The list of currently nominated fandoms is up here. It closes at 9:00 PM, USA Eastern Standard Time.

If you are planning to participate, what are you thinking about requesting?

I am thinking about Marjorie Liu's "Dirk and Steele" series, Willo Davis Roberts The Girl with Silver Eyes (now there's a novel that begged for a sequel), George R. R. Martin's "Thousand Worlds" series, my perennial request for Diane Duane's "Door" series, my other perennial request for Modesty Blaise, and the Carter and Grammar song "The Mountain." Last year I wrote a story based on the Carter and Grammar song "The Disappearing Man," and I think that anyone who would even offer "The Mountain" could probably write something good. (Click the tags for more details on the stuff I mentioned here - I recommend it all.)

Note: I know that many of you hate fanfic, hate Yuletide, hate AO3, hate the (bizarre) new rules on determining what constitutes a rare fandom, etc. This is not the post to say so.
Fandoms I am considering nominating (click on tags to find what I've written about them before):

New to Yuletide:

George R. R. Martin's "Thousand Worlds" space opera stories.

Lois Duncan's psychic kids boarding school YA Down A Dark Hall.

John Woo's film Red Cliff.

Sarah Rees Brennan's Demon's Lexicon.

Vonda N. McIntyre's post-apocalyptic novel about healing, snakes, and biological engineering, Dreamsnake.

Nominated in previous years:

Peter O'Donnell's comic strip and novels about the woman in my icon, Modesty Blaise.

Anne McCaffrey's Pern.

Sherwood Smith's Inda series.

Ann Maxwell's space opera Fire Dancer.

Is anyone thinking of requesting any of these? What are you all thinking of nominating?
Fandoms I am considering nominating (click on tags to find what I've written about them before):

New to Yuletide:

George R. R. Martin's "Thousand Worlds" space opera stories.

Lois Duncan's psychic kids boarding school YA Down A Dark Hall.

John Woo's film Red Cliff.

Sarah Rees Brennan's Demon's Lexicon.

Vonda N. McIntyre's post-apocalyptic novel about healing, snakes, and biological engineering, Dreamsnake.

Nominated in previous years:

Peter O'Donnell's comic strip and novels about the woman in my icon, Modesty Blaise.

Anne McCaffrey's Pern.

Sherwood Smith's Inda series.

Ann Maxwell's space opera Fire Dancer.

Is anyone thinking of requesting any of these? What are you all thinking of nominating?
On [livejournal.com profile] liviapenn's suggestion, I am writing up a couple Yuletide-eligible fandoms which I recommend that people check out before Yuletide.

BATTLE OF RED CLIFF PART 1 & PART 2 ENGLISH SUBTITLES - 2 DVDS. Thrilling battles with extra-cool strategies, a sense of humor, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung being extremely slashy at each other, and the chance to painlessly learn the Cliff Notes version of some important Chinese history and literature. What's not to love?

Dreamsnake, by Vonda N. McIntyre, is post-apocalyptic biological sf in which a doctor named Snake travels with her actual snakes, which have been genetically modified so that their bites can deliver medication. She encounters non-medical problems in the communities she meets as well, which she also tries to help with if she can. Very humane and compassionate, and the biology is pretty cool. If I request this, I'd be asking for the further or earlier adventures of Snake.

Tale Of The Five: The Sword And The Dragon. Diane Duane's perpetually unfinished (though luckily stand-alone) series begins with The Door Into Fire. In an intriguing world where polyamory and all other sorts of sexuality are totally cool with everyone, for generations only women have possessed the magic which enables great works and kills you young. But that's all beginning to change. Extremely sweet, with lots of companionship, adventure, banter, and love. Canonical gay, het, bi, lesbian, poly, and cross-species relationships.


Down a Dark Hall, a YA novel by Lois Duncan. This combines the genres of Gothic with "school for psychic kids," and so of course is a favorite of mine. Four teenage girls with special talents are trapped in a spooky boarding school run by a headmistress with an agenda. There's an obligatory hot young man (the headmistress' son) but really it's all about the relationships between the girls and how they cope with the situation.

