On the Classification of Classifications

Okay, there have been signs of life among the comments, but I’m still quoting this newsgroup post from August 13, 2005. Note that I said I’d let it stew overnight before pursuing it; well, I never did pursue it. Apparently it didn’t look as interesting the next morning.

So over in “Strange Days,” we’ve been discussing the relative merits of SF and fantasy — which I don’t think is a very good idea, but thinking about genres has just triggered an insight of sorts.

Why are SF and fantasy so often grouped together? Well, partly it’s for historical reasons — fantasy hid in the SF mags for the middle decades of the 20th century, and many authors wrote and write both because of that shared history. I think that it’s partly, though, because both are genres defined by setting.

SF is set in our universe, as altered by new science or technology.

Fantasy is set in a universe other than our own. (It may look just like our own with magic added, but it isn’t, since we have no capability for magic here.)

Compare this with genres defined by plot, such as mystery or romance; you can set a mystery anywhere, but it involves someone solving a crime by evaluating the available evidence; likewise, a romance can be set anywhere, so long as it follows two people as they fall in love and overcome whatever obstacles there may be to consummating that love.

And horror is a genre defined by mood — in fact, Douglas Winter famously said that horror is a mood, not a genre at all.

This has me thinking that we really ought to sort out genres into categories according to whether they’re defined by setting, plot, mood, or some other story element.

It is, however, late, and I have a busy day planned for tomorrow, so I’m going to let this stew overnight rather than pursuing it right now.

Things You Probably Didn’t Know

So here’s the deal: I’m going to keep posting old stuff from my newsgroup until I either run out — and I have over 500 old posts saved — or until we get a good conversation going in the comments.

This one is way out of sequence; I skipped ahead a couple of years. It’s also out of date, unsurprisingly.

September 1, 2008:

So I hold stock in a company called Triarc, which owns Arby’s — they used to own other stuff, but now it’s just Arby’s. They’re planning a merger with Wendy’s, and it needs stockholder approval, so I got this big fat mailing I was looking at just now.

Some of the stuff from the comparable companies I find fascinating.

Did you know Applebee’s is now owned by International House of Pancakes?

Did you know that Hard Rock Cafe International is owned by the Seminole Indians?

The Old Order Passeth: Fragments

My newsgroup on SFF Net is gone. Rather than leave everything to the last minute, I asked the folks in charge there to shut it down on March 15th, which they did.

So this is my new home, I suppose. Or one of them, anyway.

I saved a bunch of messages and threads there, some recent, some not. I’m planning to copy some of them here.

For example, here’s an item from May 11, 2004 — the oldest I have saved, and the last in a thread entitled “Fragments”:

It is late spring, but still the Druvars remain camped upon m front lawn. I have spoken with their chieftain, but he will tell me nothing save that they will leave when the time has come that they must leave. My neighbors seem to be quite amused by my predicament, and I am no longer able to share in their amusement.
At first I was not particularly disturbed by this uninvited visitation, but it has been fully five months now since the first cookfire scorched the grass, and the novelty has worn off, replaced by annoyance.

See, sometimes I write down story openings that occur to me — usually openings, but once in awhile a scene from the middle of a story. Sometimes I know what the story is, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I actually write those stories; sometimes I don’t.

I collect these fragments, and look them over every so often to see if one is ready to turn into something more.

This particular fragment never went anywhere, but I still kind of like it.

Our Story So Far…

It seems as if I’m reading more books lately — more of other people’s books, that is. I was asked to blurb An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors, for example, and was happy to do so because I really enjoyed it.

A couple of posts back I plugged Disreputable Persons; that was another one I liked.

Well, tonight I finished The Glittering Court, by Richelle Mead.

It’s not bad. I’m not really sure how to categorize it; it’s a romance, but it’s set in an imaginary world that very roughly parallels Europe and North America of the 17th or 18th century. It’s not a fantasy in the usual sense because there’s no magic, but other than that it feels like a fantasy romance. It’s not really my usual line of country, and I didn’t like it as much as the other two I mentioned, but I can see why Mead’s popular.

One of the interesting aspects, though, is that it’s first in a series I assume will be at least three volumes (though only two are out so far). I assume there will be three because it’s not going to be a first and then sequels, but three parallel stories. This first one follows the adventures of a young countess dodging an arranged marriage, and being a romance it ends with her and her beloved happily married and going off to start a new life together.

