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Romeo Dediu Holograf Bucharest, Romania. Oliver Voigt Rezounder Stuttgart, Germany. Wayne V. Rachel Love Rain Suffolk, England. Feno Ramorasata Fenmore Antananarivo, Madagascar. Jake M. Walk Miles The Walkman St. Thomas Vanelslander Helsinki Gent, Belgium. Lydia Singer Woburn, Bedfordshire, England. Dino Miranda Maputo, Tchumene, Mozambique. Alejandro Escallon Jaranatambo Bogota, Colombia. There is no Queen of England. This is the real world, and you need to wake up! I find Willis's writing really variable - she's written stuff that just doesn't speak to me, she's written the Doomsday Book that ripped my heart out, and she's written To Say Nothing of the Dog , which is among my top 10 and pages falling out from rereading.
Another drive-by, I guess, except that "important", to me , is anything that shows me something of the world, including its odd H. Emotional writing - love, really - tends to stick in my mind as important; gets me through the down bits. Undoubtedly why I tend to prefer light comedy with strong characterization But specific titles?
So, yes, it's an American trying to re-create that period from outside, but it did give me a weird deep sense of immersion in it. I'd have trouble explaining why Ash without spoilers, except to note that the layers of story and the cross-time complications caused me to take my archaeologist brother to the book and make him drink. Thing is, while I loved Harry Potter, I'm not a fan of any of the others. This isn't so much about books as about series, and more importantly about creating new markets for everyone else.
In a real way, this is more important than having a Monumental Book. I certainly have enjoyed Cherie Priest's Boneshaker and other novels in her Clockwork Century series. It's interesting for steampunk in that it's set in the historic US wild west rather than Victorian Europe. And it has plenty of zombies too. First of all, the book has to be well-written in all the major areas; plot, characterization, pacing, and description. The prose must be written at a high level. These factors alone do not qualify a book as important, but I can't think of a book I'd consider important where these fundamentals aren't properly covered.
Second, I want to see the world in a new way after reading the important book. Neuromancer is a good example. Looking backward, Neuromancer doesn't seem all that special. The VR approach it takes to viewing information on the Internet hasn't taken off for both technical reasons and reasons having to do with how humans absorb information Suddenly it was possible to imagine a world where we could not just talk to each other, but immerse each other in information.
Coincidentally, I first read Neuromancer just as I was beginning to use a computer. Third, for a book to be important it must have impact. Neuromancer didn't merely suggest that we could successfully swim in an ocean of information, it used that idea to make me go "Wow. It overwhelmed me with that idea. Reading Neuromancer was like being hit by a truck and my perceptions of the world were permanently changed. Another good example of this is Bailey's Cafe by Gloria Naylor. Once you've read a certain line, " Fourth, an important book needs to inspire.
It needs to take me out of my job and my kids and tell me that I'm more than some slob who works too hard and worries about my taxes. I don't necessarily mean "inspire" in a happy, positive way. Octavia Butler's "Parable" books didn't make me feel good. But they did make me feel I should do something Fifth, an important book needs to tell me something about who I am. For me the important book that way was Komarr by Bujold.
I had to ask myself if I was like the female lead's husband. It caused a good bit of soul searching As for why it's important? I would say it's the characters. I kept thinking "I've heard of this guy" but when I went to look it up, they never existed. It's also simply a good story. Monkey Trap, by Lee Dennings is co-written by a woman psuedonym for 2 authors. It's not especially important, but when I was done, I said, "That was a good book, I want to read the next one.
So that's important, introducing new readers to the ideas of Sci-Fi. There was one more, who writes biology based Sci-Fi. The interaction between different races and the difficulty that different evolutionary backgrounds might cause. But for the life of me, I cannot remember her name or that of her books, so she must not have been that important. I liked Firewatch, it didn't raise any moments where stuff didn't fit.
But it was iirc quite short. Passage is very interesting , it's been a while since I read and it was enjoyable as a whole - but there where moments when reading it I feared where it might end up. Interestingly and all credit to Connie , it never went to those places - which would have been an easy cop out for the story. Is it important though? Possibly - I think it is one of the most personally, meaning it engaging on a personal not a technology level, engaging stories about scientific research albeit social science that I've read.
Again IIRC, most of the conflict comes from the nature of the research and not outside events which is more common in research stories. I'm not sure any of these are what I normally think people mean when they talk about 'important works' - which is that they create or redefine their own sub-genre. But they are to me definite markers in the landscape. Ooh, and part of me thinks you are secretly trolling for definitions of 'important works'. Well, like others - ask me in 20 years It seems that many people are reading "important" to mean important in a literary sense breaking new ground in the genre, doing something stylistically daring, etc.
That is not what I'm calling important. I'm hearing the question as asking "important to your view of the world, or even your life. But because SF can also be used ala Future Shock to predict and prepare for the future while remaining fun and fictional it has a second, more potent value of "important. Vinge, Gibson, Sterling, and though disqualified, you, Charlie are excellent for delivering up novels that are important in this sense. I literally have seen no female science fiction authors who do that in the last ten years.
