krystalynn03

Reading Like Writers

80 posts in this topic

Nah, Racefail was a big, hmm, to-do in fandom/the writer community. Here's a decent overview with some links to some more in-depth recountings.

Considering it now, it's probably worth going over for a lot of us here, it covered many things that we end up covering here.

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Might be a thought. It's pretty much well-buried by now (it did, after all, happen in 2009) but it's worth looking at. I'm heading out to a movie in a bit, so maybe later on this evening.

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I finally finished Ancillary Justice. I... have mixed feelings. LOVE the writing style. Very easy to read and engaging. I didn't care for the chapters flipping between present and past (which is exactly what I've done with ATD, so lesson learned there). I was so engaged with present that I didn't care about past. I was much more engaged when the timelines synced. I did love the gender perspective, and I can see why it won awards. I'm not disappointed I read it, but it didn't hook me enough to read any of the others in the series.

Which, I suppose, is the real trick to a series. It tied up well at the end. There was no pressing OMG BUT WHAT ELSE? to make me want to go buy the next book. Good to note, for series, and makes me wonder if I did the same mistake with AFD. I expect you all to tell me.

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7 hours ago, kaisa said:

which is exactly what I've done with ATD, so lesson learned there

Ah-ha! I knew it - I was right..., again!! :P 

Edited by Robinski
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7 hours ago, kaisa said:

There was no pressing OMG BUT WHAT ELSE?

But this is the danger, I suppose, in writing a first novel, but not being an established author that can have the confidence to know that they will be picked up for the rest of the series. Do you think you would have been any more likely to pick up another of Ann Leckie's books if they were a different stand-alone, different chrs, different setting, etc?

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16 hours ago, Robinski said:

Do you think you would have been any more likely to pick up another of Ann Leckie's books if they were a different stand-alone, different chrs, different setting, etc?

Oh for sure! I LOVED her writing style and I would adore another chance to read something. Maybe just not the same world? Ugh, its hard because I'm looking back more fondly on the book post reading, and I like it the longer I am away from it. Yet I still don't have motivation to read the next. So yeah, something in another world, or even same world with different character, I would totally do.

NEW BOOK I just finished - The Bone Flower Throne by TL Morganfield.

Uh. Yeah. This book was on my Amazon wishlist, meaning someone at some point recommended that I read it. That someone and I should probably talk. The funny thing is, it was a good story, and rich, and the characters were great! But it didn't escalate. I think there's some general rule somewhere (maybe I'll get to this in one of the RE podcasts) about steadily increasing stakes in a book. Building tension and all that. I think most of us manage it alright, even as new authors. This book... it didn't. This author needed a meaner editor. 

It starts off strong. Great hook, great tension, stakes escalating for like the first four chapters them BAM. We're in a holding pattern of the same old same old for the rest of the book. It was boring. The characters were still great. The culture was great. Everything was great but about 100 pages in I found myself reading solely for the POINT, that point where things really go to gravy and everyone is scrambling and OMG EVERYTHING WILL END!

That never came. 

And when it didn't come, and the book ended, I felt cheated. Like there had been all these promises and all this great character work and this is such an amazing world and... we're still at the same tension level as chapter three.

SO, lesson learned. Increase stakes because otherwise book is boring. Severely boring. So boring I don't ever want to read anything else by this author. 

I feel like I'm really critical of books on here, so I should probably clarify that I'm trying to do the intended 'reading like writers' thing, and not just gush about the awesome things in the book. And I'm not a book snob, I swear. I mean, one of my favorite series is The Black Jewels Trilogy, which is... well I don't often admit to having read it let alone having tattered copies about my house so...

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4 hours ago, kaisa said:

Like there had been all these promises

This is something you will encounter again and again in the WE casts, making promises and keeping them, how to keep them, when to keep them, promises for minor characters, promises for a series of books that go beyond the first novel, to keep them all in the last four pages (the Sanderson avalanche - LOL), but always, always, always it's about making them and keeping them, somehow, somewhere.

