When your favorite scifi authors join the dark side (fantasy)

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When your favorite scifi authors join the dark side (fantasy)

1CaptainTime
Fev 13, 2023, 11:24 pm

I do love both sci-fi and fantasy. But I find it harder to find great sci-fi than great fantasy.

So understandably, I get excited when one of my favorite sci-fi authors announces a new book. Unfortunately, I often find out to my horror they have released a fantasy book!

I do get it - maybe fantasy has a wider audience than sci-fi. Or the author has a compelling story idea they want to write and share. And of course, they can write what they want.

But I can't help thinking, that could have been another book in my favorite sci-fi series!

And it is rare that I find an author that I feel writes both great sci-fi and fantasy. So far, I only have 1 author I consider writes as strongly in both genres.

2tardis
Fev 14, 2023, 12:46 am

I am interested to know who your one author is :)

I can think of several authors who do both very well. Three, just off the top of my head, are Martha Wells, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Tanya Huff.

3ScoLgo
Fev 14, 2023, 2:01 am

>2 tardis: I"m curious about that too. A few more authors occur to me... CJ Cherryh, Ursula K. Le Guin, Gene Wolfe, Octavia Butler, Nicola Griffith, Nora Jemisin, Emma Newman, Roger Zelazny, Nick Harkaway, Ray Bradbury, Kameron Hurley.

Granted, many of these, (e.g., Harkaway, Bradbury, Wolfe, etc), are writers of 'soft' SF, but it is SF nonetheless. And their fantasy offerings are exceptional.

4divinenanny
Fev 14, 2023, 3:15 am

If it is City of Last Chances I get the feeling, but I read it and loved it :D

5andyl
Fev 14, 2023, 4:17 am

>4 divinenanny:
Of course Tchaikovsky is no stranger to fantasy either with multiple fantasy series already under his belt.

6gilroy
Fev 14, 2023, 6:22 am

I don't like to box authors into a specific genre. I just want them to write. So if they write fantasy, science fiction, horror, historical fantasy... Don't care. They released a book. If they are a favorite author, it means their style resonated with me somehow. Will they be stronger in one genre than another? Sure. But they are writing books. And for authors, that's the most important thing.

7pgmcc
Fev 14, 2023, 7:05 am

>6 gilroy:
I am with you on this. Some of my favourite authors defy being boxed into any given genre, e.g. Nick Harkaway. His work is all the stronger for it.

8haydninvienna
Editado: Fev 14, 2023, 9:03 am

I agree with >6 gilroy: and >7 pgmcc: on not boxing authors into a genre, mostly because the boundaries of genres are, to put it mildly, rather fluid. The idea of genre exists mainly so bookshops know where to shelve books so readers who limit themselves to a genre know where to find them (and there are notorious examples of books that get shelved in the “wrong” genre because of eg a misleading cover). And where now would you shelve H G Wells’s The Time Machine, which was probably science fiction in 1896 but is fantasy (by any reasonable definition) today? It’s probably among the “classics”, which isn’t a genre at all.

Also, remember Clarke’s Law that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. I bet that if you take a science fiction story with aliens in it, replace all the references to aliens with references to elves or spirits, and all the references to weapons to magic fire or whatever, you’d have a fantasy story. It might not be a very good one, of course.

There are even science fiction stories that play with this very idea. Christopher Anvil, who was one of John W Campbell’s reliables, used to do this from time to time. I remember one story of Anvil’s where a human is imprisoned by aliens who view humans as magicians and want to get from him some of his “magical” secrets. He tricks the aliens into giving him some silver nitrate and an ammonia solution, prepares some silver nitride and uses it to blow out the side of the prison, which is lit by piped acetylene. At the end, two of the battered and singed aliens are asking each other how could the human not have been a magician?

ETA The specific book I had in mind in the comment about misleading covers was this: https://www.goodshowsir.co.uk/?p=6293. I’m properly paid though—I decided to look at Amazon to see if there was a kindle version (there isn’t, at least not on Amazon UK), but I read some of the excerpt at Look Inside and decided I have to buy it. What do you call a self-inflicted BB?

Anyhow, is Stealing the Elf-King’s Roses fantasy, science fiction or something else?

