Re: Sexism Without Sexists

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Can we complain about the rotten TV adaptation of Earthsea, too?

It was rotten.*

* Except for Danny Glover as Ogion the Silent. Great, great casting.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 5:53 AM
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I've read most of Le Guin's major works apart from the Earthsea books - I'm not really a big fantasy person. I have seen the Studio Ghibli film, but I understand that it's only loosely based on the books. Coming from stuff like The Left Hand of Darkness it's hard to imagine her writing something so patriarchal.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 6:02 AM
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Kind of on-topic, though barely: I'm teaching a class on Laura Ingalls Wilder this semester. These were books I loved to pieces as a kid, quite possibly the formative texts of my childhood. They were also the formative texts for about two-thirds of the young women who are taking the class.

Teaching them, therefore, is an experience. Both reading them as an adult and reading the research into Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who helped her write them -- the books are explicitly written to counter Roosevelt's policies and what Wilder and Lane saw as the corruption of America. (They thought American children were being infantalized, and therefore the American character was being ruined -- made into takers, to borrow a modern phrase.)

The books are rotten with propaganda, when read this way. It's a bit disturbing.

But! I'm also reading a great book, by Nicola Griffith, called Hild, about the 7th century Hild (the woman who would become Saint Hilda, but before she was that woman). It's wonderfully written, and has fully realized characters, women and men, all through it. So far as I can tell, it gets the historical details right too.


Posted by: delagar | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 6:08 AM
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Yeah, I can completely see why Le Guin wanted to write Tehanu and The Other Wind, but they just didn't work for me as a part of the series (Tehanu in particular, frankly). I agree that the first three Earthsea books are basically unfixable on this issue -- you have to put their treatment of gender down right next to Tolkien's treatment of race.

Which in a way is valuable (to me at least) simply as an illustration of how one can identify with a book that has serious problems of one sort or another, so long as one's own ox isn't gored. That's how privilege works, isn't it?

I never read Stewart.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 6:22 AM
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Not having read Earthsea for decades, but remembering other LeGuin books a little better, are we so certain that having magic and power is on net, or at all, a good thing in the context of the books?

If power and magic is always corrupting when not also futile, it still would be essentialist to say that the corruption is worse or uglier when we see it in women or girls, but not an entirely uncommon attitude.

Would we be more disturbed if the recent police shootings had been done by women cops?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 6:27 AM
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I really loved the Tehanu books when I read them and thought they were some of the most emotionally honest writing about sexual assault for young readers I'd found, but I do think you have to think of them as separate from the core Earthsea.

delagar, have you read Wilder's memoir that was published recently? I'm really looking forward to that, but haven't gotten to it. (Same with Hild, which Griffith wrote about a lot on twitter as she was writing it, which was interesting.)


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 6:42 AM
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LB, that's a great write-up. I thought of Tenar (in The Tombs of Atuan) as a positive role-model, not in the sense that she's anything like a modern feminist woman, but because she takes agency (where she had none), saves Ged, and in the end brings back the ring. It's true to its (fictional middle-ages-ish) time.

You mention that Merlin's power depends on his virginity; so does Ged's (and all wizards') in Earthsea. You also say that Kargish women have magic power, but my take is that just as in Ged's society it is circumscribed by male wizards (the Kargish rulers, the "God-Brothers"), and only the women who serve the Tomb really have it, and they are mostly ignored and derided. So no different really.

Many people don't like the "extra" books, and Tehanu is indeed pretty tough going. I approve much more of The Other Wind, as it deepens and complements one of the major themes of the whole series, which is that fear of death leads to evil.

By the way, my daughters loved the Earthsea Trilogy, and the Narnia books (which are pretty misogynistic), and Tolkien, all of which we read to them (when they were younger than twelve). It doesn't appear to have harmed them.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 6:44 AM
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5: It has been a while since I re-read the first three as well -- Earthsea is one of those series where the old paperback copies that I got as a teenager are still sitting on my shelf, with the binding falling apart from a combination of heavy use and age.

My recollection is that the power wielded by the male protagonist is seen as complicated -- and he sometimes misuses it, especially in the first book -- but it is on net positive. I don't recall at all getting the sense that either he specifically or wizards generally were corrupt in the way that the Nameless Ones (and their truly devoted worshippers) are in Tombs of Atuan.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 6:46 AM
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5. Leguin was and maybe still is something of Taoist. An ongoing theme in a lot of her works is that taking action is a very dangerous thing. In Earthsea, the best wizards (Ogion the Silent, for example) are the ones who do the least magic. That view becomes even stronger as the series progresses.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 6:47 AM
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It doesn't appear to have harmed them.

Oh, sure, but how much do they respect their progressive headmasters with their special underwear and all?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 6:47 AM
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3 - Yeah, the degree to which Lane edited her mother's memories to make it more of a story about The Good Old Days of Pioneer Self-Reliance was really surprising to me when I read it.

I'd say that the summary of The Tombs of Atuan is a little unfair to Le Guin -- one of the main things the story is about is the degree to which Tenar doesn't have agency despite having her magic, possibly even because she has her magic; look at how Tenar's abandonment of power mirror's Ged's in The Furthest Shore -- but that's a pretty accurate statement about the series as a whole.

I would agree that the later books fail by virtue of not being successful, archetypal stories the way the first three were. (I think there's some value to Tehanu, but it's not a book that stayed with me or that I've ever felt like re-reading, and I've never read the other two books.) I feel like I've read interviews with UKL in which she's discussed this as an explicit reaction on her part to rereading the books, but I can't find it on the internet. If that's the case, it suggests that something's up when a woman as plugged in as Le Guin -- she wrote these books roughly contemporaneously with The Left Hand of Darkness -- delivers out something with deeply ingrained gender boundaries as A Wizard of Earthsea because she's not thinking about it.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 6:48 AM
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Which in a way is valuable (to me at least) simply as an illustration of how one can identify with a book that has serious problems of one sort or another, so long as one's own ox isn't gored. That's how privilege works, isn't it?

Yes, but it's distressing to find out how one can identify with a book, etc., even when one's own ox has been gored.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 6:51 AM
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It doesn't appear to have harmed them.

Well, not any more than the delightful background level of depressing misogyny already does, right? I mean, I certainly don't wish that I had been protected from Earthsea or Narnia or Tolkein, but I don't know that I think they didn't harm me, either. But whatever, I would have found something else that would have harmed me too without, perhaps, the good bits.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 6:55 AM
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DANG WE MISSED OUR CHANCE. NEXT TIME, RED.


Posted by: OPINIONATED TURNER DIARIES | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 6:55 AM
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Who is John Galt Pa Ingalls?


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 6:56 AM
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If you keep reading Tolkein through the Silmarillion, you get to the sibling incest.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 6:57 AM
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Le Guin:

Briefly, what happened in the 17 years between Farthest Shore and Tehanu was that feminism was reborn, and I became 17 years older, and learned a good deal. One of the things I learned was how to write as a woman, not as an honorary, or imitation, man.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:02 AM
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Leguin was and maybe still is something of Taoist. An ongoing theme in a lot of her works is that taking action is a very dangerous thing.

I'm not a procrastinator; I'm a Taoist.

See, that sounds much better.


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:05 AM
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No one has ever kept reading the Silmarillion.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:08 AM
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You could read the Wikipedia page for it. Or The Children of Húrin.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:10 AM
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11.3: I don't buy that she wasn't thinking about it. Earthsea is more sexist than Lord of the Rings. There's no way that happens by accident.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:12 AM
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Thank for noticing.


Posted by: Opinionated Éowyn | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:13 AM
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I have read the entire Silmarillion twice.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:15 AM
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I have read the entire Silmarillion twice.

Does your copy look like this?


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:18 AM
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I have read the entire Silmarillion twice.

Does your copy look like this?


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:18 AM
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17: Funny that in later in the same interview she says: "what the story 'means', in any language but its own, is for the reader to decide." To me Tehanu reads very much as a book by an author who decided -- for, as we've been discussing, very good and meritorious reasons -- that she didn't like what the first three books meant in their own language and was going to stage an intervention.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:18 AM
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I have glanced at paperback copies of the Silmarillion on many occasions.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:19 AM
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Although I do want to note that Thorn's reaction in 6 strongly suggests that what LeGuin was doing was an important thing to do and did work on an important level.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:21 AM
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21: Isn't it mostly sexist by ignoring women, and only having them around for what are essentially dynastic reasons? (My memory: flawed!) Not that that isn't hella sexist, but I think it's easy to be more sexist in that just by writing within partiarchal norms and making an effort to have female characters.

23: Then I refute your existence, I guess? Tolkien's writing really bores me, the Silmarillion especially so. Which is weird as I like dry historical writing about real things. Maybe I should try reading some of the Icelandic sagas or the Cattle Raid of Cooley or whatever his inspiration was and see if the Silmarillion seems more reasonable afterwards.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:22 AM
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"more sexist in that" -> "more sexist than that"


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:23 AM
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Earthsea is more sexist than Lord of the Rings. There's no way that happens by accident.

To be fair, Lord of the Rings avoids sexism largely by avoiding women entirely. It's possible it would have been more sexist if there were more than 3 female characters.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:25 AM
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Goldberry is certainly a less insulting character than Tom Bombadil.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:27 AM
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32: I'd forgotten about Goldberry. Make that 4 female characters.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:29 AM
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Oh, I'm not saying that the Simarillion isn't boring. I'm just saying that I've read it twice. It's a major test of character -- I don't know if I passed or failed.

