Reports, reflections, and other bits on WorldCon 75 last week:
(Isn’t that a fantastic title for a post?)
Over the last few weeks, Nic has posted a series of thought-provoking explorations of Gwyneth Jones’ Life, looking at its relationship with institutions and attitudes towards scientific practice; its self-consciousness as feminist sf, as a commentary on the role of women in a science fictional world; the core of the relationships which define the plot of the book; and the fictional scientific discovery at the heart of the story and how it affects gender.
Life, the seventh book we’ve examined in the Future Classics series here on Torque Control, is our last book from 2004, the end of the first half of the decade this book list covers. The remaining four books cover the rest of the decade. For planning ahead, those are
- Jo Walton, Farthing (in late September)
- Sarah Hall, The Carhullan Army/Daughters of the North (October)
- Ursula Le Guin, Lavinia (November)
- Gwyneth Jones, Spirit (December)
My thanks to Nic for joining us for this discussion (and perhaps more in the future?), and to those of you who read along and participated in the discussion. It’s never too late to come back to these posts and do so.
A recent, related post:
Why did Zoo City win this year’s Clarke Award?
The jury isn’t allowed to tell us, but the entrants into the contest to guess the winner of this year’s Clarke Award can.
Zoo City because if it doesn’t win then the judges are wrong.
I haven’t read any of the books, but that is the one I keep hearing the most positive things about. Also, she’s the most active on Twitter.
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes. One of the most extraordinary books I’ve read in the last ten years or so. Hopefully the Clarke Award is just a stop-off point on the way to the Hugos.
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes – any book recommended by William Gibson as a favourite stands a very good chance!
Because [it] made me realise how much I missed devouring a book.
Zoo City by Lauren Beakes – like nothing you’ve read before. A true original.
Yagiz [Between Two Books]:
I haven’t read it yet but many people speak very highly of it and it’s been on my TBR pile. So I think it’s going to win the award and this will make me read it soon after.
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes, because its a shoe-in.
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes because it’s as good a guess as any, seeing as I haven’t read any of these.
For it’s originality and true grit, countermanding old-school cyberpunk without puerile braggadocio
Zoo City. I like the cover and the title.
For perhaps the final time, at least here (once again, I’m shifting over to the Strange Horizons blog):
- 2010 in review, according to Strange Horizons‘ reviewers, including me; I still hope to write a full review of my 2010 reading, but I’ve got a bunch of other things to do first, unfortunately
- More reviews of Who Fears Death, by Matt Hilliard, Jonathan McCalmont (discussion) and Farah Mendlesohn
- Maureen Kincaid Speller has relaunched her critical blog, Paper Knife, and among other things posted a lengthy analysis of Sarah Moss’ Cold Earth that I really must respond to
- A call for papers for an sf conference to be held at the University of Liverpool in June
- You can now get Locus electronically, and their Roundtable blog has relaunched under the guiding hand of Karen Burnham; of note this week, a roundtable on sf aesthetics
- Steven Shaviro on Black Swan, a film I’d like to see; Martin Lewis on Monsters, another film I’d like to see; and Abigail Nussbaum and Adam Roberts on Tron: Legacy, a film I have seen, and on which I basically agree with Adam
- Dan Hartland on The Best of Larry Niven
- Richard Larson on In the Mean Time by Paul Tremblay
- Kev McVeigh ponders which sf novels by women should be added to the Gollancz Masterworks list
- Matt Cheney’s syllabuses for gender and science fiction and some other courses
- Paul Kincaid on The Secret History of Fantasy, ed. Peter Beagle
- More thoughts on Super Sad True Love Story from Aishwarya Subramanian and Nader Elhefnawy
- Adrienne Martini on Yarn by Jon Armstrong
- Matt Hilliard on City of Pearl by Karen Traviss
- A labor organizer’s review of Cory Doctorow’s For the Win
- An English-language review of the German-language edition of Murakami’s IQ84, to be published in the UK next autumn
- The Pearls Are Cooling has been blogging about Steph Swainston’s Castle novels: The Year of Our War, No Present Like Time, and The Modern World
- The latest Salon Futura
- Jared at pornokitsch dissents about The Quantum Thief
- Thoughts on the finale of Caprica at Coffee & Ink
- David Hebblethwaite on the latest two volumes of Seren Press’ “new stories from the Mabinogion“, by Gwyneth Lewis and Niall Griffiths
- Richard at Solar Bridge has tackled The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya
- Adam Roberts on The Windup Girl in prose and verse
- Tor.com is running a poll to determine the best sf/f novels of the last decade, although apparently decades last eleven years now. Meanwhile, you can also vote in the SF Site Readers’ Poll, nominate for the Hugo Awards (note: Abigail Nussbaum thinks you should consider Connie Willis’ Blackout and All Clear as two books), and, of course, for the BSFA Awards (deadline in one week!)
