Linky should be doing real work

Luc Reid interviews Ken Liu in Strange Horizons:

LR: What kinds of influence has the Chinese science fiction you’ve read had on your own work? Are there elements of those stories that stand out from Anglophone SF?

KL: I think it’s difficult, if not futile, to try to summarize entire bodies of literature in generalities. Qualities in individual Chinese writers stand out for me—Chen Qiufan’s trenchant social observations, Xia Jia’s poetic voice, Ma Boyong’s humorous blending of classical Chinese and Western elements, Liu Cixin’s grand feats of imagination—just like qualities in individual Anglophone writers impress me. But I can’t tell you how Chinese writers, as a group, are different from Anglophone writers, as a group—beyond banal observations such as Chinese writers appear to make use of more Chinese cultural references in their work.

It is true, however, that seeing Chinese cultural elements used in speculative fiction has helped me see more possibilities for telling the kind of stories I wanted to tell.

Oyceter on the first two seasons of Game of Thrones:

I knew HBO added a ton of nudity and sex before going in, but wow, I am still a bit astonished by just how much. Of course, the nudity is almost entirely women. I think there are three scenes with full male nudity, one of which is in a non-sex scene and one is in a sex scene in which convenient bits are obscured. Other than that, we get one scene of the older Stark boys topless, and two scenes with Renly and Loras making out while topless. The nudity and sex is also SO RANDOM. I assume they couldn’t get most of the main actresses to sign on for so much nudity, so instead there are endless scenes with prostitutes. And since the prostitutes are by and large random, to justify the scenes, you generally have male characters randomly pontificating about their motives or otherwise giving random exposition they couldn’t fit in otherwise.

Even putting aside my feminist rage, this is so annoying because it is such a clunky way to exposit and lets the writers stick in info that way instead of working it into the show more organically. And if they had to have sex and nudity, it’d be nice if they could have gone with something that actually added to the series, like maybe a flashback to Robert and Cersei first having sex or something.

Marie Brennan (I seem to be linking to her a lot) on “gritty” vs. “grimdark”:

So I’m thinking about our terminology — “gritty” and “grimdark” and so on. What do we mean by “grit,” anyway? The abrasive parts of life, I guess; the stuff that’s hard and unpleasant. Logistics and consequences and that sort of thing, the little stony details that other books might gloss over. It’s adjacent to, or maybe our new replacement for, “low fantasy” — the stories in which magic is relatively rare, and characters have to do things the hard way, just like us. Hence laying claim to the term “realism”: those kinds of details that can ground a story in reality.

But that isn’t the same thing as “grimdark,” is it? That describes a mood, and you can just as easily tell a story in which everything is horrible and doomed without those little details as with. (As indeed some authors do.) Hence, of course, the counter-arguments that grimdark fantasy is just as selective in its “realism” as lighter fare: if you’re writing about a war and all the women are threatened with sexual violence but none of the men are, then you’re cherry-picking your grit.

Also read the comments, particularly this one:

The thing that strikes me about the grimdark discussion is that there are multiple different-but-interlocking conversations going on at once. One is an argument about whether “realism” is grounds for granting a work a higher degree of artistic merit. Another is an argument about to what extent realism actually requires focusing on the darker and more unpleasant aspects of life. And the third is: supposing that we grant that the historical prevalence of misogyny and rape requires that they be addressed in realistic fiction, are there ways of portraying them that do no themselves reinforce misogyny and rape culture?

Consider the Tea Cosy on Another Irish Abortion:

Irish abortion stories have that thing in common, though, don’t they? Not all of them. These days they’re as likely to be accessed over the internet as through our more traditional boats and flights out. But any time one of us needs an abortion we must become outlaws- either by breaking the law or travelling until we are, literally, outside it.