Lauren Beukes is a good author, and her books are entertaining, but I don't get a vision of the future out of them. More like an 80s cyberpunk vision. Which is of course now passe. I'm chalking this up to my own ignorance. I'll be very interested to see if any of the women authors listed in this forum turn out to be important in the second sense. Gwyneth Jones' series which starts with Bold As Love made a big impression for me.
To pieces. I didn't want them to ever end. My father loved them too. And yet I can certainly see how you would react the way you did. I think Connie Willis is exceptional; I've been reading her since the very early days. She has some weird mannerisms in her writing; people tend to do weirdly and obviously stupid things, and she signals that to the reader in a way that some might find offputting, but on the other hand, people do do weird and stupid things.
It's not entirely lacking in verisimilitude. I would second the vote for Dust, and also recommend Hammered. I managed to choke down New Amsterdam, but haven't gotten through the sequel. Linda Nagata's Memory was fantastic, and if you're willing to go a little farther back, Tech Heaven was very good, although she sees politics through a very weird glass, darkly. All of her books are out as electronic editions now, and I've been working my way through them and enjoying them a lot.
I think Mira Grant, a. Seanan McGuire, is an amazing new talent, and if you haven't read her Newsflesh books, you are in for a real treat. Really fantastic writing. Emma Bull is an obvious person to mention, although again some of my favorites of hers are more than a decade old. But her most recent novel, Territory, is a really enjoyable twist on urban fantasy, and she and some of her friends have been experimenting with a new genre in the Shadow Unit series, which is packaged as a TV show without any actual media other than writing. My favorite of her books, by far, is Finder, and Bone Dance comes in a close second.
Murphy, Kelley Armstrong, Carrie Vaughn and Diana Rowling all write very enjoyable urban fantasy; I'm particularly fond of Kelley Armstrong's work, although she's been getting side-tracked into YA recently. I'm sure I'm failing to mention other writers in this genre that I like, but these four are definitely standouts in my mind. Obviously Cheri Priest is a candidate, although I think her zombie books in Chattanooga are better than her zombie books in Seattle—I enjoy steampunk, but good old Southern-fried spooky is somehow more believable, if such a thing is possible. I'm a bit surprised to hear that so many of your readers haven't read more female authors.
I don't mean to dis male authors, but I am pretty sure I read more women than men, and it would be an absolute disaster in my mind if all the women whose books I read stopped writing. Alright, I'll expand a bit. If one took 'important' to mean 'influential' then I suppose one would have to pick the Twilight books. But I couldn't bring myself to do that. I picked Robson's book because it seemed to me to be a novel spin on hard SF, but it's hard to put the finger on why exactly. In particular, you have a high technology which is believably and complicatedly emotionally affecting to the characters.
It's not just "tech" which you can "use", a neat take on quantum mechanics' involvement of the observer. More importantly, this is less described from the outside as is typical in hard SF but from the inside, and without the typical SF flaw of writing from a stance of ultimately explaining everything. This distancing is not allowed. File under "should be important and I hope people noticed. It is as good as books get, and yet it also delivers all the promised genre goods and then some. That is not only the white whale of fantasy and SF, but it also seems to be where literature in general is headed.
A poor showing by the regulars here, to the point where I feel obliged to delurk. Vagueness and errors due to books being boxed and me being lazy. I am intensely jealous of you lot, who have yet to read them for the first time. The first is great, I'd argue innovatively cross genre but to explain would spoil it , the second is just brilliant in fact I think I might just read it again. The third is right up there on my automatic-buy-even-in-silly-format as soon as I can get my hands on it list and that's a very short list. Justina Robson's "Natural History", mentioned above, is very good, but "Living Next Door to the God of Love" which deals with the consequences is just fabulous.
I impulse bought "Silver Screen" because of the cool cover, and have bought everything by her since. I get the impression that her recent series was an attempt to be more commercial, and although it was definitely superior formula it was still formula. Now it's finished I hope she'll write something more ambitious again, but she's definitely on my always buy list.
I think my only criticism is that she has a tendency to weak endings or maybe bad deadline discipline. I'm trying to remember if the late Octavia Butler's final book qualifies as recent enough; it was a serious attempt at reimagining the vampire novel in a semi-believeable way in wake of populist fever on the subject. She was, I understand, a very influential writer in the larger literary sense too, especially in the US.
Her prose is certainly pellucid. And yes C. Cherryh, I'm gonna have to buy the fourth "Foreigner" trilogy when the last one reaches paperback. It's not earthshaking, but is reliably enjoyable space opera, which is important when you need to just turn off and have a holiday from the world with some familiar characters. More generally, Cherryh has a massive track record as the best alien imaginer in the business, which has to count for something.
