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mike alexander
2007-Mar-15, 10:44 PM
Title taken from a question by Paul Beardsley.

I like the idea. As long as we don't discuss the politico/philosophical implications of Starship Troopers.

How would this work?

Dr Nigel
2007-Mar-15, 11:06 PM
"Human culture would rapidly be eradicated by contact with the Moti civilisation from Larry Niven's The Mote in God's Eye. Discuss."

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-15, 11:22 PM
I've not read Mote yet, but when I do I will follow up the suggestion!

Thanks for starting the thread, Mike. My big question is, what is the value of science fiction?

In some quarters SF is derided for its lack of literary qualities. I think this is due, in large part, to the fact that the genre is typically judged by its worst examples - and the best examples are "disqualified" as not being SF. But this is a well-worn path, and I'd like to see discussion explore other areas.

In recent years, the literary qualities of SF have been much more evident than in the past. But, more importantly, is SF doing something that the mainstream, and other genres, are not doing?

I suspect it is. SF takes an objective look at ourselves and our societies in a way that others do not. SF attempts to dramatise and otherwise tackle with new scientific concepts - whereas other genres pretend they have no relevance.

I'll have better examples later, but I genuinely believe SF has nothing to apologise for, and a lot to be praised for. And I am speaking as someone who mostly reads outside the field these days.

Hope the ball is rolling...

mike alexander
2007-Mar-16, 12:35 AM
I agree. Dr. Nigel, please hold that thought! We're just in the pages with roman numerals.

John W. Campbell once wrote that all other literatures are subsets of SF. Now, Campbell could be a bit of a crank (Dianetics: strike one; the Dean Drive: strike two), but I think he was saying something similar. SF begins with the idea of change and goes from there.

In that respect, it is far more perilous. All writing depends upon a certain shared universe between the writer and reader. In SF, that universe may be far different than the one we occupy. The writer's task is to bring in that universe without losing the impact of the story. In this, it is similar to historical novels (I'm working on one now, and know just how hard that is).

I'm not sure how one defines 'literature', but I will go with 'excellent writing wrapped around a powerful idea'. That idea can be anything: coping with crushing personal loss, receiving a message from God, inventing a machine that lets you travel through time. In SF, sometimes an idea can be so good it can make up for run-of-the-mill writing (Robert Forward's novel 'Dragon's Egg' comes to mind). Sometimes the writing can be so good it overpowers a fairly commonplace or trite idea (like Bradbury's 'A Medicine for Melancholy', which I suppose is on the borderline of SF/fantasy, but rings a lyrical turn on the old adage 'What she needs is a good screw').

SF assumes change, not continuity.

ToSeek
2007-Mar-16, 06:34 PM
I see two main appeals of science fiction:

- Pure sense of wonder.

- Putting characters into a situation that they would only encounter in science fiction.

The latter, I think, is a very legitimate literary use. (The former is more just for fun!)

satori
2007-Mar-16, 07:56 PM
Putting characters into a situation that they would only encounter in science fiction.
what about creating otherwise unlikely characters as acceptable role models for fringe types.........such as... let's say semi humans

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-16, 08:20 PM
All good suggestions so far.

There's another: defamiliarisation.

20-something years ago, I was going through a jaded-with-SF phase. I was walking through Chichester one evening with a friend called Nev (an occasional poster here). We were passing through alleyways and arches in Roman walls, past noisy pubs and so on. I was thinking about similar cities in SF and fantasy novels. I said to Nev, "Is there really any point in reading those novels when you've got a real-life city like this?" And he replied that the reason the quite mundane surroundings were affecting me so strongly was because I'd seen the mundane from the point of view of those very novels. Suddenly a very ordinary (some would say dull) city in the real world was exciting because my reading of SF had made the familiar seem remarkable.

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-16, 08:21 PM
what about creating otherwise unlikely characters as acceptable role models for fringe types.........such as... let's say semi humans
I've already acknowledged this post in my "all good suggestions" comment, but are you thinking of Cordwainer Smith's Underpeople?

darkhunter
2007-Mar-16, 08:45 PM
Other forms of fiction are (usually) limited to the past, present, or fantasy. Science Fiction gives us our dreams of tomorrow, next year...the future.

I'm not putting down other types of fiction--I read all sorts of book, fiction and non-fiction.

The best fiction books I've read (of any genera) were the ones that you didn't have to know a thing about the background to enjoy the book. However, I've seen several people be put off of a good book because "I don't know anything about science" (sometimes smugly), "I don't know anything about the old west", "I don't know anything about the military" (They get a dumb-founded look if they're someone I work with :) ).

A good story is one that you can set anywhere and it still make sence. A good Science fiction story would lose something if the background is taken any, just as a western would if it took place in a modern big city...

Taken this way:

Protector is the story of a parent making great sacrifices and paying the ultimate price to protect his children.

Camelot 30K is the story of one individual trying to spread the truth to save her people.

The Star Wars movies are the story of a father being saved from his own evil by his son who never gave up on him.

These stories would be changed to a greater or lesser extent by removing the science--Protector and Star Wars would lose their scale and magnitude, while Camelot 30 would need an entirely new danger for Merlene's people.

mike alexander
2007-Mar-16, 09:26 PM
Somewhere else I read (echoing darkhunter's comments above) that the mark of a science fiction story is that if you take out the science elements, you have no story.

I don't think so, at least not necessarily. My best example of this is Heinlein's short 'The Green Hills of Earth'. Ostensibly it is about Rhysling, the poet blinded by radioactivity in an engine room accident in a spacecraft, who becomes the doggerel chanter of the spaceways and human expansion in the solar system (Kipling?).

But if you read the story, you realize he could just as well have been an ordinary seaman, blinded by steam in an engine room accident in some tramp steamer just off Djakarta in the latter half of the 19th century. The real story is about just two incidents in Rhysling's life (his initial blinding and his final sacrifice to save another ship) and his creation of a collection of poems and songs encapsulating the mythos of expansion. In reality, not very much happens in the story at all.

Maybe that's a mark of SF as literature. Yank it out of its own millieu and see if it still works, if the magic is still there. I can think of a comparison in the literature of mystery. Who has heard of Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, raise your hand. Who has heard of Arthur B. Reeve and Craig Kennedy, Scientific Detective? Uh huh. Both were wildly popular in their day, but Reeve has sunk without a trace, while with Holmes, the game's still afoot. If we figure out why, we may have a bit longer handle on the whole thing.

satori
2007-Mar-16, 09:37 PM
Paul Beardsley,
the "morlocks" are the only (SF) underpeople i know of
and that should suffice to give you a measure of how narrow my horizon is with the topic at hand
what you choose to quote from me was merely a somewhat plump hint to the Spock character
(even if not entirely convincing) the Spock-Nimoy pseudo persona was just unescapable for my imagination (i know that the visual arts should be off topic here, but...)

for me the attraction of the genre was (past tense intended) surley in it's escapist nature, as i think i must have had a quite claustrophobic outlook on life in this world
(i remember for example (predating my first contact with SF) what fascination the Robinson Crusoe character held for me)

think about the Enterprise phenomenon ( not called "star trek" in my part of the world)........what made it's appeal?.......break it down to the primitives:
first there is the space ship (isolating you from the rest of the world and letting you slip the surly bonds of earth (escape))
than there ............
no i must shorten it........you will easily see for yourself that bulk of the attraction stems from the escape theme........after deconstructing it, all those fancy advetures seem to be only staffage to divert the attantion and to be able to serve the always equal beloved dish.......(you ever again want to see your same sympathetic and competend crew in this same reliable ship)
echoeing this, i remember Michael Collins when asked what drew him to his job, he answered with a single word : "it's about escape"...........no he did not say, "I wanted to see the moon from close up" orsomething........

now you know literature is about escape anyhow.....
so i should better fold this piece together and throw it away with great force ( as Occam would put it)
i have obviously faild to identify the one special ingredient...

anyway, let it peacefully sedimentate to the archives
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
edited to add: the correct Collins quote would be rather like: "it's about leaving" ( i am quite sure now, as i dreamed on it)

mike alexander
2007-Mar-16, 10:15 PM
Satori...

