Friday, June 15, 2018

Yoon Ha Lee

A Korean-American sf/f writer who received a B.A. in math from Cornell University and an M.A. in math education from Stanford University, Yoon Ha Lee finds it a source of continual delight that math can be mined for story ideas.

Lee's new novel is Revenant Gun.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I usually have a few books going at the same time, partly because I am distractible, but partly because I like to have a book for every mood.

The first is an ARC, Max Gladstone's delightful The Empress of Forever. When Max told me he had written a space opera based on the Chinese epic Journey to the West and asked if I was interested in reading it, there was only one possible answer--yes! Max's breathtakingly vivid prose and explosively detailed invention would make this wonderful all by itself, but even beyond that, there are the characters: Viv, an entrepreneur from our world trying to get back home, and her lover the born star-pilot Xiara, and the ferocious pirate-queen Zanj, among others. Every page is a discovery; I'm going to be sorry when it ends.

The second, for something completely different, is the Charles Bargue Drawing Course, edited by Gerald M. Ackerman with the collaboration of Graydon Parrish. I've been trying to teach myself how to draw as a hobby, which started because I wanted to be able to "see" what my characters looked like. I've tried various approaches over the years, from life drawing to generalized flailing around, and found out about this book, which has the student learning to draw from exemplars graded in difficulty. The amusing story behind it is that in 1865 in France, there was an exhibition of works by student artists, and apparently art critics and instructors found the results so universally atrocious that the French decided to overhaul their method of teaching art; the Bargue course was the result. I don't expect to "finish" going through this anytime soon, but everyone needs a project!

Finally, for something different yet again, I'm reading Strategy Strikes Back: How Star Wars Explains Modern Military Conflict, ed. Max Brooks, John Amble, M. L. Cavanaugh, and Jaym Gates. I'm only casually acquainted with the Star Wars universe, but I enjoy reading military history and space opera, and this marries the two in one enticing package. I was especially intrigued by the Preface by Cavanaugh, who's taught strategy at West Point: he explains that in trying to discuss strategy with colleagues in South Korea, he needed to find common ground as South Koreans will not necessarily, say, have a clue about American Civil War battles that are well-known in the United States. So the solution was to talk about strategy through the lens of Star Wars! (My sister and I, who have both lived in South Korea, were impressed Star Wars worked for this purpose. Who knew!) The essays run the gamut from satire to serious analysis, and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the book!
Visit Yoon Ha Lee's website.

The Page 69 Test: Revenant Gun.

--Marshal Zeringue