Just to let you guys know, I don’t own a TV. I never have. The computer I’m typing this on is an old Tandy 1000 in the office of the local vegan, low-emission co-op that I volunteer at. Don’t worry, we figured out how to power it via granola farts! — after a while, you don’t even feel the tube up your dumper! But I digress, of course you guys know then that I’m a HUGE reader. But I also don’t buy any books new. I barter them for a poem at the local vegan, low-emission used book store. It’s just so much better to pass around knowledge than to be part of the capitalist book publishing monolith, you know? Also, I read the book to a tree so I can feel better about the fact that so many of his brothers and sisters had to die to make said book.
That being said, welcome to the first meeting of SYWH Book Club: Gabbin’ Bout Books! I’ve just put another log in the fire, the chai is on the stove, and we’ve all got our cruelty-free alpaca wool sweaters on so let’s begin, shall we?! Feel free to try one of Sarge’s Famous Slam Scones and sample the ethnic-looking platter that one of our more ethnic members brought!
Ok, my medication is wearing off… ‘Sup bros? If you’re like me, there are two kinds of literature: sci-fi and fantasy. Via poor life decisions, even a hobby where you could pull down some glasses-wearing, indie trim by being a “deep book reader,” you have to go and ruin it by only reading books that can use the phrase “…used the gravitational pull of the planet to slingshot into the darkened hemisphere to escape capture” and keep a straight face. But fuck it, right? YOLO n’ shit. So I want to talk to you about some authors/books that I’m crushing on but, more importantly, I want suggestions from you guys about what I can dive into next.
Robert Charles Wilson
If there is one thing that can win me over, it’s awesome premise/world building. You could have super generic characters and as long as you had some crazy shit going on around them, I wouldn’t care. Does not needing to identify with other humans make me a sociopath? That’s for my psychiatrist to figure out (read: throw pills at me until I leave his office). Anyway, Robert Charles Wilson, in my opinion, comes up with some of the coolest scenarios for his books.
Spin is probaly RCW’s most popular book (it won a Hugo). This book is the prefect example of what I was talking about earlier with the whole “awesome premise, serviceable characters.” Our solar system experiences a cataclysmic event that would have destroyed Earth if not for the appearance of a mysterious Dyson sphere that saves the planet and slows time within the sphere to a crawl. Thousands and thousands of years go by in the rest of the universe and Earth realizes that terraforming -and eventual colonization- of Mars could totally be a thing with the extreme time differential. So humanity starts the whole “let’s colonize Mars and then make them figure out what the fuck is encapsulating our planet and who the shit put it here” story line, ya know… that hackneyed gem.
There is much more to the book than just that but I think that the above paragraph is a pretty good sell for the book. I love settings, premises, scenarios that make my mind kind of run away with hypothetical (in-joke!) explanations for the mysteries laid before you by the author. Wilson does a great job of giving the reader answers to the initial questions without over-explaining it.
There are two sequels: Axis and Vortex (I’ve only read Axis. Vortex, the third book, is in my “to-do” pile). Axis is OK but not nearly as good as Spin. The general consensus seems to be that these two follow-ups are decent but ultimately unnecessary. Absolutely check out Spin, though.
Humanity is almost wiped out by something (probably God-damned Jewbama using drone-delivered nukes to try and take our guns away) and is knocked back technologically to about 1850; a dystopian future-past. The book follows the rise to power of a dude named…Julian Comstock who has to overcome an oppressive, corrupt government who keeps its citizens at proletariat Luddites levels of awesomness. Oh, also, what is now the the United States v2.0 is at war with a unified Europa.
Spoiler alert: this book is a liberal wank-fest. But since I’m a dirty liberal, it was right up my alley. The “President” might as well be Regan and Bush Jr.’s steampunk chud baby. Deviant texts from the Before People (like Darwin etc.) are kept locked up and hidden from the commoners lest they start thinking for themselves etc. I don’t know, it’s just kind refreshing to see a sci-fi writer be some normal, middle-to-left-leaning guy and not a crazy pill head, hyper libertarian, or Mormon.
The Expanse series
I like a balance between “hard” and “soft” sci-fi; I don’t really get down with Asimov too often and I also don’t want my sci-fi to be overly cheesy. Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War (the first and second books in The Expanse series) strike this balance perfectly. These books are the closest thing to “popcorn flicks in book form.” They’re just a good time. If your neckbeard doesn’t frazzle at the phrase “space opera,” then you should check these books out.
The books hit all the marks: fragmented, interplanetary civil war, malicious megacorporations, unspeakable horrors from beyond the stars, and unnecessary (but TOTALLY necessary) descriptions of hyperspace travel’s effects on the human body. I think it’s awesome to see a series that doesn’t shit the bed by being too far up its own ass, or going “too epic” via 15 books, or forgetting that you need to ENTERTAIN your reader. These books are one of those good “gateway drugs” for people looking to get into sci-fi, yet they have enough “describing the differences in physiology between people living in different planetary environments” for those of use who wear sweatpants out in public.
The third book is coming out in June so get in on the ground floor now cuz I wouldn’t be surprised if this shit gets optioned for a movie and then you can be all insufferable like the people who watched Firefly when it initially aired.
I love Lovecraft. Eldritch terrors out of space and time. World-consuming elders oblivious to the trivial, pathetic existence of humanity. Ugh. I eat that. shit. up. There’s just something about the story of a hopelessly doomed human struggling against an indifferent (or not-so-indifferent), other-worldly abomination is relevant to my interests. It’s interesting to kind of look at Lovecraft’s work as if humanity is the antagonist; we’re just getting in the way of shoggoths tryin’ ta shoggoth. Like if every Lovecraft story went on for another page they’d all say something like: “And then humanity was exterminated. You’re nothing. Nihilism.jpg”
Here is where I’ll pose a question to you, dear reader: is there anyone out there who is essentially a modern-day Lovecraft? It would be nice to find a contemporary author who does the weird fiction/horror thing but who is: 1. a little less “hit or miss” with quality and 2. not racist. It’s kind of off-putting to read a passage like this:
“…and it spoke with the Elder Tongue that ushered in the demise of man. Syllables incomprehensible and maddening to the human ear, destroyed the psyche of all within the town …except for the blacks who were saved by their inferior, mongrel intellect.”
So yeah, is anyone hip to the existence of a modern spiritual successor to Lovecraft (minus Mike Mignola)? Also, my favs of his = At the Mountains of Madness and The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Yours?
I’m leaving this section open to be discussed in the comments. I haven’t really read nearly as much fantasy as I have sci-fi/horror. I think I’m just kind of paralyzed by choice and I don’t really know where to start. I’ve read Tolkien and I’ve read up to what’s currently available for A Song of Ice and Fire, but that’s about the extent of the fantasy I’ve read. Is the Wheel of Time series worth reading? I’m hesitant to devote enough time to a tree trunk’s worth of paper. Are there any other one off’s or series that really stands out as being “grade-A super awesome?” Will any of you read my homoerotic Skyrim /fic?
Ok. Well, that wraps up meeting #1 of SYWH’s Best Bros Book Club! I’m off to go copyright my “Shoggoth’s gonna shoggoth” tshirt before fucking Snorg steals it out from under me!
Further Book Club discussion here.