Her political milieu have always seemed more believable than most people's, which may also have been influential long-term. Moriarty in particular pays serious attention to all the scientific underpinnings; Robson's more serious stuff tends to concentrate more on hitting the "soft" science ones. Allow yourself some benefit of the doubt suspension of disbelief: or miss out on two of the coolest, best written future visions so far this centuary.
I'm not a big fantasy novel reader any more, and this is not in that "genre" as I understand it. If I had to describe it, I'd say it is a great slab of period whimsy. Well, I didn't comment on the previous post, because I hadn't worked out for myself what most important book meant not a criticism of Charlie's question - importance is in the eye of the beholder. Also, I've not read any Beukes yet, although I do intend to.
Both in their way very English, both, the Hall book in particular, rooted in the English landscape. But that's outside your 10 year rule. So instead: Elizabeth Bear. All of her books, but her Grail series in particular takes tropes, sets them on their end, and changes the way I see the world. That is what defines "important" to me.
Also, for those that are saying they don't know women sci fi writers, I wonder how much you are unconsciously limiting your selection based on cover. I've noticed a definite difference in cover art for women written scifi, particularly the older books. I'm surprised no one has mentioned Maul by Tricia Sullivan. It's got the usual hard sf tropes if that's your thing.
It's also got a protagonist who's an intelligent relatively non-neurotic teenage girl. Yeah, it's been done before you say, at least as far back as Heinlein. Except that it hasn't. How many legs does a dog have if you call a tail a leg? Four - calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg is the usual reply. And so it goes with those early attempts; trust me, Heinlein didn't know squat about teenage girls and it shows.
Maul, otoh, is at the least written by someone who used to be a teenager herself. The voice of most the characters is also - a rarity! I think that as time reels by in the 21st, you'll see more and more of this type of thing, where the supposed "posthuman" is just a little bit more than a white male with prosthetic head bumps and a good memory. Maybe it's because I know something of the English magickal tradition and this just pissed all over it. I know it's a horrible admission, but I think the only female SF novelists I've read in the last decade and have written within that time period are:.
I'm sure I've read more authors via short story anthologies, but that hasn't motivated me to buy any novels - so far. For me, James Tiptree Jr. She's almost like the Roy Batty candle burning brightly.. So if 1 in 5 Dozois-selected authors is a woman, reading 3 in the last 10 years means that I should be reading 12 male authors in that time, which is low, but probably not far off what I actually read given my predilection for relatively few SF authors. You missed things like one protagonist trying to figure out what date they'd arrived in by checking the postmark on a locally mailed letter Or the other protag getting around London in on the Jubilee line?
Or how nobody in Oxford in has heard of a mobile phones or b laptops? Here's a hint; circa , there were 70 million active mobile phone accounts in the UK Re: Heinlein on teenage girls. I tend to agree with you, with the exception of Podkayne of Mars, where I think the protagonist represents the superego, and doesn't act like a teenage girl because she really isn't one. Yes, I admit I missed them completely. Which, in hindsight, is a complete surprise, but says something about the level of immersion I had in the story. Not a novel, but Anne Carson's Nox is one of the most powerful pieces of writing I have read in the last ten years.
Didn't realize Chris Moriarty is a woman. She's exceptional. Spin State was very good, if a bit difficult; Spin Control was fantastic, and much easier to wrap my brain around. I'm looking forward to the next in the series. As for the Jubilee line bit, that is pretty surprising. As a non-native, my awareness of the dates when various lines went in is not sufficient to allow me to notice mistakes like this, which probably helped me to properly enjoy the book.
Despite this, my mental picture of what happened in these two books was quite clear. I don't think a mistake like this is really all that important to the book, unless you're unlucky enough to trip over it. The bit in Bletchley Park was a lot of fun for me, having visited fairly recently. It's easy to believe that by , we will be over the interrupt-me-when-you-like model of interaction that plagues our present culture. Perhaps the next generation will revive the old tradition of leaving calling cards.
At least I haven't mentioned the other authors I keep remembering. Defining 'Important', can't really do it. I keep going between Important in the literary sense and the personal sense. One thing that I don't think makes something important is sales. Bestsellers come and are forgotten, so that by itself doesn't make a book important.
Combine sales with having lots of people talking about it and you get closer. I suppose. I like what someone said earlier about the Potter books adding words to the language, I know people who now refer to people as Muggles rather than Goyim. But that sort of thing can also fade.
I think we'll know in years when the kids who waited in line for the books start reading them to their kids, if theirs love then I'd say they qualify. I also disagree with the person who said the Potter books aren't relevant. At least as an introduction of those topics for young readers they did well. I think the Connie Willis's Doomsday Book is important because in my experience sometimes, rarely, you end up under circumstances or in situations where you can do absolutely nothing to reduce or end the unremitting suffering and pain you pecieve no matter what you try or do.
There has been some discussion of the representation or lack of it of women in SF anthologies in recent years. A number of male editors are systematically -- almost certainly unconsciously -- under-representing women in the material they buy. Gardner Dozois is, unfortunately, one of them. Didn't mean to imply she wasa great writer, though agree she has potential. But she is definitely a woman publishing novels in SF.