9Karlstar
Fev 14, 2023, 1:32 pm

>7 pgmcc: Iain Banks and Dan Simmons come up in my mind as other authors who cross genres, in addition to the fine lists in >2 tardis: and >3 ScoLgo:.

10pgmcc
Fev 14, 2023, 2:14 pm

>9 Karlstar:
Agreed.

11CaptainTime
Fev 14, 2023, 5:10 pm

>2 tardis: Lois McMaster Bujold is the one author I find where I love her sci-fi and fantasy equally well.

I LOVE Elizabeth Moon's sci-fi (Vattas War/Seranno Legacy). Her fantasy is good, but not the same level as the sci-fi to me. Sort of A+ for sci-fi and B+ for fantasy. She is an example of an author where I am excited to hear there is a new book, then disappointed when it is a fantasy. Of course, this is my own tastes and preferences.

Everyone is different. Some of you heathens probably even like watermelon... 🍉😦

12tardis
Fev 14, 2023, 7:05 pm

>11 CaptainTime: Bujold is probably my favourite author. I love all her books and have reread them many times.

I do know what you mean - I adore Georgette Heyer's regency romances, but dislike her mysteries, and there's another mystery writer where I enjoy one series but hate the other.

13rshart3
Fev 14, 2023, 7:59 pm

How odd that no one has mentioned one of the currently most famous ones, George RR Martin.

Most of the authors named above are favorites of mine. I guess I like the kind of writer who works in both genres. Sometimes it's hard to know which it is, thus "science fantasy"
The whole thing makes sense to me in terms of facets of interest: both genres appeal to authors & readers who like being in different worlds; both have a strong speculative tradition; both tend to have puzzle elements & tricky plotting; both tend to have plenty of action.

I agree with CaptainTime about E. Moon -- her fantasy is OK, but nothing like those great space opera series. CJ Cherryh ditto, the SF far outweighs the fantasy.

What an interesting thread! Thanks, Captain.

14RobertDay
Fev 15, 2023, 5:20 pm

>13 rshart3: I think a lot of people have forgotten, or possibly didn't even know, about GRRM's earlier SF work.

I've never read any of the novels, but in watching the tv shows I'm nagged by the feeling that this could be a "lost colony" scenario, especially with the Westeros mythical record starting with distant "First Men"...

15Luke.w
Fev 15, 2023, 7:33 pm

>6 gilroy: "I don't like to box authors into a specific genre."

This to me is the bigger issue than authors going between SF and Fantasy. Books become bad if they are shoehorned into an unmatched genre just to satisfy personal preference or audience expectations. I would much rather just read good books. To me this also goes into a decision by the author on why they are picking a specific genre. If they write a mystery novel and set it in space just to get the SF audience but don't have any real SF focus in the story, plot, or setting, then it's just a wasted opportunity. Also it will probably be a really bad book.

16rshart3
Fev 15, 2023, 10:11 pm

>14 RobertDay: I never thought about the possibility of a lost colony element. I can't think of any clear reason to, but I'll have to think about it.

I've always been interested in the fact that usually, when something is converted into a film or TV series, I think either the book(s) are much better or the media version. Ice & Fire is one of the few where I felt that both were equally good; though it was disconcerting watching the TV version when they started diverging from the books. Another one I thought was equally good both ways (but a different kind of animal entirely) was the Harry Potter book/films.

17Karlstar
Fev 15, 2023, 11:01 pm

>14 RobertDay: Good call on GRRM. There's also his non-fantasy fiction works, too, like Fevre Dream and The Armageddon Rag.

18paradoxosalpha
Fev 15, 2023, 11:05 pm

Catherynne Valente has written good stories on both sides of the f/sf boundary.

19nx74defiant
Fev 17, 2023, 4:49 pm

I went to an author talk by Emily St. John Mandel and she did talk about how she had worried about getting labeled as an author of one genre. She didn't want to be stuck where that was all any one wanted from her. She wanted to be free to write the story no matter the genre.

20ScoLgo
Fev 17, 2023, 5:49 pm

>19 nx74defiant: And yet the more she publishes, the more SFnal it all becomes. I would hesitate to call her first three novels SF but, once she wrote Station Eleven, The Glass Hotel, and Sea of Tranquility, and (loosely) tied them together with both characters and events - even going back to The Lola Quartet, it makes it more difficult to consider her writing as non-genre.

