Thursday, February 19, 2009

Speaking of Howard....

I'd written that Kassandra's half of Seaborn read like a YA book with chapter's missing...

I have avoided reading Saltwater Witch for fear that (not knowing where it falls chronologically), it might give me spoilers.

And, I have just discovered that this is actually the missing chapters that got shoehorned into Seaborn as backstory. So you can read it first and dig all cool artwork!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Seaborn and Night Shift

I'm late, I know. My paltry excuse is that I'd planned my next post to be a "review" of Seaborn by Chris Howard and Night Shift by Lilith Saintcrow--two books connected only by my reading them at the same time. In my mind, I toyed with titles like, "Two OK Tastes That Taste OK Together."

To be fair, half of Seaborn is much more than OK. Half of the book follows Corina, a California college student possessed by a seaborn sorcerer. (The book lends itself to alliteration--it's not all my fault!) I didn't know it when Tez's Review prompted me to put Seaborn at the top of my TBR list, but Corina's story is exactly what I've been missing since keeping up with new urban fantasy and close-enough paranormal romance has distanced me from Charles de Lint's back list and old favorites like The Borderland books. She's an interesting heroine with a story I really feel. Howard's on Boskone's 'Men Writing Women' panel tomorrow and Corina makes me sorry I'm going to miss it.

Then there's the other half of the book. Kassandra is a Seaborn royal, exiled to the surface because her grandfather, King Thasaleos, is a murdering son of a bitch. His being such a jerk is the only thing that keeps me from wishing literary harm on Kassandra; I want him to get his in the end so she needs to live long enough to do it. Despite a promising beginning, her story reads like a young adult novel that I did not sign up for. Worse, there are chapters missing--a whole book's worth (that might explain why her dialogue is so tediously stiff) that gets shoehorned in as a few paragraphs of backstory.

It's entirely possible that no one else would be bothered by the narrative mode(s) of the novel. Third person omniscient exists even if it's mostly more "third person limited with multiple characters." In fact, this is mostly that until suddenly we jump heads just long enough for my teeth to itch. In Corina's story, with another consciousness sharing her body, that actually makes sense. In Kassandra's, it's one more reason for me to push through to the end so I can reread the book, skipping her chapters.

And that brings me to Night Shift. I'll usually read one book at a time, but I found myself finishing Corina chapters and thinking, "Well Night Shift is going to have to go back to the library so I'd better read that now."

Working for the Devil grabbed me with its title and its back cover blurb held on until I bought it. I loved the worldbuilding and writing. Unfortunately, if I don't really like Howard's Kassandra, I hated WftD's narrator, Dante Valentine. The feisty, kick-ass woman that books of this type can't do without became bitchy and obnoxious in the form of Dante Valentine. I couldn't stand her, couldn't stand her friends, and couldn't accept that a demon was the only likable character in the novel. Yet, the writing was so damned good that I went back for book two.

I polled the fans, learned that Dante was no better in the third book, and put away my Saintcrow cravings....until I heard about Night Shift. Jill Kismet is a Hunter, trained to walk on the nightside and take down demons and other creatures that make the city streets unsafe for humans. She's already running on empty when five cops are ripped apart and the police need her help more than ever.

There is no doubt in my mind that Lilith Saintcrow will someday make my short list of favorite authors, but "this is not that day." Kismet's setting has the same lovely dark grittiness as Valentine's with a more likable narrator. The upside is that I don't find myself pulling for the bad guys in this book. The downside is that the story doesn't suck me in, and more likable does not translate into loving Kismet.

Flashbacks of Kismet's dead mentor both spice up and slow down the narrative is they explain why the Hunter is so deeply damaged. The hunt for the killer is OK. The possible love interest is OK. It's all just...OK. I keep reading because (1) Saintcrow has a way with descriptions that makes me want to see what else she'll describe, and (2) I need to get to the end in case the next book is the one where all of her impressive talents come together in a story that I won't want to miss.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Race in Spec Fic

Here's a crappy thing: there aren't a lot of people of color in spec fiction. I don't totally feel one way or another about it, so you're safe from a rant (um, from me; there will be links). On the one hand, all I'm looking for is a story that will hold my interest. Hopefully with something magical. Maybe with robots. If you make a world that I want to live in, or at least visit frequently, I don't particularly care who you people with. Mostly.