None of her novels so far are what I would define as important in or of themselves, only in the context of the ongoing experiment that is From her Tiptree acceptance speech: "I just did everything James Joyce did, only backwards and in high heels. It's also unbelievably dense and difficult, and o so very rewarding. Adam Roberts's not wholly positive review is instructive. But honestly, few people other than the Tiptree committee even noticed its existence.
The Bletchley Park thing was, for me, the single worst thing in a book full of bad things, since it required us to believe that a historian, at Oxford University, whose specialist period is World War II, would be unfamiliar with the name "Bletchley Park". As for "I don't think a mistake like this is really all that important to the book, unless you're unlucky enough to trip over it.
She makes errors of history, errors of British English language usage, errors of geography,doesn't understand the class system The whole thing reads, frankly, like a calculated insult to the British, and that's even before we get to the idiot plotting and lack of characterisation Those were minor details I picked up on. Believe me, the academic historians and Oxford graduates are foaming at the mouth.
Oh yes: history students on field trips who lack the equivalent of age school history syllabus knowledge about where and when they're going It's a fantasy, not SF, and very genre, and I don't think it exactly shook the world, but it did a couple of things extremely well. It was not yet another coming-of-age story. It handled the notion of gods in the world better than any other novel I can think of, save perhaps The Thousand Kingdoms.
And it portrayed the cost of leadership in a way that felt both accurate and very, very human. Mr Stross do you have any idea what the gender breakdown of your readers is? I ask as it may hint as to why we were biased in favour of male authors. For a book to be important it must either offer insightful comments on a matter of societal importance or influence mass discussion in some way. Unfortunately, Sci-Fi is never going to do that. Sci-Fi might offer interesting philosophical viewpoints or predict interesting social change, it might be the vanguard for discussion, but its not going to be the vehicle which leads to debate.
The books is basically a soccer mums guide to bioethics. Its far from a brain stretch, its basically , but i know that it lead to some pretty intense debate, even if it was as simple as "I could never do that". It forced people to think about a complicated ethical topic even if it was in a very soapy way. I don't like to pick on other writers because I know what it's like to be on the receiving end, and because folks reading my comments may attach undue weight to them. Also, I like about half of Connie's books -- a lot.
Most of the others are okay. Look at the bombers in the top left corner. They have four engine nacelles, don't they? They are, in fact, not Heinkels, such as might have been seen over the skies of London in ; they are Boeing B Superfortresses, which first flew in and certainly didn't bomb London. Covers are NOT the author's responsibility, but it suggests a lack of attention to historic detail at the publisher which may point to Connie's editors being asleep at the switch It's a major project, takes them eight years, and gets bestseller promotion in the USA.
How plausible is it that the young American time travellers going back to, say, Gettysburg, would expect to run into General Sherman commanding the US Army there? Note that they are studying US history at university level , not random idiots. How plausible would it be for them to see all the slaves being manumitted on the spot everywhere in Union territory on July 3rd, , right after a certain speech, and that all the white folks in the Union side would unanimously applaud this?
How likely is it that our intrepid time travellers might have adventures in Baltimore under Confederate occupation in the wake of Gettysburg? You might feel a little insulted, too -- especially after the author discusses at length the enormous and detailed research that went into the book! The thing about Domesday Book though is, if you can get past the first pages it is a rollicking good read.
But most people in the UK will lose it sometime before that when a protagonist takes a tube to Oxford, or for some other reason. But the secind half is fantastic storytelling. Hope I didn't seem too harsh in my comment and feel free to delete it if I did. I've not read anything Ms Willis wrote other than Blackout and the first third of All Clear, and so can't judge her other work. But your analogy is pretty close, yeah Or meaning to say Hendon when what was actually said was Duxford?
Or writing Manfred instead of Roger [Jorgenson]? Well, you know what they say: when the Germans shoot the British duck, when the British shoot the Germans duck, and when the Americans shoot everyone ducks Important books are QUIT rare. They cause major shifts in literary style. This doesn't include Harry Potter. There are other reasons why it might be considered important, even though I gave up on the series rather quickly. None of those are since These are books that work their way into your mind and change things. If, of course, you are accessible.
That none of them are since isn't surprising. Important isn't "I really like this", or "This speaks to me! But even if I add them I don't get any important books by women. Besides, the original comment was for important novels, which would not only exclude the technical and philosophical works, but even "True Names". So my feeling is that anything important published since must be a sleeper. Whether or not published by a woman. I don't know whether this is a comment on me, on the publishing industry, or on women.
I suspect that it's on me, and what I consider to be important, but this is just a [highly probable] guess. It's also true, however, that women are generally more risk averse than men, and important books are EXTREMELY rare, so it might not be a comment on me, but something to be expected.. Have some female author ask the same question on HER blog. Is this a particular problem in Britain? Female SF writers in the US seem to do pretty well in the awards at least, and I can think of quite a few with a fairly high profile, but it's more difficult to think of a British Connie Willis bad research notwithstanding.