All of the non-hobbit characters in LotR benefit from dynastic connections. Why the elves are so awesome is never really explained, but Galadriel is established as perhaps the most awesome of all of the elves. The magic in LotR is pretty understated, but she is as capable of it as anybody. Eowyn's ambition in life is to kill some things, an ambition she gets to fulfill. She is even shown overcoming sexism to do so. I don't want to overstate how feminist the books are, but the idea that women suck is not built into the fundamental fabric of the universe the way that it is in Earthsea.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:29 AM
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There's even more powerful women in Simarillion. Plus a talking dog.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:33 AM
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I've mentioned this before, but when I tried to read the Little House books to my too-young kid the main thing that struck me [even though I liked, and remembered my sister loving, them as a kid] was that they are incredibly, almost unbelievably boring. "Today we sweep the floor. There was a butter churn."

I don't know that I'd make the argument, but there's an argument that the Little House books are less propaganda for Barry Goldwater-style western self reliance than they are propaganda for encouraging women to cheerfully bear the endless drudgery of housework. "Your life will be endlessly boring, people will die, and men will move you around at their will. It will not be very interesting, but you will be fascinated by it anyway because you will love boring things."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:45 AM
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32 - if Goldberry counts, then there must be seven or eight that are individually identifiable - Arwen, Galadriel, Eowyn, Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, Goldberry, Rose Cotton (does she have any actual lines in the text? don't remember), and umm that woman who worked in the halls of healing and provided commentary on the procession of notables toward the end of book 5. I guess that makes seven.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:56 AM
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I thought the first three Earthsea books were OK but the wizards reminded me so much of Catholic priests that I couldn't identify. Regular people, men and women, were at most pawns or foils. I get that the books are fantasy, but c'mon, Le Guin created a far more "real" fantasy world in The Dispossessed.

I enjoyed Tehanu much more, for the reasons that Thorn mentioned, because it was a fuller description of Earthsea, and for its more sophisticated writing - I really liked the part near the end where the story shifts to Tehanu's point of view. Also, the part where Tenar served the King's men Andrades wine - the Dragon year - made me want a glass of good red.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:57 AM
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I don't buy that she wasn't thinking about it. Earthsea is more sexist than Lord of the Rings. There's no way that happens by accident.

I wouldn't actually call it "thinking about it" -- I think what I'm going to describe probably wasn't a conscious process. And I'm mindreading people I don't know, so there's a good chance I'm just wrong.

But when I think of how a not-intentionally-sexist woman writes the Earthsea trilogy, or the Merlin books, what I come up with is something like the following. First, she thinks of a story that looks normal, based on her assumptions about the world and how stories work: monastic wizards, excluded women and so on (for the Merlin trilogy, of course Stewart was working with the skeleton of a pre-existing story with a lot of that already baked into). Not intentionally sexist, but based on the sexist assumptions she's been steeped in her whole life. But because she's a woman who notices how women fit into stories, she needs an explanation for why the story she's telling treats women the way it does, instead of just taking it for granted. So she makes a world where the nature of magic and power inherently excludes women -- it's not an injustice or anything, it's an axiomatic fact about the world. It's sort of a step of consciousness before actually realizing that she has the option to not impose limits on her female characters.

Tolkein didn't have to go there -- the almost complete absence of female characters didn't need any explanation, it was just a norm that he had no reason to pay attention to. So he didn't need to make up an explanation for it, and ended up with fewer constraints on the few female characters he did have.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:57 AM
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37: You forgot Shelob.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:58 AM
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My guess is that the number one explanation for Earthsexism is that editors and publishers and probably LeG herself believed that young men didn't buy books with female leads in the early 70s. MZB was writing "power corrupts" books at the time with strong female characters and attacking patriarchy but she also had nominal male leads until after the mid 70s. Same with CJ Cherryh, with exceptions.

And who was she writing for? If her intended audience was young men, to teach them about power and patriarchy, she might write a different book than if she was aiming at young women.

C) I don't personally think it works, to portray the patriarchy while having strong female characters with agency. We come out of them saying "Women Rock!" instead of "Patriarchy Sucks" and end up with neoliberalism.

d) Finally, if you are trying to say that it in any way the means and mechanisms of power are responsible for or synergistic with patriarchy, then portraying or identifying with women in power (or at least the same kind of power as men) is deeply problematic.

Does patriarchal capitalism cause war and racism, or is caused by war and racism, or is war irrelevant to those vices, and a Senate of Black Lesbian women would carpet bomb Syria just as enthusiastically as White Men?

It may be true, but I choose to pretend it isn't.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:58 AM
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33: Make that 6: there's a couple of female hobbits too, Rosie Cotton and Lobelia Sackville-Baggins. I very much wanted to be Éowyn in my early teens, but that was mostly because she got to ride a horse whenever she liked.


Posted by: Ume | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:00 AM
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If we're going to go down the list of supporting characters, we could add that one woman who worked for the healers in Gondor and Zoey, the girl Boromir left behind.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:03 AM
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And we are still seeing this, when young men see strong female characters with successful agency, a common response from them is "What Patriarchy?"

You may want stories as a woman or as a feminist that might not be the most efficient ways of converting borderline sexist young men and boys.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:04 AM
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but Galadriel is established as perhaps the most awesome of all of the elves. The magic in LotR is pretty understated, but she is as capable of it as anybody

And she's a useless hippie all the same. Hey, how about leaving the forest and helping out with some shit? No? But you'll hand out some handmade belts, dirt, strands of your hair, and a nightlight? Oh, awesome.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:07 AM
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I'm pretty sure we should be taking points off for Lobelia and Ioreth (the healer), not adding them. Shelob, admittedly, has a whole bunch of agency.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:07 AM
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The Dispossessed is fantasy? Its universe does have a wide range of fantasy-like elements, but tonally it's much more sfnal.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:08 AM
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17. "Imitation man"

LeGuin had a story (one of her first) published in Playboy back in the 60's, which at the time was the highest-paying SF market; though they didn't publish a lot of SF, they paid very well for it. (Their fiction editor was a woman, by the way.)

However, Playboy did not want her byline to be "Ursula K. ..." and so it was published as by "U. K. LeGuin."

The story of James Tiptree, Jr. (actually Alice Sheldon) is even more interesting, and actually tragic. She imitated a man in her fiction and correspondence so well that Robert Silverberg wrote "It has been suggested that Tiptree is female, a theory that I find absurd, for there is to me something ineluctably masculine about Tiptree's writing." (Much to his later embarrassment.)


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:08 AM
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All I remember about the LOTR movies is that the number of female characters seems to triple in the last three minutes as we fast-forward to Samwise's beaming and bountiful family.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:09 AM
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There's a good biography of Sheldon out, James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice Sheldon. As a hipster, I think her "Racoona Sheldon" identity was the best of them, but you probably haven't heard of them her.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:11 AM
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(Much to his later embarrassment.)

Well-deserved, for using a word like "ineluctably".


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:13 AM
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Silverberg on Tiptree has always puzzled me. I could see it never having occurred to him that a writer with a masculine pen-name was a woman. But once it was an explicit question... a really disproportionate number of her stories, by the standards of male writers of that era, were about gender generally and women specifically. That didn't give Silverberg any pause at all?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:14 AM
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Lobelia deserves at least half a point for setting about Sharkey's ruffians with her umbrella when they try and evict her. Shelob is awesome, though.


Posted by: Ume | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:15 AM
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37 & 41. It's a little-known fact that all orcs are actually Black female lesbians.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:15 AM
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If the movies are to be believed, all Orcs are Londoners, or from Essex. Which, you know ... fair enough.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:17 AM
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Throughout the books, women are sympathetically described as weak and powerless, which explains and excuses why they have to be deceitful.

I haven't read any of the books that you are describing, and obviously treating women's powers as somehow uniquely "evil" is of course very sexist. But it doesn't seem sexist to me to portray a world acknowledging that, in most states of nature other something resembling modern western rule of law, most women (along with any smaller and weaker men) are going to lack the physical strength to impose their will by force, and will instead need to turn to other available means to assert power for themselves or otherwise get what they want. And practiced deception is one way to do that. (As is seduction.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:19 AM
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"Some girls are sadistic, materialistic.
Looking for a wizard makes them opportunistic."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:20 AM
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I suspect bob's point about the market in 41 is an important part of it. It's almost a rule that if the midcentury scifi author publishes as two first initials, it's a woman.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:22 AM
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a Senate of Black Lesbian women would carpet bomb Syria just as enthusiastically as White Men?

No one has ever carpet-bombed Syria, not even the current Senate, which is almost entirely white men, and no one will ever carpet-bomb Syria.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:23 AM
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But it doesn't seem sexist to me to portray a world acknowledging that, in most states of nature other something resembling modern western rule of law, most women (along with any smaller and weaker men) are going to lack the physical strength to impose their will by force

While in the abstract there's nothing wrong with this, in the context of the actual books I'm talking about, the contrast is with a male narrator/protagonist who also lacks the physical strength to impose his will by force, and relies on non-magical knowledge and intellect, as well as magical power, instead. (I'm realizing that the Stewart books weren't a common favorite around here? Anyone else read them? While obviously fantasy in some sense, I don't think they were treated as inside the fantasy and sf ghetto when published, which may be why they're not on people's formative teen reading lists.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:24 AM
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My daughter loved the Little House books. I hadn't grown up with them, and my principle association with them would have Michael Landon, but grew to a real appreciation of the storytelling, and the growth of Laura's consciousness from book to book as she grows up.