Dreamsongs: Volume I and Dreamsongs: Volume II. Early in his career, George R R Martin wrote a bunch of lush, romantic, colorful space opera stories in a milieu called "The Thousand Worlds." They were full of weird planetscapes, vast distances, incomprehensible aliens, and an air of romantic tragedy and sense of wonder. If I ask for this, I'm looking for the setting and atmosphere; they all have different characters because they tend to conclude with the death, despair, or retirement of the protagonist, though there are exceptions.

Fire Dancer, by Ann Maxwell. The sequels are Dancer's Luck and Dancer's Illusion. Romantic space opera with cool aliens, including an adorably vain translating, shapeshifting snake, and a compelling romance. Rheba and Kirtn are the last survivors of their race -- or so they think! -- after their sun went nova. They are two races in a symbiotic relationship. Rheba is a humanoid dancer, which means she has psychic powers -- in her case, the control of "fire" (heat, electricity, etc.) Kirtn is a catlike humanoid, who can help Rheba control her powers. They are madly in love, but for complex reasons which, for once, actually make sense, they both think it's one-sided and are afraid to ask. Cue tons of adventure and smoldering (literally) glances.

Please comment or write your own post reccing small and eligible fandoms.
On [livejournal.com profile] liviapenn's suggestion, I am writing up a couple Yuletide-eligible fandoms which I recommend that people check out before Yuletide.

BATTLE OF RED CLIFF PART 1 & PART 2 ENGLISH SUBTITLES - 2 DVDS. Thrilling battles with extra-cool strategies, a sense of humor, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung being extremely slashy at each other, and the chance to painlessly learn the Cliff Notes version of some important Chinese history and literature. What's not to love?

Dreamsnake, by Vonda N. McIntyre, is post-apocalyptic biological sf in which a doctor named Snake travels with her actual snakes, which have been genetically modified so that their bites can deliver medication. She encounters non-medical problems in the communities she meets as well, which she also tries to help with if she can. Very humane and compassionate, and the biology is pretty cool. If I request this, I'd be asking for the further or earlier adventures of Snake.

Tale Of The Five: The Sword And The Dragon. Diane Duane's perpetually unfinished (though luckily stand-alone) series begins with The Door Into Fire. In an intriguing world where polyamory and all other sorts of sexuality are totally cool with everyone, for generations only women have possessed the magic which enables great works and kills you young. But that's all beginning to change. Extremely sweet, with lots of companionship, adventure, banter, and love. Canonical gay, het, bi, lesbian, poly, and cross-species relationships.


Down a Dark Hall, a YA novel by Lois Duncan. This combines the genres of Gothic with "school for psychic kids," and so of course is a favorite of mine. Four teenage girls with special talents are trapped in a spooky boarding school run by a headmistress with an agenda. There's an obligatory hot young man (the headmistress' son) but really it's all about the relationships between the girls and how they cope with the situation.

Dreamsongs: Volume I and Dreamsongs: Volume II. Early in his career, George R R Martin wrote a bunch of lush, romantic, colorful space opera stories in a milieu called "The Thousand Worlds." They were full of weird planetscapes, vast distances, incomprehensible aliens, and an air of romantic tragedy and sense of wonder. If I ask for this, I'm looking for the setting and atmosphere; they all have different characters because they tend to conclude with the death, despair, or retirement of the protagonist, though there are exceptions.

Fire Dancer, by Ann Maxwell. The sequels are Dancer's Luck and Dancer's Illusion. Romantic space opera with cool aliens, including an adorably vain translating, shapeshifting snake, and a compelling romance. Rheba and Kirtn are the last survivors of their race -- or so they think! -- after their sun went nova. They are two races in a symbiotic relationship. Rheba is a humanoid dancer, which means she has psychic powers -- in her case, the control of "fire" (heat, electricity, etc.) Kirtn is a catlike humanoid, who can help Rheba control her powers. They are madly in love, but for complex reasons which, for once, actually make sense, they both think it's one-sided and are afraid to ask. Cue tons of adventure and smoldering (literally) glances.

Please comment or write your own post reccing small and eligible fandoms.
rachelmanija: (Autumn: small leaves)
( Jun. 23rd, 2009 12:53 pm)
I know I'm not the only one thinking about this already!

