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One for immortalradical and snowking both, I think: Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century. "Welcome to New London. The time is 2103 to 2104, and the game is afoot!". WITH ROBOT WATSON. Other Holmesian fun: a story at BBC Cult written by Kim Newman. EDIT: Jonathan Strahan points out that there are other Holmes stories on the site by Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Paul Cornell, Christopher Fowler and Dominic Green.

karentraviss writes about respecting the reader: "Dissing popular and media fiction isn't just insulting to writers: it's actually contemptuous of the readers who buy it. Sneering at their choices tells them that they're too stupid to know any better.  If they were smarter, they'd know they should be reading Literature, or maybe they've tried and just couldn't manage it, poor sods." Charles Stross debates: "Every media tie-in book published is potentially one less book set in a universe of their own imagining by the author who wrote it.". matociquala has further comments, with reference to the geek hierarchy, here.

The mass market paperback edition of City of Saints and Madmen has a different cover to the hardback/trade edition. I don't like it so much.

24 season 4 has started: "Who will the really big bad be? I don't know, but I'm hope hope hoping it's aliens. Jack Bauer vs aliens." I think we can all agree, that would be cool. There's a preview/trailer/mini episode thing set between seasons 3 and 4 to be found here. [via tizzle_b]

The Guardian reviews Graham Joyce's new novel, The Limits of Enchatment. "The Limits of Enchantment is an intricate, involving dramatisation of a battle in English history that still continues today, just about, although there now seems to be hardly any doubt about the winner: the conflict between folk wisdom and modern science. [...] This remarkable novel should scoop Joyce out of the dusty corners of bookshops and introduce his work to a much wider readership." Also in review, less favourably: Belle de Jour's book.

An article about 'Feral Cities' from the Naval War College Review. "Imagine a great metropolis covering hundreds of square miles. Once a vital component in a national economy, this sprawling urban environment is now a vast collection of blighted buildings, an immense petri dish of both ancient and new diseases, a territory where the rule of law has long been replaced by near anarchy in which the only security available is that which is attained through brute power..." [via Matt Cheney]

The best thing to come out of the great LJ blackout of 2005.
> Sneering at their choices tells them that they're too stupid to know any better.

And this is wrong how exactly?

It is done because it is easy. It produces books which sell. It does not produce books which are great works of art. It is classic high brow low brow argument. Can I be bothered to read Karen's argument? no
And this is wrong how exactly?

Well, it makes you sound like a twat for one. It's just replicating people who say SF cannot produce great works of art, only you're using different values of brow. Go you!
It's not clear to me that producing a really good work of 'popular' art is any easier or simpler than producing a really good work of 'literary' art. Are you saying that it is?

It's also not clear to me that a really good work of 'popular' art is inherently less meaningful than a really good work of 'literary' art. It may tackle more universal themes, but that doesn't make them lesser.

I think in most cases, it's mostly in the execution. It's quite possible to have brain-meltingly bad popular fiction (*cough*TheDaVinciCode*cough*), but then it's quite possible to have brain-meltingly bad literary fiction. It's a difference of subject, and possibly degree, not quality.
The question was not just about popular art, but media tie-ins. When people write media tie-in novels they are constrained by having to re-use existing characters and cannot have much character or world development. In my experience this regularly produces books which would not stand up to examination. Sure - it is possible to produce a good one but it is the exception rather than the rule.

I don't see why snowking had to be so offensive about something which is a straightforward observation of the market as it is now.
That said, I do have some sympathy for Charlie Stross' point--most of the time I would rather read an original imaginative work than a derivative one. But then, you could apply that argument against series fiction as well, and he's as guilty of that as anyone.
Because it ignores any basis for those choices and just says they're all wrong. It's elitist in the bad way.

Because "low brow" does not mean valueless. I'd far rather read a book which has story than one which waffles on in an essentially unreadable manner. Books don't have to be works of art to be great.

Because these books can be better than the source material they're based on. In the hands of the right writer there's no reason why it can't produce "high brow" works. When the source material has potential, but is let down by basic plots or flat characterisation, there's often a wish to see what a better writer would have done with that material. Or there's a wish to see what happens next, or how places away from the centre of action are affected.