I don't think (if I understand you correctly) that anyone is looking for the one special ingredient. We're just poking around to start.

You wrote

what about creating otherwise unlikely characters as acceptable role models for fringe types.........such as... let's say semi humans

and I would be interested in you expanding on your thought. You mentioned the Spock character (and why not bring him in; just about everybody knows who he is and probably has some ideas about what he is). Why do you consider him an unlikely character? Would you consider him an acceptable role model for semi-humans?

You mentioned the Morlocks as underpeople, although some might consider them as degenerate, sub-human. Paul Beardsley mentioned the Underpeople from Cordwainer Smith's Instrumentality stories. Part of the 'joke' is that they are Underpeople by law and custom, not really because they are actually lesser beings (I still have the Virgil Finlay drawings of C'Mell, and she is definitely NOT UnderAnything).

Are you thinking about the use of SF as a probe into non-human or other-human ways of thought, of moral codes? It's a very interesting question, and I hope you won't just let sediment accumulate.

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-16, 11:05 PM
A few interesting ideas here.

Is "escape" a bad thing? (I've often thought that the SF stories that are most attractive to readers are those that depict a world you'd either escape to or escape from.) But the very word "escape" has connotations of dodging real-world issues.

I remember in 1979, at school, in a discussion, a precocious individual was denigrating SF because it avoided real issues. At the time I was reading Hal Clement's Ocean On Top, which was exploring the consequences of the energy crisis in a way that nobody else was. Far from avoiding an issue, it was confronting it head-on. Needless to say, the individual who was denigrating SF had little experience of it other than in film and TV.

Satori, thanks for the quote from Michael Collins. It makes one think... His two colleagues are the highest profile humans in the history of humanity as they walk around on the moon, while he is alone in a capsule which, at some periods, is on the far side of the moon - out of touch with absolutely everybody. And he considers that escape. Astonishing.

I've just tried to link to the Virgil Finlay illustration of C'Mell. Annoyingly, it's taking forever to load for some reason. [Later - managed to get it. Nice red dress!] A side issue - I think it's a great shame that there are so few illustrations of SF stories other than the ones commissioned for magazine and book covers. Occasionally we get treats such as Barlow's Guide To Extraterrestrials (1980?) in which artists depicted various alien species from different books. But it would be nice if a few fan artists could display their work somewhere. (Perhaps they do.)

Morlocks - perhaps an underpeople in the most literal sense. I rather enjoyed the "new" Morlocks in Stephen Baxter's The Time Ships, especially when the Time Traveller had to use his coat to protect one from the sunlight as he took one back to the present.

Mike - re the idea of SF without the science element. I think part of the point of The Green Hills of Earth was that the hazards of travel would be as much a part of the future as they were part of the past. Similarly, the emotional attachment you might have felt for your home town would later apply to your home planet. Even the idea that there would be blue-collar poets in the future - including those with a disability - was pretty radical, and it helped that Rhysling's poetry was the sort of thing you could believe someone would write (even if it wasn't necessarily the world's best poetry). I think the story worked because it projected normality (with all its associated discomfort and dirt) into a future that had traditionally been idealised. It must be 30 years since I read Green Hills, but it's still got a heck of a resonance for me. Had it not been an SF story - had it been a gritty merchant navy story - it might have been interesting but it wouldn't have had anything like the power.

mike alexander
2007-Mar-16, 11:29 PM
Paul, I like your analysis of 'Green Hills', most especially the point that the future wouldn't necessarily be Raymond Massey striding around in a toga all the time. And that is exactly what makes it powerful; human feelings don't change, whether you're six days out from Djakarta or six days out from the Jovian moons. The science isn't strictly necessary to the tale, but it does add to it tremendously. And it passes the test of 'If you read it sixty years later, does it still say something?'

[And not necessarily just humans. Have you ever read the story 'Llulongomeena' by Gordon Dickson? (I think that's how it's spelled).]

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-16, 11:40 PM
And it passes the test of 'If you read it sixty years later, does it still say something?'
Oy! Only 30 years - I'm not that old. :)

Seriously, thanks for the comments.


[And not necessarily just humans. Have you ever read the story 'Llulongomeena' by Gordon Dickson? (I think that's how it's spelled).]
I have - again, a very long time ago, but again, I can remember a lot of the details. An interesting companion piece - very different to Green Hills, but relatable on a similar level.

This thread is making me appreciate the value of SF short stories. As SF is often about ideas - including nifty single ideas - it naturally follows that some of the best explorations of those ideas will be in short work. And sometimes they can really pack a punch. What I particularly like is the way a range of shorts can add up to a series of glimpses of a future world. Samuel R. Delany did that very effectively with the likes of Drift Glass and Time Considered As A Helix Of Semi Precious Stones. It's a lived in future.

mike alexander
2007-Mar-16, 11:57 PM
Of course, I meant to say that the story was sixty years old, and still works.

Blame it on Friday.

Gillianren
2007-Mar-17, 12:16 AM
I was discussing this with Lonewulf a little last night as I read the Zelazny recommended on the other thread.

To me, the beauty of the story is as much about the quality of language used as anything else. I mean, the story's interesting, and I usually need to like the characters (it's why I never got into Catcher in the Rye; I hate Holden too much). But the words? That's where my heart really is.

SMEaton
2007-Mar-17, 12:19 AM
Argh!! I hate when I hit 'backspace' when I've accidentally clicked outside of the text box! Just lost two large paragraphs with one keystroke.
Come on short-term memory!! (rolls dice)
To expand on satori's, and now Paul Beardsley's, comments on escapism as an attractor to SF: fiction of any sort can be a source of escapism. But SF offers something more, and the best SF offers that something plus the possible advancement of humanity.
I just finished Phil Dick's Time Out Of Joint - a welcome break from Radio Free Albemuth and Valis - and the main character's final sentiments struck home. Don't worry: no spoilers! Ragle Gumm (what a name!) opined that we have a never-ending wanderlust that will and must eventually carry humanity away from this planet. Many authors use this idea. Our attraction to explore unknown ground (a recurring theme in the novel) is a driving force behind life. What other type of fiction can provide (somewhat realistically, at least) a way for us to do this?
I used to think that escapism was my reason to read SF, and honestly it was a big part of my enjoyment, but lately I've realized that it's been a long time since that has happened. Now, the main draw of the genre is purely adventurous. If I were a writer I might have been able to explain the above a little better. Oh well.
If you are for a merry jaunt I will try for once who can foot it farthest. - John Dryden

mike alexander
2007-Mar-17, 06:13 AM
If you liked 'Rose', Gillian, you should also like some of Zelazny's other, earlier work; certainly 'The Doors of his Face, the Lamps of his Mouth'; '...And Call Me Conrad'; 'He Who Shapes'. If you can, work your way to Creatures of Light and Darkness, then Lord of Light.

HenrikOlsen
2007-Mar-17, 06:51 AM
for me the attraction of the genre was (past tense intended) surley in it's escapist nature, as i think i must have had a quite claustrophobic outlook on life in this world
(i remember for example (predating my first contact with SF) what fascination the Robinson Crusoe character held for me)
Just remember that the ones who think escape is bad are the jailers:)

Gillianren
2007-Mar-17, 08:55 AM
If you liked 'Rose', Gillian, you should also like some of Zelazny's other, earlier work; certainly 'The Doors of his Face, the Lamps of his Mouth'; '...And Call Me Conrad'; 'He Who Shapes'. If you can, work your way to Creatures of Light and Darkness, then Lord of Light.

