Monday, October 16, 2006

News and Energy

Today, I try to start reading the news again.

ROBOTECH

I found the conclusion of the Robotech novels underwhelming, similar to my reaction to the finale of Alias.

Speculative fiction fans have disappointed me on the Robotech front, though. No matter how much I've looked on the Internet, I couldn't find any literary criticism of the novels. I could only find anal retentive comparisons and contrasts between the TV series and novels.

No wonder the lay and academic audiences don't take Speculative fiction seriously. The "core" audience of the genre doesn't even think about the texts in a critical fashion other than to fight about continuity issues, after something like 20 or 30 years, even when all that is encompassed by the title Robotech breaches upon a lot of interesting topics and themes.

The fiancee tells me that I should start the trend of writing about Robotech critically. Well, maybe I should one of these days.

NO-CAFFEINE THING

The whole no-caffeine has surprised me today. I screwed up my sleeping schedule this weekend by staying up real late Saturday night to see Josh Wink (who we met through the the silly adventures of our visiting friend, Charles, but didn't stay up long enough to see [we left at 2:30 AM, and the guy hadn't yet gotten up to spin!!!!]) and slept a long long time into the afternoon of Sunday and don't get to sleep until about 12:30 AM.

Yet, today. . .I wake up bright and energetic. Unfortunately, at quarter of seven in the morning, after eating some food, my body has started to hit a slight energy ditch. I guess I won't have a good opinion about my energy levels until the end of the day. Nonetheless, I'm impressed with waking up as well as I did after only four and a half hours of sleep. Not bad.

8 comments:

Jason M. Robertson said...

I take plenty of sf reading serious, and I read a lot of the blogosphere that takes an interest in serious consideration of sf texts on a literary level. I can't really imagine going to that place with Robotech novels though. This is largely out of ignorance of their content, and the fact that I really don't allow time at all for derivative material when there is so much original stuff that I'm fairly confident would take analysis and criticism more robustly than..... er... Robotech.

So yes, I'm ghetto-izing in the midst of the ghetto genre, but I feel largely sensible about it. Encouraging critical reading of texts is why I do the close-reading group over on the forum after all.

The_Lex said...

Jason, before getting any further, I would have to say that you, on many levels, probably prove an exception to many rules. =D

But maybe you do have a point. Maybe I should have referred to Spec Fic fandom rather than the whole community. Nonetheless, fandom does have the tendency to create certain impressions on the rest of the world. I don't really want to get into that topic too much, other than as it relates to the quality of creative works.

The same thing happens largely with classic works of Utopianism. Not much deep analysis goes into More's Utopia, Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World other than mentioning themes without getting too deep into them. Get into the academy and all types of research goes into the topic, almost too much for one person to read.

I guess, in my view, the quality of creative works has a little dependence on the quality demanded by the audience. A lot of this pulp stuff probably gets written and read because the readers don't necessarily demand better, as voiced by the critics. And in this days of the Internet, the critics, by and large, has become the larger voice of the fandom rather than the more versed critic of say, you, possibly me and those who write for say, Asimov's and such. My theory: as the quality demanded by the audience goes up, the quality of the creative product goes up, even in a socialist/communitarian society, probably.

As for the Robotech novels, I won't say they're the best of literary science fiction or anything. The writing quality really could use some work. As for the level of derivative, yes, much it comes as directly a novelisation of the series. I've only read the books that weren't televised, but apparently, they do add a lot of elements and themes to the story that make reading them apparently worthwhile.

I don't know if having not read the whole series took away from the impact of the last book, but it did have a lot of interesting ideas taken from the whole series and introduced by itself. It just lacked the ability to execute it well. This is the type of thing that I would enjoy seeing, actual criticism of a creative work's execution and, if done well, expanding upon the understanding of a work. I thought this last book had a lot of potential that got dashed. If more people voiced their opinion on the literary merit of the work itself, rather than attacking it based on continuity issues, I think the whole "pulp" genre could get better.

I guess my main problem with original stuff is that I don't have the time to read it, buy it and get introduced to it. I do have a list of something like 250 Spec Fic books to read, though. I've mostly been reading books that I can get my hands on easily these days.

And yes, I think you're mostly sensible about the ghetto-izing of the Spec Fic genre. Nonetheless, I would feel sorry for you if you missed a good piece of work just because it wasn't completely original.

BTW, what're some good Spec Fic blog worlds other than say, Ain't It Cool (have heard varied opinions on that one) and Chicago-SF.org?

Jason M. Robertson said...

Agh. You have no idea how long a response this is going to require. Good thing there seems to be a vendor bottleneck with my workload today.

To work from the end back up, here are some places to go for lit spec-fic information, I'll be leaving them as URLs not linked because there will be a bundle and I don't want to trigger any spam filters.

