Sorry to be so late with this: woke late/starting upper respiratory trouble, I think, then in order: laundry, unpacking, comcast.

But we’re not here to talk about my personal life (thank heavens), we’re here to talk about literature.  It is a subject I’m eminently qualified to discuss, as the normal end result of my degree was either as language professor/literature professor or translator.  A rare and vanishing few made it to the diplomatic corps and that was mom’s ambition for me — did you just snort giggle? — but despite my having the grades to do it, and having made contacts at all the foreign consulates (particularly the American Consul, a Texan Reagan appointee who shared the GOOD Bourbon with me) I really never thought I could make a success of such a career.  I know, hard to picture.

And by the time I finished third year I had had fishing on the part of my college, on letting me establish a program on science fiction literature, and giving me one of those permanent jobs with retirement plan.  Some days I wonder why I threw it all over, then I remember generations of Portuguese college children subjected to my skewed view of both science fiction and literature and realize that it’s all for the best in the best of all possible worlds and all that.

So, today I’ll revert to my roots and we’ll discuss literature. You may picture me standing at a lectern, in my black skirt suit and black tie and looking very proper.  (Is that a smirk?  Did you bring enough to share with the whole class?)

First I’ll confess I have defenestrated more “How to write” books for the crime of trying to define non-literature than for any other crime.  There was a particular one on plot and theme, which I was following riveted until in the middle, the worst pedants of his nature took over his brain and he wrote something like “if you’re writing so called genre literature, like science fiction or mystery, you don’t need to read this, as all they do is bash a story on the page, just like all the other stories before, stuff about space lizards and old maids who solve mysteries.”

First of all, this showed a regrettable lack of knowledge of the current genre (Margaret Atwood not withstanding — and why do I now what to write a space lizard story called The Handmaiden’s Tail?  Except for the fact that the imp of the perverse and I are best friends?)  — I’ve read exactly one science fiction novel involving lizards: Karel Capek’s War With The Newts. As for maiden ladies solving crimes, even cozies these days are more likely to have what are technically — perhaps — spinsters, but neither maiden nor ladies.)  What it revealed in fact, is that the author had no glimmer of understanding of genre literature, having been told it was bad, and trusting his mentors without ever verifying.  There is a lot of that going around.

In fact, here, recently, one of you seemed to think that the difference between genre and literature is that literature features characters with depth and growth.  Not only no, bu t hell no.  In fact, “literary fiction” these days is often populated with walking cliches who wouldn’t grow if you watered them.  Meanwhile just about all of genre, and certainly the best of genre has plenty of character growth.  If you don’t think so I’ll assume you never cracked open Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Left Hand of Darkness or, h*ll, even Dragonriders of Pern.  And only one of those is at risk of being taken for literature, and only because our betters are obsessed with genre stuff.  Okay that and the somewhat opaque manner of telling that I tend to shrug off as “it was the seventies” but which is our first clue in our quest to find “literature” and “literary sf/f” as presently defined.

This is where you must abandon your illusions, not that I think many people on this site have them.  “Literary” does not mean better.  “Literary” does not mean more profound.  “Literary” doesn’t even mean more complex.  Literary is in fact a genre like any other.  If you remember that genres are things invented by bookstores to sell books to customers, it all will make sense.

Genre didn’t always exist.  Since I grew up in a time capsule, I can tell you it didn’t exist in the more oldfashioned bookstores I frequented as a kid.  Romance and adventure, western and historical would all be shelved iggledy-piggeldy in a glorious hodge podge of story  Some of the more sophisticated bookstores aspired to historical shelving — that is, they had the books in order of release.  Some of the more anal-retentive alphabetized them.  But most of them were hole in the wall places, where the proprietor glowered at you as you passed the counter, at which he sat reading some tome, and glared even more as you brought books up to buy (then proceeded to act as though you were kidnapping his children right under his very eyes.) So mostly, however the books had once been organized, they were now scrambled by eager customers, and the result was a sort of buffet where the salads, main courses and deserts were all intermixed, but it didn’t matter, since they let you try it out before buying.

I spent many an afternoon browsing through those and reading the beginning, before rejecting or accepting the books, completely ignorant of genre.

The more modern bookstores had a place for everything and sf/f was usually on spindles, which I learned to recognize because Heinlein, Asimov, Simak, Dick, Van Vogt and much much later on McCaffrey  and countless others were often loitering there, waiting for me to pick them up and take them home (or more likely to read standing up in the grocery store, leaning against a pillar, while the trains home went by unnoticed.)

In those bookstores I rarely strayed to the “literary” shelves, unless I’d been directed to do so by a teacher.  You see, the Portuguese books were so predictably left that you had to cringe (“the working class was oppressed” is the complete summation of the plot.  Oh, with a dash of noble savage now and again.)  The foreign ones (this was the seventies) seemed to have a fascination with improbable sex.  Being a teen, I was myself fascinated with sex, but I was fairly sure it wasn’t meant to be joyless and nasty.  And these were ALWAYS joyless and nasty. So I didn’t go there.

Since then what defines “literary” has changed.  The sex-obsession of the seventies had all to do with the sexual revolution, now a thing of the past.  While you’re still likely to find your neverend of joyless sex in literary novels, it’s now more likely to be “oppressive” sex — to wit, class race and gender oppression, because the marker of “literary” has moved on to the Marxist theories taught as literary analysis in all the best colleges.

What you have to remember about “literary” is that it could be defined as “things that college professors will read on a train.”  I.e. “literary” is an aspirational mark, a mark of prestige.  The book might or might not have a plot (or a prayer of making sense) but it is generally viewed as “difficult” “prestigious” and “saying the right things” and by right I mean political and social views as a positional good, which in the twentieth century has mostly hinged on being properly LEFT. And the twentieth century persists in critical and literary analysis, two notoriously conservative (in the proper sense of the word) fields.)

All of these apply to literary science fiction and fantasy, though using tropes of the genre.  My Shakespeare books, for instance, were going to get tagged as “literary” no matter what I did, unless I wrote them in very American vernacular and sometimes even then.  While they didn’t precisely say the “correct” things, it was easy to miss it through the haze  of Shakespearean English (I spent a lot of time listening to the plays, watching the plays, and reading Elizabethan-era essays, to the point my then three year old spoke Elizabethan English as his second language, and sometimes reverts.) Also I had a transgender character, mostly because sonnets, but if you squinted you would think it was politically correct.

My Magical British Empire would probably be considered Literary, if it weren’t for Regency Romances having tainted the era and made it low brow.  (Those books are actually Victorian, but judging from stock photo sites, knowing the difference between Victorian, Elizabethan, and Medieval (let alone regency) is a skill of the privileged few.

John C. Wright has no hope of ever being considered anything but literary.  It’s the dense packing with meaning, the symbolism and the depth of language.  He could write a story about space lizards and scantily clad barbarian princesses (please, John?) and it would still be considered literary.

This makes perfect sense if you think of literary as aspirational and positional and generally “things college professors tell themselves they like.”  If you have to have a massive vocabulary and WORK it to read a book, the book will be “literary.”

The origins of this are that “literary” used to refer to “old books that are still read” (this occasions another confusion mentioned later and those usually take some amount of work to interpret/get into.  Hence, if you need to do some work to enjoy a book, it must be “literary.”

Beyond that the book can be anything, from deep and interesting to the sort of thing that makes you want to watch paint dry, as a lively change.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s still shelved under “literary” or tagged as “literary sf/f.”

If you hear a sneering tone in my description of difficult language as a way to earn that mark you would be wrong.  I do sometimes enjoy a densely packed linguistic experience, and word pictures painted in obscure terms.  Sometimes the right word IS obscure, and you should always use the right word.

I do however despise “thick” language for its own gratuitous sake.

Look, language is the one writing gift I get naturally.  Usually the more tired or out of it I am, the denser and more difficult my language gets.  This works fine for some books, but not for others.  If I’m writing about Shakespeare, yep, a certain amount of poetry is justified.  If I’m writing about a chick who likes hitting people on the head with shoes, in space, not so much.  Struggling against my own tendency to polysyllabic latinate words is the cross I bear, okay?  Sometimes it takes me three passes to readable colloquial English.

Which brings us to what annoys me about denseness of language and high faluting vocabulary.  It annoys me when I can see the writer sweat.  Those are the books that fly like birds to kiss the wall, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

Other than that, I have to be in the proper mood to read the denser books, while the ligher ones I consume like popcorn while unpacking boxes or you know… cleaning the house.

And by lighter, I don’t mean a lot of those books don’t pack a punch of meaning, character growth and symbology that goes with me after the book is closed.  That would be maligning Pratchett and Butcher and yep, Heinlein and Simak and Asimov and heck Rex Stout and Agatha Christie, too.

If you return to a book and read it multiple times — heck, if you remember the book’s name and the author’s — it probably is not just meaningless drivel.

The idea that “literary” means better comes from confusing it with “books that have survived the centuries.” It’s slightly crazy, because most of the books that have the same markers (difficulty of language and self-conscious hitting of the present day’s intellectual “elites” obsessions) not only haven’t survived the DECADES but won’t.  It’s notable that Shakespeare was considered low-brow entertainment in his day and that most of the high-brow writers haven’t survived.

But being a positional good it is impossible for the “elites” not to posture about liking it.  After all, their “refined tastes” are what divides them from us peons.

Same as it’s ever been, same as it will ever be.

However and fortunately, the elites tend to be what passes, while solid writing and entertainment (whether linguistically gifted or not) remain.

So smile politely at their claims of superiority and go on enjoying what you consider good.  Who is right only time will tell, but if we’re both alive, I’ll be willing to collect on as large a bet as they care to make.

And now, I go unpack and talk to the very confused-looking comcast rep.






681 thoughts on “Litchrature

  1. I had long suspected that “Literary” was just one more genre, one designed to appeal to snooty folk what enjoy thinking themselves better than all the rest of us low-brow readers.

    Nothing here dissuades me of that suspicion.

    Language — writing style — ought serve the purpose of the story, whether that story be about the kingdoms of the Earth (James Branch Cabell’s favored topic) or the organization of a revolution (to cite a favorite Heinlein work.) To select one’s reading solely based on stylistic pretense strongly suggests a false value; everyone knows that your choice of what to read ought be determined by what books are most likely to impress upon the people of your preference that they should want to have sexual intercourse with you.

    1. To select one’s reading solely based on stylistic pretense strongly suggests a false value; everyone knows that your choice of what to read ought be determined by what books are most likely to impress upon the people of your preference that they should want to have sexual intercourse with you.

      If you can explain to me how the latter works I’d be much appreciative.

      That said I can at least think of authors I enjoyed because of their literary styling, the late Umberto Ecco being the poster child, but they also used the styling to tell an interesting story. Focault’s Pendelum is a HARD book. However, it is worth it and the literariness (and the difficulty it brings) do enhance the story in a couple of dimensions.

          1. What would Tolkien have thought of Klingon? As in good or bad craft. I assume he would be happy that the Star Trek writers considered constructing a language as necessary.

            1. I’ve never seen anything to say that Tolkien disapproved of any constructed language. He was usually only unhappy that the creators didn’t create the language in order to demonstrate culture and history, as he did. Both the Ford ‘aase version of Klingon, and the movie version created by Marc Okrand, include a great deal of cultural and historical information, so he probably would have found them fun to play with.

              1. I always liked the culture Ford created for “The Final Reflection”. What we had in TNG and later was a sad lukewarm rehash of samurai/bushido as mangled by westerners. Klingonaase and its background were way more interesting and just downright outre.

        1. Yes, when I think the term “literary” I immediately think Ecco, Tolkien, Lewis, Dumas, Stephenson, Verne, etc. I think of these works in a positive light, I have read The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings almost every year since my first time in 1976. I enjoyed much of Lewis’s but have yet to read everything he wrote. However, Ecco is too much work, I have a good vocabulary but his is so dense I had to resort to a dictionary so often that it made reading it tedious. Perhaps I should give it another go now that I am older.
          Unfortunately I also associate the term with many of the (so-called) “classics” which were inflicted upon us as schoolchildren such as “A Tale Of Two Cities”, “The Scarlett Letter”, David Copperfield”, “Silas Marner” and similar works. it is my firm belief that my Middle and High School English teachers intentionally tried to discourage kids from learning to enjoy reading.

          P.S. – What have you got against Dragonriders Of Pern? Granted McCaffrey fell off the beam in the later novels but the first trilogy and the Harper’s Hall books were good.

          1. I LIKED all the classics you listed, and read them on my own (I had NO teacher input, as I grew up in Mexico, and was excused from ‘English’). They are good stories. I learned a lot of words from context. They contributed to me reading everything else.

            Possibly the ‘shoved down your throat’ aspect ruined them for you. and no, I don’t think you should try to re-read them as a grownup, but I remember good rousing stories in there.

            1. There were stories I’d read on my own, and liked, that I just wound up sick of when we did them in class.

              And some of my English teachers were good, and there are things I learned that I’ve applied to thinking about things I read for fun later — but I think a lot of the classes have the notion of introducing culturally relevant things they assume you would not read on your own, and ideally giving you the tools to analyze them… but… I’ve never gotten the impression that encouraging enjoyment/appreciation of either the reading or the analysis was widely considered a goal. I suppose most math teachers don’t expect their students to enjoy the math, either, although I liked the ones who did!

          2. Dickens reads much better as an adult than he does as a child (or even a high school student).

            I don’t know where the idea that Dickens was for kids got started, but it needs to be killed with fire.

              1. Oh yes. I grew up reading about sailing, and one of my favorites, “Seabird” was about whaling, so I astonished my HS English teacher by fussing when we left out the whale bits (or slabs, given how one trys blubber into whale oil). Enjoyed the book a great deal. But I also read the “House of seven Gables” in addition to “Scarlet Letter” and liked it better.

            1. Agreed. I had to read Great Expectations in high school at the age of sixteen and was bored off my gourd; it wasn’t until I picked it up again and glanced at it in my late 30s that I realized how funny it was, and had been meant to be all along. Only lack of time has kept me from doing a more detailed reread.

            2. Amen to that. I keep thinking I ought to give Dickens another go as an adult, but they made me hate him so much in high school, it’s hard to overcome that.

              Thank God they didn’t force us to read Austen in high school, or I might have missed out on some beloved books!

              (Honestly, the only ‘classic’ I ended up actually liking was Jane Eyre. And thankfully, I’d already read the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings long before my high school English teachers got their hands on it..)

              1. Yeah, one of the big problems I have had with the classics was that my teachers seemed to love giving me Kafka and another Russian writer whose name I have purged from memory because his stuff was so freaking depressing to read. I slogged through them to finish the assignment then fled back to Shakespeare and Eddings as soon as class was over.

                I find I have huge, huge problems reading Tolkien now. I found him readable when I was younger but I can’t read LotR. I’m not sure why.

                1. I’ve tried Tolkien several times, and have never been able to force myself more than a third of the way into a book.
                  On the other hand I liked The Scarlet Letter, of course I read it before it was assigned to us in class. Otherwise 1984 was probably the most enjoyable read I was ever assigned in school.

                    1. I remember delving into our shelves, and my father asking me what book I was looking for. I don’t remember what it was, but he looked a little surprised that such an obscure author was required. I couldn’t even find the book in a store. Ended up finding the story on the internet (it was just a short story we were required to read), printed it out and shared.

                      I had a very low opinion of that English teacher.

                  1. *nod* I tried Tolkien several times as a kid, and gave up repeatedly as I found them impenetrable. Then I picked up The Hobbit one day in late high school, and suddenly it *clicked* for some reason, and I ended up reading it and the LOTR trilogy in one feverish burst all the way through in a single weekend.

                    1. “You’re dealing with an essentially medieval world. Only the upper classes have the resources and time free from the demands of the land to go adventuring.” – snelson134

                      Yeah. Same reason that swordsmen tend to be from the aristocracy or gentry: it takes a long time to train a skilled swordsman and practice to develop the craft, and only the relatively wealthy have the leisure time to devote to those pasttimes. The peasantry and the poor are generally too busy making a living or growing food to have the massive amounts of time to spare.

                      Substitute yeomanry for the longbow, and it’s the same effect.

                  2. I read LotR many times back in high school. Reading it now, I see a lot of unconscious elitism. The best people were all from some noble lineage. Frodo is from the best hobbit family. Sam Gamgee had a huge soul but knew that he was just a sidekick.

                    1. You’re dealing with an essentially medieval world. Only the upper classes have the resources and time free from the demands of the land to go adventuring.

                2. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn by any chance? “One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich” was one of the more amusing books for a perverse sort of child, packed cheek-by-jowl with mandatory reports on Madam Bovary and, I think, Kafka. It could have been worse.

                  More amusing to me was the fact that only two years later (now in college), another professor assigned us the exact same book in a different class. Only this time, it was telling us how great socialism was…

                  Somethink of a shock to young boy who thought real socialism *was* the gulag.

                    1. My bad- it was a TA teaching that course. Said young TA was earnestly interested in politics. Politics of the *people,* she said. Marxist politics…

                      One Day was on the list. Not the recommended, the *required* list. Silly me did not know you could test out of the class, so here was I, Odd reader of nigh everything with words I could get my paws on since knee-high to a grasshopper, reading the book again.

                      As I recall, this book was good because if you “read between the lines,” what Solzhenitsyn *really* meant was… And she wanted applied feminist-Marxist criticism to the book. So…

                      Now this was back in the late nineties/early 2000’s. Her boss, one grey-haired lady of, I quote, “more tenure than Jesus Christ, but not quite the Creator Himself,” later took said wayward child aside and suggested she do some study under a different discipline- say, Dr. Smith.

                      Dr. Smith being the newly employed immigrant from Italy, whose grandparents fled Stalin during the purges…

                      Not all of college was quite that entertaining, but oy, were there moments. *chuckle*

                3. I confess, it has been a number of years since I actually *read* LOTR. Tolkien is not an easy read and never has been…and to be honest, I liked the movies so well that I usually watch them instead. (Not least of all for the fact that twenty pages of travel description becomes one panoramic shot in the films… ;D )

                  1. The audiobook versions of the LOTR are excellent and well-suited to long commutes. If you have only a 5-minute drive to work you’re probably better off listening to other books (Dresden Files are pretty good in short installments but you’re likely to linger in the car once you’ve stopped.)

                    1. Hah, I wish. I have an hour commute. And I do, indeed own LOTR on audio. Also the Hobbit and the Silmarillion. My attempts at a listen-through have been thwarted, though, by the fact that when it’s my turn to drive in the carpool, I’m usually driving in the morning hours (it’s complicated)…and that narrator is, erm, problematic at 6am… 😀

            3. I teamread Tale of Two Cities at eight with Mom. I liked it just fine. Just as well as when I reread it in college.

              I suspect it depends on what your normal reading with kids is, and I suspect making them read it alone would be mean. I mean, it was lighter reading than Macbeth, which, IIRC, we read immediately before. No abridged nonsense at our house.

          3. P.S. – What have you got against Dragonriders Of Pern? Granted McCaffrey fell off the beam in the later novels but the first trilogy and the Harper’s Hall books were good.

            The Harper’s Hall books were good, and the first Dragonriders trilogy was (as I recall) decent, though it’s been far longer since I’ve reread that one. Personally, I have the biggest problem with Master Harper Marty Stu Robinton, and I don’t think he achieved full Marty Stu status until later on.

      1. Well, I wound up *dating* a girl in college after I asked her what she was reading. The semester she took assembly we broke up. My wife doesn’t love to read as much as I do, but she’s saner than I am.

      2. Herb,
        As soon as someone explains that to you, could you please pass it on to the rest of us?

        1. I did not say it was a successful approach, merely the one most preferred by (reading) teens of all preferences.

    2. The “bookshelf to impress” can apply to non-“literary” as well. The first thing you see walking in my front door is a pair of matching shelves. One is mostly military history. The other is the pick of my sci-fi collection, with Stephenson, Willis, Niven & Pournelle, Wright, Wolfe, etc. (Sarah is between Asimov and Heinlein, iirc.) I could have put them somewhere more convenient; it’s solely to show off my good taste. The kids also have instruction that in the event of a fire they’re to grab the sci-fi shelf on their way out the door.

      1. I’ve got one too–and I admit it’s made up of the scifi/fantasy (mostly fantasy) that I’d LOVE for visitors to ask about, so I can try and get them to read it…

        1. Yeah, my front-of-the-house bookshelf is divided between quirky history, how-tos, and the Pratchett/Bujold/Diane Duane collection. (I know, I know, one of these is not like the others, but Duane just hits my literary happy place as long as I don’t read her Twitter.)

          1. My bookshelves are still (mostly) packed away whilst I build the actual shelves into the staircase, and cover the one ugly wall downstairs with them.

            I do regularly leave good books lying around on kitchen tables and the like when I have visitors come by. I’ve gotten more folk hooked on Correia, Bujold, and Drake (and others, too) that way. Or should I say “corrupted”? Six in ten, I get a call a few nights later, “D*mn you Dan! Where’s the next book in the series?! Do you have it?!”

            That’s not so much to impress as to :
            1) share the story goodness,
            b) do my part to give my favorite authors a kick in the pants- err, pecuniary incentive, and
            III) give us something else to talk about. *grin*

            1. I have a list of a dozen books I’ll always buy used copies of when I find them. I then give them away to unsuspecting victims, many of whom never voluntarily opened a book after their last book report in school.

              Sometimes I feel like the Candy Man hanging around the playground. “Here, the first few hits are free…”

          2. Our front door opens on the living room. This makes life easy; we have the scifi/fantasy bookshelf right by the front door, where people can borrow on their way in or out, and the religion bookshelf to the right side, where you can eye it while sitting on the couch. To the left, there’s two bookcases of history / military history and the recliner, and behind the couch is the general fiction.

            My office has my own bookcase, though they travel out onto the end tables along with the aviation magazines, the art books, and the currently-reading pile that drifts in tides across the house. Peter’s office has the “in current research use for the work in progress.”

            We also have a fireplace to look at, and shoved in the corner behind the recliner is the TV. One of these months we’ll hook it up; for now, we just go to a friend’s with a bottle of wine if we feel like watching Carry On Up The Khyber.

            1. Ma’am, were it not for the commands of my religion, the laws of my country, and my intense desire to live to see my hair turn gray, I would raid your house for the books.

              1. We’re determined to keep the collection manageable (having culled it thrice for moving, including donating almost all of the religious history, philosophy, and commentary upon long-dead saints and hermits to a seminary.) After we build the third bookcase for military history / general history, the moratorium of “Only what can fit on the bookshelves” will go in effect. However, this restriction does not apply to the acquisition of ebooks…

                My dearest darling has cleverly pointed out a loophole: “what fits on shelves” may not include the books out in circulation, lent to friends… for when we got to pick up piles and reshelve, they shan’t be there to be unable to fit!

              2. She had to pry me away from the history section. Something about the drool making the cat nervous and ruining the flooring . . .

  2. Ugh … I hope never to be considered literary/
    I write stories to entertain and [painlessly inform. I have a certain gift for turning a witty phrase and for writing normal-sounding conversation. I can also channel period style, after a short immersion in it.
    Amusing genre fiction; the sum and total.

