it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken

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review, link salad, navel gazing

Sort of a mixed review of Worldwired up at Reflection's Edge. Spoilers.

Representative sample:

...both new and old series readers may want to skip the first 45 pages, which are more confusing than helpful. Bear succumbs briefly to Star Trek talking head syndrome with a crew of not-yet-differentiated scientist characters; to complicate matters, they are sometimes called by first names, sometimes last names, sometimes nicknames, sometimes specializations, and sometimes nationalities. Even with a cheat sheet, it can be hard to keep track of how many people are in a room. Fortunately the story picks up once characters split into easier-to-manage subgroups, especially since it means they start doing things instead of just talking about them.

Most of Worldwired is about attempts to find common ground - whether within a broken family, between countries on the brink of war, or with aliens so truly alien that humans may not be able to communicate. Bear excels at breaking world-altering political acts and military coups into personal ambitions, compromises, and politicians who are neither gods nor monsters; United Nations hearings are neatly balanced with bargains in men's rooms, hotel suites, and private telephone calls. The alien first-contact scenes are less nuanced and harder to identify with, but are a welcome contribution to a limited library of non-human intelligence concepts.

below lies my nattering, not so much a disagreement with the review (the only thing I take exception to is the word "cyberpunk") as a discussion of how odd it is to see readers reacting to what one wrote.

The best part of reviews is the range of reactions. Specifically, getting to see how differently different people react to what you've written, and how it interacts with their internal landscapes. It's incredibly cool!

So as I'm reading the above, I'm thinking: uh huh, uh huh.... aww! I like Leslie Tjakamarra. And his quirky sense of humor. And his first contact problems. And boy, has he got problems.

And also, yeah, yeah, the one name per character rule. Which I think is a silly fetish anyway, and which only works if you have characters who always think of other characters by the same name. Considering that my head turns to "Sarah," "Bear," "Ebear," "Sarah Bear," "Elizabeth," and "Wishnevsky," and scott_lynch has got me halfway trained to answer to "Liz!" that becomes a little problematic when you're sticking to deep POVs with an ensemble cast.

And then my brain goes haring off on a tangent, and I find myself thinking: I can't wait for the reader response to the barbed-wire thickets of Wills and Toms and Roberts and Johns and Edmunds in The Stratford Man. Thank God for Kit and Ben and Dick, or I'd be completely sunk.

I've discovered that now that I have some assurance that what I write will be published, I find myself very conscious throughout each book what readers are likely to react to, what things are going to annoy the everloving bejebus out of writers who are at the stage of craft where they're unable to skim a sentence or they're very dependent on whatever auctorial fetish is trendy this week. (Hey! That's against the Rules!) and that I'm also very, very aware of the tradeoffs I'm making with every choice I make as a writer. So I know, when I choose to show a scene from X's perspective, that I'm losing things by not showing it from Y's.

This is all stuff I used to do by instinct, and now it's different. The instinct is still there--but I can explain why I have that instinctive reaction. Why I'm avoiding Z (because it's a genre trope) or embracing X (though it's also a genre trope) or undermining Q (a third genre trope.)

It's like the sex and mud and beard lice in A Companion to Wolves. No sex, no beard lice, no book. Because part of what that book is about is an argument with the tendency, in certain tendrils of the fantasy genre, to kind of sweep anything vaguely unpleasant under the rug. The Inciting Incident, of course, was the infamous semi-elided dragon-mediated rapes and less-infamous extremely-elided institutional homosexuality in the early Pern novels. But then the book takes on a life of its own, and the worldbuilding does too, and if you pull out that one thread (i.e., isn't a bit icky that dragonriders are making off with teenaged boys, some of whom are going to wind up bonding to green dragons, and we all know what those green dragons are like, and wouldn't it be interesting to tackle those social issues head-on rather than eliding them) then the whole structure of the book collapses. And you essentially have a fuzzy wish fulfillment fantasy about a boy and his wolf fighting trolls and obtaining an understanding of the world, and the world really doesn't need another one of those.

And yet, I know perfectly well that if that book goes to press, there's going to be a faction of readers who are like "oo, icky, the sex totally ruins this nice YA novel!" (nevermind the beheadings: beheadings, okay to many people's perception of YA) (no, it's not a YA novel, put down the axe--but some people think any book with a teenaged protagonist must be YA) and there are going to be readers who are like "there's all this sex, and it's not erotic at all, what's with that?" and then, Goddess willing, there will be a faction of readers who are like "Whoa! Genderfuck! And an honest appraisal of the difficulties in living your life while dealing with a physical response to the biological rhythms of another species! And negotiation and compromise and people making sacrifices to defend their families! And the psychic cost of war! And dude, pitched battles in Lovecraftian troll-tunnels, and beheadings, and beard lice, and GIANT PSYCHIC DIRE WOLVES! How cool is that?!"

And it's that last guy I'm aiming for. Dead between his eyes. Because there are books for the other two already, and they don't need my book.

Also interesting that this review calls the Jenny books a "true trilogy," while the Locus review calls them one novel busted up into chunks, and the Agony Column meditation-on-form says they straddle the gap between the two forms.

I'm really going to confuse the heck out of people with the not-a-trilogy of the Eddas books (All the Windwracked Stars, The Sea thy Mistress, By the Mountain Bound). Which are intended to be a three-book series that you can read in any order, and get an emergent story every way you read them. (Three novels about three characters, spread out over something like 2500 years, each novel focusing on a different member of the triad, though they all three get POV in each book. Yeah, it's a mess. If it was easy, it wouldn't be fun.)

And Worldwired, still not cyberpunk. You can tell by the complete absence, in this book, of any of the characteristic genre markers of cyberpunk. Well, okay, except for the odd mechanical limb. But those are practically de rigeur, these days. I think you can probably just scrape Hammered under the edge of the cyberpunk rubrick, because in large part it consists of deconstructing a bunch of cyberpunk tropes. (Locus's comment on the Jenny books re subgenre: "Hammered has a strong cyberpunkish center with annexes extending into other motif areas: ancient alien artifacts, nanotech, experimental stardrives, ecological breakdown, AIs, and the possibility of a posthuman condition. The series completions(s), Scardown and Worldwired, exapand deep into all those spaces and make story labels nearly impossible.)

Maybe we should call it syberpunk.... or use Chris Moriarty's term, Chick Punk. Because really, her book, not so much the cyberpunk either. Or the Punk.

Hey, kristine_smith, you listening? What do you think we should call this stuff? You're writing it too; get in here.

P.S. I call everything I write eco-Gothic, which is descriptive rather than a prescriptive subgenre kind of deal. And generally translates as, preoccupied with mankind's place in the natural world, and also dark and a bit baroque.

(Also, a hundred pages of gunfight, frantic interspecies negotiation, revolution, ecological breakdown, assassination, codeslinging , and fish kills aren't a climax? Dammit. I knew I left something out of that book...)

(No, I'm not actually arguing with the review. I'm kind of...meditating on the review. I'm too amused to work up a good argument.)

Reflection's Edge also offers a lovely article from Hanne Blank, on researching for fiction: "Verisimilitude and the Competent Con."

kateelliott on American Fairy Tales.

pecunium on General Pace, USMC.

jlassen has a novel solution for preventing rape: don't rape people.

via slithytove: Avenging Unicorn Playset!

...damn, there goes the merchandising campaign for Blood and Iron.

Tags: eco-gothic, fuzzy companion animal fantasy, genre, jenny casey, marketing, narcissism, navel gazing, now *there's* a demographic, pathetic self-promotion, reviews, teh gay, trolls!

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