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October 5th, 2009

Mini Rant From Borders on Friday night

In addition to dinner and watching a DVD as planned on Friday night, Sally and I ended up going to Borders as well. I had $5.00 in Borders Bucks burning a hole in my pocket, and as a librarian she qualified for the 30% discount offered to educators this past weekend. She happens to be a SF reader as well, but the primary difference between us an our reading habits is that she generally sticks to the realm of young adult/teen fiction whereas I mainly stick to the regular SF shelves.

As a result of this, she was relatively unaware of the extreme proliferation of urban fantasy wrecking havoc over in the SF section. For illustrative purposes, I grabbed a bunch of different paperbacks and showed her the ridiculous homogenization that as overcome the cover art amongst those titles. I now forget the actual titles I used, but if you know what the generic urban fantasy cover looks like, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. After making my point, I grumbled about my need to find some real science fiction to overcome the revulsion I was feeling due to the overload of urban fantasy on the shelves.

Just a few short minutes later, I encountered C. L. Anderson's Bitter Angels, and at once I realized that urban fantasy has gone too far. Although the book is clearly science fiction, the cover art is straight out of the urban fantasy department, and while most paperbacks carry either a "fantasy" or "science fiction" label on the spine, the book amazingly bore no such designator. It's almost as if the publisher's marketing department was praying that some urban fantasy fan wouldn't notice that it was really science fiction. At that moment, I suddenly understood why the Baen Books business model of publishing almost exclusively militaristic SF continues to work, and I went over to Sally to rant. Sadly, I don't remember the exact verbiage, but it went something along the lines of the following:

"That's it! I've had it! I need to find a book with a big, gleaming, metallic, phallic-looking spaceship with lots of sharp jagged edges that looks like it's about to seriously kick some ass without remorse. I don't care whose ass -- aliens, other humans, the cast of the Twilight novels, Care Bears -- it doesn't matter! I need demented killer robots that maniacally laugh when you remind them of Asimov's "Three Laws." I need homocidal, sentient computers that make HAL look like an early model ATM with a minor programming glitch. I just need something that has a cover that doesn't have some sort of brooding protagonist pondering his/her fate while between unscheduled supernatural martial arts duels. I need to feel like I have balls again! Make it all stop!"

Thankfully, Sally laughed at my outburst.

Admittedly, earlier in the day I was listening to a Henry Rollins spoken word performance on CD, and that may have had something to do with the testosterone-laden content of the outburst. Nonetheless, I am ready for the urban fantasy craze to stop and for just a little more good, decent science fiction to show up on the bookshelves. Rant aside, I'd prefer not to wander over to the military content of the majority of the Baen books, but at least there's science fiction over there right now.

Going Open Source Again

After a lot of deliberation, I've decided that I'm going to heavily curtail (if not completely stop) the use of protected posts. I haven't made any decisions regarding the large number of friends-only and other types of heavily protected posts already on these pages, but it's likely that I won't do anything at all. There are good reasons for leaving many of them under the filters they're under, and I don't have the time to decide which old posts to unlock and which to leave hidden.

I have a few reasons for doing this, but the primary one is a desire to just present myself again as I am. If there's something I have to say that you don't want to read, then there's no need for you to continue reading. I'm tired of muting my voice or leaving things unsaid for fear of stepping on toes. It's important for me to be me again.

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