Adventures in torrid ’80s epic fantasy

SkybowlTor is finally doing a reread of a book series I actually read as a teen – Melanie Rawn’s Dragon Prince trilogy. Alas, this made me fall into a wave of nostalgia and I reread the first book in, like, two days. There are a lot of things about Rawn that really bug me, but I can’t deny that I devoured those books back in the day. But they are very ’80s (And that awful romance novel cover on Dragon Prince is not a drill.) I never loved them wholeheartedly like I did Pern – in fact, I though the second two books were such a letdown that I originally interloaned the second trilogy instead of buying it.

(Weird realization: If Pern was my Middle-Earth, than Rawn is my Wheel of Time… Huh. Well, at least I never got into Lackey.)

The second trilogy (Dragon Star) is probably the better of the two, and it actually has what I consider to be Rawn’s best villain. Villains are not her strong suit; Most of them are unabashedly, cardboard evil. I guess that’s the risk you run with epic fantasy. But the main villain of Dragon Star is my favorite of hers, and now I’m basically rushing through The Star Scroll and Sunrunner’s Fire to get to Stronghold. Of course, I can’t find any of my Dragon Star paperbacks (and they’re not in eBook) so I took the opportunity to order used hardcovers. So I’m trying not to rush too fast… Why aren’t the damn things in eBook? The first set are. (Oh yeah: I caved and I bought a Kindle Paperwhite. It’s pretty neat.) But at least this way I know I’m getting the Whelan covers… Even subpar Whelan is better than no Whelan, though they seem to have only updated the typography on the first few.

On that note, apparently Rawn is actually going to finish her Exiles trilogy… The less I say about those the better, but I’ll believe it when I see it. And yeah, I’ve sworn off her new stuff, but I’ll probably buy The Captal’s Tower if it ever comes to be. I did love those books a lot at one point, and I still really admire the worldbuilding in that series…

Gah. Between this and new Keltiad, I’m having a very nostalgic reading summer. Maybe I’ll reread the Keltiad next?

Fannish pedantic nonsense

Of course I know this is from the Holiday Special. I'm ONE OF THEM.

Of course I know this is from the Holiday Special.
I’m ONE OF THEM.

You’d think that someone who has vague plans to write a post about how annoying Star Wars fans can be about having to label every little thing (RIP EU and all your elaborate conspiracy-driven backstories for every single alien in that damn cantina) wouldn’t be the same person who started @SWStylebook last night, but there you go.

I still can’t believe how much it took off. Almost 500 followers in 24 hours? And yeah, @clubjade has three thousand and something, but that took 6 years.

…I still might write that post, though. Maybe. We’ll see.

Recent reads

My Real ChildrenMy Real Children and What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton. Two very different books by Walton and also the most recent and oldest read of this post. My Real Children is a novel that follows one woman on two very different paths in her life, though two very different (to us) alternate realities. They split when Patricia decides to (or not) up and marry her fiance, Mark. In 2015, suffering from dementia, she remembers both realities. Like Walton’s last novel, Among Others, this one sticks with you, and I’m currently reading it for the second time. A rare 5 stars from me.

What Makes This Book So Great is nonfiction, a collection of her reread columns for Tor.com, a big favorite of mine. Yet I didn’t have much memory of the columns featured here – it’s possible I skipped them, having little interest in things like the Vorkosigan saga and Steven Brust books, which seem to make up big chunks of the book. Still, it’s interesting reading about reading, and she has got me to read many, many books in the past, despite the fact that I have never, ever been able to get into C. J. Cherryh despite multiple tries with multiple books, and have always been less than enthralled with the Vorkosigans (my favorite is her least favorite.) Recommended.

We Were Liars by by E. Lockhart. Behold, a YA book that is about more than romance! This is a sad one, as you discover the truth along with the amnesiac Candace. This seems to have mixed reviews on Goodreads and a lot of people are mentioning that the writing style is choppy, but honestly as a visual reader I never notice prose unless it’s amazing, horrible, or I’m on my umpteenth reread. Still, recommended.