Edited by Robinski
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I finally got around to reading Three Parts Dead, by Max Gladstone; I'd kind of held off because it treads some slightly similar ground to what I'm doing (legal wizardry) but I ended up finally figuring it wasn't all that close (and it's not) and I ended up being really very disappointed. I don't think the quality of the writing held up to the premise in the slightest; I very much sighed at my screen when at the end a major character confronted the defeated villain and straight-up explained in precise detail the villain's Plan All Along. And this was not the first time this sort of thing happened either. Way too much characters explaining things to one another and I was not thrilled by that. I'm liable to keep going with the series because I was entertained but geez.

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So this isn't about something I read, but you know how there's this cultural thing where "he" has sort of been the catch-all pronoun, and if you don't mention a character's gender, lots of people assume it's male?  (My brain still usually assumes male.)  Well this week was the first time I wrote something where I knew the opposite would be true, and it was a very cool experience!  I wrote an extended journal of my experience at the Women's March in DC, and I realized as I was writing that any readers would assume everyone was female, and if a person was male, I needed to specify.

Yay for gender norm breaking!  It made my brain happy.

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1 hour ago, Hobbit said:

my experience at the Women's March in DC

Go you, that's awesome!

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So cool, @Hobbit!! And good on you for going to the march!

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Finished The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

This was... meh. I felt like it was trying to be The Night Circus but the writer just didn't have the chops for it. There was nothing wrong with it, writing wise, but it felt, I don't know, too simplistic for what it was trying to convey? I think there were a lot of missed opportunities to draw the reader in, and it simultaneously felt too long and too short. 

The romance also felt really forced. Really really forced. That's usually a big turn off for me in a book, and it was to the point in this one that I would not willingly read this author again. Note to self - bad romance turns off readers.

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Okay. Time for some heavy stuff. I've been thinking about diversity within books, and that got me thinking about what books I read that I felt did a good job about that. The first thing that leap to mind was a certain scimitar-wielding dark elf. So, if the spirit of reading like writers, I would recommend The Legend of Drizzt series, featuring the iconic protagonist Drizzt Do'Urdon. Drizzt is a dark elf (drow), which, as a species, tends to be on the more Evil / Chaotic sides of the spectrum. (This is not an invitation to bash D&D, light elves aren't that much better, they're just Lawful stuck-ups.) The Legend of Drizzt series, or the early part of it, is Drizzt's quest to disover what is right and wrong, and his struggle to overcome the built in prejudice against dark elves. To be fair, as this is set within the Forgotten Realms of D&D, the plot can get violent and gritty at times, but in between those is Drizzt's philosophical musings on life and worth. To give an idea, this quote is from when Drizzt revokes his vow against killing other members of his race. - "To place the measure of a living being's worth above that of another simply because that being wears the same color skin  as I belittles my principles. The false values embodied in that long-ago vow have no place in my world, in the wide world of countless physical and cultural differences. It is these very differences that make my journeys exciting, these very differences that put new colors and shape in the universal concept of beauty. I now make a new vow, one weighed in experience and proclaimed with my eyes open: I will not raise my scimitars except in defense: in defense of my principles, of my life, or of others who cannot defend themselves. I will not do battle to further the causes of false prophets, to further the treasures of kings, or to avenge my own injured pride. And to the many gold-wealthy mercenaries, religious and secular, who would look upon such a vow as unrealistic, impractical, even ridiculous, I cross my arms over my chest and declare with conviction: I am the richer by far!"

I would definitely recommend the first three books in the series (Homeland, Exile, Sojourn)

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Okay this is a pretty great example both of why we desperately need PoC voices here, and also why we don't have them. This is a little something I like to call well-intentioned white guy racism. Which is racist as all bloody get-out but it's veiled under ... well, like the above. And yeah, I'm not gonna beat around the bush here: the above post is racist, and it's recommending racist tropes as something to be aspired to. No, you didn't intend it to be that way. You don't have to intend to be racist to be racist. I have to ask, @aeromancer, what was the last book you read that wasn't written by a white person? And yes, since I know you're going to say it, I know you don't check that sort of thing before you read the book. The question stands; it's something you definitely should consider.

Let's get back to reading like writers though, because this requires us to take a critical lens to the work and really consider what's actually being said.

