Archive for the ‘just for fun’ category

Genre-bending works: favorites and recommendations

April 5, 2010

Last week, John DeNardo asked me to contribute to SF Signal’s Mind Meld feature, which entertains a single question with a group of genre luminaries each week. I’ve been enjoying the Mind Meld feature for a long time, so naturally I was beyond delighted to be asked to play–but what excited me even more was this week’s question: What are your favorite genre-bending works?

I’m all about genre bending. Actually rule-bending in general. Rules and definitions just make me think about what they’re designed to exclude.

But I digress, as usual. The point: I found this question so compelling that I began to talk to other people about it even before I wrote my post. Last weekend, at the book launch (actually the after-party) for Leona Wisoker’s fabulous Secrets of the Sands, the very knowledgeable cadre of fans and artists who had gathered to celebrate fielded a list of favorites that barely even overlapped mine. Though I’d intended to use their suggestions to augment my list for Mind Meld, I quickly realized John would have to give me control of the whole column to accommodate everything. So I answered his question, discussing a few of my favorite genre-bending works–and will share the responses of the luminaries who weighed in at Leona’s after-party here. Once the Mind Meld post goes live on SF Signal, I’ll link to it here.

And I’m adding the recommendations that spoke to me to my ever-growing TBR shelf on Goodreads.

Crowd favorites for genre-bending include:

Fred Saberhagen’s Dracula Series. It may be worth noting that what sprang to mind was the sixth of the series, but I have included the link to the series opening.

Mercedes Lackey/Roberta Gellis: This Scepter’d Isle

David Weber/Linda Evans: Hell’s Gate, also the first of a series.

Larry Niven/Steven Barnes: Dream Park–the first of a series.


Update: So many excellent ideas in the Mind Meld post. My to-read list has grown even longer. And when I came back here I realized I had typed “SF Site” rather than “SF Signal” in the original post.


I’ve fixed it, but I’ll be blushing about this ridiculous error for days. I am a great admirer of both sites and both editorial teams; I choose to blame post-launch fatigue for my error…but we all know that’s really no excuse.

Fun with the “Which Fantasy Writer Are You?” Quiz

June 14, 2009

Yeah, everybody’s taking it.

Here’s what it said about me; who knew?

Your result for Which fantasy writer are you?

Mary Gentle (b. 1956)

33 High-Brow, 21 Violent, 23 Experimental and 7 Cynical!

Mary Gentle (b. 1956)

Congratulations! You are High-Brow, Violent, Experimental and Cynical! These concepts are defined below.

Mary Gentle is a UK author whose work has received some acclaim. Her great break-through came with 1984 fantasy novel Golden Witchbreed, which depicts the travels of a UK envoy on a planet, Orthe, where the inhabitants have, by choice, abandoned a high-tech society for a seemingly less advanced way of life. Though nominally science fiction, the novel is generally called fantasy, partly because Orthe has the feel of a fantasy world. Nothing is what it first seems to be on Orthe, however, and the envoy’s journey across the planet gradually reveals a vividly imagined alternate society, where nothing is ever over-simplified or, for that matter, easy. Gentle revisited Orthe in 1987, when the sequel Ancient Light was published.

Since then Gentle has written the White Crow sequence, starting with Rats and Gargoyles (1990), which has received some acclaim, not least from other writers; China Miéville, for example, put it on his list of “50 science fiction and fantasy novels socialists should read”. She has also written Grunts! (1992), a novel set in a Tolkien-like fantasy world, but told from the point of view of the orcs, as well as several other books.

Gentle is not one to shun away from difficult issues in her works and is equally unafraid of discussing and depicting violence. Neither has she settled to writing the same kind of story over and over, and, while being at her best a great entertainer, she has the ability of twisting and bending fantasy environments and themes at her will, making unafraid a key-word of her career as a writer.

You are also a lot like Gene Wolfe.

If you want something more gentle (no pun intended), try Philip Pullman.

If you’d like a challenge, try your exact opposite, J K Rowling.

