Stross, Westerfeld and Priest: It’s a Good Week (Plus a Pimping Thread)

For book lovers, this is one of those weeks where you hope you’ve saved your pennies, because there’s too many good books debuting this week. Here’s three I want to bring to your attention right now.

First, there’s Halting State by Charles Stross, which is just your typical black comedy heist caper taking place in a massively multiplayer online role playing game kind of story. Wait, what? You’re telling me that there’s no typical black comedy heist caper in a MMPORG, because there’s no other story of this sort? Well, fine. It’s the Platonic ideal of that newly-emerging subgenre, then. Get it while it’s hot.

As for Charlie, well. Let me first place the bet that early next year we’ll see Charlie on the Hugo Best Novel ballot, again, for the fifth year running, mind you. I’ve said before that Charlie is the poster boy for science fiction here in the first decade of the first century of the third millennium, and Halting State makes him even more poster-y, if that’s possible. He thinks up so much interesting stuff, on such a regular basis, that you want to take him aside and take his temperature or something, to make sure that his brain isn’t going to bubble away into a thick pudding from processing so much stuff so fast and so well.

Which presents a conundrum. On one hand, if he blows a gasket, that’s another Hugo spot open for the rest of us. On the other hand, I’m a reader and a fan, so his burning out is not something I want. So put an ice pack on your brain, Charlie, and get back to work.

Second, there’s Extras by Scott Westerfeld, which continues his bestselling Uglies series in a way that I like: It’s in the same world, but with a new setting, a new time frame, and new lead characters. Being that I’m writing a fourth book in a series that has an existing trilogy already in it, you know I’m taking notes. I’m also taking notes because I’m trying to do something Scott does very well, which is to write realistic and interesting young female characters. I’m commented before that writing like a girl is hard when you’re a guy downsloping toward 40; you don’t want to screw it up. So I’m paying a lot of attention to how Scott does his thing.

I’ve mentioned before that Scott’s Uglies series is bestselling; just check the New York Times lists for that. But I also think Scott’s YA sf/f stuff (which also includes Peeps, The Last Days, So Yesterday and the Midnighters series) is — or will be — immensely influential. Here’s my thought on that, and it’s something I’ve noted at conventions but not here: 20 years from now, people will think on the Uglies series and Scott’s other work much in the same way people my age thought on the Heinlein juveniles — the place where their love of science fiction, and in some cases of just plain reading, got its kick start. Scott is doing what Heinlein did in his juvies: puts teens front and center of future world, and gives them moral and personal challenges to deal with, challenges which speak directly to what’s actually going on in the readers’ lives at the time. Now, to be sure, how Scott does it and how Heinlein did it are rather wildly different in form and execution, but fundamentally it’s the same thing. And Scott’s basically the only writer going full guns on the science fiction side of YA and hitting the bestseller lists; everyone else is wrapped up in fantasy.

What this means is that starting in just a few years, I think we’re going to see a bunch of writers who see Scott as a primary influence on how they view science fiction; when they talk about the foundation their writing house is built on, he’s going to get his props — again, like Heinlein does for my generation. But unlike with Heinlein, I think a bunch of science fiction fans are going to be walloped upside the head by Scott’s apparently sudden significance, because for some unfathomable reason being a YA science fiction writer doesn’t have as much currency as it ought to have, and Scott doesn’t have the profile in science fiction fandom that the quality of his writing and his sales justify. And that’s kind of stupid, if you ask me: Scott’s hoeing the row for the genre with another generation of readers, and not with just “the usual suspects” for science fiction, but with the other kids, too.

Now, maybe that’s changing: I’ll note that Scott along with his wife and fellow YA writer Justine Larbalestier have been tapped as Guests of Honor at the ConFusion convention next January, so it’s clear that some vanguard of fandom is on to him and to the importance of new, current YA to the science fiction genre. I just wish the rest of SF would catch up, too.

In the meantime, you heard it here first: Scott Westerfeld, future massive influence on written science fiction. It’s going to happen; you just have prepare. All I can say is thank God he writes as well as he does.

