nancylebov: (green leaves)
There should a word for something that isn't very good itself, but somehow inspires good stuff. See also the original D&D rules.

Conspiracy is impossible under these circumstances!

From the continuing discussion....
A few words from [livejournal.com profile] autopope

(This is not a defense of Weingrad's thesis, but hopefully illustrative of the invisibility of Jews ... unlike PoC we don't stand out in a mostly-white crowd.)

I was on a panel at the 2007 worldcon with three other authors. Can't remember what we were discussing, but three-quarters of the way through Robert Silverberg (for it was he) launched into an impassioned five-minute tirade about how the public perception that SF is disproportionately written by Jews is an illusion (probably caused by youthful exposure to Isaac Asimov) and that in fact he was the only Jew on the panel.

At which point Cory Doctorow and I raised our hands, Silverbob looked betrayed, then everyone's eyes turned to the (single) non-Jewish panelist.


I'm reminded of Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday

********

And somewhere in poking around, I found World SF, a handy blog for tracking more of the field, and it listed the toc for The Innsmouth Free Press Multiethnic Issue, coming out in June:
Sanford Allen – Kali Yuga
Nadia Bulkin – Red Goat, Black Goat
Gustavo Bondoni – Eyes in the Vastness of Forever
Raymond G. Falgui – The Hunger Houses
Travis King – The Doom that Came to Yamatai
Juan Miguel Marín – The Bats in the Walls
Mari Ness – Quoth the Cultist
Daniel José Older – Death on the Fine Line
Pamela Rentz – Estelle Makes the Casino Run
Charles R. Saunders – Jeroboam Henley’s Debt
Ekaterina Sedia – The Great Performance of Kadir Bey
Caleb Jordan Schulz – The Mountain that Eats Men
Bogi Takács – Bottomless Lake Bus Stop
Bryan Thao Worra – A Model Apartment

Just the titles are delightfully squamous and cosimicly horrifying.

*******

An essay that's actually about Jews and fantasy: Fantasy and the Jewish Question. It makes the rather reasonable point that one factor could be that Great Britain has made a strong showing in fantasy, and America has made a strong showing in science fiction, and that's going to affect the religious mix. I have no idea why there's an Atlantic split down the middle of sf, though. And Douglas Adams is science fiction, anyway, whatever science fiction is.

Something else that might want explaining from the comments to that essay:anna genoese said...

For around six years, I was an acquiring editor at a major publishing company. I spent quite a lot of time at conferences and in my blog (and the blogs of other people) and on mailing lists requesting people write/submit Jewish-themed paranormal romance, science fiction, or fantasy novels -- or even any genre novel at all with Jewish characters and culture.

I did not get one single submission. In six years. It was extremely disheartening.
nancylebov: (green leaves)
Why there is no Jewish Narnia is an essay I don't entirely agree with, but it's an interesting overview of the question of why Jews are notable among science fiction writers but write very little fantasy, and there's nothing as distinctively Jewish as Lewis and Tolkien are Christian.

Points of disagreement: Kabbalah and Chasidism both have very lively fantasy elements, and I think the Midrash does as well, but the article writes them off as not normative. Well, they aren't part of the Judaism I grew up with (Conservative, which I think might be viewed as very toned down Misnaged (non-Chasidic) Orthodox Judaism. However, there are a fair number of Chasidic Jews (I don't know how many Jews are connected to the Kabbalah well enough to want to use it as fantasy elements but loosely enough that they'd be comfortable doing so) who could draw on their traditions, but either they aren't writing fantasy or it isn't getting to where the rest of us can see it.

Also, there's a substantial secular Jewish tradition, but it doesn't seem to be generating fantasy either.

I don't think the Holocaust has put a damper on the Jewish ability to write fantasy. "Where was the magic during the Holocaust?" might be in the back of potential authors' minds, but it's possible to write fantasy in which magic is discovered post-Holocaust, or set in a world which isn't connected to real history.