Media tie-ins and things like new Cthulhu and Sherlock Holmes stories are professional fanfiction, and in my view this is a good thing. Sure, there are ones written just for the money but there are also ones written for love. Immediately deciding that they must all be crap (and so must the people who read them) seems a little reactionary...
My need for Cthulu fanfic is very very low. It basically starts with 'A Colder War' and ends with The Atrocity Archives. :)

I acknowledge that accepting a predefined set of constraints--like, say, an existing fictional world--can be seen as a challenge: how can I build in all this and still write a good story? I just mostly prefer original stuff.
I'm with you.

All you other wrongheads, read the article - this isn't about reusing characters, it's about bad writing. Charlie happened to pick up on that aspect, but don't be fooled by the Stross that we got; he's still, he's still missing the point. But then, Karen's article is so badly thought out that it's easy to be misled.

Oh, and Karen's argument, in a nutshell, is that there is no objective standard for quality, so we have to go by sales, so, since trash sells more, trash wins. Wrongheads, bow before your queen.

This is the bit i love best:

Is it because Pop and media are easy, and so the thickos can cope with it?

Yes, exactly.

Note the conflation of 'media' and 'pop' here - she's cunningly associating bad with spinoff, so she can later use the fact that some spinoffery is good to prove that bad is good. Genius!


Oh, that's me told, then! Go on, Karen, do explain ...

These books (and whatever else accompanies them) offer something in them that readers like and go on liking,

Aha. What, exactly?

Sadly, she never gets round to telling us. Which is a shame, because, really that's the crux of it - what is this magical quality that pop books have and that lit books don't that makes them so popular, that isn't just easiness of reading?

and it's not because they can't handle big concepts and big words, because many, many Pop books are full of both.

Big words, maybe - we're not talking tabloid newspapers here. Big ideas? I'd like some evidence, please. Shit, even some complex sentence structure would do!

If you want my deep insight, i think everyone's missing the point: trash is objectively worse than quality, but there's nothing wrong with reading trash. When the hell did people's choice of reading matter acquire a moral dimension? If someone doesn't want to make their brain do any work, who are we to tell them off for it? Just because we're into thinking about shit, doesn't mean we can diss people who aren't.

(I was going to use an analogy comparing KFC's Colonel's Secret Recipe Chicken to Petrus's Anjou pigeon poached and pan fried on a liver and truffle crouton, but now i don't need it; i'm mentioning it anyway, just because the idea of Anjou pigeon poached and pan fried on a liver and truffle crouton is so god damn mouth-watering. And it comes with red wine shallots!)

Still, fair play to Ms Traviss: she's started a hell of on argument, so nuff respect to her for that. The old Peter Sidwell ploy. Knows it.

-- tom
24 Season Four has started? But it's not allowed to!

I'm only half way through season three!
Watch faster! :p
More than four or five episodes a night?
Its starting on Sky One at the end of this month, if you have that. Better do some 24 evening :-D
We made it through about four episodes last night and we have three discs left to watch. I think we might just manage it!
The best thing to come out of the great LJ blackout of 2005.

I remember another filk created with that song. It had something to do with Lindsay's pants in it.

... I don't want to know!

(Though let's face it, there are probably others around here who do.)
I could send you the MP3, if you like.
Interesting, makes me want to reiterate a recommendation for Ghost in the Shell 2 for obvious reasons (well, it'll be obvious if you watch the film).

While they make mention of Mogadishu, and Mexico City, and Jo-burg ... it's fascinating to see they make no mention of Sarajevo. Seems to me that whilst Sarajevo might not be the metropolis they had in mind, it is a very modern example of how something as local as a street fight can magnify regionally, and draw in global interests...and is perhaps an example of what can work.

I suppose the alternative method for dealing with a 'rogue city' would be Russia's approach to Grozny. :-/
The other thought, of course ... Macleod's Star Fraction and its ilk...
8). When i saw that link, i knew a post from you couldn't be far away. Zac, you are a stone cold speculative geopolitics whore, and you know it.

To expand on Zac's point about Mogadishu, though - no government, 150 Mb/s to the kerb (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/4020259.stm) (although it's probably a facto for kb/s; still, not bad).

