Reading!

May. 8th, 2014 06:47 pm
beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (Default)
I do it. I finished Elizabeth Bear's Eternal Sky trilogy, which is a fantasy epic inspired by the parts of the world touched by the Silk Road. And I have some thoughts...

On the books, and on epic fantasy in general... )
beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (Default)
Inspired by a twitter conversation with [livejournal.com profile] beanbunny.

Most fantasy series don't capitalize nonhuman species (elf, dwarf, hobbit, etc.). Most science fiction series do (Klingon, Vulcan, Wookie, Ewok, etc.). My theory is that fantasy is working from myth and biology, where we don't usually capitalize other species (dryad, angel, crow, jackalope, etc.). Science fiction is working from something like nationalities, where we do capitalize different groups of people (American, Russian, Indian, Chinese, etc.).

Related idea: a lot of SFnal aliens have either planetary-wide cultures*, or two cultures, one of which is a Persecuted Minority. In that sense, the analogy makes a lot of sense: if you start going 'Space Soviets', 'Space Japanese', 'Space Jews'. Which has really Unfortunate Implications, now that I type it out.

Fantasy isn't immune to that, but fantasy also occasionally has a more narrow geography to work with. If you have only one group of elves who all live in the same woods, then it makes sense that all of them share a culture as much as all New Yorkers have things in common that even folks from New England don't get. When your Space Elves have forty planets and there's no regional variations between them... it starts to get weird. (Especially if humans still retain ethnic and regional identities.)

* If not one culture across all planets that a species owns. Maybe related to the whole 'one climate per planet' thing.
beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (Default)
I'll blog more later, but have a book for now.

I read most of Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness Quartet as a teenager, before the modern YA trend got started. And, well, she writes a good blog and is sort of local to me, and I have several friends who are fans of her. And, honestly, once I got past my teenaged years, I got a lot less insecure about reading 'kids books'.

So, I picked up her other world of books, the Magic Circle ones, which follow four orphaned youngsters from different backgrounds who end up having a semi-rare sort of magic for a certain craft or set of things. )
beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (geek_at_work)
I'm in the mood for an essay, so here's an essay. Also, I am back.

Read more... )
beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (Default)
Dropped my glasses today while getting out of the shower, then stepped on them. As a result, the arms are bent all funny. So, now I have to go see if I can get them repaired. Thankfully, I can see without them, and still have my old pair. Also managed to sleep 12 hours -- I came home late last night and just passed out. (Yesterday, I had to stop at the mall to get a pair of sneakers.)

Incidentally, I discovered that being hit by a car took about half of the life out of my sneakers. Normally sneakers last about two years before I walk through the soles at the heels. This time, the cloth part of the left shoe ripped open -- exactly the part that hit the concrete first when I was hit by a car last August. Should have asked the insurance company for $40 for a new pair of shoes.

Book Review: Abhorsen by Garth Nix )

Next on the reading list: Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik. I have some pretty long thoughts on the Temeraire series, so expect my review for that to be more than just 'Whee! Book #5'. I've also been putting my book reviews on , if you want to see them.
beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (magic_deer_not_teal)
On Social Fantasy...

This blog post may contain spoilers for Lois McMaster Bujold's Sharing Knife books...

Once upon a time... )
beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (Default)
Two things. First is a series of posts of [livejournal.com profile] memlu's that review Christopher Paolini's Eragon. In Post 1 she gives her own review, and in Post 2, she links to a number of articles on the web on the subject. The last one in particular is worth reading if you are even considering writing fantasy, as it spotlights the most common problem of the genre.

Second, [livejournal.com profile] limyaael just finished The Hounds of Spring, first of a series of stories she is writing to thank people who donated to Katrina relief organizations. The story contains a damn interesting world that isn't just Fantasyland, and focuses on religion in a way that neither glorifies or vilifies it. Parts one through four can be found on her journal.
beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (Default)
Sweet heavens, I want to spoil someone about the ending. And then watch the fangirls freak out. Because they probably already are, and not just about trolls plastering the internet with spoilers fake and real.
beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (Default)
Have been trying to work out the history of one of my alien species in my current writing world. Mainly because it explains why they don't have psionics and didn't really take to them quickly. Humans were at a disadvantage with psionics because the ability most common in them is the ability to sense them being used. Having a psi on Earth before psionics was formally recognized by modern science (and some level of schooling in shielding was put into place) was like having a Christmas tree at a star party -- a very bright thing near a large number of people who don't like light right now.

Story time )

Pick apart, offer suggestions, etc.
beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (Default)
Okay, so I am thinking of turning my webcomic's story into a novel, since I want to do NaNoWriMo this November, and that means revamping the plot, because I am a far different person than I was when I came up wiht the plot in freshman year of college.

