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November 29th, 2009


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02:10 pm - Stories that call to me
After staying up far too late reading, I began thinking about what particular types of stories most attract me. I came up with several answers, most of which can appear in the same story, and in general the more of them that are present, the more I like the story (assuming it's well written and everything fits together). I also like the same things in RPGs, although time travel, especially involving changing the past, is a rather daunting prospect for most GMs. Here are the story elements that appeal strongly to me. What story elements call to you?
  • Transcendence: One of the most obvious story types are stories about transcendence of some type. If the protagonist becomes something more than human, I'm generally pretty happy. I enjoy reading stories about long-lived or immortal protagonists, but I enjoy stories about characters becoming immortal even more, and stories about them also becoming even more posthuman – hyperintelligent, enhanced physical capabilities, etc... appeal to me even more. Fantasy stories where characters gain increasing levels of magic power also appeal to me. However, I find that characters who are sufficiently powerful that the only obstacles to their goals are other equally powerful foes are very dull indeed, so I prefer stories about characters who are considerably less powerful than those in books like Zelazny’s Amber series.

  • Romance & Chosen Families: I greatly enjoy reading stories about characters finding and being in love. I have a mild preference for queer or poly romances, but any romance is good, as are stories about people finding and being in close-knit chosen families. I only find screwed up or seriously dysfunctional romances interesting if the novel is at least in part about either fixing them or the protagonist or protagonists finding better relationships.

  • Cheating Fate or Changing Time: I actively dislike stories about any sort of unchangeable fate and am not all that interested in time-travel stories where the protagonists prevent villains from changing time. Instead, I love stories where the characters improve on the past or find a way out of a pre-ordained fate. In addition to firmly believing that a bit of tinkering can improve anything, including the past, I also love stories about undoing tragedies both large and small via creative uses of time travel. Even small touches like the twist about the death of William Ashbless at the end of Tim Powers' The Anubis Gates definitely increase my enjoyment of a story.

Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

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[User Picture]
From:eclective
Date:November 29th, 2009 10:38 pm (UTC)
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I'm very interested in stories about transcendence, and if you can think of any good recs I'd love to hear them. A lot of what I end up running into lately seems to be variations on the same old "the magic goes away" trope-- remember, kids, you can have your little fantasy for a while, but at the end of the story you have to put your toys away and go back to normal, and all the magical things you loved have to die or be cut off from you, too. I'd really like to read some stories that buck this trope.

For the record, my quasi-not-really-NaNo-ish blog-based-collaborative-RP about racism and activism in a world of artificially-created magical slaves had an ultimately transcendence-based plot-- though you may not necessarily like it as the force empowering the transcendence was inescapable and inevitable despite "those who fought fate", and the fate-fighters were shown to be wrong. Some fates, like the fate of positive progress-- like any god who might want to come down and change your situation for the better rather than forcing you to improve it youself via the long slog-- I see as good to surrender to.

Hm, that's an interesting question, I guess-- philosophically, what do you think of that? If Fate happened to decide that we should all be the species we're meant to be, that we should like in a post-scarcity society with rich opportunities to explore wonder everywhere we look-- if Fate turned around and said to us in sad and loving tones, "all this time I've been trying to improve your lot, but you keep fighting me, and as long as you do you'll keep fighting each other"-- what would you think of it?
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From:heron61
Date:November 29th, 2009 11:29 pm (UTC)
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Hm, that's an interesting question, I guess-- philosophically, what do you think of that? If Fate happened to decide that we should all be the species we're meant to be, that we should like in a post-scarcity society with rich opportunities to explore wonder everywhere we look-- if Fate turned around and said to us in sad and loving tones, "all this time I've been trying to improve your lot, but you keep fighting me, and as long as you do you'll keep fighting each other"-- what would you think of it?

