So that happened, a series of unrelated events

Seems like a lot has been happening around Casa Cummings the last few days, all of it unrelated. To kick things off, we’re pretty sure we got hit by lightening late last week. At least that’s what we’re calling it – there was a white, blinding flash at the same time as our brains tell us there was a weird popping noise and a vibration that I could feel through my feet. The only casualty in our house was our router and the surge protector it was connected to – everything else seemed to survive unscathed. This isn’t the first time that we’ve had a close call – ten years ago the house across the street got hit and the lightening traveled down the line and into our house, burning out a DVD player and a TV. All things considered, I think we fared pretty well this time.

Private home reference library
Private home reference library (Photo credit: warwick_carter)

In other news, last night I sat down and began writing again. I have reached a place in my initial outline where my brain is ready for me to start putting words down. I was nervous at first – it had been months since I successfully strung anything together. I’ve set up a goal date and word count, with an implied minimum word count per day (a fluid number, I realize, as days with bursts will offset the quieter days). But it has begun. Last night I put down the first 1k of the rewrite of “The Shambling Man,” book one in my urban fantasy series.

And as a final capper – after a year’s absence, I finally went back to the gym today. As I joked on twitter, I mention this not to gloat, but as a notation for future scholars. Day one is easy, I’ve had plenty of them. It’s repeating this every day, every week, for months that is the true test.

That’s about it for now. More on this gym and writing thing in the next few days (I hope).

N.B. – The photo on this page is apropos of nothing actually discussed. I just like book porn, and despite my desire and need to consolidate my physical book footprint in the house, find rooms like this to be intoxicatingly alluring.

Book Review: Mutineer’s Moon

Mutineers' Moon (Dahak, #1)Mutineers’ Moon by David Weber

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I started reading this during the recent onset of rainy weather here in Virginia, starting with the hurricane last month. There’s is something in my brain, a trigger, that associates cool, rainy weather with the trifecta of Saturday evenings, comic books, and pulpy science fiction/fantasy. It doesn’t get much pulpier than Weber’s Mutineer’s Moon, book 1 of the Dahak trilogy. (I’m actually reading the omnibus edition, but thought it would be more fair to list the books individually as I finished them.)

Its a little startling to realize that this book is just shy of twenty years old – the politics and climate of international affairs in the book, while a bit simplistic in some ways, still manage to resonate as being right on cue for modern day to near future Earth. You know, except for the fact that the moon is really a giant, orbiting alien space craft set to look like a moon when the proto-human population on the ship faced a mutiny. Except for that, of course.

I called it pulpy, and I’ll stand by that – don’t pick this book (or series) up if you are looking for deep discussions on human nature, highly correct science and scientific conjecture, or really deep, introspective science fiction. This is big explosions and quick action scenes that don’t necessarily always make sense in retrospect, but that work nicely in the context of the fast paced story that Weber has written.

If you’ve read the kind of books I review high, especially in the science fiction category, and agree with me, then this is probably a good fit. Its eye candy for the brain, in all the brain rotting sweetness our mother’s used to warn us about. And keep an eye on the moon, because there might be something up there keeping an eye on us, too.

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Epicly predictable, or epicly delicious?

Photo courtesy of http://www.ezwebrus.com/

Yesterday, Stacey over at YA Fantasy Guide posted what I would consider highly inflammatory remarks about epic fantasy (“inflammatory,” of course, if your world is lucky to have as much karmic zen that a blog post is as disagreeable a thing as you can imagine 😉 ). To sum it up, she says YA epic fantasy isn’t selling because it is all the same boy-meets-fate story that would make even Campbell cringe at how repetitively close it is to the Hero’s Journey.

Now, I’m no expert on “YA” epic fantasy. When I was in the category of Youth Aghast, our library tended to stock the less racy adult fantasy in the YA paperback racks, stuff that didn’t really fit but at the same time, hey, that works. The problem I have with Stacey’s assertion (besides the fact that it isn’t completely true) is that as a reader of this subgenre, I think she’s actually missing the whole point. But let’s start with the first of my contradictory statements.

Epic fantasy is not all the same story. This, of course, is the part where I point out that sometimes its a girl as the protag, or sometimes there are dragons and others orcs, and others, why, both! Especially in the last decade, as the “epic” gets longer and longer, we’re seeing some new trends that defy Stacey’s all encompassing plot summary. Granted, these changes haven’t completely filtered down to the YA level, but in adult books we have folks like Joe Abercrombie, who’s First Law trilogy brought us a cast of despicable characters, not a one of them without some major, often despicable, flaw – and who, by the end of the third book, you were actually rooting for, because the bad guys were even more stomach turning. And he does it with panache, I might add. Or there’s Steven Erikson’s Malazan series, which is certainly a contender for epic – and largely without the stereotype that Stacey asserts is the formula of epic fantasy.

The other half of it is the reason this formula is used so often is because when its done well, its sweet honey for the reading soul. Done well, you slip into this familiar world where you know the way things will flow, generally speaking, and wait for the author to feed you grapes to see which ones are sweet surprises. (Too metaphorical?) The formula is often repeated because handled by the right talent, it is an elixer you can’t generate artificially. I’ve said before that I think Brent Weeks, for all that his Night Angel trilogy fits this stereotype of fantasy, is one of the most underplayed, under-appreciated authors in the genre. What Durzo and Azoth pulled off was magical.

But I’ve strayed pretty far from the original point, which was more focussed on YA epic fantasy and the belief that it doesn’t sell because its too formulaic. To that, I give a tentative “maybe?”. What I think is really happening is that we’re seeing that YA readers will happily read YA epic fantasy when its good (hence the stray successes), but when its just poorly rehashed rote they would rather read “up a level” and get adult epic fantasy instead. (Huh. So maybe buying adult fantasy paperbacks for the YA section at the library wasn’t such a hair brained idea after all?) As more and more authors begin to stray into YA territory, though, I think we’ll see this reading group start to get some talent. We’ve certainly seen talent rising up (with acclaim) in the other subgenres, Cherrie Priest coming to mind immediately.

And wow, that’s more blog posts in two days than in a month. I think I should shove off for a bit now and let you mull that over 🙂