One thing these have in common is that they're all reliably prolific, you can expect on a book a year from most of them. Some of the best female SF writers seem to be less so. Pat Cadigan, who I absolutely love, hasn't put out a book since for instance is she ill? Nothing since though. The Sharing Knife series by Lois Bujold. While they have plenty of flaws, they are to me a hugely ambitious literary experiment.
That it fails in a several of those is less important to me than that it really tried to stretch what fantasy is and can be. You know, that's how it feels to read any book that's set in the parts where I live; the most recent well publicized examples that come to mind are The Historian and The Tiger's Wife -- both laughably wrong on so many counts and both, interestingly, written by persons who are supposed to know what they're talking about, only they very obviously don't. But if you want an important book from the last decade that was written by a woman, I'd suggest anything by Ekaterina Sedia, particularly The Secret History of Moscow and The Alchemy of Stone , which may just be the greatest overlooked steampunk novel of them all.
I think SF books did do that on a large scale, at least in terms of inspiring a generation or two of scientists and engineers. It's when SF became "respectable" that its influence diminished. Before anybody says anything, I wasn't implying that female authors don't work as hard, clearly many of them can churn them out with the best of 'em. It just seems like they have more trouble in maintaining a consistent career, for whatever reason, than some of their male counterparts I was reading the problems the brilliant Linda Nagata has had staying in the writing business on her blog.
In that case, you owe it to yourself to find a copy of Jerome K. It took until comment 87 for anyone to get to Cloud and Ashes? Hands down "important," and more fun than Special Topics I can't be the only one who couldn't finish the Pessl. Also be interesting to know what the gender breakdown of SF author sales have been, if publishers are subconsciously pushing males then quite likely the marketing is too. Also, the sciences are notably skeweed toward men which might explain a skew in hard scifi writers.
But I suppose her reputation must have come from somewhere I don't know why you even bothered to reply. The whole "Science fiction isn't serious literature" bit is trolling at best. At worst, it's the kind of arrogant ignorance that says Beowulf is more important to understanding our modern age than the bizarre ideas of those ridiculous adolescents Wells and Verne.
People like that don't even know that C. Moore exists, much less Ellison, Niven, or Stross. Ignore them completely. I have no idea why you deduced exactly the opposite of what I actually said. I think SF has been the preeminent literature that has changed the world. I also believe that was mostly in the past, and it's influence now is more marginal as it has become more mainstream.
You should not ever dignify stuff like that with a response. I'm not commenting on what you said, I simply don't think you should reply at all to that kind of cluelessness. It's like someone claiming that the world is flat and disease comes from miasmas. You just ignore it and go on unless the speaker is a politician from the US, in which case you vote against them, then ignore them as they sink into irrelevance. It just seems like they have more trouble in maintaining a consistent career, for whatever reason. There are a whole bunch of hurdles you have to jump in order to have a writing career, or indeed to publish an individual book.
The individual obstacles present no great problem, but when you have to jump a dozen of them, the probability that you will trip up rises towards a near-certainty. Some of the obstacles are obvious: to have a career you need to punch out a novel every 12 months -- which doesn't mix well with pregnancy and the first 18 months after giving birth. This obstacle is common to most of our society, and so unthought-of that we don't even notice it.
Authors, however, are particularly vulnerable to it because they're self-employed contractors paid piece work rates and don't have luxuries such as maternity leave. Some of the obstacles are less obvious. For example, the folks in marketing -- many of them female themselves -- who know that hard SF written by women doesn't sell well, because the male chauvinist pig readers won't pick up books with girl cooties: this is actually a self-fulfilling prophecy fuelled by a small but vociferous bunch of elderly MCPs who were probably shocked and appalled when they discovered that Chris Moriarty or S.
Viehl were niggers women but it's the loudest folks whose voices are heard, and it's always easier to blame the customers for not buying than the marketing department for not selling. Again: editors many of them female themselves who try to steer female authors towards areas where they can be more successful -- read, ghetto-ized writing paranormal romance or high fantasy.
Again: the marketing folks who just know that the big chain book buyers think the SF readership consists of spotty 14 year old males who will be put off by girl cooties, and therefore will under-order SF books by female authors, and who anticipate this low-balling by not promoting their authors. Yes, there are exceptions to these phenomena. But they form a series of hurdles, and if some of the hurdles are set higher for one category or another of author, then that category will ultimately be under-represented.
PS: No, I cannot account for J. Rowling, other than pigeon-holing her as a black swan. OK Charlie, sorry about the inaccuracy of the Willis books. Your analogy of a Brit writing about the Civil War is right. However, Willis acknowledges the help of a number of Brits. I wonder where they were. Important has absolutely nothing to do with quality.