I have two interesting thoughts for Yuletide requests next year.

One, if Anne McCaffrey is still eligible, would be to fix the horrible misogynist fate of Mirrim, who was one of my very favorite characters in the early books. I was thrilled when she impressed a fighting dragon. But lo! She then turned into a horrible bitch whom everyone hated, and the nicest thing even her best friend Menolly could say about her was that she might be nicer once she got raped laid.

My possible Yuletide request: Write dragonrider Mirrim the way McCaffrey should have written her.

Dragonsong (The Harper Hall Triology)

Two, George R. R. Martin's "Thousand Worlds" series: his '70s space opera stories, all far-flung planets and romantic sense of wonder and doom. Original characters would be fine, since his mostly die.

Dreamsongs: Volume I

ETA: Three thoughts.

Three, Red Cliff. Zhuge Liang/Zhou Yu. Slashy slash slash!

View Red Cliff on Amazon: BATTLE OF RED CLIFF PART 1 & PART 2 ENGLISH SUBTITLES - 2 DVDS

What are your preliminary desires?
rachelmanija: (Autumn: small leaves)
( Jun. 23rd, 2009 12:53 pm)
I know I'm not the only one thinking about this already!

I have two interesting thoughts for Yuletide requests next year.

One, if Anne McCaffrey is still eligible, would be to fix the horrible misogynist fate of Mirrim, who was one of my very favorite characters in the early books. I was thrilled when she impressed a fighting dragon. But lo! She then turned into a horrible bitch whom everyone hated, and the nicest thing even her best friend Menolly could say about her was that she might be nicer once she got raped laid.

My possible Yuletide request: Write dragonrider Mirrim the way McCaffrey should have written her.

Dragonsong (The Harper Hall Triology)

Two, George R. R. Martin's "Thousand Worlds" series: his '70s space opera stories, all far-flung planets and romantic sense of wonder and doom. Original characters would be fine, since his mostly die.

Dreamsongs: Volume I

ETA: Three thoughts.

Three, Red Cliff. Zhuge Liang/Zhou Yu. Slashy slash slash!

View Red Cliff on Amazon: BATTLE OF RED CLIFF PART 1 & PART 2 ENGLISH SUBTITLES - 2 DVDS

What are your preliminary desires?
Mely jumped off the bridge, so I will too. Since I despair of ever having time to write up everything individually, I have given brief reviews to the whole month below.

If anything's missing an author, it is because I am too lazy to look them up. If there's no comment, I already reviewed it here.

Three books got the comment wow, terrible! Guess it was a bad month for fiction. )
Mely jumped off the bridge, so I will too. Since I despair of ever having time to write up everything individually, I have given brief reviews to the whole month below.

If anything's missing an author, it is because I am too lazy to look them up. If there's no comment, I already reviewed it here.

Three books got the comment wow, terrible! Guess it was a bad month for fiction. )
At long last and as promised, I am beginning to write up one of my more guilty pleasures, the 15-book (or so) Wild Card series edited by George R. R. Martin.

The premise: As an experiment, aliens infect a small percentage of the population of Earth with a virus, killing most, hideously transforming most of the ones who don’t die, and giving a few of the survivors superpowers. The ones who die are said to have drawn the black queen, the tormented mutants are jokers, and the lucky superpowered few are aces.

One of the aliens who had opposed the experiment, a red-headed, wussy, whiny, horndog dandy but genius scientist and doctor, who goes by the name of Dr. Tachyon, moves to Earth to try to pick up the pieces. Pretty much everyone on Earth blames him and hates him, natch. He feels incredibly guilty and pities himself. Repeat for sixteen volumes.

The series: It started out as an anthology of short stories set in the universe with some continuing characters, but eventually evolved to include co-written novels, solo novels, long continuing plotlines, and so forth. It also originally started with the concept of exploring what the world would really be like if some people had superpowers. This idea seems to have gotten lost somewhere around volume six, or possibly volume two as that one involves an alien invasion. Anyway, after that, the series became increasingly outlandish and divorced from anything resembling realism.

