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Thread: Unreadable SF.

  1. #46

    FicusFan,

    thank you!


    I couldn't agree more.

    Just a few words from me: Stars In My Pocket... is one of the most beautiful books ever written. It's a fascinating (though not an easy) read from the first to the last page. There are almost no descriptions of sex in it (as well as in Trouble on Triton) and Marq's love is not for dirty but for bitten fingernails .
    The final 20 pages contain the most emotionally intensive text I've ever read.
    Delany's best book after Dhalgren.

  2. #47
    Registered User Mugwump's Avatar
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    Originally posted by FicusFan
    "To Wound the Autumnal City" is the sentence fragment the book starts with, the ending sentence fragment is actually the first half of the above sentence (with a double "to"). The story is circular, and perhaps about a story from the inside - since Kid/d seems to be writing it at various points.

    Dhalgren is not meant to be picked apart, it is meant to be experienced, and Delany scrambles your senses first. It is like being inside the Dali painting with the melting clocks. You have to give up relying on linear progression, and perspective, and just accept what is on the page.


    It starts, in the dark, it could be late summer or early fall, it could be anywhere, it is on the grassy verge of a highway and you meet a man who might or might not be named Kidd/Kid who might or might not be a poet or a writer, who might or might not be 17 or 45, who may or may not have made love to a woman before, during, or after she may or may not have turned into a tree. And it just gets better

    Every time you read it is a different experience because you focus on different parts. I have read it over 10 times since I first got it in 1976 or so. It is my favorite book. If I were stranded on a desert island it would be the only book I would need.

    I also think his characters are among the most realistic and are incredibly human in terms of thoughts, emotions, and actions. He also tends to include character types that are overlooked in SF and F: Minorities, the Poor, Gay,Lesbian and Bisexual. He plays with language and his SF&F before Dhalgren is more focused on use of language because he was trying to conform to normal social standards. After he let his characters become people who he was interested in writing about.
    God Ficus - you should work in marketing! I had absolutely no intention of reading Dhalgren before you put that eloquent spin on me.


  3. #48
    Anitaverse Refugee FicusFan's Avatar
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    Oh my, thank you all , I think, now that I have been labelled a Twisted-Sex loving Marketer.

    First let me say that I do find kinky, dark twisted sex to be interesting, probably because I am so vanilla myself.

    But here's the question: If you are uncomfortable with humans in all their myriad oddness, how can you be a reader of speculative fiction ? A genre that by its very nature stretches reality to the breaking point and beyond. How could you ever seriously contemplate being chummy with aliens, or even looking at the world in a radically different way, if there are certain types of humans that are beyond the pale ? You don't have to practice what they do, or even necessarily condone it, but how can you pass up a chance to safely (from your armchair) walk a mile in shoes that in real life you probably wouldn't even know ? I find it fascinating to live in the skin of someone who is completely different and outside my realm of experience. It is the only way to observe without having the observer change the nature of the observed !

    Black Wine by Candas Jane Dorsey is an award winning book, that primarily looks at how violence, abuse, degradation and horror is often passed down from one generation of women to the next, sometimes by outsiders, but often from within their own families. It is also a rather different take on a vampire story. It was a beautifully written and very moving story and I have to say I don't remember much sex in it at all.

    No I am not a marketer.

    If you read Delany you need to keep a few things in mind:

    He is obsessed with the hands of working-men, so in his later books you do get detailed descriptions of grimy hands, bitten nails, and some that go on about the marks left by the wear and tear of years of labor.

    He is also a gay man, so if you are expecting traditional relationships and unable to take risks, his later work, where he started expressing it, isn't for you. He once said that sex serves different purposes in the straight and gay (male) communities. It solidifies a straight relationship, whereas gay men use it to say hello. I am sure not all gay men are like that, but that is his take on it, so if you are uncomfortable reading about sex, again he isn't for you.

    I wouldn't want to live like that, or spend time watching others do it, but reading gives you a safe distance and you get to see what goes on in their minds when they make the choices that they do.

    I just love his earthiness which makes his writing and his characters different from just about anyone else in the genre.

  4. #49
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    Originally posted by Mugwump


    God Ficus - you should work in marketing! I had absolutely no intention of reading Dhalgren before you put that eloquent spin on me.