      1. Why do you consider them “literary” authors rather than authors who’s works have passed the test of time?

        1. Because I was homeschooled and my mom made me read them instead of science fiction and she said they were literary. Twain was the only one I might’ve read without compulsion: time travel after all. Other than him, the only book I liked out of my required reading was The Grapes of Wrath, which probably says a whole lot about teen-me. I got in a lot of trouble for accusing Mom of hypocracy when she made me read The Scarlet Pimpernel after she punished me for reading a Harliquin.
          But by then, I’d already read the KJV Bible a couple times cover to cover. (Read or listen to the sermon, I picked read. From six years old.) My education was pretty eclectic even for a home schooler. I was catching up with a home schooled childhood friend last week and her recollections confirm that. This was back in the days before boxed curriculum.

          1. I got in SO MUCH TROUBLE at our little Church of God when they were on an end-times prophecy kick and I got bored and started doing an illustrated version of Daniel and Revelation….

          2. I must say, the idea that your mother found a Harlequin objectionable but not The Scarlet Pimpernel made me giggle. I *adore* the Scarlet Pimpernel…but it’s possibly more overwrought than your average Harlequin novel! (And only one SP movie to date has reproduced the funniest scene from the book–the bit with the pepper in the snuff box.)

  3. I attempted to read a fantasy trilogy some years back–I attempted to read it twice, actually. The first time was around my first year of college (the last year in which I actually read stuff that is, probably, drek–of either the genuine sort, or the sort that is drek because it is pretentious). I managed the first two books but, in the way of far-too-many libraries, they didn’t have the third. (I count myself lucky that they had book one and two, rather than book two and three, as seems to be more common. Or just book two, or just book three…)

    The second attempt was six or so years ago. And I couldn’t even get through the first book, and I realized why: the words ‘thesaurus plunder’ come to mind. Setting aside the already-irritating plot device of having the characters-on-page all stop what they are doing to tell stories to one another (if I wanted to expand my knowledge of Celtic mythology/fairy tales, I’d go find a book of such tales–and already had, several times), it seemed that the author, in their desire to either paint vivid word-imagery and/or get classified under ‘literary fantasy’ not only went so far overboard on descriptions that I frequently felt like I was reading a list (a repetetive list, at that), but used words that made absolutely no sense whatseover for the character doing the narration. The book got walled when the protagonist, a scarred, uneducated (illiterate, even), mute serf, used the word ‘peripatetic’ to describe a minstrel she was watching cross a street. I don’t often have to look up words (I adore language, and polysyllabic words), but I did that one. For the record, and anyone in the same boat I was when I encountered it: it means ‘wandering.’

    There was absolutely no justifiable reason for an illiterate mute serf to know or use that word. There had been any number of other over-complicated words used in her internal narration prior to this, but I had managed to ignore them. That one, though, was the proverbial straw.

    I took a valuable lesson away from it, though, and as a writer have become far more aware of how my own characters should be speaking, relative to their position/education, and hopefully thus avoid any hypothetical future walling of my own stuff…

    1. Assuming we are talking about the same series, I tried the third book of that series despite having some major qualms about book two. I do not know if the author burned out, or what, but the ending was horribly disappointing. Enough so that there was a second “some legends say” more upbeat ending tacked on. You didn’t miss anything.

      1. I think we are–that sounds like the kind of ending the trilogy as a whole was aiming for, sigh. Might explain why I’ve never seen anything else by that author on the shelves, either. Though to be fair–it’s entirely possible the whole mess was forced on her by agent/editor (having read this and other blogs, I now know that is a very Real Thing), and truly *did* burn out. When it wasn’t being tedious, there were glimmers of real beauty, and the worldbuilding itself had potential.

        I also got particularly irked the with the first book (or was it the second?), because it fell into ‘but the ‘ugly girl’ *has* to become beautiful!’ schtick. I think it would have been far more interesting had she remained scarred…

        1. We are, and it would have been. Yes on the world building. I could go back and re-read the first half of the first book just to pick up how she sketched things out. And I’m actually borrowing part of one scene for the next Rada Ni Drako story. But I too wonder if she got shoe-horned into the last part of Book 2 and all of Book 3 by editor/agent/yes. She could have taken her goal (use lots of cool ideas from folklore/ folk bogies) and taken it so many fascinating other directions . . . I hope she’s writing great stuff under a pan-name.

          1. I rather hope so as well. Underneath all that thesaurus plunder, there were the bones of a decent writer, and a decent story!

            And it did make me rather want to write a romantic/fairy-tale fantasy where the cursed heroine *doesn’t* magically become beautiful, and the love interest is cool with that…because looks are only a very tiny part of ‘why we fall in love with someone’.

            1. I wonder if that is why the Cat books are going the way they seem to be going . . . my subconscious saying “Right, enough of ‘the heroine must magically become beautiful in every way,’ let’s try this.” Minus the magic. For some reason, thus far, my attempts at high fantasy have all gone thud.

              1. I love Rada the person also other characters in Cat & Dragon series. Also takes place a lot of the time in technological eras. I love Major Khan and Yuri. Did someone go after Rada’s attackers with fire and sword (metaphorically) ? I think they were Trader scum who tortured her and ruined one of her eyes?

                1. Emily, she did terminate the people who blinded her. I tried not to go into detail because that book is dark enough as it is. And yes, two books on, the Traders will finally push her once too often. The results are . . . not pretty.

                  1. The Traders are nasty are nasty enough people that they will deserve everything they get. Have it happen off-screen and have a comment or notice on-screen. Maybe a short news item.

              2. And then you have Elizabeth, who manages to not only attract a decent man, but earn a lot of decent men’s respect, without using traffic-stopping beauty. If you didn’t live half way across the country, I would swear you used a very nice local girl to model Elizabeth after, at least physically. You describe her to the T when you describe Elizabeth. Character really does influence how others see you, the local girl becomes passingly pretty in your mind, if you see her regularly, simply because she is such a bubbly, nice (although somewhat ditzy) personality. It is even easier to forget a characters looks in a book, at least if the author does their job and creates a character that has more interesting characteristics than the strength of their chin and the color and texture of their hair.

    2. I think I tried the first book of that same trilogy and got bored enough to wander away in the first quarter of the book and never come back. I’m not a fan of the literary genre except for Tolkien. And maybe Lewis.

      1. Lewis is an occasional taste for me, but his non-fiction I find myself constantly going back to. I tend to find something new, or put something together a slightly different way, every time.

    3. I know the books whereof you speak, and gave up about halfway through Book 2. I thought the suddenly-becoming-beautiful stuff was bad enough, but when they kept stopping to exposit I got *annoyed*.

      1. My personal breaking point for reading literary was a high fantasy book, a goat gagger, in which the author stopped all the action to spend two pages describing a stream that ran through the land. He never referenced it before or again, and it stood for nothing, had no significance, just…. “Hey, my sucker readers, this book of beautifully-described assorted idiots, evilness, and associated hapless victims isn’t enough of a slog, so I’m going to yammer on with up to six-syllable words about a stream!”

        Steven Brust pulled describing a river in much depth off in Brokedown Palace, but Steven Brust also made the river a metaphor, and a plot device.

        Literary isn’t a curse word, it’s just a genre that doesn’t require plot, character growth, someone to root for, or clear writing. There are people who love that stuff, but I’m not one of them.

        1. Well, and Steven Brust rather deliberately mimics/lampoons/pays homage to the Dumas boys in a lot of his stuff. Which includes a certain amount of wink-wink wordiness that might put off someone who wasn’t aware of the joke. 😀

    4. Huh! I knew peripeteia, but not peripatetic. And they’re so different on definitions that substituting one for the other is an entirely different story!

      (Mike Rowe taught me anagnorisis and peripeteia, and how they relate to castrating sheep. Awesome, awesome TED talk.)

    1. You know, I don’t think Andre Norton ever showed us an evil Zacathan. 😀

        1. My sf reading was ecletic, since it depended on what had been translated. Also, it’s been very long. And besides pfui. And that’s all I’m going to say.

    2. There are intelligent lizards in Alan Dean Foster’s “Humanx Commonwealth” series (the AAnn) and in Patrick Vanner’s Ragnarok (the Xan-Sskarn). I have a race of sapient saurians in my own SF opus, which continues to grind slowly forward. In all these books, however, the reptilians are the enemies — indeed, Foster’s AAnn are occasionally described as cheerfully eating human beings, from time to time.

      Other than McCaffrey’s dragons, is there an SF book where reptiloid aliens are friendly to humans?

      1. Andre Norton’s Zacathans are friendly toward humans (unless the humans are Pirates). 😀

  4. OK, now for a game of “¿Quién es más macho?” Which SF writers’ works would you consider to be “literary?” For me, I’d put Gene Wolfe right up there. Possibly Cordwainer Smith, maybe Lord Dunsany.

    And no, we’re not going to try to define “literary” so there’s some sort of metric to measure against. It’s more of an “I know it when I see it” sort of thing for this purpose.

    1. I’ve read some Dunsany, and believe he came by it naturally. Wolfe, I just couldn’t read.

      1. What was the first Wolfe you tried? If you tried to start at the Book of the New Sun you probably would get overwhelmed. It is worth it IMHO but I’d read some of his simplier stuff first.

      2. I agree with Herb. Try starting with the Soldier trilogy (“Soldier of the Mist” was the first). Or perhaps the the Wizard Knight duology.

        1. Soldier in the Mist was the one that made me stop reading Wolfe altogether…. I hadn’t liked parts of the New Sun series, but here, I was *bored*.

          Tho I did like Pirate Freedom.

      3. I liked Time and the Gods by Dunsany but I bounced off Gene Wolfe’s Wizard Knight. Also I am not a fan of unreliable narrators.

          1. Then Wolfe will be a poor choice for both of you. That said, it is one technique that defines literary. Even Heinlein has been accused of it with Manny in Moon.

              1. That’s different than a narrator knowing but playing games with his audience. I want to kill those game players. They seem like sadists to me.

    2. I’ll agree to all three but you know what. I still find all three worth reading (still kicking myself for passing up the hardcover Instrumentality of Man collection of all Smith’s short scifi when it was at the used book store).

      Triptree could be. The only Janet Morris book (Cruiser Dreams) I tried had thesaurus plunder so bad my desk dictionary couldn’t help and I had to go to the library. It got tossed under 50 pages.

    3. I’d put Patricia McKillip on the ‘literary’ list, albeit on the lighter end of things.

      1. Agreed. I only read the first Riddle-Master trilogy but I remember that it had a very “literary” feel to it.

        1. First Riddle-Master Trilogy?

          Did she write a sequel trilogy to her Riddle-Master Trilogy? 😈

        2. Her non-Riddlemaster stuff is even MORE literary. But not in a bad, dull, grey goo way. Although I don’t feel a deep connection to most of her characters (not in the way I do ones like, say, Miles Vorkosigan or Sam Vimes or Athena or Owen, etc), they are very beautifully written, and they are still very entertaining stories in their own right. Maybe not super-exciting in terms of “Wander around the house dropping/running into things because your nose is glued to the book/ebook” but a lovely thing to read on a bad-weather day with a nice cuppa tea or cocoa. 🙂

          As always, though YMMV, and her style may not be to everyone’s taste.

        1. I’m a big fan of The Book of Atrix Wolfe and…crap, can’t remember the title now. The one based on Loreena McKennitt’s set-to-music rendition of “The Lady of Shallott”.

          1. Sounds a bit like the Tower at Stony Wood- but I can’t remember much of the piece offhand, save that it reminded my of the original poem (hadn’t heard McKennitt’s music yet by that point).

            1. Yes–It was The Tower at Stony Wood.

              And I *love* McKennitt. I wish she would put out albums more than once every decade, though…

    4. I would argue James Branch Cabell is Literary, but I doubt enough Huns have read him to argue the point. Fritz Leiber could be Literary, but he never let it distract you from the story. Some of Jack Vance’s novels were Literary, IIRC, but I couldn’t, off-hand., tell you which ones

      1. Jack wielded a large vocabulary, but he was very careful not to let it get in the way of the story. It was just his style. (for that matter, much of that vocabulary was made up. Sometimes you even got explanatory footnotes)

    5. H Rider Haggard, which I liked, most other literary SF writers hit the wall, and I don’t recall their names.

  5. Is that a smirk? Did you bring enough to share with the whole class?

    In this crowd a random person probably has enough smirk for a small country.

    1. No, it was a giggle-snort, but as I had previously finished my coffee, I did not share any of it.

    2. A *small* country you say? Why I’d wager some here own smirks big as Texas. Why, if there were a cause to show ’em off all at once, we’d need the Atlantic to display ’em proper-like.

  6. Have you ever read “A Reader’s Manifesto”? It’s one of the great rants on the subject of badly written, plotless, “literary” novels where “the book is little more that a 300-page caption for the photo on the dust jacket,” solely about showing off how the author is a Real Writer rather than telling a story or creating characters. I had just struggled through 4 miserable years of high school English when I found it, and it was one of the most satisfying things I’d ever run across. My favorite bit (from memory):

    “Oprah complained [to Toni Morrison] that she had trouble understanding some of her sentences. Morrison supposedly replied, ‘That, my dear, is called reading.’ No, Toni, actually it’s called bad writing. Great prose is not always easy, but it is always lucid.”

    1. Oh, ye gods, I was forced to read “Beloved” in high school (I made the mistake of taking a “Modern Novels” class.) I *hated* that book, and everything about it. I expect Ms. Morrison would accuse me of being racist as well as illiterate, heh. Seriously, though, nothing about that book was written in any way that I felt it achieved her supposed ends, and I can probably easily find half a dozen other books that do a much better job of it.

      1. I’m sorry. I had to read not only “Beloved” but also “Song of Solomon.” I think the second one is even worse (and neither of them manages to hit the “worst thing I read in high school” bar…)

          1. On the bright side, it’s better to read bad books for English class so they can’t ruin the good books for you.

      2. Oh, yes, I remember Beloved. It’s the one book I’ve ever wanted to torch, mostly because it was one of the worst books it has ever been my misfortune to read. (I restrained myself)
        I was, as it happens, accused of racism for describing it as Toni Morrison hitting you over the head with an ax handle while saying “Slavery is bad, mm’kay?”

        1. And yet, somehow, to indicate “this is bad” in such a way that, nevertheless, I felt zero sympathy for any of her characters. There was no depth to them. They were cookie-cutter, ultra-flat “victimized slave” just as the white characters were all variations on cookie cutter, ultra-flat “evil bad white master person.” Grey goo to the nth degree…

          1. I just can’t understand why Uncle Tom, that inspiring, very sympathetic, strong character, has come to mean a black sellout — to the same people who would likely call you a racist over your dislike of Beloved.

            1. Best I can figure, to most of those people ‘consistency’ is the sign of a small mind… >.<

        2. The one book I ever, ever wanted to torch, I consigned to the flames after being forced to suffer reading it. It was a badly penned fictional description of the Marcos dictatorship, complete with shoe-horned in scenes of pointless gore (machine-gun firing squad of homeless youths, shooting them into a hotel swimming pool, to give the author an excuse to describe ‘intestines floating like grotesque jellyfish’) to emphasize that the unnamed dictator was EVIL EVIL EVIL and fueled by nothing but greed and power-lust. The American journalist who was the ostensible protagonist flees the fictional hellhole in a scene that greatly resembled the flight of the Americans from Saigon.

          Yeesh. Even as horrible as the dictatorship got, Marcos originally had good intentions and loved his country. He really wanted to have the Philippines not become another banana republic with a borderline communist clusterfuck, and his wife, for all her excesses, truly wanted to have the Philippine artists recognized on the world stage. We NEVER got as bad as Vietnam, and Marcos flat out refused to fire on the civilian protesters despite the urging from his head crony general.

          If the author wanted to write atrocities, there were plenty of genuine ones, but I despised the book for it’s unrepentant pandering of being a supposedly patriotic book that fell horribly short of it’s lofty attempts to be literary, never mind being readable. I felt zero sympathy for the characters, and it was so bad that my classmates were pleading for help because they couldn’t understand the motivations of the characters involved – when really, they didn’t have any. They were barely one-dimensional excuses to perform a single role – either sleep with the protag or conspire with him or deliver a conspiracy, or be the villain. They all felt bad about wanting to say this was a badly written book because the author was Filipino, and didn’t want to have a bad grade.

          1. “so bad that my classmates were pleading for help because they couldn’t understand the motivations of the characters involved – when really, they didn’t have any. They were barely one-dimensional excuses to perform a single role – either sleep with the protag or conspire with him or deliver a conspiracy, or be the villain.” – ShadowdancerDuskstar

            Ugh. Yes. That.

            Another one that does my interest in a novel in is what TVTropes calls “Informed Ability,” where you’re told that a character is such and such and can do so and o, but then never actually demonstrates the ability to do that thing or be that thing.

            Seanan McGuire’s first book in her InCryptid series fell into the, well, not torch per se because it was a loaner copy, but did-not-finish because of that. She spent a good chunk of the early part having the character talk about her training and growing up and her skills and “professionalism” being drilled mercilessly into her nearly from birth, and how ruthless she was and how much her people considered the antagonist organization ruthless enemies…

            And then when she met her foil/friendly antagonist later turned lover, the character pulled a gun on him.

            I was expecting *bang!* “end of that“, but no… instead her supposedly dangerous and “professional” killer character just pointed the gun at the guy until he disarmed her with a thrown knife (if I’m remembering correctly). And then the same (or similar) thing happened again at their next meeting… at which point I started losing interest, and then eventually never opened the book again after a few more chapters.

            *shrug* I guess I spent too much time growing up being taught the Matt Helm attitude: if you pull a gun and point it at someone, it’s because you intend to and are prepared to shoot the person you’re aiming it at. And if they twitch toward a weapon while under the gun… bang and a dead body on the ground. I just found her lead character completely unbelievable for what she was stated to be after that, and lost interest soon after.

            The person who loaned it to me asked me what I thought about it (they loved the series) and then gave me a very odd look when I said I didn’t even finish the first one, and explained why. Go figger.

            1. I admit, I overlooked that in the first InCryptid book…but only because I adored the Aeslin mice so very, very much. Truthfully, though…I’m not sure why she hasn’t gone with the grandparents/earlier family members–they seem *way* more interesting than most of the ‘current’ crop…

              I have had to give up on the latter few. They’ve gotten rather tedious. And, sadly, the October Daye series seems to be falling into a deep, dark hole as well… 😦

              1. *nod* @Sara the Red

                I love the Aeslin mice. That was such a cool idea and they were so adorable that they were what kept me hanging in for a few chapters after I lost interest otherwise.

                It’s a pity, really. That series hits on so many right notes that it’s just exactly the type of thing that I would usually like. But the heavy “tell not show” and informed ability aspect of the main character kicked me out of the story too bad for me to maintain my sense of suspended disbelief.

                I can usually overlook glitches in firearms knowledge or use: not everyone is a gun buff, and research doesn’t give you all of the stuff that only a shooter would know. I can often overlook glitches in action scenes for the same reason: applied violence is like sex and romance and relationships – to write a relationship or sex or romance convincingly, it helps if the author has at least had sex once or twice. 🙂

                (And with an actual partner, if that’s not too tacky… )

                But informed ability… if you’re going to tell me that a character is skilled at something, or is something, or is knowledgeable about something, then at some point, you need to show me the character being good at or being knowledgeable about that thing. And telling me and then showing me the exact opposite usually forces a crash that’s caused by the crane holding up my suspension of disbelief collapsing and taking me out of the story.

                So… I gave up on the lovely Aeslin Mice after coming to the conclusion that Helm would have shot the silly bint stone dead while she was pointing a gun and jawing at him, Mike Hammer would have taken it away and spanked her with it, and Travis McGee would have taken it away and spanked her, and then she’d have seduced him. And we won’t even get into what the truly dangerous female characters I know of would have done with her in that situation… but it wouldn’t have been pretty. 🙂

      1. Hehehe, he *really* has it in for Proulx. Not that I blame him. We had to read The Shipping News in my high school senior English Class. At the time, we all went “argh, this is lame”, at the end we were dazzled by the prose…and in later years I’ve looked back and gone, “nope, my first impression was correct” and promptly purged the book from my library. Never wanted to read anything else by her, and was frankly shocked to learn that most of her stuff is set in Wyoming. (Either she never actually lived here, or she didn’t pay much attention.)

        1. I often think the same with stuff set in Montana. “No one lives there, so no one will notice what I got wrong. Besides, I’ve seen a western or two.”

          1. I cheered when I saw the first episode of Longmire. Okay, so it’s still not filmed actually *in* Wyoming…but it was filmed in a part of Nevada that looks exactly liked the part of Wyoming the fictional town is set in.

            Other shows, I usually end up giggling and throwing things at the screen because, clearly, the show writers have never been in Wyoming in their *lives* or even seen a picture of it, and so assume Vancouver will do and that no one will notice. (Sadly, few probably do. There are only about 600,000 people actually *living* in Wyoming, after all.)

            1. There has been at least one movie “set in Florida” that was filmed out west. IE a movie about the war against the Seminole Indians. 👿

      2. That… is the most headache-inducing prose I’ve ever read.

        As in, ‘what is this crap?’

        Succeeded in convincing me never to read anything by that authoress (Proulx.) I have no desire to read something that requires a major drug-induced trip to envision or enjoy.

        Every single example cited was pretentious dreck. Igh.

    2. I read Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale back when that was the Brilliant Ground-Breaking All Original All Singing All Dancing Masterpiece du jour. All the way through I kept thinking “She’s ripping off Heinlein’s If This Goes On—. Badly.”

      1. I remember seeing that, prominently displayed at the bookstore. Picked it up, read the reviews, the back cover, a bit of this and that inside… and put it back. Went home, re-read some old thing. The Seas of Venus, I think. Think I came out ahead.

      2. Heh. For some reason, it was on my parents’ bookshelves growing up. I picked it up, read the back, went ‘bleh’ and put it back. I suspect they may have done the same. (Or it was my dad who picked it up. His taste in reading is sometimes…questionable.)

  7. If you don’t think so I’ll assume you never cracked open Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Left Hand of Darkness or, h*ll, even Dragonriders of Pern. And only one of those is at risk of being taken for literature, and only because our betters are obsessed with genre stuff.

    I’m sure Stragner in a Strange Land was published in the 60s and it’s the one I would think people would think is literary. If it is The Left Hand of Darkness I thought it got academic approval because the author is a feminist.

    And no bashing Pern…you have at least one wannabe Dragonrider (well, maybe Harper but let’s not go there) in the readership 🙂

    1. I remember reading that Anne McCaffrey was a little embarrassed when some of her fans worked out how much her dragons would have to eat.

      She wasn’t feeding her dragons enough! 👿

    2. Yep, it’s the LHOD.
      I’m NOT bashing Pern. I loved those books, and if she hadn’t stomped hard on fanfic online, I’d probably never have written anything else 😉

      1. I didn’t think you really where…:)

        I am surprised you don’t expect SiaSL to be considered literary as well. It seemed to be on all the “Sci-fi” class reading lists I’ve seen at universities.

      2. –blink–

        Yeah, I guess she did come down hard later, but in the 80’s she hadn’t. One of the clubs formed in 84, Fort Weyr, is still active. We’re struggling as our membership ages and leaves, but we’re still here.

