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Friday, January 13, 2017

Summa Elvetica in print

Utrum Aelvi habeant anima naturaliter sibi unita. 

Do elves have souls? In a fantasy world in which the realm of Man is dominated by a rich and powerful Church, the Sanctified Father Charity IV has decided the time is ripe to make a conclusive inquiry into the matter. If, in his infallible wisdom, he determines that elves do have immortal souls, then the Church will be obliged to bring the Sacred Word of the Immaculate to them. But if he decides they do not, there will be holy war. Powerful factions line up on both sides of the debate. War-hungry magnates cast greedy eyes at the ancient wealth of the elven kingdoms and pray for a declaration that elves are little more than animals. And there are men who are willing to do more than merely pray.

The delegation sent to the High King of the Elves is led by two great theologians, brilliant philosophers who champion opposite sides of the great debate. And in the Sanctiff's own stead, he sends the young nobleman, Marcus Valerius. Marcus Valerius is a rising scholar in the Church, talented, fearless, and devout. But he is inexperienced in the ways of the world and nothing in his life has prepared him for the beauty of the elves--or the monumental betrayal into which he rides.

SUMMA ELVETICA: A CASUISTRY OF THE ELVISH CONTROVERSY is the prelude to the massive epic high fantasy saga ARTS OF DARK AND LIGHT. In addition to the novel, it contains eight additional tales of Selenoth, including the Hugo Award finalist, Opera Vita Aeterna. 520 pages. $27.99 hardcover, $19.99 paperback.

If you're collecting the series for your library, you'll definitely want this one to go with the other doorstopper. And speaking of series, isn't it fortuitous that WorldCon is experimenting with a Best Series Hugo this year?

An eligible work for this special award  is a multi-volume science fiction or fantasy story, unified by elements such as plot, characters, setting, and presentation, which has appeared in at least three volumes consisting of a total of at least 240,000 words by the close of the calendar year 2016, at least one volume of which was published in 2016. 

All right, let's see here:
  • Multi-volume science fiction or fantasy story. Fantasy. Check.
  • Unified by elements such as plot, characters, setting, and presentation. Check.
  • Has appeared in at least three volumes. Three volumes. Check.
  • A total of at least 240,000 words. 634,590. Check.
  • At least one volume published in 2016. A SEA OF SKULLS. Check.
It looks like the Rabid Puppies have a strong candidate for Best Series here. Isn't that nice? And as the reviewers have noted, as the series have continued, AODAL is stacking up increasingly well against ASOIAF.

Meanwhile, over at Castalia House, Dragon Award-winner Nick Cole has made his debut with a bang, with a post entitled You are Fake Sci-Fi:
Fake Sci-Fi is ruining actual Sci-Fi and here’s who’s to blame: Fake Science Fiction Writers. But first… a little background.

Science fiction has always been a rather fragile affair. At times it has not had the significance it enjoys now. In fact, there were times when it was, for all practical purposes, dead. Just a few grandmasters held the torch during those times, breathing life into the guttering flame during those dark unsexy years of the seventies and eighties when it was just us true believers. But now it’s enjoying a cultural renaissance.

Or is it?

If you’ve heard me talk before, you know that I have a point I occasionally rail on. And it’s this: SciFi is a weak medium that’s been high jacked by radical leftist thinkers recently, to advance cultural change through imaginative storytelling both visual and written in order to download their weird thinking into the collective hardrive.
Read the whole thing there.

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54 Comments:

Blogger Eric Wilson January 13, 2017 1:01 PM  

Amazon has the price as $31.03. Is that the real price or is it supposed to be $27.99?

Anonymous Philipp January 13, 2017 1:05 PM  

I have read Summa Elvetica recently and I can recommend it highly. It is a great starting point for the ARTS OF DARK AND LIGHT series.

Blogger VD January 13, 2017 1:11 PM  

Amazon has the price as $31.03. Is that the real price or is it supposed to be $27.99?

It is $27.99. The hardcover is being offered by third-party dealers; Amazon hasn't gotten it into the system proper yet.

Blogger Eric Wilson January 13, 2017 1:15 PM  

Ok, thanks. Been looking forward to getting this one in dead tree form.