The reason it’s a pleasure: I love stories about people with powers, especially if they’re the maybe a curse, maybe a blessing, I can help out the neighborhood but not save the world sort. Some of the writers involved were very good and did excellent work, with stand-outs including Walter Jon Williams, George R. R. Martin, and Roger Zelazny.

The reason the pleasure is guilty: Where do I even start? With the half-Japanese, half-black pimp Fortunato, who calls his hookers geisha and gets superpowers via Tantric sex? (I vividly recall reading the gay necrophilia scene under the desk during my high school Spanish class, and thinking that if anyone at school ever actually flipped through the book, it would be all over for me.) With the bit where Dr. Tachyon gets body-switched with a teenage girl, then raped and impregnated by his psychotic grandson and ends up giving birth in a spaceship orbiting his home planet? With the often-obscenely graphic violence, the often-creepy explicit sex, the often-embarrassing portrayal of racial minorities and women, and the often-awful writing?

Nevertheless, the series exerted a strange magnetic pull on me, and I own the entire thing, and re-read bits now and then.

Volume 1: Wild Cards.

Probably the best volume and one of the few which doesn’t take place entirely in modern times, but begins with the release of the virus in the 1940s. My favorite parts are George R. R. Martin’s clever pastiches of real authors from Studs Terkel to Tom Wolfe, Walter Jon Williams HUAC-era tragedy (which was nominated for a Nebula), and Roger Zelazny’s story introducing Croyd Crenson, who gets a new body with new curse/blessing powers every time he sleeps, and consequently becomes a speed addict.

This volume also introduces Lewis Shiner’s Fortunato the pimp, who may or may not be an attempt at a blaxsploitation pastiche, Martin’s Tom Tudbury, an incredibly powerful telekinetic and nice guy who is also the biggest wuss ever, and Stephen Leigh’s evil politician Gregg Hartmann, who is unfortunately a continuing villain. Unfortunately, because his power is to mind-control people, and can do it permanently so that for the rest of their lives they will always act as his minions even when he's not around. This makes him more powerful than anyone else in the entire series, which drains away all the suspense. Also, he is a sadist and any story involving him will feature extreme violence, especially toward women. The volume also introduces Brennan, a white Vietnam vet who is a ninja, and who rescues a sweet, helpless Vietnamese woman. Um, yeah. But I have to say, I liked the ninja. Especially since he has no powers, but can beat up people who do.

Volume 2: Aces High

In which insect-aliens invade Earth. Martin writes some stories about yet another alien who is living perfectly openly on Earth, because everyone who sees him figures he’s just another freaky-looking joker. Walter Jon Williams writes about an android, Modular Man, and Roger Zelazny does a caper story in which Croyd Crenson gets hired to steal a rapidly disintegrating alien corpse. All of these are really fun. Meanwhile, Tom Tudbury continues to be a secret hero, and the most ineffectual person ever in his public identity. This does not change over sixteen volumes, so this will be the last time I will ever mention him.

Volume 3: Jokers Wild

Jokertown celebrates Wild Card Day, all hell breaks loose. The embarrassing ethnic stereotype du jour is Roulette, the black call girl who can kill men during sex. Some super-powerful dude wreaks havoc because he’s the villain of the volume. Oh, and Pat Cadigan has a good story about a girl who can control water. I mock, but this volume is also a lot of fun.

More later, as I feel like it, but I will eventually work my way through the entire series, because the incestuous interstellar MPREG (male pregnancy)-via-bodyswitched rape does not happen till something like volume twelve, and I can’t deprive you of that.
At long last and as promised, I am beginning to write up one of my more guilty pleasures, the 15-book (or so) Wild Card series edited by George R. R. Martin.

The premise: As an experiment, aliens infect a small percentage of the population of Earth with a virus, killing most, hideously transforming most of the ones who don’t die, and giving a few of the survivors superpowers. The ones who die are said to have drawn the black queen, the tormented mutants are jokers, and the lucky superpowered few are aces.

One of the aliens who had opposed the experiment, a red-headed, wussy, whiny, horndog dandy but genius scientist and doctor, who goes by the name of Dr. Tachyon, moves to Earth to try to pick up the pieces. Pretty much everyone on Earth blames him and hates him, natch. He feels incredibly guilty and pities himself. Repeat for sixteen volumes.