        **wave from Journeyman Haper/Brown Rider J’rel**

          1. Shameless, I know. Sorry. I’m always on the lookout for Pern fans who can/will write. We use to have nearly 100 active writers/artist but now we’re down to maybe a dozen. 😦

            1. Again, if I’d found you in the early 90s, when Dan was traveling 5 days a week, you’d have got the dubious benefit of my writing, instead of the Austen crowd having me inflicted upon them.

            2. I used to play at Ridges. Googled them not all that long ago and was sorry to see they had closed. But haven’t got time these days. Though I might just have bookmarked the two active sites I found (yes, Fort is one). Just in case. I also might still have all my character data.

              1. If you found Fort9, you’ve got a wayback machine. Our site went down when our resident IT person left. 😦 That’s part of the reason we’re struggling now: we have no real on-line presence. **sigh**

                1. Shoot me an email, Wyldkat. I don’t have a ton of time right now, but if all you need is hosting and a forum, or something similar, I can probably help. I still want to be a Harper, though I’ve had to settle for holder for now.

                  1. I have been talking to our editor.
                    I cannot find your address, can you message me? wyldkat_ (underscore) at yahoo dot com.

            3. Oh Shards. I came into that waaaay too late and when I was reading Pern, I was behind the Iron Curtain / in Germany. I toyed about writing a ‘fic with an original character set in Pern in the late 90’s but ditched the idea when I heard that Anne didn’t like fanfiction of her stuff. So I stuck to Slayers, because the Japanese authors seemed to shrug at the thought of fanfiction of their work / accept it as an indicator of how much fans loved their stuff. I still have a little stop in my head that says if the original creator says no fan-work, I’ll abide, because that’s what a respectful fan does.

              I heard later on that Anne allowed people to play in her world, as long as it didn’t involve the canon characters. Locations, etc, were fine, iirc.

              1. The original characters (and descendants) and Benden were placed off limits, but the rest of Pern was open for us to play with.

        1. I was, back in 99-2000 part of a Pern round robin fanfic forum. Veridia Weyr…? Not sure I recall the name right. There were fairly strict rules, as I recall, passed down from Anne herself…and I ultimately left because I was fed up with the neverending drama/angst/soap opera-ness of the stories. Pity, really…I would have soooooo much fun with the soapiness of it all *now.* Though I’m not sure it would be appreciated. 😀

          1. I heard about some of the heavy handed rulings. Oddly, most of it pass us by – according to those who’ve been in since the late 80’s we were grandfathered on some stuff.

            Ah, yeah, we got our share of drama/angst/soap opera stuff – some of it is even in the ‘zine. 😉

            1. Well, let’s be honest: the books have MORE than their share of soapy-angsty-drama. It’s one reason I loved ’em so much as a teen, and why–though I struggle a bit now–they are still a bit of a guilty pleasure. 😀

              I do wonder if many of those rules won’t ease up now that she has departed. I’ve not heard much about Todd McCaffrey (other than a mild “really?” when I saw he was co-authoring on the Pern stuff, but I’d long since stopped reading by then), so don’t know if he’ll be as…stringent.

              Had I a bit of spare time and knowhow, I’d offer to help set up a site for your Pern fanfic group. (I’d half-like to join it, in fact.) But my class on building a website doesn’t start for another month or so. 😉 (Although I suppose you could set it up on a blog site like WordPress…?) But if/when I DO get a bit of spare time (a breather between classes, perhaps), I would not be unwilling to discuss the matter with you.

              My brain twin (sometimes seen around these parts as Blond_Engineer) would also likely be interested…

        2. Now that’s a site I haven’t read in *years.* Ye bogs and little fishes, has it really already been twenty-plus? Pern always takes me back to when I was still getting my readers feet under me- that’s some of the first s/f I read!

    3. I still have a soft spot for Pern, though a recent attempt to reread it fell flat. Mostly because I longed to slap half the characters silly…

      Doesn’t change the fact that I want a dragon! (Or, at the very least, a firelizard.)

        1. Peter Morwood’s Book Of Years series has a scene where the Main Character, after meeting a real Dragon, comes across this female story-teller (unnamed) who starts telling the first Pern story and enjoys listening to her story.

          It’s obvious that Morwood enjoyed the Pern series.

      1. I stick to the original books. (I just have to ignore the bad science and inconsistencies.) The later ones drive me to distraction with recycled plots. And the ones that Todd wrote … as far as I am concerned do not exist.

            1. I stopped reading at Nerilka’s Story, because I’d read it before. Sigh. Eh. Might have been valid, but at the time it struck me as a rip off, and I stopped cold.

              1. I like NS just because it gave us a different pov of the events of Mortea. (and that is right about where I started noticing that most of her female characters were almost interchangeable.)

              2. Yeah, Nerilka turned me off because it was just a rehash of Moreta, from a different PoV…and I wasn’t all that fond of Moreta, because depressing.

        1. I gave up on the series after All The Weyrs of Pern I did read a few after, but they were kind of ‘meh’ with a lack of anything of note happening (or something a bit silly, like dropping an asteroid, but not really…?)

          If she’d ever done one where they re-established contact with Earth, I’d have been all OVER that one. But, alas…

            1. All The Weyrs and Dragonseye were actually my two favorites. The later books were decent reads if you hadn’t read any Pern books in a couple years, but otherwise, no, to repetitive.
              I liked Nerilka’s Story fairly decent the first time I read it, but it had been several years since I read Moreta, later in rereading, I tried to read them back to back, and read Nerilka first, big mistake. I actually think Moreta was the better book, but because I read it immediately after finishing Nerilka’s Story, it fell very flat, for me, that time.

      2. I completely took a pass on the Pern books. A girl I went to school with was absolutely in LOVE with them, and would bring them up constantly. In art class, it was drawings, paintings, and sculptures of the dragons of Pern. When we wrote stories, hers were always about Pern. You get the idea. The problem was, if you judged from the way she talked about the Pern books, you would think they were the mushiest of romantic drivel… with some (possibly erotic) dragon riding added in for flavor. As a boy, I was NOT INTERESTED in the least! (and this coming from the boy who had read a few of Mom’s Harlequins over the summer because I had read everything else we had on the farm and was going stir crazy for something to read). I still have no idea what the Pern books are really about, although, I get that there are dragons involved somehow.

        1. The main character in most of the books are women. Not ‘men with boobs’ but real people. Very little cardboard was used in the construction of the other central characters. They are good books. Not ‘girl’ books.

        2. I won’t deny that there is a certain amount of mushy romance stuff. There’s a darned good reason the book-a-minute site has as it’s entry for ALL Anne McCaffrey novels: “Female Lead: I am secretly in love with Male Lead. He must never find out. Male Lead: I am secretly in love with Female Lead. She must never find out. They find out.” 😀

          I rather liked her Tower and Hive series as well, at least up through Damia’s Children. Then she seemed to catch the same form of bestseller-itis I saw in Pern: anything with her name on it sold super-well, and it’s like she stopped putting a lot of effort into it.

          1. I loved and have forgotten about Book-a-Minute, and have now happily reacquainted myself. And it’s even topical! The Handmaid’s Tale: “There is a good speculative fiction story going until the END, which is INANE and LITERARY, because it is ILLEGAL for a work of LITERATURE to have CLOSURE.”

          2. McCaffrey was a great writer, but she SUCKED at writing romance. I suspect her own love life was at least partially at fault, but her view of a successful romance was seriously twisted.

            1. Yeah, when I got older/wiser and reread the original Dragonriders trilogy, my eyebrows went up at the sex stuff. Because NONE of that struck me as healthy at all. Same went for most of the relationships in the Tower & Hive books, at least at the start.

              1. There is an attraction — for the reader — in forced marriage/forced relationship. The same can be said of TLHOD. The idea that love is not completely under one’s control, and sex is not naturally covalent is a very powerful seed. It is powerful because it makes romance almost impossible, though, and thus improves the plot.

                1. I suppose I can see that. I admit to liking a well-done arranged-marriage story (though usually, those are rare as unicorns).

                  1. If you read manga, may I recommend Kaoru Mori’s Young Bride’s Story / Otoyomegatari, which is set in the Silk Road region? (Yeah I know, I keep bringing her up, but I simply LOVE her work!) She’s an admitted history-setting-phille and her initial plot starts with “Twelve year old groom who has already had his coming of age ritual and thus is seen as a man in his native culture, in arranged marriage to 20 year old bride from another tribe.” To her credit, Mori deals with the issues inherent with such a large age disparity, and how the pair fall in love and show that love towards each other without sex is actually freaking adorable.

                    What’s even more wonderful is how each one of the women in the story are very much full-fledged characters; and Mori isn’t afraid to show female, and feminine strength that would have been appropriate to the setting.

                    That and well, OMG GORGEOUS ARTWORK cannot be recommended enough. She hand-draws embroidery on clothes!

              2. Having been an SF/F fan when those were first published, I can assure you that few if any readers had the slightest idea what a healthy sexual relationship was like.

                Heck, few of them knew what an unhealthy sexual relationship was like.

                For most a trip to Mars was more imaginable than was a sexual relationship.

      3. For readability, I find that the Dragonharpers sub-series of books were mroe readable. Menolly and Piemur were easier for me.

        *smile* I’ll cheerfully admit I asked my Dad if I could taste wine, simply because Robinton loved drinking the stuff. My conclusion was it must’ve been a grown-up thing.

        ❤ Fire lizard. Alas, the closest I can get to that is my parrot, Riley.

  8. Literature is verbal artwork and art is very much in the eye of the beholder. Great literature is not produced by following the literary herd to tell a great story you must have a story to tell. My criteria for greatness are elegance of style, plot and characters. Kipling is great because from an evocative description of a slice of time and place his vision resonates down the years.
    Feelings can clutter and obscure a story but passion is what drives the vision. Virtue signaling and obscurantist wording do not literature make.

    1. Kipling is great because from an evocative description of a slice of time and place his vision resonates down the years.

      This was always my criterion for a proper ‘literary’ work, handed down to me by my father. “You read these, to get an idea of what it was like to live then.”

  9. Ah litrachur! I remember my first creative writing class in college. I wrote a story about a Cosmonaut stranded in space to die–hey it was before David Bowie, gimme a break! It wasn’t great, but I was happy with it. Got a B, so I wrote a preposterously cliched allegory about 3 prisoners with names like Newton (who pushed a scientific view), Pope (who pushed a religious view), and an unnamed every-adolescent-who-ever-lived who they pushed their world views on. Got an A. Laughed all the way to the report card bank.

  10. It’s always one of those tough items to peg. It’s not as much an issue with having literary stories as with stories with literary pretentions. I’m very much a fan of transparent prose and not needing to get a thesaurus for a normal story. Jargon or esoteric terms I’m fine with but I catch too many authors that want to show off their vocabulary as opposed to their ability to tell a story and create characters. But on the same, I enjoyed “One Bright Star…” for instance. JCW is verbose and uses high end language but he has a story. The language is not a stand in for story. Same with message. Literary is something that the teacher can force you to write a 5 page essay on how the character sees the color blue and apply it to the teacher’s personal hobby horses.

    1. fancy syle with nasty characters doing nasty things. Or meh characters doing who knows what. Sometimes things will happen but nothing adds up. Stories that are as hard as poetry to decipher and that’s considered a good thing!

      1. They want to make you think and feel…so instead of wrapping the message and idea in story and characters they take a 2×4 and whack you with them.

        1. Yes, well…Among the pretentious, I’ve noted that subtlety is NOT considered a virtue. Unfortunately. :p

            1. A worthy goal. I’ve long been a fan of the “function AND form” ideal. It needs to work, first and foremost–but there’s no reason it can’t also be beautiful.

              1. *nod* That’s part of why I want to get into architecture (among other things): because 99% of the time you get only one or the other… or neither.

                1. Usually neither; especially if designed by an architect. 😉

                  Of course I’m a surveyor, I staked all those ridiculous compound vertical curves you designed. Even more so than engineers, surveyors consider straight lines and square angles beautiful.

    2. Literary is something that the teacher can force you to write a 5 page essay on how the character sees the color blue and apply it to the teacher’s personal hobby horses.

      You know, having finally seen some of that bullshit ‘literary’ crap, I finally understand why David Eddings made one of those pretentious literary idiots a wannabe villain in The Tamuli.

      ‘Ode to Blue.’

      Nuff said.

  11. John C. Wright … could write a story about space lizards and scantily clad barbarian princesses (please, John?) …

    John, you have claimed this is one of your literary ambitions. When may we expect it? Something that would fit one of those gorgeous pulp covers that you have on your website.

  12. Reading Tom Kratman taught me how to read stories and find all the stuff the literary sorts says is really in there.

    Hang out in the Kratskeller, and you eventually get a feel for how Kratman writes. One can get the impression that every detail is there for story, lulz, trolling and a long list of things that were and still mostly are beyond me. He wants to write stories for a broader audience, and include lessons on military matters for those with the foundation to learn.

    I think they aren’t as deeply accessible to people who don’t have decades of knowledge of current affairs.

    1. I always got the feeling that Kratman was working out his frustration with current affairs. I get a kick out them as I largely share the same frustrations, which is why I read them. But they’re not the most profound or original stories. Some of them – Amazon Legion, Caliphate – are genuinely original, but the Carrera series seems like it’s just venting at the fecklessness of the powers that be. (I haven’t read the Bolos as of yet.)

      At the very least he can carry a good story.

      1. I think that’s a fair assessment of the Carrera series at the beginning, but by now I think it’s developing a life of its own beyond “I’m Tom Kratman, and I think Rumsfeld was arrogant, Bush was hopelessly naive, and if Obama’s not a traitor he’s criminally incompetent. Oh, and the UN is run by corrupt pedophiles and rapists.”

        1. The origin of the Carrera books was in the nineties (when Kratman wrote the unpublished Clinton book) or maybe the eighties.

          There was an incident with a roadblock in Panama that could have been very ugly, but wasn’t. Kratman asked himself several questions, which I paraphrase. ‘What if it had been ugly? What if this PoS I know from the Army had been in charge? What if the ones in the vehicle had been the kids and wife (a local) of an Army officer?’ The original ‘Carrera’ had been after revenge on the United States, which is probably part of why the Earthpigs were invented. I remember an intermediate version, set on Earth, and Al Quada, the EU, China, etc… probably would not have fully substituted for everything he had planned with the US.

          Note that any President of America or a cognate who is named after a British General of the American Revolution in a Tom Kratman book is a thinly disguised version of Bill or Hillary Clinton.

      2. There’s this joke he sets up in the early part of ADCP that pays off at the end of Carnifex. It took me a couple readings before I noticed.

        I suspect Kratman would never resist making a story also serve as a textbook for military students covering subjects he is certain are not already well covered.

      3. “(I haven’t read the Bolos as of yet.)”

        Krautman writes Bolo stories? Really? Cool.

        I’m always looking for Bolo stories I haven’t read yet. Titles?

        1. Big Boys Don’t Cry was one, I think – I don’t read much of Tom’s stuff, but I heard that one referred to as a Bolo story.

          Then again, I only read Keith Laumer’s Retief books, so I’m not the best person to be answering this.

          1. The only one, as far as I am aware. But he also is writing a quite good series about mercenaries that is not science fiction.

        2. I was originally a big Darkover fan. Super powers with super problems. Psi vs. Sci. But the sexual proclivities of the characters eventually drove me away. She wove it into the meat of the story quite well but I’m just not into bi teen angst.

        3. Big Boys Don’t Cry technically isn’t a Bolo story, but I think it is an expanded version of a Bolo story he had on his website for a time. He published it with Castalia, not Baen, so had to change the cosmetic features that tied it to the brand. When it was a Bolo story, it worked as a Bolo story.

        4. Combat Unit, 1960
          The Last Command, 1967
          A Relic of War, 1969
          Field Test, 1976

          Accept no imitations.

  13. J.A Jance tells the story of when she called the Creative Writing program at her local university to inquire about a “Author-in-Residence” program. She already had about seven best-selling mysteries out. She was told rather snootily that they didn’t do genre fiction, but only Literary Fiction.
    Bam! She said that was the fastest cure for writer’s block she every encountered. Never piss off an author. The villain in her next mystery was a professor of creative writing.

    1. You know, I find more and more that I am eternally grateful for the only Creative Writing professor I really had. I took his class twice, and he never sneered at genre (even admitted, a little embarrassed–because it was bad, not because it was genre–that his very first novel was a terrible, terrible fantasy novel.) The best thing he did for us was teach us what good plot and characterization were, that hard work was a better pony than talent any day of the week, and that while we could–and should–read whatever we liked, it was worth our time to learn to recognize drek wherever we found it.

      Oh, and he taught–at BYU, no less–that if anyone handed in a piece of writing with a preachy, boring, perfect-Mormon character where there was no place for any such character, they would be flunked. And that angsting over whether or not it was ‘okay’ to write character who did not live to the same standards as their writer was downright silly. (“They are not you, nor should they be. And preaching is boring.”)

        1. I know. Here was a shining example of “devout religious man, possibly politically conservative (I don’t actually know what his politics are/were–they were not relevant to anything to do with writing, heh)” who knew perfectly well that preachy stuff is boring and should be stopped. And, in fact, had rather scathing things to say about the state of LDS literature at the time (and possibly still is now, by and large–I avoid my religion’s fiction-pool for very good reasons, unless they are writers who publish definitely not-‘LDS fiction’)

          1. Do not even get me started on so-called “inspirational” fiction.
            It’s been getting a little better since the early 2000s, but the Christian fiction market is focused primarily on women.
            By which I mean it’s mostly romance novels.
            The few actioners/political intrigue stuff is almost all spectrum-flipped Stephen King.

            1. I wonder if that is why Jan Karon worked so hard to be known as a writer of cozies rather than of Christian fiction.

            2. Mel Odom started off writing near-future police semi-SF (Lethal Interface, Stalker Analog), but almost all of his later output is tie-ins to TV shows, games, or other peoples’ series. He wrote several set in the “Left Behind” universe; the one I read was “Apocalypse Dawn.” Odom did a pretty good job of working within the overt Christian framework. Probably no worse than writing Buffy or NCIS or the other stuff.

              If Odom had chosen to stick with his own stuff he’d probably be a Famous Author. But I’m sure he’s crying all the way to the bank writing those tie-ins.

            3. Oh, I could *rant* about inspirational fiction. As an SFF fan from the time I could read Narnia, I got alllllll the Christian fantasy shoved in my face by concerned relatives. Stephen Lawhead was tolerable till I was 10 or so, but most of the others were utterly horrid. People who just slap a cross on their product, whatever it may be, to sell inferior workmanship infuriate me.

              1. Lawhead’s not too bad, depending on what you read, and he’s gotten less preachy over the years–The King Raven trilogy is excellent, IMHO, and the Bright Empires series, if a little weird, was also very good.
                But yeah, a lot of the Christian fantasy, particularly the YA stuff, I was muttering about even when I first read it.

                1. I liked the first few Wizard books by Christopher Stasheff, but I couldn’t choke the later ones down.

                  There’s a difference between “religion as part of the story” and using a the book for religious virtue-signaling.

                  1. Yeah, the Wizard books did nothing whatsoever for me. The Warlock series, OTOH, featured a telekinetic little girl at about my stage of little-girlness, and I ate them up like candy. (And developed fascinating strategies to smuggle them past my mother, who freaked out at the titles.)

            4. Preachy romance novels, no less…and is there anything less romantic? My mother was (briefly) on a Grace Livingston Hill kick in her college years, and so still had quite a few of the books when I was growing up. When I asked her about them she pointed out two that were decent and of the rest said “They devolve into preaching, and are very boring. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

              My father, on the other hand, LOVES Amish romance novels. But as I said before…his taste in literature is frequently questionable. :p

              1. I believe my mom has (or had, I’m not sure if they made the move, since I didn’t help them pack) the entire Grace Livingston Hill collection. I don’t recall her actually reading them, but for some reason they got stored in my bedroom while I was growing up. I would read most anything, but I don’t recall ever trying more than the blurb on the back of any of them.

                1. Thinking of complete sets. One of mom’s friends had a complete Mark Twain. So I borrowed The Prince and the Pauper having just seen it on The Wonderful World of Disney.
                  Think of my horror the that pages couldn’t be opened. I was informed to take a knife and carefully open up the pages. Who knew that back in the day it was common for people to fill their ‘impress the guests’ library with inexpensive Complete Collections of XXXXXXX. One way to keep them cheap was to let the readers slice the bound pages open. I never did open a Thackery. Did I miss much?

          2. I’m not a fan of Mormon literature either but I did enjoy Heaven Knows Why by Samuel Taylor and Saintspeak by Orson Scott Card. They are both very funny.

            1. I have not actually read those, will have to look them up. I enjoy much of the scholarly/philosophical stuff (Jesus the Christ by Talmadge is *amazing*) but yeah. The fiction is by and large appalling.

              I make an exception for Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites and its sequel Gadiantons and the Silver Sword because they were rollicking good time travel fun with a minimum of preachiness to them (I won’t say *no* preachiness, but it is relatively minor, and nearly always plot-driven, so rather less obnoxious than other examples). (The later ones…well, I didn’t read them, because the author killed off the protagonist’s wife for, I felt, NO GOOD REASON, so I gave them a pass.)

            1. I like some of his stuff–his short fiction in particular, he’s a master at the short-story twist (and some of his short stories are *very* dark!)–but I cannot qualify the majority of his stuff as actually “LDS Fiction.” Yes, he’s LDS, and makes no secret of it…but by and large, the books he writes aren’t anything to do with the religion.

              Except for the occasional swiping of ideas for plots. His Alvin Maker series is the Joseph Smith story with a LOT of fantasy added in (and is, I feel, very, *very* weird…), and his Memory of Earth series is the first book of Nephi told in a scifi setting, heh. But again…not technically LDS fiction.

              I suppose that’s the crux of it: LDS/Christian/ fiction is, at least in my mind, fiction that deals specifically with the given religion and/or members of it, and frequently falls into the ‘heavy handed message fiction’ trap. On the other hand, you can have authors who are of LDS/Christian/ and who do not hide the fact, but the religion itself is not the central part of their stories. Or if it is (I am reminded of Tathea and Come Armageddon by Anne Perry, which to me falls under ‘good LDS fiction’ but only because a.) I already knew the author was LDS, and b.) am familiar with the theology she wove in with the fantasy, but it is not any more preachy, I think, than the Narnia books), it’s not obnoxious preaching. So you could classify Sanderson/Torgerson/Correia/Card as, technically, being “LDS fiction”….but only in the sense that the authors are themselves LDS, but the books stand on their own.

              1. The original Battlestar Galactia is reputedly disguised LDS history; in fact according to a friend who is LDS and in the same ward, Glenn Larson got called on the carpet by the church for revealing LDS secrets therein. I can’t see it, but I’m not LDS.

                1. It does draw on LDS theology, but if the writer was called on the carpet about it, it must have been done by an overly touchy local leader or something. There aren’t any ‘secrets’ therein–just some bits of theology/doctrine here and there that might be considered a bit odd by the mainstream. But as Mormons are *already* considered odd by the mainstream, no big.

                  What I’ve seen of the original series, though, that stuff was worldbuilding window-dressing more than anything else.

              2. Don’t know / don’t care.

                Religion is a powerful factor in some people’s lives. And that follows for characters. I don’t care about the author’s religion at all; I only care about his characters’ religion as it relates to the story.

