Oh My God Game of Thrones is Back on Sunday and I’ve Forgotten Everything

Did you just say that? Or are you thinking it now?

Either way, you should head over to The Wertzone, where Adam Whitehead has got you covered with an in-depth, house-by-house primer recapping the situation at the end of the first two seasons (and books).

Thoughts on The Malazan Book of the Fallen

I took a five and a half hour bus ride yesterday evening, taking me from Rio de Janeiro back home to Sao Paulo. During that time I read the last third of The Crippled God, the final (tenth) book in Steven Erikson‘s Malazan Book of the Fallen.

This isn’t a review. I’m not sure it’s possible to write a review that adequately encapsulates what Erikson attempted, and largely achieved, with his series. It’s… epic. But not in the way that a lot of authors or publishers or whoever throw around the word epic when describing a fantasy series. It’s EPIC. In big bold letters. Big, bold, carved out of ancient stone letters.

It’s three and half million words, from start to finish. Ten novels each the length of four reasonably-sized novels. It tells a story that I’ve found impossible to completely hold in my mind all at once; I read the first seven, from Gardens of the Moon to Reaper’s Gale, in one first frenzied burst, having just discovered the series. I had to wait six months for Toll the Hounds to be released, but by the time Dust of Dreams came out the events of the first four books had been pushed out by the more recent. So I went back and reread them, books one through nine.

(Then Ian Cameron Esslemont released the first couple of his Malazan Empire novels, and I discovered they slotted within the chronology of Erikson’s books, so I went back, and… Yeah.)

The world Erikson and Esslemont have created is vast, both broad and deep, with a history spanning hundreds of millennia and a cast of thousands. The scale is so ambitious as to beggar belief. And while Esslemont is, for me, a solid writer of enjoyable tales, Erikson at his best is quite wonderful. I can’t think of another writer who can so smoothly blend earth-shattering, epoch-ending battles between gods with heartbreaking insight into the wasted lives of the forgotten, the dying and the destitute.

He goes too far with the philosophy, at times; often four or five pages will go by with a group of soldiers waxing lyrical on futility and the flawed aspects of the human condition. Everyone’s a philosopher, in Erikson’s world, except those who deliberately aren’t; but even those characters painted to be dull, or obtuse, tend to possess an insight into their own nature that’s a little unrealistic.

But that’s artistic licence. And he’s earned the right to it. The stories told over those three and a half million words are gripping, exhilarating, both uplifting and desperately sad. And the moral of those stories… well, it’s that life is hard. And some people are selfish and cruel. But other people are compassionate. There is always war, and only the names and faces change, and everything that happens has happened before–but it’s still worth trying to make it better.

Because there’s always hope.

Epic.

Fifty and/or Ten SFF Works Every Socialist and/or Conservative Should Read

This is great. Wonderful spec-fic author and renowned socialist China Mieville put together a list for The Weekly Ansible of ‘50 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Works Every Socialist Should Read‘. Then The American Conservative, just for fun, did a counterpoint list of ten equivalent works for those of a more conservative bent.

intriguing stuff, and a great shopping list for readers who like some political theory with along with their hyperspace travel/dragons.

China Mieville on “Cognition as Ideology: A Dialectic of SF Theory”

Wow. I only just came across this, but China Mieville–Hugo Award-winning author of Perdido Street Station, The Scar, Iron Council and The City and the City–gave an hour-long lecture at the University of Kansas in 2009 where he discussed the scholarly theory and political implications of science fiction, and the distinction between science fiction and fantasy. It’s fascinating analysis from a fascinating writer and thinker.

“The cognition effect is a function of charismatic authority. It is the surrender of the reader to the authority of the text, and the authority of the author function.”

Or in other words, the science in SF need not be plausible for the story to be ‘believable’, and for the reader to happily immerse themselves in the writer’s world–but only as long as the internal logic of the story is consistent, and the author presents the ‘science’ of the story’s universe in an authoritative–or charismatic–way.

Worth setting aside an hour for. Videos embedded below the jump.

Read more…

‘The Six Gun Tarot’ Excerpt

On Tor.com here.

“Jim remembered the gun. His frozen fingers fumbled numbly for it on the ground.

The coyote narrowed its gaze and showed yellowed teeth. Some were crooked, snagged, but the canines were sharp and straight.

You think you can kill me with slow, spiritless lead, little rabbit? Its eyes spoke to Jim. I am the fire giver, the trickster spirit. I am faster than Old Man Rattler, quieter than the Moon Woman’s light. See, go on, see! Shoot me with your dead, empty gun.

Jim glanced down at the gun, slid his palm around the butt and brought it up quickly. The coyote was gone; only the fog of its breath remained. Jim heard the coyote yipping in the distance. It sounded like laughter at his expense.”

The excerpt’s nicely written, and intriguing, though it doesn’t tell you much about the story, which Publisher’s Weekly describes as:

“Against the backdrop of Chinese and Mormon mythology and the Civil War, with a bit of Frankenstein for color, the mix of theology, frontier justice, and zombies is merely cover for an intense and irreverent exploration of good, evil, and free will.”

Sounds fun!