Anything that increases the net amount of joy and reduces the net amount of suffering is (to me) clearly not a bad thing, but I also find the entire idea of fate definitely makes me consider the world to be far less interesting. Oddly free will is not necessary for me to find the world interesting, but if randomness is merely illusory and the world is ultimately completely deterministic, then to me the world would be significantly less interesting and less meaningful that it otherwise would be. Definitely a purely aesthetic issue, but an important one to me.

As for stories with transcendence: Change & The Singer Enigma by Ann Maxwell, Downward to the Earth by Robert Silverberg, The Infinite Cage by Keith Laumer, More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon, and Evolution's Shore & Kirinya by Ian McDonald are all good choices.
[User Picture]
From:eclective
Date:November 30th, 2009 06:18 am (UTC)
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Woot, thanks for the recs. :)

What about the possibility of a world that allows for some true randomness yet whose "arc ultimately bends towards kindness" (to paraphrase, since I'm not a believer in "justice" as such)? Which ultimately safeguards people, but allows a lot of crazy unpredictable stuff to arise in the meantime? (Feel free not to answer this if discussion of the whole issue bothers you.)

--should you be curious, I think I find the world fascinating because even if it is determined (I believe in a kind of determinism that allows for free will, ironically enough given that you said it wasn't your main concern), I also believe it's complex on orders of magnitude beyond what we as mortal fleshthings can currently perceive; that there's more than enough out there, on more than enough layers beyond layers, to keep us fascinated, to keep us guessing, no matter how much scientific truth we uncover. And I think that should we become as gods, we'll likely have a whole different set of priorities.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:November 30th, 2009 07:52 am (UTC)
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What about the possibility of a world that allows for some true randomness yet whose "arc ultimately bends towards kindness" (to paraphrase, since I'm not a believer in "justice" as such)? Which ultimately safeguards people, but allows a lot of crazy unpredictable stuff to arise in the meantime?

This is precisely the type of world I hope that we all inhabit. Random + positive bias allows for both the level of unexpectedness that I find very attractive, while still meaning that the world is likely to be a pleasant & humane place.

I also believe it's complex on orders of magnitude beyond what we as mortal fleshthings can currently perceive; that there's more than enough out there, on more than enough layers beyond layers, to keep us fascinated, to keep us guessing, no matter how much scientific truth we uncover. And I think that should we become as gods, we'll likely have a whole different set of priorities.

I absolutely & completely agree. I suspect that we'll be immortal posthumans well before we definitively answer the question of whether the universe is deterministic or not. There may be some sort of rigid order underlying the apparent statistical randomness of quantum mechanics, but if so, there may also be yet more randomness underlying that apparent order. Given that each deeper and tinier level of reality requires greater energies and more complex and precise techniques to discover, I suspect that the answer will be rather a while in coming.
[User Picture]
From:nancylebov
Date:November 30th, 2009 12:19 pm (UTC)
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Brunner's The Infinitive of Go would be a good example.
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From:heron61
Date:December 1st, 2009 02:15 am (UTC)
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I hadn't thought of that book in connection with this discussion, but you are indeed correct.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:November 30th, 2009 08:06 am (UTC)
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More recs:

To Hold Infinity by John Meaney is also quite good. In recent SF, Adam-Troy Castro's Andrea Cort series (Emissaries of the Dead & The Third Claw of God, so far) is nifty, because the protagonist is headed eventually (presumably at the end of the series) becoming part of a small somewhat transcendent entity.
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From:kitten_goddess
Date:December 1st, 2009 01:53 am (UTC)
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How do you find romance that is not badly written soft-core porn?
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From:waterfire741
Date:December 2nd, 2009 08:29 pm (UTC)
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I think you'd enjoy Wen Spencer's Tinker and Wolf Who Rules, as per my relatively-recent post of book recommendations. Not only is it a rather unique look at elves, it's got some really good transhumanist thought and semi-transcendent themes as well. I can also recommend the Quantum Gravity series by Justina Robson.

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