                The movie “Gran Torino” was one of the most religious movies I ever saw. It wouldn’t have been more Catholic if communion wafers came in the DVD case. It was a straight up parable of faith and redemption. But those things had to be there; that’s who Walt Kowalski *was*, and why he behaved as he did.

              3. Have you read MH: Nemesis? LDS theology is central to Franks’ existence, and therefore to the entire book, but Mr. Correia never spells out that it’s LDS, so the reader has to recognize it for himself. I’d put that series under LDS fiction. I thought it quite well done and not at all preachy.

                  1. Wasn’t aware that it was LDS Theology but I’ve read “stranger” fictional theologies.

                    Note, it didn’t bother me. 😀

                  2. Hmm… I didn’t notice, but then I have to admit to being pretty ignorant when it comes to LDS theology. I wonder if there is a way to get a cliff notes version without having to invite one of the Mormon door-to-door evangelists in and risk getting stuck listening to the whole spiel.

                    Actually, that just gave me the funny mental image of me inviting one in, dumping MHI: Nemesis on his lap, and demanding he explain it! LOL!

                    1. Is a person weird if they like talking to missionaries? I received the equivalent of a college degree in Religion (Okay Judaism that was the only religion offered)

                    2. Imagine Larry C. and a companion arriving (by bicycle) on your doorstep, dressed in white shirts, dark slacks and skinny ties.

                  3. I… didn’t know it was LDS, but it sounded like a variant of Christian beliefs so I did wonder if it was based on the LDS beliefs.

                1. It was quite well done, also why I liked it the least of any of the Monster Hunter books. Not that I haven’t reread it. 🙂

                  1. I couldn’t get into MH:Nemesis. Franks as a POV character made me bounce off the book.

                  2. I bounced the first try, slept on it (I love Correia, why does this make my skin crawl?) and woke up with the realization that of course it was the lifelong aversion conditioning that came from growing up non-LDS in a majority LDS area that was the problem, and after that, the book was great.

                    1. Yep, me to, once I realized WHY it bothered me, I was fine, it didn’t bother me any longer, and I enjoyed the book.

                1. And this is why you always read comments before opening mouth…

                  I will state it seems rather similar to Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ as well.

                  1. Of course, it also explains why the US government doesn’t have more Agent Franks. 😉

          3. If only they would write general fiction the same way. Too often if I simply tell you names or occupations (Trope occupations like detective notwithstanding) or ethnicity of characters you can guess the antagonists and protagonist.

  14. If one takes “literature” to mean “such works as are eagerly read after the passing of their setting”, then WINNIE THE POOH is literature, and THE GRAPES OF WRATH is probably literature, and BECH AT BAY is almost certainly NOT literature (everything the New York Times has to say, not withstanding).

    ALICE IN WONDERLAND is literature. ERIC, OR LITTLE BY LITTLE (which was more of less contemportary, and much esteemed in its day) is tripe. The Sherlock Holmes cannon is literature, and everything else that Conan Doyle wrote (and, gods help me, I have read a bunch of it, or tried to) is a curious footnote.

    What do we remember of post Civil War American writing? Pretty much Mark Twain and BEN HUR. The rest has receeded into the bibliography of obscure PhD. dissertations.

    Where it bloody well belongs.

    1. Oh, I don’t know that that’s entirely true. Think about Bret Harte, Jack London, Stephen Crane, Edward Everett Hale, Henry James, Ambrose Bierce, and Theodore Dreiser, just off the top of my head.

    2. Heck, even Shakespeare was seen by many of his contemporaries as a populist hack catering to the low taste of the vulgar mob.

              1. As an aside, while there have been some quite good noir space opera/sf’nal stories out there, I can’t help but wonder why anyone hasn’t quite managed to translate the classic noir formula to science fiction. I mean, we have our Blade Runners and suchlike, but there’s a quality, a feel to the words…

                “down these mean spaceways a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.

                “He will take no man’s credits dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him.

                “The story is this man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in,”

                To mangle the words of the man himself but slightly.

                Perhaps it’s a bit too niche. *chuckle*

                1. It came as quite a surprise when I listened to Zelazny’s reading of Nine Princes In Amber and discover he read it as a hard-boiled detective story.

                    1. i bought it on CD 6 – 7 years ago, if not longer, at a local branch of Books-A-Million. Produced and read by the author, so I overlooked the the fact it was abridged by the producer.

                      I believe this is a sample of the Zelazny reading, rather than the one offered at Audible, but cannot readily access my copy for comparison.

                    2. This is assuredly it, in its entirety:

                      I see a version of Lord of Light is on Youtube … anybody know how to download a Youtube recording? I would happily pay but it isn’t for sale that I can find.

                    3. … anybody know how to download a Youtube recording?

                      I’ve been quite happy with myself. It’s a command-line program, so you need to at least know how to change your system PATH variable, or at least how to put a program into a folder that’s on your system PATH. (Google can help.)

                      Run “youtube-dl –help” (that’s space, hyphen, hyphen, and the word “help”) and you should get a pretty exhaustive list of options. But for most situations, runnning “youtube-dl (URL)” will Do The Right Thing™.

                      Note that despite the name, it also works for many other video services, like Vimeo or Twitch.

                    4. In the case of the Amber books there, the following invocation downloads the best-quality audio, and leaves the irrelevant video behind:
                      youtube-dl --format 140 youtube url here
                      (Do note that running ten simultaneous downloads seems not to work so well.)

                    5. “I see a version of Lord of Light is on Youtube … anybody know how to download a Youtube recording? I would happily pay but it isn’t for sale that I can find.” – RES

                      Ran out of thread, so I had to TF it… so hopefully this response will show up somewhere at least in the near vicinity of your question.

                      I use Firefox with Ant-video downloader as an add-on. Works nicely for downloading Youtube and other vids.

                      Audacity works well for converting the downloaded *.mp4 (and other video) files to straight audio mp3s as well.

                    6. Sigh. Maximum length: 20 minutes.

                      Lord of Light: 11 hours.

                      The other offered approaches wouldn’t work for me, or at least wouldn’t in the time available for attempting them.

                      Thanks all, all the same.

                    7. Bless you, lassie! Simple and effective.

                      On the even better side, I found a “full” version, one complete with the first ten seconds of the introduction which identify this as an Audible product — one to which they apparently no longer have rights. As I have long been a subscriber to Audible this isn’t even (properly) theft of property. I will still buy it if they ever again offer it.

                      Sadly, it is fighting me about transferring the file onto an MP3 player. Stupid computer.

                    8. Life obviously thinks I am insufficiently frustrated. The PC won’t copy the MP3 file into the MP3 player i employ for Audible books, won’t even admit</I the MP3 player I use for music is bleedin' attached, and when I pulled the mini-SDM card to try loading it into a drive the computer turns out to lack a compatible drive (or I lack a compatible adapter — effectively, same thing.)

                      I may try transferring to the older computer and seeing if that will let me load it.

                      Sheesh. Old Laptop died — d-e-d died* — a month ago and the lovely speedy new one is still requiring getting used to. On the positive side, I can report that Windows 10 is not as bad as Windows 8. Not quite, at any rate.

                      *HD gave up its ghost — I’ve been downloading audio and e books to replace the lost, but some of those bookmarks will never be found again.

                    9. Sandisk players. I first tried importing the MP3 file into Audible’s manager but my (admittedly low) hopes proved in vain. I then attempted to load it directly into my Sansa Clip via Win 10’s file manager, draggying it from the download folder into the Sansa player but got a “You can’t get …

                      Dang!!!!!!! I tried it again, just now, to make sure I had the accurate wording and the !@$#@ thing started copying it just peachy keen.

                      I now feel obliged to go inform Beloved Spouse that I am a monkey’s parent’s sibling.

                      I would insist this thing is just trying to make me look the fool but all here already know I need no help on that.

                    10. *smile* I’m glad it’s working now, and if you want to hear creative swearing, listen to Aff when he has to try find what’s wrong in about 20k odd lines of code or so… to discover it’s just a single, misplaced semicolon. In fairness, he was rather sleep-depped.

                      I’m very glad that the kids adhere to the ‘you’re not a grownup, you don’t get to swear yet because you don’t know when the right time to swear is’ rule we put into place.

            1. Yeah, but they have college courses in Hammett now. Spillane still gets the literatis’ panties in a twist.

      1. Larry Correia pointed out that if Shakespeare were alive today, “We’d all be watching William Shakespeare presents Star Wars vs. The Avengers III: The Jedi Hulkening this summer, and it would be awesome, and the NYT would hate it.”

        1. If you know know Elizabethan lit. that’s exactly what he did! The ILOH is such a pleasure to read. such a keen mind and incisive wit.

        2. *snickers herself into a coughing fit at the title*

          Omg. Can Larry and Jim Butcher collab on that, for shits and giggles? Well, definitely for the evil laughter as they visit that on Harry and Owen…

          (Okay, I admit, I’d love to see Owen Pitt and Harry Dresden in the same story, but having to solve a case visited on them by the Ghost of Shakespeare, would be freaking hilarious imo.)

          1. That would be bloody hilarious. And he’s going to be at LC this year. It is going to be awesome. Great heaping piles of awesome.

            Of course last year was, too. *grin*

    3. And let us not forget Edgar Rice Burroughs, HP Lovecraft, and Robert E Howard. Their stuff–while occasionally a bit giggle-or-wince-dated (I still laugh myself sick over a comment about Mormons in one of the last Tarzan books)–is still insanely fun with great characters.

      (Speaking of: I just saw the trailer for the upcoming Tarzan film. I am…cautiously optimistic, except for the bit where he’s blond but I can live with that if they otherwise do it right)

        1. Right.

          To name just one thing that they never get right, Book Tarzan spoke perfect French (and later, English) as well as numerous other languages. His being able to speak French and read and write English (but not speak it) was an important plot point in the first book.

        2. I *hated* The Legend of Greystoke because they tried to make it “realistic” and it was so very, very dumb and lame and depressing. The Disney version got bits of it right, but undid all their good by making John Clayton a freaking villain (and a lame, stereotyped one at that). There was, if I recall right, a Casper van Dien one in the…late 90s? that actually was a fairly decent translation (except for the fact that he was blond, sigh). I didn’t see the relatively-recent animated version (partly because I was disappointed when I realized it was animated–Disney already did that, dammit).

          1. I would love to see a well done Tarzan that was true to the novel and the character. Or a well done Doc Savage, or John Carter, or Carson of Venus, or The Phantom movie. for that matter. Sadly, those don’t seem to be in the cards.

            (I liked John Carter of Mars, but I seem to be one of the only two dozen people in the U.S. that actually saw it, going by the box office figures. It wasn’t great, but it was good. And fun and entertaining to boot.)

            Guess I’ll have to stick with fanfic. Luckily, one of my in-the-works novel length fics currently on the writing board is a Ghost Who Walks fic. (I find that if I want fic that I’d like to read, I have to write it myself. Grrr.)

            1. I think a Doc Savage series, say on Netflix, could work extremely well. HBO, Netflix, Amazon Streaming, even TBS have shown that excellent programming can be run according to the BBC method (in which a season might be only ten shows) and would allow room for characters to develop, enable more complex plotting and even include the odd cliff-hanger.

              Doc Savage, like Tarzan, is a super-hero of human scale and brings a fine supporting cast. The key is to maintain the proper attitude toward the source material, not playing it embarrassed nor campy. Get the brio that the early Indiana Jones movies brought.

              1. @RES

                Spot on. And that really could work, in the right hands.

                That was the problem with both the Phantom movie and the old Ron Ely Doc Savage, IMO: they went too much for the camp, and lost the flavor.

            2. I must have been one of those two dozen who saw it. And I enjoyed it thoroughly too. I haven’t read the Barsoom books (yet), but baby brother–who had just finished a large chunk of them–informed me that, overall, they did a pretty good job of staying true to the books.

              John Carter’s problem was marketing. They named the movie ‘John Carter’, for one thing (which–in film terms–smacks more of ‘famous person biography’ or something similarly pretentious, not a pulpy scifi adventure), didn’t do any real promotion, and then were shocked when people had no idea what it was and didn’t go to see it.

              1. Exactly. That was also the opinion of a lot of Burroughs reviewers on the movie, (not) oddly enough: lack of promotion and truly crap marketing.

                I *think* that based on what I’ve read about everyone involved with the actual production of that movie, from the scriptwriters on down through producers and directors and Taylor Kitsch being *huge* fans of the Mars novels, that it may have been a case of them just not realizing that, “Well, not everyone knows who John Carter of Mars is and that ‘John Carter’ means Burroughs’ John Carter, Warlord of Mars.” They may have just badly overestimated just how big a fandom they were appealing to, and underestimating how little name recognition Carter has in the general public… assuming it was more like Tarzan, who really is a world wide icon and archetype.

                I believe the articles and interviews I’ve read: that movie clearly was a labor of love, and it looked like everyone tried real hard to make a *good* adaptation.

                Just got killed by a lack or marketing.

                I enjoyed it.

              2. ” baby brother–who had just finished a large chunk of them–informed me that, overall, they did a pretty good job of staying true to the books. ”


                How is your brothers reading comprehension?

                Sorry, I barely made it through the movie, I found it ridiculous, we have Therns (from Mars) chasing John Carter around on earth! Not only is that not canon, but Burroughs, who admittedly was not real sciency, himself pointed out multiple times in the books that someone from Mars gravity, transported to Earth, wouldn’t be able to pick themselves up off the ground.

                Ignoring the ridiculous cartoonish Barsoom animals and people, I thought by watching the movie that the producers had, maybe, been in a room with someone discussing the books, several years ago.

                Of course I almost never like SF movies, I get excited, they sound good, and then I am horribly disappointed when I watch them. I could probably list every one I have liked on one hand, and none of them were based on books I had read.

                If you liked the movie, you really should read the books, they are, in my opinion, Burroughs at his best.

                1. I have. All of them.

                  Even with the canon discrepancies, I enjoyed it. It’s probably a YMMV thing, and some people’s mileage varies more than others. Admittedly, I’ll make allowances for movie adaptations of novels, and I have a high capacity for “turn off brain before watching” on some.

                  My primary criteria for a film is that it entertain me, and the John Carter movie was fun, and it entertained me. Plus, it looked to me like they were at least trying to do a good job, and they were obviously enjoying themselves, which helps.

                  (Unlike the execrable Starship Troopers movie where it was obvious from the get go that the director set out to wreck the novel and do his own “interpretation” according to his idea of what the book was about.)

      1. The iron test of whether a work is significant is “can something in the work be memorable enough that most people can be expected to recognize it?” It doesn’t matter if it’s giggle-or-wince-dated, if people remember the reference, the author did something right.

        It’s something I find fascinating from paying attention to Japanese culture via manga and anime: noting which cultural references are common to both cultures. For example, I catch plenty of Lovecraft Mythos references; some giggle-or-wince inducing in their own right, but the fact that Lovecraft’s monsters were evocative enough that people can be expected to get the references shows how strongly they resonate with audiences.

        It’s one of the reasons I’m so annoyed at talk about specifically appealing to diversity by making sure the characters in a story check off the right boxes. Good stories and evocative story elements have a cross cultural appeal.

        1. Exactly. And I knew plenty of folks who fell under the ‘appropriate diversity boxes’ (in terms of melanin content, particularly) that enjoyed the hell out of Tarzan. They just did what any sensible person did when encountering some of Burroughs’ dated views–they rolled their eyes, chuckled, and got on with the story. No screams about “Racissssss!”, because they were sensible people.

          Honestly, my biggest single complaint with the Tarzan books was the fact that in that middle stretch of books the plots were very, *very* repetitive.

          1. You mean, two lost cities always at war, evil queen, capture, escape, recapture, arena fight, Tarzan kills a lion, supporting male character finds love of his life?

            Yeah, ERB did go to that well a few too many times.

            1. I think he followed the advice, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” a bit too religiously. And apparently nobody told him, “If it ain’t broke yet, use it enough and it’ll wear out.”

            2. And let us not forget the bit where Evil Queen/Priestess/Whatever falls madly in love with Tarzan, but he of course stays true to Jane. Burroughs was also remarkably fond of the ‘lost civilization where the men have devolved into beast-like things but of course the women are all stunningly gorgeous’ which I always suspected was his version of the scifi ‘planet of women’ trope…

              But yes, people still bought them. And I still love them myself, even if I do skip a big chunk out of the middle, heh.

              1. “Burroughs was also remarkably fond of the ‘lost civilization where the men have devolved into beast-like things but of course the women are all stunningly gorgeous’ ”

                Personally, I think he was aiming for a movie deal, with that trope. I mean any movie with Tarzan beating the snot out of a bunch of beastmen, and a bunch of Baywatch babes running around in chainmail bikinis out to be an instant hit. 🙂

  15. And now, I go unpack and talk to the very confused-looking comcast rep.
    You’d be confused too if you’d been packed in a cardboard box labeled “bathroom” 😀 But that is a very effective way of making sure they show up when they are supposed to …

  16. I hesitate to write this (and then plunge right in anyway – you guys can take it): ‘literary quality’ is something to aspire to in writing, AS LONG AS it does not interfere with PLOT, CHARACTERIZATION, or even lowly THEME (which should be snuck in quietly so no one notices – people hate being preached to). It is just using the language with care. ‘Literary’ is fine if attached to such work (in any genre, even mine – mainstream), and absolutely not if it refers to something where the language is primary, and there is no plot to speak of, or the characters are made up of cliches with angst). So I write ‘literary,’ but aim for it on the quality side.

    A lot of writing would be a lot better without phrases such as, ‘she kept her eyes on the table.’ Sol Stein (who counsels all kinds of writers, literary and otherwise) wanted to know if they were in a box. Use the simplest word that will do the trick (but make SURE it does the trick), and move along – keep things rolling – and if you must indulge occasionally in using (obscure) perfect words instead of good-enough words, make sure they are clear in context so people don’t go chasing dictionaries very often. That is how the younger readers develop their vocabulary – by coming across words IN CONTEXT.

    1. The one thing I have, however is that quality should stand alone. Quality does not necessarily require the verbose terms and descriptions and most of the examples seen today of ‘Literary’ are more in the idea of pretentious literary techniques. It’s a cargo cult where many think since they have a message to the story (Especially one that is antagonistic to greater society), difficult verbiage and flowery definitions they are by definition literary.

    2. That is my problem with ‘age appropriate’ books. Minds need to be stretched, not coddled. And by stretched I mean expanded, not pressed into a pre-made form.

      1. Sometimes you wonder what constitutes “age appropriate” I remember reading a book from the YA section when I was 13 that included rape, murder, incest, and pedophilia. But the characters were teens so it was in young adults. I know for certain i didn’t need to be reading it at 13. Or at 44, for that matter.

        1. I cannot reconcile the obscenity court cases of the ’60s with current American culture. Hopefully, in the 2060s, people will look back on the current times as one of the nadirs of American culture.

          1. This was early 80s, probably written in ’82 or so. Can’t really blame it on ‘modern’ culture, but you can blame the 70s. My, but they did suck. Modern morals are relatively prudish in comparison.

            I do remember the plot – a bunch of kids playing D&D get dragged into the game. All well and good until one is raped, one is killed, etc. and they realize their ‘game’ is a Hobbesian bit of nastiness.

            1. If that was Joel Rosenberg’s “Guardians of the Flame” series, the characters were college students, not teenagers, so I defaulted to assuming they were at least eighteen or nineteen.

              1. That looks right. It would have been the first book. For some reason I thought they were about 15-16, but it was three decades ago. Creepy book for a thirteen year old to be reading. The bit where one of the female characters discusses her parents’ adultery and their belief in “sex before eight or it’s too late” completely floored me. Why was that in the YA section?

                1. Because MZB was only the tip of the iceberg?

                  Yeah, I went there…the “before their eight or it’s too late” is a bit much.

                  1. that’s child abuse. It’s only one step down from slicing children up. It’s a sign of a sick, twisted and depraved mind. Betrayal of trust that immense and that young is completely corrosive to a developing mind/soul/psyche.

                  2. I was originally a big Darkover fan. Super powers with super problems. Psi vs. Sci. But the sexual proclivities of the characters eventually drove me away. She wove it into the meat of the story quite well but I’m just not into bi teen angst.

                2. Maybe I’m wrong about which series this was; it’s been at least a couple of decades, but I honestly don’t ever remember anything in the first book (The Sleeping Dragon) that was anything like that. Do you remember which character this was?

                  1. I wiki’d it. That’s the series. I don’t remember which one had the creeper parents. Doria was the one raped, goes catatonic. At that point in my life I wasn’t aware that rape existed.

                    I didn’t get to MZB for another couple of years when I read Avalon. Still weirded out by that one. Let’s just say the allegations didn’t surprise me.

                    For that matter, the latter Heinlein put me off. Friday with ‘lay back and enjoy it’? My gut reaction to rape is a red rage. Farnham’s Freehold was the last Heinlein I managed to read. I’ll just go back and re-read Troopers a few dozen more times, thank you.

                    1. Killing them in the beginning rather than the end would have been preferable. Again – red, blinding rage. I fall heavily into the sheepdog end of the sheepdog/wolf spectrum. Heinlein’s blase approach really rubbed me the wrong way. Not just toward the penultimate violation, but toward sex in general.

                      For instance, with Job, I found the mockery of my religious beliefs amusing, could relate to the protagonist (I was a dishwasher at the time) and absolutely loathed the ending. It wrecked the bond I’d built up with his characters, made me dislike them intensely. It was finding out my best friend boiled kittens for entertainment.

                    2. Mists of Avalon was the first MZB I attempted…and it put me off all her other stuff. After the whole story came out, I was not at all sorry.

                      (Although I do still have, somewhere, one of the Warrior Women anthologies she edited that I quite enjoyed. But, well, anthology.)

                    3. You’re making me want to go back and check, if I could find The Sleeping Dragon. I remember how Doria became catatonic, but the other woman struck me as stronger because she refused to break. I wonder if it was Doria who had the issues in her past, because looking at the TVTropes page, there’s mention of her seeing herself as defiled forever, from a teenage sexual trauma.

                      The guy who was trapped in the wheelchair until he became his dwarf character was the one I liked the most. Ahira. He and Ellegon were the main reasons why I wanted to keep reading the series (but I couldn’t find any more books, so I couldn’t.)

                  2. You know, I’m fairly certain I read The Sleeping Dragon in…middle school? But I sure don’t remember the rape/sex stuff. Though it’s entirely possible I skimmed any mention of it, not being interested in anything to do with sex at that point in my life.

                    But it’s possible I read another book where college kids get sucked into their D&D game…though I doubt it, heh. And the wheelchair-bound character sounds vaguely familiar…

                    1. @Sara the Red –

                      *nod* As Shadow and I’ve been discussing, I don’t remember the underage sex thing at all, and I read (devoured) those pretty thoroughly way back when. As someone else mentioned, I can’t even picture Joel Rosenberg having a character say that, or having it in a scene that wasn’t a reference of something a bad guy did off screen. (And I’ve spoken with Rosenberg and exchanged a couple of emails with him before his passing – it’s just not congruent with my read of the man.)

                      The rape scenes I do remember, although the actual rapes took place somewhat off stage. They were integral to the plot, not gratuitous, and they set the stage for a lot of the later developments in the first novel and in the later ones.

                      *shrug* What can I say? The world that Rosenberg dropped the characters into was not a nice place, and one can expect a lot of unpretty things to happen there. Rosenberg didn’t romanticize the middle ages or the fantasy world equivalent at all, and it showed.

