the article, written by Co.EXIST Senior Editor Ariel Schwartz, which first brought this to my attention.

There are no simple answers. It's unrealistic to expect that if only writers would just stop being so negative and start being more positive it would make the world a better place. Literature is a part of an intricate conversation that exists within society between those who comment on the world around them and those who act to change it, with there being very little distinction between the two groups. We are all observers, all commenters, all participants, all actors, in the dance of social change. Writers respond to the world around them, as well as act in ways that will change the world. We see the world and identify possibilities, some attainable, others more fantastic (psychological and mythopoeic), and in response we imagine a world in which we attempt to follow those trends to their logical, or illogical, conclusions.

It’s a well-known phenomenon that published fiction tends to follow societal trends: when times are tough, when people as a general rule are discouraged, our fiction will reflect this mood; when things are better, economically, socially, environmentally, and so on, our fiction will reflect this only. And this is nothing to be ashamed of!

Writers as a whole (or, better yet, a herd of cats) cannot sound only a single note, for that is little more than putting our fingers in our collective ears and singing “la, la, la,” but must instead create a symphony of notes, sometimes aiming for the sublime and at others for a clashing discordance that reflects the cacophony of dissolution. It will take all of these myriad visions and creations to effect change, and the societal changes that result will rarely be something we could have predicted or planned for, but we must move forward with the confidence that our contributions are a valid part of the overall conversation. To write only of sweetness and light is as likely to create a world of complacency in the face of horrors as to create a world of eager engineers, striving for the betterment of man. To write only of darkness and terror may leave our readers frightened and discouraged, or may inspire them to forge ahead with endeavors that will solve the world’s problems.

Writers, let us continue to write in response to the world around us. Let us write stories of idyllic and horrific possibilities. Let us rewrite the past and pre-write the future. Let us, above all, create! Above all, let us continue to do so without muzzling ourselves, for it is when we write from our hearts that our writing is most powerful and most likely to effect the changes we want to see.

ETA: I think part of my reaction to the article, which I left unexpressed earlier, was the mention of several recent dystopian works and the statement: "It almost seems as though science fiction writers--and the general public--have given up on the future as a happy, technologically enhanced place to be." I feel that the article criticizes both writers and audiences for having a "bad attitude," and in so doing dismisses those involved in the specific works mentioned and all science fiction writers as doing a public disservice.

It ruffled my feathers, so I had to squawk.
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (Flycon Alien Flutterby)
Just in case it's slipped your mind, this is a reminder that Flycon 2009 has started, over at [ profile] flycon2009 and at SFF Net.

If you have the time, drop on by. :)
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (Flycon 2009 Western Hemispher)
Coming soon to an Internet near you, it's [ profile] flycon2009, an international online science fiction convention.

Via [ profile] sartorias, in Flycon2009:

Here's the brief version of the explanation: Flycon will be an online convention planned to have activities during the peak hours of every time zone. It will begin midnight, Friday 13th in March 2009, in Australia and roll with the sun. We are looking for panelists, authors and editors and agents to host discussions, podcasts as readings, volunteers, and for people to spread the word through the blogoshpere. We will be having a couple of sites host forum and chat space, with everything co-ordinated through this Live Journal community with rss feeds, updates and eventual archiving. We will be running IRCs as well as bulletin boards, so that every time zone is covered.

Panels are still open for volunteers (just check back through the most recent four posts) and we're open to suggestions. We're trying to overcome the tyranny of travel and cost--and reach as widely as possible.
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (girl in space)
Following the urban fantasy panel, I attended a reading by Emma Bull [ profile] coffeeem. She read us a portion of an episode from Shadow Unit and spoke to us afterward about how Shadow Unit came to be.

More )
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (writing)
I'll be heading over to the InnSuites in just a few hours for TusCon 35. For information about my schedule, see my post: Tuscon 35 Program.

ETA: Karl and I will be reading this evening at 8:30 p.m. Although I don't know how much we'll actually get through, we're planning on doing a joint reading of "Ship's Daughter," with additional readings by each of us, which may include both prose and poetry. It should be a fun evening. :)
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (writing)
TusCon 35 will be held November 7-9 at the InnSuites Hotel in Tucson, Arizona. The guest of honor this year is Diana Gabaldon, the toastmaster is Ed Bryant, and you can access the full list of confirmed participants at the TusCon 35 website.

