Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Couple of Things to Read

As the title implies, this post contains... a couple of things to read.  One fanfiction, one science fiction; both of them stories I read on Tuesday afternoon, and both of which I felt would merit mention here.  Given the range between them stylistically, thematically, and really in just about everything, I'd say there's a fair chance you'll find at least one of the two might be of some interest.

Click down below the break to see my thoughts on both!

If you're in the mood for fanfic:  Diary of a Pliant Tyrant, by xjuggernaughtx

This is a story I pre-read and offered some critique on before it was "published," and I thought it was pretty good then.  The final product is even better, in my opinion.

Pliant Tyrant takes the form of a diary kept by Discord post-Keep Calm and Flutter On.  There are a lot of things that could be wrong with a fic like that; diary stories are notoriously difficult to write well, Discord as a character doesn't immediately lend himself to the format, it would be oh-so-easy to use his hasty conversion at the end of the above-said episode as an excuse to water down his character... I'm sure you can come up with a few more potential pitfalls on your own.

And yet, this story works.  The author's nose for punnery works wonderfully with Discord's narrative snark, and xjuggernaughtx uses the diary format to good effect, letting unsaid assumptions linger and showing not just the authorial character's thoughts, but the larger world outside those thoughts--all without sacrificing the character's voice at the altar of Filling In the Reader.  Moreover, Discord retains a dynamic vibrancy throughout, and there just aren't that many fanfics out there that capture the goofy malevolence that is his hallmark.

Again I'll note that I helped slightly with this story, so my opinion is probably skewed toward the positive--the author changed or otherwise improved everything I didn't like about it, natch--but I'm really happy with the finished product.  I'll also note that this is the sequel to an older (pre-S3) story of his, Diary of a Silent Tyrant, though "spiritual successor" is probably a better word for the relationship; either can be read independently of the other, without losing much.  In any case, give this a read if you want to sink your teeth into one of the best characterizations of Discord I've seen this fandom produce.

If you're in the mood for alt. history/sci-fi:  The High Crusade, by Poul Anderson

Imagine if Harry Turtledove took a stab at 60's pulp fiction, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what kind of story this is.  Now, I happen to really like pulp fiction, and The High Crusade is a pretty popular story in the "genre" that I'd never gotten around to reading.  Now that I have, I have to say: it exemplifies everything I love about that era.

The story is ridiculous: highly advanced alien soldiers land in medieval England, and immediately have their butts kicked by a few knights and men-at-arms, said Englishmen seize their spaceship, hijinks ensue.  The High Crusade has bones for all the key reader demographics: there's comedy (mostly in the form of Unflappable British Stoicism and desperate attempts to apply Christian teachings to an increasingly topsy-turvy situation), there's fighting, there's a love triangle, and so on.  And since the work was published serially, it's incredibly high-energy, nearly frenetic despite the fact that the story is supposedly being related by a medieval monk (whose voice is actually rendered quite well).

Well, I happen to love fast paced, slightly campy stories which have a little bit of everything in them, and this is a shining example of that writing style.  Anyone looking for something of the sort (think Asimov, but with more emphasis on the humans and less on the "science" part of science fiction (and less reliance on punchlines)) who hasn't already read it should definitely check out The High Crusade.


  1. Damn it, Chris! I still haven't even gotten to reading Five Billion Vodka Bottles to the Moon yet! And now you just throw something like this at me?!

    Ah, screw it. Just adding High Crusade to the list, I guess. At least Pliant Tyrant I can read right away. I remember I liked the original a lot, so I've got high hopes for this one.

  2. God, I love The High Crusade, and I'm glad to see it getting its due here. Haven't read the fic, but probably should at some point.

  3. Oh Lord, I knew I recognized "The High Crusade" from somewhere, but I didn't remember it as a book. Turns out, a little producer from Germany by name of Roland Emmerich (yes, the "Independence Day" guy) produced a movie based on it back in 1994. A godawful movie, if IMDb is to be trusted (not bottom 100 material, but 4.4 is not exactly a ringing endorsement). I also remember Ray Cokes promoting this movie - I used to watch a lot of MTV Europe back then, and he was basically the channel's leading man.

    Wow. Now I feel old. (Also, Poul Anderson's name is misspelled.)

    1. I've never seen the movie, and after looking at a couple of reviews, I think it's best that it stays that way. It's sad, really; I know Hollywood is dedicated to ruining things I love, but this story ought to be really, really easy to adapt for the screen.

      Thanks for the spelling catch!

  4. I thought High Crusade sounded familiar! It's in Appendix N, so I must've read a description through the OSR before