MIND MELD: What’s on Your Mount To-Be-Read Book Pile?

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We asked this week’s panelists about what they are reading.

Q: Mount To-be-read! Every genre reader that collects and reads genre books has a Mount To-be-read. What Fantasy, SF and Horror books on the top of yours that is just begging for you to read?

Here’s what is on the bedside tables of our respondents:

L.E. Modesitt
L. E. Modesitt, Jr., is the New York Times best-selling author of more than 65 novels – primarily science fiction and fantasy, a number of short stories, and numerous technical and economic articles. His novels have sold millions of copies in the U.S. and world-wide, and have been translated into German, Polish, Dutch, Czech, Russian, Bulgarian, French, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, and Swedish. His first story was published in Analog in 1973, and his next book is The One-Eyed Man: A Fugue, With Winds And Accompaniment, to be released in mid-September, with a starred review from Kirkus.

My Mount To-be-read is actually very short, and that’s because I usually don’t buy books unless I know I’m going to have the time to read them – with one exception. I’m still making my way through Reine De Memoire 1. La Maison D’Oubli, by Elisabeth Vonarburg. It’s an excellent book, so far, but the difficulty is that I’m reading it in French, and I don’t read French nearly as fast as I read English. Because it’s been years since I read much in French, each time I pick it up it takes a few minutes and pages before I get into any sort of flow… and because she writes in a certain depth… well, I do need the dictionary, I confess. The other books currently on my very short mountain, perhaps better named Hill To-be-read, are Kay Kenyon’s A Thousand Perfect Things, Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312, and at the bottom… Brandon Sanderson’s The Emperor’s Soul, which I’ve had for almost a year and somehow never picked up.

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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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A lot of recent science fiction appears to take place on Earth, and only a minority of space-based science fiction taking place outside the solar system. Novels and stories involving travel to the stars and interstellar travel seems to be out-of-date or out-of-fashion, and even Hard SF treatments of interstellar travel seem as realistic as Star Wars.

We asked this week’s panelists:

Q: Is interstellar travel (and space empires, etc.) now considered Science Fantasy? What does that say for the state of the genre?

Here’s what they said…

Elizabeth Bear
Elizabeth Bear was born on the same day as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, but in a different year. This, coupled with a childhood tendency to read the dictionary for fun, led her inevitably to penury, intransigence, the mispronunciation of common English words, and the writing of speculative fiction.

I think that like everything else, fads in science fiction run in cycles, and lately there’s been a big ol’ dystopian wave going on. But it’s not as if deep space science fiction, or SF featuring far-flung space civilizations isn’t still being written. Charlie Stross, Iain Banks, Dan Simmons, Greg Bear, Chris Moriarty, C.J. Cherryh–heck, I’ve written a couple of books dealing with far-flung space travel myself.

If you were to nudge the focus of the question over to whether near-future and near-earth SF has been getting more *awards* attention lately, I think you’d be more accurate.

But there are fads in criticism the same as everything else.

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