My son didn't take to LHOP as much, and I tried Treasure Island with him. I grew to appreciate how well done it is, how genuinely frightening. My knowledge of it had been entirely movies which miss a lot of the best.

My own reading as a boy was incredibly old-fashioned even for the 60s, even for Canada. G.A. Henty stories like Lion of The North and Lion of St. Marks. Howard Pyle's Men of Iron. Jungle Book.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:27 AM
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45:Battles of Lorien contemporaneous with the other more directly portrayed battles (Pelennor)

In addition, the Three Rings + One had global physical and spiritual effects that cannot be overestimated and I believe are guiding much of the plot in ways unknown to any but Ringbearers.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:29 AM
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the contrast is with a male narrator/protagonist who also lacks the physical strength to impose his will by force, and relies on non-magical knowledge and intellect, as well as magical power, instead.

Yeah, ok--troublingly sexist.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:31 AM
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I still loved them. That's my main version of the Arthur legend in my head -- T.H. White somewhat, but mostly Mary Stewart.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:32 AM
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58 - Three initials, though, and it's probably male. (If there are two examples, it's a rule, right? cf. Muhammad Abd-al-Rahman ("MAR") Barker.)

60 - FWIW, I read those (and the Mordred-centered follow-on) and even without a reread wow sexist, particularly Morgause.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:35 AM
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59. We would!


Posted by: OPINIONATED ORC SENATOR | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:37 AM
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Morgause almost isn't what bothers me. It's the kind of story that needs some villains, and no reason one of them shouldn't be a sexy woman, particularly since she's right there in the source material. It's Nimue, and the weakness and passivity of all the other female characters -- women are either weak or evil.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:40 AM
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Three initials, though, and it's probably male.

Unless it's... who was that lady who wrote all the food books? M.A.R. Singer or something?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:40 AM
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M.F.K. Fisher. Those are fascinatingly odd.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:41 AM
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I haven't read G.A. Henty, and I'm technically not a conservative, but can't we all agree everyone would be better off if tweens were reading The Lion of the North: A Tale of the Times of Gustavus Adolphus instead of Divergent?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:41 AM
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66: WE DON'T WANT TO GO TO WAR TODAY. BUT THE LORD OF THE LASH SAYS NAY NAY NAY.


Posted by: OPINIONATED ORC WORKER'S ADVOCATE | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:45 AM
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Where there's a JDAM, there's a way.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 8:46 AM
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The wise and powerful Galadriel was pretty explicitly contrasted with Celeborn, a belligerent buffoon who couldn't be trusted with serious decisions.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 9:00 AM
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Anyone else read them? ... which may be why they're not on people's formative teen reading lists.

Despite reading quite a bit of Fantasy/SF I haven't read either the Mary Stewart or the Earthsea books (I found out later that my mom never liked the Earthsea books and found them boring, I don't know if that is part of the reason why I missed them).

I have thought from time to time that the childhood book which may have planted the most pernicious idea is The Little Prince with it's romanticism and the way in which it makes being completely removed from the world seem seductive.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 9:02 AM
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I did read the Stewart books, but they didn't make much impact. LB's take sounds about right.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 9:07 AM
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58
It's almost a rule that if the midcentury scifi author publishes as two first initials, it's a woman.

I'd be surprised if JK Rowling was the only example more recently than the middle of the century.

70: Would 1632 be close enough?


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 9:08 AM
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76 - N. K. Jemison and C. J. Cherryh (whose last name was changed from "Cherry" for pseudonym purposes due to it sounding too feminine to some editor's tastes), off the top of my head.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 9:12 AM
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3: do you know about/have you read The Wilder Life? Not at all academic, but it's a very thoughtful memoir by a woman who grew up on the TV show, rediscovers* the books as an adult, becomes semi-obsessed, an discovers the thoroughly obsessed subculture of Laura worship. Very entertaining, but also, as I said, insightful. And she tackles the politics of the whole thing (which are, obviously, anti-New Deal, but also end up doing that thing that real art does, which is to be much more than their ideological intent).

The problem with Halford's reading is that kids of a certain age LOVE that kind of drudgery (or at least the idea of it). The one winter when Iris and her BF were the right age to be into "Laura and Mary", we did our usual trip to a cabin in the woods, and they were desperate to sweep and help build the fire and all the rest (they also fought over who got to be Mary, since obviously being the big sister was the more important role - they completely missed who was the protagonist). Not real drudgery, of course, but (most) kids love helping with dull household tasks.

*if she read them as a kid (I don't recall), they didn't make a big impression relative to the show


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 9:12 AM
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Also A.C. Crispin.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 9:15 AM
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whose last name was changed from "Cherry" for pseudonym purposes due to it sounding too feminine

In a better world she could have been CJ McManlyPants.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 9:16 AM
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40: You forgot Shelob.

Someone needs to write a PhD thesis rehabilitating Shelob as a feminist heroine. Who's up for the job?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 9:17 AM
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If I remember the treatment of Shelob in "Bored of the Rings" accurately, it might be a starting point. Kind of Feminine Mystique-y.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 9:27 AM
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77, 79: P.D. James started writing the Adam Dalgliesh mysteries in 1962 - I guess that's midcentury. She's 94.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 9:30 AM
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A co-worker of mine described the Little House books as "a family slowly starving for want of an ag extension office."


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 9:42 AM
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84: To me the most telling part of the Little House books is the attention lavished on Almanzo's childhood of plenty.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 9:49 AM
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84: +1!


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 9:56 AM
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he problem with Halford's reading is that kids of a certain age LOVE that kind of drudgery (or at least the idea of it).

Staying within the lines, only using true colors, no white space...


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 9:59 AM
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Remember that one time I started a Heinlein book? That's all I got.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:00 AM
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You should read Dune. After you get through that, nothing else will seem ponderously over-wrought. Plus, it's not very sexist in comparison to some things.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:02 AM
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I saw that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:02 AM
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89: The national lampoon spoof - Doon - is as good as Bored of the Rings, if less well known.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:05 AM
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I'm still mad at Bored of the Rings for teasing a sex scene that wasn't in the book.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:06 AM
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I ordered a sci fi story compilation that someone, I think Tweety recommended, the last time this came up. It's been sitting on the coffee table unread. I've tried to pick it up but every story seems to begin with something like "It was a windy morning on Sargon Forty Three as Gyork entered the telecube" and my brain just goes "nope nope nope."

I obviously just need to get over myself but Heebie and I can hang out and do Crossfit in the corner while everyone has the scifi conversation.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:12 AM
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If it's not your thing, there's no need to hurt yourself with it. Just out of curiosity, though, what's the specific book you're ignoring?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:14 AM
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It's an anthology of stories, apparently most from the 50s and famous authors (which I'm totally willing to believe are good and at some point will get over my allergy and read).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:16 AM
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Just cross out every instance of "Sargon Forty Three" and replace it with "San Diego." (Or read some Kim Stanley Robinson to skip that step.)


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:17 AM
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It was a windy morning on Sargon Forty Three as Gyork entered the telecube
Don't leave us hanging.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:18 AM
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Just cross out every instance of "Sargon Forty Three" and replace it with "Sargon Forty Four". It will be a totally different experience.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:19 AM
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Gyork entered the telecube

I loved that dead-swan dress on her.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:19 AM
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93. Reading SF is a lot like being a philosopher. If you read some modern philosophy but didn't also read the sources and the sources of the sources (ad infinitum) you don't get the conversation that's going on.

Fortunately Star Trek came along and provided a source that encapsulated a lot of that prehistory. You can either consider a Cliff's Notes of all philosophy, or maybe it's just the Aristotle of SF.

A lot of Old Fogy SF fans think Kids Today don't pay enough attention to the backstory of the genre.

(And Earthsea is fantasy, which is a different conversation than SF, much more accessible without going back to Aristotle.)


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:23 AM
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People from Sargon Forty Three telecube like this, but people from Sargon Forty Four telecube like this.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:23 AM
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Obviously the starting point for Halford's journey into SF should be John Norman's Gor series...


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:24 AM
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Thorn: Do you mean Pioneer Girl? I have it pre-ordered. It was *supposed* to be released in August, but nooo. Now it's coming out in November, the press claims. Still ought to be in time for me to use it at least some in the class.

52: Lizardbreath: Silverberg had ideological reasons for wanting Tiptree to be male. (You might already know this?) At that point there was this fairly stormy debate in the SF/F community about whether men could write female characters and from a woman's POV with any skill or accuracy.

All the guys, including Silverberg, were pointing to Tiptree as evidence that men could so write girls well. If Tiptree turned out to be a woman, there went their best (and really only) bit of evidence, since the SF/F writers of that era are pretty well known for their absent and/or leaden and/or ridiculous women characters.



Posted by: delagar | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:25 AM
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It was a windy morning in the enchanted woods of Telemere as Gyork manifested from a bubble of blue light.


Posted by: OPINIONATED BESTSELLING FANTASY AUTHOR | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:27 AM
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(You might already know this?) At that point there was this fairly stormy debate in the SF/F community about whether men could write female characters and from a woman's POV with any skill or accuracy.

I did not know this.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:32 AM
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I've tried to pick it up but every story seems to begin with something like "It was a windy morning on Sargon Forty Three as Gyork entered the telecube" and my brain just goes "nope nope nope."

That's part of the fun of 50s SF.

