melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
melannen ([personal profile] melannen) wrote2017-03-14 08:42 pm
Entry tags:

FMK #4: Pre-Golden-Age SF

Okay, so FMK is going to be Tuesdays now. :P I forgot that on normal Mondays, a little distraction is good, but on busy Mondays I basically don't have time to sit down at the computer from Saturday evening until Monday evening, and that doesn't work so well. (and today was a snow day so I spent it sewing, it was excellent.)

Anyway, FMK #3 K winner was Tarnsman of Gor and the F winner was Kushiel's Dart. I, uh, haven't finished Kushiel's Dart. I'm 500 pages in! If it was a reasonably-sized novel, that would be done twice over! Anyway short version: I am enjoying it a lot although not ravishingly in love, have already recommended it to a friend who actively enjoys brick-sized books full of court intrigue, and keep getting Cassiel the Angel of Bromance mixed up with SPN's Castiel the Angel of... *ahem* "Bromance". I will post a fuller response either later this week or when I am finished, depending on which comes first.

I also started reading Tarnsman of Gor I know! I am breaking my own rules already! But I want to be able to make fun of it fairly, okay? And it's like, 20% the length of Kushiel. I did put the other two Gor books I inexplicably owned on the dump-unread pile, though?

This week's FMK theme: English-language SF written before 1930! here is where we find out who is voting entirely based on gendered author names

How FMK works: I am trying to clear out my unreads. So there is a poll, in which you get to pick F, M, or K. F means I should spend a night of wild passion with the book ASAP, and then decide whether to keep it or not. M means I should continue to commit to a long-term relationship of sharing my bedroom with it. K means it should go away immediately. Anyone can vote, you don't have to actually know anything about the books.

I pick a winner on Friday night (although won't actually close the poll, people can still vote,) and report results/ post the new poll on the following Sunday Monday Tuesday.

Link to long version of explanation (on first poll)


Poll #18088 FMK #4: English-language SF written before 1930
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 51


The Bowl of Baal by Robert Ames Bennet (1917)

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F
10 (58.8%)

M
1 (5.9%)

K
6 (35.3%)

The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan (1678)

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F
13 (38.2%)

M
7 (20.6%)

K
14 (41.2%)

Pellucidar by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1923)

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F
9 (42.9%)

M
3 (14.3%)

K
9 (42.9%)

The Worm Oroborous by E. R. Eddison (1922)

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F
12 (52.2%)

M
7 (30.4%)

K
4 (17.4%)

A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay (1920)

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F
9 (52.9%)

M
3 (17.6%)

K
5 (29.4%)

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald (1872)

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F
21 (63.6%)

M
11 (33.3%)

K
1 (3.0%)

Ship of Ishtar by A. Merritt (1924)

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F
10 (62.5%)

M
3 (18.8%)

K
3 (18.8%)

Armageddon 2419 A.D.: The Seminal "Buck Rogers" Novel by Philip Francis Nowlan (1928)

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F
9 (52.9%)

M
1 (5.9%)

K
7 (41.2%)

The Vampyre by John Polidori (1818)

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F
13 (54.2%)

M
7 (29.2%)

K
4 (16.7%)

Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1818)

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F
13 (28.9%)

M
30 (66.7%)

K
2 (4.4%)

The Skylark of Space by E. E. "Doc" Smith (1928)

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F
18 (72.0%)

M
4 (16.0%)

K
3 (12.0%)

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726)

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F
13 (31.0%)

M
24 (57.1%)

K
5 (11.9%)

Roverandom by J. R. R. Tolkien (1925)

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F
13 (56.5%)

M
5 (21.7%)

K
5 (21.7%)

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole (1764)

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F
17 (60.7%)

M
3 (10.7%)

K
8 (28.6%)

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (1898)

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F
19 (52.8%)

M
12 (33.3%)

K
5 (13.9%)

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1891)

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F
18 (43.9%)

M
18 (43.9%)

K
5 (12.2%)

Orlando by Virginia Woolf (1928)

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F
18 (50.0%)

M
17 (47.2%)

K
1 (2.8%)

ambyr: a dark-winged man standing in a doorway over water; his reflection has white wings (watercolor by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law) (Default)

[personal profile] ambyr 2017-03-15 01:33 am (UTC)(link)
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed The Worm Oroborous once I adapted to its, umm, very particular style.
ambyr: a dark-winged man standing in a doorway over water; his reflection has white wings (watercolor by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law) (Default)

[personal profile] ambyr 2017-03-15 01:48 am (UTC)(link)
Maybe?

