I really couldn’t do anyone other than Anne McCaffrey for today’s letter, it just wouldn’t be right.
McCaffrey has been on my favourite author list for a very long time, far longer than I care to remember. I don’t like all of her books, I especially don’t like the Ship Who Sang series but there are three series that take my fancy.
The Crystal Singer trilogy are both good and bad, good in that they are well written and everything is beautifully put together but bad in that I can’t imagine living almost forever like that but I do wish I healed up that quickly and completely. I still like the lead female who doesn’t wait around to be rescued.
The Pern series are one of my favourites and I’m quite grateful her son, Todd, has taken over writing them he seems to be doing a passable job. It’s a well imagined place with problems that the new population surmount and then plan for the future. As you can see in this very rambling article I wrote in 2009 when I was still selling pre-loved books online Pern has overtaken my imagination big time. Thread does not really exist despite what my imagination tells me.
The Tower and the Hive series are one of those ones that cause me problems. As with all McCaffrey books they’re well written with nicely depicted characters and wonderful situations but she puts love in there and that destroys it a little for me. I’m linking you to The Rowan as a good example of the beauty of these books.
I was going to make it four series but I feel they’re actually the precursors to The Tower and the Hive, Pegasus is also about people with psychic gifts and how they help the world. I’m linking you to Pegasus in Space because I can’t find the short stories which I feel start the whole idea.
While I have actually met her my brain seized up as it does when confronted by luminaries and so I was only able to buy two books and get her to sign them. Some time in the mid 1980s I was passing through a large department shop in the CBD and there’s this lonely woman standing behind a counter surrounded by books by Anne McCaffrey, I put two and two together bought two books and asked her to sign them. I do wish I’d taken the time to talk more to her but the brain wouldn’t let me and now as she’s dead I’ll never get the chance and I regret it greatly. I still have both of those books.
I most particularly like her author profile she lists in the front of many of her books (but not the ones I’ve looked at just now) which goes something like this:
Anne McCaffrey was born on the 1st of April with green eyes, the rest is subject to change without notice.
J has been the hardest letter to decide to date. I ended up with two totally worthy candidates and the only difference was their age, I went with the older writer as I figured she’d have more of a handle on the issues they were both espousing.
N. K. Jemisin, born in America, writer, psychologist and career counsellor. In other words, she counsels people who have sent out 50 resumes and not had one response. I can relate to her clients but that’s not why I chose her. She’s also very much into getting a fair go for everyone and if you go and read this article from her blog you’ll understand.
It starts off with the Hugos:
So many people have said so many good things about the Hugo Awards debacle in the past few days. I haven’t said much myself because a) I’ve got a book to write, and b) I don’t really care. I mean, I do care about the Hugos; this is a respectable award…
and continues to talk about the problem behind the Hugos and why things needs to change. So, the problem is one of race and how straight white men feel entitled to win everything just because it’s always been that way and they don’t understand that you need to win based on talent. Jemisin is eloquent and explains the situation very nicely but from an Americancentric point of view…understandable as she’s American.
I fully intend to read some of her works and to encourage you to do the same here is The Inheritance Trilogy.
I can give you even less information about Taibah Al-Ibrahim than I could about Carine Heidmann. Al-Ibrahim writes in Arabic and was the first science fiction writer in Kuwait. She has written several books, the translated title of one book is The Extinction of Men, published in 1990. And she was a candidate for the government in 2008, the third constituency.
She must be a pretty amazing person to be the first to write science fiction in her country. And even more amazing as she also ran for government, I don’t know if she got in or how far she got in her campaign but I’m impressed.
I could have written about Janis Ian, but I was more impressed by Al-Ibrahim.
Looking through my copies of ASIM I found Carine Heidmann and after a quick (and then slow) read of her short story I figured she’d be good target for today’s letter.
I don’t have a lot of information about her, the best I can find is published in the back of ASIM.
It seems she writes with her foot, or possibly her feet…or at least that is how she is described
Having always had one foot in writing…
She grew up in South Africa but has since seen the light and moved to the beauty of New Zealand where she endeavours to write and earn a living.
Anyway, back to the short story. It’s called The Prize and I was quite happy with it. I skimmed it at first just to check it was science fiction but was attracted enough by it to reread it properly. Yes, it is science fiction and quite nicely done. Fully recommend you go to ASIM and buy it, and probably buy more while you’re at it to make the postage worth it, don’t mention I sent you as I don’t get commission from them and I couldn’t possibly have them thinking I’m a fan or something…I have almost all of them but you know…
I decided to write about Mary Gentle as I love her name and then in doing more research I found a very interesting blog, the author positively loves Gentle and thinks she’s awesome, the article made me want to write about her for much better reasons.
Born in the UK in 1956 Gentle started writing fantasy but became known for her Orthe sequence. The protagonist comes to Orthe to try and open up the planet for exploitation, sort of like the early days of Avatar.
The book the blogger thinks is so awesome is Ash, it’s alternate history and the protagonist has been genetically engineered so she hears a computer in her head.
So, onto the blogger. She’s quite enthusiastic and almost makes me want to read the book. She’s meant to be talking about Black Opera but starts gushing about Ash and how it’s choc-a-bloc with excellent female characters, those who do stuff and kick butt and basically don’t need men around to get stuff done for them. In case you want to read this article you can find on Tor.