That said, I personally really like her writing and will likely read whatever she publishes next, regardless of what genre she may consider it to be.

21cindydavid4
Fev 17, 2023, 6:28 pm

>13 rshart3: when has GRR Martin writing sci fi? ( still mad at him for not finishing GOT, so its 'grrrrr')

22cindydavid4
Fev 17, 2023, 6:30 pm

>16 rshart3: they didn't stray from the book Martin did not finish the series, and apparently was not involved in the last few searsons so they ran out of material

23AnnieMod
Fev 17, 2023, 6:37 pm

>22 cindydavid4: Oh, they did stray long before they ran out of material - removing characters, consolidating characters and events (and some of those choices left them a bit... up a creek without a paddle later in the seasons).

>21 cindydavid4: His early work is mainly SF and occasionally horror (The Pear-Shaped Man even won him a Bram Stoker award) :)

24RobertDay
Fev 17, 2023, 7:18 pm

>23 AnnieMod: GRRM even won the odd award for short stories, I believe.

25AnnieMod
Fev 17, 2023, 7:22 pm

>24 RobertDay: On the SF side? Yep, a few. I am always amused about his horror award for some reason though :)

26rshart3
Fev 17, 2023, 11:29 pm

>21 cindydavid4: I remember Tuf Voyaging and Dying of the Light, and especially the rather haunting short story "A Song for Lya". But certainly more fantasy, and it's been his main success.

27rshart3
Fev 17, 2023, 11:38 pm

>21 cindydavid4: still mad at him for not finishing GOT, so its 'grrrrr'
Ha! I agree.
I doubt he'll ever finish it. Not just the health issues, but he always seemed a very commercial writer to me -- and why work more on it, when he's made however many gizillions of dollars by now? (Just based on general impressions. I'm not very knowledgeable about him, though I did enjoy the series.)

My lifetime love is the other "R.R.".

28RobertDay
Editado: Fev 18, 2023, 12:38 pm

>25 AnnieMod:, >26 rshart3: He always seemed to be acclaimed for his short stories - and most of his awards are in the shorter forms - but I recollect that Dying of the Light was eagerly anticipated but many felt it was anti-climactic when it finally appeared. That reaction may well have been what drove him towards fantasy. Tuf Voyaging was fun, though.

29cindydavid4
Fev 18, 2023, 11:04 am

>26 rshart3: thanks for that

>27 rshart3: My lifetime love is the other "R.R.".

refresh my memory who is that

30cindydavid4
Fev 18, 2023, 11:08 am

>23 AnnieMod: actually I liked some of the consolidation; His books are just filled with stuff that needed a good editor but for the most part I approved. But they are not forgiven for the mess of a scene where Arya is in the market place. I know its a fantasy but there was too much super power in that one.

31rshart3
Fev 18, 2023, 11:17 am

>29 cindydavid4: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (aka JRR Tolkien)

32cindydavid4
Fev 18, 2023, 6:45 pm

Oh ok, that makes sense!

33dustydigger
Fev 19, 2023, 7:17 am

IMO Martin tends towards horror more than SF . Like Nightflyers. I have Sandkings and Fevre Dreams on the TBR,will have to gird up the loins to assay them.
Oddly,an early SF novel in 1981,collaborating with Lisa Tuttle,Windhaven,was quite a pleasant little tale I actually enjoyed. The names of Martin and Tuttle made me expect something much darker.
I still havent started Game of Thrones not a genre I enjoy in general.I managed 50 pages and gave up,then last year 70 pages gave up again. Its annoying that the Ice and Fire sequence appears on lots of my WWEnd lists,preventing me completing some lists. Grrrr!i do read a lot of urban fantasy,its great fun,but apart from LOTR I am so not keen on high fantasy,dont want grim dark etc. Counting all fantasy books I have added to my LT shelves,I have only read 155 books in all,compared with 755 SF books,and 498 urban fantasy,plus of course classic children and YA fantasy reads. Out of over 4700 books listed I show only 155 as fantasy. Oops

34rshart3
Fev 19, 2023, 10:57 am

Some people like fantasy, some don't. This is true for any genre I can think of. Life is too short to spend time reading something we don't like!
The "I should be reading _______ " (fill in the blank) syndrome has its equally frustrating counterpart in the "I shouldn't be reading ______ . The most common subject of the latter is Romance novels, but SF & fantasy have a fair amount of that too. I was amused a few years back by a library patron who kept returning piles of romance novels & pronouncing to the desk staff some variation on "this is junk!" or "disgusting" -- only to come back a while later with another stack of romance titles to check out (presumably hoping none of her friends would see her).