It's probably pointless, but now I'm trying to think of what would be a good SF starting point for you.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:41 AM
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I've had this conversation with other people, and I don't think there's any point to it. If 'telecube' or similar is offputting after a couple of attempts, I think you're just not someone who likes that kind of thing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:47 AM
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Reading Tiptree relatively recently, a few stories seemed to me like fairly straightforward arguments for radical feminism - that women (womyn?) would be much better of if men didn't exist. I thought maybe Silverberg thought that only a man could understand so well how horrible men are.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:48 AM
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Houston Houston Do You Read and The Screwfly Solution?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:49 AM
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I would've thought the purpose of a telecube was offputting. Perhaps it needs to be made more reliable.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:49 AM
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106: I recommend Valis

It makes it clear that SF like God is a concept by which we measure our pain.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:50 AM
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103: I do, and had just assumed it did come out in August and I just hadn't seen it yet.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:53 AM
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Reading SF is a lot like being a philosopher

Skimming, I somehow read this as "Reading SF is like being shot by a philosopher." Christ, brain, WTF is wrong with you?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:56 AM
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What's the Larry Niven short story about the end of the world that's set on Earth? "Inconstant Moon"? IIRC there's very little tele cube, and no Sargon 43. Niven's problematic (to say the least), but maybe that's a decent entrée to the genre without some of the Halfordallergenic elements.

That said, 107 is likely right. I can't even watch fantasy, let alone read it.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 10:57 AM
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Just to be clear, every fiction genre, including lit fiction, can be parodied and requires accepting certain ridiculous presumptions in order to suspend disbelief and enjoy. I'm not knocking sci-fi, just articulating a prejudice.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:00 AM
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I somehow read this as "Reading SF is like being shot by a philosopher.

Ted, do you know what it's like to be shot... in the head... by a logical positivist? Of course you don't. No one does, it's a stupid question. Forget I said it.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:02 AM
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93: May I join you and Heebie at Crossfit? I have the same problem. I can generally finish fantasy, but SF is just not my thing.

I did, however, read the Silmarillion. Maybe more than once. Don't ask how many times I read the trilogy.

I read the Stewart books (my mother liked them, so they were lying around the house), but like Thorn, I don't remember anything about them.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:05 AM
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114: yeah, "Inconstant Moon", but that doesn't really qualify as SF. Plus while Niven is always and everywhere writing about SoCal, there he's not even trying to hide it.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:06 AM
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You may want to stick to near-future stuff. I wasn't entirely joking about Kim Stanley Robinson; his Mars Trilogy is just excellent but his Three Californias is a bit closer to home, I suppose (of course, it's old near-future so the Soviets are still around). Charles Stross has a recent near-future cyberpunkish crime series set in post-Yes Scotland a few years from now that's pretty fun (but is written in present tense second person which might wear on you for being aggressively intentionally weird). You could also consider "hard sci-fi" stuff that's further out, like Alastair Reynolds, but at least tries to ground it as some extrapolation of our actual world bound by actual rules. Scalzi's also fun, although a little workmanlike. (My biases. See them.)


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:08 AM
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109: Houston Houston Do You Read? is interesting for its touch of ambivalence; in most ways the world without men is obviously preferable, but the fall-off in (scientific progress/"exploratory drive"/whatever she calls it) is presented as a definite loss, albeit one we might be glad of on balance.

Your Faces, O My Sisters!, on the other hand - no ambivalence there.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:09 AM
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109: Those are great stories, but I really love the alienness of "Love is the Plan the Plan is Death", which I think argues that we'd all be better off if our mates ate us to survive the winter.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:09 AM
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118 - My friend's summary of Larry Niven was "I am going to show you the future, and the future is a bunch of swingers at a science fiction con in Orange County circa 1978." And Niven and Pournelle's politics, particular Pournelle's, are awful even by the standards of a bunch of swingers at a science fiction con in Orange County in 1978.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:11 AM
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I'm sort of the same as Halford. I read a bunch of Bradbury as a kid, but not much else. In college I read Dawn and The Forever War and maybe one other book from the reading list of a freshman English class I dropped when it turned out to be only SF.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:12 AM
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Some of the more out-there feminist stories were Raccoona Sheldon stories and not James Tiptree stories, though, right? Screwfly was, though Houston was Tiptree.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:15 AM
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I'd think Halford could get behind 121, especially if none of us are in a relationship with a sack of cake flour.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:16 AM
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93 et seq: I ordered a sci fi story compilation that someone, I think Tweety recommended, the last time this came up. It's been sitting on the coffee table unread

I didn't see this compilation identified. Which was it? You should totes go for a speculative fiction compilation (suggest Dangerous Visions or More Dangerous Visions, edited by the man, Harlan Ellison).


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:16 AM
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Plus while Niven is always and everywhere writing about SoCal, there he's not even trying to hide it.

I can't remember who said that Niven thought the future would see the whole world turn into Southern California, and that this was a good thing.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:19 AM
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If it was edited to read I am going to show you the future, and the future is a bunch of swingers at a science fiction con in Orange County Malibu, possibly looking, dressing, and acting like Rockford and driving Rockford's Pontiac Firebird circa 1978 I'd be totally on board. Maybe we're not that far apart.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:19 AM
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126: boy I don't think the New Wave stuff has aged well. Possibly worse than the stuff from the '50s.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:19 AM
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119 makes a good point. Halford might go for some cyberpunk.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:20 AM
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The future is going to involve a bunch of angry messages about bounced checks on our answering machines.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:21 AM
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Talk about a thing that went from never-heard-of-it to must-have-it to obsolete in record time.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:22 AM
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127: This is really bizarre to me, having just finished KSR's book set in Orange County where it becomes even-more-Orange County-ish and he sees that as a rightly horrible thing. He is often writing SoCal (especially when he can find a reason to randomly deposit his characters there) but SoCal is many things to him. (He's also clearly often just writing about cool vacations he took, especially in his short stories.)


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:22 AM
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the future would see the whole world turn into Southern California, and that this was a good thing

I actually agree with this. Southern California in the 60s was pretty incredibly awesome, arguably the apex of Western Civilization to date. I mean it's not anymore, and for reasons inherent to the place at the time, but if you had to pick one actually existing time and place for the world to turn into that's not a bad one at all. Largely, it was government funded and socialist.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:23 AM
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134 may be right. Columbo episodes are full of murders who are either attractive women in slinky dresses or men who date/marry them.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:25 AM
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And everybody but the police is more or less constantly drinking and smoking. The police only smoke constantly.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:25 AM
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129: Huh, really? I should reread, then, to see what I think now. I haven't read it in ages.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:26 AM
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126: Ellison's aesthetic does seem like a pretty good match for RH's commenting persona.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:26 AM
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I think some people just can't get used to the genre conventions. My wife read an Iain M. Banks book on a trip once, because it was the only book we had she hadn't read, and she liked it, but she has never evinced the desire to read another Banks' sci-fi. (Instead she read The Wasp Factory, which she hated. She was right hate it, 'cause it sucks.) She also read a Terry Pratchett under similar circumstances, with the same result.

I think part of why YA is so big now is that it's science fiction or fantasy without all of the genre conventions. You can read Harry Potter or the Hunger Games without having read everything that came before.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:27 AM
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Why would Halford like cyberpunk if he's not into Gyork's Sargonese telecube? I think Gibson is a great writer and like Pat Cadigan's work a lot, but it's not like there's not a bunch of offputting infodumpy stuff in their fiction if you don't like the convention. I'd be more likely to recommend something like Pattern Recognition or Kessel's "The Pure Product" if I were trying to get him to read something arguably science-fiction-y.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:28 AM
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Valis is great, but it's not really typical of anything other than itself.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:29 AM
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So forget the most accessible, what's the least accessible SF to force on Halford? I'm thinking Greg Egan.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:31 AM
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119 makes a good point. Halford might go for some cyberpunk.

I thought about that, by cyberpunk tends to use jargon as a world-building tool in a way that Halford might not like (but if he was going to read cyberpunk I'll make my standard recommendation for Synners by Pat Cadigan).

Actually, thinking about rock-and-roll SF, how about We See Things Differently (short story, link has the full text) by Bruce Sterling?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:37 AM
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Southern California in the 60s was pretty incredibly awesome, arguably the apex of Western Civilization to date.

So, so, so racist.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:37 AM
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143.1 pwned by snarkout.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:38 AM
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142 - Lois McMaster Bujold's award-winning Barrayar: "As Barrayar begins, Aral and Cordelia Vorkosigan are expecting their first child. When the crafty old emperor dies, Aral takes over as regent. A plot to assassinate Aral and Cordelia with poison gas fails, but the antidote, while effective, is also a powerful teratogen that poses a grave threat to the bone development of his unborn son. In a desperate attempt to save the fetus, Cordelia has it transferred to a uterine replicator--an artificial womb--to undergo an experimental recalcification treatment that may partially combat the otherwise-fatal bone damage."

I'm not into these books myself, but I know they're like candy to a lot of people. Nonetheless, if trapped in a room and given the choice between eating glazed donuts until he died and reading this book, I suspect Halford would ask that the donuts at least be bacon-flavored.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:38 AM
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142: Gene Wolfe.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:38 AM
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Gene Wolfe, with his torturer hero who wears a cloak that's blacker than black? Actually, that's pretty metal, so maybe Halford will go for it.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:40 AM
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141: Who said anything about typical?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:41 AM
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I'll make my standard recommendation for Synners by Pat Cadigan

I re-read this last year... it holds up really well! Way better than Neuromancer anyway.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:41 AM
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146: Is that a synopsis? Otherwise that's a terrible opening.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:42 AM
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134: and the lack of breathable air is what the bubble domes are for!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:42 AM
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147/148: Oh yeah, that guy. Couldn't remember what it was called. I couldn't even finish the Kindle preview of the first book of Book of the New Sun. In fairness, I generally have a lot of trouble starting books but if I can get to page 40 or so I usually can't put them down.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:43 AM
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139. Isn't all YA fiction about life in a modern American High School (or British Public School), just with a cup of genre poured on top?

