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The Marching Morons

January 18th, 2012 (07:28 am)

To all the people who read Liz Bourke's review on Strange Horizons of Michael J Sullivan's Theft Of Swords, and didn't like the review because:

a) historians should not review epic fantasy
b) "intellectuals" should not review epic fantasy
c) women should not review epic fantasy
d) a negative review will upset the author
e) a negative review will negatively impact the author's sales
f) popularity and quality are the same thing, as any fule kno
g) bad prose is better than good prose, as is demonstrated by any best-seller list
h) taking quotes from the novel "out of context" would make any author's prose look bad
i) you read the book and enjoyed it so it can't be bad
j) the book is meant to be "fun" and "light reading" so it can't be bad
k) a negative review is obviously not objective since you disagree with it

Congratulations. You are officially stupid. If you want to know why genre fiction is not taken seriously, go and look in the mirror.

(Cross-posted from It Doesn't Have To Be Right...)

iansales [userpic]

How to write a good review

January 18th, 2012 (07:27 am)

First, see this review of Michael J Sullivan's Theft Of Swords on Strange Horizons. See its long comment thread. This post is not aimed at Liz Bourke, who has written an excellent review of what is plainly a bad book. This post is for some of the commenters on that thread, who clearly don't understand what a review is for, or how a book is reviewed.

1 A dishonest review is a bad review.
2 Not all books are good.
3 It's not just good books that deserve reviews.
4 If a book is a bad book, it's dishonest not to say so.
5 If a book is not a good book, it's dishonest to refuse to review it.
6 Books can be bad for a number of reasons; most of those reason are a result of failure of craft.
7 Reviews are not written for the author of the book being reviewed; their audience is potential readers of the book being reviewed.
8 A good review is not opinion because it will contain evidence supporting its assertions.
9 Whether or not a reviewer enjoyed a book is completely meaningless, since enjoyment is unrelated to quality and is entirely subjective.
10 A review does not have to meet the expectations of people who have read the book being reviewed.
11 A review is based on a critical read of a book; this means the reviewer has probably put a lot more thought into their reading of it than you have.
12 If you come across a negative review of a book you thought was good but you did not read the book in question critically, then you are not qualified to comment on the review's findings.

(Cross-posted from It Doesn't Have To Be Right...)

iansales [userpic]

Meme! The Nobel Prize for Literature

January 10th, 2012 (08:30 pm)

A new meme. Cool. This one is the Nobel Prize for Literature winners meme. I took this list from Larry's OF Blog of the Fallen. You know the rules: bold if you've read anything by the author, italicize if it's on the TBR.