Third but absolutely not least is Not Flesh Nor Feathers by Cherie Priest, which is the third (and if I’m correct, concluding) book featuring Cherie’s character Eden Moore, who sees ghosts from time to time and is not necessarily happy about it. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve got just a little bit of lit crush on Eden, because I think Cherie has built her just right: She’s smart and capable and resourceful, but realistically so — or, at least, as realistically as possible given the supernatural contexts in which she often finds herself — and I like the fact that sometimes, she just gets exasperated at it all. Eden’s not just a character, she has character, which is important for me as a reader.

The same could be said about Cherie Priest as a writer, which is I think all to the good. Cherie toes an interesting line; she can whip up a scene that will make you sort of want to casually flick on the lights if you’re reading at night, which is difficult in itself, but she wraps those sort of scenes in a writers voice that is wry and warm and in a very real sense comforting (which means, of course, that when those prickly scenes come, and they do, they really jab you in the eye). There are many things to say about Cherie’s writing style, but one thing you can’t about it is that it’s anonymous. Cherie is blessed with a voice, which to be flatly honest is not something every writer — even some good ones — can say.

Also, this is the third time I’m deeply envious of Cherie’s cover art, which is done to creepy perfection by John Jude Palencar. Note to self: Devise some way to get a Palencar cover on one of my books.

Now having pimped my friends’ books mercilessly, I open the floor to you and declare this a pimping thread. Pimp yourself! Pimp your friends! Pimp random strangers whose work you like! Tell us what’s worth reading, hearing, seeing, tasting, feeling, smelling or thinking about. Note, however, that three or more links in your comment will get it sent to the moderation thread. Don’t panic, I’ll release it eventually.

Pimp away!

32 thoughts on “Stross, Westerfeld and Priest: It’s a Good Week (Plus a Pimping Thread)

  1. Noticed last week that Axis, Robert Charles Wilson’s sequel to 2006 Hugo award winner Spin is now out.

  2. I’ll break with the pimping tradition to echo your thoughts on Westerfeld. He’s doing awesome work in the YA field, and has written a couple of books that stack up nicely next to my childhood faves, Cormier and McKinley.

  3. I’ve finished draft two of a flash fiction piece that I’m hoping to be able to market by the end of the week. I also have a short story that’s made it to the second round of reading at Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.

    I’ve just recently come across some really good web comics, and I really enjoy this one: http://www.north-world.com/index.php. The art has a kind of Usagi Yojimbo feel, and the story is a great mix of every day issues and fantasy elements. It’s definately worth a read, plus the extras are awesome. If you check it out, I would also highly recommend checking out Shark vs. Ninja on the extras page.

  4. Westerfeld is awesome, and I’m happy to report that my nieces and their friends are as excited about a new Uglies book as they were about the last Harry Potter.

    Nice to see him getting some props here.

  5. I already posted this on the board, but Stephen Fry is blogging. His first two entries on smart phones and fame are a great start.

    Plus, the fifth glorious season of QI (the game show where correct answers aren’t as important as interesting answers and where you get penalized for being obvious) has hit YouTube, which is good news for those of us not in Britain who can’t even get the DVD. This is part 1 of a recent episode with the theme of electricity: (The other two parts are also there, but I didn’t include them here because I suspect that too many links will get this stuck in moderator heck.)

  6. Loved “Flesh Not Feathers” myself. I agree with you about the tone. She’s not really writing things in a scary voice, but the events are pretty creepy. There’s been a resurgence in zombie type stories out there, and this is one of the best I’ve seen.

  7. Jebus. So much to read (Axis! Halting State! The new Bon Appetit!) and so little time.

    My friend Jason Stoddard wrote a story called “Winning Mars” that appeared in Interzone (and is now in the Gardner Dozois-edited anthology “Dangerous Games”), and then he turned it into a novel that he’s giving away here. Both are about the first manned expedition to Mars, as fueled by a reality show. It is Teh Awesome.

