Hi folks! Mark here with just a short post. I'm looking for some feedback and possible items to add to my reading list. My interest today is in 'the most fully realized alien culture' vein.
When I look back over my reading life, I consider myself lucky to have been introduced at a young age to books that presented me with well-developed plots and characters in such ways as to make it easy for me to suspend my disbelief and wallow in the weirdness. I never had any trouble accepting that spiders could speak and spell or that pigs could solve mysteries or mice could sail boats or drive model cars. I think it must be a universal constant for those of us who love to read and write in our genre to accept the unusual, understand in ways that approach the common-place, and to respond to it intellectually and with wonder at the same time. No, really, I'm serious: I love the SFF genre for the paradoxes if for nothing else. I feel we tell the great stories better that way.
I recall Sam telling Frodo that he sensed they were part of one larger, continuous story, and I think the Professor got it right. Middle Earth was always intended to be HERE, and folks have long identified recognizable elements in all the various cultures that made up the fabric of the place. In the end, we come to love stories like the Narnia Chronicles, Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, Freddie the Detective, and The Lord of the Rings not just for the escapism but also for the familiar. They make sense to us, for us, because ultimately they tell the big story of which we are all part.
Ultimately, culture has to fit in there somewhere. Narnia, Middle Earth, the barnyard, Watership Down, all of them worked for me because the cultures in the story were so fully realized. In addition to the references above, I have a number of other books/series/authors whose work has always influenced me for the quality of the world building, the surreal familiarity of the cultures they present and the quality of the stories they told. To wit:
CJ Cherryh has been one of my favorite authors since I first discovered her in Lin Carter's old Year's Best Fantasy anthologies. And then I found Gate of Ivrel and I was hooked. She is a master, in my opinion, of depicting alien culture in such a way as to make it acceptable. Her Faded Sun books, the Dreaming Tree duology, the long running Foreigner series, the Downbelow Station universe novels--practically everything drips culture/conflict/comprehension. I get the same high when I dig in to McKillip, McKinley, and LeGuin. I must have an affinity, and yet I know I have my limits: I tried Rama too young to 'get it' despite how much my aunt raved about it.
What I would like to see here now are a series of comment responses from all who view this blog with respect to the following question:
What are or have been your favorite works that present fully realized alien culture? I'd like some titles and an explanation as to why you would include it. What makes it/them so special in this regard?
The Poets of Pevana
Path of the Poet King