Three Notices

1. British people! Pushing Daisies starts tonight on ITV1 at 9pm. It is awesome and lovely. You should all watch it. It’s much better than Doctor Who, I promise.

2. There is a suggestion that the sf community is not paying as much attention as it should to Junot Diaz’s Pulitzer win. I am not entirely convinced by this, but just in case anyone hasn’t heard: there’s a book called The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by a writer called Junot Diaz, and it won a Pulitzer. It’s about an sf fan, and packed with sf references (including the title, in a convoluted way), and by all accounts wonderful. I haven’t read it yet (it’s only just been published in the UK), but the epigraphs alone are enough to win me over. One is the second verse of a poem by Derek Walcott; the other is:

“Of what import are brief, nameless lives … to Galactus??”
Fantastic Four, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (Vol 1 No 49, April 1966)

3. This isn’t exactly an “as others see us” moment, but it does make me want to read the book:

Science fiction makes you think of spaceships, magical technology, visionary futurism. Yet “science fiction” might also be a good name for a kind of fiction that contains no robots or galactic battles but simply engages with science on a deeper and more authoritative level than your average novelist who borrows a vague understanding of quantum mechanics as a little moondust to sprinkle over the story. Andrew Crumey has a PhD in theoretical physics, and his sixth novel answers in a way to both possible descriptions as “science fiction”, concocting something dreamily strange out of what initially seems to be a resolutely naturalistic comedy of nostalgia.

And with that, I leave for a BSFA committee meeting.

9 thoughts on “Three Notices

  1. I agree with you Niall. I think it’s been covered as much as should be expected for a work that clearly isn’t SF. It’s more about the fan experience than it is about the stuff that SF is about.

    Mind you, the reviews of it have been dreadful in that they’re all (aside from the rambling 15 page monstrocity that is the New Yorker piece) the same and none of them give much information about the book.

    Yes, written by a bloke who wrote a collection of stories I haven’t read, fine. Yes it’s all about an SF geek who can’t get laid, fine. Yes, it’s about some bloke growing up poor in inner-city America.

    That sounds more like the basis for a rubbish romantic comedy than a Pulitzer-winning novel.

  2. This isn’t exactly an “as others see us” moment, but it does make me want to read the book:

    His last novel, Mobius Dick, could have had the same sort of words applied. Unfortunately it was rubbish so don’t get your hopes up.

  3. Agreed here – I reviewed Mobius Dick for Vector and disliked it intensely; as far as I recall it thought it was a whole lot more clever than it really was (something about Richard Schumann, a mad wife, a bloke with amnesia, a new power plant, a physicist and quantum thing – the old is he dead or mad sorta thing I suspect)

  4. A few words in defence of Andrew Crumey. I’ve just finished ‘Sputnik Caledonia’ and, though it’s a little uneven in places, thoroughly enjoyed it. ‘Moebius Dick’ is, agreed, less successful, but check out his earlier novels like ‘Mr Mee’, ‘D’Alembert’s Principle’ and ‘Music, in a Foreign Language’ for an idea of Crumey’s scope and ambition. I think he’s one of the most interesting British authors I’ve read in the recent years.

  5. I checked A. Crumey’s novels and based on the Amazon excerpts I found them quite interesting and the writing style seems to agree with me, so I ordered the first 4 ones for the moment and if I will like them, I will get 5 and 6.
    I am always on the lookout for interesting books that have a style that I like so many thanks for bringing this author to my attention.

  6. It seems to me after thinking about it, that the corollary here is not to Michael Chabon’s K&C–he’s vastly wider known for lots of reasons both inside and outside SF–but Kevin Brockmeier’s The Truth About Celia. This was, likewise, an acclaimed literary novel of interest to SF types in much the same way, with its SF writer protagonist. And I think it got about the same level of notice that Diaz’s book has (Brief History of the Dead got way more; this stuff is progressive), which makes me think race has little to do with any lack of sufficient enthusiasm (and I’m not sure I buy that either).

  7. Agreed Gwenda.

    Chabon’s a completely different kettle of fish, Nowadays he seems to have pulled a reverse Ballard and his inclusion on awards shortlists doesn’t even raise a Clarke Award-style eyebrow. Mind you, he has tried quite hard to be accepted, being completely unapologetic about SF in interviews and joining the SFWA.

  8. This is going off at a tangent, but re: Chabon this is a bit depressing: “in concluding his introduction to Englander, [Darin] Strauss gave a list of writers who he thinks may end up writing the big novels of their generation; including Englander, obviously, but also naming (among others) Paul Auster, Jonathan Lethem, and Michael Chabon, if only the last one could ‘get off his genre kick.'”

    Gwenda: I never knew that about Celia! It’s been on my TBR purely because I liked Brief History of the Dead and his short fiction so much, but I never looked at who it was about.

  9. Definitely make time for it — much more interesting and successful than History (which I also liked, but Celia is WONDERFUL; dark, but wonderful). The conceit is that the SF writer is doing all these different pieces, coping with the loss of his daughter — Green Children is one of them.

    Re: the Strauss thing; it is almost incomprehensible to me that someone so smart could say something so ridiculous.

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