I recall that a lot of the same SF/Fantasy Old Fogies complained that Rowling et al. clearly hadn't read the sources and the sources of the sources, and so they Got It All Wrong.

Your wife might enjoy some of Banks' non-SF books, for example The Crow Road.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:44 AM
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Yeah, that's the first paragraph of the plot summary from Wikipedia. Something from the Honorverse might be even worse, since they're much worse prosewise than the Bujold books and require you to be interested in a bunch of invented moon men naval strategy instead of just a bunch of invented moon men political skullduggery.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:44 AM
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148: Super metal. He shaves with his beheading sword!


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:45 AM
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Anyhow, the SF collection Halford is avoiding is this one. I recommend starting with "The Golem" by Avram Davidson, if you want something with no Gyorking Timecubes, but maybe we can put the story list to the commentariat and they can argue for the maximally jargon-free entry.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:47 AM
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Isn't all YA fiction about life in a modern American High School (or British Public School), just with a cup of genre poured on top?

That's smart. I do enjoy high school fiction, who doesn't? It's odd that high school should remain for basically all contemporary US adults under 60 the life-altering crucible of drama that must be endlessly revisited to be understood, but that does seem to be the case.

Also, as I veer in and out of quasi-earnestness, I should say that I do appreciate the recommendations.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:47 AM
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but I really love the alienness of "Love is the Plan the Plan is Death", which I think argues that we'd all be better off if our mates ate us to survive the winter.

It is me! Me-Myself, MOGGADEET!!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:50 AM
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Vintage Season (in Halford's collection) is really not very jargon-y at all.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:51 AM
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It's odd that high school should remain for basically all contemporary US adults under 60 the life-altering crucible of drama that must be endlessly revisited to be understood, but that does seem to be the case.

I recently went to a HS reunion, and was struck be the fact that I very clearly do not think of HS as a crucial, identity-forming part of my life. It was interesting to see some people that I hadn't thought about in years, but beyond that I didn't feel a strong emotional investment in the whole thing.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:52 AM
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"Vintage Season". <3 (It does not win the Halford test, although he might enjoy "Proud Robot", which is about a mad scientist drunk. I will presume that Halford has already read the Borges.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:52 AM
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Anyhow, the SF collection Halford is avoiding is this one. I recommend starting with "The Golem" by Avram Davidson, if you want something with no Gyorking Timecubes, but maybe we can put the story list to the commentariat and they can argue for the maximally jargon-free entry.

Vintage Season, Vintage Season, Vintage Season, Vintage Season! ALL HAIL VINTAGE SEASON.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:52 AM
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Hello, Snarkout.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:53 AM
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And Sifu.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:53 AM
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Does Halford prefer detective/crime fiction, maybe especially hard-boiled? Obviously lots and lots of lonesome knight-errants wandering Socal mean streets and deserts righting injustices with a shrug and a gat.

All genres play hermetic language/semiotic games and it is an interesting and understudied part of reception theory as to why individuals prefer one or another*.

But you know what? Hemingway versus Joyce is the old story, and supposedly was a measure of a man way back when. So Halford likes his language simple and solid and firm and erect...never mind.

*I like everything! Currently also into hardcore romance, "but my best friend loves the boy I love, I just can't hurt her, but I love him, but I love her too, but...three hours later. Why hasn't he called?"


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:54 AM
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Ooh, how about something by Ted Chiang?

"Liking What You See", for example.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:55 AM
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In the "least accessible" category, I recently read John M. Harrison's Light and it took me probably a hundred pages to grok what the hell anybody was talking about (various unexplained kinds of virtual reality, interstellar spacecraft, human-computer interfaces, etc., with neologistic names). It turned out pretty good in the end, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 11:58 AM
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Does Halford prefer detective/crime fiction, maybe especially hard-boiled? Obviously lots and lots of lonesome knight-errants wandering Socal mean streets and deserts righting injustices with a shrug and a gat.

Of course I do. We all live into our own cliche eventually.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:00 PM
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Some of the most pedigreed (that is, not really actually sci fi) stories in that collection are the weirdest, linguistically. The Calvino has a main character... entity named Qwfwq, for instance.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:02 PM
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Back when I was a teenager and had time to read for pleasure I tended to prefer fantasy to SF, but the genres are really not that different. Along the lines of Clarke's third law, I find that most SF is just fantasy with an extra layer of technobabble.


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:03 PM
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From the story list, a few non-Gyorky stories might include

"The Man Who Lost the Sea" by Theodore Sturgeon (I just remember this as being good, and Sturgeon was rarely jargony)
"Vintage Season" by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore (one of those two-initial women...)
"The Fifth Head of Cerberus" by Gene Wolfe (no Halfordismo torturers, but there is a robot)
"The Golem" by Avram Davidson (really fantasy, IIRC, but maybe I don't)

This is the Le Guin story that was in Playboy (I don't recall how jargony it is, so it may not pass the Gyork test):

"Nine Lives" by Ursula K. Le Guin

With very few exceptions, I've read all of these. Some haven't aged well (they are all at least 35 years old, and some much more than that).


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:03 PM
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"The Fifth Head of Cerberus" is great, but also quite long and deeply weird, and it leaves you kind of wondering what the punchline was. So maybe not the best choice. But pretty non-Gyorky!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:07 PM
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166 & 169. If Halford cops to liking George V. Higgins, I'm moving a step closer to endorsing Halfordismo.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:09 PM
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Does Halford prefer detective/crime fiction, maybe especially hard-boiled?

"Dogfight" (pdf) by Gibson and Swanwick has a fair amount of invented jargon, but is distinctly hard-boiled noir.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:12 PM
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169: Just affectionately kidding ya. Staring at a wall of that hard-boiled stuff, it was my 1990s. Maybe 3000-5000 books. Jance, Greenleaf, Crais, Pronzini, Kaminsky, both Kellermans, Joe Gores, ...Loren Etzelman(?) I forget, but captured lower-middle-class LA tract house shit very well.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:13 PM
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157: Irritating! I've probably read about three-quarters of that, but long enough ago that titles aren't working for me. I can't place the Sturgeon story, I can't place the Lem, I can't place the Lieber, and so on. But everyone's right about Vintage Season.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:14 PM
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175: but so very depressing.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:15 PM
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Jonathan Kellerman was good, but eventually I got annoyed and wanted to read about somebody who murdered somebody without some kind of twisted-kinky thing going on.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:16 PM
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That was the start of my Early 20th Century Deadly British Person phase.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:20 PM
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Not Estleman, he is Detroit.

William Tapply writes about a Boston estate/tax lawyer and helped me see that East Coast wasn't all Ivy League.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:23 PM
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161: I very clearly do not think of HS as a crucial, identity-forming part of my life

Yeah, nor do I. It becomes embarrassing at times, as I can barely remember anything about some of the high school classmates who friend me on Facebook. Oh well. My identity-forming time was really college and the next couple of years after. People differ, it seems.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:31 PM
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178 & 175. A lot of Swanwick's output is among the most depressing and cynical prose ever. Especially his short stories, such as "The Dead" (zombies) and another whose title I forget, about time traveling refugees from the future. He also writes cheerful, lyrical, or funny stuff when he feels like it.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:33 PM
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"It was a windy morning on Sargon Forty Three as Gyork entered the telecube"

"HTTWK!" Robert Halford sneered as he slammed shut the case of his personal infoterminal. "Who inputs crap like this onto decent textlogs?" At that moment, a flaw in the memory matrix of his audicom device caused the song it was playing to skip repeatedly, turning a nostalgic ballad about intimate partner violence into a cacophonous screechy wail. Cursing again, Halford ripped the soundnodes out of his ears and brushed his fingers across the vidcom's tactipad until the playmode reverted to null.

"DAD!" Halford's daughter called from her room, where she was working on her flatterm - "It looks like someone graf'd your socnet av!" Halford quickly opened up his infoterminal again and performed the necessary veripos actions to check his socnet. "MY NAME IS ROBERT HALFORD AND I LOVE INFOPRIVATEERS!" read the avline. "Great, that's all I need," muttered Halford as he scanned down the list of comms by his socnet mates, "Now I'll have to change all my veriposes before I head to the Slashbuff center for some intense crunchgrips and glutescrums."


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:34 PM
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161, 182: My identity was mostly formed in high school. This probably wasn't the best thing for me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:36 PM
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"Now I'll have to change all my veriposes before I head to the Slashbuff center for some intense crunchgrips and glutescrums."

New mouseover.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:36 PM
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The thing that makes me put down SF novels is not the Gyork Timecube itself but the half-assed sociopolitical world-building. "Society" is treated like a character the author doesn't understand well but has manipulates as a bottomless source of dei ex machina. "Here are three deadly serious pages about the Gyork Riots of the 2140s, the Third Great Awakening, and the slow rise of Gyorkofascism!"

It's worst when the author seems smugly satisfied about it. Behold, the searchlights of allegorical SF have shone upon on civilization itself, revealing its true nature!