                    2. @snelson134–No, it definitely wasn’t Quag Keep, I had that one on my bookshelves at home. 🙂

                      I think it may have been an omnibus version of the Guardians of the Flame series–I looked it up on Amazon, and the first omnibus’s cover looks very familiar. And I remember there being an ‘evil’ professor–so it’s got to be the Guardians of the Flame series. Also might explain why I found the end of it frustrating–there were actually two more books after that.

                      I have it wishlisted now. Hooray for this discussion! It was one of those “I remember enjoying this book in middle school/high school but I cannot for the life of me remember anything but the plot…”

                      I’ve found two beloved childhood books from that starting point, but it took me years. I hadn’t even wanted to try on this one, because the plot is…well, let’s face it, it’s not exactly an uncommon plot. (Especially in very, very bad fanfic…)

                3. Because the librarian hadn’t read it. Look, I tell this story everywhere, so you’ve probably all heard it before, but in rural Wyoming, category towns under 2000, I found Laurel K. Hamilton’s Meridith Gentry books shelved under YA. Took them to the librarian, who hadn’t yet gotten to know me and told her these books are not YA. Got the “Well, teens read all sorts of things . . . ” lecture. Told the librarian to read them herself. They got re-shelved in adult. (I’m pretty sure from reading LKH’s blog that she would’ve disapproved of them being shelved YA–I liked the first several Anita Blakes, but her writing diverged from my tastes after that. Took me a while to stop trying though.)

                  1. A lot of guys liked the first several Anita Blakes, too. Mostly the same guys who read Larry Correia now. Heck, she even snagged Massad Ayoob to consult with. That’s like getting Bill Gates to help you with computer stuff.

                    Then she diverged into bad romance/BDSM. I guess that was a much larger market. But I remember being at the range one day, with half a dozen guys and enough firearms to stage a revolution, and we’re debating why Anita doesn’t just shoot Whiny Richard in the face…

                    1. Heh. I’d rather shoot Anita. I liked most of the boys before she turned them into the Interchangeable Hair Parade.

                      There are certain things in SF that I refuse to acknowledge the existence of: “Buffy” after season 5, “Matrix” OR “Highlander” sequels, and all Anita Blake books after “Blue Moon”, which was a tolerable end to the series.

                    2. I personally end the series mentally at Obsidian Blade – I think of that as one of those wonderful books where the author realizes the character is getting too-powerful, too-monster-of-the-week, too-soap-opera, and solves it by pulling them somewhere else and taking almost all that away, leaving only the character we originally liked being themselves.

                      A couple years ago, a friend offered the then-latest in the series, with the hopeful review of “It almost has a plot again!” …yeah, it ended at Obsidian Butterfly.

                    3. I could also see Obsidian Butterfly as a good series end. At the time, I figured it was just LKH being a good businesswoman and testing out her audience: “Okay, is it the violence they’re here for, or the sex?” Now I think it was the last gasp of Good Writer before the neuroses took over.

                4. I originally got that from a secondhand bookshop, because back then it was one of the few places where I could get fantasy or sci-fi books…

                  I vaguely remember the sex before eight thing, but I think my brain smudged it to ‘sex education’. I could be horribly wrong; it’s been a few decades since I read that book.

                  1. I don’t remember the ‘sex before eight’ thing at all, and I’ve reread that series a lot. But like you, it’s been a few decades since the last time I read them. I haven’t recently reread any of them except for the two Slovotsky books and the “Not Quite the… ” trilogy.

                    (Walter was my favorite character, hands down.)

                    1. “I’m happy to be mis-remembering that / be wrong on that score. I mean, my brain might be smudging it with Doria’s trauma being sex-related when she was younger.” – Shadowdancer

                      Ahhh… as I recall – and do keep in mind I don’t have any copies of the books here to look at and check – the trauma came from the fact that Doria Perlstein got pregnant from her very first experience at sex at a young age, had an abortion that went bad and left her sterile (hastily and quietly paid for by the idiot who screwed her and got her preggers, whom it was heavily implied that Walter beat the crap out of… ) and nearly died from the experience because she couldn’t tell her parent, who were of the adamant “Good Jewish girls don’t do that sort of thing,” persuasion.

                      Slovotsky’s and Karl’s discussion early in Book I when Slovotsky was trying to make a point to Karl about passing uninformed judgements about people after Karl made a crude crack about Doria being a slut, while Slovotsky was clearly trying to keep his temper and not slip a knife into Karl’s stupid *ss. (Doria being Walter’s long time best friend and sometimes friend with benefits, and Walter genuinely liking women as a species.) The plot point came up again in future books, along with the character trauma and dealing with it.

                      The only ‘sex before 8’ mention I can remember came up in regards to some slavers raping and killing a little girl in one of the later books, along with Walter’s observation that sometimes, you can’t do anything about something that sucks, no matter how much it sucks – until later.

                      Slovotsky and his companions shortly after killed the slavers involved and rescued the little girl who turned out to be Aiea (?), Karl and Andrea’s adopted after the rescue daughter and Walter’s much much later lover.

                      So there! ;]p~

                    2. Heck, maybe I’m the one who’s misremembering it. Don’t think so, but it may have been another book I read at the same time.

                      Whichever, there was mention of the same character’s father sleeping with the neighbor, Mrs. Fish, because, “Man cannot live on steak alone.” Adultery was an alien concept to me at thirteen, too. All of it wedged itself firmly in the Holy Crap, Batman! section of the brain.

              2. And they’re not YA but adult. Not all decisionsxabout what should be shelved where are a win.

                That said, to be fair to my colleagues “Juvenile” is ~ age 7 – 13 whilst YA (teen) is 13 – 18.

                We do the best we can.

        2. “Age appropriate” should be that which a person of a certain age can be expected to understand. For example, I doubt many 9-year-olds can appreciate sexual desire. Murder mysteries will tend to require a certain minimum grasp of the palate of human emotion, as another example.

      2. Also the problem with “someone who looks like me so I have someone to identify with” characters. When I was a kid, I wanted to read about *anyone* else. I was here and now and very boring and the last thing I wanted to read about; rather, I wanted to read about Pacific Islanders and ancient Egyptians and Martians or just about anyone from long ago and far away.

      3. I’ve a cousin who reads avidly and has it in for librarians ever since one decided bunnies meant kiddie and filed Watership Down in the kids’ section.

        1. I rather approve of Watership Down for kiddies, in the “stealth training in how to think” department.

          The BOOK. Not the movie. Nope.

            1. Yeah, I spent a bit of time hiding behind the sofa when my parents rented the movie in the first heady days of Blockbuster. 😀 On the other hand, Strawberry’s warren kept me from drinking a whoooooole lot of Kool-Aid over the years.

    3. Pfui. The phrases are customary and part of the vernacular and that’s nonsense. Seriously. Shasha Miller objected to this stuff, and it’s a particular insanity. You use the language as is, not the language you wish existed. Again I say PFUI.
      But what you’re saying by “literary quality” is not what makes a book “literary genre” though Sol Stein and other masters of the minimalism do tally with pervasive disciples of minimalism in publishing houses (To literature’s detriment. Hemingway was Hemingway. We don’t need more of him. If your writing needs adjectives and adverbs, use them shamelessly. J. K. Rowling did, and it didn’t hurt her sales.)
      What you’re talking about is “improving written expression” to standards you think are universally good (Hint: there are no universally good standards.) Literary is what I mentioned “A little hard to get into. A little difficult to struggle through. Language above normal vernacular.” Now, YOU might want to read that everyday, but most people don’t.

      1. It’s not the words I mind. It’s the style. The very obvious ‘Look at me! Aren’t sentences pretty!’ tone to it. I prefer transparent style. The kind that doesn’t show unless you dissect it.

      2. Nope. No universal standards, and no gatekeepers to set them.

        But ‘vernacular’ isn’t universal, either. And I don’t want to struggle when I read; at the end of ‘Seize the Day,’ I wanted to throw the book AND Bellow against a wall. But I don’t want vocabulary dumbed down to the lowest common denominator, either.

        1. I once had a sizeable business arrangement collapse over a bit of vernacular. After a long period of negotiation, the other party abruptly ended the conversation with “deal with it.”

          Apparently in his part of the country, that was a trendy way to say “that’s cool, let’s do that.” Where I’m from, it translates to “No, and I’m never going to change my mind, so piss off.” And it has had that meaning since before his part of the country was even a state.

          1. “Where I’m from, it translates to ‘No, and I’m never going to change my mind, so piss off.'” – TRX

            Texas? Yeah, that’s what it translates to in the neck of the woods I’m from too.

            The vernacular isn’t the same everywhere.

            I’m minded of a line from a Star Trek novel I once read, I think it was Kagan’s, to the effect that, “There is no ‘of course’ when it comes to culture.” Same goes for vernacular as well, I think.

              1. Thanks. 🙂

                I was pretty sure it was Janet’s novel, but couldn’t be arsed to get my copy out to look. One of my favorites as well – I reread my first copy so much I wore it out and had to buy a replacement.

          2. Weird. Your meaning is the only one I know and I’ve lived ALL OVER the d*mn country, not to mention had friends all over. You sure someone didn’t lie to you?

            1. I dunno. Later I encountered several other people from his area (San Francisco/San Jose) that used it that way; it wasn’t until one of them used it where it made no sense that I questioned it.

          3. Assumptions, assumptions.

            The kids’ chemistry teacher used to quote: “Don’t assume. It makes an ass out of ‘u’ and ‘me.'”

            Assumption, followed by a quick flash of assumption = business deal gone bad. No wonder humans only want to deal with members of their own tribe. Everybody else talks funny.

        2. No, I understand that. And some of the “use phrases” are difficult for multilingual or ESL readers, of which there are more than it seems. OTOH it is still very commonly used. And stuff like that ends up going after “raised her eyes” which is universally and immediately understood (this was what Sasha Miller would go after in critiques and it drove me nuts. Sure you can say “lifted her gaze” but raised her eyes exists in every language I speak, and no one thinks you need a wrench to do that.

          1. ‘She looked at him.’

            In Spanish it would be ‘levantó los ojos’ vs. ‘levantó la mirada’ – I’d use the second a bit more than the first.

            If I see ‘invite’ (a verb) once more instead of ‘invitation’ I’m going to strangle someone. But language changes and the children always mangle it.

            Sigh. I’m getting old.

            And it’s not one occurrence of raising your eyes instead of your gaze – it’s using every possible neologism in the same piece of work. It alienates some of the audience. So I guess you have to decide whether to sound hip or a bit stodgy, depending on what audience you’re aiming for. One audience will crucify you for certain things, the other will find you a bit too ‘literary’ for their taste and not read you.

            I like that I get to write what I think is best – and hope to find other people who like what I write.

            1. Yes, I know. And people who are ESL — me — have more trouble with it. Some books I can only “read” by listening to. In listening it sounds right. That doesn’t make them non-literary and in fact many are advertised as such.
              But I’m going with medieval poetry (I have a book of Portuguese medieval poetry because so much of it begs for an sf/f explanation!) and “levantou ela os olhos” or even “Deixou cair os olhos” are all over, so going to war against these very NON neologisms made Sol Stein through Sasha Miller (his disciple) diminished in my eyes. That is more trying to impose a style on other people and in case this isn’t obvious, that p*sses me off.

            2. ” So I guess you have to decide whether to sound hip or a bit stodgy, depending on what audience you’re aiming for. One audience will crucify you for certain things, the other will find you a bit too ‘literary’ for their taste and not read you.

              I like that I get to write what I think is best – and hope to find other people who like what I write.” – Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

              I don’t usually work in “3rd Person Omniscient” – I always pick a main POV character, or at most a couple-three POV characters to switch between. I generally find that I do best when I have a distinct character personality and “voice” in my head for the character, and I write the perspective in that mental “voice.”

              So the internal dialogue for, say, my little no-nonsense Chief Warrant Officer, who is from South Texas and her drawl increases as she gets pissed off, comes out in a mild Texican even in her mental POV, and in Texican phrasing and slang. It’s authentic to the character, and to hell with the critics.

              Of course, I don’t write for the literati, either: I write for people who like rollicking hang on your seat action and adventure with a supernatural flavoring. My readers seem to enjoy it, and that’s all that matters to me.

              1. Sooo, why haven’t I gotten a link to one (or more) of your books to put in the promo post? *raises one eyebrow*

                1. *reaches out and carefully lowers eyebrow with a claw*

                  Because I don’t have anything original for publication, just yet?

                  I do fan fiction, to date. (Actually, have been doing fanfic since I started way back in the mid eighties with Trek fic.) I have ah… at least five long novel length works posted at TTH and FFnet, plus a bunch of shorts. But nothing original.

                  I’ve gotten pretty good at it over the years. Good enough and polished enough, I think, that I’m now branching out into starting to do original stuff for (hopefully) future publication, but the two novels I’m working on aren’t ready for release yet. Or escape, which is more likely what’ll happen with them. One Cape Punk, and one Urban Fantasy, and another not quite yet started that I’ve been discussing with Sarah and a couple of others farther down that is entering the research stage…

                  So… when I get one ready to hit Amazon, you’ll get a link?

                  (If you want a link to my fics, I’ll do that too, our hostess willing. I just don’t tend to self promote my fics unless I know that they’re welcome and that someone might be interested.)

                  1. TTH? What fandoms do you write in? I like well written fanfic. I want to thwap writers who post first drafts that haven’t been spell checked or beta read at all.

                    1. “TTH? What fandoms do you write in? I like well written fanfic.” – emily61

                      Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel the Series, predominately. I also do Trek fic (Voyager these days), and I have a Jurassic World, but those aren’t finished and beta’d yet so they’re not posted.

                      My usernick at TTH is Ironbear, one word, and the same at FFNet, so I’m real easy to find on the author dropdown list.

                      (I’m a horribly staid and boring person. I’ve used the same usernick almost everywhere since around 1997. It makes me real easy to track online. :))

                      My three big ones are:

                      “Rio Blanco at the Mouth of Hell”, which is a BtVS/Rio Blanco westerns crossover. (Works better than you might think.)

                      “The Hell-er-Nator” series, which is a BtVS Terminator mega fic, and not 100% done yet…

                      And “And Another Thing I Hate About You… ” which is sort of an action adventure romance.

                      I also have a… Porn With Too Much Plot series running there that’s not a crossover. 🙂

                      “I want to thwap writers who post first drafts that haven’t been spell checked or beta read at all.” – emily61

                      *snicker* Don’t thwap me. I have at least two betas and a proofreader per fic, and I do my own proofreading and a polishing run before I turn the rough draft over to them to edit and turn into a red penciled copy for first draft.

                      But stuff STILL manages to slip past us at times. I correct on the fly as people call things we missed out to me.

                      I tend to annoy people – mostly other fanfic writers – by not releasing fics into the wild until they’re finished, proofed, beta’d, and it as final a draft as I’m going to get them. For some reason, some fic writers seem to take that as a personal affront, like I’m intentionally making them look bad for posting rough draft and unproofed fics a chapter at a time as they toss ’em off.

                    2. Twisting the Hellmouth.

                      It’s a Buffy crossover fanfic site. It seems both Ironbear and I post there. My username there, imaginatively enough, is “matthew” (yeah, I was an early enough entrant to the site that I could just use my name)

                    3. “what does TTH stand for?” – emily61

                      Ah. Sorry, doh! Since you’d used the acronym, I’d figured you were familiar with the site. That’s what I get for assuming.

                      Twisting the Hellmouth. – Buffy the Vampire Slayer crossover fiction site. And FFnet is short for Fanfiction dot net.



                      if the link will go through without WordPress eating it or throwing it into moderation, that’ll take you to my author’s page. You can browse through my stuff at will from there, if you’d like.

                    4. I know what means. I do the majority of my fanfic reading at AO3. Unfortunately BtVS and AtS are not two of my fandoms.

                    5. “It seems both Ironbear and I post there. My username there, imaginatively enough, is “matthew” (yeah, I was an early enough entrant to the site that I could just use my name)” – Matthew

                      You were early, then. I showed up in roughly 2006-2007, doing mostly Faith fics initially.

                      *shrug* While I don’t really hide my real name, and both my current email addies are variations of it, I’m so used to using a ‘net handle that it never even occurs to me to sign in somewhere as other than “Ironbear” these days, if I can manage.

                      The only things I used to use a different pseudonym for after around 1997 were my outright porn/erotica writing for various paysites off and on, post 2002 or so. And I haven’t done that in years.

                    6. @emily61

                      AO3? Oh, cool. What fandoms do you mostly read?

                      I’m kind of omnivorous. The only fandoms I don’t read are anime. anything else, if I’m even remotely familiar with it and like it, I’ll take a shot at a story to see if it clicks for me.

                    7. Forever Knight, The Sentinel, Pros, Highlander, — used to read those. btw you must read leslie fish’s HL fanfic. she has the most amazing one about Methos remembering his first life. Librarians, Green Lantern, totally a Hal Jordan girl. Hal/Sinestro, Hal/Barry Allen, Hal/Bruce Wayne. Flash, That’s all I can think of right now. Have you read DS9? There is some great Dukhat fic. B5 Sinclair/Garibaldi is really good. Em Brunson wrote some great stuff but I think her page has gone away. I’ve been reading fic since ’95.

                    8. Coolness. You have a slightly broader range than I do, but not by much.

                      If you count ‘Zines in the old days, I started reading fanfic back around 1984 or so. Online… I got back into it with Buffy fic around oh… 1999 or 2000? And then branched out from there.

                      Reading… lots of Trek fic, still, but mostly Voyager, except where Voyager crosses with the other Treks, then I’m omnivorous. Original Series Trek when I can find any that’s not slash.

                      I’m mostly a Kim/7 and Paris/Torres shipper.

                      Marvel: Spider-man, and some Avengers and X-Men fic. DC… not much.

                      Buffy/Angel… depends, because in mu opinion, the majority of the good writers have dropped out these days, and what’s left runs dubious to crapola. I like Xander/Faith and Xander/Cordy fics, and they’re getting rare. (I may be one of the few X/C shippers left writing.)

                      Sentinel and Highlander when I can find good fics. And yeah, Leslie’s stuff was great. 🙂

                      X-Files, when I can find good stuff. (There’s an X-files/Voyager crossover series that was… interesting.)

                      I started getting into Jurassic World after the movie came out. There’s some decent stuff over at Archive of Our Own.

                      I don’t read *much* DS9, but I do read some.

                    9. “I read mostly slash..” – emily61

                      I don’t, and it’s a lot less “ooh, m/m or f/f icky” like a lot of people seem to assume than it is that I really dislike the massive amount of out of character contortions that so many slash writers go to to make their pairings work, and the contrivances.

                      I personally really prefer to work with pairings that work within the context of the characters and the shows involved, and/or that make sense given the character’s personalities.

                      I can enjoy some fem-slash, on occasion, as long as the characterization isn’t too badly warped in trying to make it work.

                    10. um… it’s not just that. Slash writers fall into a worse trap than fan writers. (Ask me how I know. No, don’t. I’m not about to reveal. I was very, very young, and it was long ago) If you have some reason to be interested, and put it in (as in “does it for you”) you won’t notice lack of plot or tension. Now, if you’re a reader, that also helps disguise ditto.

                    11. I can deal with a certain amount of character warping if the story hangs together and pulls me in. I also can enjoy crack pairings. I can’t do any of this if the story ejects with bad writing. There are days etc when I don’t read fanfic because of its poor quality. There are other days when if the basic workmanlike quality is there and I’m pulled in. If the characters are OOC then they have to be well developed for me to enjoy them. Tab A into slot B is truly boring. Also I like good gen. I don’t see much gen. This probably because of where I read my fic. A lot of archives have gone away in the past 10 years. The current generation of fic is on tumblr. Some fic writers are SJW’s in that they are so PC that any other way of thought is invisible to them, and if you say something beyond the their scope they’ll turn on you. I handle by either sticking to non political topics or staying far far away from them. They will sometimes have their characters talk in (approving) from stuff they’re learning/teaching. This will cause me to twitch and seek out some other author.

                      Sorry about the tl;dr.

                    12. Not ship-focused. Mainly. The definition is, you will be unsurprised to learn, somewhat disputed.

                    13. @accordingtohoyt

                      No, it’s not just that, of course.

                      But that’s what it is for me. It doesn’t trip my trigger (although I freely admit that I’m as turned on by well done femslash as any other red blooded het male), so I’m unwilling to overlook the contortions and OoCness that it takes to make it work. And even less willing to overlook the contortions in the “Well, everyone is now gay” fic worlds.

                      Although I’m also pretty hard on het fic pairings, if I don’t think they work, too. Don’t get me started on Spuffy or Spike/anyone pairings. Yeesh.

                      (I don’t care if he does have a soul. Killing a vamp is varmint control, not murder. Okay, I’ll stop now. :))

                    14. @emily61

                      *grin* You’ve seen some of my posts, right? You never have to apologize for tl;dr to me. 🙂

                      Huh. Explains a lot. I’m not on tumbler and won’t be, so I’ll probably never see a lot of the current generation of fics and fic writers.

                      “Some fic writers are SJW’s in that they are so PC that any other way of thought is invisible to them, and if you say something beyond the their scope they’ll turn on you. I handle by either sticking to non political topics or staying far far away from them. “

                      *nod* I don’t do any fanfic forums because of that these days.

                      Twisting the Hellmouth has a niceynice code of conduct TOS these days, and there’s a major crybully type SJW there that’s pretty well taken over the forums. I’ve had a couple of run ins with her where she got crossways of me, and after that, I just avoid the forums and leave them all to their own devices.

                      I go there and post fic at the main site, and engage in discussions with my reviewers, and that’s about it.

                    15. @accordingtohoyt

                      Gen = “General Fiction”: fic that isn’t relationship or pairing centric per se, but instead focuses on general story and plot, usually with ensemble characters. Romance, if any, is secondary in Gen-fic, and is usually (but not always) canon pairings.

                      Action-adventure, horror, supernatural-adventure or supernatural-horror, comedy, etc are usually Gen-fics.

                      (Stress on usually because as always, YMMV and there’s some oddball fics that don’t fit but are still Gen more than they are anything else.)

                1. *nod* It also works in that, as opposed to 3rd Person Omniscient, the audience can only see, hear, and know what the POV characters can know and see, so you can better keep a mystery or plot obfuscation going.

                  “Your character sounds like a good one to follow.” – Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

                  Chief Warrant Officer Michaela Reeves (currently Brevet Captain Michaela Reeves) is an interesting and fun character, albeit just a bit bloody minded and abrupt when pushed too far. She’s also an O.C., not a canon character or a Captain Ersatz of anyone, so she and the rest of her outfit are appearing as side characters in the Urban Fantasy I’m working on for publication.

                  She’s a South Texan, “ambiguously Amerasian” as she describes herself, born and raised on the King Ranch, who went into the military at a young age and worked her way up, and is just about as hard boiled, tough, lethal, multi-talented, and no nonsense as I thought I could get away with making a female character and not shatter reader’s suspensions of disbelief.

                  And even then I had to scale back a bit: I’ve known women like Michaela, and the real life versions would shatter a lot of people’s illusions about “the delicate sex”. 🙂 Not here, of course, but in the places where I post, definitely.