The series: It started out as an anthology of short stories set in the universe with some continuing characters, but eventually evolved to include co-written novels, solo novels, long continuing plotlines, and so forth. It also originally started with the concept of exploring what the world would really be like if some people had superpowers. This idea seems to have gotten lost somewhere around volume six, or possibly volume two as that one involves an alien invasion. Anyway, after that, the series became increasingly outlandish and divorced from anything resembling realism.

The reason it’s a pleasure: I love stories about people with powers, especially if they’re the maybe a curse, maybe a blessing, I can help out the neighborhood but not save the world sort. Some of the writers involved were very good and did excellent work, with stand-outs including Walter Jon Williams, George R. R. Martin, and Roger Zelazny.

The reason the pleasure is guilty: Where do I even start? With the half-Japanese, half-black pimp Fortunato, who calls his hookers geisha and gets superpowers via Tantric sex? (I vividly recall reading the gay necrophilia scene under the desk during my high school Spanish class, and thinking that if anyone at school ever actually flipped through the book, it would be all over for me.) With the bit where Dr. Tachyon gets body-switched with a teenage girl, then raped and impregnated by his psychotic grandson and ends up giving birth in a spaceship orbiting his home planet? With the often-obscenely graphic violence, the often-creepy explicit sex, the often-embarrassing portrayal of racial minorities and women, and the often-awful writing?

Nevertheless, the series exerted a strange magnetic pull on me, and I own the entire thing, and re-read bits now and then.

Volume 1: Wild Cards.

Probably the best volume and one of the few which doesn’t take place entirely in modern times, but begins with the release of the virus in the 1940s. My favorite parts are George R. R. Martin’s clever pastiches of real authors from Studs Terkel to Tom Wolfe, Walter Jon Williams HUAC-era tragedy (which was nominated for a Nebula), and Roger Zelazny’s story introducing Croyd Crenson, who gets a new body with new curse/blessing powers every time he sleeps, and consequently becomes a speed addict.

This volume also introduces Lewis Shiner’s Fortunato the pimp, who may or may not be an attempt at a blaxsploitation pastiche, Martin’s Tom Tudbury, an incredibly powerful telekinetic and nice guy who is also the biggest wuss ever, and Stephen Leigh’s evil politician Gregg Hartmann, who is unfortunately a continuing villain. Unfortunately, because his power is to mind-control people, and can do it permanently so that for the rest of their lives they will always act as his minions even when he's not around. This makes him more powerful than anyone else in the entire series, which drains away all the suspense. Also, he is a sadist and any story involving him will feature extreme violence, especially toward women. The volume also introduces Brennan, a white Vietnam vet who is a ninja, and who rescues a sweet, helpless Vietnamese woman. Um, yeah. But I have to say, I liked the ninja. Especially since he has no powers, but can beat up people who do.

Volume 2: Aces High

In which insect-aliens invade Earth. Martin writes some stories about yet another alien who is living perfectly openly on Earth, because everyone who sees him figures he’s just another freaky-looking joker. Walter Jon Williams writes about an android, Modular Man, and Roger Zelazny does a caper story in which Croyd Crenson gets hired to steal a rapidly disintegrating alien corpse. All of these are really fun. Meanwhile, Tom Tudbury continues to be a secret hero, and the most ineffectual person ever in his public identity. This does not change over sixteen volumes, so this will be the last time I will ever mention him.

Volume 3: Jokers Wild

Jokertown celebrates Wild Card Day, all hell breaks loose. The embarrassing ethnic stereotype du jour is Roulette, the black call girl who can kill men during sex. Some super-powerful dude wreaks havoc because he’s the villain of the volume. Oh, and Pat Cadigan has a good story about a girl who can control water. I mock, but this volume is also a lot of fun.

