Friday, January 18, 2013

Spending time with old Sci-Fi

Many many years ago when I started coming out, there wasn't quite the amount of gay fiction available as there is today. And a good majority of what was available wasn't readily available to me. (Given I couldn't go to an adult store to get one of the "Adults Only" novels, and the book stores where I grew up didn't have a Gay and Lesbian interest section as of yet.)

These days, that isn't so much of an issue. Thanks to the internet, gay men are a click away, bookstores on-line and in storefronts have gay and lesbian interest sections, and the variety of fiction is much less limited.

But, back in the very early 90's...not so much.

I was blessed to meet a lesbian named Dakota when I really started coming out. Dakota was a councilor at a camp I was at, and was the first person I met who ever came out to me. She had a workshop one night on gays and gay issues, which I attended, and it was there that she passed out a wonderful list of books of interest for gay men and lesbians. Mind you, it was only about 7 pages, and about 4 of those pages were non fiction (mostly under the old Allyson imprint), but still, it gave me things to read that my small town library might actually have in stock. (Let's see. I remember Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles being on that list, The Front Runner (which I've still never read), and a little book called Ethan of Athos by Lois McMasters Bujold. I found that particular book on a school field trip to Dayton, OH, in a large book superstore that is no longer there.

I remember the terror in buying the book, and hiding my purchase from my classmates. And reading it furtively in my room. I was kind of disappointed at the lack of Jackie Collins-type literary smut, but I also wound up engrossed in the book, which was a very quick read. (Years later, I met the author at a book signing at the very same store I bought the book at in the first place and had her sign it for me.) 

Anyway, my roommate also got a Nook for Xmas, and I've been giving him a hand downloading audiobooks via the library. (He listens to books at work, since he has a desk job.) A few days ago, I found him Ethan of Athos while looking for one of her other series. I got it for him, and wound up re-reading my copy in the course of a few hours.

Ethan is a reproductive specialist on a planet of all men. He runs one of the many facilities with uterine replicators allowing men to reproduce without the aid of "uterine replicators on legs." However, given that the planet's society was founded with only 8 different uterii, it's not surprising that they wear out after 200 years. It comes as kind of a shock, though, when replacement uterine cultures show up that aren't human, boxes empty, etc. Thus how Ethan manages to get delegated to travel off world to find out what happened to those uteri. He leaves his rather flighty sometimes lover behind, and manages to engage in a wonderful adventure aboard Klein Station.

Well, I enjoyed the adventure. Ethan... not so much. He grows quite a bit, but remains true to his character throughout. There's no sudden discovery of latent heterosexuality by the end, he doesn't die... Which is a better fate than most gay characters get. While none of her other books feature a gay main character, she does have several supporting characters who are sexual minorities, none of which are stereotypes. When I started coming out, this was something I very much needed. As such, I highly recommend this and the rest of her work to anyone who likes Space Opera and Fantasy.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Men are (Guinea) Pigs

So, Percy Jackson has to cross The Sea of Monsters to save Grover from the cyclops.

And it's a pretty darn good adventure.

We start off, much like Harry Potter in reverse, with Percy finishing his school year before returning to Mud Blood (er Half Blood) Camp. Which would be easier if not for the fireball throwing giants trying to kill him in a spirited game of dodge ball.

Annabeth appreas and helps save his bacon, although the end up taking Percy's friend, Tyson along with them. Turns out Tyson is a baby cyclops, one of the sons of Poseidon and a nature spirit.

Whcih leads to camp, which is under attack, and something about the land being poisoned.

(Yes, skipping around in plot line a bit.)

Which, given Percy's dreams of Grover being trapped by Polyphemus (the cyclops from Homer's Odyssey), who also has the Golden Fleece...

Much happens in this book, most of it directly lifted from The Odyssey. The order's a bit off from what I remember of the last time I read through Homer, but most of the big events are in here. Scylla and Charybdis, the Sirens, Circe, Polyphemus... Heck, Grover's keeping himself from being eaten by pretending to be a female cyclops and delaying the wedding by unraveling his wedding train every evening. About the only event that doesn't get mentioned in here is the seven years Odysseus spends cavorting with Calypso.

Also, Tantalus shows up, and I giggled at how his curse worked outside of Hades. 

And it still manages to work in Values We Want Installed in Young People like any good YA novel should. Things like being nice to special needs children, particularly if you're related. Don't hog all the glory, allow other people to take care of a quest.

It's a quick read, but it's a fun read. I'm still smiling about how every time the hydra loses a head, 2 more Monster Doughnut stores open some place.

Monday, January 14, 2013

All the Pretty White Horses...

Valdemar. Many of you know exactly what I'm talking about with just the name, but for those who don't, The Kingdom of Valdemar is the setting of most of Mercedes Lackey's long running Heralds of Valdemar series. Quite a few of them actually. And covering many many epochs of time within said kingdom.