                  1. I like that the reader knows more than the characters. And gets to see how distorted the same story can be depending on which character’s pov it comes from. All that is part of the story – as it is of life.

                    1. That can be. And yeah, varying POVs gives you a chance to show the events from different sides and different perspectives.

                      On the other hand: it depends on the genre. In a mystery, f’r’instance, you don’t want to show too much, because a lot of the fun for the audience is to try and solve the puzzle before the characters do from the same clues the author is giving the characters. I’m told that some readers will feel cheated if they’re handed the solution and then have to watch the characters puzzle it out. (And then there’s those who flip to the end immediately to see who dun it, so there ya go. No pleasing some people.)

                    2. No pleasing everyone with the same story!

                      I had a huge problem deciding whether to keep the prologue to Pride’s Children: 50-100 people read it on Wattpad, and half the people said keep it, the other half to dump it.

                      It is of the give the end away, sort of, partly variety – but since the problem the main character has appears to be unsolvable, the fun is seeing how something so improbable can be made to happen.

                      I kept it. Time will tell. I like it.

                      But that’s one powerful piece of writing of only 145 words, to cause such a split.

                    3. Multi-POV is good for that. In fact, I don’t think it’s wise to use the point of view unless you need to reveal something to the reader that a single POV character would not know.

                      On the other hand, there’s the trade-off of less focus and less identification with the character. Which is why Madeleine and the Mists is single 3rd person, and A Diabolical Bargain is multi 3rd person.

                    4. “I kept it. Time will tell. I like it.” – Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

                      “Because I like it,” or “Because it works for me,” I think is one of the best reasons to keep something.

                      I’ve found that if something really resonates hard for me in doing it a certain way, and that no other way of accomplishing it clicks quite the same way or creates the same effect as elegantly or satisfyingly, then it’s worth keeping even if I have to fight my betas and proofreader for it. That’s usually my instincts trying to tell me something, and my instincts are usually pretty good.

                      (But when my instincts are off, they’re waaaaayyyyy off. *snicker*)

                    5. If I can’t trust my instincts by now, I’m hopeless.

                      It saves a LOT of time if you only let beta readers tell you where you were CONFUSING.

                      All other comments gratefully accepted, and probably read (or they wouldn’t be my beta readers). But none of them have the slightest urge to write a book (this year), and it isn’t going to be mine.

                      Even other writers, if they ask, get my reasons – but rarely a change. If they only knew how much I sweated those decisions!

                      It has been interesting, watching myself settle into that position.

                      As any reasonable writer (like you), I wonder whether the instincts are way off. Then I go through the reasoning process that let to the choices all over again – looking for places I’m wrong. Is it arrogant to say I usually end up at the same decision?

                      For someone tossing things off quickly, I can see beta readers catching plot holes and changes that don’t make sense. Maybe if you’re excessively hard on your own writing, that doesn’t happen as often.

                      Ask me in another 20 years.

                    6. It saves a LOT of time if you only let beta readers tell you where you were CONFUSING.
                      All other comments gratefully accepted, and probably read (or they wouldn’t be my beta readers). But none of them have the slightest urge to write a book (this year), and it isn’t going to be mine.”
                      – Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

                      I’m starting to get confused. I hope I tagged this to the right thread. 🙂

                      Yeah, for the most part. While I want them to red pencil any typos or odd/off word choices and bad phrasings, mostly I expect my proofreader to catch those.

                      I do expect them to comment on things that are unclear, colloquialisms and slang they don’t understand, and similar stuff. And I’m really looking for comments on “what works” and “what doesn’t work” and the reasons that something did or didn’t work for them. (Which I something that I’ve found I cannot get from reviewers: even the best reviews tend to list the things they like/don’t like and skimp on the whys. Which is frustrating to me… can’t fix what I don’t know why it didn’t work, or even be able to tell if it needs fixing.)

                      I’m technical enough in some areas that I’ve started wondering if I need a specialized beta that knows firearms, technology, and cars to catch the places where my knowledge falls down or my research fails. I usually bounce stuff like that off of another gun, tech, or car geek before I write whatever it was to make sure I know, but we all miss things and hose things up.

                      I think I’m pretty hard on my own writing, but I can get seduced by an especially pretty turn of phrase or fall in love with my own prose just like the next guy, and then later on catch that it didn’t quite say what I meant to, no matter how pretty it is.

                      (I’m still working on my first coffee, so if that’s disjointed, now you know why.)

                    7. The thing is that while the readers are almost certainly right about there being a problem, their batting average is much worse when it comes to diagnosing it. I once had a reader tell me that I should have showed the heroine acting like this earlier in the story. So I went back and looked at how I could better show that her character was developing. (She wouldn’t have acted like this earlier; that was half the point.)

                    8. Yeah. I once had a reader/reviewer take me to task at length on a character’s mental aside that spitzer bullets weren’t suited for “serious work” until you got into the *big* calibers (.40 and up) where bullet diameter, mass, and cross sectional area count more than bullet shape and type. Even though the character himself noted the exceptions to that rule of thumb in his mental dialogue. *eye roll*

                      (In Rio Blanco. I took a few liberties here and there, and noted them, but my research on period firearms, gear, and cartridges was meticulous, even over and above my already extensive knowledge base.)

                      You can’t always count on the reader to know what they’re talking about, even if they sense a problem. (Or think they do.)

                    9. “(In Rio Blanco. I took a few liberties here and there, and noted them, but my research on period firearms, gear, and cartridges was meticulous, even over and above my already extensive knowledge base.”

                      Gun geeks are a peculiar breed, if you ever make a mistake, be sure that they will find it, and expound on it at length.

                      And Never, Ever, forget it. 🙂

                      It has been some years since I watched the John Wayne movie Hondo. But on reading your post I immediately thought of it, because the soldiers were using Springfield 1873 trapdoor rifles… in 1872. I don’t recall that error in the Louis L’Amour book the movie is based on, and am unsure whether it is there or not, but since he wrote the screenplay, at least some of the blame rests on his shoulders.

                    10. Did you never hear about the actress who was so dumb she thought the way to get ahead in Hollywood was by sleeping with the writer?

                    11. I’m with 60guilders, bearcat. Prop department. It’s like all of the 1894 Winchesters that proliferated across all of the Western movies from the 50s through 70s set in eras long before 1894.

                      “Gun geeks are a peculiar breed, if you ever make a mistake, be sure that they will find it, and expound on it at length.
                      And Never, Ever, forget it.:)”
                      – bearcat

                      Oh hell yeah. I’ve done it. I still do it. 🙂

                      This guy wasn’t really a gun geek, I don’t think, not in the sense that you, or I, or Correia are. Most of his commentary was linked from Wikipedia sources, for one thing. (Which in fairness, may have been just what he found available.)

                      I took my liberties in inventing a few gunmakers that didn’t exist, but could have existed, and in creating a few cartridges and calibers that didn’t really exist, but could easily have existed in the time period. Kinda like Paladin’s “Custom Hamilton Single-Action” from Have Gun Will Travel.

                      It fit the cinematic Western old west that the story was set in (Rio Bravo and Magnificent Seven, remember), and the late 1890s tail end of black powder, beginning of smokeless powder era, transition from the Old West to the 1900s era setting.

                      I worked at fitting the firearms to the timeframe, otherwise, including a few of my favorites that you don’t see normally like the Winchester 1886 and 1876, and the Winchester Hi-wall single-shot. And cartridges like the .40-82 WCF that a lot of people don’t think of from the era.

          2. As a case in point, every time you use “ESL” it comes through as “English Sign Language” and I have to back up a re-parse the sentence.

  17. About the only ones I can think of offhand were “The Pearl” and “Ishmael”. Mostly because I remember the title of the former and ripped up and the latter in the middle of class. I can understand the Classics, e.g. Shakespeare, Chaucer, etc since they have survived and are the basis for other literature since. Most of the stuff I had to read in school, however, was just dull and good because it was in the syllabus at schools.

    1. I actually enjoyed the hell out of the Canterbury Tales…in a modern or near-modern English format. It was the efforts to make us all read it in its original dialect that turned so many off. Translated, they are hilarious and bawdy and insane…and would probably make for a far-more-fun ‘grownup’ miniseries than GoT…

      1. The individual tales are hit and miss, personally but as a whole I would definitely rate it as one of the stories that you have to know at least some of. Both in original and modernized English. Same with Dante, Milton, Shakespeare for European classics. There is an age where literary becomes “It stood the test of time” vs pretentiousness. I don’t know where that line is, though.

        1. I read Paradise Lost post-high school (while living in Eastern Europe, as a matter of fact, and I was desperate for reading material). I enjoyed it a great deal, as it turned out…

          1. I had the opportunity to read part of Paradise Lost during Brit Lit in High School and found it enjoyable. Part of why I brought it up is because some of the ideas and conceits within are used to build up other parts of Western Culture. Same with Dante and Shakespeare. Enough people read them that they became pop culture since then.

              1. At least to me, I saw them as humanistic stories just as much as pious. Religion based, yes but never seemed too preachy to me.

  18. “Literary” is to books what “organic” is to food.

    I like my dinner to be made out of different carbon molecules as much as the next guy, but when the “organic” label is applied you can add “more expensive, less efficiently produced, and catering to ostentation” to the definition.

    1. “I like my dinner to be made out of different carbon molecules as much as the next guy…”

      One of the guys who works down the hall from me has a fabulous cartoon up on his door about how silicon-based food takes over, and no one manages to protest against it due to the fact that the word “organic” got appropriated to describe something else…

      1. I’m sure the boxes would say “organic silicon based food”, and aside from some biochemists’ suffering from cognitive dissonance the trendy crowd would be happily picking the glass shards out of their teeth. 😛

        1. We’re almost there now. At least, the FDA’s definition of “cheese” has almost nothing to do with the real thing.

          1. “Pasteurized processed cheese food” is one of my favorite phrases ever. Though my favorite description of all time has to go to “yogurty covered fruity dots” on the box of some garishly colored kids’ snack on an endcap somewhere. Daughter Unit was four at the time and utterly perplexed by why Mommy was standing in the aisle laughing her head off.

            1. “Pasteurized processed cheese food”

              In my house, we call it polymer, and while the kids would probably eat it if I allowed it into the house, I sure wouldn’t.

              1. My 10-year-old is a total miniature foodie and will not touch Kraft cheese or any form whatsoever of cheez. I’m so proud.

    2. When I see food labeled “organic”, my inner chemist immediately demands to know where the “inorganic” food is kept. It also dearly wishes to label the gasoline pump, “Organic”.

        1. Which reminds me of seeing an endcap display in the heyday of the last low-carb fad: “Honey: A Sugar-Free Food!”

          I boggled. And giggled. And ran before the stupid could contaminate me.

          1. But I thought sugar is white crystals? And who are confectioners? Why do they get white powder?

            Intelligent for a three year old.

          2. Alternatively, we have “fat-free refried beans”. Oookay, were can I get full fat refried beans?

            1. there’s a little mexican place that is attached to both a tortilleria and carniceria around the corner from me…

              1. I make my own.

                What bemuses me is “Fat Free” sour cream.

                Umm… if you remove the fat from sour cream, what the hell is left?!?

                  1. I once saw one food item advertised as “We’re Fat Free, Never Had It, Never Will”. 😉

                    1. Yep and I think what I saw was Jelly. I’m sure that they were joking at the whole “Fat Free” thing. 😀

                    2. One phrase that I think is a capper, and actually seen on an item at our WalMarts:

                      “Organic Sea Salt.”

                      You know, as opposed to that inorganic stuff that’s made from minerals, I guess.

      1. “*coughs apologetically* I’m sorry if this makes anyone’s brains melt.” – Shadowdancer


        I’ll have you know that I’m blaming you for my melted brain, and all of the accrued brain damage resulting just from the title of that article.

        I don’t think the Picard-Riker double face palm is sufficient. I don’t think there IS a big enough face palm for that.

          1. Ya gotta admit, sexist glaciers is some first class guffomancy. (i.e. conjuring prestige and grant money using magic words completely divorced from any kind of real world meaning.)

            1. My dad said once he rather regretted not having gone into the sciences. “If you want to scam money from the government, that’s where you go.”

              He’d just vetoed putting budget toward some petty little ‘study’ which he felt was not going to get any kind of answer nor would that answer help the department work more efficiently or benefit the people working there in any way. And this was a proposal for something inside the Department of Foreign Affairs’s Asia-Pacific sub-department, not an academic institution.

          2. Global Warming is just Gaia having hot flashes and anyone saying it’s a problem needs to check his male privilege.

              1. We are supposed to be the animals that spread Gaia seeds throughout the cosmos. We better get on with the job.

        1. Not one of mine, because I totally ripped it off:

          “Only Hindu gods have enough hands for adequate facepalm.”

        2. I don’t think there IS a big enough face palm for that.

          This one might suffice:

          1. Oh good, WordPress was actually sensible. If you click that image, you’ll be taken to the original, which is almost 2900 pixels wide. I was afraid I was going to break the blog layout by posting that, but it seems WordPress, for once, did the right thing.

      2. See, I don’t blame yer average American for this, honestly. It’s kinda like the bit in Sherlock Holmes where Holmes didn’t care that the earth revolved around the sun because the knowledge did nothing to help him investigate crimes. The ones I do blame are the media and others like them who use technical jargon and “sciency” sounding words to conjure eyeball attracting hysteria.

        1. Heh. I’ve made essentially that same argument about criticism over a presidential candidate’s lack of belief in evolution.

          This is especially so given that the Theory of Evolution as taught in most High School biology programs is wildly incorrect and I harbor a strong suspicion that most Journalists couldn’t correctly explain how evolution does operate.

          I might — might — be concerned if the Surgeon General did not believe in evolution, but so long as he or she is a competent consumer of medical research I don’t think it would much matter to professional competency.

          1. We already don’t require understanding of the LAWS of supply and demand. Why should we require adherence to a theory

            1. Let’s NOT get into a discussion about the meaning of “theory” in science here, especially about the theory of evolution. [Smile]

              1. Heh heh. We make unbreakable laws out of thoughts and vaguities while hard lessons of reality are brushed aside when it contradicts

              1. Nit: a hypothesis has falsification criteria. CAGW barely rises to the level of a conjecture.

        2. The funny thing is, in the BBC Sherlock series, random knowledge about astronomy and a Van Gogh painting helped Sherlock save a kid. *cheeky grin* I get your point though – but Sherlock’s the kind of genius that’s not supposed to be the average dude.

          One of the things my dad said to us about being informed and knowledgeable enough was it kept us from being victimized by the hucksters and scammers and snake oil salesmen. (He and I ended up being rather boggled at the spread of ‘human caused global warming’, when your average volcanic eruption sends out more pollution into the atmosphere in a single go. See: Mt. Pinatubo.)

          Then again, I used to think that ‘the average (insert Western nation here)’ was smarter than the reality. I started losing that when I saw people cheering wildly for Obama after a huge speech about absolutely nothing and word salad feelz. Having people do studies now about the sexism of glaciers and how babies are ‘proven’ to be racist kind of hammers that home for me.

      1. John Ringo in Last Centurion: “If organic is on the label, there’s been shit and a worm involved.”

  19. Struggling against my own tendency to polysyllabic latinate words is the cross I bear, okay?

    Aha! A fellow sufferer from the lure of obfuscatory anfractuosities and sesquipedalian vermiculations! My sympathies.

    But more to the point, “literary” is hard to put calipers on because it’s not intensively defined, but rather by enumeration. In effect, it arises from the judgments of critics. A friend likes to say that “if a prize jury is willing to read it, it’s literary.” Then we have B. R. Myers’s take, which he expresses admirably in his famous essay “A Reader’s Manifesto” (now available in book form).

    I tend to avoid that which bears the “literary” label for a simple reason: the authors of such books always seem to be more concerned with showing off stylistically than they they are with telling a story with a credible point. For meaty stories with some sort of theme, the speculative genres are the places to go. And thus be it ever (I hope), as that’s what I try to write.

  20. Personally I have to admit I define “literary” by one quality alone: Does the story end on an even marginally positive note? Then it’s not literary. 🙂

    Okay, that’s a little snarky and not quite accurate, but I think it conveys my point: One of the defining conditions of modern “literary” fiction seems to be a profound pessimism, such that the “happiest” ending anybody can hope for seems to be a temporary detente with the forces of despair, entropy or cynicism, or an ambiguous non-resolution wherein characters acknowledge how they have changed but are unsure whether it is to any point or good.

    Short stories in particular seem prone to this; I honestly believe that one of the reasons I never got into writing short stories as an art form was that nobody I thought of as an “authority” on the matter took short stories with happy endings seriously, and I wasn’t interested in writing stories which ended up with my characters miserable in order to “make a point” or “evoke a response”.

    1. Like the hard sci fi anthology I tried to read last year. I liked (most of) the hard sci fi stuff. I got really, really tired of “and everybody dies” or “and greedy humans destroy their home planet.”

    2. I confess, in my own (decidedly nonprofessional) writing, short stories are more likely to end badly than longer ones because sometimes I do want to explore an unpleasant story idea or evoke a response of that sort… but I don’t want to do that in a story I’ve spent a lot of time and words on. So those are short.

  21. Interestingly, my read of J.C. Wright’s works is that they are literary (expansive vocabulary, expect the reader to be willing to learn and to have a solid base knowledge) but not literature. I think, as with so many other Huns and Hoydens, it comes from being taught that official “literature” is relatively plotless, or has other aspects that override plot. “Literary” books can be Thumping Great Reads, but “literature” by definition is not. You read literature with an eye open for all the symbolism, side references, subthemes and other stuff. You read TGRs for the story, and if they happen to teach you vocabulary or inspire you to track down cool mythology or history, it’s a side effect.

    1. I remember happily tearing my way through a reread of one of Stirling’s Emberverse books, noting a minor character detail and going “…hell, did he just foreshadow? S&M Stirling just FORESHADOWED something? My little pulp writer’s all growed up!” 🙂

    2. Whatbare your plotless exemplars? MacBeth? Jane Eyre? Pride & Predjudice? Vanity Fair? Ivanhoe?

      Seriously the only one that cones to mind is tgecCommedua, andctgat’s pre-incention of the novel, so shouldn’t count.

    1. If it’s “improves empathy for the other poor sods who had to read this crap” I’ll agree…But that’s probably not what they meant.

      Also: I have a hard time taking a website that titles itself “The Passive Voice” very seriously. Everything I’ve ever learned about good writing is that passive voice is BAD and BORING 99.9% of the time…

      1. Nah, it’s actually quite a good blog for writers and author-publishers.

        1. Seconded, there. Actually, more of a “news of writing and publishing” aggregator.

          I’ve discovered quite a few other worthwhile sites through TPV (and many to avoid) just through reading the snippets that The Passive Guy – yes, he does name himself that – put up. (He always links to the original.)

      2. I would say that that applies even in *technical* writing. (I’ve pretty much given up on academic writing.)

        1. Yes, I’ve helped my boss rephrase any number of things in technical documents because it was written in passive voice so badly it made me cringe.

          Also, I’m apparently the *only* person in my office who knows about Citation Machine, and therefore actually can produce correct citations.

      3. The Passive Voice is basically an instapundit for authors. The articles are all over the map, but there’s a lot of good information in the comments, where indie, hybrid, & trad authors comment upon the article & the state of the market.

  22. On the topic of previous off-topic chatter in these parts, one may purchase obsidian knives with antler handles and sinew to hold it together (is not a knife person) at Fort Hall’s Sho-Ban Hotel starting at $30!

    1. The antler-handle ones are nativist, but a one-piece blade is much more practical. Have them flake a blade with a decent handle, single edged, thick enough to be strong, and don’t worry overmuch about a point. A “tanto” point will work fine. Wrap the handle with leather laces, varnished cloth, or even skateboard tape.

      I still can’t get over how little the knappers charge…

  23. I’m one of those people who straddles STEM and the literate arts with reasonable skills and interest in both. I took time off to study literature-type writing with a crew at Harvard, and John Updike visited one day. He made it clear he was a craftsman aiming at a specific audience, highly-literate upper class sorts, but I doubt he would have looked down on someone writing for readers who like adventure stories. Dickens and Stephen King wrote for mass audiences and were looked down on by the literati of their day, but over time they became respectable and suitable for PhD theses.

    The definition of “literary” is fuzzy. It’s confused with “inaccessible” and often the most obscurantist works are lionized mostly because only a few people can appreciate them, since they require study not enjoyment — e.g., James Joyce or Thomas Pynchon. Modern art became a thing because commercial, mass-produced representational art had flooded the world with photographs and advertising that made it accessible to everyone; fleeing the masses into obscure abstractions and art-as-statement, meaning the wealthy patrons had to be persuaded that paying more for art that was impossible for them to actually appreciate was going to give them higher status. Modern literature similarly fled the masses and accessibility to keep exclusivity and high status.

    But “literary” in the sense of complex, deep characterizations and prose that uses the full vocabulary available to the very well-read is still with us, and valuable. It is satisfying to read a story that is not only emotionally powerful but challenges you to learn new ideas, words, and phrases. Go too far on that scale, and your appreciative audience shrinks to nothing (and if you do get critics’ support and New York Times book reviews, your book will be bought by many but finished by few.) Too light, and you have grade-school pulp, which can be satisfying and gain you big sales, but isn’t challenging readers.

    The problem with the Hugos is partly a lack of good material. My ideal science fiction leads readers through an involving story that also explains and projects new science and technology’s effects on the future. Many of the greats of the past were a little weak in characterization (Asimov), but they were keenly interested in explaining ideas that changed their fictional worlds. Recent literary science fiction tends to lack that emphasis on explaining new ideas, partly because there simply aren’t as many good writers as there were, and the younger ones tend to lack scientific backgrounds. And in fantasy, so much has been done that new ideas are rare.

    Even the File770 folks recently discussing “The Windup Girl” (2010 Hugo and Nebula awards) criticized its implausible science and economics. If I’ve studied literature and come into science fiction and fantasy to write colorful, elaborate stories without much background knowledge, my work may fall flat because people who understand science and reality see them as implausible. If one good literary value is complex and realistic characters, one good science fiction value is complex and believable science, and a good worldbuilding value is plausible economics and government. And there aren’t enough new science fiction books that have all of those these days. And you kids, get off my lawn!

    1. What? Even the File 770 crowd can’t stand recent award winners either? They’d better watch out, that sounds like Puppy-speak to me . . . 😉

  24. Oh no, you’ve invoked the dread name of John C. Wright, Number Two on the Hierarchy of Hate, in a positive context! 😀

    1. Heresy! One isn’t allowed to appreciate the virtues of those who err on anything that matters to the self-appointed cognoscenti.

      You could be thrown out of the–whoops. Too late. Carry on.

  25. For more Litchrature that has survived time (if not quite so much as Shakespeare) look at Sir Walter Scott. Yep, must all of his writing that we know today are what he called “potboilers” and he wrote under an assumed name to entertain the low-brows. Somehow the things that survive, always seem to be written for the proles, while that written for the intelligentsia always seems to get washed away like the road dust on your boots.