So for at the very least the past ten years D&D (and subsequently Pathfinder) discourse has involved people trying to hammer it through the frankly excerable tabletop gaming community's heads that yes, in fact, the all-black, all-evil dominatrixarchy that are the drow are ludicrously racist and sexist. This was likely not the original intent (the original designer was, in the most charitable assessment, just really into BDSM, because inserting your fetishes into your RPG settings is just the done thing in the industry) Quinn Murphy's discussed this pretty thoroughly elsewhere and given he's actually black I'm gonna defer to him there; he's a really valuable voice in the industry.

So let's talk about what it means when we define something as being 'evil'. It should not be particularly troublesome to consider that this is a term with some baggage. You can't say things like 'both sides are equally bad' when you're naming something as being existentially evil. When looking at dark elf society, as portrayed in both the D&D settings of the era (as well as going forward, but the society as portrayed in this series dates to first-edition Advanced) and in this series in particular, we've got outright torture practiced as a matter of course, unprovoked violent assaults against other sapient people (other elves, gnomes, etc), practice of slavery, etc, etc. This is presented as the norm and this is presented as the natural way of being for these people.

This is why you need to be really careful of your metaphors when writing. You can say Drizzt is metaphorically affected by something akin to real-world prejudice but this neglects structures of power, of violence; drow are not and have never been systemically oppressed by anyone except what they perform on their own underclasses. The people Drizzt encounters have deep and legitimate fears of the drow. And they aren't afraid of the drow because of the colour of their skin. They aren't afraid of the drow because of centuries of systemic inequality leading to a deep societal fear of them excelling. They're afraid of drow because drow actually do kill babies. (etc) To present Drizzt's experiences as being representational of real-world racism shows a pretty fundamental lack of understanding as to how racism works.

Drizzt in particular is presented from the get-go as basically having been 'born different' from the evil people he's surrounded by-- to an extent shaped by the one positive influence in his life but the text makes pretty clear that his father is not the cause of his being not a cariacture of evil, merely an influence that allows him to actually survive to adulthood. Thus, his goodness is an intrinsic difference. He's a good drow because he's not like the drow.

And it goes on like this; basically he fulfils the monstrously racist 'one of the good ones' function that is used in the real world as a hammer with which to oppress. (in sexism, this is frequently 'not like other girls'). He is perpetually an exception, presented as one of a handful of exceptions. 

I'm just scratching the surface here; the racism in this series is bone-deep, and I can go on, and on, and on. Salvatore doesn't intend it to be, but it doesn't really have to be intentional in order for it to be harmful and contributing to the racism problems both in tabletop gaming and in the fantasy genre as a whole. I would rather you consult with actual people of colour rather than myself, but in the absence of any here, I cannot in any way let the notion that this presentation is aspirational stand.

And this is, I note, another great reason for why ownvoices writing is so very critical-- we have a white man using a black character as a mouthpiece to speak about race and racism in ways that are fundamentally unrelated to the actual experience of any sort of marginalization. That's pretty gross, dude.

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5 hours ago, aeromancer said:

 (This is not an invitation to bash D&D)

 

21 minutes ago, neongrey said:

have to ask, @aeromancer, what was the last book you read that wasn't written by a white person?

I have to answer, I don't have a clue. I don't read based on the author, I read based on the content. That's the sole criteria I judge my books by. Tell me if I did something wrong.

Extended response: Yes, dark elves are evil. Within roleplaying circles, they aren't considered evil, by the way, the joke's that their entire race is Chaotic Good because everyone plays Chaotic Good dark elves because of how popular Drizzt is as a character. And I will stick by what I say. Drizzt is absolutely hit by prejudice. In Sojourn, one of the books I recommend, it talks about his encounter with a human village, where is is attacked simply for being a dark elf. His response is to disarm his attackers and hand them their weapons back, smiling at them. In ends with the entire village attacking him, and Drizzt running for his life because he doesn't want to kill in self-defense. The problem you have with me, @neongrey, is that you assume I'm talking about current race issues, which I am not. I am talking about the way an author dynamically handled a character fighting against prejudice. I will also submit that Drizzt is indeed a great role model on how to write a character that deals with prejudice.

21 minutes ago, neongrey said:

I'm just scratching the surface here; the racism in this series is bone-deep, and I can go on, and on, and on. Salvatore doesn't intend it to be, but it doesn't really have to be intentional in order for it to be harmful and contributing to the racism problems both in tabletop gaming and in the fantasy genre as a whole. I would rather you consult with actual people of colour rather than myself, but in the absence of any here, I cannot in any way let the notion that this presentation is aspirational stand.

