atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#2095: Rain, humidity, blah.

I say blah, and mean it.

Saturday night I took a late trip to the bookstore. I left home at 8:25 and got there with plenty of time to spare at 8:43 even if the place closed at 9, since I knew what I wanted and where I could expect to find it. But they close at 10 on Saturday, which gave me time to browse.

...found Juggler of Worlds by Niven and some other guy, and it turned out to be a retelling of some of Niven's short stories from other viewpoints with a good chunk of new material added to fill in the holes between. It's a good read, and a fairly meaty book...and I finished it at one sitting.

Sometimes I think I read too fast.

I started reading it after I was done with Bamboo Blade volumes 4 and 5, which I'd also picked up Saturday night and read during boring moments of the Indy 500. I finished it around one AM or so, with three brief breaks: one for dinner, one to take Mom to pick up a prescription, and a third around 9 PM or so to go get some food.

It's the middle book of a series of three, so I'll probably be ordering the other two from Amazon or somewhere.

* * *

One of the seriously annoying things about the publishing industry in general is the serious dearth of new, good science fiction novels. I see plenty of fantasy crap plopped in the SF section, and plenty of "hard" fantasy (such as Butcher's Dresden Files) and plenty of science fictiony stuff, but little to no science fiction.

Okay: part of it is that the masters of SF are dying off. These guys got their start in the pulp days and defined the genre, but the pulp era of SF started in the freakin' 1940s and earlier, and these guys were already in their 20s by then. Writers like Niven and Pournelle were part of the "new wave" and their heyday was the 1960s.

1960 was 50 years ago.

Modern SF--much of it--is "soap operas in space" (or pick your setting) and has nothing to do with going and doing.

Look: good SF is about people, not machinery. There are a few cases where the people are machinery, but that's not what I'm talking about, and it's going to take a bit of explaining for me to describe what I am talking about.

Example: Star Trek: Voyager started from the place most Star Trek series start from; but it turned into "the gadget fix of the week" after a couple of seasons. The series began to be about machines breaking and being fixed, or about problems which could only be solved by reconfiguring machines to work differently. After a while, it seemed as if every week the plot turned on someone coming up with a new use for the deflector dish...and the show grew stale because the show became about the technology, not the people using it.

Counterexample: Battlestar Galactica was about people (and some of the people were machines) dealing with a very, very large problem. All the technology was background and in fact no attention was ever called to it. (Almost none, anyway.) The only view of Galactica's FTL drive we ever got was merely the setting in which Chief Terrell discovered the cracks in Galactica's frames. Otherwise, the equipment was part of the set.

(I pick on Star Trek a lot. ST is not SF; it's science fantasy, like Star Wars or Doctor Who. That's not a bad thing, but it's not what I want to read. It's fine for TV and movies; it sucks in a book.)

But where I start to have a problem is when the entire story becomes a story about people having people problems which could just as easily be set in 1970 or 2000 or 1523 as 2419. When it counts as science fiction only because the main character is working on some scientific problem and the problem has nothing to do with the plot it is no longer science fiction; it's plain fiction with a kind-of sciency setting.

There are many authors who publish today who I simply don't read because I don't like their work. It doesn't engage my imagination. While it doesn't go to the extreme I describe in the last paragraph, some of it gets mighty damn close.

What do I want? I want people going places and doing things. I want intriguing ideas. (Example? One of the Man-Kzin Wars books explains how to use a couple tons of lithium and a stasis field to make a G-class star go supernova.) I want to read about real people having real struggles to accomplish things. Heinlein and Asimov and Pournelle and Niven and Clarke--and a dozen others--wrote those kinds of stories, and wrote them well. That's the kind of SF I grew up reading.

What I don't want is philopsophical stories about people struggling with what it means to be human while dealing with a painful divorce. If I want that crap I'll watch Oprah, for Christ's sake. Setting the story on a space station, or a spaceship, or an asteroid colony, or an alien world--that doesn't make the story science fiction, damn it. It makes it "plain fiction with an exotic setting" and you could acomplish the same thing by setting the story in Bora-Bora or the Antarctic.

Unfortunately, the stuff I see on the shelves these days--after sifting out all the fantasy nonsense--is not the kind of SF I was raised on. It's not what editors buy, because the editors themselves know nothing about SF.


* * *

Elegant description of Arlington and why Obama does both the dead and himself a disservice by avoiding it on Memorial Day.

...not that Obama has so much as an iota of humility let alone enough for him to take away from the place any lesson whatsoever about duty and honor and courage.

* * *

Is this the beginning of another war in the middle east? Alan Caruba thinks so.

I have no idea how this administration will react to Israel's moves. Probably badly.

* * *

I've had a headache for 24 hours. I'd wager I have the beginnings of a middle ear infection, something I didn't consider when I decided to wait it out. Well, the ear itself has partially unblocked itself, so I can hear properly, but it plugs up again at the slightest provocation and takes half an hour to unplug again. But I'm thinking "middle ear infection" now because it's itching, and because of the headache.

Well, around 10:30 AM or so tomorrow it'll be clean as a whistle in there. I hope.

Still, the headache leaves me with no desire to do anything. Certainly I don't wish to stare at a glowing screen for much longer--neither this one nor the glass bulb--in order to garner entertainment.

So I think I'll just go back to bed.

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