Others have probably warned you, btw, but Worm starts with a very dull frame story...that completely evaporates after about page 30, never to be returned to again. So if you do give it a shot, just have patience until you get past that.
mecurtin: Doctor Science (Default)

[personal profile] mecurtin 2017-03-15 02:23 am (UTC)(link)
Yes! And a dream-frame to connect to the real world. It's incredibly pointless. Once you get into the story, though, *wow*. The language is amazing (both for good and for bad), and the characters are so DRAMA!
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)

[personal profile] seekingferret 2017-03-15 01:42 am (UTC)(link)
Castle of Otranto is so great. There is a giant murder helmet on page one.T
muccamukk: Kate hanging upside down, her hair backlit into a rainbow. (DC: Rainbow Batwoman)

[personal profile] muccamukk 2017-03-17 11:23 pm (UTC)(link)
I read it recently and it's 100% banana pants. Is there a plot? No! Is there foreshadowing? Nope, not at all. Is every character secretly related to every other character? You bet!

I'm not sure it's actually a good representative of Gothics (I'd pick Udolpho for that), but it's certainly hilarious.
sophia_sol: drawing of Combeferre, smiling and holding up a finger like he's about to explain something (Default)

[personal profile] sophia_sol 2017-03-15 01:46 am (UTC)(link)
I haven't been participating in your polls because choosing books for other people to read and/or cull is somehow even more stressful than making such decisions for myself, but I'm enjoying your FMK posts a lot and I just wanted to say that!

sophia_sol: drawing of Combeferre, smiling and holding up a finger like he's about to explain something (Default)

[personal profile] sophia_sol 2017-03-15 01:57 am (UTC)(link)
Yeah, you came up with a pretty great thing for yourself here, having a committee choose your books for you!

Unfortunately I don't live near enough to your massive collection for your books to be "books I can read whenever I want but don't need to store" *sadface*
sophia_sol: drawing of Combeferre, smiling and holding up a finger like he's about to explain something (Default)

[personal profile] sophia_sol 2017-03-15 02:03 am (UTC)(link)
And okay I do have opinions about some of the books on this list, actually, unlike some of your previous posts, so here:

- Princess & Goblin: I loved it when I was a kid, but upon reread as an adult I was profoundly meh about it and gave up halfway through and removed it from my collection. "loved as a kid, meh as adult" pretty much covers my thoughts on most of what MacDonald has written, actually.

- Pilgrim's Progress: I've kind of always wanted to read it because of how it features in some other books (eg Little Women) and having someone else read it and report back would be interesting!

- Gulliver's Travels: a fun read, I definitely enjoyed it
sophia_sol: drawing of Combeferre, smiling and holding up a finger like he's about to explain something (Default)

[personal profile] sophia_sol 2017-03-15 02:13 am (UTC)(link)
That's exactly why I haven't actually read Pilgrim's Progress myself yet, yup.

A short story collection by MacDonald might be the way to go. In general, though, what I have said in a past review of a collection of MacDonald's stories is that he has a habit of being very nearly good, which is a frustrating kind of collection to read.... And the short story that rachelmanija mentions as being particularly good is one that I found particularly forgettable, I must say! In my opinion the most successful of his short stories is The Day Boy and the Night Girl. (I have a lot of residual childhood fondness for The Light Princess, though, as long as I read past the author's priorities to focus on the good bits.)
rachelmanija: (Books: old)

[personal profile] rachelmanija 2017-03-15 01:47 am (UTC)(link)
It says 'seminal.' Ha ha.

