Literarature, Science Fiction and Fantasy Books


#1

I thought this subject deserved a topic of its own. If as much because I was feeling bad about my derail of the other topic.

I’m just going to quote Jason (and still waiting on those examples from him.) Feel free to copy/paste your posts over here from the other thread though.


The Worst Young Adult Novels You've Read
#2

What are we supposed to post here? Is it just supposed to be a continuation of a discussion from another thread?


#3

Waaah? What happened to the rest of my post?

@Shoelip Well, originally, said post was longer, but now it isn’t and I’m inclined to just delete the thing if I can’t find the longer chunk.

It was meant to be a discussion of literature, especially pertaining to the sci-fi and fantasy genres.

And I was all “meh, literature, literature is boring, I hate literature, and I especially dislike the notion that sci-fi and fantasy can’t be considered literature.” It’s like, sci-fi and fantasy movies rarely get nominated for the best picture Oscar.

And those books everyone suggested, of those I read, I didn’t like any of them. Literature to me is boring, heavily written, inaccessible, not fun at all. It’s elitist and pretentious. It was the books I was forced to read at school which tried to make me hate reading. (And I loved reading). Books filled with doom and gloom and all these terrible things that kept on happening, until death.

Literature is one of those meals at an extremely expensive restaurant, made with tweezers and fancy things arranged artfully on a plate, meant to be thought of, but if you decide to ask for a bottle of ketchup, or even some salt, so you render it to your own taste the chef will chase you out with his carving knife.

But my lack of reading literature, is likely also why my own writing isn’t so great and I find writing description extremely difficult.


#4

Literature is rarely fun,but sometimes it can be a good book.


#5

Back at high school, all my classmates were fawning over how wonderful Russian realists(Dostoyevsky and such) were and how interesting that literature was.

What I always thought was that Dostoyevsky had a great plot there in The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment - but completely and utterly ruined everything with those horribly long and detailed descriptions which made me turn away from those books. v.v Because I’m really more interested in what the characters are doing and how that is making them feel than how exactly the city looked on that particular evening or how many chairs there were in a room. :stuck_out_tongue:

I love descriptions of the characters’ emotional state and all and I do hate it when the writer skips over those and doesn’t pay attention to how exactly e.g. killing someone made a character feel, sure. But I really, really, really, really hate when sceneries, cities, rooms and all are described in any detail, at all.


#6

I have to weigh in on this topic. I was an English major in college, because I love to read and write, and there were times in the last couple of years when I seriously wondered if I shouldn’t be an English major after all. Some literature is fine–I actually really, really love Shakespeare–but I find a lot of it to be boring, pretentious, and downright painful to read. In fact, how you described it (“elitist and pretentious… doom and gloom and all these terrible things”) is how I feel, too.

Maybe that’s a bad thing for an author to say, but I like to read the same things I like to write, and “literary” is not my genre.

So, let me put it this way: I hate a lot of literature, and I’ve had stories published. You don’t need to force yourself through that stuff to become a better writer.

I also suffer from problems writing description, but I’ve been getting better at it. My current mentor (I’m in a graduate program for Writing Popular Fiction, which basically means they’re teaching us how to write the fun stuff people actually enjoy reading) is a science fiction writer, and he taught a class on Description that really helped me see it as something that can be fun–and it also taught me that I should write descriptions that are meaningful, instead of the sorts of things I’d skim or skip when I’m reading.

What genres do you like? Fantasy and science fiction? Read books in those genres. If you want to write something like that, reading in your own genre will be incredibly helpful. The greatest inspirations to me weren’t authors I had to read in school, but Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft, C.S. Lewis, and Brandon Sanderson. Most of my science fiction collection is Star Wars and Halo, and the rest of my bookshelves are packed with fantasy adventures. Terry Pratchett, Diana Wynne Jones, Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, Michael A. Stackpole–these authors have taught me more than those dreaded names that made me shudder through English classes ever did.


#7

“Literature” is a big fuzzy-edge set, similar to “Sci-fi” – nobody agrees exactly what all in included.

As to Lit being over-written, pretentious and gloomy, etc. Yeah that’s true of a lot of it, but certainly not all. As a guy who almost exclusively reads sci-fi, with a side of fantasy and mystery, i took some grad Lit classes as an elective and found that sometimes “Inaccessible” books are really worth the trouble of putting in the effort to understand them.

Of course different books require different sets of background knowledge. A recent sci-fi book will assume you have a grasp on all sorts of imaginary technologies and ideas, that would have 30-40 years ago been considered a clever and novel enough idea to be the core of a whole book.