Anonymous 5343 Kinds of Deplorable January 13, 2017 1:15 PM  

Bookmarked. Nick's column is a great idea.

Anonymous 5343 Kinds of Deplorable January 13, 2017 1:17 PM  

Been looking forward to getting this one in dead tree form.

Got it, but it's slipcovered. Now I have to decide if I need the casebound version to sit side by side on the shelf with A Throne of Bones.

And the answer is ... darn, there goes $27.99

Anonymous 5343 Kinds of Deplorable January 13, 2017 1:18 PM  

Also, Vox, that casebound AToB is an absolute thing of beauty. I do not have any other hardcovers of that girth. None.

Blogger VD January 13, 2017 1:23 PM  

that casebound AToB is an absolute thing of beauty.

Glad to hear it. I'm still waiting on mine. ASOS will be exactly the same size.

Blogger Eric Wilson January 13, 2017 1:23 PM  

Got it, but it's slipcovered.

:hardship: I missed out on buying it when it came out years ago, so I'll have to settle for the non dust jacketed version.

Blogger Jose January 13, 2017 1:25 PM  

"Fake SciFi" is good, but further down the post Cole has a better characterization, "message fiction." Reminds me of a comment by the late USS Clueless that when one is looking for escapism, the last thing one wants is to be lectured at by the entertainment.

Cheers,
JCS

Blogger Didact January 13, 2017 1:30 PM  

And as the reviewers have noted, as the series have continued, AODAL is stacking up increasingly well against ASOIAF.

Not that my opinion matters overmuch, but as far as I'm concerned, AODAL has gone quite a bit beyond ASOIAF by now.

Anonymous 5343 Kinds of Deplorable January 13, 2017 1:40 PM  

@11. Excellent review. Thanks for posting.

Anonymous 5343 Kinds of Deplorable January 13, 2017 1:42 PM  

ASOS will be exactly the same size.

I have a shelf full of Stephen Kings. NONE can cut it beside this monster. When the package arrived, I thought I'd ordered free weights.

Anonymous Longtime Lurker January 13, 2017 2:14 PM  

This is one way to take back SF: https://www.marinecorpstimes.com/story/military/2016/01/30/marines-ask-science-fiction-enthusiasts-describe-future-threats/79357404/

- The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab will team three acclaimed science fiction authors with 17 service members who demonstrate creative skill in the genre. Organizers are teaming them up to create a compelling, credible narrative of what the world might look like in 30 years.

- Marine leaders will then use the insight to better understand — and prepare for — the future fight.

- The Science Fiction Futures Workshop will be held in Quantico on Feb. 3. Participants will work with "Ghost Fleet" author August Cole, "World War Z" author Max Brooks, and Charles E. Gannon, who wrote "Fire with Fire" and "Trial by Fire."

Blogger James Dixon January 13, 2017 2:17 PM  

> It looks like the Rabid Puppies have a strong candidate for Best Series here.

Well, if Monster Hunter: Siege had come out this past year, I'd be willing to argue, but...

Anonymous Longtime Lurker January 13, 2017 2:25 PM  

And here is the link to the three short stories ultimately produced by the USMC SF Futures Workshop mentioned in No. 14 above: http://www.uscg.mil/STRATEGY/docs/Marine%20Corps%20Science%20Fiction%20Futures%202016.pdf

Blogger VD January 13, 2017 2:37 PM  

Amazon now has the hardcover directly on offer at the correct price of $27.99.

Blogger Matthew January 13, 2017 2:44 PM  

5343 Kinds of Deplorable wrote:Got it, but it's slipcovered. Now I have to decide if I need the casebound version to sit side by side on the shelf with A Throne of Bones.


The Castalia House editions have a much more readable font for the text. Buy them.

Anonymous Stephen J. January 13, 2017 2:50 PM  

And just by way of a pleased reader's compliment, Vox: the scene in Summa Elvetica where the character charged with making the titular evaluation (do elves have souls or not?), and his explication of why he made the decision he does, remains a moving favourite of mine. Worth reading the entire book for that moment.

Anonymous 5343 Kinds of Deplorable January 13, 2017 2:57 PM  

The Castalia House editions have a much more readable font for the text. Buy them.

Done.

