30 days of genre

30 Days of Genre

Day 28 – Favorite publisher of genre novels
Another tough one. I don’t really pay much attention to publishers, especially US and UK ones.
TOR and Ace are publishing a lot of good stuff but so are many smaller publishers. Baen, because of Bujold.

Day 29 – A genre novel you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving
Clearly I’m too picky because I can’t think of one. I just don’t pick up books I know I’ll probably dislike. I don’t even have the time to read books I think I’m likely to like!

Day 30 – Your favorite genre novel of all time
I think it’s pretty clear by now that it’s pointless to ask me to pick just one book of anything. I couldn’t even pick one favorite *series* let alone a single book. πŸ™‚

30 Days of Genre

Day 26 – Best hero
I’ve written about a lot of protagonists in previous posts. But when I think about a hero, someone I can admire and perhaps even imitate somewhat, I find myself thinking about a classic: Robin Hood. The man who stood for common people and who made the outlaw’s no doubt miserable life romantic and even heroic. I specifically like idealized, non-gritty and even fantastic versions of him and his merry band. Not the modern books.

Day 27 – Most epic scene ever
Another difficult one. I’ve read quite a few books with epic scenes, no matter if they are called epic fantasy or not. Space opera has lots of epic scenes as well, and so does historical fiction when it concentrates on war. I don’t really have a clue which one I should choose. Perhaps one of the battles in Sanderson’s Hero of Ages.

Day 24 – Favorite classic genre novel

What is a classic? Published 10 years before, 25 years before, 100 years ago, and still being read? There are a lot of “required reading” lists for fantasy and SF in the net. Often, I don’t really agree with them because they tend to focus on epic fantasy, often excluding all others. I also think that having the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy as the only SF book in a classics list, is missing the point. If you haven’t read the books that the Hitchhiker is making fun of, how can you enjoy it?

The Finnish Wikipedia says that a classic is a recognized and exemplary work of art. It should also have something profound to say about culture, attitudes, and ideological principles of the time, and it should also have some sort of linguistic merit. Basically, only books like Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Lord of the Rings can be classics. Of course, it doesn’t say, *who* has to recognize the book but I think the implication is that there must some sort of higher authority instead of, for example, a group of fans.

Out of the very small “recognized” SFF classics, I’d say that Dracula is my current favorite. However, when I widen the category to include works that fantasy readers tend to call classics (well I do, if nobody else :)) my favorite is Amber. Specifically the first two books, Nine Princes in Amber and the Guns of Avalon. They widened up my fantasy reading to other books than just epic (although you might argue that Amber is the ultimate epic).

Day 25 – A genre novel you plan on reading soon

The next Women of Fantasy book: War for the Oaks by Emma Bull. I have it as an ebook. I think this is one of the original urban fantasy books: fantasy set in a modern US city. With a rock band.

30 Days of Genre

Day 22 – A sequel which disappointed you

Sharon Shinn’s Dark Moon Defender. I liked the characters and the setting, even thought it seems to be pretty standard pseudo-Middle Ages world, but the character motivations and the plot made no sense. Also, things that the couple had been very worried about during the whole book were resolved in a couple of pages at the end.

Day 23 – Genre novel you haven’t read, but wish you had

I have around 200 books in the to-be-read pile so I don’t really want to list them here. To mention just a few, I’m eager to start On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers and Stealing the Elf King’s Roses by Diane Duane.

30 Days of Genre

Day 19 – World/setting you wished you lived in
I’m a woman and a commoner so most of the fantasy worlds are right out. Since I’m human, I don’t really care for Dragaera, either.

So, I’m looking for a high-tech world with peaceful times for the common people. Star Trek: The Next Generation fits that bill perfectly.

Day 20 – Favorite genre
So much depends on the book. I also tend to be more passionate fan for SF world (especially in TV: ST: TNG, ST: DS9, Firefly, Farscape, Star Wars…). On the mystery side of things, I don’t like gore or serial killers, so I’m pretty selective. Overall, I tend to read more fantasy, so I guess fantasy is my favorite genre.

