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Posts Tagged ‘Dave Freer’

For those of you who might have missed Sarah’s wonderful series of articles on bringing back that sense of wonder we used to find in science fiction and fantasy, I recommend you read Bring Back That Wonder Feeling, What is Human Wave Science Fiction and You Got To Move It Move It. Also check out Patrick Richardson’s The New Human Wave in Science Fiction.

Like Sarah and all those who have commented on her posts, I miss those days of derring-do in science fiction and I’ve been thinking about why I first started reading science fiction and why, after going away from it for awhile, I returned to it.

I grew up in a house where books were valued friends. I was one of the lucky ones where my parents were voracious readers and they began reading to me very early. When I was old enough, we read together. They encouraged me to read fiction and non-fiction, no book in the house was off-limits. In a time before video games, books were my escape.

When I was an early teen, maybe even a tween, I was spending a week or two at my grandmother’s house in small town Oklahoma. It wasn’t the first time. Every summer I spent at least a week there and another week in Tulsa with my other grandmother. But that summer was different. I’d read all the books in Grandma’s house–all two dozen or so of them. My grandmother just wasn’t a reader. The books that were there were either some left by my dad when he moved out years and years before or by my Uncle John.

Uncle John’s books introduced me to Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey. They were good books but short and it didn’t take long for me to read them. So, one day, I did what most any kid who is bored will do–I started prowling the dark corners of the house to see if I could find anything of interest.

Imagine my surprise when I came across a HUGE closet filled almost floor to ceiling with not only books and magazines but also records. I was in heaven. The only problem was that there was nothing to play the records on.

I spent hours going through the books and magazines. There was such a wide assortment of them to choose from. But one thing–well, several actually–that caught my eye. There were a number of If: Worlds of Science Fiction magazines. The covers and story titles intrigued me. I gathered them up and went outside to sit under one of the huge trees to read.

One of the very first stories I read was Jungle in the Sky by Milton Lesser. I’d never heard of either the story or the author before, but there was something about the cover that called to me. I didn’t know then that the magazine had been published in 1952. That part of the cover had been torn away. All I knew was it was something new I hadn’t read at least twice.

The story, like so many science fiction stories, could just as easily have been set in Africa. It was basically a safari set in space, but with a twist. There were aliens, sort of like parasites, that were hunting humans just as humans were hunting other aliens for their expositions on Earth. When our heroes are captured and “infested”, they have to not only find a way to defeat an enemy that is now part of them, but also find a way off the planet and back home to warn the rest of humanity about this threat.

I came across the story again a few months ago. It’s probably been thirty years since I last read it. My initial response on reading it this time was to shake my head when Lesser described the ship’s captain–our heroine–wearing hot pants and a cape while the rest of the crew is in overalls, etc. But then I realized I was looking at the story through today’s so-called sensibilities. This wasn’t a military ship. So the captain could wear whatever she wanted, as long as the ship’s owners didn’t mind. Also, this fit what was being written in the pulps back then. So, I put away the judgmental part of me and just read the story again, wondering if I’d like it as much as I did back then.

I can’t say I did, not completely. But it still made me smile at the right place and cringe when I was supposed to. I still found myself imagining that I was one of those crew members having to fight to survive. Yes, there were structural issues with the story and the science really doesn’t work. But you know what? That really doesn’t matter. It is a good story and I felt good at the end, even though some of the good guys died and some of the bad guys didn’t get the comeuppance I wanted them to.

It didn’t take me long to finish Jungle. So I started looking for more like it. Guess what I found. The first two installments of Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I was hooked. Oh boy was I hooked. And I was ticked because the last installment wasn’t there. Worse, stuck as I was in Ardmore without a car–my grandmother didn’t drive–and without a bookstore in walking distance–I had to wait until I got home and could con,er convince, my parents to take me to a store to buy the book.

Those two started my love affair with science fiction. SF allowed my imagination to fly. It took me to worlds where I knew I’d never be able to go but I could hope my children or grandchildren could. Even those books that didn’t have a happily ever after had that sense of hope to them. If only the survivor could hold out. If only the rescue team got there in time. There was a respect for humanity and for the human spirit I could identify with.

It’s that respect I have found lacking in so many of the “modern” science fiction novels and short stories. Well, that and the very unsubtle attempt by the author to beat me over the head with their political or social beliefs. It has seemed like the need to “teach” has become more important than the desire to “entertain”. Sorry, but when I read for pleasure, it isn’t so someone can pound a message into my head.

That has seemed especially true when it comes to most dystopian sf. (Well, to be honest, the utopian sf as well. But I have always tended to avoid those stories because, frankly, they bore me.) Governments are bad. Corporations are bad. Your neighbor is bad. Even your companions will sell you out at the drop of a hat and you can’t hold onto your beliefs if your life depended on it. Not only are these stories depressing but they usually wind up flying across the room before I finish the first quarter of the book. Why? Because the characters are unbelievable. Not everyone is a caricature. Just because you are a white, blond male doesn’t make you a villain. You aren’t automatically a victim because your skin is a certain color or you are a certain sex. Give me a break.