Blogger synp January 13, 2017 3:09 PM  

Nick Cole is 48 years old, which makes him younger than Star Trek. Science fiction was always the go-to genre for describing your utopia or your dystopia, or your new social order. It just makes more sense set in a 23rd century starship than in 19th century British society.

So science fiction was not taken over from without. The kinds of stories that Cole describes have been part of science fiction forever. Heldman's The Forever War had the entire population of Earth converted to homosexuality by the UN to combat overpopulation, and this was 1974 and won a Hugo. Both race and sexuality play important roles even in Heinlein books: Farnham's Freehold is obviously about race, and the family of Lazarus Long engages in all kinds of sexuality and converse about it as much as any Scalzi character.

The tragedy is not the proliferation of what Cole calls "fake sci-fi". It's no more fake than any other sci-fi that sets its story in a society different from our own. The tragedy is that other kinds of society different from our own have become unmentionable.

Blogger seeingsights January 13, 2017 3:16 PM  

For Thomists, the immortal soul has an immaterial intellect. An implication of that view is that is any non human material being that has a mind at the level of a human would also have an immortal soul.

Blogger S. Misanthrope January 13, 2017 3:33 PM  

It is a strong series so far! I almost regret gifting AToB to Sig Other. He was so absorbed in it I couldn't get him to do anything else until he'd finished. Then he was mad at me because ASoS isn't out yet.

Blogger pdwalker January 13, 2017 3:44 PM  

VD, this is just my personal opinion.

I think the stories in Summa Elvetica are better than ATOB because the different stories "move" me more. Also, the first and second stories are extremely well matched with the final story and the whole work serves as a killer introduction to the world of Selenoth.

(did you plan the order of the stories? If so, well done!)

Hmm... I need to turn this into a review.

I'm really looking forward to ASOS, part 2.
--

I doubt if there are any readers here sitting on the fence here, but if you are, get Summa Elvetica. Just. Get. It.

Blogger pdwalker January 13, 2017 3:51 PM  

The Castalia House editions have a much more readable font for the text. Buy them.

Seconded. The layouts are more attractive, with a beautiful typeface and a lot of attention must have been spent making them "just so". That's a sign of good quality.

Full Disclosure: I'm a layout snob/nerd (snerd?), so I pay attention to these things - and I know good layoutwhen I see it.

Blogger J Van Stry January 13, 2017 3:57 PM  

Definitely true, all of it.
How many scifi novels and stories do you see out there with heroines versus heros? It's so rare when you see a male hero doing important things, doing 'manly' things. It's almost always a female hero doing the important things, the 'manly' things.

If you write stories with male leads only, especially strong or dominate males in a positive role, expect to be pilloried in the media and in the SMOF / Hugo crowd.
And expect to get reviews calling you all sorts of names by that very same crowd.

Anonymous Nathan January 13, 2017 4:03 PM  

"If you’ve heard me talk before, you know that I have a point I occasionally rail on. And it’s this: SciFi is a weak medium that’s been high jacked by radical leftist thinkers recently, to advance cultural change through imaginative storytelling both visual and written in order to download their weird thinking into the collective hardrive."

Science fiction has repeatedly been hijacked for such purposes, from the days of Campbell, to the Futurians, to New Wave and on to today. SFF as a genre has been strangled by the crippling fear of a large chunk of its writers that someone reading may actually be a conservative. Those dead spots and dark times tend to follow runs full of message fiction.

Anonymous 5343 Kinds of Deplorable January 13, 2017 4:05 PM  

I think the stories in Summa Elvetica are better than ATOB because the different stories "move" me more.

There is an argument to be made that this is correct. There is a lot of emotional content in the Summa stories. I love Opera Vita Aeterna as much as anything Vox has written.

Still, AToB and especially ASoS are far more mature works, and significantly better realized. I look forward to the rest of Sea of Skulls. If the first half is any indication, it's going to absolutely kill.

Blogger pdwalker January 13, 2017 4:11 PM  

@28 I hear you. That's why I only mentioned ATOB and not ASOS.

ASOS is a step up over ATOB and does manage to tell a powerful tale.

Blogger synp January 13, 2017 6:33 PM  

J Van Stry wrote:Definitely true, all of it.