More later, as I feel like it, but I will eventually work my way through the entire series, because the incestuous interstellar MPREG (male pregnancy)-via-bodyswitched rape does not happen till something like volume twelve, and I can’t deprive you of that.
Jody ([livejournal.com profile] canandagirl) and I scampered out of the dojo early yesterday to drive down to Huntington Beach to catch a signing by George R. R. Martin. I had once had breakfast with him in what was supposed to be a business meeting to discuss him doing a project for the Jim Henson Company, only due to some complicated tangle of circumstances, my boss never showed up and was unreachable by cell phone, and then we all got laid off from Henson immediately afterward so there was no follow-up. I enjoyed having breakfast with him, but as a meeting it was pretty disastrous.

When I was having my book signed, I reminded him of our meeting, and he said, "Oh, yeah, that was the one where your boss never showed up." "Yes," I said. "Actually, she meant to come to this signing, but... well..."

He talked for quite a while about the evolution of "A Song of Ice and Fire." He had just started writing a new novel, Avalon, when he got the idea for the first chapter of the first book, with the Stark kids finding the dire wolf pups in the snow, and started writing that instead. Then he got TV offers and set the book aside for several years. But unlike most books he set aside and then tried to return to, which previously had meant that he'd forgotten his initial inspiration and could never finish them, ASOIAF was just as fresh in his mind when he returned to it as if it had been put down the day before.

He also talked about how the series turned into a bestseller, which I found quite interesting though I don't know if the rest of the audience did. He said the first volume didn't do that great in hardcover, despite a fair amount of publicity and a book tour-- at which several stops had three people there, and one, at the bookshop cafe, had four people there, who fled as soon as his presence was announced. At another, he was upstaged by Clifford the Big Red Dog. But the paperback did better, and at that point started generating good word-of-mouth. Also, people who read the paperback and liked it frequently bought copies to give to their friends, and if their friends liked it, they bought copies to give to their friends, and it snowballed from there. Naturally, I found this very encouraging.

There was a big crowd-- about 250-- and we were given numbered wristbands for the signing, so I whiled away the time by reading books on sushi. (Jody read books on soup.) Then I wandered off to SF, and there I found the infamous venom cock
book, Touched by Venom.

I can attest that not only does the phrase "venom cock" appear in the book, it appears three times on page eight alone. Also, if you open it randomly, you are guaranteed to find one or more of the following:

a) A scene of off-putting violence.
b) Unintentionally humourous sentences, like "Understand, women do not revere the venom cock as men do."
c) Dialogue ending in "hey-o."
d) Unintentionally humourous words or phrases, such as "venom cock," "dragonwhore," or "hey-o."
e) Disgusting and obscene scenes of dragon-on-human cunnilingus and other forms of dragon-human bestiality.
f) Characters with names like "Nng-Tnk." (I read bits aloud to Jody, and at my attempt at pronouncing "Nlg-Tlc," or whatever the six-letter vowelless name was, she said, "Is that what you say when a dragon sticks its tongue in you?")

Now, if you open one of Martin's books randomly, you are very likely to find a scene of off-putting violence. You may also find a name with dodgy spelling, like Petyr or Lysa, though you will not find a name like "Nng-Tnk." But you are just as likely to find some arresting image or gripping situation or intentionally humourous dialogue. An extensive flip-through may convince you that you don't want to buy the book, but it's unlikely to prompt you to read passages aloud to your friends prefaced by "I can't believe someone published this thing." And somehow, I don't think that people who read Touched by Venom are going to press copies upon their friends.

You can write a book full of brutal violence, rape, and bad things happening to children, like Martin did. You can write a book where sex is going on in the vicinity of dragons, like Anne McCaffrey did. You can write a book with a lot of "perverse" sex, like Jacqueline Carey did. And you can write a book full of funny names, like lots of fantasy writers have. But you had better write in pretty prose like Carey's, or pile on the wish-fulfillment like McCaffrey, or tell an incredibly gripping story full of interesting characters like Martin.

Some people will be sufficiently turned off by the S & M or the violence or the man/beetle-headed woman sex or whatever off-putting elements you've included that they won't read the book no matter how good it is. But if there's enough good stuff to offset the subject matter, or you write it so that the subject matter becomes, for the space of the book, compelling or even attractive, you will get some sub-section of readers anyway-- sometimes enough to get a bestseller.