Similary different Lit books assume you have different sets of knowledge, Greek and Roman Mythology for instance. If you don’t have that background it will be tough going.

But anyway, to up your writing game you don’t need to dive into the snobbiest, leads accessible examples of Lit. Just go for some books that are a bit more literary than your normal fare. Give a little more effort to understand them, and how they put words together.


#8

@SamLienhard I am rather envious of that idea of a course that teaches how to write popular fiction, particularly description.

You have unfortunately gotten me side-tracked by mentioning Shakespeare. I think Shakespeare only really comes alive when it’s spoken out loud, when you can hear the poetry of it. And I think it’s strange that it’s so enduring that it’s become the epitome of fine literature, when it was meant to be performed.

I was just rewatching a video about Shakespeare on youtube and the original dialect the plays were spoken in, compared to received pronunciation, which I found utterly fascinating a few years back. (I’m really rather ignorant about Shakespeare, other than the couple of plays we read by him in school). I ended up following another link from there and I suspect I’ll be all evening at watching them.

Do you think in a few hundred years time anyone will be espousing film scripts as the highlight of our own generation’s literature? Or maybe games?

I think it also brings to mind the suggestion made in the other thread about audio books, which I do think was such a great one. I used to love audio books back when I could parse them properly. They’re wonderfully immersive and bring the story to life in different ways than reading them.

You know, you’re the first person to actually mention authors that I love.

I love Terry Pratchett. His Discworld books appear to be just silly comic-fantasy at first glance, but they’re clever in their humour, and he explores issues, such as the nature of war, technological progress, religion, racism, sexism, power, society itself . I enjoy his characters. I especially love Tiffany Aching, for all that those are his young adult books, she’s one of my favourite characters in any book series.

I enjoy Diana Wynne Jones. (And I’ve just discovered there are actually sequels to Howl’s Moving Castle so I might seek those out.)

I actually enjoy reading a lot of young adult fiction. Even the stuff that I’m well aware is of little literary merit. It’s fun, and I love having these glimpses into future worlds where the science doesn’t get too heavy and I can enjoy the story.

I like science fiction that explores the social sciences, as opposed to the hard-tech stuff. I love Ursula Le Guin, her short story collection, The Birthday of the World. It’s a wonderful exploration of sexuality and gender. I was somewhat disappointed in The Left Hand of Darkness, in so much as it had been blown up to be amazing, and I found it disappointing, but in ways that the stories in The Birthday of the World address. And even saying it was disappointing isn’t to say I thought it was bad. I preferred The Dispossessed, which again is how I like my sci-fi, an exploration of possibilities in the future and I enjoyed seeing a working anarchy. I liked the premise of The Lathe of Heaven. Does Ursula Le Guin count as literature? I also love that she embraces the fantasy/sci-fi label.

I do tend to prefer short stories and single books over huge long epics with 10 books and no end in sight.

I enjoyed Lev Grossman’s The Magicians Trilogy (which I only read so I could discuss it with a friend). I hated the main character, and certain other aspects, but I think it’s a fascinating deconstruction of the whole idea of the chosen one hero and one of the best examples of a character journey I’ve seen. (I still hate the main character but I can appreciate he went on that journey.) I’m not sure if it serves as as good a deconstruction of Narnia and Harry Potter as it tries to though.

I’d take The Hunger Games over Brave New World and 1984 any day. (Although it can sit next to Battle Royale since I’m not picking out of the two of those). I loved Katniss Everdeen as the sort of heroine we rarely see, and how the gender roles in the book were reversed.

As for quality of writing, I think Catherynne Valente’s writing is such beautiful and evocative poetry, and The Orphan’s Tales, is dreamlike in the way it slowly reveals the layers upon layers of stories.

In general, I prefer reading books with female main characters, or anything with some sort of queer content to it. I really dislike grimdark, stories in which lots of people die, chosen one heroes who girls fling themselves at, and epic sagas that go on for dozens of books.


#9

I’m curious, which inaccessible books and what made them worth the effort?

Are we speaking mainstream literature or the genre stuff? Because I find the idea of mainstream requiring that amusing. Since Greek and Roman Mythology is filled with such wonderful fantasy. I loved mythology, mostly Greek and Norse. Although not any of the actual translated epics, just the more accessible rewritten stories.


#10

In my book. (: The Dispossessed is fantastic. Also loved her Earthsea books (well, the first and third of them, anyway. I should go back and see if the second and fourth will have grown on me with time).

