Douglas Milewski is a speculative fiction writer who focuses on the human over the epic. In style, his novels harken back to the '70s and '80s, taking inspiration from Gene Wofe, Ursula LeGuin, and Tanith Lee.
Freedom's Choice (1997) by Anne McCaffrey is about 295 pages too long. Every single word is utterly forgettable. Every conversation is dull. The tome reeks of pointlessness basted in apathy. How a writer of McCaffrey's statue could forget to use plot, pacing, and other basic literary conventions is beyond me. Emotionally, the book is a straight line, never deviating from its steady state. You never doubt anything because the books essentially goes nowhere. Yes, stuff happens, but you don't care.
We can broadly categorize religion into the following categories, any or all of which may apply in any fantasy world.Religion is literally real.Religion is based on a lie.Religion is discovered to be true.Religion cannot be either proved or disproved.Religion is flavor text.Nobody talks about religion.Religion Is RealIn a fantasy world where the gods are real, the gods are real. Their existence is incontrovertible to everyone except the crazies. The impact of this truth cannot be understated. I
What is religion? Perhaps if I had a full semester, post-grad class, I could define the term "religion." The best that I can say is that it’s complicated. It’s very complicated. This complication arises from two main sources: no two cultures define religion exactly alike, and religion encompasses all of what makes us human, which goes past unreasonably broad and dives straight into incomprehensible.
At our most primitive, the earliest humans made no distinction betwee
Freedom's Landing (1995) by Anne McCaffey is an SF beach read. Give yourself a large supply of numerous munchies and enough alcohol to make anything entertaining, and you too will be entertained. Skip the alcohol, and you'll have to face the unavoidable fact that this book has almost no plot, the characters are mostly forgettable, it centers around a romance with zero spark, and the science part tops out at "solar power." Aside from that, it's a well written beach read, with a perky he
Everyone thinks that they know religion. I've haven't yet met anyone off the street who doesn't think of themselves as expert as the most knowledgeable expert. We live in a culture steeped in religion, so its natural to feel like an expert. I honor your experience, yet I hope to take you beyond that into something new.
I'll use the analogy of connoisseurs and chefs. The connoisseur is an expert of food and its qualities, learning to appreciate the experience in a deep manner. Even w
The Blue Sword (1982) by Robin McKinley is the first of her two Damar novels. In this fantasy-romance, a young woman is swept away by a desert king, but only to train her for war.
Robin McKinley seems to have two modes for me: she's either engaging or long winded. This books falls onto long-winded, as she could easily have told this tale in half the number of words. While nicely written, as is usual for Robin, for me the story falls into the dull and tedious category, with an extra
The Well of Shiuan (1978) by C.J. Cherryh continues the tale of Morgaine and Vanye. Morgaine is an otherworldly sort, dedicated to the destruction of gates, and Vanye is the sword and sorcery minion who's out point of view character for most of the story.
This was her second publication, and here she addressed many issues that haunted her first work. In this book, she creates a much better feel for location and place, she better articulates goals, implications, and moral conflicts,
Alphadia 2 (2013) is an old school RPG for the Android operating system. By the aspect ration, I must assume that the game was ported from a platform with a squarer screen. The game is a direct sequel to Alphadia, featuring the same world and several characters from the last game, such as Enah, the android. Most of the game mechanics remain identical, including rings and infusing.
The overall play difficulty of this sequel was noticeably more challenging than the first installment.
The Phantom Tollbooth (1961) by Norton Juster is a charming morality play written as a boy’s improbable adventure. While often silly, descending into lexigraphic literalism with aplomb, the story engages that childish delight in bending, folding, and mutilating possibility, while at the same time using absurdism to show the natural limits of those possibilities. Written in a light and breezy style, the story rolls along at a steady pace, ready to engage minds with short attentions and big imagin
The Gate of Ivrel (1976) by C.J. Cherryh reads like something old and something new. The stiff writing style, formalized language, and dense narrative reminds me of mid-20th century fantasy and SF that was rapidly falling from fashion in the 70's. Written in the sword and sorcery style of the day, the tale primarily revolves around humans, and just how bad humans are to each other before any magic gets into the mix. We have all the prerequisite oaths, oath breaking, tribal codes, and exaggerated
I was thinking about the story of Perseus the other day, and what gobsmacked me about the story was the absolutely pointless rescue of Andromeda. What was behind that? What narrative purpose did it serve? The only answer that I could come up with was that a queen was a necessary component of ruling as a king. In that vein, I will posit the Greek Ruling Couple meta-narrative.
According to Greek myth, Zeus was the king of the gods, while Hera was the queen. You can't pick and choose,
I'm a gamer. I've been gaming since 1984 with Wizardry! However, I usually don't refer to myself as a hardcore gamer because I started gaming before that term was invented. (Yeah, call me old.) Back in the 90's, I got tired of spending lots of games and computers, so I decided to always buy from the discount gaming rack and only buy cheap computers. The combination worked beautifully. I called this cheap core gaming.
