Showing posts with label Reading. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reading. Show all posts

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Answering SF Signal's Questions/Meme Regarding Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading/Buying Habits

A Small Glimpse at the Bookshelf

I'm a regular reader of the SF Signal blog. I think it and Blackgate blog are two of the best fandom based blogs on the internet. I am also not usually one for answering book memes, but since this one is directed at science fiction and fantasy - my two favorite genre - and since it offers plenty of room to avoid pretentious answers I'm all in. I also think that this is a list of questions that can spur on some discussion.

The questions come from John DeNardo's post earlier today.

Here’s a book meme that focuses on reading habits and buying habits.
You know the drill: Copy the questions below and paste them into the comments with your answers. Answer as many or as few as you’d like.
  • What was the last sf/f/h book you finished reading? David Gemmell's DARK MOON
  • What was the last sf/f/h book you did not finish reading and why? This does not happen. As a "completist," I feel a need to always finish a book. This is maybe especially true when I dislike it.
  • What was the last sf/f/h book you read that you liked but most people didn’t? This is kind of a tough question, but since it is supposedly the worst writing ever done I'll say the EYE OF ARGON. It was nowhere near as bad as I feared, and doesn't compare in syntax/creativity/spelling errors to "The Quest for the Holey Grail" that Luke Y Thompson has been reading on Topless Robot.
  • What was the last sf/f/h book you read that you disliked but most people did? The Wheel of Time series prior to Brandon Sanderson joining the team. While I may love my D&D campaigns to be a patchwork quilt of all the fiction I love - like Mystara - I'm not sure I like my fantasy epics to be.
  • How long do your 1-sitting reading sessions usually last? Depends upon the book. A short book is 2 hours a long one might be eight, but I rarely do longer than an 8 hour 1-sitting read.
  • Do you like it so far? Yes. It's the third book in the series, but it covers a good deal of Bosch's background. I was surprised to see how they integrated the plot from this book into the BOSCH pilot.
  • How long ago did you buy the book you are currently reading (or the last book you read)? About a year ago/just a couple of weeks ago.
  • What was the last physical sf/f/h book you bought? ROGUES and PROMISE OF BLOOD
  • What is the sf/f/h sub-genre you like the most and why? Sword & Sorcery. Have you read Michael Moorcock, Fritz Leiber, Garth Nix, David Gemmell, Elizabeth Moon, C.L. Moore, and James Enge? If so, you understand.
  • What is the sf/f/h sub-genre you dislike the most and why? Steampunk. It's not that I don't like the genre, it's that I don't like the classification. Too little Steampunk has any punk element at all. They all seem oddly conservative in their nostalgia and focus. There are exceptions, but as a rule I think if you are going to call yourself "punk" you ought to have punk elements. So I call it Steampulp.
  • What is your favorite electronic reading device? Kindle.
  • Do you read books exclusively in 1 format (physical/electronic)? No. I like both tablets and books for reading. 
  • Do you read eBooks exclusively on a single device (eBook reader/ smartphone / tablet)? No. I tend to avoid using the iPhone because it can cause eye strain and I don't like reading books on a laptop screen. Tablets and Kindles both work well though.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Acclaimed Fantasy and Adventure Author Now Exploring the Undiscovered Country

May 17th, at his home in Drexel, PA, Lloyd Alexander died. And while the New York Times and The Washington Post provided serviceable obituaries, a part of my soul wishes that the news made the society a little more filled with sorrow than it seems to have done. To be honest, the Washington Post article seems a little labored and clumsily written, magnifying my desire for a larger communal acknowledgement of grief. One imagines how sad the children of England and America would be if J.K. Rowling were to die years from now. I imagine that there would be many who would write eloquently regarding how the adventures of Harry Potter were the first forays into a life of literary exploration. That is what Lloyd Alexander was for me.

Alexander was my first encounter with written Fantasy as a genre of fiction. My first reading obsession was the Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing series by Judy Blume (but that is another topic). My fourth grade teacher noticed that I was reading Edith Hamilton's Mythology and recommended that I read the "Chronicles of Prydain" series. I did. I loved them. They were rooted in a mythic system, heavily influenced by the Mabinogion and Sir James George Frazer, that I had yet to encounter. At the time, I was very familiar with Greek mythology and was already a firmly committed "Sword and Sandals" fan, but I knew little of Hern the Hunter. So the adventures of an assistant pig keeper named Taran were the perfect introduction to Fantasy and set a firm foundation which helped me to understand the "deeper" and more difficult prose of T.H. White. If not for Taran, I never would have gotten to know Wart. I would also never have ventured into Narnia. The Prydain books and the Narnia books shared the same publisher.

In 1985, at a mature 14, I went to the theater to watch a film adaptation which combined elements of the first two Prydain books. The Black Cauldron was a disappointment. I liked the representation of Gurgi, who is very Pooka-esque in the film, though it was very different from the representation in the books. In fact, there was a lot different between the two. To the point that the movie seemed to be afraid to deal with the "darker" aspect of the narrative. One would expect that a film featuring the art of Tim Burton and Mike Ploog might be a little on the dark side, but the film's (and the story's), darker moments are much brighter in the film. Even with the changes, I still enjoyed the film. I still do. I just wish they had let Burton and Ploog go a little wild and had kept the directors originally slated to direct the film, John Musker and Ron Clements. Instead, Musker and Clements went on to direct The Great Mouse Detective, one of my all time favorite Disney films (not to mention The Little Mermaid and Aladdin).

I can understand those who don't have the same warm place in their hearts for Prydain that I do. When one has read a larger amount of Fantasy, the stories can appear less inventive than they did to me at the time. On of the most famous, in Fantasy circles, of Alexander's critics is Michael Moorcock. Moorcock wrote in his seminal Wizardry and Wild Romance (As an aside, Moorcock also complains of the use of Hern the Hunter as an overused legacy from Frazer. I don't know about you, but I don't know many fourth graders who have an intimate knowledge of The Golden Bough, though you should have at least passing knowledge of it by the time you read the Pratt/de Camp stories.) :

Lloyd Alexander is another American writer who has had considerable success in his books set in an invented and decidedly Celtic fantasy world, but for my taste he never quite succeeds in matching the three I have mentioned [ed. note: Ursula K Le Guin, Gillian Bradshaw, and Susan Cooper]. He uses more clich├ęs and writes a trifle flaccidly:
The Horned King stood motionless, his arm upraised. Lightning played about his sword. The giant flamed like a burning tree. The stag horns turned to crimson streaks, the skull mask ran like molten iron. A roar of pain and rage rose from the Antlered King's throat.
With a cry, Taran flung an arm across his face. The ground rumbled and seemed to open beneath him. Then there was nothing.
The Book of Three 1964

I don't know about you, but that read pretty interestingly to me. Especially considering that this is an encounter that Taran has while searching for his lost pig. This is an epic encounter occurring on what, at first, appeared to be a very mundane task. That is what I liked about Alexander. His epic adventure begins with a seemingly mundane, and yes very stalwartly middle-class, activity. Moorcock doesn't like stories rooted in bourgeois morality, and that is his right, he finds such stories staid. But I found the prospect of a chore leading to great adventure, one where the struggle between good and evil is clear rather than shaded, great fun at my young age. I still find it fun. I think I'll curl up tonight and revisit the reason I have read so much.