One error i have to correct, though - the article states that "Nor is urban pollution anything new — London was environmentally toxic in the 1960s". Please! London has been environmentally toxic since the mid 19th century!

Overall, i love the article. It has essentially no bearing on the US military, and particularly not the navy (the points they come up with are more or less completely specious). It's painfully obvious that the author is just a huge cyberpunk fanboy, and wanted to write an article seriously suggesting that urban deimotopias could actually emerge - cool! He's virtually wetting himself over the "subterranean spaces". The disproportionately short length of the 'Feral cities and the US military' section makes me wonder if it wasn't stuck in to replace something else, something the author had put some effort into, but which the editor considered unpublishable - i suspect either cybernetically enhanced urban elite troops, or else flesh-camouflaged infiltration androids.

-- tom
8). When i saw that link, i knew a post from you couldn't be far away. Zac, you are a stone cold speculative geopolitics whore, and you know it.

And don't you know it Mr. Anderson..."I love you stone cold long time! Long time Andah-san!" :-p


Well, if one really wants to get into speculation - the next generation of weapons in such a hellish metropolis would have to be hacks that neutralise or redirect an invading army's 'smart' robot weapons (possibly sending the enemy's weapons towards another enemy's redoubts...producing a third front to the first enemy's advantage) ... or even simpler - EM to knock out all high-tech systems and reduce fighting to the defender's brutal terms.

(Though I have to give Joe Haldeman credit for that idea...spacemen fighting with swords)

Re: 'Feral Cities' by Anonymous :: Expand
Dissing popular and media fiction isn't just insulting to writers: it's actually contemptuous of the readers who buy it. Sneering at their choices tells them that they're too stupid to know any better.

Of course. And the reason is because this is a fact. Very disappoiting to read this from a writer who seemed quote interesting.
Reading some of the posters in karentraviss's discussion thread, I was reminded of the sort of inverted snobbery that some folk have that means they almost have to believe they're being looked down on. Reminded, in fact, of the media fans who either didn't come to, or didn't enjoy, the "-asm" series of cons we ran in the early nineties because they were convinced that we were a bunch of horrid fannish literary types and they'd be Looked Down Upon Just Because.

And then, of course, I come back to this thread later on and see alexmc and ninebelowdoing exactly that....
I have a right to sneer at people's reading choices and they have a right not to give a shit. If this keeps them away from cons then Christ knows how they cope in the real world.

I don't spend my life going round sneering at people but that is exactly the response Traviss's inane piece engenders. Some books are better than others. Get over it.
Oh, I'm over it - so far you wouldn't believe. Of course you've a right to sneer, and they've a right to take offence.

I was just amused to see the same argument in the same terms as had been going more than a decade ago, complete with the same misunderstandings on either side (more on theirs than on yours, to be honest).

However, I do think it's possible for people of good will on both sides to be a little bit more reasonable. And yes, maybe they did "invade Poland" this time round, but saying "they started it" is a pretty good express lift to the other guys' level.

To reiterate. I'm not saying that you and alexmc are wrong, my disagreement is with your method. Maybe it's just age, but it's amazing how often, from the old fart perspective, young turks come over as - excuse the expression - somewhat juvenile. Still, youth's self-curing....
Sneering at their choices tells them that they're too stupid to know any better.

The most ridiculous thing about that article, imho, is this entire concept that people's reading choices need to be respected by others. What for? Respect your own choices, or don't, and leave other people out of what is essentially a personal predilections and a private activity.

I don't care if people diss what I am reading, I don't care if people think I am wasting my time by reading sf, or poetry, or politics.....and I don't expect them to get all excited and reverential over my choice of reading material either. But at the same time, don't tell me that I can't judge the books I read - if I have spent a certain number of hours on a book, it is my right to discuss it, provided I wish to discuss it. And to say that I cannot say nasty things about a book I found ghastly, just to ensure that some unknown fan somewhere doesn't feel slighted, well, that is a gross infringement of my freedom of speech and expression.....After all, I am not sitting here and bleating that they all have to love what I love, otherwise they are offending me/sneering at me....