2011 Tomas Tranströmer
2010 Mario Vargas Llosa
2009 Herta Müller
2008 Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio
2007 Doris Lessing
2006 Orhan Pamuk
2005 Harold Pinter
2004 Elfriede Jelinek
2003 John M Coetzee
2002 Imre Kertész
2001 Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul
2000 Gao Xingjian
1999 Günter Grass
1998 José Saramago
1997 Dario Fo
1996 Wislawa Szymborska
1995 Seamus Heaney
1994 Kenzaburo Oe
1993 Toni Morrison
1992 Derek Walcott
1991 Nadine Gordimer
1990 Octavio Paz
1989 Camilo José Cela
1988 Naguib Mahfouz
1987 Joseph Brodsky
1986 Wole Soyinka
1985 Claude Simon
1984 Jaroslav Seifert
1983 William Golding
1982 Gabriel García Márquez
1981 Elias Canetti
1980 Czeslaw Milosz
1979 Odysseus Elytis
1978 Isaac Bashevis Singer
1977 Vicente Aleixandre
1976 Saul Bellow
1975 Eugenio Montale
1974 Eyvind Johnson, Harry Martinson
1973 Patrick White
1972 Heinrich Böll
1971 Pablo Neruda
1970 Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn
1969 Samuel Beckett
1968 Yasunari Kawabata
1967 Miguel Angel Asturias
1966 Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Nelly Sachs
1965 Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov
1964 Jean-Paul Sartre
1963 Giorgos Seferis
1962 John Steinbeck
1961 Ivo Andric
1960 Saint-John Perse
1959 Salvatore Quasimodo
1958 Boris Leonidovich Pasternak
1957 Albert Camus
1956 Juan Ramón Jiménez
1955 Halldór Kiljan Laxness
1954 Ernest Hemingway
1953 Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill
1952 François Mauriac
1951 Pär Fabian Lagerkvist
1950 Earl (Bertrand Arthur William) Russell
1949 William Faulkner
1948 Thomas Stearns Eliot
1947 André Paul Guillaume Gide
1946 Hermann Hesse
1945 Gabriela Mistral
1944 Johannes Vilhelm Jensen
1943 No Nobel Prize was awarded this year.
1942 No Nobel Prize was awarded this year.
1941 No Nobel Prize was awarded this year.
1940 No Nobel Prize was awarded this year.
1939 Frans Eemil Sillanpää
1938 Pearl Buck
1937 Roger Martin du Gard
1936 Eugene Gladstone O'Neill
1935 No Nobel Prize was awarded this year.
1934 Luigi Pirandello
1933 Ivan Alekseyevich Bunin
1932 John Galsworthy
1931 Erik Axel Karlfeldt
1930 Sinclair Lewis
1929 Thomas Mann
1928 Sigrid Undset
1927 Henri Bergson
1926 Grazia Deledda
1925 George Bernard Shaw
1924 Wladyslaw Stanislaw Reymont
1923 William Butler Yeats
1922 Jacinto Benavente
1921 Anatole France
1920 Knut Pedersen Hamsun
1919 Carl Friedrich Georg Spitteler
1918 No Nobel Prize was awarded this year.
1917 Karl Adolph Gjellerup, Henrik Pontoppidan
1916 Carl Gustaf Verner von Heidenstam
1915 Romain Rolland
1914 No Nobel Prize was awarded this year.
1913 Rabindranath Tagore
1912 Gerhart Johann Robert Hauptmann
1911 Count Maurice (Mooris) Polidore Marie Bernhard Maeterlinck
1910 Paul Johann Ludwig Heyse
1909 Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf
1908 Rudolf Christoph Eucken
1907 Rudyard Kipling
1906 Giosuè Carducci
1905 Henryk Sienkiewicz
1904 Frédéric Mistral, José Echegaray y Eizaguirre
1903 Bjørnstjerne Martinus Bjørnson
1902 Christian Matthias Theodor Mommsen
1901 Sully Prudhomme

Not a very good showing, I'm afraid. Only half a dozen read; though I have more sitting on the TBR - and in several cases, multiple books by those authors.

(Cross-posted from It Doesn't Have To Be Right...)

iansales [userpic]

Readings & watchings #10, 2011

January 7th, 2012 (01:21 pm)

This is the final post detailing the books I read and the films I watched during 2011. I don't think I'll bother doing these in 2012 as I suspect I'm stretching myself a bit thin with them. They're also a bit long, which probably puts some people off reading them. Perhaps I'll just blog about individual books or films I consider worthy of recommendation on an ad hoc basis. What do people think?

For the time-being anyway, here it is, the culture (and I use the term loosely) I consumed right up until the 31 December 2011...

Books
Time to Live, John Rackham (1966) / The Man Without a Planet, Lin Carter (1966), was an Ace double I picked up at a convention chiefly, I seem to recall, because Rackham was a British sf writer of the 1960s and 1970s I'd not read. (Though he also wrote as John T Phillifent, his real name, and I think I've read one of his books published under that name.) And so... Well, it's hackwork right from the first page. Time to Live opens with an amnesiac protagonist, and the entire story feels like it was made up as Rackham wrote it. The amnesiac is wanted for murder, but he didn't commit it, of course. And the native race on the planet on which this takes place are all preternaturally good-looking, have psychic powers, are near-immortal, and have willingly turned their backs on high technology. The native woman who rescues the amnesiac when his car crashes quickly realises he is innocent and later falls in love with him. Of course. This is not a book that will ever make the British SF Masterworks list. Lin Carter, on the other hand, was not a Brit, and he also seems to have made a career from writing pastiches of sf and fantasy from an earlier age. His Callisto books, for example, take off Edgar Rice Burrough's Barsoom stories, and his Thongor is Conan in all but name. The Man Without a Planet belongs to Carter's History of the Great Imperium trilogy, and it's real swords & spaceships stuff. The protagonist is a naval hero who returns to his home world but doesn't like what he finds there. He is reluctantly pushed into the arms of a displaced empress who wants her planet back. It's all stupid cod mediaeval dialogue and most of the cast wearing next to nothing as manly men battle to protect feisty females and ensure that what is right prevails. I have to wonder how many readers lapped it up and didn't realise Carter was taking the piss.