Your score

This is how to interpret your score: Your attitudes have been measured on four different scales, called 1) High-Brow vs. Low-Brow, 2) Violent vs. Peaceful, 3) Experimental vs. Traditional and 4) Cynical vs. Romantic. Imagine that when you were born, you were in a state of innocence, a tabula rasa who would have scored zero on each scale. Since then, a number of circumstances (including genetical, cultural and environmental factors) have pushed you towards either end of these scales. If you’re at 45 or -45 you would be almost entirely cynical, low-brow or whatever. The closer to zero you are, the less extreme your attitude. However, you should always be more of either (eg more romantic than cynical). Please note that even though High-Brow, Violent, Experimental and Cynical have positive numbers (1 through 45) and their opposites negative numbers (-1 through -45), this doesn’t mean that either quality is better. All attitudes have their positive and negative sides, as explained below.

High-Brow vs. Low-Brow

You received 33 points, making you more High-Brow than Low-Brow. Being high-browed in this context refers to being more fascinated with the sort of art that critics and scholars tend to favour, rather than the best-selling kind. At their best, high-brows are cultured, able to appreciate the finer nuances of literature and not content with simplifications. At their worst they are, well, snobs.

Violent vs. Peaceful

You received 21 points, making you more Violent than Peaceful. Please note that violent in this context does not mean that you, personally, are prone to violence. This scale is a measurement of a) if you are tolerant to violence in fiction and b) whether you see violence as a means that can be used to achieve a good end. If you are, and you do, then you are violent as defined here. At their best, violent people are the heroes who don’t hesitate to stop the villain threatening innocents by means of a good kick. At their worst, they are the villains themselves.

Experimental vs Traditional

You received 23 points, making you more Experimental than Traditional. Your position on this scale indicates if you’re more likely to seek out the new and unexpected or if you are more comfortable with the familiar, especially in regards to culture. Note that traditional as defined here does not equal conservative, in the political sense. At their best, experimental people are the ones who show humanity the way forward. At their worst, they provoke for the sake of provocation only.

Cynical vs Romantic

You received 7 points, making you more Cynical than Romantic. Your position on this scale indicates if you are more likely to be wary, suspicious and skeptical to people around you and the world at large, or if you are more likely to believe in grand schemes, happy endings and the basic goodness of humankind. It is by far the most vaguely defined scale, which is why you’ll find the sentence “you are also a lot like x” above. If you feel that your position on this scale is wrong, then you are probably more like author x. At their best, cynical people are able to see through lies and spot crucial flaws in plans and schemes. At their worst, they are overly negative, bringing everybody else down.

Author picture by the talented artist “Molosovsky”. Visit for more!

Compared to other takers

  • 99/100 You scored 33 on High-Brow, higher than 99% of your peers.
  • 94/100 You scored 21 on Violent, higher than 94% of your peers.
  • 92/100 You scored 23 on Experimental, higher than 92% of your peers.
  • 37/100 You scored 7 on Cynical, higher than 37% of your peers.

#russbooks Day 4: Not for the Faint of Heart

June 6, 2009

In hindsight, I should have realized we were in for a rough ride when the box fell apart.

All I did was pick the poor thing up from the stack, and one entire side gave out, spilling books everywhere. We stuffed them back into the remains of the box, trying to preserve the order of the stack (this is for posterity, after all) and carried the whole mess into the study for its photo-op.

Even the box is falling apart

barbarfriendish More #russbooks… in a #fail box. This is Box #4

Poor thing. It doesn’t look substantially better when we open it:

The interior, if you care to call it that

All unsuspecting, we pick up the first book:

barbarfriendish Book #27 The End of Mr. Y/Scarlett Thomas. “If you knew this book was cursed, would you read it?” #russbooks

Uplifting title, non? Actually, the back cover copy sounds interesting, in a rather Kubrickian way. It’s going onto my TBR stack. Meanwhile Rachael, who has someplace to go after we finish today’s liveblog, is already pawing through the rest of the books.

barbarfriendish “This is the box of depress,” says @rachaelish. “Just this cover makes me wanna shoot myself.” #russbooks Ah, we’re in litfic territory now.