Oh, I'll get to it. My roommate's been suggesting it for some time. I'm on a bit of a nonfiction kick (Seven Fires is really good), but I'll be back to fiction soon.

darkhunter
2007-Mar-17, 09:23 AM
Somewhere else I read (echoing darkhunter's comments above) that the mark of a science fiction story is that if you take out the science elements, you have no story.

Clarification: I said that a story would change if you took out the science elements--it would no longer be science fiction, but still a story.

:) :) : )


Depending on how centeral the science is to the plot, the changes could be quite drastic.

In Asimov's End of Eternity*, at first glance it would appear that if there was no time travel, there would be no story. However, the story would still remain of the one individual slowly finding that his superiors are purposely stopping progress in certain areas that would actually be of great benifit to his people, and taking steps to stop them. You would, of course, still loose the grandfather paradox story arc, but the hero's job would still be to be in certain places to make sure certain things are or are not done.

If the story is soley about the science, of course taking away the science would take away the story. If you wrote a Western about the Lost Dutchman Mine, then took away the mine (or possibly the whole concept of mining), you wouldn't have a story :)

*I think that's the title--it's been (quite) a few years....

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-17, 09:44 AM
I was discussing this with Lonewulf a little last night as I read the Zelazny recommended on the other thread.
Zelazny did some very good stuff - and some real hackwork too. I loved the first Amber chronicles, but ground to a halt partway through the second one. I got a bit fed up with every single character being in on the big secret, whatever it was.

I also liked the way he hurriedly got his planetary romances written when he realised the space missions were undermining some of the lovely imagery. Mars was no longer the land of canals and decadent cities; Venus was no longer the place of oceans under an overcast sky. So he wrote "Rose" and "Doors" while they still had currency.

Of course, nowadays SF writers have no compunction about writing "retro" SF, pretending the solar system really is as we thought it was back in the 1930s or whatever. (There's also the interesting-ish Space: 1889 game which got adapted as a quite good series of radio plays. Here we see the British Empire throwing its weight (not one third, alas) on an inhabited Mars.) Some of this stuff is fun, but I remember Stephen Baxter saying we are doing the planets (and presumably readers) a disservice. He wrote an excellent sort-of sequel to Jules Verne's From The Earth To The Moon in which he first of all rationalised the projectile gun so that it could launch the projectile without crushing the travellers; he then [spoilers] had his smug astronaut realise what he was heading for: the real Mars of stark deserts and thin atmosphere rather than the one he was expecting.

I thought the message of the story was clear and well made: these past visions of space were all very lovely, but the writers were forward thinking and trying to get to grips with the information available to them at the time. SF writers of today should be doing the same - do your homework, make some educated guesses, take some risks and so on.


To me, the beauty of the story is as much about the quality of language used as anything else. I mean, the story's interesting, and I usually need to like the characters (it's why I never got into Catcher in the Rye; I hate Holden too much). But the words? That's where my heart really is.
That's fair enough - and if you know where to look, you can get both. Gene Wolfe is an author who springs to mind, particularly The Book of the New Sun. Talk about love of language!

Generally, though, I'll settle for "adequate" prose if the events being described are interesting enough. (By "adequate" I mean a reasonably high standard - words used accurately, no jarring turns of phrase, and above all, clarity.)

I share your opinion of Catcher. I felt like a right philistine when I found myself forcing myself to continue with it, finishing it only so that I could put a tick in an imaginary box*. I remarked on this to a friend, who agreed. "It's about Holden finding himself," she said, adding, "and frankly he's welcome to himself."

*I was trying to get a few more books read on the list of 100 Great Books; perhaps that one should be on the list of Books You Feel You Ought To Have Read, and it includes E.M. Forster's A Room With A Vie-yawn, too bored to finish the title!

HenrikOlsen
2007-Mar-17, 09:48 AM
Zelazny did some very good stuff - and some real hackwork too.
In my opinion, the hackwork came when he switched to writing novels, and as a result expanded some stories beyond their natural size.
He admitted that in the long run, novels pay more per word in royalties than short stories does, which was why he moved to writing novels.


I also liked the way he hurriedly got his planetary romances written when he realised the space missions were undermining some of the lovely imagery. Mars was no longer the land of canals and decadent cities; Venus was no longer the place of oceans under an overcast sky. So he wrote "Rose" and "Doors" while they still had currency.
Actually, "Rose" was written after it was clear there could be no life on Mars.
It's just not relevant to the story that it's on Mars, so he didn't care and kept Mars as a placeholder.

Dr Nigel
2007-Mar-17, 11:23 AM
I was discussing this with Lonewulf a little last night as I read the Zelazny recommended on the other thread.

To me, the beauty of the story is as much about the quality of language used as anything else. I mean, the story's interesting, and I usually need to like the characters (it's why I never got into Catcher in the Rye; I hate Holden too much). But the words? That's where my heart really is.

I'm with you on that one, Gillian. One of the reasons I'm so fond of Pratchett is his control of the language.

When you mention Zelazny, do you refer to Nine Princes in Amber et al.?

Dr Nigel
2007-Mar-17, 11:34 AM
One aspect of SF that I like is that it can ask all sorts of "what if" questions.

Take Fahrenheit 451: [Spoilers if you've been living in a box your whole life]

What if the purpose of "firemen" became lost in some future, ultra-repressive version of our own society? How do the members of that society behave and feel? And what does that tell us about our present society and ourselves?

Similarly, Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (which, I must confess, I have only encountered as the film). This asks quite difficult questions about what it means to be human, and questions our assumptions about how we define ouselves.

SF can also give us insight into the impact of technology on us as people (I'm thinking of two novels, one of which is Neuromancer and the other whose title eludes me for the present, but it centres around the ability to download consciousness into an artificial body).

By creating these settings, authors can give us fresh insights into what is sometimes still called "the human condition".

HenrikOlsen
2007-Mar-17, 11:50 AM
When you mention Zelazny, do you refer to Nine Princes in Amber et al.?
A Rose for Ecclesiastes, see discussion started here (http://bautforum.com/showthread.php?p=948451#post948451).

Dr Nigel
2007-Mar-17, 03:20 PM
A Rose for Ecclesiastes, see discussion started here (http://bautforum.com/showthread.php?p=948451#post948451).

Thanks, I had missed that one.

And I've not read any Zelazny other than his Amber series (he does not seem to be popular with bookshops in the UK, so I was largely unaware of the corpus of his work).

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-17, 04:33 PM
SF can also give us insight into the impact of technology on us as people (I'm thinking of two novels, one of which is Neuromancer and the other whose title eludes me for the present, but it centres around the ability to download consciousness into an artificial body).

By creating these settings, authors can give us fresh insights into what is sometimes still called "the human condition".
I wonder if the one whose title eludes you is Greg Egan's Diaspora? I've encountered a lot of stories about downloading consciousness, but many of them dodge the issues. Diaspora does not dodge the issues, and is very powerful for that reason - and yes, it gives insights into the human condition. In particular, I like Egan's observation about "the myth of the individual".

To give one example from the book, there is a scene where two characters who normally live in a virtual environment have downloaded their minds into a pair of robots. Whilst in the robots, they have to cross a marsh, and there is a danger that they might sink, in which case they might have to wait a very long time before they are rescued - and during that time they'd be isolated from everyone including each other. So they quite casually give each other back-ups of their personalities which they can activate if they are in need of company.

satori
2007-Mar-17, 05:54 PM
Paul Beardsley,
you surely wouldn't have read my correction of the Michael Collins quote (done in my orig. post), so i repeat it here:

"it's about leaving"

satori
2007-Mar-17, 09:02 PM
You wrote


what about creating otherwise unlikely characters as acceptable role models for fringe types.........such as... let's say semi humans

and I would be interested in you expanding on your thought. You mentioned the Spock character (and why not bring him in; just about everybody knows who he is and probably has some ideas about what he is). Why do you consider him an unlikely character? Would you consider him an acceptable role model for semi-humans?



