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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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Juliet McKenna! – Sarah Chorn


Juliet E. McKenna is a British fantasy author. She was born in Lincolnshire in 1965, and studied Greek and Roman history and literature at St Hilda’s College, Oxford. She now lives in West Oxfordshire with her husband and sons. McKenna has written two series of books, The Tales of Einarinn and The Aldabreshin Compass, as well as many short stories and articles. She is currently working on a new series, The Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution, and a contemporary fantasy novel. She regularly attends fantasy conventions, gives talks, and teaches creative writing courses. She is also one of the authors, along with others such as Sarah Ash and Mark Chadbourn, behind The Write Fantastic, which is an initiative by a group of fantasy authors to promote the fantasy genre, and to display the scope of current fantasy writing.

Writing Characters with Disabilities – What I Did Then And How I Think Now

by Juliet McKenna

In my very first novel, The Thief’s Gamble, a peripheral character suffers a crippling injury. Halice, long-time friend and ally of Livak the principal narrator, falls from a horse and breaks a thigh bone. This is quite simply a plot device to explain her absence. That’s why Livak, now at a loose end, makes a spur of the moment decision which takes her on an unexpected and perilous adventure. So far, so unremarkable, or at least, so I thought at the time, in 1996.
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From Bilbo traveling to the lonely Mountain and Frodo’s journey to Mordor, to Steven Erikson’s Malazan novels having armies crossing fantasy continent after continent…the road trip, as it were, is a staple of science fiction and fantasy, particularly epic fantasy. See the scenery, meet interesting characters and explore the world! What could go wrong?

Q: What are your favorite “road trips” in science fiction and fantasy? What makes a good road trip in a genre story?

Here’s what they said.

Gail Z Martin
Gail Z Martin‘s latest novel is Ice Forged.

My favorite fictional road trips include Canterbury Tales, David Edding’s Belgariad books, and David Drake’s Lord of the Isles series.

A good road trip reveals hidden truths about the people who are traveling. If you’ve ever gone on a long car trip with friends or family, you know what I mean! You don’t really know someone until you’ve been stuck in a vehicle with them for 12 straight hours—or on a sailing ship on the high seas during a storm. Since things go wrong on long trips, they provide insight into resourcefulness and character. A really good “journey” story reveals the world and the characters simultaneously, while moving the story forward—no small feat!
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MIND MELD: Great Books to Read During Winter

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This week, in time for the change of season, we asked about Winter:

In the Northern Hemisphere, the weather is turning colder, and the season of Winter is upon us. What are your favorite genre stories and novels that revolve around the coldest season. How do they make use of the season, and how do they evoke it?
This is what they had to say…
Gwenda Bond
Gwenda Bond’s debut novel, Blackwood, was a September 2012 launch title for Strange Chemistry, the new YA imprint of Angry Robot Books. Her next novel, The Woken Gods, will be released in July 2013. She is also a contributing writer for Publishers Weekly, regularly reviews for Locus, guest-edited a special YA issue of Subterranean Online, and has an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in a hundred-year-old house in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband, author Christopher Rowe, and their menagerie. Visit her online at her website (www.gwendabond.com) or on twitter (@gwenda).

The first novel that leaps to mind is Geraldine McCaughrean’s The White Darkness. It’s a wonderfully bizarre tour de force about a girl, Sym, who is obsessed with all things Antarctic, including her imaginary boyfriend, the deceased Captain Lawrence “Titus” Oates. Her mad “uncle” takes her on a once in a lifetime trip there, which turns out to be a nightmare. He believes in the hollow Earth theory and that they will prove it’s true. Along the way, McCaughrean masterfully reveals more and more about Sym’s own past and her phony uncle. Sym’s voice is arresting despite how very in her own head she is—and it’s perhaps because of how that works with a backdrop that is spectacularly isolated and physically challenging. Some people may argue this isn’t a true fantasy, but I would debate them (citing spoilers), and regardless of which of us won I maintain it’d still be of interest to many genre readers because of the hollow Earth fringe science driving the plot.

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MIND MELD: What Places Inspire Your Worldbuilding?

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Places. Be it distant cities, or even beyond Earth entirely, strange, unusual and beautiful places can inspire creativity and ideas for stories and novels.

Q: What places, on Earth or beyond, inspire worldbuilding in your writing? What appeals to you about them? Share!
Philippa Ballantine
New Zealand author Philippa Ballantine, is a fantasy writer and podcaster. Her novels Geist, Spectyr, Hunter and Fox and Phoenix Rising; a Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel (co-written with Tee Morris) span many speculative fiction genres. Her works have won an Airship and a Sir Julius Vogel Award, and been in the Goodreads Top Science Fiction books of 2011. Her newest book will be Hunter and Fox, a Shifted World novel, from Pyr.

New Zealand has been my inspiration. Even though it is home there are still places there that I cannot get out of my mind.

Everyone thinks of New Zealand as beautiful and green, but there are places that are far different. They did film Mordor in New Zealand too!

The desert plateau right in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand is a pretty bleak, but it is full of secret rivers, volcanoes some dark and dreary, some topped by snow. Wild horses can still be found racing across the plains there. There are skree slopes that if you don’t keep running down, you’d get buried in. In other words it is beautiful and frightening…just the place for me.

It’s a place made for adventure…and consequently the final showdown in my last book of the Order, Harbinger.

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