But, no, Gentle Reader: I’m wrong as usual. The reality is much worse. This book contains elements of the literary, but also the remains of a Women’s Studies class, and none of it (despite the fact that the Sedaris volume is billed as humor) will do anything to lift the spirits. Unless we’re talking about spirits of the liquid variety. Case in point:

barbarfriendish Book #28 Paradise/Toni Morrison. “They shoot the white girl first. With the rest they can take their time.” …make mine a double #russbooks

This just isn't light reading

It soon gets even more delightful:

barbarfriendish Book #29 A Natural History of Rape/Thornhill & Palmer #russbooks

Now, I have to admit I’ve put this book on my TBR stack. The authors make a very interesting case for the proposition that society really can’t take steps to move itself beyond rape until we understand where rape comes from: that it’s not strictly a sociological issue, but that there are issues of biology at work as well. I’ve come away from the more sociological and/or behavioralist works I’ve read on this topic profoundly dissatisfied, and clearly the applications of those theories aren’t really working out. I’d like an opportunity to understand.

I do wonder why Russ saved it, however. I feel confident rape is not one of his vices.

barbarfriendish Book #30 The Pillars of the Earth/Ken Follett. “It lost me at the first sentence,” says @rachaelish–but I’m curious… #russbooks

Now my TBR stack is growing. I’d heard about this book when it first came out and wondered. Now that it is in my house I must make time for it.

barbarfriendish Book #31 Naked/David Sedaris #russbooks

Humor is a very individual thing. I glance through this book: it’s well-written and keenly-observed, but the humor is of a flavor that may get a wry smile out of me now and then, not the sustained laughter the blurbs promise. Your mileage may vary, and Russ’s obviously does: I know he’s a Sedaris fan.

Meanwhile Rachael, overwhelmed by it all, has thrown in the towel:

Rachael can't do this anymore

But the book on top of her head looks promising:

barbarfriendish Book #32 Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, vol 2 The Kingdom on the Waves–ARC/MT Anderson. intrigued; where’s vol 1? #russbooks

I wonder if the Library Gods have smiled on me and the first volume is somewhere in the Big Stack of Boxes. Otherwise I’m going to have to track it down.

There’s only one book left:

barbarfriendish Book #33 What is the What/Dave Eggers –with DOUBLE FOLD-DOWN #russbooks

The Double Fold-down

You’ve heard about this book, of course, even if you don’t recognize the title. (I didn’t.) It’s the autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, one of the boys from Sudan who came to America.

By the time we’re through with this box, we’re ready to give up, just like the box. I even forget to sign off. I can only hope there is no one out there waiting for more transmissions from Box #4, the Box of Depress.

We’ll be opening the next box this evening. Because hope springs eternal, maybe.

Back to the beginning of the #russbooks adventure

Premiering tomorrow: #russbooks

June 1, 2009

I have a Secret Stash.

Shortly before Russ Marshalek, the coolest kid at #BEA09, left Atlanta for The Big Apple (am I jealous? do I feel the bite of my Exile? nah.) he entrusted to me his Stash of Books Important Enough to Save.

Niall guards Russ's Stash of Books

Niall guards Russ's Stash of Books

I was very excited. Not as excited as I would be to return permanently to the Correct Side of the Mason-Dixon Line, you understand, but as excited as boxes of books on loan could make a book nerd. Russ is a man with Access to Books: as  Publicity Director for the ill-fated Wordsmiths Books in Decatur, GA (moment of silence) he received ARCs of all the up-and-coming forthcoming books from everybody who wanted to book an author tour. (These days, of course, he gets to go to #BEA09 and pick up free copies of everything everybody’s giving away–so I know he’s got something to read, despite the fact that I’ve got the Stash from the Past.) Meanwhile I’d been thinking that Mercury Retrograde has been under-utilizing the promotional opportunity that ARCs present, so I’d been looking forward to looking at other publishers’ ARCs and stealing their ideas learning from them.

It’s been a busy couple of months. I haven’t had time to dig into the Secret Stash of #russbooks. But I have very nearly completed what must be done for Mercury Retrograde’s forthcoming books for fall–and after Russ liveblogged BEA for Baby Got Books, I suddenly became inspired to liveblog my exploration of #russbooks. What does the Coolest Kid at BEA read? More to the point, which books has he found important enough to save & protect?