The basics: The Ankaa is a small FTL ship owneed by the Star by Star Exploration Company, an organization devoted to mapping the heavens, selling colonization/mining rights to new planets/systems to pay for upkeep. Original plan was to have them be a non-profit organization, but they might be an international collaboration (feel free to point out flaws to either). They are based out of Earth, and are mostly human, though Starsailors aren't that rare (Maybe 1 in 20 crewmen -- Starsailors would rather cooperate with other species than start their own in competition.) There might be a few Darynese in the organizaiton, since the Darynese don't have a formal space-exploration program and Daryn has the best relations with Earth. Possibly a few other aliens that have emigrated to a human world.
The crew consistes of Phillee, who is the captain and ship's surgeon (and token Starsailor, form oen of the few mixed colonies); Melody (who needs a last name), her human niece/'adopted daughter' (I can explain their family structure -- it would make more sense them) and communications spacialist (thy have a sort of Universal Translator that requires telepathy to use -- this position is disproportionalty filled by a Starsailor); Rikayo Darenka, the ship's engineer and a Darynese; and Alriai Aborin, the ship's pilot and also Darynese. Melody, Riki and Alri are all in their early 20's -- This is Melody and Riki's first misison, Alri might have done something before. Philee is very experienced and in her early 40s.

Plot happens )

Am leaning towards mission #2 and victim #3
beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (Default)
Relating to my previous entry and a recent post to [livejournal.com profile] fanthropology...

Basically the post to Fanthropology disucsses something called the Uncanny Valley. Basically, a Japanese scientist studying robots wanted to measure people's reactions to robots compared to the robot's humanness in motion and appearance. What he expected to happen was the more human the robot got, the more people would respond favorably to it. And that worked, for most cases. But, as the robots got more and more human looking/moving, there was a plateau and a dip -- right past 'apathetic' into 'creepy' -- then a rise out of the dip as the robots approached fully-human-looking. The scientist called this the 'Uncanny Valley' -- basically there got to be a point where people started seeing the thing as a flawed model of human movement/looks, rather than a obvious non-human thing trying to cutely mimic humans. You can see it a bit in CGI -- most CGI movies are about non-humans or cartoony humans, because it takes a lot to make a realistic human on CGI that real humans don't find creepy. We're very good at picking out the 1% wrong on a human face, rather than, say, a tree.

The OP mentioned it in reference to fanfic (basically wanting to know if the idea of 'so close, but off' worked to describe why some badfic merits strogner reactions than others), but I think it's interesting in writing/drawing SF/fantasy. A writer in the genre has to think about where his/her nonhumans should fall. I'm also wondering if this falls in behavior as well.

ETA: Also makes me think about shapeshifting characters who didn't start out human(oid) (like Odo from DS9 and any of the mazoku from Slayers). They probably had to practice a lot, as they wouldn't be sensitive to this (we're not that sensitive to, say, CGI cat movement, or the ways trees sway in the breeze). Could explain why Odo never bothered to keep trying to a face closer to a Bajoran one -- any change he made just made it more obvious he was an outsider mimicing the Bajoran form, so he just quit bothering long before we met him on screen. Also could explain why Gourry spotted Xellos -- Gourry is usually portrayed as someone who pays attention a lot to movement, and, if Xellos was still slightly off in movement even after several thousand years, Gourry might notice and add it to 'pieces of evidence that make Xellos suspiscious'. It also makes me wonder how Xellos/Phibrizzo/Kanzel/Mazenda/etc. got so good at mimicing humans -- perhaps some of the lower-ranked ones learned it from their superiors, but it most likely meant some mazoku in the beginning of the word had to learn how to construct a human form that didn't creep people out.
beccastareyes: Image of Sam from LotR. Text: loyal (Default)
I worry that the non-humans I write aren't non-human enough in mentality. I think I've gotten it so that they don't feel like the normal 21th century Western humans. Not sure if they feel non-huamn though.

Or, for that matter, in looks. I think that's different for visual media as opposed to prose. Even ignoring the budget considerations, I think there is a reason most aliens were supposed to empathize with in visual media are humanoid (or, less commonly, based on other familiar mammals). Visual media (like television, movies and comics) rely on facial and body language to carry emotion. So, alien characters have to show body language the humans could read.

Books are different, since we are getting the thoughts of a character. A good author can have us pick up that certain gestures mean certain things, and don't correspond one-to-one with human gestures without confusing us. Which may mean I need to work on looks if I turn my webcomic into a writing project.

((This could also explain something [livejournal.com profile] zannechaos noted about how it was weird most geeks considered falling for elves or Vulcans or Mimbari perfectly normal, but they consider falling for anthhropomorphic animals freakish and deviant. Most of the former group have human-looking faces, even if they have funny ears/foreheads/heads. Anthro-animals usually don't.))

On the other hand, people tell me I'm crazy nuts about worldbuilding. Like knowing that the Darynese language has five forms of 'I', and wondering how to write one character's speech as both polite and even a bit humble in terms of the dialect he speaks, and sounding very arrogant to every other Darynese speaker who doesn't know the dialect. Or knowing that Melody calls Phillee 'mother' not because they are biolgoically related (I think Melody might become Phillee's kinda-biological-niece -- I loathe her backstory right now), but because it's the closest English translation to the Starsailor word that describes their relationship.

I think too much, sometimes.

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