Why do you consider him an unlikely character?
being the offspring of a vulcanic father and an earthen mother would render him somewhat unlikely (as there are no vulcan fathers).....(you see with that kind of pedantery you (rather We) are bound to have problems with the genre)
painting him as hyper-rational by silly lines as: "impact in exactly two point seven seven three nine one seconds" (for example) didn't enhance the credebility of the man either
i spake of the Spock-Nimoy persona because i am certain that (for me at least) it was the actor who did the trick to lend life to an otherwise probably even less convincing character
with the sheer presence of the Leonard Nimoy enactment any doubts as to the veracity of the person were thankfully obviated right from the onset (and you are happy when you are spared to think and doubt)

Would you consider him an acceptable role model for semi-humans?
you could not resist, alexander, to ridicule my limited grasp of your exotic vernaculum, isn't it........
but you are right to give it to me
i foresaw this (only somewhat unintended) possibility of interpreting my sentence
my answer to your question would be: yes there are at least hemi brainers among us ((privately coined term with no google resonance!)) , asberger individuals who are lacking some essential anthropological knowledge (or hardwiring like e.g. mirror neurons)
i would bet that a sizable proportion of the spock followship would show a left hemisphere damage
i would not subscribe to your calling:-) them semi humans though

Gillianren
2007-Mar-17, 09:28 PM
The one real advantage to my current situation (being on disability and not getting out much) is that I'm able to read and watch all kinds of books and movies I've been meaning to get to for years. (On the Waterfront is playing as I type this.) I hope to get to a lot of the sci-fi mentioned in the lit contest while I'm at it.

Still, I can give lots and lots of recommendations to other people with plenty of spare time.

Dr Nigel
2007-Mar-17, 10:31 PM
I wonder if the one whose title eludes you is Greg Egan's Diaspora? I've encountered a lot of stories about downloading consciousness, but many of them dodge the issues. Diaspora does not dodge the issues, and is very powerful for that reason - and yes, it gives insights into the human condition. In particular, I like Egan's observation about "the myth of the individual".

To give one example from the book, there is a scene where two characters who normally live in a virtual environment have downloaded their minds into a pair of robots. Whilst in the robots, they have to cross a marsh, and there is a danger that they might sink, in which case they might have to wait a very long time before they are rescued - and during that time they'd be isolated from everyone including each other. So they quite casually give each other back-ups of their personalities which they can activate if they are in need of company.

Thanks for trying, but I'm afraid that doesn't ring any bells.

The novel I'm trying to recall involved new technology whereby a person (who was either terminally ill or very old) could pay to have their consciousness copied into an artificial body. Their original body relinquishes all property rights etc. (they had to sign up to this beforehand), and lives out the remainder of their natural life in luxury on the far side of the Moon. The artificial body then goes on with the person's life, picking up where the natural body left off.

[Spoiler alert, even though I still can't remember the title]

In the novel, a court action is brought by the relatives of one of the people that has this procedure, to challenge the right of the artificial body to have access to the property and wealth of the person who was copied.

mike alexander
2007-Mar-20, 10:04 PM
you could not resist, alexander, to ridicule my limited grasp of your exotic vernaculum

Peace, satori! I wasn't ridiculing you, or your use of language!

As for my using semi-human, OK, that is probably the wrong word. I can see it producing some unpleasant associations.

How about hybrid? Accurate description of Spock, not demeaning in any way I know.

loglo
2007-Mar-22, 04:36 PM
[Spoiler alert, even though I still can't remember the title]

In the novel, a court action is brought by the relatives of one of the people that has this procedure, to challenge the right of the artificial body to have access to the property and wealth of the person who was copied.


Think you are thinking of Mindscan (http://www.sfwriter.com/exmi.htm) by Robert J Sawyer.

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-22, 08:26 PM
There's been a lot of talk, recently, about Zelazny, and it occurs to me that he came up with some of the most wonderful titles (which were generally attached to some equally wonderful stories): "The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth", "A Rose for Ecclesiastes", "The Graveyard Heart", "Creatures of Light and Darkness".

I used to be a sucker for ludicrously long or otherwise unlikely titles: "Time Considered As A Helix Of Semi-Precious Stones" by Samuel R. Delany, "'Repent, Harlequin!' said the Ticktockman" by Harlan Ellison (again, attached to pretty good stories). Come to that I still quite like 'em.

I also remember many of Cordwainer Smith's with fondness: "The Colonel Came Back from the Nothing At All", "The Crime and Glory of Commander Suzdal", "No! No! Not Rogov!", "Drunkboat", "The Queen of the Afternoon", "Mark Elf" and others.

Does anybody have any other thoughts about titles? How important are they? To me, they are fairly crucial. There's a novel by (I think) Stanley Schmidt called "Tweedlioop", and to my mind that has no grab-factor at all. Wells' "The First Men in The Moon" does what it says on the tin, as does "The Invisible Man", "The Time Machine" and "The War of the Worlds". OTOH, "Tono Bungay" - what's the point of that? "Hmm, I want something to read. What sounds really interesting? Ooh, 'Tono Bungay' - I really, really want to know more!"

I have this belief that you should never use a proper noun in a title unless a) it's a proper noun that will be familiar to many, and have a resonance (e.g. Churchill, Vietnam, Venus), or b) it sounds suitably exotic and/or intriguing. Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" works because the made-up word hints at a romantic meaning, whereas her sister's "Jane Eyre" tells us... what? I'm guessing that the people alive today who read "Jane Eyre" did so because they were told to, or because they wanted to get some classics read. Did anybody actually think, "Hey, I really want to know more about this Jane Eyre woman."?

On the subject of proper-noun titles, Leigh Brackett (of Empire Strikes Back fame) wrote some gorgeous stories set on Mars, many of which included place names in the title. These tended to work because they were sort-of borrowed from Arabian and quasi-biblical history and myth. They included "The Last Days of Shandakor" and "The Secret of Sinharat" (an expanded version of the even-more-gorgeously titled "Queen of the Martian Catacombs"). Actually her titles alone were a joy; again, it's pleasing that the stories tended to live up to the promise.

mike alexander
2007-Mar-22, 08:44 PM
I also feel that a great title can make one want to see what the heck the story is all about. 'Mimsy Were the Borogoves' - doncha want to KNOW? 'The Darfsteller', 'The Persistence of Vision', 'The Unholy Grail', 'The Ballad of Lost C'Mell'...

(I loved Smith's titles as well. 'The Game of Rat and Dragon', 'When the People Fell'. And, of course, the people DID fall)

And not just science fiction. TH White's second book in the Once and Future King tetralogy was originally titled 'The Witch in the Wood'. A serviceable title, but does it really compare to its rename, 'The Queen of Air and Darkness'?

SMEaton
2007-Mar-22, 09:05 PM
Robert Silverberg's "Shadrach in the Furnace", as a title, got me interested.
The blurbed summary (inside of dust jacket, back cover, or first page) can be important as well... an appetizer to get the salivation glands going before digging in.

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-22, 10:46 PM
I also feel that a great title can make one want to see what the heck the story is all about.
Yes, that can certainly work. Although, as I demonstrated (to my own satisfaction, anyway) with "Tweedlioop", it doesn't automatically follow just because the word is a bit strange.


'Mimsy Were the Borogoves' - doncha want to KNOW?
I think I sort of did. It was much later that I read Through The Looking Glass and so I simply recognised it as a quotation. As a result, I still haven't read it!


'The Darfsteller'
The title didn't really grab me. I only read it because it was in the collection of Hugo stories I'd acquired.


'When the People Fell'. And, of course, the people DID fall)
Oh yes! That still came as a shock, despite the giveaway cover illo on The Instrumentality of Mankind, and the innocuous reference to "the fall of China" in the timeline.

"Alpha Ralpha Boulevard" was another one. I think I had to look up "boulevard"! I did wonder why it should be named Alpha Ralpha.