The woman is nothing if not prolific.

Redoubt is the latest, set a few centuries before the bulk of the novels in the setting. (There are two trilogies set earlier on the time line that these, The Collegium Chronicles.) Which is up to 4 books, probably the longest she's written around the same main character. I also thought this one was supposed to be the last in the series and in the setting, but I certainly hope not, particularly give exactly how many loose ends are flying in the wind at the end.

The Chronicles series follows mainly Mags, an orphan boy who starts this particular series as a virtual slave in a mine. (It's one Carol Burnett short of being Annie.) Mags ends up getting Chosen by Companion Dallen, and whisked away to Haven, the capital of Valdemar. (Companions are basically big spirits creatures that are often mistaken for horses.) Through the course of this, we've seen Mags go through training as a Herald (Heralds being folks who perform duties on behalf of the crown with their Companion. It should also be noted that any sitting Queen or King is also required to have been chosen.), make friends with a Healer, a Bard, and a civilian, create a new game, and solve familial problems.

Problem is, until this volume, Mags has known very little to nothing of his family. We do know some folks causing issues for the crown seem to recognize him, and we know they got hired by Karse to the south. (Karse has been a long standing enemy to Valdemar. Although this changes in the Mage Storms trilogy, this series is set before that one. ARGH! Chronological continuity in no way reflects the order the books were written. Thankfully, most of em have a handy timeline in the front so you have some idea when the hell you are.)

As such, by the end of this one, we have a better idea of who Mags parents are, a pithy sermon on what actually happened to Karse, and a nebulous antagonist waiting for a new volume.

Redoubt remains well written, and thankfully, Megs' dialogue is no longer quite as colloquial and dialect-y as it was in earlier volumes. (I hate reading books where I have to read the lines out loud to get some idea of what the hell someone is saying.) I'm hoping sdhe does have another book coming, since the nebulous antagonist has not been mentioned in any of the other books or anthologies to my knowledge. (She's usually really good about keeping continuity straight.)

I would also add that if you haven't read any of the Valdemar books, they are good old fashioned sword and sorcery fantasy. And many contemporary Urban Fantasy authors owe Mercedes a debt for paving the way for strong female leads in fantasy novels. Also, the second trilogy, The Last Herald Mage, introduced a true rarity, a gay male main character, Vanyel. Vanyel also got not one, but TWO lifemates. And a circle of gay friends. And in later novels, one of his descendents is something of a gay pimp.

Her other series are also interesting, if usually co-written. I will admit to not being enamored of her Elemental Masters series, but the SERRAted Edge novels and the Bedlam's Bard series are fun. Diane Tregarde is also fun, even if it did start some real life drama. (Google that one. People evidently thought it was real.) Really, just hit the library/bookstore.whatever and look for her stuff. You can't really go wrong.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

From Fairies to Tier Na Nog

When I set out to start this blog, I originally mentioned how many of the books I was reading dwell in similar trope.

So, I guess I shouldn't be all that surprised when I switch from one book that dealt heavily with fairie courts to one dealing with Celtic mythology, even if the characters are also wrapped up in Norse and Roman mythology as well.

Yep, most of the way through Trapped, book 5 in Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles.

A quick recap for those who haven't had the pleasure as of yet. Atticus is a Druid from pre-Roman invasion Britain. (Technically Irish, but he's been everywhere, since this is the modern age.) Over the past 4 books, he's fought the Celtic pantheon (he stole a sword from Aenghus Og, slept with the Morrighan, and annoyed Brighid), fought a coven of witches, had a knock down drag out fight in Asgard, fought Hel alongside Coyote.... Yeah, there isn't much of a lack of action and mythological cross fandom shipping.

Book 5 picks up about 12 years after the end of the last one, with the training of his apprentice nearing completion. All that's left to do is bind her to the earth with tattoos applied with thorns. Which gets complicated first by the appearance of Loki, then a trip to Tir Na Nog, which leads to another fight with Brighid, and some fun trying to bind Granuaile at the foot of Olympus, where one very annoyed Bacchus is trying to get to him.

In the meantime, it seems the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim are also hunting Atticus, for reasons that have not as of yet been revealed.

In may ways, this series occasionally feels bogged down in comparative religion (Hell, Jesus of Nazareth showed up in one of the first two books), but...really, the writing is good, the pace is great, and you never know exactly where things are going to end up by the last page. I mean, you can surmise Atticus will live (particularly since Book 6 comes out this summer), but there are so many machinations to get through before you get there.

I highly recommend this series, even if I don't always agree with some of his portrayals of the Gods. Although I will admit I cheered every time some snide remark was directed at Thor, since I honestly don't like Thor. Unless Thor is Christ Hemsworth, at which point I'll just turn the sound off and enjoy the show.