Tag Archives: Shaun Duke

MIND MELD: Books We’ve Worn Out Re-Reading

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

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.

Q: What are some of these genre books for you? Why do you go back to them again and again?

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[GUEST POST] Shaun Duke on World SF and the Global Archipelago of Worlds

Shaun Duke is a PhD. student at the University of Florida studying Caribbean literature, postcolonialism, and science fiction. His fiction and non-fiction publications can be found on his blog, The World in the Satin Bag, where he writes about SF/F and related topics (mostly, he just causes trouble nobody notices). He is also one of the hosts of The Skiffy and Fanty Show. He is also fundraising for travel expenses to attend Worldcon this August. He hopes to bring The Skiffy and Fanty Show and the World SF Tour there to expand the project’s scope. If you want to support the effort, head on over to the GoFundMe page, read about the milestone perks, donate, and spread the word.

World SF and the Global Archipelago of Worlds

by Shaun Duke

In Archaeologies of the Future (2005), Fredric Jameson proposes that we “think of our autonomous and non-communicating Utopias — which can range from wandering tribes and settled villages all the way to great city-states or regional ecologies — as so many islands: a Utopian archipelago, islands in the net, a constellation of discontinuous centers, themselves internally decentered” (221). While I won’t get into Jameson’s larger project here, I do want to take a moment to apply this idea of the archipelago to the world sf concept. To clarify, utopia here is perhaps a somewhat nebulous term, since Jameson’s use is certainly not the colloquial “perfect society” kind, but rather an “in the moment” utopianism whose primary concern isn’t an end result, but, as Ernst Bloch would suggest about utopia in The Principles of Hope (1954), a desire or drive. An intention, if you will.

World sf, I think, is a part of this tradition, though intention is, in most cases, not a necessary component. It is not utopian in a colloquial sense, but it is utopian in the sense of a desire. Of representation. Of imagination. Of possibilities. Imagine each literary tradition as a star in the sky and you’ll see why world sf is, as in the quote by Jameson above, that archipelago (of worlds): it’s a gateway into the myriad ways people can engage sf/f within their living spaces (nations, cities, states, etc. — i.e., worlds). They might be discontinuous, decentered, in conflict or isolated, but in them, there’s a renewed freshness waiting to be explored.
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MIND MELD: Great SF/F Stories By Women

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Recently, Ian Sales posted an article on his website called Toward 100 Great SF Short Stories by Women. We thought this would be a great question for our Mind Meld panelists and so we’ve leveraged the question:

Q: What stories do you think belong on a “100 Great SF/F Stories by Women” list?

Here’s what they said:
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MIND MELD: Books You Eat Like Candy & Books You Savor

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Many readers have different gears when reading books. Some books are ones in which you luxuriate and spend time with, others are such a ride that you turn the pages rapidly, carried along through them at warp speed.

We asked this week’s panelists about this phenomenon:

Q: What books do you savor? What books do you eat like candy? What makes for you a book that you savor, or speed through?

Here’s what they said…

Sandra Wickham
Sandra Wickham lives in Vancouver, Canada with her husband and two cats. Her friends call her a needle crafting aficionado, health guru and ninja-in-training. Sandra’s short stories have appeared in Evolve: Vampires of the New Undead, Evolve: Vampires of the Future Undead, Chronicles of the Order, Crossed Genres magazine and coming up in The Urban Green Man. She blogs about writing with the Inkpunks, is the Fitness Nerd columnist for the Functional Nerds and slush reads for Lightspeed Magazine.

As a fitness professional, I have a hard time comparing books to popcorn and candy. I’m sorry. It goes against my nature. Is it all right if I call them fruits versus vegetables? Fruit is yummy, quick to eat and always fun. Vegetables can be yummy, are a bit more work to eat but you know they’re extremely good for you.

I always read because I want to be entertained and I admit I don’t always read because I want to learn something, or broaden my mind. Sometimes, I really just want to have fun and read an entertaining book. That’s when I turn to the fruit.

The fruit books I grab for a quick, fun read are urban fantasy. Give me a Kim Harrison, Kelley Armstrong, Diana Rowland, Kat Richardson, Kevin Hearne (the list goes on and on) and I’ll disappear. I’m not saying that urban fantasy can’t be mind expanding or explore important issues, when they’re well done they certainly do that, but I don’t need to rethink my entire life to read them.

I’d also list horror books under this category, though it depends on the author. Some of those are a mix of fruits and vegetables with a side of bloody dip.

My vegetable books tend to be fantasy that take after the Tolkien mold. These are the stories I want to dive fully into, to be immersed in the world the author has created and linger there, enjoying every aspect of the characters, the setting and the story.