The Dragon’s Path and The King’s Blood by Daniel Abraham. I am certainly not giving up on The Dagger and the Coin series after these two books, but I will admit that I find them far less interesting than Abraham’s first fantasy series, the Long Price Quartet, which seemed liked something entirely new. In contrast, the world of Dagger and the Coin seems like… standard generic fantasy, although with enough interesting characters and enough of a mystery that I’m holding the third book in reserve until we get a little close to #4′s release. (The different varieties of humans in particular strikes me as something out of a roleplaying game.) Recommended (so far) with reservations, but read the Long Price Quartet first if you’re like me and most Big Fat Fantasies of the ’70s/80s bore the hell out of you.

If you only read one… My Real Children.

I can’t even

So much has been said on last weekend’s Isla Vista killings and I’m by no means articulate enough to add to that, so here are a few smart things that I’ve seen about and inspired by it: LAist has brief profiles of the victims; #YesAllWomen and why it’s so hard for men to see misogyny; and Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds.

Six people are dead because some dude who had apparently never actually talked to a woman outside his own family post-puberty was angry about being a virgin and people are actually defending him, or trying to compartmentalize this into being about mental illness OR guns OR misogyny instead of it all being a part of a giant melting pot of societal issues.

And yeah, it makes what we’re speaking up about in fandom seem silly, but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. I don’t actually think Princess Leia dolls or more women in a Star Wars movie are going to change the world. Achieving any of that is incremental. But these discussions at the very least give us a foundation for the bigger issues, and I don’t regret being outspoken about them for a second.

15 years past The Phantom Menace and my story is still boring

The Phantom Menace

While I am mulling an entry about the prequels and Star Wars fandom, it’s not one that’s going to be ready (or, perhaps, appropriate) to post tomorrow as we come to the 15-year anniversary of The Phantom Menace. And about TPM itself, I don’t really have much to say, so instead I’m sharing something I originally wrote for the film’s 10th anniversary in 2009… Now with commentary!

So now we’re in the runup to the 10th anniversary of The Phantom Menace, the film that changed Star Wars forever, and I barely remember a thing about it.

Actually, the one thing I DO remember was feeling a little guilty (way back in ’98) that I was way more interested in Zahn’s Vision of the Future than in an actual movie. The more things change…

(Oh, the irony. )

TPM is the only Star Wars movie that came out while I was in college, the end of my second year. I had other things on my mind… Like roommates who wouldn’t do the dishes and left Diet Coke cans sitting around filled with cigarette butts NEXT TO MY COMPUTER and, uhh, classes. And stuff.

(Ugh, college. My freshman roommates were no picnic, but cigarette-butt roomie is a big reason why I had a single the next year. I’m not sure what I was thinking going from an only child to a dorm with four roommates two years in a row, but at least sophomore year it was approximately 50% fun, butts aside.)

In and around my freshmen year, I had shut down my first website, spent about two seconds on the staff of Jedinet’s prequel site, tangled with my first power-mad fanboys, and learned the ever-so-valuable lesson that FANDOM IS INSANE. Oh, and Jeff had handed me the keys to the Club Jade site. (We didn’t nab clubjade.net until about 2000, I think, so it was one of our many odd long URLs.)

(Blah blah blah, I told this story.)

So I was still in fandom, but staying away from participation in the more general aspects. I remember reading TheForce.Net and their spoilers (The visual edition!) but pretty much my only fannish socialization was with CJers, #cantina, and fanfic people.

I know I saw The Phantom Menace that Friday with the same high school friends I saw the Special Editions with, but the only clear memory of the experience is that Brian and Rick had some kind of boring ticket issues. I saw it again with my parents later that weekend. (No midnight shows here.) I remember being kind of underwhelmed. And then not seeing it until it showed up Fox years later, when I was out of school and an intern. I don’t even remember the discussions on the list, though I’m sure there were some lengthy ones.