And see, it’s because you like Hunger Games (and Choice of Rebels, for that matter) that I keep on giving shouts out to books I’d count as “grimdark” because you might like some of them. (: I mean, not to spoil Hunger Games, but it’s pretty grim. And dark.


#11

@FairyGodfeather If you’re interested in the program (I can’t resist a little promotion, since I love it so much), it’s at Seton Hill. It’s a great program, and it’s open to writers in all the popular genres–fantasy, science fiction, horror, romance, mystery, young adult, thrillers, and probably some that I’m forgetting.

About Shakespeare, I’m a weirdo who read the plays by myself when I was in high school. XD

I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve had three classes, one as an undergrad and two as a graduate student, that included popular movies among the “texts” being studied. And storytelling in video games is really on the rise. There’s the whole “are video games art” debate, and that’s drawn more attention to how stories are presented. Plus, you’ve got people like me who draw connections to video games on a regular basis.

I never listen to audio books–I can’t focus my attention on something that’s audio-only.

Terry Pratchett is brilliant. I know some people who avoid his books because they’re fantasy. If those people would just give them a chance, they’d realize that alongside the fantasy is not only a very clever sense of humor, but also social commentary and many deep subjects. I also enjoy the Tiffany Aching books, although Death is my favorite Discworld character.

The sequels to Howl’s Moving Castle were good. If you’ve never read her Chrestomanci books, I definitely recommend those, too.

I’m afraid I’ve only read one story by Ursula Le Guin, and it was so long ago I barely remember it. I keep meaning to give her books another try.

:wink: It feels odd to say this, since I’m a horror writer, but I also have some issues with “grimdark” stories, which is why I couldn’t really get into Game of Thrones. It’s also one of the reasons Brandon Sanderson is my favorite author right now, because even when bad things happen in his books, I’m always left with a sense of hope and optimism. (Although he’s currently working on a huge, epic, no-end-in-sight series, I strongly recommend the Mistborn trilogy. I adored them. They also have a female main character, which you said you prefer.)


#12

I don’t want to spoil Mistborn, which I also thought was terrific – but it left you with a sense of hope and optimism? I remember Books 2 and 3 as an escalation of awfulness and despair, only barely mitigated at the end. Maybe I need to pick up book 4.


Choice of Rebels Part 1 WIP thread
#13

No, I’m talking about the whole original trilogy. xD Even when downright horrible things happen in Sanderson’s books, I’m still filled with a sense of hope. When I read the second book, I remember realizing at a certain point that if this was the sort of cynical grimdark stories that a lot of people seemed to enjoy, it would go in one direction, and I wouldn’t like that. But it didn’t. It went in the other direction. (And it was such a refreshing change from all the depressing, gloomy, cynical stuff I’d been reading for class!)

Maybe we just have different perceptions about these things.

I suppose I’d describe the difference like this. There are books that leave me with the sensation of “bad things happen to good people and the world is terrible and that’s just how it is,” and I hate that. Brandon Sanderson’s novels don’t do that for me. Even when they get pretty dark, they leave me with a message more like “bad things happen to good people but there are still good people out there and everything’s going to be okay.”


Books! Discussion Thread!
#14

@FairyGodfeather

Ficciones, Borges
The Stranger, Camus
Heart of Darkness, Conrad
Notes from Underground, Dostoevsky
The Hamlet, Faulkner
The Immoralist, Gide
Hunger, Hamsun
In the Cage, Jameson
The Woman Warrior, Kingston
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Marquez
Blood Meridian, McCarthy
The Crying of Lot 49, Pynchon
Age of Innocence, Wharton
Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf

Borges, Kingston, Marquez, and Pynchon are the weirder ones. Ones which you might enjoy. But my books are still packed away, so this is just my off-the-cuff sorts of recommendations.


#15

So I’ve been checking out a list of grimdark books and apparantly I have read some.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, had a great setting, great plot, but I found the darkness in it just far too depressing for me. For all that I did enjoy it, I’ll never reread it and I won’t read the sequels.

The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan is also brimming with the grimdark. Everything’s awful, everyone’s awful, and it just keeps getting worse. I picked it up since it has some protagonists of colour, one of whom is gay, the other a lesbian and it does have some interesting inversions of what I see as traditional fantasy. The story begins where most stories end, after the heroes have become heroes, once they’ve finished the huge epic fight, winning a war, killing a dragon, and they’re now dealing with life afterwards and the pointlessness of it, until another crisis comes along. But if it hadn’t had those gay characters I wouldn’t have touched it and I’m still undecided if I want to read on or not.