35cindydavid4
Fev 19, 2023, 11:57 am

I started reading sci fi about the same time as I started reading fantasy. I can tell you that there are as many bad sci fi as bad fantasies, and as many great litereature in either. Definitelly agree lifes too short to have 'should reads' and TBH there was much about GOT that really bothered me or needed to be edited. But there was something about them that pulled me in and wouldn't let go. And if it hooks you and doesn't let go it doesn't matter what genre it is

36kjuliff
Fev 19, 2023, 3:11 pm

>15 Luke.w: I agree. I was disappointed with A Psalm for the Wild-Built was touted as SF but I really felt it was fantasy. I don’t read fantasy at all. I can see how the genres overlap, and SF is fantasy in that it is not real. But it could be real, one day, or in another place. Fantasy makes no such presence and it this unreality of it that I don’t like.

37kjuliff
Fev 19, 2023, 3:27 pm

>20 ScoLgo: I like her writing too, but I don’t like fantasy and A Psalm for the Wild-Built is just too fantasy for me. Of course I understand she doesn’t want to be boxed in to one or more genres but it’s going to happen that she is going to write books that are not of this Earth, are going to be considered SF or fantasy or both.

38AnnieMod
Fev 19, 2023, 6:32 pm

>28 RobertDay: It always amused me that the author who was a master of the shorter forms produced an epic series. :)

39ScoLgo
Editado: Fev 19, 2023, 6:35 pm

>37 kjuliff: My post was about Emily St. John Mandel. A Psalm For the Wild-Built is by Becky Chambers.

To date, I have only read one Chambers novel, A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, and I was not a fan. I did pick up A Psalm For the Wild-Built when it was a TOR freebie. I plan to give it a try at some point but, after my exprience with ALWtaSAP, I can't claim to be in a big hurry.

40AnnieMod
Fev 19, 2023, 6:34 pm

>30 cindydavid4: The problem was not that they changed things but that they had no plans on how to reconcile some of the later actions - so they had to either cut them or send them into other characters where they made a lot less sense.

I liked the series. I also like the books. I consider them different series - they share characters and actions but they are independent for me. Which means I can enjoy both without getting upset about changes.

41gilroy
Fev 19, 2023, 8:04 pm

>37 kjuliff: So you don't care for post apocalyptic science fiction? Because that's what the Monk & Robot series is. Not fantasy. At least that was the way I felt when I read it. But it also hit differently than many books in the genre, because it asked questions without giving answers. It forced the reader to answer the questions for themselves. And I've noticed a lot of people don't like that type of writing of late.

42cindydavid4
Fev 19, 2023, 11:00 pm

>40 AnnieMod: yes that sounds about right. And I agree, I can like both as well (the casting director was beyond genius with that cast, esp with the kids!)

43kjuliff
Editado: Fev 22, 2023, 5:45 pm

>41 gilroy: yes I do like post. Apocalyptic SF. I didn’t know A Psalm was part of a series. I must revisit … Thank you. I don’t mind the questions-no—answers approach. I felt the novel could not be imagined. I’m into robotics, AI, and so like an imagining of the possible. I will def re-assess now.

44kjuliff
Fev 22, 2023, 5:46 pm

Can anyone recommend a good SF novel written post 2000 about the evolution of robots?

45paradoxosalpha
Editado: Fev 22, 2023, 6:02 pm

46kjuliff
Fev 22, 2023, 6:03 pm

>45 paradoxosalpha: Looks good. Thanks! On my list now.

47rshart3
Editado: Fev 22, 2023, 7:47 pm

>44 kjuliff: It's interesting -- when i thought about your question, I realized that I don't see many books in recent years about traditional robots. They tend to be more about AIs, cyborgs, etc.