In short, TPM: One big red-and-sand blur. I have clearer memories of the Entertainment Tonight where George announces he’s working on the screenplay, FFS. That’s the magic of college!

Now Attack of the Clones, that I remember…

Drive-by geekings: Batman, Community, etc.

His PARENTS are DEAD!→ Of course Zack Snyder tweeted out a picture of the Ben Affleck Batman the other day, and geeks lost their minds. Do we so easily forget that the visuals (and trailers) are literally the only thing he excels at? There is no doubt in my mind that Batman vs. Superman (and Wonder Woman!) will look fabulous. The trailers will be fantastic. But the movie itself? Ehh. On the other hand, there is a delightful meme, because of course. Also, my favorite tweet.

Community finally got canned. I’m sad, because it means that the only comedy I have left next season is Parks and Recreation (which is itself on the way out,) but I’m not shocked or angry or anything like that. It got two more seasons than Arrested Development, even if one of those seasons was produced in Bizarro World. It had a good run.

→ I’m more mad about Trophy Wife, which was actually good. Albert Tsai, I’m going to miss you most of all. I hope your next job is good enough to deserve you. Okay, that one isn’t so geeky. TOO BAD.

Channing Tatum is Gambit. I can’t even. Gambit is not that kind of hunk, Fox. If we must term this in People’s Sexiest Men Alive, Gambit is more Adam Levine than Tatum. (Yeah, he’s kinda skeevy, too. It’s part of the thing. Just accept it. Note I am NOT endorsing they cast Adam Levine.) If you really want Tatum, there are approximately 10 billion X-Men, and a fair amount of them are already musclebound lunkheads. (You were the bomb in 21 Jump Street, Channing. You’re just not Gambit, okay?) Yes, this is the closest I will ever come to being a casting brat in public, but you guys already know I have X-Men feels.

Team Attic wife, or, the day my fandom went Alderaan

It's really not that long a drop. Kind of cozy, actually.

It’s really not that long a drop. Kind of cozy, actually.

Big Star Wars news yesterday, if you are a certain sort of Star Wars fan: The Expanded Universe is being set aside. No, it’s not dead, not really. It’s being sent off to live at a farm in the country, to graze peacefully in the fields until it may be needed.

Wait, that’s a bad analogy.

It’s only sleeping. Wait, we’re in sci-fi: It’s in stasis.

But seriously, this is my best case scenario, so I’m okay with it. The books are still there, and it’s the stories that are important, not if they’re canon or not. (And don’t give me that fanfic bullcrap, either. I know the lines have been getting kinda blurry lately, but professionally published work is not fanfic, so simmer down on that. And even if it was, what’s wrong with fanfic?) And the concept of them being able to cherrypick only parts of the stuff for the movies? Simply ideal.

The new books? Smart picks to soothe a panicked fandom, but shrug-worthy for me, mostly. I’ll definitely read the Luke one even though first person in this context makes me very wary. (I can thank fanfic for that, as this is only the second first-person Star Wars novel ever and the first subject wasn’t a movie character or anyone I knew all that well.)

The reaction within my immediate sphere was fairly measured, very few of us taken by surprise, so I was getting irate about folks grouping all Expanded Universe fans together as crazy… Then I saw some actual crazy and remembered I’m the kind of fan who makes Jane Eyre jokes about these sorts of things.

I guess I can’t blame other fans for being upset, but: I kind of do? I’ve been immersed in all this too long, I’ve read the writing on the wall and between the lines and I find the whole concept of fans sniping at each other over canon tedious anyway, but… It’s hard. I didn’t care at all about The Clone Wars getting canceled but it was a lot easy to be understanding there for a few weeks, until I finally just bottomed out on sympathy somewhere around the point where they announced another cartoon. My sympathy for the other EU fans? Long gone, at least in regards to the ‘slap in the face/Lucasfilm owes me money’ crowd. It’s easier to be hard on your own, I suppose.

(I’ll have something more measured for CJ by Monday, something with a lot more positive thoughts about the future and all that, but for today I am firmly “Bitch, please.”)