Saturday, May 2, 2009

Ludis Inventio (What the f is this?)

This is a blog for readers of speculative fiction: fantasy, sci fi, magical realism, also including classical authors such as virgil, homer, statius and others. Graphic novels, comics, and manga are also reviewed from time to time.

One of the things this blog does not aspire to do is be a thinly disguised publisher's advertising site, giving away free copies as well offering to promote books. Though there are plenty of good websites out there reviewing spec fic I am squeamish when said writer of a blog decides to give away free copies of a book on the site. Or to hold contests to give away books a reviewer may not have read. I think it compromises the ability of the blogger to write an unbiased review of a work.

The title of the blog is latin for school of invention. I believe that one of the trademarks of good speculative fiction is the use of inventio, a classical rhetorical phrase that applied to original discovery and the organization of any literary work. Dr Johnson called invention "the faculty by which new trains of events are formed and new scenes of imagery are displayed."

That idea, the work as a discovery, and something new, is how i percieve speculative fiction. I believe what speculative fiction does is present a new way of seeing the world. It may be a new world altogether, but the world presented in the work usually has the virtue of removing us from the world we live in and allowing us to percieve it in a new way previously unnoticed.

There are several works I have read so far I believe have done this. One example is Neil Gaiman, whose books American Gods, Neverwhere, Anansi Boys, and Stardust all show the knack, or trait or ability, to take the known and what is human and present it in a new way, to startle us into something that mixes recognition with surprise.

I also percieve it in Homer, particularly in the Odyssey, where every line tells or shows something new. The scenes with the tree in the bedroom, the bow and axeheads, or even the sight of poor O weeping on the beach every day for seven years, shows an author who understood a things about what it means to be human, and found a creative and new way to present it. After three thousand years and countless works of fiction, the poem stil shocks us with something recognizeable and new.

Currently I'm midway through Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series. I finished the first book Mistborn and am now two hundred pages into The Well of Ascension. I began reading Sanderson when I learned he was contracted to conclude Jordan's Wheel of Time books. (Personally, I found it validating that he admitted on his blog he had stopped reading after book ten. Precisely where I stopped.) I started with Elantris and enjoyed it. Startled and surprised at the characters, the situation, but more than anything impressed with the pace. Most beginning fantasy writers start with a trilogy and progress with a liesurely pace. Sanderson wrote a compact, tightly structured book, with fresh characters and situations. Also, as Orson Scott Card suggested, he seems much wiser about life than his age would seem to indicate.

He also impressed me in this book so far with his ability to introduce fresh twists and turns in the plot at precisely the right moments: when the book seems flagging. I dont want to spoil the book but I will say reading him is like watching a rookie player in the big leagues. He makes the right moves at the right times. Moves you would only imagine a player with more experience would know when and how to do.

Longish post. Will try and write a little every day. Try to turn up a gem from reading every day.