    Oh Lord, what have I done?

    Okay, okay, if you're looking for a book that reads like Penthouse letters written by a pack of drunk Hell's Angels then that's between you and your therapist. Inside of a Dali painting maybe, but with all the rutting and the lack of any moral depth it felt to me like a middle school Dali who decided to paint about 'poopy'.

    Anyway, getting back on topic. And let me take a little aside for some background info; I've been trying to get a better grasp on the difference between the classics and the rubbish. I've been alternating, reading a book that usually gets the 'classic' tag, then reading a book that got bad word of mouth or just looked bad.

    So far I've like every one of the classics except for one (guess which one). Some of the stinkers haven't been that bad. Some have been awful. And since that's the theme of the post watch out for:

    Mars Underground - a short story with 300 pages of filler. Page long sex scenes "they reached into the universe inside of each other" that made you shake your head - did they just have sex, uh, cause I'm not sure.

    Antarctica - After loving the Red Mars series I'm starting to wonder what happened to Kim. Years of Salt and Rice at the south pole.

    Anything by David Weber - I don't know how young your supposed to be to enjoy this stuff. I'm thinking toddler.

    Ah, the sweet (slightly pungent) smell of negativity. Sorry, but in all seriousness does anybody ever give a negative review anymore (there's ten gushing reviews of Mars Underground on the back and in the inset). I know they wouldn't put a bad review on the book but come on, ten people liked this book?

  5. #50
    Anitaverse Refugee FicusFan's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Mugwump


    God Ficus - you should work in marketing! I had absolutely no intention of reading Dhalgren before you put that eloquent spin on me.

    Mugwump,

    Oh dear, now I will bear the weight of your reading experience.

    If you do read it, I do hope you enjoy it, but it is a difficult read, and others who have written about it being a bad read are not without some justification. It also has sex, violence and lots of philosophical writerly navel gazing in it. But if you approach it with an open mind, as a map to a fantastic journey then you may find it is worthwhile.

    I remember the trip to the bookstore and the act of buying it, and I remember reading the first 10-15 pages multiple times because it was written in English but I couldn't understand it. Then in what was surely a leap of intellectual development, I said 'ok then, I guess it isn't supposed to make sense - and went on reading'. There is so much in it that if you focus on what you like, the other parts fade away, until next time and you may find that you are then ready to deal with them.

    My favorite image is the contents of the art museum arranged haphazzardly around the foggy, smokey park. My most enduring obsession is the crystals on the chain. I think it is memory or experience, but I am still not sure. Well I won't say more because I don't want to spoil it, but good luck whatever you decide and remember you read it at your own risk.


    Regarding the sex with the tree in the park later in the book, I will look it up and get back to you. I think I know what you are talking about, but he spends so much time in the park I want to be sure before I talk about it.

  6. #51
    Originally posted by ironchef texmex




    So far I've like every one of the classics except for one (guess which one). Some of the stinkers haven't been that bad. Some have been awful. And since that's the theme of the post watch out for:


    Anything by David Weber - I don't know how young your supposed to be to enjoy this stuff.


    I can understand the others, but not your dislike of David Weber.
    You sure you got the right name? Have you ever read, "In Death Ground" and "The Shiva Option"

    If you don't like military sci-fi---then this explains it. Weber is one of the best out there!

  7. #52
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    Originally posted by FicusFan
    Oh my, thank you all , I think, now that I have been labelled a Twisted-Sex loving Marketer.

    .
    Okay, I think I was writing my last post when this went up. And I just want to say that I'm really not trying to desparage anybody. As much as Dhalgren was not for me it's still generally considered a classic and even I enjoyed the poetry. (And you're right, I didn't notice the loop effect with the beginning/ending).

    As for the comment on sfi/fi fans and people of different ilks, I agree with your comment on the realism of the characters in Dhalgren. In fact part of the reason that I found them so realistic is that I deal with people like that everyday. Their is nothing alien about them to me and no, when I curl up with a book and "escape" I have no real desire to walk in their shoes.

    Different strokes/different folks

  8. #53
    Seeker of Stuff Moderator Kamakhya's Avatar
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    I find it fascinating to live in the skin of someone who is completely different and outside my realm of experience.
    Well said, ficusfan! That is one of the joys of reading a genre that prides itself on exploring from unique perspectives.