Day 21 – Genre novel with the most interesting character interactions
Lots of them. I really like the interaction between the Dragaerans and humans in Steven Brust’s books. However, I’d say that Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series is the best. She has a lot of different people from different cultures.

Day 18 – Favorite protagonist

You don’t read much, do you? πŸ™‚

Look, I have lots of favorite characters. Most of them aren’t the protagonist, though. I seem to have a fondness for quirky secondary characters. Still, there are quite a few protagonists I love:

Vlad Taltos (by Steven Brust) is a perennial favorite along with his jhereg familiar Loiosh. Vlad is assassin and a former mafia boss so he shouldn’t be a likable character. Yet, he is. He’s very much the underdog; he lives in a world ruled by the Dragaerans who use a lot of magic. Vlad is human and magic doesn’t come as easily to him. Vlad’s father owned a restaurant and was able to buy noble title for them, a baronet, so he didn’t live in desperate poverty. Yet, he was beaten up by Dragerans for sport. So, it’s understandable that he feels bitter towards them and is trying (or tried before he had to run) take advantage of their system. As far as we know, everyone in his mafia was there because they wanted to be (more or less). He doesn’t kill the powerless or poor. He was also able to rise above his feelings about the Dragerans and befriend a few of them.

Shadow (by Anne Logston) is another criminal type. She’s a thief and later becomes a Mistress of the local Thieves Guild. She’s “happy go lucky” type and not as wounded as Vlad. She’s loyal to her friends and even has sympathy for one assassin. I just feel that almost all elves I’ve read before Shadow were the broody types who didn’t want to ever do anything fun and Shadow is just the opposite of that.

Then there’s Amelia Peabody (by Elizabeth Peters). She’s independent woman who disdains the general attitudes toward women in her own Victorian times. However, she can be appallingly sexist, condescending, and judgmental towards other women which makes her a more three dimensional character. She’s an amateur Egyptologist and investigator who can almost smell criminal activity. She’s one of the rich and powerful so she isn’t an underdog but, lets face it, a poor woman couldn’t be in the same position as Amelia.

Phryne Fisher (by Kerry Greenwood) makes Amelia look almost stodgy. She’s single and enjoys men, loves fast cars and flying. I’ve only listened to the first book in the series but she sounds a very promising character indeed. She also tends to help other women which Amelia doesn’t really do.

Cordelia Naismith (by Lois McMaster Bujold) is the first woman starship captain I ever read about. That was a real eye-opener. She’s a scientist with a dry sense of humor and she has to use both after she abandons her career to settle on the misogynistic planet Barrayar. She’s also fiercely loyal to her friends and family, and once she gets used to her power, she’s rather ruthless with it, working to give other women more choices in life. She’s also a sensible person who tends speak up when other people are being silly or unreasonable.

John Carter (by Edgar Rice Burroughs) of Barsoom. These were perhaps the first SF books I ever read. I love sword-fighting and it was absolutely awesome to have a sword-fight on the red dying planet Mars. John is an archetype of hero: violent to enemies, loyal to friends, and loving to his wife Princess Dejah Thoris. He isn’t really good at lying or skulking around and instead prefers to meet his enemies face to face.

I still haven’t written anything about Robin Hood or Lancelot or Pyanfar Chanur or… but perhaps that’s enough for now. πŸ™‚

30 Days of Genre

Day 15 – The cover from your current (or most recent) genre read
I’m again in the middle of three books, one in print, one audio and one ebook:

Hmm. These are all historical fantasy. I hadn’t even realized that. I’ve also recently finished listening to Stephenson’s Quicksilver so it has been a real historical fantasy rut for me.

Day 16 – Genre novel with the most intriguing plot
I don’t really read for plot. While reading, I don’t necessarily even notice if the book has plot holes. I read for characters and the setting.

Luckily, I just posted about books with the most outrageous plot twists. So, today my answer will be The Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold for making one of Miles’ lies true.

