Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

Hello and welcome, new followers! (I am so never going to get tired of being able to say that from time to time.)

Also (and I realize that this is a random aside), I just learned that if you start a post one day and don’t finish and post it for a few days, the post shows up dated the day you started it rather than the day you posted it. That behavior irks me somewhat as it makes it looks like I broke my streak, and I didn’t. Harumph. Should you wish to read a few thoughts about Lego blocks being used in curses, just scroll back to April 16th.

With those housekeeping items out of the way, let’s talk about Paris, shall we?

I finished reading Lost and Found in Paris by Lian Dolan, and it was for the most part delightful. It is not as frothy as I think that the cover and title suggest. There are certainly lighthearted moments and nice variety of romantic relationships, but there is serious appreciation of Paris, art, Joan of Arc, the genius and demons of artists, and the complexities of blood and chosen family in this novel. It is worth reading for all of those things.

Once again, I found the third act a little bit disappointing. The plot twist which brought things together wasn’t too far-fetched, convenient, or unbelievable. There were a few surprising revelations, but they were fitting. What did not work so well for me was how and why the theft had been planned. I read the explanation, and I watched the characters go along with it after varying degrees of suspicion, anger, and resistance, but I wasn’t completely sold. And then the story got tied up in a bow pretty quickly as if the author had run out of words or had to meet a deadline. When that happens, stories fall a little flat for me and sometimes feel rushed. Now, I am writing this post less than an hour after finishing the book. I may feel differently after I sit with it for a while.

Maybe it’s me because conclusions and endings are something with which I struggle. Even writing these posts, I tend to get to the end or run out of things to say and click publish. Most of the time I know that I could have done better, that it could be smoother. It is one of the parts of my writing which I hope improves with practice (and revision). I figure that at some point, I will have a post that ends with a real conclusion that is not abrupt. The process will click, and I will have an example that I can reapply and reproduce.

Until then, I will keep reading more third act examples, learning from them, and critiquing them.

If anyone has and recommendations of books with third acts that really do justice to all of the prep work done in acts one and two, I would love to hear them.

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If not, it should be. I need more nerd fiction in my life.

And I don’t necessarily mean science fiction, although I wouldn’t necessarily exclude it. I just don’t want far future, space travel fiction.  I want contemporary fiction which happens to focus on AI.

I started with a search for ‘AI fiction’ and then tried ‘artificial intelligence fiction’ because I have been enjoying having AI show up in some of the contemporary fiction I have been reading. Sourdough had a significant AI component. Does that make it science fiction? It is fiction with science in it. The same is true of Lost and Found in Paris. One of the characters runs a tech company which uses AI, among other things.

The books have other elements I would consider nerdy. In Sourdough, there is some nerdy stuff about yeast and bread and mold and cheese and the history of food and the future of food. In Lost and Found in Paris, there is nerdiness about art history and modern art and architecture and even fashion.

I think I am defining “nerdy” as being enthusiastically knowledgeable about a subject. In Lost and Found in Paris, Joan of Arc plays a significant role, especially the art devoted to her. I know a bit about her history, and I know that she is significant to French political history, religious history, and art history, but I was unaware of just how much art is devoted to her.

Maybe I am looking for fiction that will teach me something, but that feels like much too broad of a category. I learn something from every book I read.

The AI part really has me intrigued at the moment because it’s not science fiction anymore. It is science.

I am a bit of a Luddite at heart. (I love my pens and paper, and I read only paper books.) I believe that computers make us stupid. (How many phone numbers do you know any more? Can you read a map without GPS?) But computers and machines can do absolutely amazing things for communication, for manufacturing, for medicine, for textiles, for agriculture. The list is practically endless.