But if the prose isn't good, and the dialogue is more goofy than snappy, and the sex is ugly and disturbing, and there's lots of creepy violence, and the names and dialogue are laughable, AND the concept is freaky... you're probably going to be best-remembered as "the venom cock book." And I don't think any of us want that.
Jody ([livejournal.com profile] canandagirl) and I scampered out of the dojo early yesterday to drive down to Huntington Beach to catch a signing by George R. R. Martin. I had once had breakfast with him in what was supposed to be a business meeting to discuss him doing a project for the Jim Henson Company, only due to some complicated tangle of circumstances, my boss never showed up and was unreachable by cell phone, and then we all got laid off from Henson immediately afterward so there was no follow-up. I enjoyed having breakfast with him, but as a meeting it was pretty disastrous.

When I was having my book signed, I reminded him of our meeting, and he said, "Oh, yeah, that was the one where your boss never showed up." "Yes," I said. "Actually, she meant to come to this signing, but... well..."

He talked for quite a while about the evolution of "A Song of Ice and Fire." He had just started writing a new novel, Avalon, when he got the idea for the first chapter of the first book, with the Stark kids finding the dire wolf pups in the snow, and started writing that instead. Then he got TV offers and set the book aside for several years. But unlike most books he set aside and then tried to return to, which previously had meant that he'd forgotten his initial inspiration and could never finish them, ASOIAF was just as fresh in his mind when he returned to it as if it had been put down the day before.

He also talked about how the series turned into a bestseller, which I found quite interesting though I don't know if the rest of the audience did. He said the first volume didn't do that great in hardcover, despite a fair amount of publicity and a book tour-- at which several stops had three people there, and one, at the bookshop cafe, had four people there, who fled as soon as his presence was announced. At another, he was upstaged by Clifford the Big Red Dog. But the paperback did better, and at that point started generating good word-of-mouth. Also, people who read the paperback and liked it frequently bought copies to give to their friends, and if their friends liked it, they bought copies to give to their friends, and it snowballed from there. Naturally, I found this very encouraging.

There was a big crowd-- about 250-- and we were given numbered wristbands for the signing, so I whiled away the time by reading books on sushi. (Jody read books on soup.) Then I wandered off to SF, and there I found the infamous venom cock
book, Touched by Venom.

I can attest that not only does the phrase "venom cock" appear in the book, it appears three times on page eight alone. Also, if you open it randomly, you are guaranteed to find one or more of the following:

a) A scene of off-putting violence.
b) Unintentionally humourous sentences, like "Understand, women do not revere the venom cock as men do."
c) Dialogue ending in "hey-o."
d) Unintentionally humourous words or phrases, such as "venom cock," "dragonwhore," or "hey-o."
e) Disgusting and obscene scenes of dragon-on-human cunnilingus and other forms of dragon-human bestiality.
f) Characters with names like "Nng-Tnk." (I read bits aloud to Jody, and at my attempt at pronouncing "Nlg-Tlc," or whatever the six-letter vowelless name was, she said, "Is that what you say when a dragon sticks its tongue in you?")

Now, if you open one of Martin's books randomly, you are very likely to find a scene of off-putting violence. You may also find a name with dodgy spelling, like Petyr or Lysa, though you will not find a name like "Nng-Tnk." But you are just as likely to find some arresting image or gripping situation or intentionally humourous dialogue. An extensive flip-through may convince you that you don't want to buy the book, but it's unlikely to prompt you to read passages aloud to your friends prefaced by "I can't believe someone published this thing." And somehow, I don't think that people who read Touched by Venom are going to press copies upon their friends.

You can write a book full of brutal violence, rape, and bad things happening to children, like Martin did. You can write a book where sex is going on in the vicinity of dragons, like Anne McCaffrey did. You can write a book with a lot of "perverse" sex, like Jacqueline Carey did. And you can write a book full of funny names, like lots of fantasy writers have. But you had better write in pretty prose like Carey's, or pile on the wish-fulfillment like McCaffrey, or tell an incredibly gripping story full of interesting characters like Martin.

Some people will be sufficiently turned off by the S & M or the violence or the man/beetle-headed woman sex or whatever off-putting elements you've included that they won't read the book no matter how good it is. But if there's enough good stuff to offset the subject matter, or you write it so that the subject matter becomes, for the space of the book, compelling or even attractive, you will get some sub-section of readers anyway-- sometimes enough to get a bestseller.