Like them or not, Reagan and Thatcher were very important. Their influence on politics is till being felt today, unfortunately. Rowling, whatever her skills as a writer, is extremely important. If for no other reason than she may well have brought a whole generation to reading. The influence of her books on virtually all forms of entertainment media has been huge. If that isn't "important", what the hell is?
CharlesH, your sheer ignorance of women in literature is simply appalling. In both genre and non-genre books, women have been extraordinarily influential. Smith etc. I could make a list of dozens of women over the past decade whose writing, both fiction and non-fiction, has been as important as any male. And, by the way, I thought we were talking about fiction. Introducing non-fiction would open the. I'm aware you were quoting someone else. I'm objecting to the fact that you dignified their twaddle with a reply. Sorry, I didn't mean to minimize the experience of dissonance that comes from reading a novel with a lot of errors in it.
I completely understand why you wouldn't enjoy the books. However, as someone who is fortunate enough not to have stumbled over all those errors, the book was quite good. I was unable to complete Mary Gentle's Trouble And Her Friends, because I found the portrayal of the "hacker community" completely implausible, and it kept tripping me up, page after page. I think looking for a "most important book" is succumbing to the myth of the lone inventor. The SF and Fantasy genres evolve over time, as does the art as a whole.
To point to any one book and say "that book changed everything" is to ignore all the incremental changes that led to the tipping point that that book represents. It really gets the creative process badly wrong to think of things this way. The Road Home by Rose Tremain may be the most important book by a woman that I have read in the last 10 years. Important for me anyway as it lifted a few shutters and allowed me to reflect on a previous career from a distance.
Odd thing about Three Men in a Boat : I just finished reading it, because I couldn't pass up something a hundred years of serious Brits think is one of the funniest books ever written. My reaction? And I think P. Wodehouse, a bit later, is the funniest writer in the world. But Jerome K. Jerome simply doesn't do it for me.
It's a one-joke book, though the joke is a good one, and the alternation between silly-twittishness and lordly historical overview works well enough. But the true test? I didn't actually laugh once. To get back to your theme: Important? Not many books are that. Maybe a dozen novels in the century just past. In the last decade I can't think of one though there are many I like a lot.
I want to say something cunning and insightful, but duh… Lots of my reading now a days occurs in books stores, so I don't remember everything I read. I don't have many RL people to refer books to me, and the Saturday Guardian can't be everything so it's not easy finding the next best read in all the out put. The translations are less than a decade old even though the titles aren't. They are beautiful little jewels. That are very much like looking into an alien world from here anyway and at the same time are all about everyday frustrations and joys.
This was probably less helpful than my post on the last thread. Important books along with lots of other kind of input , stay with you, change you, become part of you so that might not be able to articulate i section it out later. It might be that to lots of people and may or may not be indicated by sales at the time. How big a market share were C, Bronte and J Austen at the time of writing and how many of their female contemporaries have fallen by the way side since then? That's a very important idea. Certainly there were a lot of predecessors to Neuromancer, for example, just as Neuromancer preceded some of the later "important" stuff like Snow Crash, which preceded other good books.
Neuromancer talks about being able to immerse someone in information. Snow Crash talks a lot about where we get that information, and what we do with it. Accelerando tells us about someone who is using those immersive techniques from the other two novels and how they will change the world and how they will be changed by those immersive techniques. You're quite correct that it's an ongoing process. That's not even considering all the subsidiary bits of inspiration that make stuff happen.
Plus I suspect that Charlie would tell us that Accelerando wasn't the descendant of Snow Crash or Neuromancer as much as it came from Charlie's own research into the technologies and cognitive techniques of the real world, which is doubtless also true, but Accelerando couldn't have happened without Gibson and Stephenson greasing the way. I think a bunch of comments are dancing around a rather big point in re the paucity of women writers and "important" sf:.
The standard tropes have been with us for a loooong time now and not much that is really new has been added. Much less radically new and unexplored. Given that women didn't really enter the field in large numbers until most of the big ideas had been trotted around the block a few times, there's just not going to be that many "important" new sf novels by women. Or men for that matter. Yeah, I know, that "big idea" thing is hard to pin down definitionally speaking, and what counts as the legitimate antecedent of a popular trope is the source of endless dispute.
But that's my two cents, and why I think the more "important" books are going to be about something more than the latest big gee-whiz factor. That's why I look at things like Maul or Blindsight as being important: they're arguably some of the best attempts at post-human characterization I've seen in a while in a genre where "post-human" is usually shorthand for "white bread male nerd who has a Napolean Dynamite sense of what sort of Skillz chicks dig. Seems like a newish trope, doesn't it?
I think that Egan can be given credit for giving that particular schtick a new coat of paint; the shorts that were expanded into Diaspora. But that's all they are in this regard - something just like what your Dad may have read, only more up to date. Ted, if you were unable to finish that book, then it's proof positive that you've wandered in here from a parallel universe, because Trouble and Her Friends was written by Melissa Scott.