How many scifi novels and stories do you see out there with heroines versus heros? It's so rare when you see a male hero doing important things, doing 'manly' things. It's almost always a female hero doing the important things, the 'manly' things.

If you write stories with male leads only, especially strong or dominate males in a positive role, expect to be pilloried in the media and in the SMOF / Hugo crowd.

And expect to get reviews calling you all sorts of names by that very same crowd.

IDK. T.R. Harris seems to me doing OK with his Adam Caine novels. Mark Watney from The Martian is a guy, and even the unnamed protagonist in Beacon 23 is a man. All those books got good reviews. Even T.R. Harris didn't get called names, even though his hero is a really traditional manly man.

Blogger Aeoli Pera January 13, 2017 7:14 PM  

AWCA

Blogger VD January 13, 2017 7:18 PM  

did you plan the order of the stories? If so, well done!

Not in the least. There is literally no planning going into Selenoth. The stories and novels are very character-driven. The stories were all basically just sketches to help me get a feel for what I wanted the fantasy world to be.

If you put him here, in this situation, what would he do? People are just beginning to figure out that the plot, so to speak, is of a larger order of magnitude than it first appears.

Hmm... I need to turn this into a review.

(nods)

Anonymous LurkingPuppy January 13, 2017 9:15 PM  

VD wrote:did you plan the order of the stories? If so, well done!

Not in the least.

He meant the order of the stories as you assembled them into the new edition of ‘Summa Elvetica’, and yes, you did move ‘Opera Vita Aeterna’ away from the other two stories it was originally published with (in ‘The Last Witchking’) to place it at the end of the book.

Blogger VD January 13, 2017 9:16 PM  

Oh, yes, that was on purpose.

Anonymous Philalethes January 13, 2017 10:24 PM  

According to the Selenoth Wiki, the stories should be read in this order:

A Magic Broken
A Throne of Bones
Summa Elvetica
Master of Cats
Birth of an Order
The Wardog's Coin
Qalabi Dawn
The Last Witchking
The Hoblets of Wiccam Fensboro
Opera Vita Aeterna

Though I should think that A Throne of Bones should be at the end of the list, followed by A Sea of Skulls? Anyway, that's how I'd read them.

I haven't seen the 2013 edition of Summa Helvetica with the added stories (Amazon downloads the old one to my Kindle), but again according to the Wiki, the appended stories appear to be in this order:

Master of Cats
Birth of an Order
A Magic Broken
The Wardog's Coin
Qalabi Dawn
The Last Witchking
The Hoblets of Wiccam Fensboro
Opera Vita Aeterna

If "…you did move ‘Opera Vita Aeterna’ away from the other two stories it was originally published with (in ‘The Last Witchking’) to place it at the end of the book," then this must not be the correct order, as the only story moved is "A Magic Broken", and the last three appear as they were originally published together.

Perhaps the Wiki needs to be updated as to recommended reading order?

Blogger Cluebat Vanexodar January 13, 2017 10:31 PM  

I'm gonna need a bigger bookshelf.

Blogger Cluebat Vanexodar January 13, 2017 10:36 PM  

I could read them consecutively.

Would it be better to put AToB aside and read this first?

Blogger Jose January 13, 2017 11:26 PM  

synp wrote:The kinds of stories that Cole describes have been part of science fiction forever. Heldman's The Forever War had the entire population of Earth converted to homosexuality by the UN to combat overpopulation, and this was 1974 and won a Hugo. Both race and sexuality play important roles even in Heinlein books: Farnham's Freehold is obviously about race, and the family of Lazarus Long engages in all kinds of sexuality and converse about it as much as any Scalzi character.

The tragedy is not the proliferation of what Cole calls "fake sci-fi". It's no more fake than any other sci-fi that sets its story in a society different from our own. The tragedy is that other kinds of society different from our own have become unmentionable.


I have a slightly different view on this matter (from both):

Having read it last in the 1980s, my memory of Haldeman's "The Forever War" is a bit fuzzy, but as I recall the sexual parts were at best ancillary to the story. The story was itself a minimally disguised chronicle of the Vietnam War told from the hard left side, if I recall. So, in that sense it was a work designed to effect political change in its readers' minds. But it wasn't preachy, not directly. (Memory from the 80s may be incorrect.)