What you're talking about is the backdrop. Yes, Wulfgar's people are atrocious. Yes, Jarlaxle is horrible, and he's presented as the model dark elf, but that's because dark elves are evil. I choose to look at the story about how Drizzt responds to the prejudice directed at him, and he turns it into his strength. The story is full of characters who care nothing for what race Drizzt is - Bruenor Battlehammer, Cattie-brie. Also, why do you bring in racism? We're discussing dark elves, a sub-species of elves who have ebony-colored skin because they retreated to the Underdark to worship the demon Lolth.

Finally:

27 minutes ago, neongrey said:

And this is, I note, another great reason for why ownvoices writing is so very critical-- we have a white man using a black character as a mouthpiece to speak about race and racism in ways that are fundamentally unrelated to the actual experience of any sort of marginalization. That's pretty gross, dude.

 

5 hours ago, aeromancer said:

"To place the measure of a living being's worth above that of another simply because that being wears the same color skin  as I belittles my principles. The false values embodied in that long-ago vow have no place in my world, in the wide world of countless physical and cultural differences. It is these very differences that make my journeys exciting, these very differences that put new colors and shape in the universal concept of beauty.

To place a measure of a living being's worth above that of another simply because that being doesn't wear the same color skin belittles my principles. To disqualify someone from writing about something without any reason other than skin composition is not a good reason. If you wish to say that he cannot write because R.A. Salvatore has not experienced any kind of prejudice, that is one thing. But, that is not what you said. I expect more if you wish to delegitimize  a character who's based on judging people by their souls, not their skins.

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17 hours ago, aeromancer said:

I have to answer, I don't have a clue. I don't read based on the author, I read based on the content. That's the sole criteria I judge my books by. Tell me if I did something wrong.

Yes, actually, and your clear assumption that you're somehow levelling the playing field by doing this is a pretty obvious show of why. The plain fact is that publishing is an industry that overwhelmingly favours white people. White authors are categorically more likely to get published, white authors are better marketed, and white stories are prioritized. It's very easy to think that you are, in fact, choosing for youself this sort of thing when almost all of the decisions are made long before you're getting to this point.

So yes, it absolutely is important-- critical, even-- to pay attention to who you are reading as much as what you are reading. It's not even a matter of comfort zone, because I guarantee you that there's diverse authors who are producing the sort of content that you want to be reading but are floundering because you and countless people like you believe they're engaging in a meritocratic system when they're really just acting entirely based off of their own privelege, and unconsciously prioritizing people like them. The system is rigged and it's rigged in ways people like you don't ever even perceive.

As clearly you do not.

17 hours ago, aeromancer said:

Within roleplaying circles

So you're making an assumption as you condescend to me here and it's one that you probably shouldn't have made. You're doing a thing that's called mansplaining right now. I'd rather not get into gatekeeping so if my pretty direct and specific edition references and comprehensive awareness of the books you're talking about weren't sufficient markers for you that I am within roleplaying circles and have been for decades, let's just leave this part of it at that.

17 hours ago, aeromancer said:

Drizzt is absolutely hit by prejudice. In Sojourn, one of the books I recommend, it talks about his encounter with a human village, where is is attacked simply for being a dark elf. His response is to disarm his attackers and hand them their weapons back, smiling at them. In ends with the entire village attacking him, and Drizzt running for his life because he doesn't want to kill in self-defense.

Okay, so, let's unpack this, because if this was somehow unclear to you before now, yes, I am extremely familiar with these books.

First off: the author is the creator of all the words on the page. The author is responsible for all the words they set on the page. This goes for any words anywhere, for anything.

Second: let's talk about power dynamics in the scenario you describe. To the first, going by the location (fairly close to where Drizzt emerges from the underdark) this village has likely been repeatedly victimized by drow. Therefore, yes, it is reasonable for any such villager upon confronting any drow to assume they are faced with one of their oppressors. To the second, even in your summary, Drizzt is the one with the power over the villagers: he's at no real harm from them and he begins by displaying his power over them by showing them that he could handily murder them if he so chose. Even in the end of the vignette, the dichotomy is not between himself coming to harm or fleeing, it's between him murdering these people or fleeing. Is he cognizant of how he's participating in the oppression of these villagers? No, of course not: and the fact that he is not, that he does not consider the system of power in place here is a pretty clear outline of privilege at work. You are holding him up as praiseworthy because he does not use his power to simply murder people.