Protected by Demon Cat

Protected by Demon Cat

Surely I am not the only one who wants to know the answers to these questions.

Besides…one of the things in my Secret Stash is a box of personal items.

Russ's Personal Stuff

Russ's Personal Stuff

I will be unpacking a box per day, liveblogging the unfolding wonder on Twitter under the #russbooks hashtag. I’ll also be blogging the whole thing with pictures, right here, on a one-day lag. So set your favorite Twitter app to monitor #russbooks and play along.

Next #russbooks installment

My eyes! My EYES!!!!

September 19, 2008

Day One of Anime Weekend Atlanta: what geek girls do on their birthdays. Rachael & I went straight over to AWA from school this afternoon, stood in interminable lines at walk-in registration (not quite geekily organized enough to register in advance) and met some cool people in line, wandered at length in the Dealers’ Room (awesome new t-shirt!)…and went to a program called Awesomely Bad Japanese Music Videos.

Uh, yeah. They weren’t kidding. I don’t think it would have been substantially weirder with chemical assistance. Let’s start with FISH FIGHT (those words, oddly, were in English; the rest was in Japanese): disco set in a fish tank; the whole group (maybe 8 or 9 guys) had fish on top of their heads, helmet-fashion. That’s as much description as I can muster; my eyes are still bleeding.

From there we progressed to the saccharine-cute stylings that only the Japanese can still do with a straight face: in many cases covers of disco songs from around the world. (Are we the only people who know disco is dead?) Then there was a rather hallucinatory death-metal performance. I’m still not sure what the hell was going on with all those intestines. After that, an unabashedly pornographic (live-action) music video that included a certain amount of animation…something that felt disturbingly like a cross between West Side Story and the ballroom scene in Rocky Horror…a dead ringer for a transgendered David Lee Roth…and a video that was probably directed by Hunter S. Thompson, someplace deep in Bat Country.

After that, a cover of YMCA by a group of Japanese (evidently gay) guys dressed in Speedos and latex. FAR TOO MUCH INFORMATION.

Must go find a Q-tip long enough to clean my brain.

Must make time for knitting

August 26, 2008

It’s the Anticraft. I’m in love.

The Breaking Dawn Prom at Wordsmiths

August 2, 2008

I’ve been a blogging delinquent since the Shorn launch. Same old story: when I’m getting ready to be away from the office for a sustained period, the period leading up to the trip becomes a frenzied attempt to prepare the world for my absence. And when I come out the other end of something that requires all my attention (frex: launch party, hosting a mini-track at a con, the publication of a book, etc.) then my return to the office becomes a huge exercise in catching up. So basically what I did between the Shorn launch and today was (a) catch up on stuff that got shouldered aside by the all-encompassing launch event and (b) prepare to be gone again, for my writing retreat.

But last night, between the frenzy to stay on top of things and the impending bliss of time alone with the muse, I got to go to a party. A way cool party. Doubtless the coolest of its kind on this side of the Mason-Dixon. (Hey, gotta give the launch party Stephanie Meyer attended the Coolest ranking, right? I just wonder whether they had Crepuscular Cookies.)

The Breaking Dawn Prom at Wordsmiths: what a blast! I can’t remember the last time I was in the same room with so many female people and so few males. Nobody seemed to mind–especially not the males. 🙂 Ferosha Akoustika was awesome, as one might expect. And there was no hair-pulling in the line while all those fans waited to buy the book.

Now I just have to wait for Rachael to finish reading our copy.


August 1, 2008

Last week I had a really amusing talk with Phil Kloer at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was working, but for me it was just an opportunity to chat about Stephanie Meyer’s books and why females of all ages are obsessed with them. Phil also talked to Rachael, and to a significant percentage of the literate female population of Atlanta, it seems. Fortunately he seems to enjoy Ms. Meyer’s books as much as the rest of us…

After he talked to everyone, Phil wrote an article about the Stephanie Meyer Phenomenon and all the Breaking Dawn parties taking place tonight. Yes, I’m in the article. Rachael looks so cute in the picture!

We’ll be at a Breaking Dawn party tonight, with the Cool Kids at Wordsmiths. If you’re local, stop by. We’ll be looking very Goth and pulling for Team Edward.