The big difference to what I surmise is most "fake scifi" these days is that the preachiness was not there: it's a matter of how you do it and how central it is to the story. Let me explain by comparing two other works:

Arthur C Clarke's "Songs of distant Earth" gets a bunch of side references to sexual mores and the importance of being bisexual right from the beginning; but these are occasional references that have almost no impact on the story; in contrast, Clarke actually computes a bunch of important physics (ahem, incorrectly though given what we learned in the meantime about density of matter in interstellar spaces) and actually takes the time to figure out how politicking would work between the seeded people and the Earthers.

On the other hand, William Gibson's "Zero History," written in the Bush years made a point of hitting you in the face every other page (maybe twice per page) with the message 'Bush is a psycho baby-killer and so are all republicans,' with all the subtlety of an industrial forging hammer. That almost, but not quite, failed to disguise the book's completely trivial story, which could have been edited down to about ten pages.

Or consider the grandmaster of satire, the late Terry Pratchett, whose books were masterpieces of social critique posing as fantasy, without ever allowing you to figure out exactly what Pratchett's politics were. (Like the television show "Yes Minister," where you only know what party Jim Hacker is from if you pay close attention to the opening scene in the pilot.)

[And there would be another 25,000 words here, because I too have strong opinions about scifi, not from the position of an author but from that of an avid fan... but I have books to read, so I'll leave it at that.]

Cheers,
JCS

Blogger pdwalker January 13, 2017 11:42 PM  

@37 Cluebat, I would say, definitely yes.

Blogger Resident Moron™ January 14, 2017 2:27 AM  

I finished ASOS part 1 last week.

I'd pay the same price for part 2.

Getting it free?

Priceless.

Anonymous Luke January 14, 2017 4:47 AM  

I read the whole piece by Cole, and agreed with it. Good catch on Hillary's planned 'unnamed black person' cabinet pick.

That said, I was quite struck by this:

"And it’s this: SciFi is a weak medium that’s been high jacked by radical leftist thinkers recently...

"High jacked" for "hijacked"? And this guy is an award-winning published author? I'm a geologist by profession, and this strikes me as comparable to a fellow professional mixing up whether the Devonian or the Ordovician came first. (E.g., I would figure they either had a fake diploma or got it via affirmative action or sleeping with instructors.)

Blogger VD January 14, 2017 5:47 AM  

No, Luke, there are MANY writers who can't spell particularly well.

Anonymous Luke January 14, 2017 6:34 AM  

Hm. Given that IMO spelling is as integral to writing as punctuation, nearly as important as vocabulary and grammar, methinks many of those writers aren't yet ready to submit anything for publication, until they get up to speed on the basics of their would-be profession.

Imagine their works without A) an editor or B) software for spellchecking, grammar checking, etc. Ayn Rand could get away without those, but not your typical leftist or non-STEM/non-autodidact survivor/product of government K-12 schools.

Blogger VD January 14, 2017 7:41 AM  

methinks many of those writers aren't yet ready to submit anything for publication

Youthinks erroneously. Spelling is almost entirely irrelevant to the quality of a book. So, for that matter, are typos, which is why I consider reviews that complain about them to be nearly as stupid as complaints about the cover, or the unavailability on other platforms.

What does spelling say about plot, about character, about story arc, about commentary on the human condition? Absolutely nothing.

And, keep in mind, I say that as a former two-time Spelling Bee champion. It's like deciding you don't like the way a birthday cake tastes because they have the wrong number of candles on it.

Blogger VD January 14, 2017 7:55 AM  

In fact, I will go one step further and assert that the worse the spelling of a good writer, the more naturally talented he is. Both Nick Cole and John C. Wright are indifferent spellers. I am a very good speller; my spelling mistakes are almost always typos.

But speaking as the editor who sees their first drafts, I can attest that they are both more talented writers than I am. Vastly more talented, in the case of Mr. Wright. Although I will point out that Nick Cole is a more talented writer than his breezy and prolific style makes him appear at first glance.