That is a lesson that the very text you're bringing up does give us: that we very often don't see the ways in which we bring harm to others, that we very often don't have the tools with which to realize how we harm other people, and that we are still responsible for the ways in which we bring harm to others. You're choosing to discard that in favour of a reading that reinforces the existing biases that you took into your reading and one that is fundamentally unempathetic to the pain of others. You are not, then bring this back to the topic of the thread, reading like a writer, you are very much reading like a reader: you're nodding your head at the things you come across that you already agree with, and not interrogating the text further. 

17 hours ago, aeromancer said:

The problem you have with me, @neongrey, is that you assume I'm talking about current race issues, which I am not. I am talking about the way an author dynamically handled a character fighting against prejudice. 

No, I'm assuming you're not aware of the ways in which you're participatory in a fundamentally discriminatory system. I have made these assumptions based on your words, the positions you are taking, and the general lack of awareness of systemic oppression which you consistently display when this is brought up to you. I am assuming that you lack a basic awareness of the ways in which media, the media we consume, and portrayals in media affect the society in which we live. I make this assumption because you aggressively resist the very concept despite this being very thoroughly trodden ground.

17 hours ago, aeromancer said:

I will also submit that Drizzt is indeed a great role model on how to write a character that deals with prejudice.

Why is this a thing that you, a person who does not suffer systemic oppression in your life, are in a position to decide for the oppressed?

17 hours ago, aeromancer said:

What you're talking about is the backdrop.

What I'm talking about is as much authorial construct as any other aspect of the book. Everything interacts, and none of this is in a vacuum. These are things the author wrote and he's as responsible for them and they're as much a contributor to the ways in which these books reinforce the pattern of a racist system in both the genre and in the tabletop industry (and you will note that I do not further elaborate on the fundamental racism of the design of the drow in the game, merely that which is relevant to these particular books and events depicted within them). This is part of the work. The author is responsible for it. 

17 hours ago, aeromancer said:

Also, why do you bring in racism? We're discussing dark elves, a sub-species of elves who have ebony-colored skin because they retreated to the Underdark to worship the demon Lolth.

Because media does not exist in a vacuum. We're discussing a series of books written by a white man in which a large theme of them is-- and indeed the very reason you stated for bringing them up-- a member of a visible minority group confronting the author's vision of racial discrimination. What I am discussing, and the reason why I object to you holding this up as an aspirational standard is because it does so without knowledge of prejudice and systemic oppression, it does so without understanding the ways in which it participates in racism, and it does so unaware of the inherent privege displayed in this portrayal. It is complicit in a racist system.

I bring up racism because racism is intrinsic to the work; it perpetuates racial stereotyping and it does so with the thoughtlessness of a priveleged person who believes in all their condescension that it is their right and their place to co-opt the stories of the oppressed.

17 hours ago, aeromancer said:

To place a measure of a living being's worth above that of another simply because that being doesn't wear the same color skin belittles my principles. To disqualify someone from writing about something without any reason other than skin composition is not a good reason.

This is a position borne out of fundamental privilege. It is a racist position. It is a sexist position. It is a homophobic position, and it is a transphobic position. This is a position that only someone with the privelege of an oppressor has the luxury to take. Your world is not defined by the fact that the systems in which you must participate consider you non-normative. The lives of the people that you are stating it is wrong to acknowledge are defined by the ways in which society works against them.

This is a difficult thing to learn to understand, because it involves learning to see the ways in which the world is shaped to cater to your own needs, and the ways in which it siphons power away from those who are outside this societal norm. But by being complicit in our society, we are complicit in the ways in which we oppress other human beings. When one buries one's head in the sand and ignores that, one allows oppression to continue. 

And if your principles demand that you do this, your principles are fundamentally oppressive.

17 hours ago, aeromancer said:

I expect more if you wish to delegitimize  a character who's based on judging people by their souls, not their skins.

