Mailvox: Can I get an amen?

Farmer Tom is leery:

I don’t think as professing Christians we have the right to decide if we like the death penalty or not. God established it in Genesis 9, Christ addressed it when he stood before Pilate declaring that God had given the right to take a life to Pilate, and the Apostle Paul reaffirmed in Romans the right of the government to bear the sword. So when Vox says that he opposes the dp because he fears governments, I get concerned. What is the next Biblical principle he will decide is not relevant today?”

I’m leaning towards fornication, but I’m also open to the love of money or perhaps polygamous deacons. Seriously, I’ll address this in the future, but not now. I have a column to write.

Womyn writers

Since the wrathful womyn of the science fiction and fantasy writing community appear to believe that pointing out undeniable and easily demonstrable fact is tantamount to proof of sexism, I thought I’d think about if there did happen to be any women writers I enjoy. As it turns out, there are quite a few.


Murasaki Shikibu: THE TALE OF GENJI is a journey into an alien culture, namely, 11th Century Heian Japan. It doesn’t follow conventional fiction tropes, which makes sense given that it appears to be the first novel, and it can get tedious at times, but it is absolutely fascinating. I’m not sure which is more interesting, the hero-prince who is always bursting into tears over the color of a ribbon when he isn’t seducing women or the warrior-monks who periodically descend from their temples to ravage the countryside.

Theresa Edgerton: GOBLIN MOON is the first in a series of slightly creepy novels that touch on the dangers of romance with an alchemical edge. I love her stuff, she’s vastly underrated in my opinion.

Tanith Lee: Speaking of creepy. She writes some of the most purely beautiful prose in the genre. “When you die, no, when I kill you….” I much prefer her fantasy to her science fiction, but it’s all good.

Camille Paglia: SEXUAL PERSONAE is a great and marvelous work. Okay, it’s not fiction, but I re-read her often. Definitely caused me to approach WRATH in a different way.

Susan Cooper: THE DARK IS RISING is one of my all-time favorite books and series. Many EW readers have noted her influence on my own writing. Her other books are decent too, I only wish she’d been more prolific.

Ellis Peters: Brother Cadfael is one of my two favorite detectives.

Dorothy Sayers: Lord Peter Wimsey is the other one.

Agatha Christie: Formulaic, sure, but always entertaining even so.

Sharon Kay Penman: My favorite historical novels.

Lois McMaster Bujold: Her BARRAYAR books are often very strange, to me, but I enjoy following her characters. Her fantasy is also pretty good, and is more original than most.

Pat Wrede: I tend to like her less popular works best, for some reason. DEALING WITH DRAGONS is all right, but I preferred SORCERY AND CECILIA as well as its recent sequel, THE GRAND TOUR. She writes a far more accurate European background than most. She’s also a delightful person, which comes through in her characters.

Louisa May Alcott: She’s mostly known for LITTLE WOMEN, but she actually wrote quite a few books. LITTLE MEN was a childhood favorite of mine.

Others worth mentioning: Kage Baker, Katherine Kurtz, Barbara Hambly, Katherine Kerr, Julian May, Melanie Rawn.

OVER-RATED (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)

Ursula K. Le Guin: THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS is a very good book. THE EARTHSEA CYCLE is all but unreadable. As for the rest… whatever.

Catherine Asaro: Yes, she has a PhD, in physics no less. But her books are still romance novels and bad ones at that. She won the Nebula around the time she won the SFWA presidency – the membership votes for both – thus providing a useful proof of the democratic trend towards the lowest common denominator. THE QUANTUM ROSE has 17 reviews on Amazon, the novels that won the year before and the year after have 225 and 469 respectively. Hmmmmm….

Mercedes Lackey: Writes the sort of books that cause the reader to seriously consider scratching his eyes out rather than read another page. Why is it always this sort of author who turns out to be prolific?