And not just science fiction. TH White's second book in the Once and Future King tetralogy was originally titled 'The Witch in the Wood'. A serviceable title, but does it really compare to its rename, 'The Queen of Air and Darkness'?
I think the latter is an improvement.

One author relevant to recent discussions about titles and prose is Clark Ashton Smith. Some were ppretty dreadful, but some were beautiful. "Master of the Asteroid" was one of the first stories I read which was based on thoroughly outdated astronomy but which nonetheless was a convincing read. "The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis" was an early example of explorers visiting an unspeakably ancient Martian city - and all falling foul of an ancient evil. Lovely title, and evocative story. Interestingly, most of his stories had no twist endings, and things just happened rather arbitrarily to the characters, but the language was something else for the time they were written. Again, reminiscent of Zelazny, and I believe Gene Wolfe drew inspiration too.

Gillianren
2007-Mar-22, 11:57 PM
Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" works because the made-up word hints at a romantic meaning . . . .

I'm pretty sure it's dialect, not made-up.

My first novel (still unpublished) went through probably half a dozen titles, and I'm still not 100% happy with the one I settled on. Sometimes, the title comes first, and one of my favorites, the title came three pages, give or take, before I finished writing it. (Something Rich and Strange, taken from The Tempest. I take a lot of titles from Shakespeare, because it's easy.) Often, coming up with the title for my movie reviews takes longer than writing the half-dozen paragraphs of the review itself.

And, yes, there are a fair number of things I've read because I really liked the title. Sometimes, it's worth it.

mike alexander
2007-Mar-23, 12:07 AM
Hah. After agonizing over titling, the two essays I've had published so far EACH had the title changed by the editor. The second one twice.

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-23, 08:23 AM
Robert Silverberg's "Shadrach in the Furnace", as a title, got me interested.
Yes, it is intriguing. I haven't actually read it; I read some of Silverberg's "heavy" books (i.e. ones with a fair bit of politics and other office-based "action") when Shadrach was doing the rounds, but I was at an age when I was more inclined to read Moorcock's swashbuckling fantasy novels.

I think you're meant to recognise Shadrach's name from the Bible, though.


The blurbed summary (inside of dust jacket, back cover, or first page) can be important as well... an appetizer to get the salivation glands going before digging in.
Very important indeed - and very hard to do. I had to write my own blurb for my Doctor Who novel, and I don't think I did a very good job of it - several reviews complained they weren't reading the book they'd been expecting.

I always find it amusing when the blurb writer clearly hasn't read the book, or makes glaring, puzzling or just plain funny mistakes. When I first received a copy of Asimov's Foundation, I was puzzled by the reference to the "Julactic Empire". Was someone hard of hearing taking dictation?

HenrikOlsen
2007-Mar-23, 08:36 AM
"To your scattered bodies go" by Farmer is also a nice title that makes you curious.

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-23, 08:41 AM
I'm pretty sure it's dialect, not made-up.
The narrator remarks on it, but I can't remember what he says!


My first novel (still unpublished) went through probably half a dozen titles, and I'm still not 100% happy with the one I settled on. Sometimes, the title comes first, and one of my favorites, the title came three pages, give or take, before I finished writing it. (Something Rich and Strange, taken from The Tempest. I take a lot of titles from Shakespeare, because it's easy.) Often, coming up with the title for my movie reviews takes longer than writing the half-dozen paragraphs of the review itself.
Perhaps we should have a writers' group thread.

What happens with the movie reviews? Are they published?


And, yes, there are a fair number of things I've read because I really liked the title. Sometimes, it's worth it.
The more I think about it, the more sure I am that the ability to write a good title gives an indication of the author's instincts - though not always.

Alan Dean Foster wrote a novel called "Sentenced to Prism" which is such a lame pun that I wouldn't touch it with a bargepole. I've seen crime novels with titles such as "Cast, In Order of Disappearance" (ugh!).

My first published story began with a title. I was in a bookshop in Chichester, looking at The Collected Poetry of Coleridge. I turned around and saw what was Bomber by (I think) Len Deighton. So I went home and wrote "The Coleridge Bomb". After one rejection I rewrote it and changed the title to "The Coleridge Bombers" and eventually sold it to an anthology called Digital Dreams for 158. It came out in 1991. Oh happy days.

Right now, though, my favourite title of all time is for a movie I'm not even interested in seeing. It's so straightforward you could almost write the script yourself. It is "Snakes on a Plane".

Maksutov
2007-Mar-23, 01:03 PM
I've always considered science fiction to be that kind of writing that incorporates science/technology, character development, and ideas into a new way of looking at them. The problem with the early science fiction "potboilers" that alienated the genre from the rest of the literary crowd was an overemphasis on technology to the detriment of the other two. Any focus on speculation about new technology is usually bound to become dated or off-course quickly.

I like science fiction novels that encompass wide scopes, books that read like a Mahler symphony sounds. As some folks here already know my favorite is City (http://www.bautforum.com/showpost.php?p=175587&postcount=81) by Simak. Although a novel created (rather than cobbled, leave that to the cobblies) from various short stories, it hangs together wonderfully and has all sorts of insights re human nature (even as dogs) and ideas about various scenarios re the fate of mankind. As would be expected of writing from the 1940s/50s, some of the science and technology aspects are off the mark, but some are right on.

Now to get out the insecticide.

Romanus
2007-Mar-23, 04:17 PM
As someone who still considers himself a SF neophyte, I ask that the SF I read (and try to write, for that matter) answer two major questions: "How?", and "What?"

How, as in, "How might __________ affect a person or society?" How would cheap space travel affect humanity? What about teleportation? Time travel? How would people adapt to colonizing a hostile new world?

What, as in, "What are the implications of ________ ?" What would be the possible consequences of being able to copy consciousness into a computer? What might happen if there were scientific proof for God? What would immortality be like?

I realize these questions are related, but as a general rule, my favorite SF has always addressed them.

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-23, 05:00 PM
I realize these questions are related, but as a general rule, my favorite SF has always addressed them.
Yes. Conversely, SF that fails to address these questions tends to be shallow and unsatisfying. A lot of TV and movie SF fails on this count. I recall a Star Trek episode in which a repeatable transporter malfunction caused the regular cast to be de-aged. Now to my mind that would have such major consequences on society that things would never be the same again. But of course it was forgotten by next episode.

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-23, 05:02 PM
The problem with the early science fiction "potboilers" that alienated the genre from the rest of the literary crowd was an overemphasis on technology to the detriment of the other two.
Well yeah, but how many literary works were dealing with the major developments of the technology that has come to dominate our lives?

Dr Nigel
2007-Mar-23, 06:26 PM
Think you are thinking of Mindscan (http://www.sfwriter.com/exmi.htm) by Robert J Sawyer.

Yes, that's the one!

Dr Nigel
2007-Mar-23, 06:29 PM
... Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" works because the made-up word hints at a romantic meaning, ...

What made-up word? "Wuthering" is a part of Yorkshire dialect, and has been for a long time.

Dr Nigel
2007-Mar-23, 06:35 PM
Back on the subject of titles, there are a few novels that simply do not live up to the expectations the titles engender. An obvious example is Revenge of the Fluffy Bunnies by an author whose name eludes me for the present (part of the "Cineverse" cycle). Brilliant title. Not so the book.

Then again, there are a few titles that reach out and grab your attention. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, for instance.

Maksutov
2007-Mar-23, 06:54 PM
Well yeah, but how many literary works were dealing with the major developments of the technology that has come to dominate our lives?IIRC the literary crew took the position that dealing with such developments was the domain of technical publications, papers, and occasionally, popular publications. The more elitist types thought such subject matter had no place in serious literature.

HenrikOlsen
2007-Mar-23, 06:58 PM
Back on the subject of titles, there are a few novels that simply do not live up to the expectations the titles engender. An obvious example is Revenge of the Fluffy Bunnies by an author whose name eludes me for the present (part of the "Cineverse" cycle). Brilliant title. Not so the book.
"Bimbos of the Death Sun" would be one, you probably wouldn't expect a book with that title to be a non-sf murder mystery.
Brilliant book nevertheless as the murder happens at a fantasy/SF con and the author obviously knows the peoples who go to such.

