I met Lars at Mimi’s memorial, and we have been exchanging emails about High Desert Writers, and I have been figuring how I might contribute. (And take advantage of your listings!) I thought I might introduce myself by noting my reading. I experienced a cataclysmic health event over the last 2 years, and what got me through it was the love of a strong family and books. My life has been books, as a teacher & writer. During this 2 year period I was often reading 3-4 books at once, on my OCD quest to find the best writing out there. we know how difficult it is to find books that mean something to us, with sentences that sing. As the old science fiction adage goes (attributed to Theodore Sturgeon) 98% of everything is trash—it’s a constant struggle to find the gems!! I think the last 20 yrs, whatever, there have been any number of spectacular genre–SF, horror, fantasy, hits that certainly stand up to the classics of the so called Golden Age. I think a good reader is better than the best virtual reality device. Did I mention how opinionated I am?
I read my first PKD in 59, THE FATHER THING, so been a dickhead most of my life, part of an international blog on PKD since the mid-90s. I still re-read Philip K Dick’s novels, my favorite MARTIAN TIME SLIP.
I have been to seven (7) World Cons, that’s the World Science Fiction conventions that go back to the 30s. My first was Kansas City in 76, so all the giants whom I’d grown up reading were there: Philip Jose Farmer, Damon Knight & Kate Wilhelm, Lester del Rey, Edmond Hamilton & Jack Williamson (who invented space opera). Robert Heinlein was guest of honor. I had a beer w Frank Herbert. Then Star Wars came out in 77…and everything changed. The best Con was probably Brighton in 87, when the guests of honor were Doris Lessing and the Strugatski Brothers (who wrote ROADSIDE PICNIC, the basis for the greatest science fiction film of all time, THE STALKER).
What I’ve been interested in:
THE NEW WEIRD – which takes off with 3 essential works:
- China Mieville’s PERDIDO STREET STATION
- Jeff Vandermeer’s story in SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH
- Mark Z. Danielewski’s HOUSE OF LEAVES
Horror, fantasy, science fiction put in a blender and given a very contemporary feel. These guys have many splendid works, and their cohorts now are doing interesting things. Vandermeer’s ANNIHILATION came out as a movie a few years ago.
SECRET HISTORIES – sometimes this sub-genre is referred to as “urban fantasy,” and there are tons of examples but for me the master is
Tim Powers’ FAULT LINES trilogy (I reread these every few years):
In 2016 I attended World Con (it was back in Kansas City so I had to go) and came face to face with the so called SAD PUPPIES. These were a bunch of mid level SF writers of military SF and space opera who were freaking out by what they saw as an assault on THEIR field by PC hacks, which translated to a lot of new female writers and people of color suddenly involved big time, and winning all the awards. The fans and writers put the kabosh on the Sad Puppies, and it has been fascinating to splurge in some of these new POVs opened up. Are they new? Or just never represented before?
Stuff I enjoyed:
- BINTI & THE LAGOON– Nnedi Okorafor (born in Congo, raised in Nigeria, now in US)
- THE THREE BODY PROBLEM – Cixin Liu (Obama loved this one!)
- THE WASTE TIDE – Chen Quifan
- THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET – Becky Chambers
- CARIBBEAN SF – Tobias Buckell
- Nalo Hopkinson
- Lavie Tidhar is an Israeli SF writer – OSAMA is mind blowing!
- Lauren Beukes is from Joburg, S Africa, I adored all of her books, and had a heck of a time hunting them down! ZOO CITY may be my fave-
- Scarlett Thomas is from Canterbury, I adored all her books—in fact I only reread THE END OF MR. Y when I’m on morphine (after surgery!)
I love to explore new POVs, new angles etc, but ol’ fogey that I am: there is no extra credit it seems to me. That is, all I care about is if the book is a good read, and if that writer is ethnic or gay or trans, fine. NK Jemisin is an African-American writer who has dominated the Hugos for the last few years. I wanted to like her. I tried a couple of her books, tried them again. Couldn’t do it? (See, it’s just me!)
Horror has really gone its own weird directions over the last decades. It has so many sub-genres to it now. So in erotic horror I like Lucy Taylor. For pure scary I go to Kathe Koja like her CIPHER which was almost too much for me. Then this new young guy is totally taking over the King mantle—Paul Tremblay, his HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS will change you.
A few novels of recent years I’ve enjoyed include for space opera anything by Neal Asher. I think Jo Walton’s book AMONG OTHERS is wonderful, her tale of growing up in Wales and being the only girl in the science fiction club, plus she can see FAE. Terry Bisson does the ultimate 60s riff with ANY DAY NOW, a wonderful alternative 1968. And my current favorite (besides Scarlet Thomas whom I may be in love with) Matt Ruff, whose work is so good I tracked down all his novels. His recent LOVECRAFT COUNTRY is going to be a TV series.
I grew up reading genre and the classics. I always loved CHARLOTTE’S WEB, TH White, Narnia books, WRINKLE IN TIME, Edward Ormondroyd’s DAVID AND THE PHOENIX. I never knew of so called YA books…I thought books were books, naturally appealing to different sorts. Later, I read The Giver, Hunger Games, and part 1 of Harry Potter. I didn’t get it? They seemed so derivative, they seemed so deliberately writing down at their audience…instead of uplifting them? Our son went off to college in 2000 in Boston, and my writing took some odd bends and flourishes. It was not planned. I never thought to myself ‘oh, if Harry Potter is so koolio, maybe I should write something like that!’ I checked out the surge in zombie and sparkly vampire books (I couldn’t read Stephenie Meyer’s series but her stand alone SF book THE HOST I kinda sorta liked.), and endless dystopia series…maybe I have a problem w series?
I have tried to look in to ‘good’ YA novels. I found GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE by Andrew Smith, which I thought tremendous, and it showed me how far a YA novel can go about teenage sexuality. My quest for decent to good to great YA novels continued and I found Matthew Anderson’s FEED, which was also tremendous, insightful, just an incredible read. I liked the Miss Peregrine books. THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION by Nancy Farmer was good. Anyway, fast forward, and I have 7 novels now that I am going to self publish. A year ago I didn’t know whether I would make it. I had these novels, my son is a brilliant artist/designer BOOM! My first one came out in JAN, 19— HINTERLAND.
(the first four are vaguely connected about a SE AZ town)
- TRILOBITES! (a prequel to Coltrane)
- COLTRANE, AZ
- NACO PINK
- CHULO BOY a boy growing up in the Ozarks wants to be a zookeeper
- ART TOWN a very adult, sleazy, dripping, assault on the senses
- HERE COME THE HITLERS! an autobiographical novel
(I like titles w/ exclamation points!)
Hope this wasn’t too annoying! Books are my life. I collect comix too, mainly DARK HORSE now, and the SV library has great graphic novels. I don’t know how/if I can fit in to HDW. I am curious. I would like to see what folks are doing, who they read. I hope to get to a meeting soon.