48kjuliff
Fev 22, 2023, 8:17 pm

>47 rshart3: I actually meant it generically. I was thinking of the answer given by Stephen Hawkin in his last interview on what would destroy the human race. t “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race." So I’m looking for SF novels about non-human physical entities that can reproduce. Not applied software which is how I define AI and not cyborgs. They do not need to loook human.

49paradoxosalpha
Editado: Fev 23, 2023, 12:40 pm

>44 kjuliff:; >48 kjuliff: I haven't read it myself, but if I were to pick a book to read in answer to your question, it might be Sea of Rust.

I'm one of the many who have been enjoying The Murderbot Diaries, but I'm unsure how well they meet your spec, particularly the "that can reproduce" bit.

50pgmcc
Fev 23, 2023, 1:45 pm

>46 kjuliff:
I support >45 paradoxosalpha:'s recommendation for River of Gods and add to it with The Dervish House. That is really taking the evolution of robots along a smaller route.

51kjuliff
Fev 23, 2023, 6:19 pm

>49 paradoxosalpha: Thanks. I’ve put Sea of Rust (audio) on hold at my library. It looks goood. I also like the idea of rusty robots;) will look into the Murderbot Diaries too.

52kjuliff
Editado: Fev 23, 2023, 6:28 pm

>50 pgmcc: >50 pgmcc: Unfortunately River of Gods and The Dervish House don’t seem to be on audio and I’m limited to that unfortunately. Checking other sources - liked the look of River of Gods

53paradoxosalpha
Fev 23, 2023, 6:38 pm

Maybe an ebook with text-to-speech is a good choice for robot fiction?

54kjuliff
Editado: Fev 23, 2023, 6:51 pm

>53 paradoxosalpha: Interesting that you suggest that; I was just thinking of trying that today. Will give it a go.

55andyl
Fev 25, 2023, 3:15 pm

I thought A Psalm For the Wild-Built was a fine SF book but if you want something a bit different maybe try the Corporation Wars trilogy (although it is really a tripartite novel IMO) by Ken MacLeod (although I don't think it is Ken's best work IMO). It is sometimes claimed to be mil-SF but it really transcends that surface as it covers so many philosophical and political (and economic) ideas in its execution.

56RobertDay
Fev 25, 2023, 4:52 pm

>55 andyl: Interestingly, Dissidence is about three or four off the summit of Mount TBR.

57kjuliff
Fev 25, 2023, 10:08 pm

>55 andyl: I can see that A Psalm for the Wild-Built is good, but I imagined the main character as a doubled sort of human because of the name, Sibling, and didn’t realise for awhile the pronouns were non-binary. So I had this weird being in my mind and nothing was making sense when it was described as walking. And no, I was only on my pain medication ;-)

58wbf2nd
Fev 26, 2023, 12:10 am

>57 kjuliff: Poor "they", it has become quite the overworked word! I had a similar experience reading an alternate history set in a wild west (forgot the name, something on the order of "Fearless librarians wanted"), where on a few occasions I had to read a paragraph several times to figure out in the "they"s in a sentence referred to the protagonist, a gang of bad guys or a bunch of horses. Found that annoying, not the pleasant disorientation of the ungendered use of "she" in Ancillary Justice. I had been rooting for "ze" to become the standard non-binary pronoun, or at least an alternate spelling of "they". But oh well, it is hardly the death knell of English, and it gives me something benign to grumble about...

59cindydavid4
Fev 26, 2023, 11:09 am

Ive read the librarian book, thought it very good but yeah had a few problems with the pronouns. Wish I could find the title its like bold women wanted or something like that

60kjuliff
Editado: Fev 26, 2023, 11:14 am

>58 wbf2nd: I agree re the use of ze. It would have made sibling o much easier to understand. To me “They left the room” will always conjure up more than one entity. As for English, it will always evolve, though I do think the loss of “thou” second person familiar has never been compensated for, and most languages have ways to differentiate the familiar from the formal. French tu and vous. And I think in some Indian languages suffixes to generic titles (such as uncle) re used.

Haven’t come across the ungendered use of she. Can’t wait ;-)

61amanda4242
Editado: Fev 26, 2023, 11:23 am

>59 cindydavid4: Pretty sure you're thinking of Upright Women Wanted.