On the other hand, Margaret Atwood's sociopolitical worldbuilding works, or at least that doesn't annoy me, so I dunno. I don't think I liked "The Dispossessed" as much as everyone else seems to.


Posted by: Scomber mix | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:36 PM
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169: Does Halford prefer detective/crime fiction, maybe especially hard-boiled?

This is why I thought he might like (some) cyberpunk.

Isn't there a collection out there of classic cyberpunk stuff? I'm sure there is.

Thanks to various people for the mention of Pat Cadigan, a name I've heard but haven't read.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:37 PM
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Ahh...there he is, dug him out. And you know what, on the Wikipedia page of 504 American mystery writers, he isn't there. There a lot like that. Still sad. But maybe you have heard of Lyons.

Arthur Lyons Jacob Asch mysteries

Little Write Up from Kirkus

Leafing through Hard Trade I notice it is mostly dialogue. SF/Fantasy/Romance fans, don't push it. Genres really are different.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:37 PM
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Natilo, I love you.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:39 PM
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"Now I'll have to change all my veriposes before I head to the Slashbuff center for some intense crunchgrips and glutescrums."

I just had to repeat that. Chortling is unbecoming, probably, but man, that's good.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:41 PM
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184: I volunteer to summarize chapter 12.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:43 PM
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I endeavor to give satisfaction.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:44 PM
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Genres really are different.

Nah, they're all just "novels."


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:47 PM
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I don't think I liked "The Dispossessed" as much as everyone else seems to.

I am not a fan of LeGuin, finding her prose dense and plodding. Not a lot of dialogue there. Self-consciously important after Lathe.

If I had a middle-schooler, I'd give her early Cherryh and let her work her way up. Romance, adventure, Orientalism/exoticism interrogating itself, and women who kill and rule.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:49 PM
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158
It's odd that high school should remain for basically all contemporary US adults under 60 the life-altering crucible of drama that must be endlessly revisited to be understood, but that does seem to be the case.

The teenage years, maybe? It's just that ever since the early-to-mid-20th century, everyone who counts has spent the teenage years in high school. When/if college becomes universal, maybe that would become the go-to life-altering period in media.

188
Isn't there a collection out there of classic cyberpunk stuff? I'm sure there is.

I haven't read Mirrorshades in a while, but I have good memories of it. In particular, it includes "The Gernsback Continuum," which was almost an anti-Gyork polemic.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 12:56 PM
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Well, if Halford likes detective fiction, he might well enjoy Mieville's The City and the City. Fairly light SF, but fun, I thought.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:00 PM
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I think I may be less interested in fiction set in high school than in SF generally.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:08 PM
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Surely 184 should end "scroteglums"?


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:10 PM
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I personally found The Dispossessed slow and plodding. It seems fairly dated, in that it's political concerns probably seemed much more relevant in the context of the 70s counterculture. I'm guessing it also gains some interest as a prequel to the other Haimish books (which I haven't read); the prequelish elements seemed fairly beside the point to me.

+1 for The City and the City; very enjoyable fantasy world procedural. Warning: the table of contents contains spoilers.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:12 PM
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Wow, there's a Joe Dante adaptation of Alice Sheldon's Screwfly Solution for screen.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:13 PM
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"The Dead" (zombies)

The brains were general all over Ireland.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:14 PM
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196: Ah, thanks, Mirrorshades I think I did read at some point: a decent introduction. These days I think cyberpunk has morphed into steampunk, which is too bad.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:15 PM
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Other blog-mentioned poet Michael Robbins on why you should read genre books, with several recommendations.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:22 PM
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For SF/F from this century, Kage Baker is great. She has both a SF series, about time-traveling cyborgs, and a fantasy series, which is both funny and great.

Also Eleanor Arnason. Start maybe with Woman of the Iron People.

Also Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice, though that takes some getting into.


Posted by: delagar | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:26 PM
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187. I feel the same way about most alternate history novels, Harry Turtledove's in particular. The Man in the High Castle by Dick is an exception.

189. A lot of George V. Higgins is dialog. Maybe this is a feature of good crime novels?


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:28 PM
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From Hard Trade, random:

"I followed them back into Hollywood, where Hoffman dropped the boys off at a Howard Johnson on the corner of Vine. They waved goodbye to him and went inside, and he took off up Vine, toward the Freeway. I guessed he was going home and let him go.
I parked down the street and tried to fight off sleep. holding my eyes on the entrance of the restaurant. "

and on and on.

I worry sometimes, well a lot, about not being able to read fiction and to an increasing extent, not being able to follow conversations in comment sections. I know my brain ain't completely gone, because I just finished 300 pages on Lacan's influence on de Certeau without all that much difficulty in understanding.

If you read the above quote, a lot of fiction, maybe all of it, is in form a long series of facts, of brute facticity. Even dialogue, memory and internal monologue are presented as this thing that happened here and now followed by one more thing after another. Globalized and totalized by the observing narrator.

Deleuze, I think, calls this linear objective presentist continuity with limited subjective embellishment the
The Movement Image Or maybe not at all. I'm working on it.

In any case, I have definitely lost something that can handle modern fiction. I used to do 2-3 books like Lyons in a day, and today I couldn't read three pages.

I can still read modern poetry. Getting into Prynne.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:29 PM
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For SF/F from this century, Kage Baker is great. She has both a SF series, about time-traveling cyborgs, and a fantasy series, which is both funny and great.

She is great and super duper popcorny addictive fun and I have stayed up far too late reading many of her books, but it is important to know that uh some things go REALLY SERIOUSLY off the rails in both series in terms of gender dynamics and yay! thank goodness you raped me! creepy rapey good times.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:36 PM
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187/206: Largely agree. I had to give up on stuff with even worse world building (Japanese RPGs) because of that.

This is probably how geologists feel when they look at the maps at the beginning of fantasy books.

Margaret Atwood's sociopolitical worldbuilding

I've yet to read her stuff (mainly because it sounds too depressing for me right now) but building your world on a detailed sociopolitical model sounds like the right start. Or at least base it on a good game of Civilization.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:37 PM
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200: No one cares about the Hainish books as a group. I honestly forgot that The Dispossessed was one of the Hainish novels, or I'm not sure I ever knew.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:41 PM
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205 & 208 re Kage Baker. Just as an FYI, she died back in 2010, so no new novels incoming, alas.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:47 PM
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as an for your information?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:49 PM
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You don't pronounce it "eff why ai"?


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:53 PM
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211: Yes, I know. Thoughtful of her to finish so much up (even if SUPER PROBLEMATICALLY) in her relatively short writing career.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:54 PM
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Because I am in academia I often have the leisure to use complete words.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:54 PM
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Huh. But I do seem to be able handle some kinds of fact-series, from current reading, Japanese Cybercultures:

The columns by Prime Minister Koizumi are linked to his personal profile page, and Ministers' columns also provide links to their own profiles. Finally there is a link to a URL from which readers can send their opinions and messages to the editors of the magazine. From 6 September each issue includes a column on some aspect of the Prime Minister's official residence. From 23 August audio is added, from 18 October video links are included, and from 6 December it becomes possible to subscribe to have the magazine sent to a mobile phone number in text message format. Visually impaired readers may also access the magazine if they have vocalization software.

What is different here from the Lyons in 207?

Presentation vs representation? I can no longer believe that it is "Asch" describing a scene, having agency, when I know it is Lyons? The visual art I like shows the work, shows the creators, and that's who I'm watching. Godard, not his characters.

"We hardly believe any longer that a global situation can give rise to an action which is capable of modifying it - no more than we believe that an action can force a situation to disclose itself, even partially" (p206). ...Deleuze


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 1:58 PM
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215: "academia" and "leisure" don't correlate. But I would imagine even in the ivory tower initialisms are, on occasion and perhaps in jest of the plebs, spoken.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 2:05 PM
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I was surprised to find that my students (college freshmen, mostly engineering majors in this class) generally prefer Octavia Butler's Wild Seed to Le Guin's Left Hand. At this point, they also seem to have largely preferred Ender's Game to Speaker for the Dead, but we'll see if that remains true tomorrow, when the second half of the latter book is due.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 2:08 PM
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210: I should also add that Dispossessed is my least favorite of the Hainish books. Favorite is The Telling, which I've added to the syllabus this year.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 2:10 PM
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Sorry about the italics.

Another thing about hard-boiled is that it is almost always written in first person.

On the other hand, after a quick check on Austen and Georgette Heyer, romance, for all it's psychology and emotional intricacy, seems usually to be written in third person interior. "She felt..."

Gone now.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 2:13 PM
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When I read them (maybe sophomore year college) I thought Ender's Game was perhaps a little better than Speaker for the Dead, but the tonal difference made them almost incomparable. The rest of the books in that series were shit, though.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 2:13 PM
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I tried to read his Empire, but couldn't even stick through the first chapter. I threw it away when I moved my office.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 2:16 PM
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I didn't throw away A Canticle for Leibowitz when I moved, but I'm unlikely to finish it. I think I left the guy on a mule trying to get out of Utah. I may as well give up and read the Wikipedia plot summary to see how it ends.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 2:21 PM
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Boy, Ender's Game. You want to talk about something that was fun to read as a kid and then you learn more about the author and read his other stuff and you just can't go back. Narnia is easy by comparison.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 2:22 PM
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223: Badly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 2:46 PM
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At least the premise was good.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 2:56 PM
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Aw, I liked Liebowitz.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 3:03 PM
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Okay, so, my recos for SF&F for people who don't like SF and Halford would be:

1. Marid Audran novels by George Alec Effinger. Hardest of hard SF and it's all about New Orleans, really, so that's fun.
2. Terry Bisson's stuff, most of which is light on jargon and heavy on good politics.
3. Walter Jon Williams, especially his short stories in "Frankensteins and Foreign Devils" and the recent ARG books (except the third, which I found annoying, but Halford might like given it is all Hollywoody and stuff.
4. Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim novels, which are the only 'urban fantasy' I can stand.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 3:27 PM
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227: gee, I loved it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 4:12 PM
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212. Initialisms transform and transcend their components!


