Good morning, and Welcome to Ask A Geek Anything Volume 22
Welcome to Volume 22 of AAGA, the spot on the internet where we Field the sorts of questions that are bound to get us sneered at by the Intelligentsia. (It’s OK, we sneer back) Last week we answered a question on Vampires that was asked by Jacob Edward Swan… and we got mail.
Oh boy did we get mail, the last time I got this sort of rise out of people was https://otherwheregazette.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/destroy-the-myth-destroy-the-culture/ now if I could only figure out how to upset that set of sacred cows again…
So anyway, the basic question, as answered by Declan Flin was what’s with Vampires, anyway? Well for various reasons I was rushed, and didn’t notice that some of the better series didn’t get their moment in the spotlight. One of the best of that set is, as was mentioned, Saberhagens Dracula series. If you haven’t read them, and you like the genre at all, make sure and find them, they tell the tales from the perspective of the being MOST familiar with the activities Bram Stoker wrote of… Then there’s the Grand Dam of them all: Anne Rice, who has made more money and entertained more readers with tales of blood suckers than anyone since Doris Kerns Goodwin http://www.biography.com/people/doris-kearns-goodwin-38566#!. There’s the Buffy series, Oh and there’s a very underrated and quite fun Canadian show; Forever Knight, and the Necroscope series, oh hell, there’s another whole post I could dedicate to various versions and authors visions of the Vampire genre. Yes, I’m sure I’ve missed your favorite, sorry, I’ve only got so many electrons… They fascinate us as a story and a myth, and they seem to transcend any one culture or society, they exist in some version from Native American, to Carpathian and everywhere in between. Why? Well that’s something that could get you a masters thesis…
Personally, I find that to make them believable they need to have weaknesses as big as their strengths. If you fail to give them weaknesses, the reader is left wondering “why haven’t they just taken over, and farmed us like cows?” My choice was to give them the standard sun, stakeing etc weaknesses, and a strong risk of mental instability among other things, along with making them People, not unthinking demons. There are good ones and bad ones, just like any other people. So enough about Vamps for the day.
Two weeks ago we crowd sourced a question, “What are the 10 most famous and classic SF stories/books that have become almost unreadable to today’s generation due to writing shifts and technological changes?” Last week we hadn’t gotten any answers, so we went another week. I’m pleased to say y’all didn’t let me down, I now have a sufficiency of answers, so lets take a look:
When we combine all the votes Jules Vern’s stuff comes in at number one, and sadly I must agree, while I still love 20,000 leagues (HEY I WAS A SUBMARINE SAILOR FOR 20 YEARS and still work on them, what do you expect?!) Most of his stuff is just too bad to enjoy anymore.
John Carter’s series comes in at number two, and well I just don’t agree there. I had never read the series growing up, and yes, the writing is stilted, and the science is horribly bad, but read it as a fantasy and it’s not horrible. (It’s not great, but at 800 feet underwater, it’s hard to be too choosy) Still that’s the consensus of you the readers…
A close third is the Lensman series. I wish I had read these before we learned what we now know about space the universe and everything, so many of the greats (RAH, IA etc) loved the series… Me, I think I see the attraction, but yeah they’re too stilted, wooden, and wrong to enjoy anymore.
After the top three, we get to Doc Savage, who I frankly wasn’t much into even in middle school, and Neuromancer (Gibson) about which I have no opinion, never having read the book. I was shocked to see Tolkien come up solidly in the top ten, the general opinion seeming to be that he was “too hard to read”… Uh, REALLY??? Damn, that makes me feel old. Lord Foul’s Bane ranks even with Tolkien and on this I’m in total agreement though not for the reasons stated. The folks that felt it was not acceptable were all concerned about the political incorrectness of having the “hero” rape someone… Hell if that was at issue, GRRM wouldn’t be wallowing in money (as well as other things) No, my issue with the series is I just flat out HATED that whiny b*tch! When you’re rooting for the badguys to knock off the hero, something is wrong.
Below this we get into onesies and twosies, and I’m not going to list them all, though I was surprised (Hell SHOCKED) to find Hienlien’s Stranger in a strange land, and The Cat who walks through walls on the list (but not some of the very few of his works that I do find dated, like Door Into Summer, and the early parts of the Past Through Tomorrow series, or the juveniles set on Mars) and also to find Foundation by Azimov. Also on the list was some stuff that I had never heard of, and one I would never have considered as S/F & F, to whit Natty Bumpkin and the Leatherstockings tales. I’ll finish up the list with a couple that probably only rank as low on the list as they do because so few have heard of them… When (and After) Worlds collide. If you’ve never heard of them, count yourself lucky and move on.
I’ll add my own here too, some of the above, plus On the Beach, and most of the rest of the 50s and 60s post apocalyptic nuclear war world ending books… (Alas Babylon and the rest) Maybe it’s just because Nuclear war was a significant part of my life growing up, and a significant part of my profession from age 17 to age 38, but DAMN they got that shit wrong.
Well, I’m out of space here, so I’ll end this with our standard cry:
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Have a great weekend, and we’ll see you next week when we all deal with the question: What is you oldest memory of SciFi/Fantasy on TV or the big screen?