There are books we read once. There are books we re-read. And then there are the books that we wear out because we devour it again and again. These are the books for which we have to buy ourselves another copy immediately upon lending out because we’re sure we will never see it again — or just want to make sure we have it on hand.
[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
On SF Signal Mind Melds, we’ve discussed Anti-Heroes, Villains, and
Sidekicks. It’s been a while since we tackled straight up heroes.So, this week we asked about heroes:
This is what they had to say…
For me, a hero is someone who actively works to achieve a goal for the good of others when there is a risk of losing something, ranging from a peaceful existence to their own life. Perseverance is critical; a hero persists in their heroic endeavour far beyond the point where most people would give up. Most wouldn’t even try in the first place.
As for whether a hero is old-fashioned; no. The portrayal of heroes (i.e massively flawed as opposed to nothing more than bravery in a bap) changes to fit the needs and sophistication of the audience. However, the basic need to see someone being more than we are – but everything we could be – is eternal.
UPDATED to include a response from Delia Sherman
[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
Very often, in secondary world fantasy novels, the default political setup is to have a Monarch of some sort, often one that acts in a seemingly autocratic manner. Many times, this Monarch rules by some sort of divine right or providence.
When people create worlds, we only really have our own world for reference, or from which to glean conscious and subconscious influences. Kingdoms, empires, monarchs – that’s all human history has pretty much known. Even today, we’re under the illusion we have democracy, but it’s much more wishy-washy than true ancient Athenian democracy, where power was genuinely more equally distributed, and more citizens played a role in the functioning of society. Today our monarchs and empires now are largely trade-based hegemonies, imperial campaigns given the spin of delivering peace through drone bombings. We are now subject to political and financial kings and queens (well, strictly speaking, in the UK we’re still subjects to the queen, but hey).
So in one sense, that’s life. That’s all we’ve ever known.
Emphasizing this point, many fantasy writers tend to look towards history, consciously or otherwise, for inspiration. Given that, aside from moments in the ancient world, there are very few examples where there are not kingdoms and empires, it’s inevitable.
There’s a wonderful season of Shakespeare on the BBC at the moment, which is hammering the point that I think still lingers today, and that’s a fascination with those who hold ultimate power. The pressures. The mental state. The sheer audacity to rule. Holding a position of god on earth. It is the biggest stage in a nation. So what does that do to an individual? What does that do to their mind? Can they ever be truly human? Such questions continue to inspire fantasy writers today. We’re very much interested in that big stage and what it means when ordinary people connect with it in some way.
I hated being force-fed books in school because they rarely suited my tastes in speculative fiction reading. Today’s generation, however, has a much better chance of being assigned genre books in school. The following question was asked of this week’s panelists:
Read on to see their what books should be on every high schooler’s radar…
The trick, of course, is finding books teenagers will love, which also reveal the diversity of the genre and its literary aspirations. And “high school” is a broad range–what’s appropriate for an eighteen-year-old is not always what’s right for a fourteen-year-old. But assuming for a moment we’re talking about a senior-level AP class, I’d want Nalo Hopkinson’s The Salt Roads (which I imagine would be challenging to get past the parents, with its discussions of syphilis and slavery, but well worth it); Ted Chiang’s Stories Of Your Life And Others; Justine Larbalestier’s Liar (I’m going on rep for that one, as I have not read it yet, but it’s on my list); Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother (Which I would use, among other things, to talk about didactic literature, and I’d want to assign it in concert with Black Beauty, frankly); Christopher Barzak’s One For Sorrow; and a nice anthology in which there are a lot of fun stories in which stuff blows up, because this list is way too damned depressing already.
- The LA Times Lev Grossman (The Magicians).
- The LA Times reviews Joe R. Lansdale and USA Today reviews Lev Grossman.
- Bibliophile Stalker interviews Lavie Tidhar.
- Diana Pharaoh Francis talks about Serializing a Novel at SF Novelists.
- Kaaron Warren has been added to the list of sf/f authors who blog.
- John Scalzi gives an update on BigIdeaAuthors.com.
- Space Atoms is an upcoming short SciFi comedy film from the UK.
- Irene Gallo, Tor’s Art Director, has a great art-centric roundup of WorldCon posted.
- Scott Edelman has posted video of his 2000 Nebula Awards Weekend speech…and blames Paul Levinson for the demise of Science Fiction Age.
- The Angry Black Woman is soliciting titles for mindblowing science fiction by people of color.
- Damnation Books, publishers of horror, dark fantasy, paranormals, thrillers, science fiction and dark-themed erotica, is giving away a 2nd book this week for folks who join their reader’s list.
- SciFiNow reminds us of this retro Star Trek spoof from Saturday Night Live.
- Real Science:
- Astrobiology and the quest for extraterrestrial life: “The discovery of life elsewhere in the Solar System would ‘profoundly change our understanding of where we came from and our place in the cosmos’, astrobiologist Lewis Dartnell told Sam Wong ahead of his public lecture on the subject this week…”
- TechRivet points us to this interesting article about the feasibility of a lunar nuclear reactor. Anyone else getting the image of the Moon from the remake of The Time Machine with Guy Pearce?
- A bar in Minneapolis reopens as a zombie-themed bar. [via Neatorama]
- Mmm…Doctor Who cakes… [via HardcoreNerdity]
- Some genre films make Quentin Tarantino Reveals His Top 20 Movies.
- Mania lists 7 SFX in Movies That Changed Everything.
- Marooned rounds up an impressive list of facsimiles of first edition sf book dust jackets selling for $22 each.
- Also from Marooned: Den of Geek’s Top 10 potential sci-fi franchises Hollywood ignored.