FF: Selections From…

Persephone Revels

Featured in the picture is the new anthology, Worlds of Light and Darkness, which combines a selection of stories taken from DreamForge and Space and Time magazines.  I wrote the introduction in which I discuss why I feel writing stories with hope as a theme is far harder than writing grimdark.  Oh, and my story “Born From Memory” is one of the selections

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.  The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Recently Completed:

Forced Perspectives by Tim Powers.  Picks up with the characters from Powers’ Alternate Routes.  Full of chase scenes and daring escapes, paranoia, and a secret history that is a crazy-quilt from various sources.

In Progress:

Bloodline by Dick Francis, actually by Felix  Francis, his son.  Audiobook.  A FF Reader recommended author!!!

Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles by Clamp.  Manga.  Issue 18.  An ambitious if not completely successful story.  I’m familiar with the first part of the story, because I just re-watched the anime, but it ended before the story did, and I felt drawn to finish it.  I’ve read it before, so I guess they were successful in that I wanted to read it again.

Also:

A few magazine articles, mostly in Smithsonian.

9 Responses to “FF: Selections From…”

  1. James Mendur Says:

    FInished re-reading “Feed”.

    Next up, it’s time to start checking all the Hugo nominees. I don’t have the voters’ packet yet but a bunch of the short fiction should be available online at this point and I might be able to find a book or two at the library.

    These are the nominated novels. Anyone have any recommendations to read first?

    Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse
    The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin
    Harrow The Ninth, Tamsyn Muir
    Network Effect, Martha Wells
    Piranesi, Susanna Clarke
    The Relentless Moon, Mary Robinette Kowal

    • James Mendur Says:

      Also, a question for your blog readers:
      Should a Hugo-nominated book be able to stand on its own without reading the earlier book(s) in a series? Or should I read the earlier book(s) to get the proper “effect” from the nominated book?

      • janelindskold Says:

        IMO a book in a series should be able to stand on its own. I think that was why they instituted the award “for a series,” to try and get around people actually voting for a series, not a book. I shall w/hold opinions on nominated works, since I know too many of the authors involved.

    • Louis Robinson Says:

      Hmmmm….

      Well, I haven’t read Network Effect [side effect of not being able to get into either the library or a bookstore for most of the last 14 months: out of sight, out of mind], but I’ve never read a bad Wells. Period. Ms. Kowal seems well regarded also, but don’ t know her work very well.

      As for series, I would argue that to be regarded as well-written a book must be able to stand by itself. It’s entirely fair for it to make it clear that you really, really need to go back and read the rest of the series – preferably, by making you say to yourself ‘wow, I _have_ to find out what happened at XXX!’. Otherwise, it can only be judged by how well it takes its turn at carrying the can, something that can’t be determined until the can gets to the end of the road. As examples, consider The Lord of the Rings and Honor Among Enemies. Admittedly, LotR isn’t a series, it’s a book in 3 volumes, but that makes it better for highlighting the fact that Fellowship and Two Towers both end with notices saying “Continued on next rock” while TT & Return _start_ with “Continued from previous rock”: there’s no way to get Frodo from Bag End to the Gray Havens without following the entire journey, and trying to start in media res is not going to work because how the characters got where they are matters at pretty much any point in the book. IMunhumbleO, LotR taken as a whole is Nobel Prize-worthy writing. The individual bits, though, are probably almost unreadable by themselves. Contrast HAE: with one possible exception, the fact that you enter in media res for virtually every character who plays a significant role [actually, you’re in media res for _every_ character in the book, because it’s clear that they’ve all had pretty full lives before we meet them] has no bearing on the story _in_ the book, any more than the fact that we don’t have full, detailed biographies of people we meet regularly affects how we interact in real life – maybe we get caught up, maybe we don’t, but we certainly move forward. Since it wasn’t actually the first Honorverse book I read, I’m not sure how well it does at getting people to say ‘have to get caught up!’, but I did read it before either Flag in Exile or Field of Dishonor. And didn’t need to go out and find them before I could grasp anything in HAE. In fact, I got to FoD last of the 3 and have always regarded it as a complete waste of trees – there wasn’t a single item of essential information in it that I hadn’t already gleaned from asides in the (chronologically) later books that didn’t affect the flow of the story in the least. That one potential exception is that having read On Basilisk Station and Honor of the Queen I knew the background to Hauptman’s & Houseman’s attitudes towards Harrington. I don’t think it’s essential to understanding what gets the entire story rolling in the first place, though: it’s very, very clear that they have a hate on for her, and are salivating at the chance to get her to volunteer for a glorious death. What more do you need to know than that?

      Oops! Wall of Text! Sorry, but I’m not sure I can be more succinct and make the point: I think that as a rule, a book must stand alone to be prize material.

  2. Harried Harry Says:

    Wow! Louis Robinson! Great explanation. You picked a couple of excellent examples to explain your viewpoint. Well worth reading. I prefer to read stories which are complete even if they use the same characters. As an example, I have read and reread Louis L’Amour’s Western stories frequently. Some are related (the Sackett stories, for example) but all stand alone. David Weber has several series which are related but are stand alone books. I’ll admit, I always want to read more in the series, even when I doubt he will publish anything new in that universe.

    Enjoy the weekend but stay cool. It’ll be in the 100’s for the next seven days where I live. I’m just happy the cooler works.

    • Louis Robinson Says:

      Errr… thank you both!

      Weber’s Honorverse stories are actually a good example of both stand-alone series books and the opposite. HAE was the last to be truly stand alone. The next three were really a single narrative and books since then have actually gone back and narrated the same events from different points of view. All, IMV, for very good reasons in terms of the internal history he’s narrating. Although I do have some slight [extremely slight, to tell the truth] sympathy for the crowd who think that every book should have been On Basilisk Station with a fresh coat of paint, the simple fact is that the Harrington saga long ago moved beyond disjointed adventures in a way that the author intended from the beginning.The only way to relate it in a stand-alone volume would be to make it 3000+ pages and chock full of hyperlinks so you can keep a grip on the characters.

      3000+ pages is not unphysical – my Larousse Compact is 1704 and I have a couple of CRC Handbooks that are, I think, nudging 2000. But you’ve noticed how well hyperlinks work on the printed page?

      • janelindskold Says:

        I’ve known Weber since the Honorverse was one volume, and I can support that he had the larger arc in mind from then. This is not retro to make him look good. Also, I remember how he anguished when he had to make the switch to novels that were not able to stand alone.

      • Louis Robinson Says:

        I’d never really thought about it, but that must be rather frustrating for a good writer. I’d imagine that your instincts are always pushing you to tell the whole story each time, and tell it completely? Having a story that’s simply too big to permit that isn’t always going to be fun.

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