  8. My new book, Vogelein:Old Ghosts hits stores today. Comics stores, at least. If you’re not the comic-store type, it can also be ordered from:
    Powell’s:http://www.powells.com/biblio/62-9780974311012-0
    Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/Vogelein-Old-Ghosts-Jane-Irwin/dp/0974311014/ref=pd_bbs_1/102-7338283-6464960?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1191438996&sr=8-1
    and
    Barnes and Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780974311012&itm=2

    Since it sounds like horn-tootin’ is allowed, it’s gotten some nice reviews already:
    “The warm, comforting story, which feels like a folktale, spins out at a leisurely pace, allowing readers time to experience the lush softness of the black-and-white art and really appreciate the characters, the place, and the mood of the telling.” — Tina Coleman, Booklist

    “… a beautiful, bittersweet, life-affirming story … readers new to Vögelein will discover a fantastic treat. ”
    — Kat Kan, graphic novel consultant, Brodart and HW Wilson and Voice Of Youth Advocates columnist

    “Irwin’s black-and-white painted artwork has a naturalistic feel and some beautiful designs, and her handling of emotions is nuanced and affecting. Recommended for all collections, for teens and adults.”
    — Stephen Raiteri, The Library Journal

    Thanks for the space to do this, John!

  9. Well, I’m going to pimp the first ever U.S. Discworld convention with GOH Terry Pratchett. 2009 in the Phoenix,Arizona.

  10. Oooh, Extras. Didn’t even know that was coming out.

    I think you’re right on about Westerfeld–I was talking to my 13-year-old sister about his books last week (she had Specials on her shelf, I picked it up to reread). It gave her Book Fever, and not much does. I’ll have to pick up Extras and send it to her.

  11. Pimp? Who me? Don’t I need some sort of purple slouch hat or something for that?

    Whatever (Ha!), I’m told that an occasional SFF fan drops in here, so I’d like to point out that The Whirligigzine site will go live in a matter of days, followed by a print version of same in early November, hopefully around the time of the World Fantasy Convention, Nov 1-4 in Saratoga NY.

    Why I think the Scalzi fen would be interested in TW is that Nick (Move Under Ground, Under My Roof) Mamatas — who, with the lovely Eliani Torres, has a story happily ensconced in the archives of this very Whatever — will be within the zine’s pages. As will longtime zinester Jeff Somers, who has a new novel called The Electric Church out now. He will be at WFC with the book, as will I to catch any stray rays of his reflected glory, which I will use to illuminate the wonders of The Whirligigzine, Issue 1a. Or something like that. (Jeff’s cool site is worth a visit: http://the-electric-church.com/)

    But I’m only scratching the surface. If you need a zine that is SFnal and fantastical, while literary enough to shut up the inevitable naysayers, write to me at jdfinch@whirligigzine.com/. Or go to http://www.whirligigzine.com in a couple weeks to order. Prepublication updates are at http://www.thewhirligig.blogspot.com/.

    I now declare my pimpage complete. Anybody want a purple hat?

  12. I just wanted to point out that it’s MMORPG. Stands for “Massively Multiplayer Online RolePlaying Game.”

    Umm, and I have nothing to pimp at present. Though my blog is still rolling smoothly along if anyone wants to come look. :)

  13. I cannot resist a Whatever pimping thread (now that I’ve rediscovered the correct RSS feed and am reading it again).

    I have as of yesterday in my hot little hands cover flats and page proofs for my upcoming SF novel Marseguro, due out from DAW in February. I’ve posted the cover art on my blog, http://edwardwillett.blogspot.com, and my website, http://www.edwardwillett.com. And even better: looks like DAW also wants the sequel, Terra Insegura.

    So I’d better get writing…

  14. Not pimping, but I wanted to mention that I just ordered Halting State at amazon.co.uk and found that I could only buy it via other resellers in USA. Initially I got annoyed, but then I got puzzled when I found that both books listed were used. After that, I got happy that one of them “Used, as new” was selling for only 13 pounds or so which is damn cheap for a newly published hardcover book.

  15. I can see another difference between Heinlein and Westerfeld, which may be another reason that will be startled when future fans cite Westerfeld as one of their major influences: Westerfeld isn’t writing for SF magazines the way Heinlein did (of course, Heinlein didn’t have a YA market that Westerfeld does).

    As for pimping, I guess I’ll promote my own site, A Chocoholic UnAnonymous:

    http://chocolatescifi.livejournal.com

  16. hi,

    i was wondering where can i watch or download full metal alchemist the 2nd episode 11 been searching for it…
    no of the links are working….

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