In June, I was alerted by my fellow The Lord of the Rings fans to NPR’s call to nominate books for their Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books. Setting aside the problem of conflating the genres—I mean, I get it, but it does mean a lot of good books in both categories will fall by the wayside—I enjoyed looking through the comments for new recommendations and, of course, taking the opportunity to peddle Jacqueline Carey’s The Sundering like it’s my job. (If you read and liked The Lord of the Rings, you should read it. End of story.) The nominations were counted, the votes were tallied, and on Thursday, NPR unveiled the fruit of its labors—their top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books (circa Summer 2011). I’m not going to copy the list verbatim—you can find a printable version here if you so desire—but I am going to talk about some of the selections that made it, be they good or bad in my book.
While I’ve recently gotten into audiobooks, I usually listen to podcasts while I work out—an episode tends to be about just right for my strength training. (I have to listen to upbeat music for my cardio, unfortunately; otherwise, I’d get through these podcasts and audiobooks faster!) When I was in high school, I listened to MuggleCast and The Leaky Cauldron almost exclusively—they were a great comfort when I traveled as a kid. (We’ll hash out my issues with travel later.) But as I’ve drifted away from the Harry Potter fandom, I left them behind, eventually settling on Answer Bitch and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me! as my podcasts of choice. But within the past year, I’ve been introduced to two bookish podcasts that I’d like to share with you today.
Picking over the fantasy section at my local library during my volunteer hours sometime in December, Jude Fisher’s The Rose of the World caught my eye; I found the cover art delightfully dated, the sort of thing that most entries at Good Show, Sir are trying to get to but hilariously fail to. As I perused the inside flap, I discovered that Fisher had also written The Lord of the Ring visual companions—I have to admit, for a scant moment, I wondered if Fisher had created visual companions in the nineties, but these visual companions are, of course, the visual companions to the Jackson adaptations, one of which I actually own. Checking the copyright page, I discovered The Rose of the World had been published in 2005.
Guys, we need to talk about fantasy covers—specifically, where does this come from and what do we do with it?
What’s the largest, thickest, heaviest book you ever read? Was it because you had to? For pleasure? For school?
Oh, of course it was for pleasure—I’m a fantasy fan, thank you very much! A quick glance at Amazon tells me that technically, The Way of Kings is the heaviest book I’ve ever read, weighing in at 3 pounds. However, my copy of The Way of Kings is an ARC and therefore a paperback, making it lighter. The winner, then, is Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, weighing in at 2.8 pounds (sorry, Harry Potter).
It is November 11th, known here in the U.S. as Veteran’s Day, formerly Armistice Day to remember the end of WWI but expanded to honor all veterans who have fought for their country, so …
Do you read war stories? Fictional ones? Histories?
I tend to find myself dealing with fictional wars. Epic fantasy tends to concern itself with wars, and recently, the fantastical wars I’ve encountered have been about the human cost of war–it’s dealt with in The Lord of the Rings, The Way of Kings, and The Sundering. In fact, I can’t remember any fantasy that glamorizes war off the top of my head, although I’m sure I’ve encountered it.
When it comes to historical fiction, I tend, when reading about wars, to find myself reading about wars pre-1900–the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Crusades. I just haven’t found myself drawn to books about modern warfare, although I’ve read Atonement, which is partially set during World War II, and I’m sure there’s a few on my list. But perhaps this is my fantasy rearing popping up–I’m more familiar with pre-1900 warfare.
Dragon*Con is, like all good things in life, fulfilling, fun, and exhausting. While I could go on and on about several awesome things that happened last weekend, such as the magnificent “Images of Love” panel which greatly helped my Twilight paper or Sean Astin being one of the nicest celebrities I’ve ever met, I thought, as this is my bookish outlet and not my fannish outlet, I would focus on the panel entitled “The Art of The Way of Kings” with Brandon Sanderson, Ben McSweeney, and Isaac Stewart. While it was the only panel that dealt with The Way of Kings (Sanderson spent most of his time on The Wheel of Time track), it looked mainly at the art from the book and its evolution, especially in how it works with the narrative.
When it comes to suggested constructed languages in speculative fiction, I find there’s a very, very fine line between enjoyably believable and disappointingly, annoyingly affected. In fact, xkcd says it best.
But where is that line and why do so many speculative authors gleefully leap over it, and what can they do instead?
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
As I mentioned in my review of Mistborn: The Final Empire, I’m scrambling to read Sanderson because he’s coming to Dragon*Con. I got my hands on The Way of Kings before I rented the other, but one thousand pages is intimidating, no matter which way you slice it, especiallywhen it kicks off a ten book fantasy series. But I wanted to have it read and reviewed before its release date, let alone Dragon*Con, so even as I headed back to school, I plowed my way through Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings.
Writer’s block happens to every writer, be you novelist, nonfiction writer, or blogger, once in a while. It might be just being stuck on a particular piece or not being able to write at all. As every writer is different, so every remedy for writer’s block is different.
Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
Brandon Sanderson is one of those writers I’ve been meaning to read and would get around to doing eventually. However, as I refreshed the Dragon*Con homepage for the umpteenth time, I saw that Sanderson was coming this year. As I don’t know if this is a common occurrence or not, I thought I’d better read at least one of his books, just in case I adored it and wanted him to sign a copy. Luckily, my local library has a copy of Mistborn: The Final Empire, the first book in his first trilogy. While the title does make it sound like a video game (it’s the colon), it looked promising.