I’m interested to see other people’s responses on the books they savor, because I know I need more vegetables in my reading diet.

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MIND MELD: SF/F Reading And Buying Habits In A Digital World

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

This week we asked out panelists the following question:

Q: With the prevalence of ebooks and audiobooks, how has your sf/f reading and buying habits changed, if at all?

Here’s what they said…

Laura Lam

Laura Lam was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart’s desire, colour outside of the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams. She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn’t. At times she misses the sunshine.

I don’t listen to many audiobooks, but ebooks have definitely changed my reading habits. As a combination of being a poor university student and living in tiny quarters, I avoided buying most books I read because there would be nowhere to store 100 books a year. I limited myself to the occasional splurge but mainly relied on libraries, friends, etc. Now, I still live in tiny quarters but I’m not as poor as I was as a student. I buy a lot more of my books as ebooks, and I’m a lot more diverse in my reading. I also read more books and read them quicker because I don’t have to lug myself to the library or bookstore or wait for the book to arrive. If I read a great review of an SFF book, 5 minutes later I can be curled up on my sofa reading it with a nice cup of tea. I’m able to support authors I admire without running out of room to turn around in my tiny flat. At first, I found reading on the Kindle distracting, but now I’m used to it, and I could never go back to not having an e-reader.
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MIND MELD: Ticklish Subjects in SF

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Is there any subject science fiction hasn’t turned its eyes (or feelers, or antennae) to? Maybe not, but with the passage of time, habits change, mores change, worldviews change, new writers come to the fore bringing new questions, or new ways of asking old questions. There is always a flavor of the month, a subgenre favored by media or by writer’s movements now and then (cyberpunks and steampunks promptly come to mind, but we can also think of the New Weird and New Space Opera, to name just very, very few). On the other end of the spectrum, however, there are always delicate subjects, things that don’t give themselves easily to scrutiny, for a variety of reasons.

Bearing this in mind, we asked this week’s panelists…

Q: What are, in your opinion, the themes and subjects which science fiction never have delved into properly but should have? (sex, politics, religion, sports may be part of this list – or not) Is there an author or story in particular which you feel has treated said subject in the right way and could be an example to be followed among new writers?

Here’s what they said…

Nick Mamatas
Nick Mamatas is the author of several novels, including Sensation, and Bullettime. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Tor.com, New Haven Review, and many other venues. As an editor and anthologist, he has been nominated for the Hugo, World Fantasy, and the Bram Stoker awards. His most recent anthology, The Future is Japanese, co-edited with Masumi Washington, is available now.

In a field as wide as SF, surely any mention of a taboo topic will only lead to someone appearing with a copy of a ragged pulp magazine from 1937 to declare, “Aha! You forgot this story! It’s been covered! We need never discuss this again!” But a few things come to mind.

SF in the US has long been a propaganda wing for, inexplicably, both the libertarian movement and US space program. A contradiction, to say the least, but it’s a contradiction that can be papered over by contending that both small-government classical liberalism and enormous government expenditure with military and propaganda purposes are part of the broader narrative of “Americanism.” It is quintessentially American to be a rugged individual, and to have a giant technocratic apparatus to project and extend this individualism. And there is plenty of SF in which America fragments, or collapses, or it superseded, but this is only rarely if ever depicted as a positive good for the world—despite very many people outside of the US who would be pleased if the country, or at least its political power on the world scene, went poof tomorrow. So the happy circumstance of an American implosion is one taboo that comes to mind, though the lack of SF with this theme might just be a case of writers and publishers knowing where their bread is buttered.

In Japanese SF, where the bread is buttered on the other side, the US occasionally shuffles off the scene to allow for a realistic near-future in which Japan predominates, but a lot of Japanese SF also features Japanese characters collaborating with friendly American rivals/partners. One book that approaches the happy end-of-America theme is Genocidal Organ by Project Itoh, which we just released over at Haikasoru.

Another issue not much talked about is the philosophy of science. In SF, it seems to stop with Kuhn. There’s not much discussion of Feyerabend or others of his ilk. Perhaps everything after Kuhn was nonsense, but at least we could expect to see some brickbats leveled at them then. Instead, SF seems happy to shoot spitballs at scientific non-entities like “young Earth” creationists. Kiddie stuff. SF writers and fans often prize their own rationality, but many of them are just mere rationalists.

Finally, the biggest taboo has nothing to do with content, but rather than form. The very notion that there is such a thing as good writing and bad writing, rather than just stuff some people like and others don’t, is looked at with a lot of skepticism in SF circles. It’s a taboo to valorize quality writing, or to claim that there is such a thing as a good reader, and a poor reader.