The Silent Land, Graham Joyce (2010), is likely to end up on a few short-lists this year was on several short-lists last year, though I ultimately found it an unsatisfactory read. A young couple are on a skiing holiday and get caught in an avalanche. They manage to rescue themselves, but when they return to the village where they're staying, they find it deserted. Certain things don't seem quite as they should, or as they remember them - candles don't burn down, meat doesn't go off, things don't taste as they ought... and whenever they try to leave the village they find themselves circling back to it. The couple and their relationship are drawn exceedingly well, but most readers will probably figure out what's going about halfway through, and it's the lack of a final unexpected twist that left me slightly disappointed. Otherwise, a book definitely worth reading.



(Rest of post on It Doesn't Have To Be Right...)

iansales [userpic]

The 2012 challenge

January 1st, 2012 (11:34 am)

I decided last month that 2012's reading challenge would be world fiction, and particularly fiction from countries whose literature I had not read before. I asked for, and received, a number of suggested titles. Some I already had on my wants list; one or two I even have on the TBR pile. Using those suggestions, and one or two titles I had my eye on, I put together a list of books for the challenge. It went like this:

1 The Fat Years, Chan Koonchung (China)
2 Fever and Spear, Javier Marías (Spain)
3 My Name is Red, Orhan Pamuk (Turkey)
4 Jamilia, Chinghiz Aitmatov (Kyrgyzstan)
5 Xala: A Novel, Ousmane Sembène (Senegal)
6 Impossible Stories, Zoran Živković (Serbia)
7 Correction, Thomas Bernhard (Austria)
8 The Famished Road, Ben Okri (Nigeria)
9 The Tongue's Blood Does Not Run Dry, Assia Djebar (Algeria)
10 Labyrinths, Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina)
11 One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia)
12 The War of the End of the World, Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru)

A good mix, I thought. Three each from Europe, Africa and South America, two from the Near East, and one from the Far East. (I've read a number of Arabic writers, so I'm discounting them from this challenge).

And then I looked at the list again and discovered something was wrong with it. There was only a single female writer among the twelve: Assia Djebar from Algeria.

So it was back to the drawing-board. After some research on Wikipedia and Amazon, I came up with an alternative list:

1 The Fat Years, Chan Koonchung (China)
2 Fever and Spear, Javier Marías (Spain)
3 My Name is Red, Orhan Pamuk (Turkey)
4 The War of the End of the World, Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru)
5 Jamilia, Chinghiz Aitmatov (Kyrgyzstan)
6 The Famished Road, Ben Okri (Nigeria)
7 The Tongue's Blood Does Not Run Dry, Assia Djebar (Algeria)
8 The Piano Teacher, Elfriede Jelinek (Austria)
9 The Door, Magda Szabó (Hungary)
10 The Butcher's Wife, Li Ang (Taiwan)
11 So Long a Letter, Mariama Bâ (Senegal)
12 The Ship of Fools, Cristina Peri Rossi (Uruguay)

The list is now half female and half male, and still maintains a nice global spread. There are three titles each from Europe and Africa, and two each from the Near East, Far East and South America.

As in previous years, each month I will read one of the books from the list, and then I'll write about it. Hopefully, I'll manage to stick to the schedule, which is something I've failed to do several times in the past.

(Cross-posted from It Doesn't Have To Be Right...)

iansales [userpic]

The year in my own words

January 1st, 2012 (11:33 am)

In 2011, I had six stories published, and published one of my own on this blog. That makes it a slightly better year than 2010. The stories were:

- 'Barker' in BFS Journal: New Horizons, January 2011
- 'Disambiguation' on the Alt Hist website, May 2011
- 'The Contributors' on It Doesn't Have To Be Right..., July 2011
- 'Words Beyond the Veil' in Jupiter 33: Euanthe, July 2011
- 'A Light in the Darkness' in Alt Hist #3, November 2011
- 'Dancing the Skies' in The Monster Books for Girls, edited by Terry Grimwood [theExaggeratedPress], December 2011
- 'Wunderwaffe' in Vivisepulture, edited by Andy Remic & Wayne Simmons [Anarchy Books], December 2011

For someone who characterises themselves as a science fiction writer - and appears to be seen chiefly as a writer of hard sf - that's a varied selection. 'Barker' is one of my alternate takes on the Space Race, 'Dancing the Skies' is dark fantasy. 'A Light in the Darkness' and 'Disambiguation' are alternate history; and 'Wunderwaffe' is, well, it's Nazi occult science, which is probably a genre all its own. 'The Contributors' is a sort of New Wavey anti-capitalist story. Only 'Words Beyond the Veil' is your actual hard sf - and it's also the world's first death metal hard sf story that quotes from the lyrics of a real death metal album.