This character is written based on a position of fundamental privelege and is built on fundamentally racist roots. The character is written from a place of white privelege and displays this fact constantly. It may have been the intent of the author to decry racial prejudice, but by doing so without confronting the nature of privelege and oppression, the result was a character and narrative that is complicit with white supremacy, rather than tearing it down. This character's narrative is entirely structured around the racist stereotype of him being 'one of the good ones', a real stereotype that does real harm in the real world, and you cannot divorce this from the character because the entire reason why the story portrays it as wrong for other characters judge him.

Like, it's very clear that you've deeply internalized that it's wrong to treat someone differently based on the colour of their skin, but the problems here are are in just leaving it at that, because there's long-term systemic power imbalances involved here and systems of oppression that privelege some people over others, and this must be confronted in order for people to get the fair shake they deserve. You are not doing anyone any favours with what you are doing.

Defeating racism or any other systemic oppresion isn't as simple as stating 'we're all human beings', it's about confronting a system that has been constructed to dehumanize and degrade other people, and it is about recognizing the ways in which we participate in that system. It's about confronting our own internalized biases and learning to behave in ways that recognize that the world does not treat us all identically.

And even if it were fundamentally possible for anyone within an oppressive system to act without regard for the metrics that system oppresses by (such as race, gender, etc), the fact remains: even if for argument's sake, you "don't see colour", other people do, and they disadvantage people accordingly.

Edited by neongrey
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In an attempt to defuse the situation... @neongrey, could you suggest a book you feel does do a good job of handling these issues?

It's a decent start to tear down bad examples, but without holding up a good one in comparison, its hard for something constructive to be achieved.

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I mean I think the fundamental thing is to be really aware of who you're reading and whose voices you're prioritizing-- like here the fundamental issue with the books that he's bringing up here is that they're stories in large part about racism from the point of view of a character who is treated as an analogue for a black human being, written by a white person with neither any personal experience nor any understanding of the sociological and societal causes of discrimination.

To that end the best thing I can recommend-- as I discussed above, is to seek out authors who are writing from a different lived experience from yourself. Seek out authors who have been marginalized, who do experience life in ways that the system disfavors.

NK Jemisin does some good stuff that interrogates race through the metaphors of genre-- I couldn't get into the Inheritance Trilogy personally and I haven't tried Dreamblood, but do look into Fifth Season, it won that Hugo for a reason. Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death is a challenging read but well worthwhile. Saladin Ahmed's novel Throne of the Crescent Moon is quite fun, but I like his shorts better on the whole; I believe his collection of them, Engraved on the Eye is freely available, and it's in his shorts you'll find stuff that's more about these subjects; he's also done a fair few essays for news outlets over the years. In terms of shorts, Benjanun Sriduangkaew is doing some genuinely fantastic work (and has one novella out, one coming later this year) that interrogates colonialist narratives; I'm hugely fond of her recent The Universe As Vast as Our Longings, which deals with that sort of well-intentioned patronizing racism. ( @kaisa will enjoy her body of work, I think)

I should hardly need to mention this but I feel like some people often have the wrong impression about these things, but all of these works are written to be, you know, good to read; they're not didactic texts.

In terms of nonfiction, let's see, King Leopold's Ghost is a solid overview of the sorts of horrors that were perpetuated in colonized Africa in the late 1800s; what was done there and elsewhere nearby is still having impacts on the region to this day. Susan Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others is a valuable look into how we as a society look at violence. I'd suggest looking at the history of the North American internment of Japanese people during the Second World War, the Canadian residential school system. Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me is an incredibly important book. Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me is good, and the kindle version of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's We Should All Be Feminists is on deep discount on Amazon right now-- that's a great book for anyone to read, I think.

That's just kind of scratching the surface and both with a pretty narrow focus on the fiction and a pretty broad net on the nonfiction. I can absolutely recommend more if you've got a more specific topic you're wanting stuff on. I also don't want to be overwhelming here-- I'm already thinking I probably recommended too much stuff, but I think anything at all would be great to pick up. The fiction's narrowed to genre fiction since that's kind of the focus of most of our interests here but it's good to read outside that too and I can do recs more in that direction if people would like.

e: hell, Quinn Murphy, who I specifically mentioned in my original post, did some neat articles on coming up with a non-racist version of the rpg classic dark elves, just google for that and you'll get it.