62paradoxosalpha
Fev 26, 2023, 11:25 am

>60 kjuliff:

The sense of "thou" has been bizarrely inverted for many because of its persistence in scripture and liturgy, thus making it seem formal.

63Stevil2001
Fev 26, 2023, 11:33 am

Speaking of Ann Leckie, I think Raven Tower is a good example of the thread title. I would not have picked up the book except for its author, and I was kind of disappointed she was writing fantasy, not sf. But I ended up really enjoying it, and partly because Leckie applied the rigorous worldbuilding of her sf to her fantasy conceit.

64cindydavid4
Fev 26, 2023, 12:28 pm

>61 amanda4242: yup, thats the one, thanks

65kjuliff
Fev 26, 2023, 3:09 pm

>62 paradoxosalpha: Yes I think it’s because of the Lord’s Prayer and the use in the Bible to indicate archaic-ness rather than to indicate the familiar. Readers of English outside of western democracies are going to have trouble with the they/them pronouns because gender identification is not a thing yet,

66AnnieMod
Fev 26, 2023, 3:36 pm

>65 kjuliff: Unless they were taught that “they” is an acceptable (and even preferred) pronoun for a single person when you don’t know the gender or don’t want to use it for some reason. My English textbooks in the mid- and late-1990s (Cambridge editions mainly but I think we also had a Pearson one in one class so not a local teaching oddity) allowed that specifically - they even had a preference for they vs. “he or she” in such cases. Which took awhile to get used to - both my native language (Bulgarian) and my second (Russian) are heavily gendered in every part of the language (verb forms, adjectives and cases in Russian form differently based on the gender) so genderless texts are a challenge in them to start with and my brain was used to thinking that way.

67kjuliff
Editado: Fev 26, 2023, 4:01 pm

>66 AnnieMod: Unless they were taught that “they” is an acceptable …. ;-) - it took me a while to parse this. Yes, I agree, if you aren’t taught that “they/them” can indicate non-gender as well as plural it can be a challenge. I can see it would be more of a challenge for those whose primary language was highly-gendered.
I have a problem (though my primary language is English which is moderately gendered) in that the they/them pronouns are “overloaded”. In computer programming the use of a variable representing more than one meaning is avoided. This to me is logical. If they/them can indicate gender/non-gender and plural, then it’s even more of a challenge.
I expect that A Psalm for the Wild-built would translate well into Finnish which I understand, is genderless.

68AnnieMod
Fev 26, 2023, 4:02 pm

>67 kjuliff: Yeah, now that you point it out - it was not intentionally obtuse. :) It’s one of the challenges of English :) Which does not make some of the books easier to parse and read - but as it was introduced to me as a possibility when I was getting used to English, my brain looks for it. Not sure how to explain - it is also possible that it may be easier for me than for a lot of native speakers because it had always been an accepted and normal part of my understanding of English. Who knows. The joys of natural languages :)

69kjuliff
Fev 26, 2023, 4:30 pm

>68 AnnieMod: Yes, I think you are right. Your brain formed that expectation whereas mine did not. And I expect that in the USA the use of they/them will become a generational thing, as younger readers enter the world of reading with the expectation that they/them may indicate gender or not, or plural, or not. The context will be everything.

With a SF or fantasy novel there’s still going to be the necessity to decide how the pronoun is being used, as it’s in the context of a place/space where everything is possible.

70paradoxosalpha
Fev 26, 2023, 4:32 pm

Use of gendered pronouns in Too Like the Lightning is intentionally obtuse. Too good effect, I think.

71anglemark
Editado: Fev 27, 2023, 7:53 am

>67 kjuliff: I expect that A Psalm for the Wild-built would translate well into Finnish which I understand, is genderless.

Not just Finnish. A majority of the world's population has a native language that does not use gendered pronouns. The Indo-European family is, if not an outlier, at least not typical.

72cindydavid4
Fev 27, 2023, 6:50 am

fascinating discussion! I agree about the generational thing; kids are having a lot easier time with all this. People are trying to ban pronouns but they will be overrun as more kids grow and use them. too like lightning looks really interesting.

73gilroy
Fev 27, 2023, 7:47 am

Interestingly, "They" as a singular pronoun was part of English until about the 19th century. American English pushed it out during the Revival Tent Worship that traveled the country. They wanted a clearer definition and felt they needed a solid "Man/Woman" notation and disliked the whole singular "They." From what I understand, European English kept the singular "They" longer, but eventually phased it out as well. So in a sense, the language is going backwards to its roots...