Give me Heinlein any day of the week. Do I like every one of his books? No. But most of them never fail to send my imagination soaring. Sarah’s Darkship Thieves does the same thing. Athena comes from a horrible world, but it is still a world where there is hope held by some of its inhabitants for a better world. It’s also a fun romp. Terry Pratchett is the same in fantasy as is Dave.  l have yet to find anything by Dave I haven’t liked. The reason why is simple. Dave and Sarah, like PTerry, RAH and so many others, are storytellers. They focus on story and character, putting the “message” in subtly instead of beating us over the head with it.

So, sign me up for the Human Waver movement. I’m thrilled with the opening of the publishing market to small presses and self-published authors for a number of reasons, including the fact that we will be getting more books that fit the Human Wave model. Even better, this “movement” can be applied to every genre. So who else is with me?

Cross-posted from Mad Genius Club

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I want to start by thanking Glenn Reynolds for the link to yesterday’s blog and welcome all his readers from Instapundit.  Pull up a chair, relax and enjoy your favorite virtual cup of coffee or other morning beverage.

It still amazes me how publishers and agents can cry foul when Amazon — or any other entity for that matter — encroaches on what they see as their territory.  It amazes me because it truly shows just how disconnected the legacy publishers and others are from the realities brought on by new technology and the change in reader demands.  Right now, these publishers are crying “foul!” because Amazon is trying to make them unnecessary in the road to publication.  They say they offer so many things of value to the writer, and the reading public, that Amazon and others can’t.  But, as I said yesterday, these very same benefits they tout are the ones they gave up on long ago:  quality editing and proofreading, formatting, promotion, etc.  This is especially true when it comes to e-books, the same e-books these publishers say cost as much to produce as the hard copy that is being released at the same time.  I could go one, but my friend Dave Freer has said it much more eloquently than I can over at Mad Genius Club.

What I do know is that legacy publishers are cutting their own throats, especially when it comes to the e-book market.  I’m not just talking price here, even though the majority of people don’t want to pay the same price for an e-book that they do for a hard cover and most of them don’t even want to pay the price of a paperback for an e-book.  Nor can I blame them, especially not when the legacy publishers view the e-book not as a book at all, but as a license.  They fill the e-book with DRM, which is expensive to the publisher and insulting to the reader/customer.  With DRM, you are limited to the type and number of devices you can read the book on.  Try to read it on an unsupported device and you can’t.  Want to break DRM, you’re called a pirate by the publishers.  Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy toward those publishers, doesn’t it?

These same publishers say they are paying extra, a lot extra if you believe them, to convert that next best seller into an e-book.  If that’s the case, I’d expect there to be no problems with the formatting or layout of the e-book and I’d sure as heck expect it to have been proofread so there are no misspellings, etc.  Guess what, it’s more than likely that you’ll find errors in the e-book.  For some reason, they seem to pop off the screen at you much more than they do off the printed page.  At least they do for me.  I’ve even checked printed versions of books when I’ve found errors in the kindle version and, yep, those errors are on the printed page as well.  I’m not talking indie books here.  I’m talking books printed by the big six publishers.  so where’s that wonderful quality control they’re talking about?

But it isn’t all gloom and doom in publishing.  I was pleased this morning to see the news that there will be two publishers focusing on books for middle grade kids.  The first is from Algonquin and will focus on the YA and middle grade markets and is expected to debut the end of next year.  While I wish it was happening soon, I’m thrilled to see anyone who knows there is a hole in the middle grade market and wants to fill it.  I just hope they fill it with books that are fun to read — and that therefore encourage kids to read them — instead of books that are all “socially relevant” and written in styles that send the kids running from them just as fast as they can.

The second is the one that really excites me because it is aimed at boys.  I’ve gotten so tired of hearing that boys don’t read.  They do.  These people who are supposedly in the know might be surprised if they climbed down from their ivory towers and actually looked at what middle grade boys.  The problem hasn’t been that they don’t read.  It’s that they haven’t had nearly enough well-written and FUN books to read.  It’s my hope that this new venture will provide just that.  At least Move Books’ slogan is encouraging: “Moving Boys to Read”.  Eileen Robinson, publisher of Move Books, gets it, in my opinion.  Here’s what she had to say about how her nine year old son was inspiration for this new venture: “He struggled as a reader, and it was difficult to find books that would grab his attention, make him laugh, and make him want to read on his own. . . He and his friends seem to be drawn more to nonfiction, and like a lot of boys, they tend to read for information more than for pleasure. I am hoping that the novels Move Books publishes will provide that pleasure, and will encourage boys to pick them up rather than turn to a video game.” Well said, Ms. Robinson.  Well said.

So, here’s a hat tip to those who recognize the need to encourage our middle schoolers, especially the boys, to read.  And here’s a swift kick in the pants to those publishers and agents who seem to think we can put the genie back in the bottle and go back to publishing like it was fifty years ago.

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