But she befriends two other young women who drop in and out of the story along the way, and whose adventures we do not learn about in detail. Obviously, they’ll be the stars of the next two volumes — and in fact, one of them is the protagonist of Midnight Jewel, the second in the series. I assume we’ll get the third girl in the third book. Funny thing, I’d guessed wrong about which girl would be #2 and which would be #3.

Anyway, one reason I find this of particular interest is that I’m currently writing Stone Unturned, a fantasy novel told from three interlocking points of view. I had seriously considered splitting it into three separate stories, divided among those three protagonists. So it’s a little surprising to see Mead doing essentially that same trick. Maybe it’s just something in the zeitgeist.

The Spawn of Orion

Awhile back, Wildside sold Orion UK the rights to publish ebook editions of twenty-four (at least) of my books.

The Misenchanted SwordOrion’s ebooks appeared a couple of weeks ago, under the Gateway imprint, and I finally got around to checking ’em out to see what they did.

Um.

Relics of WarFirst off, they have two titles wrong — they call Relics of War The Relics of War, which is not the title, and have transformed The Cyborg and the Sorcerers into The Cyborg and the Sorceress.

Second, they have published twenty-one titles, but for reasons I do not understand they have not included Taking Flight, The Blood of A Dragon, The Wizard and the War Machine, or The Nightmare People. (I suppose it’s possible The Nightmare People wasn’t included in the deal.)

The Cyborg and the SorcerersThird, they call Mind Candy, a collection of essays, “science fiction.” I didn’t expect them to publish it at all, since it’s all about American pop culture.

Mind CandyAnd fourth, they have put a dragon on every single cover except the two “science fiction” titles, The Cyborg and the “Sorceress” and Mind Candy. No cover is even remotely connected to the actual contents of the book. Some of them are very pretty, but still.

Sheesh.

Of course, it’s nice to have them available to European readers, no matter what they look like.

Strong Signals

Jack and Miracle GirlEvery so often I find a book or series that I really like that nobody else seems to have ever heard of. Here’s one example: Blake Michael Nelson’s “Signalverse” superhero novels.

These aren’t great literature, but they’re fun. I really enjoy them. They’re straightforward superhero adventure, of a sort that’s rather scarce in comic books these days, written in straightforward prose.

There are four so far:

The Adventures of Jack and Miracle Girl: Volume One

The Adventures of Jack and Miracle Girl: Volume Two
Jack and Miracle Girl Vol. 2
Orchid

Disreputable Persons

(The links are to the paperbacks, but there are also Kindle ebooks of all of them.)

OrchidThese stories all take place in Signal City, a city that’s home to dozens of superheroes and supervillains. Prose superhero stories (which aren’t all that numerous to begin with, though they’re multiplying now) are often either grim ‘n’ gritty or silly parody; these are neither. They’re light adventure, with a little humor, a little romance, some suspense, etc. They’re not trying to deconstruct anything, they’re not terribly long or complex, but I find them a really good way to brighten an afternoon.
Disreputable Persons
Check ’em out.

Oops.

So I’m reading a mystery novel, and the heroes are talking to the medical examiner about what she’s learned from the as-yet-unidentified murder victim.

The ME gives a quick rundown of the useless information she’s gathered so far, including the detail that the deceased “flossed conscientiously.”

I did not fling the book across the room, but I winced. You see, the reason they hadn’t yet identified the body was that the head was missing. I’d like to know how you can tell someone flossed regularly from looking at her headless corpse.

I can’t believe nobody caught that. What was the copy editor thinking?

Lookin’ Good

Warning:  Moderately technical post about coding webpages.

One thing about relocating my website — it forced me to actually look at it all.  (There was some code I had to change on Every. Single. Page, because SFF Net and my new host handle certain things differently, and I had a little ad for SFF Net at the foot of almost every page.)

There are 446 HTML pages on watt-evans.com; I didn’t get a count for ethshar.com or misenchantedpress.com, but there are lots there, too.  (Don’t bother trying to find and read all 446; some are just redirects from URLs I don’t use anymore.)

