Thursday, June 23, 2005

Sort of a m.

I'd been meaning to answer Steph's question, and Tim reminded me.

So, here is my list of things that I think are fun in a book. It got long:

1. Loveable rogues, of any species or gender, preferably when it's not clear if they're good or bad guys.

2. Ships--sailing or space.

3. Straightforward dialogue. Manners, for the most part, are boring. (Also, comic dialogue--but not banter. Watching Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell banter is a delight. Reading banter is a chore.)

4. Castles big enough to lose a civilization in (blame Mr. Peake).

5. Unexpected (but believable) reversals.

6. Gods and immortals walking among us (except for American Gods, sorry). Particularly if they're working stiffs. C'mon, who wouldn't like to see Sobek crunching numbers at a CPA's office?

7. Magic grounded in real-world traditions, not hand-wavy D&D crap. (Also, religions--note the plural--which are grounded in things which actually resonate, whether pulled from real traditions or invented out of whole cloth. Really, this one boils down to "Books where the author has done the f&*%ing work.")

8. Misplaced objects of great power, which are subtly different from lost objects of great power. As in, "I could have sworn I set the Orb of Maximus on top of the credenza . . ."

9. Eccentric inventors.

10. Animals that are smarter than the humans (or other dominant life form). They can talk, but only if they don't talk to the humans.

11. Secret histories.

12. Mountains, caves, tunnels, hidden chambers--think the Morlocks of the X-Men, or the underground London in The Anubis Gates.*

I could go on, but better to stop at a dozen, I think.

*Really, Powers--and Blaylock too--have most of this list covered.


Blogger Jon Hansen said...

6. Gods and immortals walking among us (except for American Gods, sorry). Particularly if they're working stiffs.

By an interesting coincidence, I'm actually reading American Gods at the moment. Keeping in mind I'm only a quarter of the way through, what's the basis for this exception? I'm just wondering.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Hey, Jon. Despite some interesting setup, in the end I thought the concept was clumsily realized (except for the places where it wasn't followed through at all). That's aside from the problems I had with the plot and structure, which I won't get into out of respect for your reading.

I'm sort of on the fence about Gaiman lately. Love Sandman. Love all his comics, really, and the kids' books with Dave McKean. Like some of his short fiction. Thought Neverwhere was OK and Coraline was way overhyped. I can't figure out if a) I'm getting more critical, b) he's getting more lazy, or c) he's much better when he's collaborating.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Love all his comics, really

I'm a liar. I forgot to say that I thought 1602 was terrible.

2:43 PM  
Blogger Jon Hansen said...

Well, that seems fair. I'm enjoying it so far, but we'll see.

I like Gaiman fine. I agree with you about his short fiction & Neverwhere. I missed all the hype about Coraline (perhaps I wasn't looking) so I just thought it was cute. And as for his comics, I'm ashamed to admit it, but I've never actually read Sandman. But I liked 1602, altho' in retrospect I don't remember him addressing why there were dinosaurs. Which seems a serious loose end...

I think some writers do better with collaborators. Help keep you honest. I remember Good Omens being pretty good, although I read that years and years ago. I'll have to try collaborating myself one of these days.

3:42 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

You should definitely read Sandman, but you've probably been told that already, so I won't harp on it :-)

What I didn't like about 1602 was that it was essentially exactly the same story as any number of Marvel alternate-history stories, e.g. Claremont's "Days of Future Past" stuff when they were still letting him do X-Men the right way. I guess, again, that I thought it was an interesting setup that didn't really go much of anywhere for me.

I liked Good Omens as well. I'd forgotten about that one.

(Just as an aside, I've just started doing some collaborative short fiction, and it's an interesting process. I doubt it's that similar to working in comics, but what I'm finding is that the revisions are much more of a negotiation--you have to justify your little darlings more. In other words, in a good collaboration the other person helps keep you honest. Which is kind of what I feel like Gaiman needs lately.)

4:08 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

In other words, in a good collaboration the other person helps keep you honest.

Which is exactly what you said above. Man, I need to post more carefully.

4:09 PM  
Anonymous meghan said...

Oh my god, have you seen his british TV miniseries Neverwhere? Really, really no good plot-wise. Though a fascinating example of how to do (relatively) low budget fantasy on film. (video. whatever.)

Can I just say I agree with everything you find fun?

4:32 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Meghan, I've heard about the Neverwhere series but not seen it. (I think it's on my Netflix list.) I heard that they used a cow for the big beastie; you can't get any more low-budget improvisational than that!

And if you'd like to treat my fun list as your own, I've no objections :-)

4:51 PM  

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