What I found when I searched for AI fiction: 24 Best Artificial Intelligence Science Fiction Books – The Best Sci Fi Books (best-sci-fi-books.com)

20 Fascinating Artificial Intelligence Books, Fiction & Nonfiction | Book Riot

A number of the books on these lists are the same and sound like good recommendations.  I do still need to read Neuromancer, but some of Gibson’s newer stuff might do the trick, too.  I have plenty.  At the risk of insulting the genius and fans of folks like Ellison, Clarke, and Asimov, I want to read books written closer to the here and now when AI either exists or is getting close.  I want more Sourdough, more Lost and Found in Paris, even more Machinehood.

Any ideas or recommendations?

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Archeology is the search for fact, not truth. If it’s truth you’re interested in, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall.

Dr. Henry Jones, Jr. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

The debate of truth vs. fact has been occupying space in my head for the last several years, and I have been suspicious of statistics ever since I read the book How to Lie with Statistics. I don’t know if it is still in print, but if so, it is worth tracking down and reading. The principles in it are still valid today.

Today I saw a post on social media questioning the decision to read fiction in such perilous times as these when really people should be reading nonfiction in an effort to figure out how we got here.

The first part of my response was easy, and hopefully fairly obvious and not harsh. Reading fiction can provide respite from the stress of where we are and how we got here.

Then I started to get a little twitchy because the author of the post seemed to be equating nonfiction with fact. I have no way of knowing for sure. It was a short post and has since been deleted. Nonfiction books contain facts, but they also contain perspective, bias, analysis, and interpretation of those facts. Or they might not be facts at all. Fiction doesn’t go any further off the rails than books in the fields of political commentary and memoir. With fiction, I don’t have to worry about whether or not to trust the source.

I have been doing “how did we get here” reading, but I am trying to read history not written by the winners because otherwise it could have as much in common with fiction as with fact — not that alternate viewpoints are infallible. After I saw an interview with the author of Watergate: A New History, I decided to investigate in part because I know very little about the Watergate burglary, subsequent cover-up, and investigation and in part because the author made an excellent case for why a new book was warranted. There is so much more information (facts? truth?) to be had than was available for previous histories. My search turned up another book: The Watergate Girl: My Fight for Truth and Justice Against a Criminal President by Jill Wine-Banks, the sole woman on the prosecution team. I was surprised to learn that there had been a woman on the team.

Both of these books are history. Both are nonfiction. Both are important. And I don’t have to read both to know for a fact that they present some of the same information in different contexts and from different points of view. If I read both, and they conflict, which one will I believe?

Not unlike history and memoir, fiction offers reflection and commentary but with the premise that everything is made up. Like the best lies, however, the best fiction has its roots in reality. (Might as well let another worm out of the can.)

I read two books in February: Machinehood by S.B. Divya and Sourdough, or Lois and Her Adventures in the Underground Market by Robin Sloan.

Machinehood is near-future science fiction set in 2095, and I am recommending it to anyone and everyone every chance I get. The world, politics, and culture are so familiar that you only have to mentally squint a little bit to see it as the present, or at least see how the world could easily end up as it has in the book. Technology is infused into almost every aspect of human life — to the point of a violent uprising — but the characters have not lost their humanity. They are all of the things that the people you know and love are — brave, scared, driven, stubborn, flawed, intelligent, and just trying to do the best they can. (The book deserves it’s own post, but in the meantime, just go read it.)

Sourdough is the story of a talented young software engineer who moves to San Francisco for a high-paying, high-tech job which has her working all hours of the day and night, subsisting on a nutrient paste popular with her co-workers. The schedule and the diet take a toll on her physical and mental health. Some events occur which end up with her becoming the caretaker of a sourdough starter, and it opens up a whole new world of possibilities for her. The content is lighter than the intense social and political upheaval of Machinehood, but the book offers interesting and entertaining commentary about how we feed ourselves, body and soul, in this modern world. Food for thought, as it were. (Sorry.)

Are these two books any less true or even factual than the history of Watergate? Or the two books of Russian history I have checked out from the library? It depends on your point of view.

Luke, you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.

-Obi Wan Kenobi

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