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 4:17 PM
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I thought the book was great, but you can't really call it a happy ending, can you?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 4:20 PM
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If 231 is in reference to Leibowitz, in the ethos of 50's SF it was a happy ending, in that humans colonize space in spite of "ends badly."


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 4:27 PM
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Say to spoil the Wikipedia plot summary for me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 4:29 PM
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I just got stuck on the world destroyed by nuclear war again aspect of it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 4:33 PM
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Peacenik.

Also, 233 s/b "Way to spoil..."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 4:39 PM
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AIHinvectedHB, the first section of Liebowitz is brilliant, the second is so-so, and the third is extremely tedious. Authors: Quit while you are ahead!


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 6:52 PM
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Authors: Send everybody on an extended camping trip.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 6:55 PM
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219: Yay, I didn't realize you were teaching that one! It's definitely my favorite, too.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09-17-14 7:26 PM
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For Halford, Jo Walton's Amongst Others, which is a completely wonderful book about how to love SF (amongst other things)

Also contains a strong female character who has only two legs and is even in other ways more attractive than Shelob.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 12:28 AM
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"Marid Audran novels by George Alec Effinger."

Oh, yes! I love these to pieces, though maybe the first one is stronger than the sequels. But still! And they are about fifty years ahead of their time, I think.

208: I'm trying to think of the rapey stuff in Kage Baker, and I'm coming up blank. It may just be because I haven't read her in a few years. I remember being irked by her attitude toward PC -- that part where Alex is kept from being a Real Boy because no one can run around or eat sugar or have sex anymore -- but I don't remember rapey bits. Are they in the fantasy or the SF?

Or -- do you *mean* the Alex part? Him having sex at fourteen with the 18 year old?


Posted by: delagar | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 6:28 AM
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Definitely concur on "Vintage Season." I also recommend in that collection Asimov's "The Dead Past," which according to Wikipedia, has the distinction of being cited by Alex Kozinski's article in the April 2012 Stanford Law Review, which might give Halford a semi-professional interest in reading it.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 11:10 AM
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No, Edward/Mendoza. In the fantasy ones, Gard/the Saint.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 11:17 AM
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221: Yeah, I read a couple of the Bean books, which made it excruciatingly clear that Card's reputation for conveying military strategy is almost entirely a bluff, based on the fact that no one really knows what combat in space with warp drives is likely to be like. When the action shifts back to Earth in those books, it makes it clear that Card has no clue why or how modern nations and armies fight. It's as if he derived his ideas about military strategy from a couple of late-night Risk games.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 11:34 AM
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It's as if he derived his ideas about military strategy from a couple of late-night Risk games.

As opposed to the advanced degrees from War College that the rest of us hold?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 11:36 AM
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For Halford, Jo Walton's Amongst Others, which is a completely wonderful book about how to love SF (amongst other things)

Ha. We read this in book club, and it's the book that caused the next person to pick Heinlein.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 11:38 AM
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243: I think he has a few fun ideas. "in space the opponent is always down" is very Sun Tsu, and the word "pequeniño" is in my idiolect due to him. I liked the ramifications of a species that communicates by sending schemata for molecules with neurological function. Some of his characters were sympathetic. I hear the Xbox Metroidvania based on one of his right wing culture war novels is pretty fun. But otherwise he's a git and the quality of his writing didn't last.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 11:44 AM
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When the action shifts back to Earth in those books, it makes it clear that Card has no clue why or how modern nations and armies fight.

Why - to appeal to the domestic electorate

How - to not really destroy the enemy, but just thwart their goals for ever.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 11:46 AM
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I'm reading Fantastic Mr. Fox to the kids, and it's the first chapter book I've picked that's been fast-enough paced and had enough little doodles to draw in Hokey Pokey (3 1/2 yrs old). But now I'm annoyed that it's a Bechdel-failure and feeling like I have to have a dreary conversation about how "I have more than one feeling about this book! On the one hand..."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 11:49 AM
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You could turn Boggis and Bean into women. If you consider that talking about a fox isn't, technically, talking about a man, you're good.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 11:58 AM
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You could balance it out by reading them Matilda at some point. I'm not sure that would pass a reverse Bechdel test.


Posted by: Ume | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 12:02 PM
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The hair-bleach trick in that made so much of an impression on my son that I sniffed the shampoo before using it for weeks.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 12:05 PM
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What's been so great about Mr. Fox is that there was zero set-up - Dahl just dives immediately into the story. But Matilda is a great story, too.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 12:06 PM
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I like Mr. Fox. Matilda was good also. The peach one was just fucked up.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 12:08 PM
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Reading Matilda to my daughter (and especially watching the movie) was a total disaster. She decided it was time to act out on the playground with some of the moves of her new favorite character ever.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 12:10 PM
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I think Fantastic Mr. Fox may be my favorite. Oddly I now think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and its sequel are the dead worst of the commonly read ones (not terrible, just not as good), though I believe they're still the most popular.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 12:12 PM
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What I'm having trouble remembering (and I'm just downloading them, so) is the relative length of the books. Right now, shorter is better. I can't remember which besides Mr. Fox are short and immediately full of action. (My memory is that Giant Peach is immediately full of action, although not short, but maybe that would draw Pokey in. Hawaii is an easy sell.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 12:16 PM
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What's the one with the amazing dad who poaches pheasants?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 12:17 PM
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244: No, but the idiocy there doesn't require advanced degrees to spot. How likely is it that a nation, hotly engaged in (largely successful) fighting against its traditional enemy, will, upon getting stabbed in the back by a new adversary, decide to promptly surrender to and place its army under the command of its traditional enemy, so they can fight off the new invader together? This is in the "Poland, in the middle of an alternate September 1939 where they were having greater military success against Germany, suddenly decides to surrender to and ally with Hitler to fight off Stalin together once the Soviet Union stabs them" level of credibility.

Likewise, how likely is it that a modern army, whose main line of supply and retreat happens to run over a single bridge, will allow a random civilian armed with explosives to walk onto that bridge to blow it up? No MPs or other security? And afterwards, despite still having total military control of both sides of the former crossing, they just give up? Dude, that's what engineering battalions are for. Given a couple of days, they are remarkably good at improvising some sort of other way to get stuff across, as long as there isn't an enemy army on the other side to stop them.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 12:18 PM
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257 Danny the Champion of the World. We haven't done any Dahl, which I sort of regret, but I understand why they're hypersensitive to cruelty.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 12:20 PM
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257: Danny, the Champion of the World.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 12:20 PM
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D'oh.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 12:20 PM
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Yeah, I can imagine that the brutality isn't so whimsical if you've lived through real brutality.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 12:21 PM
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257 -- Danny the Champion of the World. That's too long for you right now. James and the Giant Peach is good and pretty short, go for that one next, then maybe the Charlie books. The Enormous Crocodile is even shorter (really a picture book, but a fun one). The BFG is probably good too for your purposes.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 12:24 PM
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Fantastic Mr. Fox was a pretty quick, fun read. Highly recommended. Right now I'm reading them Watership Down, and holy crap is that taking forever.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 12:25 PM
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Good, I do love James and the Giant Peach. I think I actually have the hard copy of that one laying around, too.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 12:28 PM
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We had excellent luck reading The BFG to Jane. It's great! and gets going very fast. If you don't count talking about dreams of male giants eating children as talking about men, it passes the Bechdel test, and might even anyway.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 1:33 PM
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WARNING, James and the Giant Peach takes a while to get going and does it via a longish bit with the horrible aunties. Jane was over it and bailed before the good bits got going.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 1:35 PM
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That is exactly what Pokey would do. Noted. (And probably Hawaii.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 1:41 PM
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Read about Dahl's opinions about children (and pretty much everything else) and you'll either never read them again or you'll join the "author's opinions and opinions in books have nothing to do with each other camp." That way lies late-period Heinlein.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 4:12 PM
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Danny, the Champion of the World is great - small god daughter and I were (re-, in my case)reading it this summer and I had forgotten how awesome it is.
Small god-daughter doesn't seem to mind that it's about two male characters; she seems to have this amazing ability to empathise with people who aren't exactly like her in every respect.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 4:46 PM
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How likely is it that a nation, hotly engaged in (largely successful) fighting against its traditional enemy, will, upon getting stabbed in the back by a new adversary, decide to promptly surrender to and place its army under the command of its traditional enemy, so they can fight off the new invader together?

Well, since you mention Poland, this isn't that far off the position that a Pole might find themselves in during WW2; deciding to switch from fighting against the Soviets to fighting alongside them, under their command, against the Germans.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 4:49 PM
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Yes, girls tend to develop that ability young. It's amazing what you can do when you have to.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 4:50 PM
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How fondly I remember my girlhood fights, shoulder to shoulder with the Red Army.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 4:57 PM
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You must've had broad shoulders.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 4:58 PM
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It's why I always felt at home in Chicago.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 5:00 PM
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244: The biggest problem is that Card couples his ignorance of military history /strategy with a utter ignorance of how actual human beings would behave in a given situation.