Gillianren
2007-Mar-23, 07:19 PM
The narrator remarks on it, but I can't remember what he says!

Well, we've had this weighed in on later. Dialect it is, then.


Perhaps we should have a writers' group thread.

What happens with the movie reviews? Are they published?

Sort of. It's an online journal. I try to watch and review at least one work a day, simply because it helps give my day additional structure. Here's the address. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/vine/journal_view.php?username=gillianren


The more I think about it, the more sure I am that the ability to write a good title gives an indication of the author's instincts - though not always.

Alan Dean Foster wrote a novel called "Sentenced to Prism" which is such a lame pun that I wouldn't touch it with a bargepole. I've seen crime novels with titles such as "Cast, In Order of Disappearance" (ugh!).

Funnily enough, I pointed out a mystery novel in the library booksale to my boyfriend's mother because I thought she'd like it, and she gave it to me for Christmas. Ah, well. She also got me The Story of English, which we saw in the same place the same day. (The companion book, not the series.) It was entirely based on the title that I'd pointed it out to her, and the title was some dumb pun.


My first published story began with a title. I was in a bookshop in Chichester, looking at The Collected Poetry of Coleridge. I turned around and saw what was Bomber by (I think) Len Deighton. So I went home and wrote "The Coleridge Bomb". After one rejection I rewrote it and changed the title to "The Coleridge Bombers" and eventually sold it to an anthology called Digital Dreams for 158. It came out in 1991. Oh happy days.

Bleah! Coleridge! Still, it is a great title. Very catchy.


Right now, though, my favourite title of all time is for a movie I'm not even interested in seeing. It's so straightforward you could almost write the script yourself. It is "Snakes on a Plane".

Pretty much. The story goes that it was a working title, but Samuel L. Jackson refused to let them change it.

And Romanus, you might want to try "The Jaunt," by Stephen King.

SeanF
2007-Mar-23, 07:28 PM
Pretty much. The story goes that it was a working title, but Samuel L. Jackson refused to let them change it.
Hmm. I hadn't heard that Jackson wouldn't let them change it, but I do remember reading that he agreed to do the movie based on nothing more than the title. :)

My favorite title story involves Field of Dreams. The film was based on W.P. Kinsella's book Shoeless Joe, and was originally going to be titled the same. Test audiences indicated that the title made it sound like it was about a hobo or something, and so the studio forced the title change.

Director Phil Robinson personally called Kinsella to apologize for not being allowed to use the book's title. Kinsella responded that he didn't mind the change, because the title Shoeless Joe had been forced on him by his publisher. His original, preferred title for the book: Dream Field. :)

ciderman
2007-Mar-23, 07:42 PM
And not just science fiction. TH White's second book in the Once and Future King tetralogy was originally titled 'The Witch in the Wood'. A serviceable title, but does it really compare to its rename, 'The Queen of Air and Darkness'?

Did you know Poul Anderson also wrote a (science fiction) story called 'The Queen of Air and Darkness'

I thought Alan Dean Foster's 'Into the Out Of', 'The i Inside', 'Nor Crystal Tears' & 'The Tar-Aiym Krang' were all intriguing titles. His 'Icerigger' told you what you getting.
A pet hate of mine though is when blurb writers just plonk down a complete spoiler which give the whole thing away on the back cover.:mad:

But back to intriguing titles, how about 'That Hideous Strength' by C.S. Lewis or Julian May's Saga of the Exiles, 'The Many Coloured Land', 'The Golden Torc', 'The Non Born King' & 'The Adversary'.
Personal fave titles though must go to 'Tau Zero' by Poul Anderson & 'The Song of Phaid the Gambler' by Mick Farren. (though I'll probably change my mind in a few days:)).
A large amount of marketing consideration seems important, &

Something Rich and Strange.
sounds good to me, & makes me wonder if that also refers to the style of writing to be found within?:)

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-23, 09:32 PM
Nice post, Ciderman, but I also want to hear more about your thoughts about P.F. Hamilton.

I've read his short stories in Interzone and Dream but not his obese novels. I'm too slow a reader to read a 1000+ word novel that transforms into a hi-tech Dawn of the Dead - but then again, perhaps it doesn't.

Romanus
2007-Mar-23, 09:35 PM
Re Gillianren:
Already read it. ;) I was thinking about it just a couple of days ago, in fact...

Speaking of SK, my favorite story in that collection is "Beachworld".

"All I want are my Beach Boys tapes. They're in my cabin."

:D

Gillianren
2007-Mar-23, 09:51 PM
Did you know Poul Anderson also wrote a (science fiction) story called 'The Queen of Air and Darkness'

I'd have to look it up, but it sounds like Shakespeare to me. (Okay, I looked it up. It isn't. Probably Anderson was referencing White.)


sounds good to me, & makes me wonder if that also refers to the style of writing to be found within?:)

In places, I hope. It's actually from one of my favorite passages in all of Shakespeare--right up there with the Queen Mab speech in Romeo and Juliet (the only worthwhile part of the play!) and all of Hamlet--

"Full fathom five thy father lies
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that does fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Ding-dong,
Hark! Now I hear them – Ding-dong, bell."

I wanted to use the term "sea-change" to describe something in about the last chapter, and I realized what a great title "something rich and strange" is. "Full fathom five" is, too, and it's been used as such before.

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-23, 10:04 PM
"Sea Change" was the title of a Hemmingway story, about a bloke who could not come to terms with the fact that his girlfriend had had a brief lesbian relationship.

Nowadays, of course, he'd be texting all his mates about it. Perhaps someone needs to rewrite it...

ToSeek
2007-Mar-23, 10:17 PM
"Bimbos of the Death Sun" would be one, you probably wouldn't expect a book with that title to be a non-sf murder mystery.
Brilliant book nevertheless as the murder happens at a fantasy/SF con and the author obviously knows the peoples who go to such.

I bought that one for the title and have been a Sharyn McCrumb fan ever since.

ToSeek
2007-Mar-23, 10:18 PM
Hah. After agonizing over titling, the two essays I've had published so far EACH had the title changed by the editor. The second one twice.

In some of his short story collections, Asimov relates the discussions over the story titles and how many of them got changed by an editor.

Maksutov
2007-Mar-23, 11:06 PM
"to live forever" by Jack Vance demanded to be read.

Imagine my disappointment when it turned out not to be a user's manual.

:neutral:

ciderman
2007-Mar-24, 12:08 AM
Nice post, Ciderman, but I also want to hear more about your thoughts about P.F. Hamilton.

Yeah, I noticed!
I'm just trying to marshal them into some sembelance of coherent thought, not easy at the moment (it was a very late night last night) but don't worry, I am intending to do so soon. Besides, I'd rather rather bring a new angle into the discussion when the current ones played out.:)

However,


I'm too slow a reader to read a 1000+ word novel that transforms into a hi-tech Dawn of the Dead - but then again, perhaps it doesn't.

I'm a fast reader (but slow writer) which probably makes quite a difference.

<pause before heading off on tangents>:shifty:

The phrase sea change http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/312800.html is one I've heard of, not too archaic for me to occasionally use if feeling verbose (it's nice to get the definition clearer though).

Shakespere & Poul Anderson - has anybody else read Anderson's 'A Midsummer Tempest'? Its been many years but I remember enjoying it. Lots of Shakespearian references & content, wrapped up in an alternative history of England with plenty of tomfoolery (sold it to Fazor there already) & humour. I got the impression that Anderson had lot of fun with it, & it's a tale to enjoy, rather than take too seriously.
(It's also mainly set around this part of the country:D )

HenrikOlsen
2007-Mar-24, 12:32 AM
Nice post, Ciderman, but I also want to hear more about your thoughts about P.F. Hamilton.