When I first started researching this letter I thought I’d have great trouble as I couldn’t find females writing science fiction. Where are the women authors in the science fiction genre? Then I found a list, clicked on all the authors and whittled down the 30 something entries to eight likely suspects only to have to go to bed.
Another day, another few words. I’ve finally settled on Leanne Frahm, an Australian author born in Queensland who lived in America for a few years before coming back here to find her fellow students going to school in bare feet, what a strange concept to her.
She tends to write short stories and has has quite a number published in anthologies including one by Paul Collins, Distant Worlds. I hope to read a novel by her one day.
Frahm has been nominated and indeed, won, several awards including the Ditmars and Aurealis. This link is an interview by Lucy Sussex published in Borderline and the entire website looks to be a fascinating place to spend some time.
I couldn’t find any place to buy Frahm’s works so will just have to rely on waiting and watching the books that come past me to find one of her stories.
Having successfully navigated myself from one end of the alphabet to the other with male science writers I’m now embarking on another journey, that of female science fiction writers. I fully expect to encounter both the familiar and the unfamiliar names with some of the more challenging letters being filled by people from interesting countries. To kick off this new set I’m looking at K. A. Applegate.
Katherine Alice Applegate is a fairly young American author being born in 1956, the same year we hosted the Olympic Games in Melbourne (not that there’s any relationship but I thought I’d throw that in to give you value for money). She’s well known for both Remnants and Everworld but I know her more for her Animorphs series.
I’ve read Animorphs from beginning to end. They’re an enjoyable series but some of it grossed me out somewhat such as when they were morphing into an animal and we see and feel the changes happening. But I’m not here today to talk about the content. In doing some research on Applegate I noticed her prodigious output with Animorphs. In the first year she published five books, in the second nine books and the third year 12 books. Either she’s an incredibly fast writer (bearing in mind none of the books are very thick) or she’s having help via a ghostwriter…sure enough, in the fourth year I notice ghostwriters are starting to be credited which brings an idea for another possible series, the Alphabet of Ghostwriters. Anyway, it means 64 books were published over a five year period!!! And this is while she’s publishing 12 books in the Everworld series as these were published between 1999 and 2001. She then went onto 14 Remnants books from 2001 to 2003. I’m just amazed at the prodigious output of her writing.
Having scribbled a few words about her output I’m going to give you some links to her books on Booktopia and potentially earn myself some commission. All of these books are for 8-12 years and have some violence and death in them.
The One and Only Ivan winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal
Last, but certainly not least in the Alphabet by Author, is George Zebrowski. Born Jerzy (pronounced Yerzhee) Tadeus Zebrowski in Austria of Polish descent which for some reason explains the Polish name in 1945. He’s been published since about 1972 and has a respectable body of work to his name. Some of this includes some of the Star Wars books, while this doesn’t mean he writes in English he actually does as he’s in America and not Austria or Poland.
This We Are Not Alone keynote address by him published by the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction is interesting. Pity I’m running late and can’t read it all but it’s from 2006 and seems to be about royalties and contracts. I will put the link on the I Like Books Facebook page so I can remember to read it all later.
He’s written a couple of non-fiction books and this one looks very interesting. Beneath the Red Star: Studies on International Science Fiction (1996) not that I can actually find it in print as a new book yet but I’ll keep an eye out for it. One of his anthologies is available at Booktopia, Swift Thoughts and looks fun. What also looks good is another anthology by him with his partner, Pamela Sergeant and Jack Dann, Dream of Venus and Other Science Fiction Stories / Decimated.
I found a well written article on Zebrowski on SF Gateway. The writer say this about Zebrowski:
His best known novel is Macrolife (Harper & Row, 1979), which Arthur C. Clarke described as ‘a worthy successor to Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker. It’s been years since I was so impressed. One of the few books I intend to read again.’
I figure if Arthur C. Clarke says Zebrowski is good then I’ll have to check him out again.
I found three people for today’s article, I decided I’d leave the two Japanese men for the moment and have a brief look at the Israeli guy.
Nir Yaniv is pretty young having only been born in 1972. He’s pretty talented being an author, editor and musician. If you visit his blog you’ll be able to get a feel for his music and see some info about his writing. He founded the webzine Israeli Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy in 2000 and edited it for seven years.
Part of this society’s work is to present awards for best translations of science fiction and fantasy, the latest results they have on the link are a little old being from 2008 but the first two books are two favourites of mine: I am Legend by Richard Matheson translated by Yael Inbar and Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett translated by Yonatan Bar. They also have several conventions throughout the year focussing on different areas of science fiction and fantasy. How awesome to attend one of these! Pity my Hebrew is so poor, but how awesome!
You can buy The Love Machine & other contraptions here. It’s a collection of Yaniv’s short stories and it’s in English!
For the first time in a while I’m stuck without photos for you so I’m dredging through my archives of photos and have found some Chalet School books for you.
The Chalet School books are a series of around 60 novels written from 1925 to 1970, just before I would have started reading them. They’re lovely little books with adventures and a moral but lots of fun.
The bulk of them were written by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer but there have been some written by others to fill in gaps.