Edited by neongrey
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16 hours ago, neongrey said:

will enjoy her body of work, I think

I read an excerpt from The Universe as Vast as Our Longings. Wow. Love. Buying now. Thank you for the rec!

ETA: wait, not a book? Was that excerpt it? *sad panda*

Edited by kaisa
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I'd also really recommend We Are All Wasteland on the Inside that came out right at the end of last year too. She's a really fantastic short fiction writer.

e: Yes, what I linked was a complete short.

 

Edited by neongrey
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Just finished The Steerswoman and The Outskirter's Secret, by Rosemary Kirstein.

These were recommended to me by a friend due to similarity in writing style to my own. I enjoy the more clinical aspect of it, so in that it was easy to read. The sentence length, however, really got to me. There were so many clauses in the sentences that it was very difficult to not skim three lines in, on the same sentence still.

It's interesting to read something that is both abrupt and verbose. The plot builds well, but slowly. It's slow enough that I likely won't read any more in this series. It's interesting to note, in terms of reading and writing, that voice can make for any easy read, and an intuitive read, but if you can't keep the reader's interest, voice can only hold for so long.

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So as usual it took me an age to finish the book I was reading, but I did finish Lies of Locke Lamora about a fortnight ago. I enjoyed it a good deal. I thought the interludes were bearable; just as well Lynch kept them short. There certainly were slow passages, even chapters, but he did enough to keep it going for me, if not un-put-down-able, but then almost nothing else is either, for me.

One of the touches I enjoyed the most was how he worked Locke's reputation, and also made someone else the competent fighter.

I'm now 70 pages into Partials. I've got to say some of the dialogue is really tell-y; downright maid-and-butler in places. I'm enjoying it so far though, pretty convincing setting and background, I think. 

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Posted (edited)

Rise, rise my undead thread! Mwa-hahaha!

So, the library where I work has a largeish collection of old sff paperbacks. I wouldn't call them classics by any stretch of the imagination: they tend to be from the '70s through the early '90s and lean towards the sorts of midlisters that don't really exist nowadays anymore and make great thesis topics, but there are some pillars of the genres mixed in with everything else. (It's where I picked up Golden Witchbreed, after all). In the summer doldrums like we are now, I'll pick up a couple to read over breaks and such. Using my super complicated high tech choosing strategy (walking down the shelves until my finger/eye catches on something and picking the one with the prettiest cover in that area), I've landed on Michael Moorcock's "Weird of the White Wolf."

 

It appears this is an omnibus of a couple different novelettes (? novellas? what do you call 4-chapter-long stories?) and holds up pretty well in terms of plot and tech and sentence structure (honestly for a '60-s era novel, it's downright terse), it's just... so... I mean, of COURSE he's an albino warrior prince-mage from a far-flung empire, of COURSE his One True Love can never be, of COURSE all the ladies want him, all the men respect and fear him, of COURSE his sword is the dark of deathly death eating souls and howling deathly howls!  It's definitely a case of The Tropes Have to Come From Somewhere.  But despite rolling my eyes hard enough to give myself a headache every 3 pages or so, I'm still enjoying it. 

 

There's a punchiness to older pulp writing like this that is pithy without being snarky. The dialogue tags do double and triple duty describing emotion and action, and an entire scene is sketched out in vivid detail with just a couple sentences. I'm really, REALLY enjoying the omnipresent POV, as well. In modern sff, the limited third person POV is pretty much universal, even when it ends up being a detriment to the story. For epic sweep and concise page count, the ability to drop into anyone's head and see what they're doing is a hands-down winner, imo. Elric is clearly the protagonist and we stay with him the most, but Moorcock will slide into a supporting character or an antagonist for a little while here and there when it benefits the story.  And it does benefit the story. There's no need to interweave multiple POV characters and spend chapters flipping between them when this POV is used as well as it is here. Moorcock makes it look easy, but the seamless switches and knowing just how many and how often to use them are difficult to master and I think that's why omnipresent 3rd POV has fallen out of favor more recently. 

Edited by industrialistDragon
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Ahhh...Moorcock is one of my favorites, though Elric is actually my least favorite and most trope-y of the Eternal Champions. If you get a chance, read the Count Brass novels, or The Dancers at the End of TIme, or some of the other ones. Sometimes the champions even get to crossover!

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