Tag Archives: George R. R. Martin

An Exciting Weekend With Dangerous Women

My idea of a good time is soaring through the air with night witches, galloping through the Old West with outlaws, tailing dangerous dames and femmes fatales, and otherwise cavorting with women you’d be crazy to cross. Luckily for me–and for you!–George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois have edited a spectacular collection of short stories called Dangerous Women,  featuring what are most commonly referred to today as “strong female characters,” though they are ever so much more than that.

Members of the Missouri University Shooting Club, 1934. Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons - click through to learn more.

Members of the Missouri University Shooting Club, 1934. Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons – click through to learn more.

I had fully intended to read one or two tales at a time to make the collection last longer, but the stories are just so great, I’ve been burning through them the way I normally polish off a bag of Fig Newtons after a long run (do not judge). So far I’ve been totally creeped out by Megan Abbott, highly amused by Joe R. Lansdale, stunned to silence by Brandon Sanderson, and treated to a whirlwind of genres from Western to noir. I’m even in possession of information that Jim Butcher fans who aren’t up-to-date on the Dresden files will be extremely excited to learn. And overall, I’m just plain delighted by the variety of genres produced by a greatest hits lineup of well-known folks–that make up the volume.

[In fact, the only thing that makes me sad about this anthology is that there are no writers of color featured in it. I fail to see how that could possibly have happened, given that authors like Nalo Hopkinson, Jewelle Gomez, and Natsuo Kirino (to name but a few of many) are alive and well, and creating dangerous women of their own. Luckily, there are other story collections to remedy this shortcoming, and I’d recommend you look into them.]

My favorite piece thus far in Dangerous Women addresses the fear of getting old with a twist of the fantastic. Megan Lindholm (better known to some as Robin Hobb) delivers the quietly brilliant “Neighbors,” the story of an aging woman named Sarah whose son is determined to put her in an assisted living facility. Sarah, who has lost her husband (to death), her brother (to Alzheimer’s disease) and her dog (to the mysterious fog that rolls into her yard every night) is determined to hold on to her house for as long as she can. But though her efforts have kept her children at bay thus far, she can’t hold out forever. Meanwhile, the fog–and the mysterious people Sarah sees coming and going inside of it–gets closer and closer to the house. Deeply moving and suspenseful, Lindholm’s story will have you rooting for Sarah all the way up to the surprising–but, under the circumstances, believable–ending.

So, if you’re looking for a series of hair-raising adventures featuring heroines–and villains–who could teach Buffy the Vampire Slayer a thing or two, I definitely recommend snuggling up for a weekend with Dangerous Women. Despite its one glaring flaw, it’s one of the most exciting collections I’ve picked up in a long time, and short story fans of all kinds will consider it a win.

–Leigh Anne

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This Reader Abhors A Vacuum

Even with a reader as slow as I am, it was bound to happen.  I finished the latest book in George R. R. Martin’s Song Of Ice And Fire series, A Dance With Dragons.   I know he’s got a novella that acts as a prequel of sorts to the Song Of Ice And Fire  called The Bastard Stepchild. It’s available in this collection, and I am working on getting hold of a copy.  But after reading the 1,090 page fifth book, that novella won’t hold me long.  So what next?

I’m a habitual genre fiction reader–anything fantasy, science fiction, pulps, etc.  Now that I stand with most other Martin fans awaiting an uncertain release date for book six in the series, I need to find a new huckleberry.  I was talking with a colleague, and we uncovered a huge hole in my geek-reading résumé:  Stephen King’s Dark Tower series!

Now I could get that snazzy collection, but I decided to go the electronic route and read them one at a time through the library’s Overdrive service.  So I’ve got The Gunslinger on my Sony Reader Wi-Fi and I am really enjoying it so far.  Patiently waiting for Winds of Winter to arrive will not be easy, but Mr. King should help ease the pain at least a bit.

–Scott


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Fictional Reference Books for Most Library Collections

Ever wish you could add fictional reference books to your library’s reference collection? If I could, this is what I would add:

The Encyclopedia Galactica — What self-respecting librarian wouldn’t want access to Isaac Asimov’s immense encyclopedia containing all the knowledge of futuristic civilizations?

Handbook for the Recently Deceased — Libraries shouldn’t discriminate against the deceased, so every reference collection should carry a copy of this guide from Beetlejuice.

The Book of the Brothers — In George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, this massive tome collects the history of every knight who’s ever served in the much vaunted Kingsguard, the bodyguards of the king of Westeros. This one comes complete with a bleached white leather cover and gold hinges — think your library’s budget could handle it?

Tobin’s Spirit Guide — A ghost identification tool used by the Ghostbusters that could be useful to local ghosthunting organizations.

The Slayer’s Handbook — This is the guide to vampire slaying in one of the finest television shows ever produced, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Maybe it would come with a complimentary subscription to Demons, Demons, Demons, a database featured in Buffy’s spinoff show, Angel.

What fictional reference books would you add to a library collection?

–Wes

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The Beauty of the Shared Universe

I came across a paperback copy of one of the latest Wild Cards series of novels, Inside Straight. Since it was free I grabbed it, and being a fan of the superhero genre, started reading it. For folks who haven’t visited the first link in the post yet, Wild Cards is a shared universe created by New York Times best-selling author George R. R. Martin in the 1980’s (before he became rich and famous).

Wikipedia offers us a nice explanation of the  shared universe.  Ever since the first superhero team-up, the modern comic book has embraced the idea of the shared universe.  The fantasy and sci-fi book industry was a bit late to the game, only creating formalized shared universes in the late 1970’s and 1980’s with series like Wild Cards and Thieves World  (my first exposure to the shared universe concept in book form).

One could argue that the many Conan pastiches that have been published since creator R. E. Howard died are themselves a shared universe, and the Cthulhu Mythos have always been shared among an elite cadre of dynamic writers (including Howard himself). But they don’t follow the same tight structure that Thieves’ World and Wild Cards do. Both series contain books that usually begin with some kind of framing sequence, then present a series of short stories from different authors. The authors freely share characters and build from each other’s work. Generally an editor (Robert  Asprin for Thieves’ World, George R. R. Martin for Wild Cards) rides herd over the whole affair, and usually contributes a story or two to each book.

Shared universe books like these are always a mixed bag–with so many different authors you never know what you might get in terms of storytelling style or quality. As a kid they forced me to expose myself to other writing styles I might not have tried otherwise. They also gave me the chance to read female writers, and experience a genuinely feminine perspective on sci-fi and fantasy. My first exposure to Janet Morris and C. J. Cherryh came from Thieves’ World.

Now back to Inside Straight. It’s pretty damn good. If you liked the first season of Heroes and you dig reality TV shows, this book presents a pretty nifty mix of those two concepts. I am now going to have to track down the other newer Wild Cards title, Busted Flush to see where the universe goes next. Should be fun!

Scott

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