According to the New York Times, Stephenson’s look at the way humans interact with digital worlds has a well-earned reputation for prescience:
Snow Crash was published way back in ancient 1992 and laid out many of the attributes of today’s online life, including the Metaverse, a virtual place where people meet, do business and play, presenting themselves as avatars. If you’ve ever played wildly popular multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft, or visited the virtual communities of Second Life, you can get a chill thinking about what he saw back before the popularization of the World Wide Web.”
Despite the reputation of his book, Stephenson is pretty reluctant to take on the title of “Seer” saying in the same article, “I can talk all day long about how wrong I got it. But there are a lot of people who feel as though that was an accurate prediction.”
From its first publication in 1996, this book and its sequels helped spur a new, darker revival of epic fantasy that turned the genre’s expectations on their heads. In Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper Than Swords, editor Henry Jacoby, a philosophy professor at East Carolina University, speculates about the series’ popularity:
Readers often cite the moral complexity of the novels as a key part of their enjoyment, alluding to characters painted in “shades of gray.” Previous works of epic fantasy tended to operate with a straightforward moral compass where the antagonist was some variety of evil “Dark Lord” and the protagonists were defined by their opposition to this evil character based on their obvious moral goodness. In contrast, Martin’s series has been written with no dark lord to speak of. …Martin’s choice to keep his eyes on the very human characters, with their very human flaws, was done well enough to win him legions of fans who appreciated the so-called “gritty realism” of the narrative.
Fantasy author Mark Lawrence agrees:
He showed what fantasy could be. Real people who didn’t carry a particular flaw around like an attribute rolled up in a role-playing game, but who were complex, capable of both good and evil, victims of circumstance, heroes of the moment. Heroes in gleaming mail could suffer from corns without it being a joke. That’s a big part of his secret – EVERY ONE IS HUMAN – get behind their eyes and nobody is perfect, nobody is worthless.
14) Kindred by Octavia Butler
John C. Snider, editor at scifidimensions described Octavia Butler’s celebrated novel as:
A dark fantasy novel that drills down into the prickly core of American history: slavery. This novel, in which a young middle-class black woman finds herself shuttled between 1976 California and antebellum Maryland, has become a classic of SF&F and required reading in both women’s and African-American studies. But don’t be fooled – while Butler’s fiction appeals to feminist and minority demographics, it’s not propped up by that appeal. To read Octavia Butler is to read good literature – period.
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