Speaking of fantasy where the rest of us can see it, the article reviews a contemporary Israeli fantasy which sounds like a lot of fun. I hope it's translated into English.

Sentence which might generate discussion: To put it crudely, if Christianity is a fantasy religion, then Judaism is a science fiction religion. If the former is individualistic, magical, and salvationist, the latter is collective, technical, and this-worldly. I'm not sure this is fair to either religion, but it'll probably stay in the back of my mind where I can see if it connects to anything.

Favorite sentence: As it happens, though, the author of these lines, Hagar Yanai, has recently attempted to fill this gap, along with a few other Israeli writers who have in the last few years begun to produce fantasy books—not magical realism or surrealism or postmodernism, but serious fantasy. Yay, us! The real fantasy, the serious fantasy, is the kind where the magic is unquestionably and literally part of the characters' world, and the world is at least intended to make logical sense.

Link, with a few comments about fantasy the article has missed, and a major contemporary Jewish fantasy writer.

Addendum: Many more Jewish fantasy writers are mentioned in the comments. The explanation for the lack of Jewish fantasy hitting it really big may be as simple as that very few writers manage it and Jews are a minority, so it could just be statistics.
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
I've been in some discussions about what happened to the short sf story--once upon a time, the short story was a major part of the sf field, and now (to put it mildly) it isn't.

Perhaps most readers just don't like short fiction any more--this is certainly borne out by short fiction having declined even more outside sf than in sf. Subtheory: If you want a half-hour's worth of fiction, television fills that niche. On the other hand, tv and movies aren't good at novels.

Perhaps it's an evil publisher conspiracy--it's easier to make money selling series of novels than to do all that editorial work just to end up with a short story that has to be grouped with a bunch of other short stories. I don't believe this one: it's quite clear that a lot of people love long novels and long series of novels. (Blaming long sf on word processors is a failed theory for the same reason--word processors make long fiction possible but not inevitable.)

This would relate to the idea that the natural length for fiction is long, and once sf had enough pretige that publishers were willing to produce long sf novels, sf expanded to its normal length.

Perhaps all the good short story ideas have been used up, so writers are forced into longer forms. This one is hard to prove one way or the other, but when I read best of the year anthologies and still like only a few of the stories, it's a tempting theory.

My best guess is that the field has simply been unlucky--we just haven't happened to have excellent short story editors for the past few decades.

Anyway, I've come up with a way of testing the hypothesis that people simply don't want to read short stories any more and/or there are hardly any short stories worth writing.

Fan fiction offers an interesting test case--it's driven purely by desire and has no economic constraints. However, I haven't read much fan fiction, so I'm hoping some of you reading this have. Are there substantial numbers of short fanfics? Are many of them considered classics?

Here are some links about fanfic:

On fanfic getting closer to the id than commercial fiction does

On fanfiction as the free play of the imagination--it doesn't set out to be subversive or anything else in particular

My imagination automatically turns things on their heads, supplies more of what I liked, resolves what I feel needs to be resolved, addresses what my own sensibility misses in any text, and it does that spontaneously, without conscious effort.


And a couple of short stories:

"A Lot to Be Upset About" This is simply the funniest thing I've read in quite a while. I think it would even amuse people who haven't read Harry Potter books or don't like them. This story is by Cassie Claire, who's also the author of the famed Very Secret Diaries, a combination of scurrilous slash and well-thought out non-slash silliness about the LOTR movies. "Where is the horse and the rider? No, really, that was my favorite horse."

"Black Is the Color", a classic about what really happens in the fitting rooms of the clothes store that caters to villains.

I'd be interested in suggestions for classic short fanfic and/or short sf online--the fanfic doesn't have to be slash even though my three good examples happen to be.

Final random question: if homosexuality becomes completely socially acceptable, will slash be destroyed?
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
I've been in some discussions about what happened to the short sf story--once upon a time, the short story was a major part of the sf field, and now (to put it mildly) it isn't.

