Thursday, November 17, 2016

Weekly Update: 11-17-16 Books and Pondering Escapism

 Is fantasy just
an escape? No. We explore
life as it could be.

So last week the election happened.

It hung over me like a dark cloud. I was doing my unpatriotic best to ignore the whole thing, feeling rather poisoned by the bad atmosphere. But come Wednesday morning, I woke up to the news that the world had changed. Reality TV gave us Donald Trump as a president, and I really don't know what to do with that.

Between that and the slight break in homework, I decided to do something I hadn't done in a while and bury my head in a book. I read The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. In it, a vast Library acts as a portal to alternate worlds. Librarian Irene is sent to a steampunk version of Victorian London to retrieve a rare copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales, only to find it's already been stolen. Teaming up with an apprentice who is more than he seems and a meddling detective, Irene is soon plunged headlong into danger when an old enemy of the library emerges from the shadows.

The Invisible Library was a fun book to read, though I was a little underwhelmed by the mystery portion of it. I solved it midway through. Like so many books I read, it started to build on some interesting ideas of the notion of chaos, but ended up eschewing the debate for an action climax. This made the book fast-paced and enjoyable, but I felt a little sad that it did not trigger as much deep thought as I would have liked. It was a solid read, and I'd recommend it.

Since I feel pretty helpless about what's happening in my country, I decided to focus on what I could do, namely, write. My earlier fears about failing to make it to 50,000 words have died, so I decided to challenge myself with another goal. I want to write everyday. It seems like a simple thing, but I've never actually done it. So far so good. I haven't missed a day of writing, even if I don't always make it to 1667 words.

On Saturday, Brea Library invited three science fiction and fantasy authors to speak in a panel, as they unveiled their new shelf of Sci-Fi/ Fantasy books. Given my history with the Brea Library and my interest in fantasy, I had to attend, and I dragged three other Pendragons with me. Apparently, I was networking like no tomorrow. Or at least using the opportunity to chat with people and hand out a couple of my bookmarks.

At the panel, we met:

John Joseph Adams, publisher of Lightspeed and editor of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, an anthology of short stories. He spoke about the process of choosing selections and told us about the Clarion Workshop in San Diego. When I got to speak to him, he introduced me to a couple of veterans of the workshop and we exchanged information.

Kim Vandervort, a professor at Fullerton College and the author of The Song and the Sorceress and The Northern Queen. I was going to buy one of her books, but Rita bought the last copy. Kim spoke what makes female heroines both strong and different from men. She identified three strengths of women heroines: they use words as a weapon and communicate, they can't rely on their physical abilities so they use their brains, and they build networks of support. I really related to those qualities, which I often stick in my own heroines, and I told her as much.

Todd McCaffrey, the son of Anne McCaffrey, who wrote the Pern series and is probably the superstar of the group. He told us about some of his upcoming books and urged writers to enter The Writers of the Future contest and the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards (for 7th-12th graders). When I spoke to him, I asked him which of the Pern books to start with and he said Dragonflight.

Jill Patterson, a librarian, moderated the panel.

Among the intriguing questions brought up was why science fiction and fantasy are important as genres and why they don't seem to get respect the way normal fiction and mysteries do? The panel expressed the idea that SF/ F is "the genre of tomorrow," that it is not an escape, but a means of exploring ideas and possiblities. And I heartily agree with that. Most of the writers are dreamers and engaging in play, something that more pretentious genres may look down on. I think that play is necessary, though. There is so much that we don't know that if we do not use our imagination, we are limiting ourselves.
Todd McCaffrey said that as time passes, science fiction either becomes fact or fantasy. I leave that quote for my father, a budding science fiction writer, who has been noticing the merging of science fiction and fantasy. There you have it, Dad. A reason your genre and mine look so much alike.

When discussing trends, they spoke about how fantasy has become more international, both that settings are taking on a less Euro-centric sweep and that authors are emerging from other countries. Apparently Atlantis has been popping up a lot as well, which may have to do with Global Warming. They left us with these authors/books as recommendations:
  • Lois Mcmaster Bujold
  • Yoon Han Lee
  • Linda Nagata
  • Ken Liu
  • Red Rising
  • Leviathan

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