Of the more obscure books there, A Voyage to Arcturus is worth reading. It's really, really strange. I don't even know how to describe it. I think it's an allegory but I'm not sure of what. If you fuck, at least keep fucking till you actually get to Arcturus and everyone's bodies start morphing (this will continue); I vaguely recall a totally irrelevant first chapter set on Earth that is probably just there because of at-the-time genre conventions.

I like The Princess and the Goblin but MacDonald's masterwork is the short story "The Golden Key," which I would highly recommend whether you like the former or not. It starts out a fairly conventional fairytale with old-school morals like "Wash your face" (seriously) and then turns into something really amazing and powerful. The Princess and the Goblin is fine but not his best work.

I have made multiple, determined attempts at The Worm Ouroboros and have never gotten very far. Some day I will be in the perfect mood and possibly find it entrancing.
Edited 2017-03-15 01:47 (UTC)
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[personal profile] auroramama 2017-03-16 04:06 am (UTC)(link)
I loved and still love The Golden Key, which is the deepest of the stories. But The Light Princess is part of me, and some of The Day Boy and the Night Girl.
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[personal profile] the_rck 2017-03-15 01:47 am (UTC)(link)
I think that Pilgrim's Progress is mainly readable as an anthropological/historical artifact.

I hated Gulliver's Travels with a passion, but I was thirteen or fourteen, so my opinion should be taken with a huge grain of salt.

I voted F on the Burroughs and the Smith because, while they're likely to contain some appalling things in terms of racism/sexism/etc., they were written with the intention of being entertaining.
espresso_addict: Espresso cup with steam on white background with text 'Coffee' (coffee (white))

[personal profile] espresso_addict 2017-03-15 02:44 am (UTC)(link)
I kind of want to keep a copy of Pilgrim's Progress in my library because for a couple centuries it was the one book everybody in the US and England had a copy of. Like a grounding of my library in my ancestors'.

Aie! Can't you save a copy from Gutenberg to your hard drive, or something?
espresso_addict: Espresso cup with steam on white background with text 'Coffee' (coffee (white))

[personal profile] espresso_addict 2017-03-16 12:13 am (UTC)(link)
I agree on e-books; I have never bought one for this reason, and rarely bother storing downloads unless they are super-useful, and then I tend to forget where I put them. And I too have still got some books I remember from 3–8.

My sister-in-law (an otherwise amiable person) forced me to ditch hundreds of books mainly inherited from my parents before we moved here; I still have nightmares & crying jags about that one. Yes, the books were not technically mine, but they were the earliest I copies I read of favourites like Austen. (She lives in London and treats all books as disposable, buys them & recycles via friends/Oxfam.)
espresso_addict: Watercolour of Luthien dancing (tolkien)

[personal profile] espresso_addict 2017-03-15 01:49 am (UTC)(link)
For once a list I've actually read a lot of the contenders... Avoid The Pilgrim's Progress, it's unbelievably boring, but that's the only one of this set I'd kill. Several of these would be on my must-read list, but perhaps especially Frankenstein and The Picture of Dorian Gray. I'd love a review of Roverandom, which I haven't read; I love some of JRRT's non-Ardaverse works (especially Smith of Wootton Major) but others are decidedly odd and/or twee in all the worst ways.
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)

[personal profile] alatefeline 2017-03-15 02:26 am (UTC)(link)
Agree with both A and B here!!!
espresso_addict: Watercolour of Luthien dancing (tolkien)

[personal profile] espresso_addict 2017-03-15 02:40 am (UTC)(link)
Roverandom's probably a really quick read, go on, you know you want to...

I wrote a YT story which slid into crossing elements of Dorian Gray with elements of a Lovecraft novella I hadn't previously read ('The Case of Charles Dexter Ward'); it's definitely one of those books that seeps into one's unconsciousness.

