Further To …

(1) … the Campbell Award discussion, Jason Robertson has read Titan:

Titan excels at neither literary or sfnal virtues. It has a dangerously clumsy sense of gender, and is widely outstripped in both literary and sfnal merit by several books among just those nominees I read. The degree to which this win is undefended, and apparently indefensible is a danger to the Campbell’s ability to go forward as an award that bears weight. Losing an award of this age to an anomalous dysfunction would be a blow to the community. There should be a discussion, hopefully including Campbell jurors (who can after all, enlighten us as to the perceived merits of Titan), about how to fix this. And if not how to fix it, than to assert why it is not broken.

As Jason notes, Christopher McKitterick has answered some questions about the Campbell process here, but not others, such as how jurors are selected.

2) … the ongoing discussion of “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter (Fantasy)”, which came up again over the weekend, Kate Nepveu has posted her thoughts on this year’s Hugo nominees for Best Novelette, including Ryman’s story:

I’m okay with the idea that story-Sith needs acknowledge her father’s dead, as she is benefiting from her father’s crimes. […] But this conversation seems to me to be an assertion that Dara the unexceptional, and through him the entire country, isn’t acknowledging its dead and should be. Which seems like a really sweeping thing to say to me, and I am fundamentally uncomfortable with sweeping statements about entire countries.

Actually, it’s two assertions, the other of which is made by the story as a whole, not just this conversation: that all the dead want is acknowledgement. Which is equally sweeping and even more difficult for me, because I don’t know anything about Cambodia today, but I can imagine what those dead of genocide would want, and it’s neither so uniform nor so simple as acknowledgment.

If this had been a secondary-world fantasy, I would consider it a sweet little fable. But it’s not. It’s about real people, a real country, real history, real pain and terror and rage. And putting the two together—simple fable, difficult reality—gives me serious cognitive dissonance.

As I said over on Kate’s blog, her last paragraph made me wonder whether cognitive dissonance was, in fact, the intended effect. I don’t know if it would make the use of Sith/Sitha any more palatable, and it seems slightly at odds with the way The King’s Last Song approaches Cambodia, but that sort of argument against fantasy that dodges its moral implications strikes me as something Ryman might attempt.

3 thoughts on “Further To …

  1. I guess Titan makes up for Malzberg’s Beyond Apollo winning the Campbell Award all those years ago. The old guard must still be keeping score.

  2. I loved “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter,” forgiving Ryman the happy ending. I liked the texture and the many issues it raised. I don’t really think someone like his central character could transcend her upbringing in the way the ending suggests, but he had to end the story somehow. Having having her reach a bad end, visiting the sins of the fathers blah blah blah. would not have been a better ending. This is a story of a kind we don’t really know how to tell, but its worth at least starting, eveing if we don’t really know to finish it.

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