Archive for the 'Sunday Quickies' Category

17
May
09

Diana’s sunday quickie: this path of madness

Today’s quickie topic is about how we each first got hooked on science fiction/fantasy.

I place full blame on my mother. I don’t know where she got her love of the genre, but she was definitely the one who first led me to what if stories.  She gave me books by Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, turned the TV to Star Trek, and took me to see Star Wars. I read the Skylark of Space series, everything by Anne McCaffrey, and fell deeply deeply in love with Doctor Who. Through the Pern and Who geekdom, I found some of my nearest and dearest friends in high school, and when I went off to college (Georgia Tech–chock full o’ geeks!!) I found many more like-minded people who were more than happy to share in the love of science fiction and fantasy.

Being a fan of science fiction and fantasy is such an intrinsic part of who I am today, that I can’t even imagine what kind of person I’d be like today if I hadn’t found that amazing world.

A boring one, probably.

17
May
09

Margaret’s Sunday Quickie: Nudged over the edge

There was a program called Reading Is Fundamental that came to my elementary school at least once a year.  It used to be one of my favorite days: you’d go down into the cafeteria, and on every table there would be books and books and books.  The hard part was choosing just one.  I’m not sure how old I was — fourth grade through sixth grade, something like that — when I brought home a book chosen solely on the basis of the dragon on the cover: The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley.  

While I grew up reading a whole lot of proto-fantasy — loads of mythology, a whole spectrum’s worth of Andrew Lang’s fairy books, Oz and Wonderland and Narnia and the rest (I still remember my father making the voices for the Scoodlers in The Road to Oz) — this was the book that pushed me over the edge.  It took a while for me to read and understand it; there’s an extended flashback, a long origin story, and scenes that are incredibly painful not just from a physical perspective.  But I read it over and over, then later on at least once a year, and it became a kind of touchstone for me.  And it told me that magic and dragons and quests were things that could be written about seriously, and that while happy endings were not always sparkles and rainbows, they were still possible.

I started taking fantasy more seriously after that, and it opened up not just new genres but new ways of reading.  Maybe it was just the right book in the right place; maybe I would have headed down this path anyway (likely, given my tastes at the time), but The Hero and the Crown is always the mental signpost in my life that says “Dragons Ahead.”

(What’s funny about this is that I’m fairly certain the book my sister brought home was one that could have pointed me in a slightly different direction: Nine Princes in Amber, by Roger Zelazny.  Only because she was the one who picked it up, I refused to read it for a while.  Obviously, mine was the better book, because it was mine! …I lost out on a lot of good books because of this reasoning.)

17
May
09

rachel’s sunday quickie – humble beginnings

The question this week is: ” What book (or show, or movie) got you started reading fantasy and/or science fiction?”

For me, this question took some thinking. I grew up as a little geekling in a geeky house. Both my parents read Darkover and Pern books and my dad read me Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy before I was old enough to get any of the jokes. Fantasy and SciFi were just a part of my life, which was awesome, because I loved them, so pinning an exact moment is hard. But, if I had to pick just one, just one work that set me on my current path more than anything else, it was probably the Ralph Manheim translation of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. These were the original stories, full of bloody magic and horrible death and princesses who made their lovers cut off their own heads as a sign of faithfulness. I ate these things up. This is the first book I can remember reading. We had the enormous, bible-sized hard cover version, and I know every story in there backwards and forwards, rolling cheeses, glass mountains, little blue dwarves and all. 

Lots of other works had a deep impact on me, especially the Last Unicorn and Patrica Wrede’s Enchanted Forest series, and Le Mort d’Arthur (I loved that as a kid), but it was the world of Grimm’s Fairy Tales that really set the stage for all future fantasy in my mind.  Seriously, if an traditional fantasy author doesn’t set their setting, they get stuck with little German villages for a backdrop in my head. Let this be a warning!