I've read his short stories in Interzone and Dream but not his obese novels. I'm too slow a reader to read a 1000+ word novel that transforms into a hi-tech Dawn of the Dead - but then again, perhaps it doesn't.

Now, a 1000+ page novel I could understand having trouble with, but 1000+ words?

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-24, 01:45 AM
Now, a 1000+ page novel I could understand having trouble with, but 1000+ words?
Yeah, I'm a really slow reader! I started reading a haiku this morning. I'm hoping to finish it some time tomorrow. :)

Maksutov
2007-Mar-24, 04:28 AM
Yeah, I'm a really slow reader! I started reading a haiku this morning. I'm hoping to finish it some time tomorrow. :)

Paul Beardsley reads poem.
Starts at the end of Winter
And is done in Spring.

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-24, 07:58 AM
That's a beautiful start (apart from the spelling mistake). I'll let you know how I get on.

Maksutov
2007-Mar-24, 08:20 AM
That's a beautiful start (apart from the spelling mistake). I'll let you know how I get on.Thanks for pointing that out. The correction brings it back to the required five syllables.

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-24, 11:39 AM
Brilliant. Thanks, Maksutov.

My plan today is to read "War And Peace". I'm doing rather well. I only started an hour ago and I've already got as far as "And"!

(That's the last of my slow-reader jokes, I promise!)

Maksutov
2007-Mar-24, 07:15 PM
Brilliant. Thanks, Maksutov.

My plan today is to read "War And Peace". I'm doing rather well. I only started an hour ago and I've already got as far as "And"!

(That's the last of my slow-reader jokes, I promise!)Maybe you'd be better off seeing one of the film versions.

The one I have in mind was used by Max Bialystock to introduce Leo Bloom to adult movies: War and Piece.

http://img137.imageshack.us/img137/566/iconwink6tn.gif

Lord Jubjub
2007-Mar-24, 09:55 PM
Tolkien had a bit of a problem with Lord of the Rings. He had intended it to be a single volume work, but the publisher really couldn't swing the costs of the paper at the time (this being shortly after WW2) and asked him to cut the work into smaller pieces. He also had to come up with titles. He thought of doing six titles (one of each of the books), but decided to do only three volumes.

The only one of the titles he really liked was "Fellowship". He thought "Two Towers" was a bit ambiguous and REALLY hated "Return of the King" because it gave away a major plot point. He would have preferred "War of the Ring".

Dr Nigel
2007-Mar-24, 11:12 PM
Bleah! Coleridge!

What? But I like Coleridge. Especially the one with the albatross...

"The stars were dim, and thick the night;
The steersman's face by his lamp gleamed white,
From the sails the dew did drip.
'Til clomb above the eastern bar
the horned moon with one bright star
Within the nether tip.
One after one, by the star-dogged moon, too quick for groan or sigh,
Each turned his face with ghastly pang and cursed me with his eye.
Four times fifty living men, and I heard nor groan nor sigh;
With heavy thump, a lifeless lump, they drop'd down one by one."

Of, course I had to choose a passage with Bad Astronomy in it...

ETA: D'oh! And I had to get two of the words the wrong way round! That penultimate line should be "... and I heard nor sigh nor groan", so it nearly rhymes with "...one by one."

Dr Nigel
2007-Mar-24, 11:23 PM
Tolkien had a bit of a problem with Lord of the Rings. He had intended it to be a single volume work, but the publisher really couldn't swing the costs of the paper at the time (this being shortly after WW2) and asked him to cut the work into smaller pieces. He also had to come up with titles. He thought of doing six titles (one of each of the books), but decided to do only three volumes.

That tallies with I have read, too, except that I thought he split it into six volumes and the publisher decided (or at least strongly recommended) to make it three.


The only one of the titles he really liked was "Fellowship". He thought "Two Towers" was a bit ambiguous and REALLY hated "Return of the King" because it gave away a major plot point. He would have preferred "War of the Ring".

Oh yes. Totally.

So, were the two towers Orthanc and Barad-dur (as seems to be the case in the film), or Minas Tirith (the Tower of Guard) and Minas Morgul (the Tower of Sorcery*)? Or, following the Fellowship, Orthanc and Minas Tirith?

Or Minas Anor and Minas Ithil...?

* Although a literal translation of "Morgul**" is "black wraith".

** Sindarin "Mor" black, and Morbeth "Gul" wraith, but bear in mind that Morbeth was a corruption of Quenya, which shares its roots with Sindarin***.

*** Hey, it was all about the languages in the end.

Gillianren
2007-Mar-25, 01:20 AM
What? But I like Coleridge. Especially the one with the albatross...

It's the laudanum.

Lord Jubjub
2007-Mar-25, 04:05 AM
I always thought (up until I read Tolkien's Letters three years ago) that The Two Towers were Orthanc (Saruman) and Cirith Ungol (where Frodo was captured). Tolkien himself never fully decided that issue, but I think Barad-dur is a bad option. It really doesn't come into play until the third volume.

But this discussion would drag away from the OP, so I'll not pursue it further.

mike alexander
2007-Mar-26, 09:10 PM
Coleridge. Kubla Khan. How many of us have wished that visitor from Porlock hadn't shown up?

Bradbury's story 'A Miracle of Rare Device' comes from there. Also Delany's 'The Milk of Paradise'.

I can't remember which one, but in one of Fred Pohl's autobiographical notes he mentions that some of the titles of Cordwainer Smith's stories came from him, not the author.

For Ciderman: as far as I know, 'The Queen of Air and Darkness' was just a TH White title, no reference. The Anderson story of the same title was most enjoyable (most of Anderson's stories are most enjoyable). He had a flair for titles. 'Orion Shall Rise', 'The Boat of a Million Years' (a quote - from the Egyptian).

Titles are strange. I was burning trash last fall and as I looked out over the valley saw at least a dozen other fires going at the same time; a phrase just dropped into my head, whole. I finished burning, then went down to the basement and wrote a short essay titled 'The Smokes of October'.

On the other hand, I'e been writing a novel for the last half year or so as time permits and am completely stuck for a good title.

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-26, 09:48 PM
Coleridge. Kubla Khan. How many of us have wished that visitor from Porlock hadn't shown up?
Have you read the first Dirk Gently novel? (I'm pretty sure you have.) The plot turns on that point - although it's not actually very clear.


Bradbury's story 'A Miracle of Rare Device' comes from there. Also Delany's 'The Milk of Paradise'.
And others, I'm sure. For some reason I can't cite them at the moment. (Just checked poem.) I think "Down to a Sunless Sea" and "A Savage Place" and "Caverns Measureless to Man" have been used. Also, the rock band Rush did a not-bad-for-a-rock-band homage.

(I also like "In Fast Thick Pants" - out of context!)


I can't remember which one, but in one of Fred Pohl's autobiographical notes he mentions that some of the titles of Cordwainer Smith's stories came from him, not the author.
The intro to The Instrumentality of Mankind, I think. (Either that or The Best of CS.) He points out that although he changed many of the titles, he did draw them from the text itself.


Titles are strange. I was burning trash last fall and as I looked out over the valley saw at least a dozen other fires going at the same time; a phrase just dropped into my head, whole. I finished burning, then went down to the basement and wrote a short essay titled 'The Smokes of October'.
That's nice. I think the two most evocative month names are September and October - but mainly October. (At the risk of sounding like a rock fan, which I'm not, I like the Greenday song "Wake Me Up When September Ends".)

Of course T.S. Eliot did great things with April. And Shakespeare's "Darling Buds of May" clearly worked for H.E. Bates. Hmm, that'll do for ridiculous comments about months.


On the other hand, I'e been writing a novel for the last half year or so as time permits and am completely stuck for a good title.
I've got a title for my next two novels. I've got most of a plot for a Young Adult time travel novel called "Paradox Rider". And I'm actually working on a fantasy novel with the working title "England Dreams", but I'm thinking of changing it to "Insomnia Dreams".