Perhaps most readers just don't like short fiction any more--this is certainly borne out by short fiction having declined even more outside sf than in sf. Subtheory: If you want a half-hour's worth of fiction, television fills that niche. On the other hand, tv and movies aren't good at novels.

Perhaps it's an evil publisher conspiracy--it's easier to make money selling series of novels than to do all that editorial work just to end up with a short story that has to be grouped with a bunch of other short stories. I don't believe this one: it's quite clear that a lot of people love long novels and long series of novels. (Blaming long sf on word processors is a failed theory for the same reason--word processors make long fiction possible but not inevitable.)

This would relate to the idea that the natural length for fiction is long, and once sf had enough pretige that publishers were willing to produce long sf novels, sf expanded to its normal length.

Perhaps all the good short story ideas have been used up, so writers are forced into longer forms. This one is hard to prove one way or the other, but when I read best of the year anthologies and still like only a few of the stories, it's a tempting theory.

My best guess is that the field has simply been unlucky--we just haven't happened to have excellent short story editors for the past few decades.

Anyway, I've come up with a way of testing the hypothesis that people simply don't want to read short stories any more and/or there are hardly any short stories worth writing.

Fan fiction offers an interesting test case--it's driven purely by desire and has no economic constraints. However, I haven't read much fan fiction, so I'm hoping some of you reading this have. Are there substantial numbers of short fanfics? Are many of them considered classics?

Here are some links about fanfic:

On fanfic getting closer to the id than commercial fiction does

On fanfiction as the free play of the imagination--it doesn't set out to be subversive or anything else in particular

My imagination automatically turns things on their heads, supplies more of what I liked, resolves what I feel needs to be resolved, addresses what my own sensibility misses in any text, and it does that spontaneously, without conscious effort.


And a couple of short stories:

"A Lot to Be Upset About" This is simply the funniest thing I've read in quite a while. I think it would even amuse people who haven't read Harry Potter books or don't like them. This story is by Cassie Claire, who's also the author of the famed Very Secret Diaries, a combination of scurrilous slash and well-thought out non-slash silliness about the LOTR movies. "Where is the horse and the rider? No, really, that was my favorite horse."

"Black Is the Color", a classic about what really happens in the fitting rooms of the clothes store that caters to villains.

I'd be interested in suggestions for classic short fanfic and/or short sf online--the fanfic doesn't have to be slash even though my three good examples happen to be.

Final random question: if homosexuality becomes completely socially acceptable, will slash be destroyed?
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
We're closer to wild animals or they're closer to us. Afaik (with an exception of Bisson's non-realistic "Bears Discover Fire), science fiction has assumed a fairly sterile future, even when it became obvious that anything that can kill a 100-pound deer can also kill a person, and that there's no good way to keep deer out of the suburbs, especially if you're going to insist on having woods anywhere near where people live, and people do seem to be insisting on that.

Also, I strongly suspect that we've been selecting wild animals for intelligence.

And the predictions about computers were pretty indequate. E.M. Forester had it in "The Machine Stops" (1909) that people would use computers for chatter--but the field completely forgot that insight.

No one guessed what would be easy and what would be difficult--grand master chess has turned out to be a more solvable problem than vision and walking. Once upon a time, science fiction writers seemed to think that your first problem with a computer was keeping it from trying to take over the world rather than getting it to to work at all.

And no one had the foggiest that there would be whole sections of books for the general public on dealing with computers, nor that computers would make it reasonably easy for people to have a combined printing press and post office at home and this would be problematic.

Afaik, no one in science fiction has taken a real crack at just how complicated nanotech is going to be.
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
We're closer to wild animals or they're closer to us. Afaik (with an exception of Bisson's non-realistic "Bears Discover Fire), science fiction has assumed a fairly sterile future, even when it became obvious that anything that can kill a 100-pound deer can also kill a person, and that there's no good way to keep deer out of the suburbs, especially if you're going to insist on having woods anywhere near where people live, and people do seem to be insisting on that.

Also, I strongly suspect that we've been selecting wild animals for intelligence.