17
May
09

Greg’s Sunday Quickie – By the authority of the mystic guardians of the universe

Our Sunday Quickie topic this week is the book or movie or thing that first got us into science fiction and fantasy. I actually can’t remember a time I when I wasn’t into science fiction and fantasy. Maybe it was the syndicated reruns of Filmation superhero cartoons. There was Superman and Batman and Aquaman, but the really cool ones were the “science-y” ones, like Green Lantern (a “cosmic crusader whose magical power ring accomplishes the impossible”),  Hawkman (a “scientific genius from another world”) and The Atom (who owes his powers to the “magic alchemy of nature’s most awesome sources of energy”).

They were pretty bad cartoons, but, hey, I was maybe four.

And then there was The Six Million Dollar Man. And Ark II, and Land of the Lost, and you pretty much couldn’t turn on your TV without bumping up against some goofy and perfectly awesome science fiction and fantasy.

And by the way, as I’m writing this, the Land of the Lost movie trailer just started playing on my TV. And all I want to say about that is this: Screw you, Will Farrell. Screw you. If something like that had been my first exposure to science fiction, I may very well have grown up illiterate.

10
May
09

Diana’s Sunday Quickie: For love of mother

In honor of Mother’s Day, today’s quickie is about our favorite mother in science fiction or fantasy.  But Margaret totally stole my very first favorite mother–Cordelia Naismith from the Vorkosigan novels by Lois McMaster Bujold–so I’m going to put my second favorite mother as Mrs. Murray from A Wrinkle in Time

Mrs. Murray doesn’t really have a lot of face time in that book (though she has a bit more in later books,) but the little that was revealed of her showed a lovely woman who wasn’t afraid to continue being a scientist and an intelligent woman in a time when that wasn’t the norm–or even accepted– for women. Not only that, she continues to be as strong and loving mother after her husband’s disappearance, and continues to have faith in her husband and maintain hope–and give her children hope–that he will someday return.  She’s still human and has moments of grief and doubt, but she keeps those moment from her kids as much as possible.

After Mrs. Murray, I think I’d have to go with Ramoth from the Pern series. She’s a real dragon-mama!

10
May
09

Nora’s Sunday Quickie: My Favorite Fantasy Mom…

…is actually from science fiction, but shhh, don’t tell anybody. Lilith, from Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis (also called “Lilith’s Brood”) series. In the first book of this series, Dawn, the Earth has been destroyed by human folly — a nuclear war. The survivors are rescued by an alien race called the Oankali, who want one thing in return: genetic trade. Specifically, they want to interbreed. Lilith Iyapo, among the first humans the Oankali attempt to bond with, doesn’t really have a lot of choice; she’s forced into it because her fellow humans unfortunately exhibit too much of humanity’s worst behavior, like paranoia, racism, sexism, and pointless violence. So she’s not exactly happy when her Oankali partner lets her know she’s pregnant with a child that isn’t exactly human.

However, over the course of the following two books, Lilith’s children form the seed of a new species, and she loves them despite their multiple limbs, deadly tentacles, and tendency to change sex from time to time. Indeed, her love helps them embrace their human identities, by showing them the best of humankind. When violent humans threaten her children, she has herself genetically modified to become stronger, and has no problem kicking ass for her kids’ sake. She is maligned among humankind for this, called a traitor and worse, but in reality all she’s done is dare to love her unconventional family, and protect it with all she’s got. In the end, it’s her motherhood which eventually provides some hope of a future for the human race.

Now that’s a mother.

10
May
09

Margaret’s Sunday Quickie: Moms kick butt

The first fictional mom who came to mind for today’s post was Cordelia Naismith, of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series.  Smart, indomitable, loving, and quite capable of dealing with a son who could be brave, brilliant, and (often) outright infuriating.  (Although I suspect many moms will say that their children are quite capable of being all of the above.)  

I have a mixed reaction to motherhood in fantasy (as mentioned earlier on this blog) because of how often it’s used as a plot device rather than development of a real character.  It’s sometimes hard to remember that some characters are mothers — Galadriel was a grandmother, after all, and I do see a hint of that in how she managed to set up her granddaughter with that nice young Estel boy who looked so presentable once he cleaned up and put on some nice clothes and stopped slouching.  But that’s all appendix material, and there’s very little trace of it in the main storyline.  Cordelia’s role as mother never devolves into stereotypical patterns, nor does she set it aside completely.  In fact, I think this is what I like best about her character: she’s awesome as a mother, and as a character in her own right.  She’s not stuffed into one role to the exclusion of the other.