On the other hand, I vividly remember the first moment Lando Calrissian filled my eyes. I remember Uhura and Sulu on deck, just doing their jobs, a part of the crew like everybody else. And if these characters meant the world to me on screen in sci-fi--my vacation spot--there aren't even words for finding people who looked like me in fantasy novels, my home!

Yet as an adult would-be-novelist, race isn't a focus of my work. I don't have an agenda; I have characters in my head that clamour to be out onto the page and a bit of natural writing talent that I hope to hone into real skill. My characters aren't multi-cultural because I want to make a social or political statement; they're multi-cultural because my world is.

Recently, a certain section of the blogosphere has blown up with discussions of race. Mostly, I've watched in silence as anger rose and feelings were hurt. I couldn't be much help, except maybe as a target. Dear anti-racist people of color: you've got great points, but you've got to understand that your world view is not the only right way to see things (and your delivery ensures that those who don't already agree with you won't). And: Dear white authors, editors, and assorted spec-fic fans: You aren't necessarily wrong, but it's not all about you. Listen and you might just learn something.

Both groups (in this example of imagination) then turn and rip chunks out of An. But they would be united in kicking my ass, and unity is good, right?

I passed on chiming in. But I believe that the conversation is an important one, and I've watched it get dismissed out of hand in other forums. Through it all, I thought of authors who'd been asked why none of their characters were [insert whatever they may consider Other]. The answer is generally some version of, "I don't know how" or "I'm afraid I couldn't get it right."

Sci-fi/fantasy author, Elizabeth Bear, wrote a great blog post on the subject. If you get there and cringe at the length of the scroll bar, take heart. Most of that length is due to comments on the post. But then, the comments are, at times, really important, too. This is a subject we should all take our time with; Bear titled her post "whatever you're doing, you're probably wrong" and she was right.

And that goes for everyone. When I wrote started the novel that would be my jump from playing with classic fantasy (classic because I can't stretch my imagination enough to call my little attempts "epic") to really writing urban fantasy, I stalled out, in part, due to a Middle Eastern major character. Could I do him justice or would he look Middle Eastern but be a combination of the black and white men in my life?

Back to the linkage. Here is an Open Letter in response to Bear's essay. Harsh? Yeah. Right? Yeah. While I could argue that it should be two posts as Bear isn't responsible for twenty years of Roddenbderry-done-wrong and Sci-fi Channel fuck ups, it's all part of the same conversation. And don't miss out on the link to Deepad's essay there.

....Feel free to come back here and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Giveaways! (Super fan joy-joys!)

I am, as usual, doing something other than what I'm "supposed" to be doing. Before I get to the two articles of non-fic, the manuscript of doom (yes, I think I'll call it MoD from now on), and cleaning the kitchen, I thought I'd stop being selfish and share all the giveaways I stumbled into this morning.

Patricia's Vampire Notes is hosting the Hatchette Books' Kitty Norville Giveaway through Feb. 17. Five lucky winners will get both five and six of the series!

From now through March 3, U.S. residents can win a signed copy of Eric Nylund's Mortal Coils. I haven't read Nylund before, but based on the synopsis, I'm definitely willing to try it. (And that could lead to a whole other post...I play Halo like a madwoman, but I had no interest in checking out the books. Looks like I've been missing out!)

And while I was over at Fantasy Book Critic, I noticed a giveaway from Patricia Briggs' Bone Crossed. This ends in less than seven HOURS of my typing this, so if you love Mercy like I do, and you're reading this prior to 11:59 a.m. PST on Feb 3, click the link NOW.