I will agree, the last book of The Hunger Games trilogy is extremely dark, especially for what’s a teen book. I don’t think the first two are in the same way, it’s a matter of tone for me as well as content and for all the atrocities that happen in the first two, it’s that third one that’s filled with the real soul-crushing horror of so many characters suffering terribly from PTSD and which really highlights how broken everything is. I wouldn’t have read the last book if I’d not been reading all three together. It helps me, to a certain extent, to know that it was a finished trilogy that I only had so many pages to go. I found that last book difficult, yet at the same time I couldn’t see the series really going anywhere else. I did feel a lot of the deaths seemed pointless. If the book series had started off that way, no I wouldn’t have read it, but as dark as it began, there was still hope, and there was Katniss, who I think is a wonderful heroine.

@Samlienhard I’ve went through phases of different characters being my favourite. As I’ve grown older, as I’ve changed, my favourite characters change too and I do like that. (My hatred of Rincewind remains though).

Speaking of Discworld, and games, I love Discworld Noir. I love the story, as well as how immersive it is, and there’s bits of pure magic in it that just wouldn’t have been as wonderful if I was reading a book. I’m sure going back and replaying it may be different.

@JasonStevanHill I’m actually intrigued by some of those suggestions. I’m going to see about getting a hold of some to see if I can read them. Well when my plate’s not full of other stuff.


#16

Does anybody really like Rincewind?

I’ll take Granny Weatherwax every day of the week. AND OF COURSE DEATH.

Good point on Hunger Games – I agree there was a big tonal difference in book 3.

Or maybe I’ve just forgotten most of books 2 and 3, and retained an ill-founded impression of things just getting more and more Ruinous until basically everybody dies, a couple of reprieves notwithstanding. (:


#17

Aw, I like Rincewind… xD

@Havenstone How do you mark spoilers? XD I want to mention a specific part of book 2.


#18

Spoilers are [ spoiler] TEXT [/spoiler] (with no space between the square bracket and that first spoiler].

I thought Rincewind was originally marketted as the protagonist of the Discworld. He’s the start of several of the tv things, the first couple of games, the first few books. I’m sure lots of people like him. Not me though.


#19

This topic was meant for me, hahaha.

I’ve always loved science fiction and fantasy, and while the “literature” genre isn’t my favorite, I wouldn’t exactly call it useless and pretentious. I never thought of literature as “the best of the best”, but rather as the most influential books. You know, like… books that changed the game, and made other books like them possible.

Grimdark books are my favorite sort of books! I like books that leave me desolate and heartbroken. Which isn’t to say I don’t like happy books, it’s just that books that leave me drowning in a sea of blood and tears give me more satisfaction. I love asoiaf, and the Locke Lamora books. I also really enjoy the King Killer chronicles, a series that constantly reminds the readers that “This is not a happy story.”

I’ve never read the Discworld novels for some reason, but you guys are starting to change my mind. Are there a lot of different series that take place in one world, or is it just one really long series?


#20

That’s an interesting take on things. I’m not sure if I’d agree with it though. Do you have examples perhaps?

I think there are some hugely influential books that are not particularly good at all, and which I wouldn’t classify as literature. Yet they have had a significant impact.

You seem to love about grimdark all the things I dislike.

The Discworld is complicated, fortunately there’s a handy chart to help out. http://www.lspace.org/books/reading-order-guides/the-discworld-reading-order-guide-20.jpg I bet that just made things more confusing though.

So, a lot of different series, some stand alone stories, and everything bound together by the world. There’s plenty of crossover between them and it’s not all that important you read them in order. Even within series you can generally dot around in them.

I’d definitely advise against starting on the first book though since it takes a while to get into things (besides the first books are Rincewind books and I hates him). I’d also advise against the most recent books as a starting place, and you do probably want to avoid starting at the end of a series.

There’s a reading order here http://wiki.lspace.org/mediawiki/index.php/Reading_Order but I disagree with some of that too. I’m sure someone else can suggest a good place to begin. For me I’d suggest the Tiffany Aching books but the fact that they’re childrens books might be off-putting. They’re simpler to follow, a lot less footnotes, they have chapters, but I don’t think they’re particularly sanitised.

I’m sure someone else can suggest a better place for you to begin. I needed to keep trying in order to get into the discworld. I’d read quite a few of them before I actually liked them. (My best friend was a huge discworld fan hence the persevering so we’d have something to discuss.)

Hmm http://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/2416/which-discworld-book-to-start-a-newbie-on looks like the first answer has a decent breakdown.