74paradoxosalpha
Fev 27, 2023, 10:30 am

>72 cindydavid4: People are trying to ban pronouns

Well, I guess that's a clumsy shorthand for: "People are trying to ban requests for pronoun accuracy based on the preferred identification of the person being referred to." It's essentially an campaign to avoid efforts at politeness. The mind frankly boggles.

75kjuliff
Editado: Fev 27, 2023, 12:16 pm

>74 paradoxosalpha: I don’t think that’s a correct interpretation of post - >72 cindydavid4: in context. This discussion started about an interpretation of they/them, which can indicate non-binary or plural. These are loaded pronouns in the sense that they can be referring in literature to two different dimensions - sex or plurality.

The discussion wasn’t about how we should address each other, but about how a reader interprets sentences in novels. Mea culpa, I brought it up. There does happen to be differences in languages - some are more highly-gendered than others. Can we keep this discussion to literature? I

76paradoxosalpha
Editado: Fev 27, 2023, 12:56 pm

>75 kjuliff:

Sorry for the detour, but as I'm sure you know, there really are people "trying to ban pronouns" in the sense I described, and >72 cindydavid4:'s references to generational change suggest to me that I got the context right, although she's welcome to correct me.

I sympathize with your grammatical frustrations, but I also observe that they will hold the interest only of pedants like me when they are overlaid by social conflict.

77cindydavid4
Editado: Fev 27, 2023, 1:17 pm

I meant what >76said. I get the dif etwee the two issues and sorry I added to the co nfusion

78kjuliff
Editado: Fev 27, 2023, 1:56 pm

>76 paradoxosalpha: it is good to see another pedant out there ;-)
Had I not gone into IT I would have loved to do something in the field of linguistics. Computer programming uses of a language invented by humans. Programming languages are strict on syntax and it is one of the cardinal rules of good programming to use one variable for one function. So we should not use one area of memory to store the current inflation rate and the same area to store the day of the month. The reason being is that it requires an extra step to work out which value is being stored, and thus can lead to errors (bugs).

Hence my dislike of they/them in certain contexts. I wrongly assumed that Sibling in A Psalm for the Wild-built was two people. The name of the MC Sibling also influenced me. I started visualizing a weird two-entity being and couldn’t get it out of my old brain.

I expect that younger people, more used to they/them as a genderless pronoun would not make this mistake. Still I would prefer gender-neutral pronouns such as xe/ze, in the interest of reader inclusivity.

79paradoxosalpha
Editado: Fev 27, 2023, 2:52 pm

I'm comfortable with they/them used as non-gendered singular pronouns, because I'm aware of the historical English usage, along with contemporary vernacular speech. The way that these words shift the verb conjugation to plural forms is a little irritating though. In that respect, I would prefer xe/ze--but that kind of neologism is a long shot for gaining any widespread currency.

The non-binary (de-gendered but erotically enhanced/reorganized through surgery) characters of River of Gods use the pronoun yt, which I thought was sort of cool. But I've seen objections that the homophony with an "inanimate" neuter pronoun was dehumanizing. In Terra Ingota there is a character who prefers "it," partly for reasons of neutral gender, and partly because of an identity investment in being a model for literal dolls.

80pgmcc
Fev 27, 2023, 3:49 pm

>56 RobertDay: I loved Dissidence. I enjoyed the trilogy, but Dissidence is the best individual book of the three.

81wbf2nd
Fev 27, 2023, 10:36 pm

>67 kjuliff: For some reason the use of "they" for the non-specific singular never bothered me, it was far better than the clumsy "he/she" (never she/he I noticed). Using "they" for the specific non-binary singular just became the straw that broke the poor word's back. And of course, to maintain consistency the use of the singular "they" should be with "is" and "was" (which might actually help a little bit, I might try it given a chance).

As for the book, I did find it good. And for the thread, Leckie's Raven Tower was a good transition from SF to fantasy, and nicely twisty.