I had been through all of it a couple of years ago, updating everything, filling in placeholders, and making sure it was all mobile-friendly, but a lot of that was pretty rushed, just making sure everything worked and all the text was there.  I was nominally using HTML 5.0 and CSS 3.0, hand-coding everything (except blogs, guestbook, etc.).

Well, this time through I noticed that it wasn’t actually all HTML 5/CSS 3 compliant.  I hadn’t bothered to learn all the differences between HTML 4.1 and HTML 5.0, and I never really learned CSS properly in the first place, just sort of picked it up as I went along.  (When I started The Misenchanted Page I think the standard was HTML 1.1, and CSS hadn’t been invented yet.)  A couple of people pointed out glitches and infelicities to me when the relocated stuff all went live (my thanks to them!), and when I fixed those I read up on the new standards.

They’re different.  A lot of my favorite old tricks don’t work right under them.  I’m still using tags that either aren’t allowed under HTML 5, or don’t work the same as they used to.

So I need to go through everything again and fix it, though it’s all minor stuff, nothing urgent, and most browsers will handle the old stuff just fine.

So far I’ve fixed a couple of pages — and I think they look better with the corrected code.  Here’s an example.  And the new standards provide greater control (which was sort of the point).

So now I can distract myself from actually writing stuff even more, by tinkering with webpages all over again!

 

Meet the New Blog, Same as the Old Blog

Okay, then — I appear to have successfully relocated this blog to my new webhost’s server.

For those who haven’t seen it before, this is (as it says above) my general-purpose blog.  It’s just been moved to a new host because the old one, SFF Net, is shutting down next month.  I’m also losing my newsgroup in that shut-down, so I’ll be using this place as a partial replacement.  Discussions that I would previously have put in my newsgroup may now wind up here (or on Facebook or LiveJournal).  I will also be copying some old stuff from the newsgroup here, as my whimsy takes me.

About the name:  “The mind control lasers lied to me!” was my then-teenaged daughter’s response to me correcting some minor misapprehension she had; I thought it was a lovely phrase, and shamelessly stole it.

So, welcome!  Pull up a chair!  Make a comment!

 

Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary

Since many people are discussing their early memories of “Star Trek” on the 50th anniversary of its premiere, here are some of mine:

I was twelve. The old saying “The Golden Age of science fiction is twelve” does have some truth to it. My parents both loved SF, so we were all gathered in front of the TV to see this new show. I had loved “Twilight Zone” and “The Outer Limits,” but this was different — it wasn’t an anthology, but an ongoing series.

I remember thinking the design of the Enterprise was weird and didn’t make sense. But other than that, I loved the show. The costumes were not the usual “futuristic” stuff I’d seen elsewhere, but did look futuristic in their own way. Spock was seriously cool, even though I thought humanoid aliens were ridiculously unlikely. (His half-human parentage wasn’t mentioned in the premiere episode, so far as I remember; I would have balked even more at that.) The transporter was nifty. Phasers were beyond nifty. Kirk was charming and smart and generally a solid hero.

I knew that a lot of the science and technology was nonsense, but I didn’t care — the show’s creators had at least tried, rather than going for pure fantasy like so much alleged SF. I was old enough to understand that they were limited in what they could do. And we had heroes, and action, and monsters, and pretty women in short skirts (I had already hit puberty), and most importantly, it wasn’t condescending. It didn’t go in with the presumption that science fiction adventure was all junk aimed at kids, or that the audience didn’t know any science whatsoever.

I knew it wasn’t up to the standards of the best written SF, but it was still better than anything else I’d seen on TV or in the movies. (I hadn’t seen “Forbidden Planet” or a few other classics yet.)

I loved it. My mother did, too, and most of my siblings. Dad appreciated the effort, but thought it fell short in too many ways.

As the series continued, there were good episodes and bad — I found “Let This Be Your Last Battlefield” horrendously preachy, and “The Way to Eden” patronizing and stupid, and the less said about “Spock’s Brain” the better — but watching it was still usually a highlight of my week. I was disappointed when it was cancelled; I had hoped that it might recover from the weak third season and get better. I wasn’t heartbroken, though, because the novelty had worn off and the average quality really had slumped in the third season.

The real disappointment was the long wait before we got any more SF on TV that was even remotely as good.