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Weekly Wrap: Our Favorite Spec Fiction

by Susan Henderson on December 8, 2006

Want to know what I think of you? Because I talked about you here with writer and former Peace Corps volunteer, Jason Boog, who runs The Publishing Spot, a blog so fascinating and considerate of how little free time I have that it’s become daily required reading for me.

Jason broke the interview into five bite-sizes pieces and gave them these cool titles: “The world does not need another blog”: Learning the Fine Art of Web Writing; The Experience of Being Heard: How Writers Can Build Web Community; “I don’t think I’d be sane if I only wore one hat”: How To Balance Work and Writing Projects; “Stop making the world all about you and your career”: How To Build Relationships With Editors; and … well, your guess is as good as mine because by the time I posted today’s blog, the final installment wasn’t up yet.

I hope you’ll check out his site, and please leave him a comment so he can get to know you.

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Before I share my thoughts about Fantasy and Sci-Fi with you, I should tell you something of the type of child I was.

I didn’t like cartoons. I liked The Flintstones, but only the first and last two minutes, when the storyline settled into some gentle activity like a nice meal at the stone table. I liked when Wilma brushed her hair. I liked the sound of Fred mowing the lawn. The adventures upset me – I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t just stay at home and out of trouble.

I was not a kid who liked to read the Sunday comics. I would scan the Metro page or the Sports page. If I was desperately bored, I’d go ahead and read the comic, Mark Trail.

I was a kid who had to draw the ground before I drew anything else. When I was in preschool on the Fort Myer military base, in a basement that smelled of mildew and macaroni and cheese, I remember sitting at a table, crying. My teacher had given me a page from a coloring book and a basket of crayons. But the picture was Casper the Friendly Ghost, and except for the sky, Casper filled the whole page. And I knew what that meant – I’d have to skip over all my favorite color crayons and just use white.

Call me concrete, stubborn, mildly autistic, lacking a sense of humor or an imagination. I don’t know the reasons, but I wasn’t drawn to stories that stretched the boundaries of reality. My favorite writer was Laura Ingalls Wilder – and even with the Little House series, I was upset that she referred to herself in the third-person when it wasn’t necessary.

Well, wouldn’t you know I’d marry someone who owned every Douglas Adams book and even played bootlegged Hitchhiker tapes in the car. He begged me to try his books (Me: “Do I have to finish this? I might start killing people”), and I begged him to try mine (Him: “Great. Now I’ll have weird dreams.”) And except for Avram Davidson, he really didn’t win me over.

And then we had boys. I read them Little House, Wind in the Willows, Winnie the Pooh, and all the books I loved. We also read them all the books Mr. Henderson loved. And after that, we read the hundreds and probably thousands of books they chose themselves. Who is their favorite writer? Terry Pratchett. Humorous fantasy.

So my favorites in this genre? I love The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents; The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe; The Hobbit; The Tale of Despereaux (does that count?); Peter Pan; and The BFG. And if anyone tells me these books aren’t also literature – meaning the prose is amazing sentence-by-sentence – then I say they’re wrong.

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If you want to go back and see some brave definitions of this genre, you’ll have to go through Monday’s comments section again. What I’ll do is name the favorite spec fiction writers for all those who answered the Question of the Week. So thank you to PD Smith, who likes Russell Hoban, Huxley, Wells, and Vonnegut; Robin Slick, who likes Robert Sheckley, Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Alice Hoffman, and Neil Gaiman.

Oh, wait, time for a photo:

Continuing: Aimee, who likes C.S. Lewis, Margaret Atwood, Ray Bradbury, and Madeleine L’Engle; Kevin Noel Olson, who has a juvenile fiction book out that straddles the line between Sci-Fi and Fantasy – Eerey Tocsin in the Cryptoid Zoo; Lance, who likes Neil Gaiman; Jordan, who likes Aimee Bender (Aimee counts? Yes!), Karen Russell, Kelly Link, and Audrey Niffenegger – Oh, and write to Jordan if you have useful things to say about Lit Fiction that crosses over into Fantasy because she may use the info in her article for Writer’s Digest – jordansmuse AT gmail DOT com; Carolyn, who discovered these favorites in a magazine called Analog: Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Andre Norton, Ursula K le Guin, Neil Gaiman and Terry Brooks; Ric Marion, who likes Bradbury and J.K. Rowling; Aurelio, who likes Bradbury and C.S. Lewis; Sarah Roundell, who likes Huxley, Orwell and Douglas Adams; Gail Siegel, who likes Calvino (Calvino counts? Whee, put another on my list!), Vonnegut, and Philip Dick’s imagination but definitely not his prose; Ronlyn Domingue, who likes Madeleine L’Engle and Margaret Atwood; Scott R, who likes Bruce Sterling, Robert Heinlein, Charles Stross and Homer (I didn’t think to count Homer, but put him on my list, too!); *Joe*, who likes Frank Herbert, Dan Simmons, David Brin, Vernor Vinge, John Varley, James Tiptree, Jr., Joe Haldeman, Isaac Asimov, Robert Silverberg, H.G. Wells, Anthony Burgess, Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick, Samuel R. Delany, Arthur C. Clarke, Alfred Bester, Walter M. Miller, Jack Vance, Ray Bradbury, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Ursula K. LeGuuin, Guy Gavriel Kay, T.H. White, China Mieville, George R.R. Martin, Stephen R. Donaldson, Tad Williams, Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, Roger Zelazny and William Shakespeare; Simon Haynes, who likes Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Jasper Fforde and Robert Rankin; Teresa, who is not a big Sci-Fi reader but painted silver spaceships on the floor of her bookshelf for her Sci-Fi customers; Noria, who likes Angela Carter, P.K. Dick, Philip Pullman, Kelly Link and Karen Joy Fowler; GirlGrey, who likes Bradbury, Robert Anton Wilson and Madeline L’Engle; and
Julie Ann Shapiro
, who likes Ray Bradbury, C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, and those who cross over into Magical Realism.

I know there were a few others who left dear comments that didn’t answer the question but made me smile. Thanks to all of you, and to this week’s guests: Pete S. Allen, Adrienne Jones, Paul Kane, Aurelio O’Brien and Gary K. Wolf for sharing your humor and your expertise!

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Tomorrow: Frank Daniels’ Lit Riot. Don’t miss it.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin Slick December 8, 2006 at 2:05 pm

I love reading about your childhood and seeing your photos, Susan. And err..speaking of photos…what did you do, lift that Gaiman photo from my private stock? Ha!

I really enjoyed this week’s topic and being turned on to new writers in a genre that I, too, “snubbed” as a kid. Now I’d like to live in fantasy world full time. And you’d better believe the authors mentioned write literature…damn, they are some of the best writers around.

Your kids have good taste. Terry Pratchett rocks!

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Carolyn Burns Bass December 8, 2006 at 3:15 pm

Your childhood reaction to such nutty cartoons as The Flintstones is much like my adult reaction to half of what comes out of Hollywood.

Going of to check Jason’s blog now.

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Myfanwy Collins December 8, 2006 at 4:24 pm

You were just the cutest little kid ever. Another great week on litpark–thank you for it!

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Jason Boog December 8, 2006 at 6:58 pm

Thank you so much for that kind review. The community spirit around this site leaves me speechless.

I’m always looking for new friends and new writers to feature, please send suggestions when you visit!

Most importantly, great speculative fiction post, I’m so excited that I’m going to the bookstore on my lunch break.

I would most like to endorse Noria’s picks–especially Angela Carter. She changed the whole way I look at fiction. Great list

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Susan Henderson December 8, 2006 at 10:16 pm

Robin – Yep, I lifted that beauty right off your site. It’s like plunking a little piece of heaven into the middle of my blog.

Carolyn – Doesn’t he have a fine blog?

Myfanwy – The cutest kid ever might be over on Jordan’s blog this week. Did you see? I have everyone on RSS feed now, which makes me bad about commenting because it adds a step. I should go comment.

Jason – It’s great to have you here!

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Jim Simpson December 9, 2006 at 4:12 am

Where do you come up with this fantastic, funny stuff week after week? Sounds like you were quite an original kid, and you’re certainly a one-of-a-kind adult! Thanks for making Lit Park an enjoyable part of my weekly, writerly reads.

I’ve linked you on my blog and am continually amazed that Lit Park is the #1 “outclick” on my weekly SiteMeter roundup.

Jim

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patry December 9, 2006 at 4:42 am

I didn’t like cartoons much growing up either–though I loved Pebbles, and thoroughly admired Wilma and Betty’s bone-held pony tails. My two youngest kids aren’t cartoon people either. We want our reality straight and unvarnished–or something like that.

Anyway, I have to agree with everyone about Lit Park. It really IS the place where writers come to play–as if we don’t play enough already!

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Myfanwy Collins December 9, 2006 at 1:15 pm

Susan, I did see! I think you two are tied. 🙂

Jordan’s post this week broke my heart. She’s very dear.

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Susan Henderson December 10, 2006 at 4:17 am

Jim Simpson – Thank you for making my day.

Patry – I agree. The bone-held ponytails were awesome. But how did the bone stay in? (Aurelio? Can you maybe draw us a diagram as to how this works?)

Myfanwy – Broke my heart, too.

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