The Key, 16 December, 2010

This week we’re linking to reviews, overviews, reminiscences, thoughts about world-building and craft in general, biography, suggestions for amateur publicists, and discussion of science fiction as a genre.

  • The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2010, parts 1-17
    Various (see below)
    Ambling Along the Aqueduct (the Aqueduct Press blog)
    A collection of posts by various female genre fiction writers about what they have read and watched this year. All of these posts are worth reading.
    Ursula K. LeGuin
    Carolyn Ives Gilman
    Lisa Tuttle
    Eleanor Arnason
    Tansy Rayner Roberts
    Rebecca Ore
    Athena Andreadis
    Nisi Shawl
    Cat Rambo
    Cheryl Morgan
    Lesley A. Hall
    Nancy Jane More
    Julie Phillips
    Carrie Devall
    Kristin Livdahl
    Kristin King
    Andrea Hairston
  • Hot & sexy steampunk is not an oxymoron
    Colleen Mondor
    Chasing Ray
    Cecilia Tan could have told you this (Circlet Press, a publisher of genre erotica, has a number of well put together steampunk collections), but this nicely written review encouraged me to consider reading a book I might not have otherwise:

    Both Mina and Rhys have intimacy issues because they have been enslaved by evil overlords their entire lives (all explained in the book) and, there are really unique (really really unique) reasons why there would be some saying of no that could be mistaken for yes.

  • Worldbuilding Fantasy, Using Reality
    N.K. Jemisin
    Babel Clash (Borders’ Sci-fi book blog)
    A discussion of how nonfiction and inspiration can combine to generate fantastic environments:

    What they’re really trying to ask is, How do you come up with this stuff? That is, am I using some kind of method or research, or am I just making it all up off the top of my head?

    The answer is a little of both.

  • Steampunk/Alt History Week: Living in Color
    Tanita Davis
    Finding Wonderland
    A discussion (and there have been many interesting posts on similar topics lately) of people of color and steampunk, in this case in relation to the scientific history of the Victorian and Edwardian eras:

    Considering that history, I wasn’t sure steampunk was entirely accessible to everyone… and by that, I mean, I thought there wasn’t anything for people of color to get into. After all, historically during that time, people of color were either slaves or indentured, with their countries being invaded or occupied. They didn’t seem to me to be the inventors or the major players in the world.

    Despite how history is recorded, we now know that’s completely ridiculous.

  • Cordwainer Smith: The Ballad of Lost Linebarger, Part 1
    Frederik Pohl
    Way the Future Blogs
    I am rapidly discovering that I could listen to Pohl tell stories about his life all day long, and when it’s about editing, I particularly pay attention:

    Sometime in the early 1950s, I was putting together Beyond the End of Time, an anthology for one of Doubleday’s subsidiary imprints. That was something I liked doing, so I did it fairly often.

    It was an easy thousand dollars or so, because I had already read about a zillion stories that I liked well enough to be willing to package for some new readers and because all those old issues of Astounding, Amazing and Wonder had not yet been mined by so many other anthologists that every good story had already been reprinted by six or seven anthologists in six or seven books.

  • Yesterday’s Tomorrows: John Wyndham
    Graham Sleight
    Locus Online
    An overview of the life, craft, and books of John Wyndham:

    When a day you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, you know there is something seriously wrong somewhere.’’ The ostensible purpose of that line is clear enough: demonstrating the effect of the disaster that has taken place, and which we guess rightly that the book will explore. But there’s also a certain offhand urbanity there in ‘‘happen to know,’’ as well as an implied worldliness in the fact that the narrator has noticed this at all. And although something has gone very wrong, the narrator feels sufficiently calm about it that he can make this analysis. This is emotion recollected, if not in tranquillity, then certainly at a safe distance.

    All these components, plus a kind of journalistic transparency, go into the voice that Wyndham uses for this book and its successors.

  • The Art of Getting Noticed
    James Knapp
    Grasping for the Wind
    An amusing and practical discussion of book publicity:

    I’m realizing that getting a book noticed (at least with no name recognition to back it up) is not an easy thing to do…I don’t mean noticed for its merits, I mean actually physically noticed. There are many, many books out there.

  • Culture Isn’t Uniform
    Juliette Wade
    Talk to YoUniverse
    An exploration rather relevant to world-building:

    In fact, culture isn’t necessarily uniform even in a single location. In a tiny town dominated by a printing plant, you might have a microculture for the people who work at the plant which distinguishes itself from the people who work in service positions for the plant workers. In a major US university you’ll have African American groups and Asian American groups as well as groups based on religious affiliation, hobbies, etc. People align themselves based on professions, religions, neighborhoods – almost anything can become the basis for alignment, or realignment.

  • Books read, early December
    Marissa Lingen
    Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway
    What quick book overviews on blogs should be—amusing, thoughtful, aware of craft, and concise:

    When we were doing Titus Andronicus in my college Shakespeare class–no, seriously, this relates–my professor was obsessed with comparing it to an over-decorated Christmas tree. And I often kind of feel that way about things that fall under the steampunk heading: like the authors knew how to spell banana and didn’t know how to stop.

  • Is science fiction dying?
    Paul Du Fillippo
    A discussion of how talented writers extricate new gold from (in his words) “well-plumbed mines”:

    If it’s become cliché to maintain that short stories are the cutting-edge laboratory of science fiction, it’s only because, as with most clichés, a nugget of truth gleams at the center of the truism. The short form allows quick, timely and innovative forays into new speculative territories: a big payoff for minimal author and reader investment.

  • Contre moi, Dieu
    Jean-Louis Trudel
    Culture des futurs
    Ok, I cheated and included French again. This is a review of Patrick Senécal’s story “Contre Dieu”. The pullquote below is my translation:

    In short, “Contre Dieu” (Against God) is an argument in favor of rationalist literature—like science fiction, for example—and I am entirely in favor of that.


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