Norrell as an answer to the original post, but didn't because I'm not at all sure what makes a novel "important" as opposed to or above and beyond "brilliant" and "really good. I don't think this is a common response, but Steph Swainston has gone back to teaching and cites among other things the publishing schedule - she doesn't want to be putting out a book a year. Not sure I would characterise her Castle cycle as important, but I really enjoyed spending time in the Fourlands with those characters.
I am a de-lurking female commenter, but I'm afraid I can't answer the question Charlie as I really don't know how to define important. Really interesting threads to read, and I'm excited to see there are PC Hodgell books past the trilogy I've had since I was a teenager. Agreed on all of that and more. These were the first books by that author that I had encountered so I don't have your tendency to excuse the sheer sloppiness of the damn things as.. Careless is the kindest term that I can find and I'm tempted to call the two vol.
Has she reached the point of Sciffy Eminence in which an author thinks that the readership will swallow anything that she deigns to produce and then shriek for More, awarding Hugos as they go?
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Oh, wot the Hell.. I know that I'm being more than a little cheeky in , er, alternate worldliness.. In the mean time I'll have to look out for other books by Connie Willis.. Leaving aside the question of what counts as "important", this question sent me running to my bookshelves and revealed a worrying lack of female authors among the books I've been reading. Is it just inertia, pushing me to read the usual suspects, or do I have an unconscious bias?
Is there any excuse for me to have not read any Elizabeth Bear, or Cherie Priest? I don't think there is. By all accounts they should be right in my wheelhouse. My wife went to high school with Elizabeth Bear, for crying out loud! I suspect that some of the big stuff done by women isn't really noticed until some guy does the same routine, at which point he is credited with the "innovation".
Case in point: Le Guin's slower-than-light Hainish civilization and her instantaneous communication device, the eponymous "ansible". Yeah, I know, stl societies predate Le Guin's stuff. But not by much, and were in those cases, not really much more than throwaway background. I credit her with being one of the first to really make stl work as a key part of her world-building.
Nevertheless, it wasn't until, um, Orson Card I think it was, that this sort of trope really caught on. And when it did, I noticed a bunch of fans crediting him and in a somewhat awestruck way with that dazzling new device. Not that girly-girl Le Guin who wrote stories about magic flying dragons. You can be sure that's the one thing most of these hard-sf lovers knew about her. I think you'll find dragons in the Earthsea Quintet and one of the most frightening versions of the afterlife around.
Because they're fantasy-quest novels where the quest isn't just "collect the plot coupons and kill something". More of that, please. Laurie R. A nice little bit of metafiction, where it's left unclear whether the macguffin is authentic or not. I've been reading this thread off and on all day and thinking about how I define what makes a book important. I've come to think that for me a book is important for one of two reasons - it introduces something new to the genre or it pulls in a lot of new readers.
In the last decade I'd say J. Bujold and Cherryh are my picks for importance in terms of influence but I don't think their influential novels are amongst those they've written in the last decade. It's quite a good alien invasion story, and certainly a very unusual take on the genre. The character reads a lot like a science-fictioney Bella, but the context is completely different, and I think it really works.
I can't say that it's important, because I haven't seen anybody try to top it. More's the pity. Important - that which changes society. Both had major social impacts. I cannot think of any works in the Western world that have had a similar impact in the past 20 years, in any medium. That includes "The Satanic Verses" by Rushdie. The last one was published in and definitely passes the Bechdel test - in fact one might argue that the reason the first book has in failing the test as it does spectacularly, becomes the driving force behind the story arc.
Where said failings are a product of her confidence as a writer and the social context in which she was writing in. But the books ten years old now and the last book in a series that wasn't a continuous narrative; and nobody's interested in schools for wizards or dragons or zombies! I thought you had already made a pretty strong case that no blame should attach to authors for cover art.
I'm not sure that you can even blame the editors. Where does the buck stop for cover art that's full of fail? You're quite correct of course. That's exactly my point :- I could have worded that better to demonstrate how generally clueless a lot of sf readers are regarding the female side. Let me try again: The bit about the ansible in Card's Ender series? That's why I chose that particular example - a lot of the people I knew who read those books didn't know where the term "ansible" came from.
They thought it was Card's invention. And it was generally the case that the only contemporary female writer they knew by name at the time was Le Guin. I don't know from important, but The Year of the Flood falls into the elite set of books that I am planning with relish to read again and again. I was profoundly moved and still am to this day by Handmaid's Tale and I think that this latest work while on a fairly different track is also quite powerful.
She has the ability to conjure up whole fields of tech by a brief keen description of some day-to-day use To say nothing of the characters. Also, Liobam and creepily intelligent families of feral pigs. Unfortunately I find this a lot easier to answer than the previous iteration of the question, since given my recent reading habits the field is so much thinner.