82kjuliff
Fev 27, 2023, 11:10 pm

>81 wbf2nd: For some reason the use of "they" for the non-specific singular never bothered me, it was far better than the clumsy "he/she" (never she/he I noticed).
Same for me. I’d forgotten. The alternative used to be the use the word “one”.
“A person should enjoy their vacation.”
“One should enjoy one’s vacation” sound too formal. I can remember my old high school headmistress use “one” that way. Sounded off even way back then in the dark ages.
As for the clumsiness in using plural forms of verbs - >79 paradoxosalpha: points this out too, I just can’t imagine saying “Tom is enjoying their vacation”.

83karenb
Fev 28, 2023, 7:16 am

>82 kjuliff: I just can’t imagine saying “Tom is enjoying their vacation”.

One becomes used to it with practice. As one does. :)

84ChrisRiesbeck
Fev 28, 2023, 2:24 pm

>81 wbf2nd: I have seen s/he which has the feature of suggesting "she" for pronunciation. But "they" works fine for me these days.

85kjuliff
Fev 28, 2023, 2:53 pm

>83 karenb: But I would assume Tom was male and so would not need the use of their. It is of course possible with your use of their - “their vacation” that Tom is living vicariously or watching a movie, and that Tom is enjoying some other people’s vacation! ;-)

I use they/their/them in speaking with others when the subject is plural or of unknown or of inconsequential gender . But my interest here is in reading comprehension, and my personal preference is to have a different pronoun if non-binary is important to the scene in the novel. Language evolves and your preferred way is likely to become the dominant way. But I am very old and am conditioned from 70 years of reading, so that I interpret they/them as plural when reading. This has nothing to do with how I would use pronouns in social settings.

86andyl
Mar 1, 2023, 4:56 am

>85 kjuliff:

Sure, but for many people singular they is just idiomatic English. For example in the pub someone might ask where Tom is and I might answer "They've just gone to the loo" rather than "He's just gone to the loo". It is totally unremarkable. Whilst I am younger than you, I am not that much younger, and I cannot remember when anyone would look confused (or with askance for that matter) when I said it.

87reconditereader
Mar 1, 2023, 11:39 am

I'm with >86 andyl: on this one. I'm not young but I had no trouble with the language in the Becky Chambers books.

88AnnieMod
Mar 1, 2023, 12:16 pm

>85 kjuliff: "But I would assume Tom was male"

But why? It may be short from Thomasina or something like that:) Or a shortened, cleaned-up variant of a hard to pronounce non-Western name which may be either gender. And what would you assume about a name like Ashley for example - especially when you hear it so you cannot see the spelling - not that this means anything these days? Does that change based on the period the book is supposedly set in? I am not picking on you - I am really curious.

And even if you know they are male, I still do not find it weird to use/see they/their in reference to Tom. Even if there is no non-binary context...

>86 andyl: >87 reconditereader:

It probably will boil down to regional variants of the language... Half of the time I don't even notice that the author uses a they instead of he or she until my brain needs more than a second to untangle who they are talking about (but then he/she has the same issue if there are two of them in the same scene anyway...).

89Karlstar
Mar 1, 2023, 1:17 pm

>88 AnnieMod: I read Provenance recently, and the few places where the author used 'she' felt like a mistake.

90ScoLgo
Mar 1, 2023, 2:40 pm

>89 Karlstar: How tightly does Provenance relate to the rest of the original Radch trilogy? I have Provenance on my TBR for this year and am wondering if I should re-read - or at least skim through - the first three Ancillary titles first?

In general, I have been reading a lot of SF/F with gender-neutral language in recent years, (the Ancillary books being a very good example), and, through I am older now, I find that it doesn't bother me much if it's done with a modicum of subtlety. Some books deliver it in a heavy-handed manner, which can make it stand out as an agenda. When authors overtly preach their personal gospel, (whatever that gospel may be), it usually distracts me from the story. My opinion: build it into your world as seamlessly as possible, and readers will generally go along with it.

91RobertDay
Mar 1, 2023, 6:08 pm

>90 ScoLgo: Provenance is set in the Radch universe, but other than a passing reference to one of the outcomes of the original trilogy (the sort of thing that will make you go "Oh, yes, I remember that"), there is little if anything that requires you to have read the previous books.

92ScoLgo
Mar 1, 2023, 6:20 pm

>91 RobertDay: Thank you!

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