ETA And yes, I think that would indeed make a cool premise for a YA.
Edited 2017-03-15 02:45 (UTC)
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[personal profile] watersword 2017-03-15 02:14 am (UTC)(link)
The Castle of Otranto is a DELIGHT.
muccamukk: Text: "I sort of gave up killing for Lent." (Marvel: Lent)

[personal profile] muccamukk 2017-03-17 11:26 pm (UTC)(link)
The giant murder helmet is never coherently explained, so I'm pretty sure it's a ghost or something?
nicki: (Default)

[personal profile] nicki 2017-03-15 02:39 am (UTC)(link)
I read Gulliver's Travels in college. Mostly I wanted to smash the hero over the head with a bar stool.
rushthatspeaks: (sparklepony only wants to read)

[personal profile] rushthatspeaks 2017-03-15 03:47 am (UTC)(link)
I love many of these books passionately, including The Worm Ouroboros (I once saw E.R. Eddison's handwriting! it looked exactly like runes, only in English!) and Voyage to Arcturus and The Princess and the Goblin and I grew up reading E.E. "Doc" Smith and imprinted forever.

But I clicked F on Ship of Ishtar because it is the kind of screamingly-batshit pulp they just do not make 'em like anymore. The copy I read had a completely incoherent and gaudy cover which turns out to be not only literal but downplaying the scene, which is not one of the stranger scenes in the book. I can't remember how it does on racism and sexism; I was too busy boggling. Merritt is generally bad at race and time-period-decent-to-middling on gender. If you ever come across it, I highly recommend his masterpiece, Seven Footprints to Satan, which is one of the most sheerly entertaining books I know. But Ship of Ishtar is pretty boss.
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[personal profile] katherine 2017-03-15 06:07 am (UTC)(link)
That is... quite the cover.
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[personal profile] snickfic 2017-03-15 04:52 am (UTC)(link)
The Princess and the Goblin had some scenes in it that made a deep impression on me when I was young, even though I don't really remember anything else about the book now. It's a bit gothic in the sense that the princess lives in this castle so large that sometimes she stumbles across rooms and people she's never seen before - shades of The Secret Garden.

None of that is really a rec or an anti-rec, just musings. I think I clicked F for that one.
gehayi: (hermione books (lilacsigil))

[personal profile] gehayi 2017-03-15 06:34 am (UTC)(link)
I think this is the first poll where I saw no reason to vote K on anything.
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[personal profile] vass 2017-03-15 07:53 am (UTC)(link)
I loved the prose in The Worm Ouroborous, but hated the characters and the politics. In some ways it's like Greek epic heroes but without the endearing qualities. Or a sense of humour. The prose is GORGEOUS, though.

I may or may not have chosen "marry" for The Pilgrim's Progress on the grounds of wanting someone else to suffer too.

I chose Kill for Dorian Gray, but influencing my decision here was that if you chance your mind, it's not like it's gonna be hard to get a free ebook.

I liked Gulliver's Travels, but WOW did it feel like I was missing a lot of background, even with endnotes.
Edited 2017-03-15 07:57 (UTC)
stellar_dust: Stylized comic-book drawing of Scully at her laptop in the pilot. (Default)

[personal profile] stellar_dust 2017-03-17 02:18 pm (UTC)(link)
I think if you're not actively reading it, or have intentions to read it very soon, or attached to the edition, you should get rid of cheap walmart-dollar store editions of any or all of these books. You can watch for a better copy at sales, but also, if you decide to read it, i think you know where the library is. :P And the goal is more shelf space, right?
stellar_dust: Stylized comic-book drawing of Scully at her laptop in the pilot. (Default)

[personal profile] stellar_dust 2017-03-18 04:04 pm (UTC)(link)
Haha okay never mind about the library part! that sucks.

but if you're looking for excuses to cull to regain shelf space, i still would cull crappy walmart copies of old books I've never got around to reading. I think there is a case to be made that a gutenberg e-book is no worse than a dollar store copy.
stellar_dust: Stylized comic-book drawing of Scully at her laptop in the pilot. (Default)

[personal profile] stellar_dust 2017-03-15 09:23 am (UTC)(link)
I started Orlando while we were working at Knole and really, truly could not get into it. Possibly it's just too dense and odd of a book to read while most of my brain is doing fieldwork? But it's obviously very genderbendy and supposedly is also almost a love story about the house and grounds as well as about Vita. You shold read it and report back!

