MIND MELD: How to Avoid The Suck Fairy of Re-Reads

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This week we asked our participants to talk about the perils of re-reading. Going back to a book read in one’s golden age of SF reading can be a fraught exercise. Characters we thought we wonderful can turn out to be wooden. Settings we thought diverse and open turn out to be monochromatic. Plots that enthralled us can seem facile. Books we enjoyed can be rife with questionable material. Writers whose work we loved can turn out to be terrible human beings.

Q: Let’s talk about Jo Walton’s “Suck fairy”. How do you find the process of re-reading a book? How does a re-read of a book change your initial bliss and happiness with the book? Do you have any strategies for avoiding disappointment? What books have managed to escape the suck fairy for you?

Here’s what they said…

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Jo Anderton lives in Sydney with her husband and too many pets. By day she is a mild-mannered marketing coordinator for an Australian book distributor. By night, weekends and lunchtimes she writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Her short story collection The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories was published by Fablecroft Publishing in 2013, and won the Aurealis Award for Best Collection. Her novel, Debris was published in 2011, followed by Suited in 2012. Debris was shortlisted for the Aurealis award for Best Fantasy Novel, and Suited was shortlisted for Best Science Fiction Novel! Joanne won the 2012 Ditmar for Best New Talent. You can find her online at http://joanneanderton.com

What Finishing A Trilogy Has Taught Me About The Creative Process

By Jo Anderton

In my original ideas for the Veiled Worlds Trilogy, scribbled on a post-it note and carried around in my wallet for days, Tanyana’s suit had an ultimate form that involved giant silver wings. Also, her main romantic interest was a mythical being known as the gatekeeper.

Let’s all take a deep, relieved breath that none of that actually happened.

I still have that ratty post-it note. It’s stuck inside the unfortunate notebook that the cat vomited on, but it’s legible. All my notes – every random idea, every comment from a beta-reader – are kept in a set of three notebooks. I guess you could call them the blueprints for the trilogy, each one a sketch of the novel they ultimately became. But they’re also a record of the creative process itself, how ideas begin life, and the way in which they change.
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Books have the power to make us laugh, cry, and everything in between, and there are those books (you know what I’m talking about) that can actually change the way we think and influence us in very powerful ways, even changing the course of our lives. I asked our panel this question:

Q: As authors, and readers, what book or books have affected you in a profound way, and why?

Here’s what they had to say…

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MIND MELD: Food in Science Fiction versus Fantasy

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This week we asked about Food and Drink in SF.

Food and Drink in science fiction sometimes seems limited to replicator requests for Earl Grey tea and Soylent green discs. Why doesn’t do as much food as Fantasy? Does Fantasy lend itself more to food than Science fiction? Why?
This is what they had to say…
Laura Anne Gilman
Author and Freelance Editor Laura Anne Gilman is the author of the popular Cosa Nostradamus novels, the award-nominated The Vineart War trilogy, as well as the story collection Dragon Virus. She also has written the mystery Collared under the pen name L.A. Kornetsky.

This will, I will admit, be a purely foodie view: I enjoy cooking, I enjoy eating, I enjoy reading about cooking and eating. And for a long time, it seemed as though we foodies were, if not the minority in genre, then certainly underserved.

There were the banquets in fantasy, of course, and the trail rations, and sometimes even a discussion of where the food came from, but – like bathroom breaks and sleeping – it often seemed tossed into the pile of “boring, don’t write about it.”

And science fiction? Mainly, science fiction mentioned food in context of technology: food-pills, space-age packets, vat-grown meat, etcetera. I suspect that many writers of the time had been heavily influenced by the early space program, and extrapolated their SF on the actual science. Surely, science fiction was saying, we had more important things to do than cook – or eat!

Even when they were dealing with an important, food-related issue (overcrowding, famine, etc), MAKE ROOM, MAKE ROOM made it a (very serious) punchline. So did “To Serve Man.” But scenes of characters preparing their food, or even enjoying it, were notably, if not entirely, absent.

(even CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY made the “too busy to eat” point with the 3-course-meal-gum…)
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TOC: ‘The Bone Chime Song’ by Joanne Anderton

Joanne Anderton has posted the table of contents for her upcoming collection The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories (which features an introduction by Kaaron Warren):

  1. “The Bone Chime Song”
  2. “Mah Song”
  3. “Shadow of Drought”
  4. “Sanaa’s Army”
  5. “From the Dry Heart to the Sea”
  6. “Always a Price”
  7. “Out Hunting for Teeth”
  8. “Death Masque”
  9. “Flowers in the shadow of the Garden”
  10. “A Memory Trapped in Light”
  11. “Trail of Dead”
  12. “Fence Lines”
  13. “Tied to the Waste”

MIND MELD: Holding out for a Hero

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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:

What makes a hero (or heroine) a hero instead of merely a protagonist? Is the idea of a straight up hero old fashioned or out of date in this day and age?

This is what they had to say…

Emma Newman
Emma lives in Somerset, England and drinks far too much tea. She writes dark short stories, post-apocalyptic and urban fantasy novels and records audiobooks in all genres. Her debut short-story collection From Dark Places was published in 2011 and 20 Years Later, her debut post-apocalyptic novel for young adults, was released early 2012. The first book of Emma’s new Split Worlds urban fantasy series called Between Two Thorns will be published by Angry Robot Books in 2013. She is represented by Jennifer Udden at DMLA. Her hobbies include dressmaking and playing RPGs. She blogs at www.enewman.co.uk, rarely gets enough sleep and refuses to eat mushrooms.

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.

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