Back then, with massive jumps in graphics every year, many people
I see a few tools used to show sexism in narrative. Used correctly, they can yield useful information, but used incorrectly, or maliciously, show sexism anywhere the user wants to put sexism.
The Bechdel test is sometimes used to show sexism, but it's there to show one particular form of sexism, that of assigning parts in motion pictures. The ultimate purpose of the test is to increase the frequency of women in film and provide more job opportunities. The basic assertion is that if
Bored of the Rings (1969) was a shameless, opportunistic, money-grubbing attempt to make money off the then-current Lord of the Rings craze. It says so right in the introduction. Created by Harvard Lampoon, the parody throws Tolkien's work into the mud, along with popular culture, some stray dogs, an itinerant card shark, and a frat full of drunk, oversexed men with beer goggles. The results is about as stupid as you'd expect, with unexpected moments of the sublime.
We can use both Patriarchy and Matriarchy as meta-narrative. Don't get these meta-narratives confused with the same things in real life. Meta-narratives are rather idealized and tuned to work inside stories.Patriarchy or Matriarchy (P/M) is the natural arrangement of power within the society because the idealized characteristics of P/M are naturally the best for managing society. Society works best when P/M is honored. The other choice is naturally the worst arrangement of society because i
* Disclaimer: I'm not an expert in chivalric narratives, so I my opinion below may be suspect.
Chivalry is often thought sexist, but once you look at its structure, it turns into a far more interesting and complex beast.
We know Chivalry from the middle ages, where knights rode off to rescue ladies, which today is taken as sexist behavior. But if we hold sexism up against an informed looked at themedieval period chivalric narrative, does this claim hold up?
We could define sexism as a meta-narrative. If it's there, it's sexism, but if it's not, it's not.
We could use an exclusive definition. A work isn't sexist if it include the following. If any of the items below aren't met, the work is sexist.Women have their own agency.Women have their own agendas.Women are not dependent on men.At first, that sounds good, but it turns sexism into a binary, which isn't useful. This definition binds more than it grants, especially as many stories hav
The Misogynist style novel has some very clear elements necessary to make it misogynist.Alpha-male. It's great to be an alpha-male.Non-alpha males are there to be defeated/die. They don't rate.Using your stereotypical male traits is the only successful strategy to progress the story.It sucks to be a woman.Women need to be put in their place.Every woman secretly feel the need to be put in her place.The villain is an alpha male (because nobody else can stand up to an alpha)[sometimes] Alpha-
The Tower and The Hive (1999) by Anne McCaffrey wraps up her tower series with the same overly fluffed prose as her other four novels. The space fleets investigate Hive worlds, come to conclusions, and work out a solution to their problems so that they can live happily ever after. That's pretty much what you'd expect out of a final book.
Sharing all the flaws of the previous tower books, this book holds no surprises or revelations, softballing the pertinent moral and ethical questio
Lyon's Pride (1994) by Anne McCaffrey, disappointed me on every level. It's like a pretty new car that's a lemon under the hood. It's like one of those post-war British films with slow pacing and no soundtrack. You see everything getting discussed and decided, whether it helps the story or not. There was literally nothing happening across most of the chapters, no real feeling of beginning, no real feeling of uncertainty, and an even vaguer feeling of the end.
The Girlfriend in a Refrigerator is a trope used in the comic industry. It's a relatively rare trope because it's hard for any title to use the trope more than once. In this trope, the hero's girlfriend/wife/etc is killed while he's away in order to make the hero feel helpless, to essentially immaculate him. Without a symbolic woman, he ceases to be a symbolic man. He must then learn to be a man on his own again while travelling a darker road than he normally would, one gritter with revenge and
Damia's Children (1993) by Anne McCaffrey continues her Tower and Hive series. Rather than pseodo-biographies of the title characters, this book is a series of novellas focusing of four of Damia's children. Rather than giving us a long, dull slog, this book gives us four snappy, shorter stories, forming an actual narrative arc. While still a little simplistic, as the general text and texture of the whole series is rather a throwback to 50's SF, the simpleness generally works better in the contex
Portal 2 (2011) is a first person, puzzle solving video game that attempts to catch lightning in the bottle twice. Like Portal, it features Chell (our silent protagonist), a portal gun that create teleportation portals from point A to Point B, malevolent testing computers, deathly hazards, and a story. Unlike the original, it doesn't catch lightning in a bottle, but don't take that as a criticism. Valve took what worked in the first game, added more puzzles and narrative, kept the wickedly evil
Let's pee on the electric fence! It's time to talk Manic Pixie Dream Girls (MPDG). Rather than define this myself, check out Wikipedia's article.
The structure behind this phenomena is just fascinating.
The MPDG comes about in relatively few cases. You need a story about a main character in a rut, with another character who comes along with the energy to get him out of a rut (the manic pixie dream girl). Usually, this is a romantic comedy, but sometimes it's a life expl