Also i clicked M on everything written before 1900 just on principle.
stellar_dust: Stylized comic-book drawing of Scully at her laptop in the pilot. (Default)

[personal profile] stellar_dust 2017-03-16 10:35 pm (UTC)(link)
yeah I expected to like it! But I kept having to force myself to read the next paragraph and almost falling asleep and then decided i was much more interested in reading a microhistory of the plague in Suffolk instead. :D

No there were not lots of ppl trying to read it! I think a few people had previously read and liked it, but I remember the main project PI also said he'd tried to read it and wasn't really a fan. :/ I bet a lot of the museum staff there have read it though, of course.
malnpudl: (Default)

[personal profile] malnpudl 2017-03-15 02:53 pm (UTC)(link)
Topic-adjacent, since I know this is about physical books and what to do with them... but FWIW, I found that the only way I could consume Pilgrim's Progress was in audiobook format, which was actually entirely tolerable as background listening while doing other things. I appreciated the book for the sake of cultural literacy, which is the only reason I bothered with it at all, so at least there was that payoff. But if I'd had to sit down and read the thing, I'd never have persevered.
malnpudl: (Default)

[personal profile] malnpudl 2017-03-15 08:40 pm (UTC)(link)
It was a Librivox version, yes, but I didn't keep it and looking at their catalog now I can't remember if it was "Version 1" or "Version 2." I know it was a solo reader, male, and his narration was listenable.
ruthi: a photograph of a dormouse eating a berry (Default)

[personal profile] ruthi 2017-03-15 10:17 pm (UTC)(link)
I love Orlando. I found it much more readable than other Virginia Woolf books. It had more of an adventure story feel to it.
But also part of the love came from the edition I had, which gave excerpts of Virginia's letters to Vita Sackville-West and showed the parallels and references etc.
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[personal profile] dhampyresa 2017-03-17 12:54 am (UTC)(link)
I voted for Bowl of Baal because I'm always there for SF novels with Carthaginian deities in the title.
muccamukk: Peggy, with briefcase, entering a room, the light of the hall silhouetting her. (AC: Silhouette)

[personal profile] muccamukk 2017-03-17 11:33 pm (UTC)(link)
I voted fuck on a lot of these (I don't believe in marriage before fucking).

I enjoyed the hell out of Gulliver's Travels, but I also know a lot of the context/period references, and a LOT of it is cranky 18th century in jokes. Swift himself was incredibly cultural conservative and a classics snob, so there are a lot of extended rants about kids these days, and how this newfangled science bs is a waste of time. Which I mostly found pretty funny. There are a lot of early science concepts and science fiction/fantasy concepts that were really interesting. He's got an amazing grudge against the Dutch! The ending is very, very effectively creepy.

The Castle of Otranto: Absolute crack. The author was a bored rich kid and made this trope soup of a book that accidentally kicked off the gothic thing. Wall to wall crack, very short, worth a tumble.

The War of the Worlds: Another one I read recently and think is worth a look, especially for some of the very early SF concepts.
muccamukk: Rey and BB-8 walking over a dune. (SW: Desert Walker)

[personal profile] muccamukk 2017-03-18 09:03 pm (UTC)(link)
I had thought that I knew War of the Worlds really well, because like a million adaptations and jokes or whatever, but the most interesting parts were completely new to me!
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[personal profile] copracat 2017-03-18 09:02 am (UTC)(link)
Ah Doc Smith, one of the most compellingly boring of the Golden Age writers. I actually read a whole lot of them before I made myself stop out of sheer self preservation. I've never really been able to read the overly technical, underly everything boys since. Seriously, if I wanted to know how a thing worked, I would read a manual or a book of pop science if I were feeling lazy.

Still, I will never forget the awesome book (name? that I forgot) where the Lensman crash landed on a planet and repaired his ship from first principles. He prospected, he mined, he smelted, he cast, he built a forge and forged! It was ridiculous and sublime. And was a little bit inspirational. A lot of what I do as a hobby - bread-making, baking, sewing, knitting, gardening for food are because in my heart I think I should be able to do things from first principles. And goddammit, if you gave me some ore and a muddy, woody creek bank I would bloody well smelt and cast you some metal.