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March 2019: Reading Thread

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Hugh

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Volume 3 of the NESFA Press Collected Short Fiction of Roger Zelazny.
It's been a while since I read the first two volumes, but this series is so wonderfully put together and such a credit to NESFA. Volume 3 does not contain any of my real favourites but is still a pleasure to read, in large part due to the editors' excellent commentary and the extensive quoting of Zelazny himself. That said, I'm afraid his poetry is way over my head to the extent that I don't even make the effort to try and decipher it. This is a real pity as poetry was kind of central to Zelazny and his poems alternate with his stories in these volumes.

Here are various bits that caught my attention, mainly to do with the process of writing ...
  • Neil Gaiman quotes Zelazny as having said to him "Most of my better short stories are the final chapters of novels I haven't written".
  • In reference to his short story "Dismal Light" featuring Francis Sandow (of "The Isle of the Dead" and "To Die at Italbar"), Zelazny wrote "In writing of any length, I always compose - either on paper and then destroy it, or in my head and let it be - a scene or scenes involving my protagonist (and possibly separate ones for other important characters) having nothing to do with the story itself - just something that happened to him/her/it once upon a time. I accept it as a real experience, a part of the character's life history, and I may even refer to it in the story itself. But I never include it. I do this under the belief that the character should be larger than his present circumstances indicate, should be defined for me in terms of a bigger picture of his life than the reader ever sees." This story "Dismal Light" was the one time he broke that rule and let one of these back stories be published.
  • Another quote from Zelazny: "....in my book "Lord of Light", nowhere in it will you find the word "which" because an editor decided to scratch out "which" everywhere it occurred and substitute "that"."
  • Zelazny again: "I learned another thing only after several years of writing. To show how naive I was, I did not know that other writers plotted their books. I didn't know this until I was asked for a plot line, and I realized that I couldn't do one. Basically my approach to writing a novel is to construct a character. Once I have a character, I try him out in several situations just to see how he reacts. Then I take two situations that strike me as interesting. I begin somewhere near one of them and write my way through, almost free-associating, to the second situation....". He then continues to explain how he writes, ending with: "My only hope, as I see it, is the fact that I rely on my subconscious. I will continue to trust it. If it lets me down, I guess we'll sink together".
  • In May 1969 Zelazny resigned from his day job in the Social Security Administration with a view to making his living as a full-time writer....... "This switch to full-time writing did not increase his output. He averaged a novel per year, and his short story writing declined. He'd been more productive when he wrote only in evenings and on weekends".
 
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AndrewT

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I abandoned Revelation Space. It was my second attempt and I got roughly halfway, but just sputtered out. I find Reynolds' world and ideas fascinating and loved the Galactic North short story collection, but something here just didn't click. It seemed to take deliberately long to progress, and I got incredibly annoyed at characters discovering new critical information right before a chapter end and when that thread is resumed the revelation is STILL kept from the reader... I guess in an attempt to build suspense and maintain mystery? I struck out on Peter Hamilton as well, and am thinking I may just be losing my ability to show patience with extended multi-volume SFF.

As an antidote to that, I decided to give Poul Anderson a try, someone I somehow had never read before and wasn't really aware of until the last month or so (I knew the name, but had him mixed up with Paul Kearney for some reason). I started Three Hearts and Three Lions which I thought was truly awful, borderline fan fiction wish fulfillment. So I switched over to The Broken Sword, which I am loving. It's a really fascinating contrast to its more famous contemporaries, and I might say is almost more influential, particularly when you consider how popular grimdark has become.
Try Chasm City by Reynolds. It's set in the same Yellowstone world but I like it way better than book 1 of Rev Space. Haven't got to book 2 and 3 yet. Soon I will because after Chasm I swore I would read everything the man has written.
 