Blogger Gordon January 14, 2017 8:04 AM  

For some readers, spelling mistakes are jarring. It kicks one right out of the narrative. I have the same problem with grammar. One writer, who I might support otherwise, does not understand subject-object agreement, and apparently can't afford an editor who does. She wrote a book with a concept I found interesting. But there were two cases of the subject-object problem in the first 20 pages. I gave up on it. I only have so much time for reading.

Blogger VD January 14, 2017 8:23 AM  

For some readers, spelling mistakes are jarring. It kicks one right out of the narrative.

I agree. But you understand that is about you, not the book, right? If you really hate the color blue, and the cover is blue, does that make it a bad book too?

That being said, there is a correlation between bad spelling, bad grammar, and bad writing. But there are VERY few writers with impeccable spelling and grammar. Every writer I edit has a few literary tics.

Anonymous LurkingPuppy January 14, 2017 8:31 AM  

Gordon wrote:One writer, who I might support otherwise, does not understand subject-object agreement,
Do you mean “subject-verb agreement”?

Gordon wrote:She wrote a book with a concept I found interesting. But there were two cases of the subject-object problem in the first 20 pages.
Not a bad error rate for a problem that the grammar-checking software currently in general use can't detect.

Blogger Jose January 14, 2017 1:27 PM  

VD wrote:No, Luke, there are MANY writers who can't spell particularly well.

Oh… it's almost as if the use of people who specialize in editing the words of writers in publishing houses and various other written media has evolved from this fact. We could call this particular species "editors" though it's understandable that many uninitiated confuse them with "publishers" since in small shops the jobs are concentrated on the same people 😎

(This comment could have used an editor, I'm sure. I recall from Zinsser's book that editing is like 75% of the work of a writer, before sending to editor.)

Anonymous Luke January 14, 2017 5:28 PM  

45. VD January 14, 2017 7:55 AM
"In fact, I will go one step further and assert that the worse the spelling of a good writer, the more naturally talented he is."

In that case, my (already reading) 4.5-YO twin children are still pretty fair writers, but sadly getting steadily worse as they learn how to spell more and more words. By the time they can read all of Daddy's books, they'll be completely without talent as writers.

Blogger Avalanche January 14, 2017 9:12 PM  

@44 "typos, which is why I consider reviews that complain about them to be nearly as stupid as complaints about the cover, or the unavailability on other platforms."

Oh, I have to disagree... Typos throw me straight out of a story. I still remember with deep jaundice some book by CJ Cheryth (sp?) -- I'd been reading my way through her stuff (this was, like, 25 years ago?) and just enjoying the hell out her books.

The final one I read of her books was good and action filled, and I'd been reading along and suddenly ... ?? I was reading in first person, present tense. WHAT?! What had just happened? Could I actually have been reading along in 1st-pres and not even noticed?! So I went back a chapter to see. It turned out she'd apparently decided "to make the action more actiony" [gag] so, when she started an action chapter, she changed person and tense, and then at the end switched back. I couldn't get myself to read anymore of her stuff.

Granted, that wasn't a typo -- but getting thrown headlong out of a story I was enjoying put me off. (I have always joked, painfully, that "the editorial eye never sleeps!") My guess is folks who complain also get thrown out.

Blogger Avalanche January 14, 2017 9:22 PM  

@47 "If you really hate the color blue, and the cover is blue, does that make it a bad book too?"

I can't speak for Gordon, but no, of course the book cover/color has no effect; you're not yet 'into' the story. But when the story has brought you in and you're "living the tale," a typo or person/tense change or subject/object clash, suddenly awakens you to the current day, reading a book.

(And it's not a "bad" book; it's a book that keep knocking you out of the story.)

Blogger Avalanche January 14, 2017 9:24 PM  

@49 "This comment could have used an editor..."

No Jose, colloquial speech is not generally 'editable.' Casual conversation, and all that...

Blogger VD January 15, 2017 7:52 AM  

Oh, I have to disagree... Typos throw me straight out of a story.

Again, that's about you, not the plot, the characters, or anything else. It's not the same, but it is akin to judging a book by its cover. Far more people are turned away from a book by its cover than are thrown out of one by typos.

My other objection to reviews complaining about typos is that after the typos get fixed, that aspect of the review is no longer relevant. And yet, it remains.

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