Day 17 – Favorite antagonist

You don’t read much, do you? πŸ˜‰

For some reason the best villains seem to come from TV and movies. Who can best Darth Vader or the Mayor from Buffy or Scorpius from Farscape or Ares from Xena or the Terminators? Or Dr. House who seems to be both the protagonist of the series and the antagonist for all the other characters?

One of the problem with good antagonists is that we don’t usually spend much time with them. Unless he or she is, for example, the main character’s best friend. Most of the time we read about the hero/ine trying to bring down the antagonist. Also, in many series the villains change while the heroes continue.

But there are a few colorful and memorable villains in books, too. Most of the ones the spring quickly to my mind are from the mystery side: Professor Moriarty and Sethos from the Amelia Peabody series. Dracula is, of course, a classic although he was a bit of a disappointment to me in the end: instead of fighting he just fled.

However, I’m going to have to go with Brandon Sanderson’s Lord Ruler. He starts out as a pretty standard dark lord and turns out to be… well, I won’t spoil it for you. πŸ™‚

30 Days of Genre

Day 12 – A genre novel everyone should read.

Tough one. People’s tastes are so different. Not just for sub-genres but for themes, characters, and pretty much everything. So, the book should have a message that appeals to a lot of people but on the other hand it shouldn’t be too heavy handed.

So, my choice would be Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

Day 13 – A genre novel you’ve read more than five times.

Easy question for once: none.

Ever since I was old enough to go to the library, I’ve known that there are far more books than I could ever read. And those are the ones in Finnish. I’ve never been much of a rereader; I enjoy new to me books a lot more. Still, if you ask the same question in a couple of years, I might have reread (or rather relistened) Bujold’s Vorkosigan series five times. I tend to relisten most of the series when I relisten one of them.

Day 14 – Favourite book trailer from a genre novel

I don’t have one. I haven’t seen many of them although I’ve pretty intrigued by the concept. I think that all book trailers I’ve seen have been for romance and paranormal romance so far. If you know a good trailer, please send me the link.

30 Days of Genre

Day 11 – Favourite genre series

I’m afraid I’m going to have to be a bit rude. The only way to answer this question is with: “You don’t read much, do you?” You see, it’s been my impression that most avid readers have more than one of anything: favorite characters, series, settings, books, etc. And these change through out the years.

Out of my current favorite series two have been my favorites for a long time and I don’t expect that to change any time soon: Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos fantasy series and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan space opera series.

I’ve also long liked Anne Logston’s trilogy about the elf thief Shadow. Roger Zelazny’s Amber was a long-time favorite despite the painfully obvious sexism.

New favorites are Liz Williams’ Detective Inspector Chen series (and it seems that I’m going to have to give in and buy Iron Khan to Kindle (for PC)) and Elizabeth Bear’s fantasy in various historical settings: the Promethean Age books. And of course C. J. Cherryh’s space opera Chanur series.

From the mystery side, I really like Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series and Lynda Robinson’s Lord Meren series which is set in Ancient Egypt.

30 Days of Genre

Day 10 – Best writing style, or the style that resonates most with you

I can’t say what would be the best writing style ever, so I’ll talk about the style that works for me currently.

I started reading fantasy with big fat epic fantasy books. They tend to have a style that is, if not flowery, at least verbose. Lots and lots of descriptions for places, people, animals, the scenery, battles, etc. Usually they also have lots of history too, no matter if it’s actually relevant or not. I really liked that. Obviously, since I read them for over a decade.

However, these days I often find myself being impatient with text like that, skipping the prologue and the scenery descriptions in favor of dialog. So, these days I like writing that has a lot of dialog and not so much back story and descriptions in general. I also like a bit of humor every now and then. The books doesn’t have to be all giggles all the time, although I do like Pratchett quite a lot, but humorous phrase on occasion goes a long way. Lois McMaster Bujold is very good at this. Steven Brust has an even sparser style; he’s even stopped describing things that happen during a conversation if the characters comment on it. However, I have to admit that sparse style works best when I know the setting, either from previous books in the series or if it’s set in the standard pseudo-Middle Ages setting which doesn’t require much explanation. I rather enjoy the descriptions of Chinese Hell and demons in Liz Williams’ Detective Inspector Chen series.

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