Two great posts to recommend:
First, Wil Wheaton linked
to his Geek in Review column
this week where he reports that he has been at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame
in Seattle working on a documentary for the 20th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation
. I didn't even know such a place existed! Wil's appreciation of science fiction goes way beyond his role in ST:TNG:
These are but a few examples of the real power that science fiction has to address current events in a context that's safe and acceptable for most audiences, while speaking very seriously about them to others. They illustrate why SF endures and resonates with casual and hardcore fans. Whether it was written one hundred years ago, or just published last month, SF can give us warnings about the future, hope for the future, or just blissful escape from the present, into fantastic worlds that are light years away – but as close as our bookshelves.
But do click through and read on for his appreciation of Trek.
Meanwhile, back in quasi-topicality land, Dave Hoffman at Concurring Opinions reviews a number of books
, as well as current themes and trends in fantasy. One of the latter is something I'd have thought a contradiction in terms until he explained it.
The premises of hard fantasy seem to be: internal consistency in the use of magic; deep research into the cultures the book introduces; realism in mundane aspects of living (an army requires food); and an acceptance that societies usually evolve.
. . . .these latest hard fantasy forays are significantly better than most of what came before. . . .It’s just that when you stack these books together, the project of reading fantasy stops looking like escapism and starts to look more like social commentary.
I've always preferred hard science fiction to fantasy in the sci-fi section, but it sounds interesting. That said, I've finally finished The Silmarillion
and removed it from my "currently reading" list, and I don't think I'll be ready for more grim and difficult fantasy reading anytime soon. Tolkien may not meet the requirements for hard fantasy, but it was sufficiently exhausting learning in tedious detail just how NOT about nobility and light his elves really are. Quite the eye opener.
I confess that I read it mainly for the Tolkien geek cred, and because I'd bought an illustrated hardcover edition a few years ago. There were parts I enjoyed a great deal, but if I were to make a recommendation on the matter, I'd suggest reading the Ainulindale
, Akallabeth (the Downfall of Numenor)
, and Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age
, all of which appear in the same volume and none of which are part of The Silmarillion
proper. The first two are the Middle Earth creation myth. In The Silmarillion
itself, I'd read the first eight chapters, then skip to Of Beren and Luthien
, and that would be pretty much it; there's more than enough there to enhance reading The Lord of the Rings
with deeper appreciation of its back-mythology--where Sauron came from, the nature of Gandalf, why Aragorn's lineage is special, etc.
I admire Tolkien's creation, but I freely admit I haven't got the stamina or interest to keep track of the divisions of elves and the grievances and grudges held by the elves whose names begin with F and their descendants, whose names also all begin with F. Not to mention everyone's alternate names, and the names that get changed due to character traits or capture. And then, of course, the names and alternate names of all the places. Constantly flipping to the index/glossary interfered with my enjoyment of the story, and it made the travelogue sections of LOTR seem like page-turners in comparison.