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MIND MELD: Who Are Your Favorite Villains In Fantasy And Science Fiction?

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Every reader holds out for a hero, but be it movies or novels, its the antagonists, the villains, that often bring the heat, spice and power to a piece of work and make it sing.

So we asked this week’s panelists…

Q:Who are the most memorable villains and antagonists you’ve encountered in fantasy and science fiction? What make them stand out?

Here’s what they said…

Scott Lynch
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1978, Scott Lynch is the author of the Gentleman Bastard sequence of fantasy crime novels, which began with The Lies of Locke Lamora and continues with Red Seas Under Red Skies and the forthcoming The Republic of Thieves. His work has been published in more than fifteen languages and twenty countries, and he was a World Fantasy Award finalist in the Best Novel category in 2007. Scott currently lives in Wisconsin and has been a volunteer firefighter since 2005.

.I’ve always had a great admiration for the Lady, from Glen Cook’s Black Company series, with an honorable mention for all of the Ten Who Were Taken that serve her. She’s ruthless but multifaceted, a romantic and tragic figure as well as a provisioner of all the dark arts and fell deeds a reader could desire. As for the Ten, they’re just so fun and iconic, sort of more extroverted Nazgul.

If you’ll allow historical fiction as a cousin to fantasy, I’d also vote for Livia, from Robert Graves’ I, Claudius. Subtle, pitiless, and patient, the deadliest woman (hell, the deadliest person) in a deadly milieu.

Last but not least I’d bring up O’Brien, from George Orwell’s 1984, the chillingly contented ordinary man who patiently explains to Winston what it’s all about… that all the chanting and ideology is a fog, that the politics of Oceania are meaningless, the nature of its wars completely unimportant. The whole point of the crushing pyramid of human misery is to keep a tiny elite with their boots on the throats of the rest of humanity, forever and ever, amen. To conceive that sort of thing, to accept it, to rise and sleep as a happy part of such a brutal mechanism… now that’s villainy.

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MIND MELD: Books We Love That Everyone Else Hates (and Vice Versa)

This week’s Mind Meld topic was suggested by John Klima. We asked this week’s panelists (including John):

Q: Which SF/F/H book do you love that everyone else hates? Which SF/F/H book do you hate that everyone else loves?

Here’s what they said…

Farah Mendlesohn
Farah Mendlesohn used to edit Foundation, the International Review of Science Fiction, is the President of the International Association of the Fantastic of the Arts, and is about to send McFarland a Manuscript about Children’s and Teen science fiction. She has read around 400 of these books so you don’t have to.

Gene Wolfe’s Wizard-Knight. As far as I am concerned this was like reading C.S.Lewis writing Conan the Barbarian. I was mostly repulsed by the ethics, and while I quite understand that this was meant to be a juvenile wet dream of muscular morality, that doesn’t mean I need to read it. The frightening thing was that when I presented this analysis to several well known critics, they agreed with me, and then went on to explain why it was a work of genius.

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MIND MELD: Anime Film Favorites (+ The Top 14 Anime Films of All Time!)

This week’s topic comes from Madeline Ashby:

What Are Your Top 5 Anime Films of All Time?

Read on to see the picks of this week’s illustrious panelists.

[Note: Following the responses will be a completely unscientific (but fun) list of The Top 14 Anime Films of All Time!]

Charles Stross
Charles Stross‘ first novel, Singularity Sky burst onto the science fiction scene in 2003 and earning Stross a Hugo nomination. Since then he has earned several awards for his novels, and his works Missile Gap and Accelerando are available online. His other novels include Glasshouse, Halting State, Saturn’s Children, Wireless, the books in The Merchant Princes series and the books in The Laundry series. In addition to writing, Stross has worked as a technical author, freelance journalist, programmer, and pharmacist. He holds degrees in Pharmacy and Computer Science, and some of the creatures he created for his Dungeons and Dragons adventures, the Death Knight and Githyanki, were published by TSR in the Fiend Folio.

I’ll peg my faves as being:

  1. Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (Asks some interesting questions about identity that pick up where the first GITS movie left off. Honourable mention also goes to GITS and GITS: Stand Alone Compex.)
  2. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki can do no wrong. It was this, or Princess Mononoke, or Howl’s Moving Castle, or …)
  3. Haibane Renmei (Haunting, weird exploration of self-discovery, death, and the loss of innocence via allegory)
  4. Akira (Just Because. Okay?)
  5. Serial Experiment Lain (More on identity and communication — you’re probably detecting a theme here, right?)

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