My schedule follows:

5:00 - What is urban fantasy today? Where did it start? How has it evolved? Pamela Lloyd, Jill Knowles, Yvonne Navarro, Janni Lee Simner
7:00 - Meet the Guests
8:30 - Reading by Pamela Lloyd and Karl Grotegut
9:30 - Where does science-fiction leave off and fantasy begin? Catherine Wells, Pamela Lloyd, Adam Niswander, Dennis McKiernan
2:00 - Mass Autographing
2:00 - Will religion always be with us? (2) Is it hardwired? Does it have a practical purpose? David Brown, Pamela Lloyd, Will Shetterly, David Foster
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (doom)
I'm posting this here, rather than in the comments to [ profile] sartorias' recent post, Literary vs. Mainstream, in genre and out, because I didn't feel it was right to rant in her journal.

RANT--> )
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (evolution)
My reading this afternoon has been an article in this month's issue of The Internet Review of Science Fiction, SF and Fantasy: Siamese Twins or a Marriage of Convenience?.

More about market trends )
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (pirate)
Sean Williams ([ profile] ladnews) posted a notice here about a panel discussion in which he participated on SF Signal: Mind Meld: How Do Media Tie-In Novels Affect SF/F?. I found the various responses very interesting, but I was especially intrigued by Kristine Kathryn Rusch's article of a few years ago, which she linked to in her response.

more )

So, all of this (i.e., my blithering) is a long-winded way of getting around to a few of the questions raised by these two articles: Is science fiction mired in the past in a way that is preventing new readers from finding it enjoyable and worth reading? Are we, those of us who grew up reading classic science fiction and its subsequent successors, preventing science fiction from changing in ways that will allow it to be more accessible to today's readers? Or, is something else going on, that makes science fiction seem less relevant in today's admittedly high-tech world?

P.S. I've done my best to condense a few of the many ideas in Rusch's lengthy and well-reasoned article into the much shorter context appropriate for a journal entry. If, in the process, I've distorted or misrepresented the concepts she explained, please accept my apologies.
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (Vorkosigan dessert)
Mmmm. Thanks to [ profile] sartorias, I just read the GoH speech Lois McMaster Bujold gave for this year's WorldCon.

More under the cut. )
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (read or die)
I read this book a long time ago, back in the late 1990's, I think. It came up in one of the [ profile] bittercon topics, so I thought I'd add it to my Goodreads page and share my thoughts here, as well.

The Merro Tree The Merro Tree by Katie Waitman

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was an amazing book. It's been years since I read it, and I think my son took it with him when he moved out. A truly moving story of a soul-deep love that transcended boundaries, including those between species. A book my son once declared was the best he'd ever read. I recommend this highly.

View all my reviews.
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (world travel)
Attending the Conflux 5 minicon was almost like being in Australia. I got to meet, virtually, many authors, members of the con committee, and other guests. The blurb for each session mentioned that they were "hosting guests from four continents," so as you can imagine, it was quite an international event.

The convention format, aside from being an online forum, was as a series of "Meet the Author/Editor/Expert" sessions, with each of twenty-four guests (if I counted correctly) available in individual hour-long blocks of time. This format meant that the whole thing was driven by questions from the peanut gallery, so nutty people like myself were quick to take advantage of the chance to ask plenty of questions.

I loved the intimate feeling of the con--I didn't get to meet any of the participants directly of course, but I didn't have to worry about whether I could hear, or missing something if I had to sneak out for a few minutes. I'd love to see more online minicons like this one. Although the Internet, email, and social networking/blogging sites such as LiveJournal offer us far more opportunity to be in contact with each other, I found this a wonderful opportunity to learn about a group of people interested in and creating speculative fiction that I would never otherwise have gotten to know. I've got a long list of authors whose works I now want to read (far more than my budget can handle, at the moment, alas), and a sense of friendship (or at least acquaintanceship) with people in a distant part of the world. Australia is one of those dream vacation destinations for us Americans, so now I feel I have even more reason to visit one day, and I hope that when I do I will feel less a tourist, and more a visitor.

The minicon forum is still up, as is the forum from last year, so even if you missed the sessions, you can still head over and check it out. I really enjoyed "meeting" everyone there and hope that more people from around the world will participate in the next minicon. Oh, and don't forget to visit the Speakeasy, where much fun, food, and virtual-alcoholic frolicking was had by all.
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (moon gazing)
I stayed up all night to attend the Conflux 5 Virtual Mini-Con, which is operating on Canberra time, if I've got that correct.

I enjoyed myself immensely and found this a very interesting experience. I loved the format, which allowed those of us attending to post questions for the various guests, and I loved the wide variety of the guests, which included Australian authors, UK authors, a "webgoddess," a bookstore owner and grant writer, and the inimitable Ellen Datlow.

There is a second day (or night, depending upon your time zone). The 12pm Sunday session (date and time based on the minicon's local time) correspond to 7pm Saturday here in Tucson, AZ.