  26. Meanwhile just about all of genre, and certainly the best of genre has plenty of character growth. If you don’t think so I’ll assume you never cracked open Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Left Hand of Darkness or, h*ll, even Dragonriders of Pern.” – AccordingToHoyt

    Lois McMaster Bujold. (I nearly misspelled that. Need. More. Coffee. Dammit!) Miles Vorkosigan undergoes worlds and decades of growth, maturation, and character development over the course of the series. So does Mark. So do several of the secondary characters. And I’d put Bujold’s ability to craft word images and finely crafted and chosen phrases up against anyone in the business of writing. (Only John Myers Myers is the indisputable master, IMO. He even can outdo Zelazny and Zelazny’s protege Brust on that, which is difficult.)

    P. C. Hogdell. Jamie of the Kencyrath goes through miles and tons of character development. Hogdell’s wordsmithing is cherce as well.

    Joel Rosenberg. Walter Slovotsky grows and matures and changes immensely over the course of the Guardians series. Rosenberg even does a masterful take apart of the Dumas and other classics in his “Not quite the… ” trilogy in that series. (Sadly among the last things he wrote.)

    I could keep listing examples, but… *dismissive flip of the hand* Meh. I’ll just go with your summation: anyone who makes the statements you quoted really hasn’t read much genre fiction, and leave it at that.

    1. And have you read Bujold’s Chalion series? Those books made me cry, dammit, they were so beautifully written. And of a completely different style/theme to the Vorkosigan books.

      1. “And have you read Bujold’s Chalion series? Those books made me cry, dammit, they were so beautifully written.” – Sara the Red


        No. I don’t read a lot of straight fantasy and high fantasy any more, and as a result, I never could really get into the Chalion series. I started them on a number of occasions and never could maintain interest.

        Had nothing to do with Bujold’s writing, just my general tastes (or lack thereof) as they’ve evolved.

        Only real exception to that these days are P. C. Hogdell’s Kencyrath novels. I’ll grab a new one of those in a heartbeat if I see one. Glenn Cook’s Black Company novels are the same way for me, except that he seems to have dropped off on writing new novels in that series.

        (I’m not sure if the Black Company books qualify as High Fantasy, now that I think on it.)

        1. Eh, high fantasy is a loose term. Even looser than epic fantasy, even though, at root, they mean “work kinda like The Lord of the Rings.”

          But high fantasy allows lower stakes than epic fantasy and segues in sword and sorcery at some point. (though I think everything fantasy I perpetrate is high fantasy. 0:)

          1. *snicker* But I like low fantasy and Sword and Sorcery. We need more Robert E. Howard in this dismal day and age!

            Only Conan can save us now…

            1. Well, some of my collections are on the border between high fantasy and sword and sorcery.

  27. I was utterly floored by Bujold’s characterization chops when I realized I had spent the first 90 pages of “Memory” going “Miles, you idiot, don’t DO that” while knowing the whole damn time that “that” was exactly what he was about to do. The sheer stomach-curdling dread she was able to induce in me with just one paragraph of innocuous thought processes was masterful.

    1. Heh. You too? “Miles, you idiot!” was a frequent mutter from my corner of the room while I was reading that one. 🙂

      “Mark, you idiot!” came out a lot while I was reading the first parts of Mirror Dance.

      1. “Some people have an evil twin. I am not so lucky. What I have is an idiot twin.”

        1. Not just Mark. Everyone had a cunning and foolproof plan in that one.

          A Civil Campaign is proof positive that Barrayar produces industrial strength fools and foolishness. 🙂

          1. Yeah, the cover blurb about cunning plans had a nice “watch the trainwreck” vibe. In a good way. 🙂

                1. Well, Ivan’s “Cunning Plan” (admittedly a spur of the moment one) in Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance didn’t work out completely but he did get a lovely wife out of it. 😀

                2. Well, and to be fair to Ivan–even though his cunning plan regarding marrying Lady Donna didn’t pan out *hysterical laughter* he DID prove that he was rather better than his cousins at coming up with politically savvy spur-of-the-moment plans that paid out very well indeed, resulting in all the ‘good guys’ getting their happy endings and Richars Vorrutyer getting the boot.

                  AND it wasn’t a bat-crap insane plan, either–which is more than can be said about pretty much ANY of Miles’ plans. (Or Mark’s, for that matter.)

                  Of course, in Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, he proved he was just as capable as his cousins at coming up with lunatic plans at the drop of a pin. It’s just that he tries to NOT make a habit of it. (I confess, from about Memory onwards, Ivan became one of my absolute favorites. Gregor is still possibly the top of the list–Miles is in a class by himself–but Ivan is just so…nice. And competent. And unappreciated.)

                  1. I play humans in D&D. I write fanfic about the hero’s relatives. I have always had a sneaking fondness for the unappreciated, and Ivan’s one of the best of the lot.

                    And we totally should have named our dogs Miles and Ivan, because the parallels are unnerving. One of them is small(er), smart, charming and insane, the other is big, gorgeous, goodhearted and dumb as a brick. But a FRIENDLY brick.

                    1. Ivan is a Donkey?

                      I think the best comment on Ivan’s intelligence was from him.

                      IE that he wasn’t really an idiot but grew up surrounded by very very smart people who made him feel like an under-achiever.

                      IIRC this was in Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance.

                      Of course, since he was in line for the Emperorship, he tried to keep a low-profile.

                      Mind you this was so people didn’t try to use Ivan to replace Gregor not because Gregor feared Ivan.

                    2. Don’t recall off the top of my head. It’s when Miles drafts Ivan as his auditor’s assistant. Ivan replies (sarcastically) that he’s going to be Miles’ donkey (again), and Miles says “Yes, but one that can eb trusted with high explosives”

                    3. Ah, I found that comment.

                      I was thinking about Ivan’s comment about the “fun” of growing up surrounded by people who were very very smart. 😀

        2. Ahhh, chapter ten of A Civil Campaign. The dinner party. ‘Nuff said.

          Favorite quote, ROT13’d to avoid accidentally spoiling anyone: “Zbz, Qnq, V’q yvxr lbh gb zrrg … fur’f trggvat njnl!”

          1. A Civil Campaign is, hands down, my favorite of the series. And the dinner party is the funniest part of it. (Followed very closely by the, erm, bug butter fight and Armsman Roic near the climax…Poor, poor Roic.)

                1. I found it amusing when Ekaterine found out exactly who was going to explain to Nicki the circumstances behind his Da’s death. Yeah, some guy who lost a father when he was young, and has the proper security clearances and the authority to decide how much can be revealed to Nicki.

                2. Oh, man, that’s another one of my favorite bits. (Who am I kidding, that whole book is my favorite bit.) And Gregor being so very, very awesomely GREGOR.

    2. And even when you KNOW he’s going to do it, and he does it, and the consequences occur…you’re still utterly heartbroken for him.

      1. Oh yes. 90+ pages CRINGING over incoming heartbreak, in the case of “Memory”.

          1. *nod*

            My all time favorite part and favorite line in any Vorkosigan novel is when Mile is alone in that novel agonizing over his decision followed by his decision and the realization that it was never really a decision: “The only thing you can’t trade for your heart’s desire is your heart.”

            Followed closely after by this exchange:

            “I was wrestling with my conscience.”

            “Who won?”

            “I think it was a draw. Three falls out of three.”


  28. I don’t think Literature is the problem. At worst, it bores you. What I can’t stand is the contemporary Liche-erature that sucks the life and soul out of readers, authors and cultures to maintain the unholy half-life of its posturing practititioners.

  29. Back when I was in school, Mama Raptor routinely gave me grief because I preferred to read “garbage books” like the Redwall series, Tom Clancy, and Star Wars EU novels (admittedly, some of the latter series really were garbage) instead of “high literature” and The Classics. Then Mama Raptor went to work for the local school district as a Student’s Aide and had to re-read that “high literature” she’d been praising… and soon afterwards stopped giving me a hard time about my choice of reading material.

  30. For my money, give me the Hot Babes of the 19th Century: Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Mrs. Gaskell, George Eliot, etc.

    And remember that George Eliot, or Mary Ann Evans, was the smartest woman in England. She learned German by translating Strauss’s “Das Leben Jesu” into English. She was incandescent: still is.

  31. A rare and vanishing few made it to the diplomatic corps and that was mom’s ambition for me — did you just snort giggle?

    “The Iberian War,” said the Professor. The flashpoint of the Wasting of the Earth. It’s taken a thousand years for us to climb back up to the point of being able to build this time machine.

    “Your mission? Convince her to become a writer instead …”

  32. Okay…

    Off topic, but this is a thread about writing and literachure, so it’s maybe not as off topic as it could be. And this is a community of fellow writers, ficcers, and wanna be writers, so at least it’s O/T in a somewhat receptive and possibly productive place.

    I have a question. Two of them actually, but both are related:

    1) Is there anyone here that is familiar with the current state and situation in Venezuela, and the surrounding parts of South America? Political, legal, social, and cultural inclusive.

    And 2) if anyone is, would you be amenable to allowing me to bounce research questions off of you and pick your brains on the subject in email?

    It’s for a novel idea I have. Err.. idea for a novel. The idea isn’t really all that novel, it was done by Kurosawa first and… aw screw it: it’s for a book plot, okay?

    1. Sort of. I have family there, and I might be able to put you in touch with one of them who has passable English.
      Yep, it seems to be as atrocious as portrayed, but mostly it’s WEIRDER than we think of it, if that makes sense.

      1. Cool. It’s been…. hrmm. Mid/late 1980 to early ’81 when I was last even in the vicinity, and I know it’s changed a lot since then. Used to be a lovely country…

        And even then, most of my experiences were in the equivalent of leave bars, if that means anything to you. Beach, booze, and B-girls. And a bit of sports fishing off the coast with charter boats and some boat bumming.

        My idea is… ah… “The Magnificent Seven” translated into an Urban Fantasy, if that makes sense, and I needed a disintegrating, decaying, and relatively lawless (at least in places) Latin America country for a setting. Modern day Venezuela seemed to fit the bill, but my experience isn’t recent enough – I have no familiarity with post Chavez Venezuela or South America, other than what you can glean from the news. (Which I don’t trust when it comes to Latin America.)

        So, consider this me starting at the bare bones level of my research glut. 🙂

        And thanks. All right if I shoot you an email tomorrow or sometime soon?

          1. Thanks. And yeah, that would help. My Brazilian Portuguese was always pidgin at best, and it’s nonexistent now. Atrophied through lack of use, like my border Spanish.

            I wouldn’t even want to attempt to compose an email in either of those.

      1. “Will Brazil work? My cousins could help.” – overgrownhobbit

        Probably not for the main setting, but for additional background, yes?

        Sorry if that’s ambiguous…

        Ah… correct me if I’m wrong here. I’m under the impression that while Brazil is currently having some political and crime wave problems, it’s still reasonably healthy, and somewhat functional? Not nearly lawless enough, except maybe out in the borderlands (near Venezuela and the Colombian and Bolivian borders) and the highlands (near Peru).

        And yes, probably for additional background setting, because I’ll probably have the main character(s) enter the area through one of the Brazilian port cities or towns, and then cross over into Venezuela over the Brazilian border. (Probably near Boa Vista… but that’s up in the air as of yet. I’ll let the characters and story decide where exactly.) So yeah, having a bit of info on current Brazil would help for verisimilitude, definitely, even if it’s only going to appear in maybe a couple three chapters at best.

        Ambiguous, because I don’t even have an outline as yet, beyond a vague “Magnificent Seven with Eldritch horrors and cultists and narcoteros”, just an opening scene and an ending scene, and a blank spot in the middle labeled “Here there be Story.” To be filled in later as I plot and go… so I’m kinda working on the fly as a hypothetical here.

        1. You might also want to look at Mexico. Yes, there’s theoretically a government, but they’re in the process of losing to the narcotraficantes, to the point that the citizenry is organizing militias to keep the cartels away.

          1. “You might also want to look at Mexico. Yes, there’s theoretically a government, but they’re in the process of losing to the narcotraficantes, to the point that the citizenry is organizing militias to keep the cartels away.” – snelson

            Thought about it. And thought about it. But everyone uses and abuses poor Mexico. And it’s the setting of the original, and I don’t want to rip off Magnificent Seven too blatantly…

              1. “The Original?

                The Magnificent Seven was a re-make of a Japanese film titled Seven Samurai set in Japan.” – ‘Drak

                I know. I mentioned Kurosawa in the first post. 🙂

                I’m following in a fine, fine aulde tradition: if I’m gonna steal, I’m gonna steal from the best, even if it’s naught but a basic plot and story line.

                1. And technically, the majority of martial arts films steal their plotline from Kurosawa’s first feature.

                  1. I know, as in….

                    No. Just no.

                    You are not, I repeat NOT going to get me to demonstrate the true depths of my depravity by exposing both my deep love for cheesy 70s grindhouse martial arts fliks, and my knowledge of the plot lines.

                    For the record, I have never ever seen the “Flying Fists of Fury”, nor the sequel, “The Sons of the Flying Fists of Fury in 3D.” Nor is there any truth to to the rumors that I may have watched “They call me… Bruce” six times during an all day Kung Fu movie Marathon at the Wynnewood Theater.

                    That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

                    1. “I have a film degree. I took a class on Kurosawa.”

                      Really? Cool.

                      I’m envious. Bet that’d be interesting, and it was done right. Was it worth taking?

        1. “Brazil is never healthy beneath a veneer…

          … I have cousins there too, but they’ve cut connections, so… And yep, Brazil is usually lawless enough.” – accordingtohoyt

          Hah! Brazil hasn’t changed that much since the 80’s, then, huh?

          I’m familiar with the Matta Grosso, and the Border Country around Peru, Bolivia, and Columbia, as I said. Those places could get pretty lawless back in ’80/81.

          Sao Palo (sp?) was usually pretty nice, and fairly tame. Rio was generally lawful, as long as you either stayed out of the faevelas, or went there only in groups, and armed. A lot of the coastal towns back then were tourista economy and fairly laid back. (My portugee is pidgin and fairly nonexistant these days, so I tend to fall back on Border Spanglish. I don’t remember the Brazilian for “tourista” or “gringo” any longer.)

          Let’s see… the Highlands and the Colombian border country back then was a stomping ground for the Sendero Luminoso, and the FARC, and the border country around the headwaters near Bolivia were the province of narcoteros, marijuaneros, cocaineros, and gentlemen adventurers and SOF types, so they all got pretty… interesting at times. And entertaining.

          For certain values of interesting and entertaining.

  33. All the comments here make me so glad I did NOT listen to the college recruiter when she insisted that my major should be English because I scored so high on my ACTs. If it had not been for my junior year of nothing but William Faulkner and existentialism and stream of consciousness and the painful despair it all elicited in me, especially in light of my love of Tolkien and Leguin (Earthsea trilogy), Id have gone the way of litchrachure elitism.

    Any thoughts on steampunk sci-fi? The little I have seen has suffered under the intent of litchrachure ie feminism and SJW virtue signaling, in a genre that has claimed it hearkened back to a time when exploration and specific gender roles were seen as hallmarks of culture.

    Also, just mentioning this to throw my two cents in: a series of books that has won “literary” acclaim (but is essentially historical fiction) now boasts an inspired series that is historical fantasy… Patrick O’Brian’s Master & Commander series and Naomi Novak’s hommage in “His Majesty’s Dragon” (mentioning this for fellow Pern lovers out there)

    1. Unfortunately the practitioners of Steampunk seem to view it as the opportunity to denounce their ancestors’ attitudes and beliefs, at least as their professors portray them.

      1. I think you’re painting Steampunk authors with too broad a brush. It’s probably only true for about 80% of them. Maybe 90% tops. 😉

    2. “Any thoughts on steampunk sci-fi?” – MaryThornell

      Pass. I’m afraid that my experiences with the genre have been like Mrs. Hoyts, and left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

      I love Girl Genius, but that’s as close to steampunk as I get. And it’s Phil-freaking-Foglio, which is kinda hard for me to dislike. 🙂

      “Also, just mentioning this to throw my two cents in: a series of books that has won “literary” acclaim (but is essentially historical fiction) now boasts an inspired series that is historical fantasy… Patrick O’Brian’s Master & Commander series and Naomi Novak’s hommage in “His Majesty’s Dragon” (mentioning this for fellow Pern lovers out there)” MaryThornell

      Love, love, absolutely love Captain Aubrey and the Master and Commander series, and second (and third) the motion: Patrick O’Brian writes literary fiction that’s also a Whopping Good Yarn and is Instant Classic material.

      I got my godkids hooked on reading when they were sprouts by reading the Master and Commander books to them out loud.

      I used to love the Pern novels, spinoffs, and Pern fanfic, but lost the, *ahem*, thread somewhere along the way, and never was able to get into them on a later reread.

      1. I hope you won’t let sone of the many egregious failures in recent steamlunk fic put you off Butcher’s latest: it really terrifc.

        FWIW I think steampunk works better in visual media: GNs, vids, than written. Hollow Firlds, frex, is really neat.

        1. *nod* Butcher’s latest will get a fair shot because it’s Jim freaking Butcher. *grin*

          But I’m waiting for it to hit the New Reads shelf at our local library, so I can return it unfinished if needs be. Have to admit, the “Steampunk? Ugh!” reaction did hit when I saw the genre, regardless of the Jim Butcher factor.

            1. Okay, hell, I’ll give anything by Butcher a try once. He’s one of a small handful of authors that get that accolade from me – I just see his name on the cover and it goes in the checkout stack.

              1. Yep.

                I’ll admit that when it comes to author-series-character combo, anything Margaret Weiss+Dragonlance+Raistlin will also do that to me. I immediately surrendered a stack of cheaper books that looked like potentially good reads from authors I’d not heard of, to get one book, which was then new, and in hardback (Dragons of the Hourglass Mage). I also admit to greedily hugging said book to my chest, since it was the one and only copy in the story, and hissing at Rhys because I thought he was going to take it away from me. He laughed at my shamefaced expression when I realized he was getting the book – to pay for it so I could pick out another book. He let me make up for being a grumpy thing by cuddling with him while I was reading through the book. (It only took me two hours to devour.)

                1. Heh. Another one, yes! I devoured the Dragon Lance books when they were coming out fast and furiously.

                  Raistlin was cool, but Tasselhoff was my favorite character. I played a lot of Kender in RPGs back when, to the amusement of my GMs, and the consternation of my fellow players…

                  1. I particularly liked Hourglass Mage because of Raistlin’s interactions with the kender character in that book.

                    I was not happy with how Tasslehoff was portrayed in the animated movie like an entitled teenaged brat that I’d cheerfully have thrown out of a moving train, instead of being the embodiment of innocent childlike curiosity and wonder unfettered by fear.

                    1. *blinks*

                      There was a movie?!

                      “I was not happy with how Tasslehoff was portrayed in the animated movie like an entitled teenaged brat that I’d cheerfully have thrown out of a moving train… “ – Shadowdancer

                      Thanks for the warning, Shadow. I’ll be sure to keep my eyes open for it so I won’t watch it by accident, and then feel tempted to track down the scriptwriters, producers, director, and actors and commit violence upon them…

                      Some things can only be adequately responded to with a judicious application of rope and lamppost therapy.

                    2. The really sad thing was, it was produced by Paramount Pictures, and I thought they would’ve done a better job. Instead, the end result felt like they didn’t take it seriously.

                      About the ONE good thing they did was pick a good voice for Raistlin (Kiefer Sutherland, who, from his voiceacting, liked the character.)

                      However, it is so abyssmally bad, Takhisis herself would have banished it from the Abyss for what a misery it was. I mean, by the Gods, the OOC-ness.

                    3. Quite honestly? I think they have the technological capability to do a very good Dragonlance movie (I kind of want to cast Benedict Cumberbatch in the Raistlin role, because I think he has the ability to play the character right) but it’d have to be taken seriously the way say, Game of Thrones was approached as a show, or LotR.

                    4. Huh. We’re running out of thread…

                      “Quite honestly? I think they have the technological capability to do a very good Dragonlance movie (I kind of want to cast Benedict Cumberbatch in the Raistlin role, because I think he has the ability to play the character right) but it’d have to be taken seriously the way say, Game of Thrones was approached as a show, or LotR”

                      I agree. It’d have to be taken seriously and done right. And LOTR proves that we do have the technology to do it right.

                      Who would you get to play Caramon? Dwayne Johnson?

                    5. Dwayne Johnson has the acting chops, as well as LOVES the Dungeons and Dragons franchise, to do it right. He and Cumberbatch wouldn’t look like they should’ve been identical twins, but at least they’d pass as brothers. The Rock would have to wear a wig though. At the same time, I think he’d also work as a Riverwind. Goldmoon? Scarlett Johannson – especially if you look at the original cover for Autumn Twilight.

                      At the same time, how Chris Hemsworth played Thor makes me think he could do a very good Caramon, but I don’t think he’s as tall as Cumberbatch. On that note, the other actor who I think could pull off Raistlin’s sarcastic, snarky voice and body language is Tom Hiddleston. Also he’d work, facially and in build. Both he and Cumberbatch have that sharp-angles face shape and both can be very slender, and they both have the requisite intense gaze. I think Cumberbatch has the whole spidery, long fingers thing going though.

                      I’d cast Chris Pine as Tasslehoff. He has the cute, energetic youthfulness and wide-eyed curiosity thing going for him while also being very kender-ish in his attitude. (Watch how he plays Jim Kirk in the reboot movies – he could do it without making Tas a punchable character.)

                      I’d actually want to cast fairly fresh faces for the roles of Laurana, Kitiara (though, the actress who played Cersei does the crooked smile well), Tika. Bit hard pressed to do a good Sturm (My crack suggestion for him would be Johnny Depp lmao!!! – More seriously, Daniel Radcliffe could pull off the look, but I don’t think he has the voice for Sturm), but the guy who played Jon Snow pulls off the conflicted hero role rather well.

                      I’d put Keanu Reeves into the role of Gilthanas or Solostaran.

                      Do we put BRIAN BLESSED as Flint? (Sorry, I have always kind of imagined Flint with his voice.)

                      I wish I were good at photomanips.

                    6. *grin* Let’s see if I can trickf*ck this well enough to keep our discussion going, shall we?

                      Hmm. I really like the idea of Hiddleston as Raistlin. He’d be great.

                      Dwayne Johnson as Carmamon: you need a BIG man for that role.

                      Scarlett Johannson as Goldmoon is a winner. I like the way that you think.

                      “I’d cast Chris Pine as Tasslehoff. He has the cute, energetic youthfulness and wide-eyed curiosity thing going for him while also being very kender-ish in his attitude.” – Shadow

                      Yeah, I think he’d work.

                      “(Watch how he plays Jim Kirk in the reboot movies – he could do it without making Tas a punchable character.)”
                      – Shadow

                      Ah dunno. He made Jim Kirk a very punchable character. *smirk*

                      Brian Blessed for Flint, definitely.

                      Chris Helmsworth for Tanis, I’d say. I think that he could be a very good Tanis Half-elven.

                      Like you, I’m not real sure who would be a good Sturm. He’s hard to cast… you need that just so mix of angst, honorable looking, and resolute to pull it off.

                      Depp is definitely a crack suggestion. I’d be ashamed of you, but I’m laughing too hard to pull that off. And… no. He’d mug too ferociously and not take it seriously, and his Sturm wouldn’t be able to be taken seriously as a result. Need someone with gravitas and acting chops.

                      Unknowns for the rest of the women, definitely. Fresh faces would do… although the gal who played ah… whassername, Freya in the Avengers would do well for Kitiara. (No idea why I blanked out on Freya. My Asatruar friends would lynch me for that. Chalk it up to a Senior Moment.)