AndrewT

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I am reading The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett and really, really enjoying it. Strange that I have not seen it mentioned here except one thread in historical fiction. If you haven't tried it I highly recommend based on what I have finished.
 

soulsinging

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I am reading The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett and really, really enjoying it. Strange that I have not seen it mentioned here except one thread in historical fiction. If you haven't tried it I highly recommend based on what I have finished.
I actually read this last year around this time and am pretty sure I found a thread or two where it was discussed. Granted, might have been more recommendations than in depth discussion.

I may try Chasm City, but I still have Corey's Expanse book 1 and one of Banks's culture novels in my pile, so I'll likely try those both first and then decide which of these universes I want to delve deeper into!
 

dannymcg

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I'm having a go at a new Merrily Watkins story by Phil Rickman....it looks like I'm the first one to check it out of my town library.
'All of a Winter's night'
 

HareBrain

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I'm having a go at a new Merrily Watkins story by Phil Rickman
Aww, you got me all excited there, then I looked it up on Goodreads and found out I'd already read it! Almost two years ago! That's not what we call "new" round here, but perhaps it's taken time to work its way up the M6, like an invasive plant.

Anyway, I thought it was a good story, well up to his usual standard and better than some.
 

dannymcg

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Aww, you got me all excited there, then I looked it up on Goodreads and found out I'd already read it! Almost two years ago
Yeah, as you say, either it took a long while to get up here, or nobody had checked it out since Whitehaven library got it. (Unless they wait nowadays until the prices drop)
 

HareBrain

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or nobody had checked it out since Whitehaven library got it
At our library, you check books out yourself using a bar-code machine, and most people don't bother writing the dates in, so the issue sheets are blank even if they've been checked out several times. Not the same with you?
 

dannymcg

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Yeah but the unused 'date page' was marked march 12th by the library people and it had the pristine new book appearance
 

HareBrain

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Interesting. Maybe they bought it in because someone had made a special request.

So I guess "new" was accurate in at least one sense. I'll let you off, and you may go about your business without a stain on your character. (Or that particular stain, anyway.)
 

Simbelmynë

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Finished The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin. A deep, dense novel.

At its heart is a touching plot ultimately concerned with friendship and love, while avoiding the mawkish sentimentality so often associated with those themes. Le Guin’s use of symbolism is powerful, as I had learned from her Earthsea books, although in The Left Hand, the profundity of the symbols surpasses Earthsea’s distinct archetypes. Symbols are at their strongest when just beyond the reach of conscious comprehension, I feel, and the most profound truths can only ever be implied.

I’ll need to re-read this one at some point. It’s not always an easy read, as is often the case with stories closer to a more hard sci fi style, but this novel totally validates science fiction as a genre of literature.

I have a few books I’ve been on-and-off reading - including The Karamazov Brothers by Dostoevsky, which I have only a few more chapters to get through - but I plan to start The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, either tonight or on my next day off.
 

Simbelmynë

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Now for what I expect will be a nice contrast, I picked up Tad Williams Dragonbone Chair.
I have read this, and the second in the series. I plan to read at least the third this year. Great, escapist fantasy.

Hope you enjoy.
 

anno

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Yeah, as you say, either it took a long while to get up here, or nobody had checked it out since Whitehaven library got it. (Unless they wait nowadays until the prices drop)
Danny, might have mentioned this before but Whitehaven always sounds like the retirement home for Sog Bathalrock or some other Lovecraftion character, and if you go North you reach Silloth’ even better!!!
 

dannymcg

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Danny, might have mentioned this before but Whitehaven always sounds like the retirement home for Sog Bathalrock or some other Lovecraftion character, and if you go North you reach Silloth’ even better!!!
I've spent a happy summer or two with my family in a rented caravan at Silloth.
Proper holidays, forget the Benidorm packages!
 

HareBrain

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Not long until October...
Slightly more lurid cover than usual!

Good to know, though. After realising it was almost 2 years since "Winter's Night", I expected there to be at least one release since, and when it turned out there wasn't, I feared he'd given up the series. That would've been a shame.
 
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