Laurell Hamilton: Sweet Cthulhu, she’s TERRIBLE. Her first book was pretty good and then everything went downhill fast. My hatred for her protagonist is second only to that I harbor for Robert Jordan’s Rand al’Thor. I’m not reading anymore of her books until she finally kills off Anita Blake, I wouldn’t want to miss that. Of course, she’ll bring the loathsome bitch back, but I’ll skip that part. Read Jim Butcher’s DRESDEN FILES for a much better take on a supernatural detective in a modern setting.

Pat Cadigan: Often lumped in with William Gibson, Bruce Sterling and Rudy Rucker. Shoudn’t be. When I was going through my cyberpunk phase, I really wanted to be cool and like her stuff, but despite my best efforts to read through rose-tinted glasses, it still sucked.

Colleen McCullough: I rather liked FIRST MAN IN ROME and THE GRASS CROWN. I have no idea what happened to her, but the recent books in the series haven’t so much gone downhill as been hurled off the Tarpeian Rock and splattered far below.

UPDATE: Ironically, I happened to notice this listed by Barnes & Noble in the section about my most recent novel:
People who bought this book also bought:
• White Apples Jonathan Carroll
• The Eyre Affair Jasper Fforde
• The Left Behind Box Set: Books 1-4 Tim LaHaye, Jerry B. Jenkins
• Left behind Collection II (Vol. #5-8) (Boxed Set) Tim LaHaye, Jerry B. Jenkins
• Guilty Pleasures (Anita Blake Vampire Hunter #1) Laurell K. Hamilton

Not one, not two, but THREE are by writers for whom I have no affection. Strange, and mildly worrisome. On the other hand, having the 122nd best-selling Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy item at Barnes and Noble isn’t so bad, there are worse fates than being sandwiched between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkein. Sure, that falls into the “don’t quit your day job” category, but I’ll take it.

The sci-fi writers have a cow

From Electrolite:

I don’t understand. Are you denying that you said: “Women do not write hard science fiction today because so few can hack the physics” but, instead, you’re saying that some linear superposition of Barby and Ann Coulter said: “Women do not write hard science fiction today because so few can hack the physics?”

Or are you saying that a woman cannot both be a feminist and able to write hard science fiction?

Or are you saying that a woman cannot both be a feminist and a Physics professor?

Or what?

Please note that I am not attacking you. I am admitting that I had trouble understanding one paragraph of your because it seemed to deny the existence of my wife. I am giving you a chance to correct my misunderstanding.

I agree with you that Neal Stephenson is a good writer, although he needs a good editor. I agree with you that Bujold, Eco, Stross and Wrede are all very good writers. I agree with your statement that you had the best of intentions on the Nebula Jury. I did not accuse you of antisemitism.

I am just one reader of Patrick’s blog. But if you can clarify things for me, you have reduced from n+1 to n the number of readers of this blog that you need to persuade.

No, why would I deny it? Sure, it is theoretically possible for women to be feminist Physics professors writing science fiction. I have no doubt that one or two such unusual beasts exist floating about the fringes. However, because of the inclination of women towards Women’s Studies and other math-free majors, the pool of potentials is extremely small. If only 13 percent of Physics PhDs are female, as Physics Today claimed, then I don’t see why it should be controversial to state that few women are capable of writing hard SF.

I note that The Hard SF Renaissance declares the big names in hard SF in are: Greg Egan, Gregory Benford, Geoffrey Landis, G David Nordley, Paul McAuley, Nancy Kress, Kim Stanley Robinson, Charles Sheffield, Brian Stableford, Allen Steele, Bruce Sterling, Robert J. Sawyer, Poul Anderson, David Brin, Greg Bear, Hal Clement, Ben Bova and Larry Niven. With the exception of Ms Kress and Mrs. Robinson, these names strike me as overwhelmingly male. And Mrs. Robinson is one homely woman judging by her picture on her web site.

I believe I have a reasonably accurate snapshot of the state-of-the-field after getting book-bombed by genre publishers for the past year. Like my fellow jury members, I slogged my way through an astonishing amount of equine ejectus. And speaking of equine ejectus, I note that the cover of the award-winning physicist’s latest indicates rather strongly that what is supposedly the recent best in our field is nothing but a romance series. It’s not even a good romance cover… geez, win a Nebula and you STILL can’t get Fabio?