                      “I wish I were good at photomanips.”

                      I am good with photoshop, but I’m not that good, I don’t think. Not enough to pull this off…

                      Although I will say that an awful lot of photoshopping things like this is finding photos with the faces at just the right angles to match the image you’re shopping them into. I have the filters needed to match the painted look.

                      And this is cool. *grin* I very seldom find anyone online who’s a big enough Dragon Lance fan to talk Dragon Lance movie casting and characters with.

                    7. I’ve seen Depp in some of his more serious movies; he’s known for really hamming it up for Pirates of the Carribean but he has the capability for subtle acting. I just think he’s a touch too short for the role. Also, I imagine him when he screws up his lines.

                      Oh! Jolene Blalock would also make a good Kitiara (She played T’Pol in Star Trek: Enterprise.) because she has the look and a face that could totally pull it off. I’ve seen her when Scott Bakula makes her corpse and she has an utterly brilliant smile that’s so VERY Kit. But man, I can imagine Depp pulling faces at her.

                      Oooh. I like the thought of Helmsworth as Tanis. He’d have to become auburn-haired or wear wig/dye etc, but he’d pull that off rather well.

                      and yeah, I guess Pine DID make Kirk more of a buttmonkey this time around, but I actually liked Pine’s Kirk better for some reason. Probably because somehow he felt more light-hearted in a lot of ways.

                      This IS fun. The first time I actually started considering live-action Dragonlance was when I saw a photomanip of a younger Keanu Reeves as Raistlin. It was really well done.

                    8. I kind of want to see Patrick Stewart do Fizban. Not sure why, but it’s sticking in my head…

                    9. *grin* Think Mrs. Hoyt will get mad if we break her comment field?

                      *nod* Blaylock would work, possibly. She did a great job as T’Pol. Just a pity that up until season 4 Star Trek Enterprise was absolute shite, but not her fault.

                      “Oooh. I like the thought of Helmsworth as Tanis. He’d have to become auburn-haired or wear wig/dye etc, but he’d pull that off rather well.” – Shadow

                      Meh. Give him a rinse/tint and make Tanis a strawberry blonde. I’ll accept a little bit of fudging in a novel to film adaptation because of how casting has to work. No one except a true purist fan will object if Tanis is a bit blonder and a bit less auburn, and even they’d just be overjoyed at getting a quality movie with top name actors, I’d think.

                      “but I actually liked Pine’s Kirk better for some reason. Probably because somehow he felt more light-hearted in a lot of ways.” – Shadow

                      It’s… really not Pine’s fault that I detested the two Abrams Trek movies, and I shouldn’t hold them against him.

                      I more hated the fact that they made Kirk such a punk, and kept him as a Captain straight out of the Academy, when Kirk was actually a seasoned officer of 34 by the time he made it to being the youngest Captain in Star Fleet history. Pine’s Kirk would have been courts martialed in any decent fleet, regardless of his successes.

                      But that’s Abrams and the script writer’s fault, not Chris Pine’s.

                      I still don’t think Depp would be a good Sturm, even though I have seen him in serious roles. He’s just… off for the character, IMO.

                      But I can’t think offhand of who might be a good one.

                    10. I don’t think we’ll really break the comments, but it’d be hard for folks to join in because of how replies nest in WP.

                      *laughing* I agree that normally Pine’s Kirk would’ve been raked over the coals to hell and back – but I’m willing to accept that they had extraordinary circumstances there thanks to Nero and the Nerada eradicating a fair chunk of the fleet and one of the cornerstones of the Federation at Vulcan. For all the flaws of the reboot movies, you really, really cannot fault the acting work bestowed on the roles by the actors – which, personally is a huge part of the reason why I forgive the reboot so much. They did the roles they played justice with as much respect they could while aware of the weight of the roles involved. (The work the actors for Dr. McCoy and Scotty did to get the accents right made me tear up to read about.)

                      And, well, if it wasn’t for the role of George Kirk, Chris Hemsworth wouldn’t have gotten Thor (apparently that short scene was what caught the eye of the producers of Thor.)

                      You know who I found myself imagining in the role of Elistan? Hugh Laurie, and it’s because of his Dr. House role. Elistan, iirc, was a burned out Seeker (of the Gods) who found Paladine (Who I’m ridiculously tempted to cast Morgan Freeman in, because that voice. but consider that my crack recommendation) – who oddly enough, I imagine as Patrick Stewart with beard and extensions. I guess I like see Stewart switch from doddering comedy relief to serious -such as whenever he is plunked into any episode with Q, or him reciting Shakespeare… he’s good at it. (And his outtakes with Michael Dorn(e? – Worf) are pure comedy gold. “DEATH! COMES IN THE SHAPE OF A BANANA!” (and Patrick spends the next twenty minutes dying.)

                      Wandering off into the later books, Terry Crews (look up the ‘Euro Training’ clips on Youtube) would make a delightful Dunbar Mastermate (the barrel-chested Ergothian seaman who became the next head of the White Robes.)

                      I kind of want to cast the woman who played Shae (Game of Thrones) as Takhisis.

                      STILL can’t come up with a good Sturm.

                      Jumping off the DL casting, is it weird that I can see Michael C Hall, who is probably best known now for his role as Dexter Morgan, as someone who’d fit into the Harry Dresden role, just because of the internal monologue and the covers of the Dresden Files books? I have the odd little urge to cast him as Dalamar too.

                      Par-Salian? Charles Dance. LaDonna? Diana Rigg (She played Oleanna Tyrell and that scene with her and Charles Dance verbally fencing reminded me of the Par-Salian/Ladonna dynamic.)

                      zzz time for me.

                    11. How would you feel about Malcolm McDowellas Lord Verminaard, and Jeremy irons Emperor Ariakis?

                    12. “I don’t think we’ll really break the comments, but it’d be hard for folks to join in because of how replies nest in WP.” – Shadow

                      Pffft! They can get their own damn’ thread. This one is mine, mine, all mine! Mwahahahahah!


                      Someday I will be invincible, he mutters quietly, and THEN they’ll see.

                      Now, where wuz I?

                      Ah yes… Ennhhhh, Pine’s Kirk was a putz, but he was a well acted putz.

                      He profaned the One True Kirk. I find that hard to forgive, even if that was Abrams fault. But we’ll just pretend that the Great and Holy Sisko bitch slapped Abrams a good one for us, and it’ll be all right.

                      The New Trek movies were loads a fun, but they weren’t Star Trek, and let’s leave it at that. Actual Star Trek ended with the very beginning of Season Six of Voyager and Star Trek: First Contact. If they’d only had the sense to throw Janeway out an airlock early on during “Equinox, Part I”, Voyager would have been perfect.

                      “For all the flaws of the reboot movies, you really, really cannot fault the acting work bestowed on the roles by the actors – which, personally is a huge part of the reason why I forgive the reboot so much. They did the roles they played justice with as much respect they could while aware of the weight of the roles involved. (The work the actors for Dr. McCoy and Scotty did to get the accents right made me tear up to read about.)” – Shadow

                      *grin* Karl Urban did a wonderful job as McCoy. 🙂

                      “You know who I found myself imagining in the role of Elistan? Hugh Laurie, and it’s because of his Dr. House role. Elistan, iirc, was a burned out Seeker (of the Gods) who found Paladine (Who I’m ridiculously tempted to cast Morgan Freeman in, because that voice. but consider that my crack recommendation)” – Shadow

                      Why crack? Morgan Freeman would make a GREAT Paladine.

                      Hey, if Ron Jeremy can play God, Morgan Freeman can play a god, I say.

                      Hugh Laurie works, and yes, I do remember Elistan.

                      “I kind of want to cast the woman who played Shae (Game of Thrones) as Takhisis.”

                      Not familiar with her, sorry. Have zero interest in Game of Thrones.

                      Now, if HBO was to decide to make a Wild Cards TV series, then I’d get interested.

                      Wild Cards, live action. We have the technology. Make it happen, people.

                      “Jumping off the DL casting, is it weird that I can see Michael C Hall, who is probably best known now for his role as Dexter Morgan, as someone who’d fit into the Harry Dresden role, just because of the internal monologue and the covers of the Dresden Files books?”

                      Huh. Michael C. Hall as Dresden works, actually. He’s not tall enough, but probably no one in Hollywood really is.

                      And… it’s sack out time for me too, nearly. Laterz.

          1. Rhys would periodically take the book away from me when he saw I’d ripped through a quarter of it in 30 minutes. He was very reasonable – “You want to have the enjoying of the book last, don’t you?”

            Well, yes. I did. But that didn’t stop me from trying my best to cute my way into another fifteen minutes of read.

            So I went back and reread Ghost Story instead.

      2. If you like O’Brian, you’ll probably like H Paul Honsinger’s Man of War series. Tries to do for O’Brian what Weber did for Hornblower, and succeeds moderately well,

      3. I’ve got a kinda steampunkish (is totally a word) book that keeps getting kicked backwards in the writing queue. I agree with the others – I like the visuals and the idea, but a lot of the books (except for Dave Freer’s and a few others) get sooooo boring. OK, look, the Victorians and Edwardians were not like that, so quit belaboring them with your umbrella.

        1. I’m working (some of the time) on a steampunk space opera with a meganekko space princess. . . .

      4. I haven’t read much that really thrilled me, but the first Lady Trent novel was pretty good A natural History of Dragons as far as seeming plausibly in that that era of exploration and gender roles. I remember seeing some of the usual suspects complaining about the gender handling and the cross cultural contacts being too ‘real Victorian’.

        i quite enjoyed a self published set of what the author called ‘diesel punk’ where the fantasy came from the setting: L. Shelby’s Across a Jade Sea . I love the character voices in it, and what turns out to be behind the assassins hasn’t been done in anything else I’ve read. nor has the solution. She’s also done some interesting sort-of-tropical-Afircan setting fantasy.

    3. Since I actually know my way around a steam engine, “steam=magic” threatens to make my head explode.

      It’s like writing a mainstream novel, except having all the cars powered by kangaroos on giant hamster wheels. Because the author was some urbanite who not only didn’t know any better, but didn’t care, so he made up any old thing to fill the pages instead of doing even the most trivial amount of research.

        1. With known materials and claimed performance, yes.

          Steam punk media creators are rarely engineers. They tend to know little about sizing the furnace and boiler, or knowing whether the weight and power of the system make the mechanism plausible. (Not that the clockwork is handled any better.) Then there are questions of cost, speed, and difficultly of fabrication, plus the necessities of R&D debugging.

          When I was a kid, I could tell that the steampunk content in my cartoons was absurd, and I only knew that steam power plants had been too heavy for airplanes.

          That said, I can turn my brain off and enjoy giant humanoid robots, and I can explain the implausibility of those as well as anyone.

          1. I admit I tend to view steampunk tropes in much the same way as I do Flinstones’ Tech: spend as little time on it as necessary and watch the story get told.

            As far as that goes, I tend to treat a lot of SF/F technology the same way. Inertialess Drive? Warp Drive? Improbability Drive? Wormhole Portals? Sure. Whatever. Don’t let it get in the way of the story.

            1. If one wants to argue social responsibility, then anything that leads to excessive confidence in infeasible solutions is bad.

              I don’t have much respect for social responsibility.

            2. *shrug* I’m a child of the 60s and 70s. I came through the fires of adolescence in the years of the era of the Great American Muscle Car.

              Diesel Punk is more my speed.

    4. Jim Butcher put out a steampunk novel last year: The Aeronaut’s Windlass It was awesome. I also recommend the Emperor’s Edge series, by Lindsay Buroker (first book: The Emperor’s Edge). It’s great fun, if a bit silly at times (but not in a bad way). Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells was very good as well. (Actually, I recommend *anything* by Martha Wells.) The key point for those is that they’re NOT earth-based, they’re actual fantasy worlds, so.

      As to good steampunk set in our world there are some that, although yes, they definitely qualify as ‘alternate history’ in terms of ‘not actual Victorian gender roles’ among other things they are still rollicking good fun. I recommend the Stoker & Holmes series (the niece of Bram Stoker and the youngest child–a girl–of the Holmes family, but despite this eye-rolling schtick, they are charming and quite a lot of fun). The first one in that series is The Clockwork Scarab

      Also the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series by Pip Ballantine. Again, it’s alterna-history…but roaring pup action fiction with steampunk trappings. The first one of that is Phoenix Rising (I think.)

      There is, however, a lot of drek out there, and I–being a lover of steampunk–encountered an eye-watering amount of it before I found these gems, heh.

      1. Oops, corrections: Butcher’s book was already mentioned (that’ll teach me not to read all the replies!) and for the Stoker & Holmes books: I got it backwards. It’s the niece of the Holmes brothers and the sister of Bram Stoker. 😀 They’re still charming books.

          1. There’s also S.M. Stirling’s Peshawar Lancers….. which I’d love to see another volume in that universe.

              1. Oh yeah, I grinned the whole time I read that book, pinging each reference to Haggard and T. Mundy, and Kipling, and . . .

  34. Finally. The thing with Trump’s campaign manager has moved to the next step. I do guess that waiting so long means that the police are convinced there’s enough foundation to stick with.

  35. Interesting observation from a wholly different context, offered by National Review columnist Jim Geraghty, in a discussion of Spy Magazine’s treatment of Trump as the personification of the “Id of New York” back in the Eighties:

    From the perspective of a lot of folks on the Right at the time, Spy offered a group of smug New York elites snickering and mocking other smug New York elites (and anyone not sophisticated enough to know who they were talking about). … the sarcastic cynicism of Spy more or less targeted everyone – including National Review and William F. Buckley at least once — meaning that there was no good in their perspective, few if any examples of people worth emulating. Rereading Spy today is fascinating, but after enough issues, it begins to feel like comedic nihilism – everybody’s terrible, everybody’s shameless and out for themselves, everybody’s the worst ever. And if everybody’s the worst ever, nobody stands out as particularly bad – and there’s no point in expecting anything better.

    Clearly Spy</I manifested the snarkiness of a sophomoric presumption personified by Holden Caulfield, the epitome of grey goo literary excellence. Everybody's a phony and they should all just die.

  36. Pardon my pedantry, but do you at least yell “look out below” before committing these acts of defenestration?



    1. Not the one time I threw Donaldson out the window between France and Germany (train). But to be fair it was two AM. If I managed to hit a French/German peasant he was standing in the middle of dark fields in the middle of the night.

      1. Donaldson… Steven R.?

        If it was one of the Thomas Covenants, throwing it off of a train was understandable. I’m not sure I’d burn one… the chance of corrupting a poor innocent salamander by accident would be nigh unforgivable.

        Heh. I met Steven R. Donaldson at a Dallas Fantasy Fair at a Con party once, kinda by accident.

        Me and my best friend at the time were hanging out at a party at one of the Con Suites with a pair of Con groupies we’d, ah… met and fell in with (read: picked up at the bar), and they started talking to this fairly plain bookish looking fellow and gushing about the Covenant books. One of them, IIRC, was a literachure teacher – and it showed – and she started dissecting the books for all of the “deep meanings” and “significance” in Covenant’s leprosy and inability to take The Land at face value and believe in it, and how that “captured the essential unreality of reality” yata yata yata…

        After a bit of her blathering on, the guy glanced over at me a bit quizzically and said, “Well, you’ve been awful quiet. Have you read the Covenant novels?”

        I allowed that I had, up to about two thirds of the way into the second book as of that point, and he asked me what I thought of them. Since he’d made the fatal mistake of asking my opinion…

        I blinked, leaned back, and drawled out, “Well, aside from them being the most bleak and depressing works of fiction I’ve run across as of this point, my main impression was that by the end of the first one, I wanted to strangle the lead character, slowly, and by halfway through the second I wanted to see him boiled alive along with every other character in the two novels. The prose is dense and overwrought, the outlook in the novels was bleak and dismal, and as I generally read fantasy to be entertained, I didn’t find them all that entertaining. But I wasn’t quite annoyed with them enough to take them back to B. Dalton’s and get a refund, as they weren’t utter tripe like Dalhgren had proved to be. Just mostly tripe… ”

        Things got quieter and quieter in that area of the Con Suite the longer I talked, and then I belatedly realized that the blonde school teacher Con Chickie had been addressing the guy as “Steve.” Relays went clickety, added up, rolled over and came up lemons, and I kind of figured out at that point that “Steve” was “Steven R. Donaldson”, and I’d just told one of the Con’s pro guests that his books sucked rocks.

        I’m kinda slow some days. Especially when it’s nearly 1am and I’ve been working and running around a Con since early in the morning on less than five hours sleep and not nearly enough coffee.

        I kind of trailed off, shrugged, and said, “Well… ” and he started laughing in a bit of a strained fashion and shrugged back and said, “Well, I did ask, didn’t I?”

        Afterwards, since that pretty well killed any plans we had for a party after the party with the two Steven R. Donaldson groupies, my buddy clapped me on the shoulder and said, “Way to go, brain trust,” and that was that.

        *grin* At least Bulldog Productions didn’t kick me off the Con Staff for that. 🙂 I did get Bob Asprin giving me the hairy eyeball later, shaking his head, and walking off snickering under his breath, though, so it wasn’t a total loss.

        I *still* think those are among the bleakest and least entertaining things I’ve ever read in my life, and I never did make it past two thirds of the way into the second book.

        1. That would be embarrassing. 😉

          I’ll admit that I didn’t have Sarah’s reaction to the first book and finished the first three, but I’ve never wanted to read the other books let alone reread the first three.

          1. I actually found it kinda hilarious, in retrospect, but I’m hard to mortify at times. And he DID ask me, dagnabbit. Never ask me a question you aren’t sure you want a straight answer to. And often a blunt one.

            I was a bit irked at the price tag, though. But the Con Chicks were probably proto-SJWs, so it worked out.

            The books really did suck rocks, too, in my opinion. So it’s not like I lied to him.

              1. I’m much nicer if I like your books, honest.

                And I’m also a LOT more politic and at least somewhat tactful if I actually know that you’re the author of the book I’m about to trash…

                Okay, so me being “somewhat tactful” is kind of like using a Daisy Cutter rather than a nuke, but the effort is there.

        2. It was the first. My then boyfriend loved it. He suddenly understood why I liked this SF thing. He gave it to me with this moving dedication. The book went sailing out the window of a train two weeks later. The relationship didn’t last much longer.

          1. It deserved it. The book at least. I leave the relationship to your judgement. 🙂

            I made it through Book I, and went, “Hmmm.” I decided to give Book II a chance, just because I hated to start a series and not finish it back then.

            Halfway into Book II I hit the Eight Deadly Words stage: “I don’t care what happens to these people.” Two thirds of the way in, I hit the thirteen even deadlier words point of, “I actively hate all of these people and want them to die horribly” spot, at which the book got tossed aside and never finished.

        3. Thank goodness I wasn’t drinking anything when I read that…

          And you’re right: He DID ask.

          This is why, some years back, when people found out I like sf/fantasy and immediately said “Me too!” and asked me, all puppyish, if I’ve ever read Robert Jordan…I learned to back up and say “I have…but if you’re a big fan you probably don’t want to hear my actual opinion of The Wheel of Time.” If they persisted after that…well, they DID ask…

          1. *grin* He did, he really did. 🙂 And yeah, at Rendo and Rotica it was kind of a ongoing joke at times that some of my posts should come with a built in beverage warning. Sorry ’bout that…

            I tell ya, that is one of the things that I found freaking infuriating about some of the Puppy Kicker commentary and posts, on the “You’re not real Fans! Because all real Fans yata yata yata blather blather blather and blah blah blah!” stuff.

            I read some of those, and my hackles went up almost immediately. Like, “Whoa. Back the fuck up there, chuckles. I was editing ‘Zines and working Staff at Cons before you were a wet spot on the front of your daddy’s pants. Don’t give me this TrueFen crap, you little wanna be Authenticity Police Brownnoser. I didn’t take that crap off of the Aristocracy in the SCA, and I’ll bet you aren’t nearly as intimidating with a 3′ hunk of rattan as William the Frog or Yang the Nauseating.”

            They couldn’t have picked a line of argument better designed to make me an automatic Sad Puppy sympathizer if they’d spent ten years at the drawing board trying to come up with one.

            1. I have reached the point where even *seeing* the words “a TRUE fan” or “REAL fans…” or other variations makes me angry. Even when it was probably innocuously meant. For example: the title of some clickbait or other titled “The 15 items every TRUE Harry Potter Fan owns!” made me want to hunt down the writer and throttle them while screaming “ANYONE WHO LIKES SOMETHING CAN CALL THEMSELVES A FAN WHETHER OR NOT THEY OWN A SPECIFIC SET OF SWAG!”

              Hipsters in any form are the single most irritating form of life on the planet. (And sadly, they have existed since Adam and Eve first started having kids, I imagine…)

                1. Real, True Fans don’t care about meeting anybody else’s criteria about what Real, True fans must do. Real, True Fans don’t set bars for others to clear.

              1. Does this mean you would not order a custom rifle just to have ‘Authentic Puppy Fan’ laser etched onto it? Or a ‘Crimes Against Literature Press’ branded tactical melon baller? Or a ‘Tod Kruez’ 2016 tour T-Shirt?

                Would an advertising campaign offend that claimed that one doesn’t truly oppose Trump unless one has all the ‘Alt-Right Are Leftist Agents Provocateur’ merch?

                1. “Would an advertising campaign offend that claimed that one doesn’t truly oppose Trump unless one has all the ‘Alt-Right Are Leftist Agents Provocateur’ merch?”

                  Dunno. Would a #NeverTrump = #RepublicansForHillary! tee shirt offend?

                  1. Trump most likely loses to Hillary in the general election. The polling has mostly been consistent on that, and as crazy as polling has been this cycle, it has not been crazy in Trump’s favor. Somehow he has managed to get negatives worse than Hillary has.

                    That said, if one supposes that public polls are rubbish because media have purchased many low sample/high error polls and cherrypicked results to fit a narrative, it is hard to say. The media prefers Hillary, so they have incentive to promote someone they think will lose to her. If polls are rubbish because the decrease in civic trust under Obama has invisibly increased the error, who knows?

                    1. Polls are rubbish.

                      On the other hand, this really isn’t a Trump bash discussion, and you keep tossing in extraneous snide Trump bashing comments regardless. I get it, really: you don’t like Trump.

                      I, on the other hand, was here mindlessly enjoying the rare Trump free argument for a change, and it got a bit aggravating to me.


                      Or not. I’m not cheap, but I’m easy.

                    2. I confess, I’ve gotten confused. Of the members of the Royal House of Amber, which is The Donald?

                    3. IMO people (besides Sarah) who bring up Trump should be Thumped. 👿 👿 👿 👿

                    4. I think he’s one of the Courts of Chaos, actually, RES. I seem to recall seeing him as a minor background character in one of the Merlin cycle books.

                    5. In this one guy’s Amber Diceless house rules…

                      I’ll try to stop dragging Trump where people are discussing things not Trump. I hadn’t, and should’ve, realized how obnoxious I was getting with that.

                    6. “I’ll try to stop dragging Trump where people are discussing things not Trump. I hadn’t, and should’ve, realized how obnoxious I was getting with that.”

                      No problem. Just thought I’d mention that it was making my back teeth itch before it made them itch enough for me to go snap N slash.


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