||[Jul. 8th, 2009|11:53 pm]
I've been on a novel-(re-)reading binge for the last week or two; not sure why.|
H. Beam Piper's Fuzzy novels: Reread all 3, currently on Tuning's Fuzzy Bones, which was written before the 3rd manuscript was rediscovered. I'm noticing details about pacing and suchlike this time through them. The funny thing about old scifi is not the misses on technology prediction (no computers, etc.); it's the cultural anachronisms. The mild sexism is already dated (mentally gender-swapping some of the characters helps alleviate the annoyance), and MAN does everybody smoke and drink a LOT!
And before that I re-read a bunch of Iain M. Banks.
Consider Phlebas: Banks' novels have enough going on in them that it takes me a couple reads to feel like I have a handle on what the point of the story is. I think the point of this one is mostly just that war is really stupid. There's also something about how the Culture doesn't so much cheat to win as rewrite the rules, but I can't really articulate it yet.
Against A Dark Background: What I got from it this time is an indictment of aristocracy on the grounds that people are people, and when you concentrate an enormous amount of power in the hands of a few individuals, when they have drama, which they will, because they're people, the repercussions get magnified immensely. And that's bad.
Excession: The study of the Outside Context Problem is in some ways a foil for the smaller-scale plotlines that are about the need to be who you are. Trying to be someone you're not is just going to mess you up, especially when you're up against something bigger than you.
I never read any of Banks's sci-fi stuff, though I did read The Wasp Factory and take a long hot shower after.
Try some Thorne Smith. His characters love to go for long drives with pitchers of martinis.
Yeah, Piper never saw through the cultural constructs the way Schmitz did. Have you read James Schmitz? Try some, then try to mentally place him as writing about the same time as Piper. It doesn't work, because he saw every preconception of his time and realized they probably wouldn't stay. When I read the Telzey Amberdon books, I found it hard to believe that the author had pretty much been dead my entire life; here was a female protagonist who was a strong female protagonist, not in an OMG FEMALE PROTAGONIST kind of way (as is all too common from that time period), but in a totally unconscious way that is, on observation, awesome.
Anyway. I know you like Tuning's book, but it seemed to me that he went way too hard for the big reveal. I would have much preferred hints and paleontology and he just brought out Ooh SuperFuzzies! (I also find it interesting that he disposes of the bad guys in the previous novel almost off-handedly; Piper's books often deal with the criminal justice system and laws in great detail.)
The problems I have with the third Fuzzy book are pretty much all due to its incomplete manuscript form. It would take guts, as an editor, to be ruthless on a posthumous novel, but I wish they'd done a few edits, such as taking out scenes that were repetitions from the prior book (something that Piper would probably have done.)
I would love to see a television series made of Little Fuzzy and the following novels, but you'd have to update them very carefully— not just the smoking and the drinking and sexism, but the environmentalism and lack thereof. I mean, you can't not be killing off the harpies.