Starting at the low end, there's SFSignal, a decent group blog with reviews and news. http://www.sfsignal.com/

Lou Anders is editor of Pyr, the SF/F imprint of Prometheus. He's involved in some of the recent discussions arising from a Kathryn Kristine Rusch article in Asimov's that has been roiling the sfnal blogosphere. http://louanders.com/blog.html

Pyr proper also has a blog, that promotes Pyr releases for the most part, but I find it useful to drop by. http://pyrsf.blogspot.com/

To show some fairness to other publishers, this is the Eos blog: http://www.outofthiseos.typepad.com/

Deep Genre is a multi-author blog exploring how to write in genre without being trite: http://deepgenre.com/wordpress/

James Nicoll has a livejournal that often points to other interesting discussions: http://james-nicoll.livejournal.com/

Mundane-SF is the blogospheric home base of the controversial Mundane-SF movement: http://mundane-sf.blogspot.com/

Paul McAuley is another blogging author who has stepped into the fray about the KKR article: http://unlikelyworlds.blogspot.com/

John Scalzi's Whatever is pretty interesting as well: http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/

TNH and PNH, the husband and wife team of Tor editor/bloggers often say things of sfnal note at Making Light: http://www.nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/

OK, now onto your problem with getting introduced to new stuff. This is a fair issue, and something that gets discussed in the blogosphere a lot. In particular this seems to relate to the 'lapsed Catholic' problem, where folks who read sf in their youth don't know where to re-enter the field after spending a few years on the sidelines. I can imagine how frustrating it would be if you lose track of what you like to read and you can't afford to supersample because you can't chow down a few dozen novels a month with all your new adult responsibilities. Well there are always human-to-human interactions, and that's part of the motive behind my advocacy of a monthly reading group, it gives people a reason to be exposed to this or that title. Another thing I do, is I use LibraryThing (librarything.com) where my username is pyropyga. You can catalog your books there and track what other people own who have a lot of what you own. I like it a lot, though admittedly more for the cataloging capacity than the social elements. Modern society makes demands on us that neglect the demands of virtue, those of being a proper human being and citizen, supporting your chosen arts and getting a chance to read and stay abreast of them are easy sacrifices to make, and hard ones to win back. I don't have any easy answers for it, except to fight pretty hard for the virtues of 'leisure activities'...

Following onto that, I do believe that we get a better product in any field of entertainment if we examine the product develop our tastes. This is why I'm so evangelical about the handful of television shows I do watch, because I believe if people choose time-wasting television because they don't need to tune in every week, we'll all suffer.

Regarding fandom and the lack of criticism (and sadly, often the lack of _tolerance_ for criticism) that it has, I think this is a skewed sample. Con culture is, I think, more analytical than media and casual fan culture. Even in Chicago-sf, I think Allan takes a critical approach similar to my own, he's terrifically aware of much of the genre.

And let me pimp the reading group again, this is exactly what it is about addressing.

The_Lex said...

I realized one issue on this topic: There's a high possibility that the whole Robotech storyline has more of an anime/comic fandom rather than a "general" science fiction audience. I hear more of these continuity issues discussed in reference to comics as compared to spec fic, even though that becomes an issue with the franchise creative products (eg Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance and I can't think of any real sci fi franchises).

The TV issue: that's why the fiancee and I panicked when our TiVo died and almost immediately ordered another one with a one-day delivery time. We don't want to miss any of our shows (we already missed an ep of Lost!!!!!), but we also don't want the TV to dictate our lives (even though discussions at work and with friends about the shows can create an urgency to watching the shows on the TiVo).

Good point about the people watching time wasting TV rather than "serious" stuff because they don't want the TV to dictate their lives. That's why I love the TiVo.

Thanks for the links. It's pretty slow where I'm working, too. I wouldn't have been able to post as long as I did otherwise. . .even though I love these types of discussions.

BTW, you RSS feeding this blog?

Jason M. Robertson said...

I have been very slow to get on the RSS bandwagon, so I'm afraid I use just muddle through until I've visited everything I can remember at a given point. Not exactly efficient, but fairly entertaining.

erinMaru said...

Sounds like you're already writing critically about SciFi/Robotech! You remind me of a website John Sawers showed me years ago dedicated to Ethical Issues on Buffy the Vampire Slayer! Some deep thought there.

Also, you might not realize it, but the original Robotech show was actaully, drumroll please : 3 seperate Japanese TV shows pasted together. Seems that the average TV show season in Japan was shorter and the 3 shows together made a descent sized purchase for a US run. That's why the original series has weird time jumps and character changes and even robot design changes. I love that story, just shows how ubiquitous the Robot's Attack Earth story is in Japanese Sci Fi-Manga. Ta!

erinmaru said...

Ok, so Wikipedia explains Robotech too. I guess I like showing off obscure knowledge.

I saw the end of Wolf's Rain on Cartoon Network and was underwelmed. Same ending as several other Anime, Gal Force comes to mind, and several other serials...the 'heroes' fail to stop the world from self destructing, dying heroically one by one, thus redeeming them from character flaws revealed in the series, and as the world is "purified" in some way (a-bomb, demonic horde, cosmic flush), survivors/seeds of renewal create/grow a new world identical but better, cleansed of evil, the heros reincarnated to their former, quirky selves.
Very Shinto cycle of life.
Really, I was pissed, All the cool wolf/man/nature relationships explored in the series and this was all they could come up with? Arrrg.

Dawn said...

I'll have to agree with Erinmaru's take on the ending of Wolf's Rain. Highly disappointing, given the excellence of the rest of the series. But then again, I don't know if I've ever seen an anime series that ended satisfactorily. (Well, Full Metal Alchemist is a possible exception.)

As for SF in general, I've always found the Nebula Award collections to be a good way of finding new authors. Most of the writing there is wonderful--it was there that I was first introduced to Ted Chiang. (If you haven't read his work yet, so out and get a copy of Stories of Your Life. He's perhaps the best SF writer I've ever encountered.)