And all of this is beside the central point, which is this: My own mother is the most awesome mom on the planet.  And now I’m going to go call and, er, tell her that her Mother’s Day gift is a little late.  (Okay, so I’m not the best daughter.  But she’s the best mom ever.)

10
May
09

Rachel’s Sunday Quickie – Mother of queens and priestesses

Like many girls with open minded mothers who were of a certain age in the early 90s, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon hit my developing brain like a dropped piano. I read the omnibus edition obsessively for years, and came out of high school with much wider view on history (and women’s conspicuous absence from it), a vile hatred of Guinevere, and, most enduringly, a fierce love of strong women who do what has to be done. Needless to say if you’ve read the book, my favorite character was Vivianne, the Lady of the Lake, who is also my favorite mother in fiction

Vivianne wasn’t gentle with her children. She was loving, but her love was always tempered by duty and the needs of her religion. She was a mother, but she was also a priestess, and her struggle to fill both parts of this dual role equally endeared her to me forever. Looking back, she was the first mother I’d ever read about where having a life and a duty outside of her children was cast as a virtue for a heroine rather than a sign of compromised and insufficient motherhood. Here was a woman who worked her ass off, who had to be so hard, so tough, especially on her own children, and I respected that even as I became a rebellious teenage daughter myself. I love Vivianne because she stands as a reminder of the parts of motherhood that aren’t glorified on mother’s day. Of being tough and doing what has to be done, even when you don’t want to and no one is thanking you for it, least of all your children.

To all the tough moms out there, including mine, thank you and happy Mother’s Day.

10
May
09

Greg’s sunday quickie — My favorite mom who never was

She had been a queen. Now she was a fugitive, and her only concern was keeping her twin infants away from their father. Or the thing their father had become.

She stowed away on freighters. She bribed smugglers to help her. She hijacked ships and fought off bounty hunters and Imperials. When she could, she watched her children sleep, for it seemed they could sense when their father was drawing near.

For a time she found safe harbor with the Organas of Alderaan. They offered her refuge, but, no, she couldn’t remain anywhere for long. But she saw the cold necessity of leaving one of her children behind. Each was like a magnet, possessing a force that brought their father inevitably closer, and when they were together, the force was too conspicuous. So she left her daughter in the Organa’s care. She promised her she’d come back, if she could.

And then to the desert planet. She nearly did not make it, for a bounty hunter had picked up her trail. Obi Wan met her there. Hurriedly, she told Kenobi to watch over her boy. One day he would have to confront his father. Kenobi must prepare him for that day. Train him. Teach him. Show him there was still good in the world, everywhere he looked. And if he couldn’t find it, then he would have to be the source of it.

She blasted off the planet to lead the bounty hunter away, but her ship was damaged and couldn’t make the jump to hyperspace. So she turned back towards the pursuing ship, and she fired. To survive, the bounty hunter had no choice but to defend himself. He would have to report back to his master that the queen’s ship and all aboard were destroyed.

And for many years, that is what Vader thought.

Anyway, that’s the version of Amidala that exists in my head. Instead of, you know, what we got.

03
May
09

Nora’s Sunday Quickie: Video Games

If I could write professionally in any other medium, it would be video games.

The kind with a plot, I mean, and characterization beyond what fighting class, species, and armor my character would have. I don’t mind the plotless/characterizationless type of game sometimes, but those don’t hook me or hold my attention the way the other kind does. Some of my favorite games are Japanese RPGs like the Digital Devil Saga series, which are basically immersive cyberpunk novels. But I also enjoy atmospheric, psychologically twisty games like the Fatal Frames and the Silent Hills — and the common thread through all these games is that they’re magnificently written. How else could I have been moved to tears by the “Lego people” of Final Fantasy 7? Or utterly entranced by the nearly dialogue-free Shadow of the Colossus? These are the kinds of stories that come closest to realizing the potential of video games, IMO, by truly whisking the player off to another world.

(So, can anybody put in a good word for me with ATLUS or Square Enix?)