    I have to agree, your review of Dhalgren really made me want to give it a try despite all the negative reviews, though I do not generally like the experimental SF of that period. On the other hand, I would like to like Delany as being one of the few gay *and* black SF authors out there (or perhaps the only?). That combination alone in an SF author is sure to give an interesting take on life, the universe and everything.

    Speaking of rubbish, ironchef texmex (yum) reminds me of one classic that is abysmal: They'd Rather Be Right by Mark Clifton and someone else. Why this won a Hugo is absolutely beyond me.

  9. #54

    hmm

    But here's the question: If you are uncomfortable with humans in all their myriad oddness, how can you be a reader of speculative fiction ? A genre that by its very nature stretches reality to the breaking point and beyond.
    Great question. I think the answer is that there's tons of reasons I read sci-fi, and experiencing myriads of oddness is only one of them. There are simply certain bits of oddness that I don't enjoy reading about, like incest or sex with trees. I still enjoy experiencing other points of view, just not all of them! Call me a prude if you wish, but nothing will make me enjoy reading about incest, and for me, it's a turn off if a book contains it.

    Like texmex, I am not trying to judge or belittle anyone. Black Wine is a great book if you can get past a few pages of challenging ideas. Different strokes...yada yada yada seems to be what I am learning from this excellent thread.

  10. #55
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    Aren't the negative reviews always the most interesting ?
    Of the authors mentioned so far, I'll definitely second Elizabeth Moon and CJ Cherryh (so much promise .. so boring). I'm currently reading 'Diaspora' by Greg Eagan. Oh dear God. I can take hard science, but when he started on a detailed description of a 5-dimensional world (I think, I'm not absolutely sure) .... *sigh*. If you want a fictional physics textbook (why?) then this if for you.
    One author that I've never been able to understand is John Sladek. His collected short stories are in 'Keep the giraffe burning'. Excellent title, but the stories are so surreal as to be unreadable (by me, anyway).

  11. #56
    Registered User Mugwump's Avatar
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    Originally posted by confused
    One author that I've never been able to understand is John Sladek. His collected short stories are in 'Keep the giraffe burning'. Excellent title, but the stories are so surreal as to be unreadable (by me, anyway).
    I really enjoy Sladek's stuff. His sense of humour often leaves me in convulsions of laughter.

  12. #57
    Hip, cool, jiggy wit' it emohawk's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Mugwump
    I really enjoy Sladek's stuff. His sense of humour often leaves me in convulsions of laughter.
    Agreed. Try some of his novels, confused. Tik-Tok and Roderick are hillarious in places.

  13. #58
    Couch potato. xayaxos's Avatar
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    On topic: I can't believe how many people dislike the Dune series. Well, during the first how-ever-many-pages I was a little concerned. I'd only seen the mini-series (sheltered childhood, what can I say) and the book seemed far too convoluted for my tastes. Then I finished the book, which the ending was great and then read the next three after that too.

    Tad Williams' Otherland was really good after the first hundred pages or so ... and what is it with the name !Xabbu which you have no idea how to pronounce? Anyways, don't give up on it before you get to the really interesting stuff in the second and third books.

    Oh, and I found Red/Green/Blue Mars Trilogy to be far too annoying to read with any enthusiasm. With shallow and childish (probably too realistic) characters and swearing for the sake of swearing it just couldn't grab my attention.

  14. #59
    Seeker of Stuff Moderator Kamakhya's Avatar
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    and what is it with the name !Xabbu which you have no idea how to pronounce?
    IN my pre-coffee haze, I can't remember the name of the language Williams picked that up from. The ! is actually used to represent a sound that has no translation in the alphabet. It is sort of a clicking sound made with the tongue. I thought it was clever of Williams to incorporate that little known fact.

  15. #60
    Registered User lemming's Avatar
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    And I have been labelled as one who lacks patience. Sigh. I continued reading Dune for several hundred pages after realizing I hated it, people... that takes much, much more patience than reading the same pages and liking them.

    Is it too late to place myself with FicusFan as one who likes twisted sex in books? That's one thing I tend not to have a problem with (to veer briefly into fantasy-land, several times in the Kushiel's Legacy series I was wishing for more detail). I really should read Black Wine.

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