I swear to God, sometimes when I'm reading his fiction, I wonder if he's ever met a human being.

Do you think maybe his books are all an elaborate Turing Test?


Posted by: delagar | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 5:02 PM
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Orson scott card is clearly just a sockpuppet for scott adams


Posted by: turgid jacobian | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 5:05 PM
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How fondly I remember my girlhood fights, shoulder to shoulder with the Red Army.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 5:11 PM
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How fondly I remember my girlhood fights, shoulder to shoulder with the Red Army.

Oh, that really doesn't sound good if you've read Beevor's "Berlin".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 5:17 PM
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she seems to have this amazing ability to empathise with people who aren't exactly like her in every respect.

Oh fuck you. I don't care if I'm being trolled.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 5:26 PM
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271: Yes, but that would be the choice of an individual soldier, after the army he was part of had been defeated and it was "every man for himself." It's a very different thing to imagine that a whole army, victorious up to then, would surrender and place themselves under the command of their former enemies. At the very least, I would expect serious pushback from the subordinate officers involved.

The other thing that I didn't mention was the number of countries he portrays going to war with their neighbor over nothing more than a "hey, we've got a bigger army that can take them." That's what really got me thinking that his strategy was derived from a Risk game - "nothing personal, I just want the Risk card and the bonus armies from controlling the whole continent." As we should know from the whole Afghanistan/Iraq thing, modern warfare is amazingly expensive. The idea that countries would go to war at the drop of a hat without even making a token effort to achieve their goals through diplomatic means is amazingly naive. They don't even seem to have any goals except "I wanna be the ruler of the whole world, starting with whoever is within reach." By that logic, the only thing keeping the US from overrunning Canada is uncertainty about whether our military could actually take them.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 6:34 PM
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I enjoy sci-fi but I don't think it really makes sense to push it on Halford. I just went on a reading binge the last couple of days, and man do I read some worthless crap. Halford is better off not bothering with it.


Posted by: roger the cabin boy | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 6:56 PM
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I've been meaning to comment on something and this seems a good time and place to do it.

I've noticed lately Heebie's including things--and these are just the first ones I found--like this from an OP:

maybe we can acknowledge that reining in the ravenous libido is a skill that takes time, and gets easier when the hormones recede a bit?

And this from a comment:

Nerdy Poindexter, stereotypically, is not at all attuned to what others want him to be, even if the emotional pain of not being attuned is quite severe.

In both the male perspective is noticed, included, and treated with respect.

Now it may be she's always been making these little acknowledgements, and I'm just now picking up on them. Whatever, slight though they may be, and easily said, I've appreciated them, and they've improved my mood about the threads in question by the even-handedness and empathy they project.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 7:13 PM
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"I wanna be the ruler of the whole world, starting with whoever is within reach."
Doesn't this describe a fair percentage of the great men of history?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 7:27 PM
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I like 283.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 7:29 PM
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Heebie is the Gallant to our Goofus, idp.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 7:31 PM
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Hey, we're doing Roald Dahl with the older boy now. He loved JGP, and we're now re-reading Wonka. It's a little dicey because Dahl does caricature, so there's a lot of negative stuff about fat people (in pretty much every one of his kids books).


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 7:34 PM
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In both the male perspective is noticed, included, and treated with respect.

Yeah that never happens, man.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 7:37 PM
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287: it's important to learn that sometimes the funniest people are dicks, but that that's cool, and also it's cool to be a dick to people, if they're stupid.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 7:40 PM
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288: I'm not sure I'm going to be able to articulate this right now, but as repetitive and tiresome as it is for most, in the larger context of horrifically sexist online conversations and vastly greater scale of victimization (if that's even an appropriate comparative phrase), it, in some sense, indicates an implicit, reassuring acknowledgment of good faith within this community. Obviously not the most important thing, but still nice to hear.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 8:11 PM
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290: I already apologized AND said I was Goofus, Eggplant. How much more penance do you need? (But yes, those were good caveats heebie put out there and I appreciate them.)


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 8:16 PM
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I'm super-insecure, Thorn, is what I'm saying.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 8:19 PM
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Great, now I feel even worse!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 8:21 PM
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Maybe we can be, like, the cross-gender Wonder Twins of that particular superpower.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 8:21 PM
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As someone who, in hindsight, experiences puberty as an intrusion of aggressive, exploitative thoughts, I'd like to remind everyone that the first victims of male sexuality are boys.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 8:23 PM
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Experienced. I am totally post-pubescent and emotionally mature.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 8:24 PM
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That goes in the OKCupid profile, right?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 8:29 PM
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I don't want to lie to the future Mrs. Eggplant


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 8:31 PM
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283: thanks for the thought!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-18-14 9:35 PM
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Re 270 and Ajay's wonderous god-daughter who can empathize with people who are not like her.

As heebie notes, this is probably trolling. And heebie has already dealt with it.

But seriously, yeah, it's not that young girls (and young women) can't empathize with books that have only men and boys in them. Believe me, we get plenty of practice at that. It's a fucking truism of the publishing and entertainment world that girls (and women, but mainly they just say girls) will read and watch books and movies about boys and men -- WHEREAS boys and men will not watch books and movies about girls, because cooties.

The problem is not that girls can't empathize, for fuck's fucking sake. The problem is what this does to young girls (and even older girls, and women) when we are relentlessly shown that the world is not about us: when 90% of what we see, read, experience is about men and boys, because THOSE are the real people and the real heroes, and women and girls are only there to be rescued or to be in danger or to see OOO my hero! you're so BRAVE.

The Bechdel test is an encapsulation of this. How many women only exist in media to talk about men? That is, this is the ENTIRE PURPOSE of the woman characters in books, movies, TV shows? We exist only as props for the real, male people?

tl;dr what heebs said. Fuck off.


Posted by: delagar | Link to this comment | 09-19-14 5:13 AM
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xoxox 300.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09-19-14 7:41 AM
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157: Anyhow, the SF collection Halford is avoiding is this one.

Oh god, somebody recommended a Hartwell anthology? That's just mental cruelty. The man has a talent for picking the most boring, unclever stories imaginable. Now that is actually desirable in a sf editor as the target audience doesn't like their stories too memorable, but for somebody not indoctrinated since childhood, a bit much.

Halford should read Dhalgren instead since he seems to like the idea of Larry Niven's Californian Swingers future.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 09-19-14 2:57 PM
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1. Marid Audran novels by George Alec Effinger. Hardest of hard SF and it's all about New Orleans, really, so that's fun.

Though set in North Africa/the Middle East, so can be a bit confusing. Currently available cheap as ebooks, so get them.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 09-19-14 3:07 PM
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The thing to remember about Le Guin is that a) she's inherently a small c conservative and b) only became a feminist writer after she'd written the books she's best know for, which then became confused as being feminist books.

Earthsea is just awful on gender as noted, while The Left Hand of Darkness deals with gender strangeness but in a very masculine way (no real female characters, not even the guy who becomes female halfway through it), but The Dispossessed is the worst: the three female characters in that are the Absent Mother, Supportive Wife and Convenient Sexual Assault Victim.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 09-19-14 3:13 PM
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270 is (probably unintentionally) completely hilarious, in the context of the thread. Sorry ajay, but really remarkably tin-eared in a way that cracked me up.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 09-19-14 3:38 PM
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I'd suggest _Ethan of Athos_ as a trial Bujold. Less commitment because it's basically a stand-alone plot, but it has both space operatic derring-do (that's the one with the dead body and the frozen newts, right?) and a straightforward extrapolation in social science.

I recommend Cherryh's Chanur books to people who liked the Star Wars movies, because I think they're a better version of the `scruffy future'. Also, I love them. Josh is a countervote, though.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-19-14 5:28 PM
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I don't think I've ever read any of the Chanur books, just other stuff set in the Alliance-Union universe. But yeah, Cherryh just doesn't work for me; I can't for the life of me follow what the hell is going on in her books.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 09-19-14 5:35 PM
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Oh, I turned up late to this one again, didn't I, and don't realize the conversation was over until I'd read half and should have gone back to sleep.

Um so, if mid 20th century SF is not working as an intro, going back to Jules Verne and HG Wells is still worth a try. Time Machine, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, War of the Worlds, etc. And Frankenstein but that never got put in the genre ghetto in the same way.

Calling Galadriel neoliberal propaganda seems rough when she is clearly royalist propaganda ie Elizabeth / Victoria.

I wonder if LeGuin was being truer to anthropological roots than sociological ones. She wanted to think inside a society in a fantastic way, it was a patriarchal Polynesian source with patriarchy, bang patriarchal magic baked into the world.


Posted by: conflated | Link to this comment | 09-21-14 11:04 AM
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Oh wait I forgot to mention patriarchy patriarchy archy.


Posted by: conflated | Link to this comment | 09-21-14 11:04 AM
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Patriarchy and Mehitabel?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09-21-14 11:07 AM
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302: Halford should read Dhalgren instead

Samuel Delany is in my top five most favorite SFF writers, but Dhalgren is a haul for the uninitiated, I suspect. I found it bewildering when I first read it at age 17 or so, and deliberately chose to reread it a few years later, thinking that I might better grok it, so to speak, after having read more Delany. Strange, strange book.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-21-14 11:34 AM
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306: I read _Ethan of Athos_ and then I never read any other Bujold, so I don't think it would work.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-21-14 12:02 PM
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