And the predictions about computers were pretty indequate. E.M. Forester had it in "The Machine Stops" (1909) that people would use computers for chatter--but the field completely forgot that insight.

No one guessed what would be easy and what would be difficult--grand master chess has turned out to be a more solvable problem than vision and walking. Once upon a time, science fiction writers seemed to think that your first problem with a computer was keeping it from trying to take over the world rather than getting it to to work at all.

And no one had the foggiest that there would be whole sections of books for the general public on dealing with computers, nor that computers would make it reasonably easy for people to have a combined printing press and post office at home and this would be problematic.

Afaik, no one in science fiction has taken a real crack at just how complicated nanotech is going to be.
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
I just read _Red Thunder_, and it was remarkably disappointing. Varley's written some sf that I'm very fond of (notably _The Ophiuchi Hotline_ and _The Golden Globe_ and much of the Nine Worlds short fiction), and part of what I've liked has been his inventiveness. I'm very fond of idea-a-minute sf.

_Red Thunder_, on the other hand, has remarkably little going on. There's a force field which supplies handy propulsion for the rocket, and that's about it.

The plot: A small group of Americans build a backyard spaceship and go to Mars. There are a few minor moments of suspence. For a while, i was hoping that even though it was slow-moving, there was a decent novella somewhere in those 411 pages. There isn't.

OK, politics. The book is libertarian (little rants about guns and drug laws) with a strong ambivalence about the US--it's good that Americans get to Mars first, but better that it isn't a government project.

The problem at my end (and not Varley's fault, I suppose) is that Abu Graib has worn the shine off being an American for me. It's just another country, with some people making an effort not to fuck up totally, but with all too many saying that rage and revenge are more important than kindness or good sense. I can't believe that the "real" America is the dream rather than what actual Americans do and believe. I believe that imagination is part of the world, but it's not the whole story.

Let the Europeans or the Chinese or someone else be first on Mars. I don't care.

Some of this is depression--when I think "what sort of a fucking idiot would let part of their happiness be in the hands of something they didn't create or control?", that's depression, but I don't think all of this is. The process that started with hearing about My Lai and thinking "but Americans don't do that--well, one of them did" just got finished. Damn, this does feel like depression, and not just politics.

I expect that the political news is just going to get worse, but can anyone recommend some good recent sf?
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
I just read _Red Thunder_, and it was remarkably disappointing. Varley's written some sf that I'm very fond of (notably _The Ophiuchi Hotline_ and _The Golden Globe_ and much of the Nine Worlds short fiction), and part of what I've liked has been his inventiveness. I'm very fond of idea-a-minute sf.

_Red Thunder_, on the other hand, has remarkably little going on. There's a force field which supplies handy propulsion for the rocket, and that's about it.

The plot: A small group of Americans build a backyard spaceship and go to Mars. There are a few minor moments of suspence. For a while, i was hoping that even though it was slow-moving, there was a decent novella somewhere in those 411 pages. There isn't.

OK, politics. The book is libertarian (little rants about guns and drug laws) with a strong ambivalence about the US--it's good that Americans get to Mars first, but better that it isn't a government project.

The problem at my end (and not Varley's fault, I suppose) is that Abu Graib has worn the shine off being an American for me. It's just another country, with some people making an effort not to fuck up totally, but with all too many saying that rage and revenge are more important than kindness or good sense. I can't believe that the "real" America is the dream rather than what actual Americans do and believe. I believe that imagination is part of the world, but it's not the whole story.

Let the Europeans or the Chinese or someone else be first on Mars. I don't care.

Some of this is depression--when I think "what sort of a fucking idiot would let part of their happiness be in the hands of something they didn't create or control?", that's depression, but I don't think all of this is. The process that started with hearing about My Lai and thinking "but Americans don't do that--well, one of them did" just got finished. Damn, this does feel like depression, and not just politics.

I expect that the political news is just going to get worse, but can anyone recommend some good recent sf?

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