But if the prose isn't good, and the dialogue is more goofy than snappy, and the sex is ugly and disturbing, and there's lots of creepy violence, and the names and dialogue are laughable, AND the concept is freaky... you're probably going to be best-remembered as "the venom cock book." And I don't think any of us want that.
It was coincidental that I read these two books in succession, but they turned out to make a good paired reading as fantasies of ecology which deal with how altered humans fit into a changing environment.

Peeps, which will be available in August, is one of the more well-worked out rationalized vampire books I've read. (My other favorites in the genre are George R. R. Martin's Fevre Dream and Barbara Hambly's Those Who Hunt the Night and Traveling with the Dead.)

Nineteen-year-old Cal comes to New York City from Texas, has a one-night stand with a gothy-looking woman, develops superhuman strength, agility, and the ability to see in the dark... and then finds, to his horror, that all the women he has sex with after that turn into insane cannibals. The top-secret city agency that deals with problems like this contacts him and explains that he's a peep, or "parasite-positive." Vampirism, you see, is caused by a parasite which is transmitted sexually or even through kissing, and while a few lucky people make a good adjustment to it, most go nuts, hate everything they used to love, and end up living in sewers and sucking rat blood. Cal is recruited into the agency and sent to track down his vampirized exes... and the woman who gave the parasite to him.

His narrative is interspersed with absolutely disgusting accounts of real-life parasites, some of which grossed me out so much that I had to skim them. There is, however, a point to those interludes, and if you can read even enough of them to get the gist of how those real parasites work, it will make Peeps that much more rich and compelling. Though Cal's parasite tries to spread itself by making him constantly horny but he's unable to so much as kiss for fear of infecting his partner, this is is a notably non-angsty vampire book. Though I didn't find the characters quite as compelling as I did in Midnighters, Peeps isn't so much about Cal, his frustratingly attractive female ally, and a whole bunch of peeps as it is about the natural world, how humans relate to it, and the question of how much of our behavior, thoughts, and personality is some intangible "us," and how much is dictated by biological processes... or even the occasional parasite. Peeps has a light, brisk, casual tone and is often quite funny, but it's also got quite a lot to say-- little of which is trite or obvious, and none of which is preachy.

Ruth Park is the author of one of my all-time favorite timeslip novels, Playing Beatie Bow, in which an Australian girl is transported back to Victorian times. It's wonderful, and none of her other books that I've read have lived up to it. My Sister Sif is about fourteen-year-old Erika and her wispy older sister Sif, who are the product of a marriage between an Australian man and a Polynesian woman. When their father dies, they are sent away from their island paradise to Australia, where Sif is made unhealthy and miserable by the pressures of modern life. So they return to the island, where it turns out that they're merpeople (sort of-- the exact nature of the merfolk is Park's most original invention) and would live happily ever after, except that the oceans are polluted and the saintly whales and loving dolphins are dying and the merpeople are going to have to flee to some corner of the world where the chemicals won't kill them. Erika isn't merperson enough to survive the journey, but Sif is torn for a different reason: she's in love with a perfectly wonderful human man, Henry.

I had two problems with this book, but in a sense they're the same problem: the utterly marvelous Henry and the too-good-for-this-cruel-world Sif annoyed the hell out me, as did the wise, peaceful, spiritual whales and dolphins; and though I agree that pollution and environmental destruction are bad, I still felt preached at.

In Park's world-view, nature is good and benevolent and peaceful, children are instinctively good and wise and unselfish until society teaches them to be selfish and cruel, and ecosystems just exist until humans start destroying them. In Westerfeld's, nature can be both amazing and horrifying (frequently at the same time), humans are part of the ecosystem, those ecosytems have incredibly complex means of self-regulating that may be destroyed by human interference-- including the well-intentioned kind-- and if you look closely at any ecology, you will find that it's basically things eating each other, often in really icky ways. Having grown up in a rural part of India, I lean more toward Westerfeld's view on nature. But apart from that, Westerfeld also wrote the better book.
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