Just remembered - years ago I was in a discussion about a hypothetical hole running all the way through the Earth (ignoring geological issues) and whether you'd get Simple Harmonic Motion if you dropped something down it. I later had the idea for a story about a crack in the Earth that went from the surface to the core. My character inexplicably found himself at the centre of the Earth, and had to find his way out. The title I used was "Going Up In The World".

mike alexander
2007-Mar-26, 10:08 PM
from Paul Beardsley:
I've got a title for my next two novels. I've got most of a plot for a Young Adult time travel novel called "Paradox Rider". And I'm actually working on a fantasy novel with the working title "England Dreams", but I'm thinking of changing it to "Insomnia Dreams".

Just remembered - years ago I was in a discussion about a hypothetical hole running all the way through the Earth (ignoring geological issues) and whether you'd get Simple Harmonic Motion if you dropped something down it. I later had the idea for a story about a crack in the Earth that went from the surface to the core. My character inexplicably found himself at the centre of the Earth, and had to find his way out. The title I used was "Going Up In The World".

"Insomnia Dreams" is much better, I think; paradoxical. Sounds like a title Ballard or Aldiss would use.

It just hit me that you'd get SHM only if the hole went through the poles. Otherwise Coriolanus forces would make it hit the sides.(I know. But it SHOULD be named Coriolanus Force).

In America, the title would be a better pun as "Moving Up in the World". With a Sorcerer's Stone, I assume.

Perhaps you can think of one for me. My story is a retelling of a portion of the Arthurian legends from the point of view of Mordred. Among other things. So far, I've managed to come up with.... 'Mordred'. Feh.

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-26, 10:58 PM
"Insomnia Dreams" is much better, I think; paradoxical. Sounds like a title Ballard or Aldiss would use.
Thanks for the thought. I know what you mean, and I like it for its paradoxical ring, but England Dreams sort-of fits the story better. I thought about using "Insomnia Dreams" as a chapter title, but the original, "Cobwebs", fits better. It's surprisingly frustrating to find a title that won't stick when it clearly should.


It just hit me that you'd get SHM only if the hole went through the poles. Otherwise Coriolanus forces would make it hit the sides.(I know. But it SHOULD be named Coriolanus Force).
Good point. I think we were talking about a stationary Earth-like planet.

You do realise I'm never going to think of Coriolis again, don't you? :)


In America, the title would be a better pun as "Moving Up in the World". With a Sorcerer's Stone, I assume.
I think so. If I ever get the chance to get it reprinted in the USA I'll change it accordingly.


Perhaps you can think of one for me. My story is a retelling of a portion of the Arthurian legends from the point of view of Mordred. Among other things. So far, I've managed to come up with.... 'Mordred'. Feh.
I'll think on it. Perhaps you'd like to PM a brief precis? For now, how about, "The Man With Only One Grandmother"?

mike alexander
2007-Mar-26, 11:43 PM
Heh! Good one!

Trying to keep even the skeleton of the family trees in those stories straight is harder than doing taxes. Not to mention some additions that have crept in.

Gillianren
2007-Mar-27, 02:59 AM
Have you read the first Dirk Gently novel? (I'm pretty sure you have.) The plot turns on that point - although it's not actually very clear.

Actually, I read the beginning of Dirk Gently first. (It came out when I was in perhaps junior high, perhaps ninth grade.) I was very confused when I read "Kublai Khan" while I was still reading Dirk Gently, because it was an awfully short poem that Richard was listening to for an awfully long time.

It's just me, really, and I know that. Other people like Coleridge. I'm just strongly reminded of the drug poetry my poor roommate from my senior year in college had to slog through while she was editor of our college's lit magazine. (The Evergreen State College, here in Olympia, is a bit of a haven for fans of pot.)

Maksutov
2007-Mar-27, 10:00 AM
[edit]I'll think on it. Perhaps you'd like to PM a brief precis? For now, how about, "The Man With Only One Grandmother"?Already done by Futurama.

Out of the Frying pan into the...

For mike's novel, how about something Burroughsesque? Like Naked Ex-Mailer?

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-27, 12:22 PM
Already done by Futurama.
No it wasn't! Fry may have been his own grandfather, but he still would have had two grandmothers.

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-27, 12:26 PM
I'm just strongly reminded of the drug poetry my poor roommate from my senior year in college had to slog through while she was editor of our college's lit magazine. (The Evergreen State College, here in Olympia, is a bit of a haven for fans of pot.)
She has my sympathy!

When I edited the small-press SF magazine Substance in the mid-90s, I think I saved myself an awful lot of misery by listing the cliches to avoid, including, "It all turned out to be happening in virtual reality!" "The sexist man finds himself pregnant!" "The time traveller found he had caused the very accident he had sought to avert!" I still got a couple of VR ones slip through though.

Gas Giant
2007-Mar-27, 06:16 PM
A pet hate of mine though is when blurb writers just plonk down a complete spoiler which give the whole thing away on the back cover.:mad:
I got that with my copy of Harry Harrison's Invasion: Earth. It was only a short book, and there's a major twist right at the end which was carelessly emblazoned all over the back cover.

Maksutov
2007-Mar-28, 04:50 AM
No it wasn't! Fry may have been his own grandfather, but he still would have had two grandmothers.But we never see the other grandmother. Not even at a Brooklyn Dodgers game! Plus maybe Enos, after a long Saturday night on the town...nah. Yeah, you're right.

;)

Dr Nigel
2007-Mar-28, 05:47 PM
Have you read the first Dirk Gently novel? (I'm pretty sure you have.) The plot turns on that point - although it's not actually very clear.

Hey, you should put a spoiler warning on that!


.... Also, the rock band Rush did a not-bad-for-a-rock-band homage.

Yay, Rush!

Although I preferred "Cygnus X-1" to "Xanadu".


(I also like "In Fast Thick Pants" - out of context!)

You know, that could be interpreted in so many ways...


I've got a title for my next two novels. I've got most of a plot for a Young Adult time travel novel called "Paradox Rider". And I'm actually working on a fantasy novel with the working title "England Dreams", but I'm thinking of changing it to "Insomnia Dreams".

FWIW I prefer "England Dreams", but maybe I'm biased.


.... My character inexplicably found himself at the centre of the Earth, and had to find his way out. The title I used was "Going Up In The World".

I like it. :)

mike alexander
2007-Mar-28, 06:02 PM
I guess "Going Up in the World" could be a companion piece to Disch's "Descending".

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-28, 10:05 PM
I guess "Going Up in the World" could be a companion piece to Disch's "Descending".
Good call! Fond memories of all those escalators...

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-28, 10:11 PM
Hey, you should put a spoiler warning on that!
In theory, yes... but it needs explaining even if you've read the book! (At least I needed it explaining.)



Yay, Rush!

Although I preferred "Cygnus X-1" to "Xanadu".
So do I. I brought up Rush in a debate with an HB who kept going on about restoring the balance. It suddenly struck me that he was quoting Hemispheres.


FWIW I prefer "England Dreams", but maybe I'm biased.
Thanks. for that. After spending much of today agonising over it, I realise it does fit the story better - even though insomnia dreams play a major part in it.

Dr Nigel
2007-Mar-30, 08:32 PM
In theory, yes... but it needs explaining even if you've read the book! (At least I needed it explaining.)

Not if you were aware that Douglas Adams was a script editor for Dr Who at the time that a certain story (City of Death) was being filmed. The story is spookily familiar...


So do I. I brought up Rush in a debate with an HB who kept going on about restoring the balance. It suddenly struck me that he was quoting Hemispheres.

Hee hee!

And, for those who are not aware of the reference:
http://www.the7thfire.com/music/rush/hemispheres.htm


Thanks. for that. After spending much of today agonising over it, I realise it does fit the story better - even though insomnia dreams play a major part in it.

You're more than welcome.