I highly recommend taking in at least a few sessions, if you possibly can.
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (Default)
My brother, Don, recently suggested that I join Goodreads, where he was already a member. So, I've posted a few books and reviews there. I posted one today for Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor (although, actually, I'm reading the repackaged version in Cordelia's Honor). Below are links to Goodreads:

Shards of Honour (Vorkosigan) Shards of Honour by Lois McMaster Bujold

Click here to read my review (you have to join, but it's free), or view all my reviews.

I am in awe of the way Bujold can use dialog to define characters and the societies that shape them while at the same time addressing moral and ethical issues, without bogging the story down in long-drawn-out diversions from the story. Take for instance Cordelia's response to Aral Vorkosigan's complement that she has "the competence one would look for in a mother of warriors:"

Cordelia wondered if Vorkosigan was pulling her leg. He did seem to have a dry sense of humor. "Save me from that! To pour your life into sons for eighteen or twenty years, and then have the government take them away and waste them cleaning up after some failure of politics—no thanks."

The description of war as a "failure of politics" is delightfully apt, but it is given humanity by the deft way in which Bujold shows just how differently Cordelia and Aral think and feel about issues of war and the military.

Okay, I've tried to rewrite that last paragraph about a dozen times and am feeling entirely unable to state clearly just how wonderful and amazing Bujold's writing is. I'm going to go away now and read some more of the book. Or, maybe I'll kick Karl out of the kitchen and cook for once. ;>
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (Default)
Before I begin this post, I feel it's important to acknowledge that I am not an expert on the Great American Novel and would be hard-pressed to define the concept, aside from a general impression that such an novel must address multiple aspects of what it is to be American, as well as being a book of extremely high caliber.

Last November, at TusCon, the local science fiction convention, one of the topics discussed on a panel was whether a fantasy novel could ever be a Great American Novel. (Note that this may not have been the official panel topic. Also, it's possible that the discussion also included science fiction as a category unable to be included under the GAN heading, but I don't remember whether this was so.) During the course of the discussion, one of the panelists very insistently made the claim that it was not possible for a fantasy (or science fiction?) novel to be a Great American Novel. Now, categorical statements of this nature tend to irk me, so this claim, which I believe to be not just fallacious, but silly, has been niggling at me ever since.

Plus, as I was listening to the discussion, Will Shetterly's novel, Dogland, came to mind. Now, I didn't speak up and propose that this novel might be a Great American Novel, even though I believe it to be an excellent American novel. And I was tactless enough to mention this to Will and his wife, Emma Bull (another fine novelist). So that is something else that has niggled at me. Why didn't I mention the book during the discussion?

Ultimately, I think I realized that as much as I love the novel, with its wonderful quirky setting in a roadside attraction in Florida, it has elements that aren't sufficiently mainstream-American enough for me to classify it as a Great American Novel. And, yes, those elements are very much tied up in the fantastic elements of the story. Yet, I don't think it is their fantastic nature that prevents the story from GANness, but the fact that these elements are based on a mythos that is not tied sufficiently closely to the American psyche as I feel they should be in order to accept the GAN classification.

Even so, I really wish I'd mentioned the novel during the panel, not so much as an example of a Great American novel, but as an example of just how close at least one fantasy novel has come to being a Great American novel. This novel hit just the right notes time and time again. Dogland, the attraction, is so quintessentially American that just about anyone who has ever taken a road trip in America will respond to it. (I have to admit that the time and place were particularly poignant for me, because of the many road trips my family took to Florida, starting just a few years after 1959, the year the novel is set.) Luke Nix's wild stories reminded me very much of my own father, who loved to tell tall tales to his children and still brags about having fooled us into believing he had fought in the French and Indian War. Grandma Bette's adamant rejection of any claims that the family is not of pure European extraction has been played out in many American families and the conflict around the hiring of Ethorne Hawkins, a black man, in the rural South is another classic American theme. This book is complex and goes far beyond its genre classification. Which is brings me back to my original pet peeve.

Why is it that people treat genre classification as if it defines all aspects of the novels so branded? For that's all it really is, a marketing tool, a label, created by publishers and book sellers to help sell books. How sad that genre has also become an albatross around the neck of many truly fine writers whose works are dismissed as somehow inferior on the basis of how they're sold in a book store or shelved in a library. Genre is subject, but not substance, the cover, but not the book itself. And it is the book—the story and how its told, the evocation of mood, ambiance, and spirit, the ability to inspire thought and dreams—that is truly of the greatest importance when we are attempting to evaluate the quality of a novel.


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