On one hand it's not a Serious and Deep Tome of Great Importance, but a trashy if well written adventure story. In the other hand it does score multiple "importance" hits. Most obviously it's a science fiction book that was a major YA hit not many of those around lately, it's all fantasy, vampires, etc and that's a time when a lot of literary tastes are formed. One could easily see that book alone being a major factor in raising a new generation of science fiction fans. Second, it wasn't limited to just being yet another well written juvie, but seemed to be exceptionally widely read among adults as well.
Even in the general population, not just among the kind of hard core SF geeks who are willing to fight their way through the intentionally unapproachable books that the previous thread was full of. Popularity doesn't necessarily mean importance, but it's a lot easier for something popular to be important.
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Third, not only did it get widely read, but it seemed to be almost universally liked. Hunger Games seemed to create this strange viral effect where people who never talk about books on their blogs or on social networks would suddenly recommend it without reservations and then never talk about books again. I don't know whether it was universal or just some artifact in the slice of the world I saw. The best explanation I have is that this really was the one book in a couple of years that clicked enough with all of these people to tell the world about it. Taking a tube ride to Oxford, was, if I remember correctly, postulated by Willis for Oxford ca.
If my memory is correct then this was not authorial sloppiness but, at worst, arguable extrapolation. Yes, you do see dragons in the Earthsea stuff, but I don't think the lads I'm referring to ever knew that by direct inspection. I'm guessing it was mostly guilt by association. Earthsea is fantasy, the only books by females they ever noticed in the sf section have dragons on the front cover, ergo Le Guin must have written mostly fantasy - and fantasy that heavily featured dragons at that.
I'll admit that my sample for this observation was biased. But what's really annoying is that Le Guin's work is clearly recognized as being important. If you had me list female authors without that 10 year cut-off, there are probably as many females as males. Is this a recent thing then? Maybe there's some kind of Meyer effect with female authors being steered towards the romantic fantasy section?
And now I think about it, dammit there really does seem to be that mandatory romance thing. Thinking back over the last few books I've read all the books written by female authors had some sort of "romantic interest". Not so crassly welded on as to be obvious, but now I think about it not really germane to the major plot either. I sense this is happening at the publisher end rather than the reader end, with authors being nudged towards different markets based on their sex. Which is bloody silly. A story stands on it's own merits. For non-literary me that depends on if I enjoyed it or not, not who wrote it.
For important, I meant a book that either changed me as a person or changed some understanding I had at such a fundamental level that for long afterwards, I was working through the implications. Of course, other definitions of important would be equally valid. Perhaps we are socially in an incubatory phase as we pass through the last wave of capitalism based on individualization through advertising-guided consumption.
For whatever reason, the books of the past 10 years that have really stayed with me were by men and actually most were non-fiction. Which is even odder because most of those who have most affected me personally have been women. I think it's certainly the best genre novel of the last decade--by anyone, male or female--and its masterful mixing of genres is, IMHO, quite revolutionary.
This, to me, makes it at least of towering literary importance. Now, if you define importance as "general impact on society", well, then, I don't know who. I would have said Rowling, except that the Harry Potter phenomenon had already begun and was growing fast at the beginning of Charlie's timeframe. I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't been reading too many books by women either. My female spouse has read Blackout and wasn't impressed. I like to think that I'm not sexist in my reading tastes though I'm aware that I can't really judge myself. However, I do believe that sexism in the publishing industry is a major factor on what books happen to attract my attention.
Zadie Smith's White Teeth. Showed that you can do mid-period Martin Amis prose, similarly zeitgeisty and absurdist, without having Kingsley Junior's sneer and prejudices, and with optimism rather than cultivated cynicism. Arguably set an example that others have sought to emulate. Yes, I know it's not a literary or cultural game-changer, and that Smith has since disparaged it; but as someone who doesn't read much SF I thought I'd throw the suggestion into the ring. If we're allowed favourites rather than "important", then I'd have to plump for AL Kennedy's "Day", which is just beautifully modulated.
Fond also of Sarah Waters's "The Night Watch", though I can't speak to any cultural importance regarding genre-entering-into-mainstream.
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However it still sticks in my mind the way a really good fairy tale does. Everything was done right for what the story was trying to do. Sadly I haven't tracked down any other Kage Baker stuff to see what she usually writes about. Though I might now. Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood is extremely well-written and makes some important points, albeit in a slightly preachy way.
Very much liked it.
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Although I didn't like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins too much, it challenged gender roles as well as giving us a strong female lead. It also told a hard story in an enjoyable way, and it definitely had impact. I don't think my heart's ever broken quite that quietly and sincerely whilst reading. Good point about remembering female authors. I don't know why I gravitate towards mentioning men when I'm looking for things with impact.
The books of the last ten years by men don't seem to me to have been particularly genre-elevating. Now, if you want to talk about execution, in setting new standards, raising the bar and all that, then yes, there has been "important" stuff published in the last ten years. By men and women both, and kinda sorta equally. Imho, of course Sorry, but I think there is definitely something to be learned from that lesson.
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