But, of course, the big project in 2011 has been Rocket Science. I've taken a break from it over the past few weeks, but I shall be cracking away at it in earnest in the New Year. I think I've got an excellent table of contents, and anyone expecting a one-note ultra-hard sf anthology is in for a big surprise. Rocket Science will be launched at Olympus 2012, Heathrow, London, in April.

I'm also planning to launch 'Adrift on the Sea of Rains', the first book of the Apollo Quartet sequence of novellas, at Olympus 2012. The text is currently being edited, but an advance reader has already described the level of detail as "insane". I took that as a compliment...

Still, I have so few laurels that resting on them would make for an uncomfortable seat, so in 2012 I plan to write and submit much more. I already have four stories due to be published during the year, but if I'm to beat 2011's record I need more. I have several currently in progress - again, a varied selection of genres and modes - and I need to get them finished and start sending them out.

So here's to 2012. And let's hope it's a good year for all.

(Cross-posted from It Doesn't Have To Be Right...)

iansales [userpic]

Festive activities

January 1st, 2012 (11:32 am)

Christmas is over for another year, and life can now return to what passes for normal. Once again, I was in Denmark for the festivities, but this year it was wet and windy rather than the usual deep snow. There was a lot of eating involved, and a lot of walking. The day after Boxing Day, we went to see David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo at the cinema (English with Danish subtitles, fortunately). Though I've not read the book, I have seen the Swedish version of the film. To be honest, I'm not sure which of the two versions is the better.


The flight back from Denmark was... interesting. On the approach to Manchester Airport, the plane was thrown around by turbulence and we almost touched down... before the captain decided to abort and up we went for another go around. Fortunately, the second attempt was much smoother and we landed in one piece. I first flew in 1968 and I've flown at least once a year since, and that was the first time I've ever been in an aircraft that took more than one attempt to land. Having said that, I've never been a big fan of air travel - and less so these days than I used to be. All that "security theatre" is just unnecessary palaver - how many terrorists has it actually caught? We certainly know it failed to catch two bombers... And while airlines seem to want us to believe that air travel has become easier and more convenient, the reverse is actually true. Also, budget airlines appear to hold their customers in complete contempt. They ask you to queue at the boarding-gate for an hour but don't provide anywhere to sit. Aircraft are not buses - and given all the hoops passengers are forced to jump through before boarding at present, they never will be. The entire industry needs over-hauling.

Santa brought me some books and some DVDs: William Tenn's Of Men and Monsters and Tariq Ali's Shadows Of The Pomegranate Tree, the first book of the Islam Quintet; and Twin Peaks: Definitive Gold Box Edition, Fringe Season 3 and Caprica Season 1 Volume 2. I read the two books before returning to the UK. Of Men and Monsters was better than I expected, though I'm in two minds whether it belongs in the SF Masterwork series. Shadows Of The Pomegranate Tree is set in Moorish Spain in 1500 CE, and chronicles the Spanish Catholics' campaign to wipe out Islam and its practitioners on the peninsula. It's strong stuff, though Ali's frequently inelegant prose didn't do the book any favours. I'll probably read the rest of the Quintet at some point, but I'm not going to dash out and buy them immediately.

(Rest of post on It Doesn't Have To Be Right...)

iansales [userpic]

The future we used to have, part 7

December 31st, 2011 (09:17 am)
Tags:

It's nearly the end of 2011, so imagine a 2012 that might have looked a bit like this...

Homes


The remarkable Volcano House - see www.archithings.net
The remarkable Volcano House - see www.archithings.net
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University
A Titan missile complex - see www.titan2icbm.org
Thomy Lafon School, New Orleans

(Rest of post on It Doesn't Have To Be Right...)

iansales [userpic]

Looking ahead

December 31st, 2011 (09:13 am)
Tags:

This year is almost over, but what will the new year bring? I already have more than a dozen titles from 2012 on my wish list. They are (in alphabetical order by surname of author):

(Cross-posted from It Doesn't Have To Be Right...)

iansales [userpic]

Compliments of the season

December 21st, 2011 (10:48 am)

Well, okay, it's a bad pun for a title. But look here. It's a very complimentary review by the Pornokitsch cabal of 'A Light in the Darkness', my story in Alt Hist 3. It's fascinating seeing what others pull out of your stories - whether you consciously put it in there or not.

Having said that, I agree with everything the review says, and I salute the reviewer's excellent taste...

(Cross-posted from It Doesn't Have To Be Right...)

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