- Nic Clarke on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
- Strange Horizons is also recruiting; we’re looking for articles editors, webmasters, and an accounts manager, so if you’re interested, please get in touch
- And finally, Lavie Tidhar is having some fun with The Science Fictional Dictionary of New Criticism; see entries for Leguinian jump and dystopalyptic. And of course it has its own definition of science fiction
Huzzah! Not too long after the launch of one critical zine comes news of another. It’s like, I don’t know, some holiday when people are encouraged to hand out gifts, or something. The Cascadia Subduction Zone is produced by Aqueduct Press and says of itself:
The Cascadia Subduction Zone aims to bring reviews, criticism, interviews, intelligent essays, and flashes of creative artwork (visual and written) to a readership hungry for discussion of work by not only men but also women. Work by women continually receives short shrift in most review publications. And yet the majority of readers are women. Ron Hogan writes in an August 2010 post on Beatrice.com, “[Jennifer] Weiner and [Jodi] Picoult, among others, are giving us a valuable critique of a serious problem with the way the [New York] Times [Book Review]—and, frankly, most of the so-called literary establishment—treats contemporary fiction. Which is to say: They ignore most of it, and when it comes to the narrow bandwidth of literature they do cover, their performance is underwhelming, ‘not only meager but shockingly mediocre,’ as former LA Times Book Review director Steve Wasserman said three years ago. And it hasn’t gotten any better since then, leaving us with what Jennifer Weiner describes as “a disease that’s rotting the relationship between readers and reviewers.”
The relationship between readers and reviewers interests us. We want to bring attention to work critics largely ignore and offer a wider, less narrowly conceived view of the literary sphere. In short, we will review work that interests us, regardless of its genre or the gender of its author. We will blur the boundaries between critical analysis, review, poetry, fiction, and visual arts. And we will do our best to offer our readers a forum for discussion that takes the work of women as vital and central rather than marginal. What we see, what we talk about, and how we talk about it matters. Seeing, recognizing, and understanding is what makes the world we live in. And the world we live in is, itself, a sort of subduction zone writ large. Pretending that the literary world has not changed and is not changing is like telling oneself that Earth is a solid, eternally stable ball of rock.
All of which I can easily get behind. There are good people involved, too — Managing Editor is Lew Gilchrist, Reviews Editor is Nisi Shawl, Features Editor is L Timmel Duchamp, and Arts Editor is Kath Wilhelm; and the first issue, which I’ve just downloaded and had a quick browse through, includes reviews by Duchamp, Rachel Swirsky, Nancy Jane Moore and others. (You can see the full table of contents on the site front page, here.) In fact, at this stage my only quibble is that they indulge that annoying habit of American magazines, that of starting an article on one page and then continuing it on another non-contiguous page. In a print edition, this is irritating; as a PDF, it’s a bit more than that. Still, I wish the CSZ every success. For those who may be interested, the submission guidelines are here.
1. I’ve put together an index post linking too all the posts of the past week, plus the contexual posts from earlier in the autumn. If you want to link to the poll or discussions, that’s probably the best place to link to now.
2. Matt Denault asked what a top ten that treated book-length series (ie aggregated votes for, say, Bold as Love and Castle Made of Sand) as a single entry would look like:
1. Natural History/Living Next-Door to the God of Love, Justina Robson
2. The Carhullan Army, Sarah Hall
3. Maul, Tricia Sullivan
4. Small Change trilogy, Jo Walton
5. the Time-Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffeneger
6= Spirit, Gwyneth Jones
6= Speed of Dark, Elizabeth Moon
8. Bold as Love series, Gwyneth Jones
9. The Castle/Fourlands novels, Steph Swainston
10. The Vorkosigan novels, Lois McMaster Bujold
So new entries for Bujold and Swainston, Walton and Robson move up, and Life, Lavinia and City of Pearl drop out. Treating the two Robson novels as a series is arguable, I grant — they’re a shared universe but share no characters — and if you don’t, Natural History places joint third with Small Change.
3. A couple of dangling links: Tansy Rayner Roberts on Feed by Mira Grant and on The Gene Thieves by Maria Quinn, winner of the first Norma K Hemming Award. The latest Coode St podcast includes a bit of discussion about the list.
4. Follow-up. This obviously isn’t the last word on this topic; I have a few other ideas in mind, but none ready to go just yet.
- Aishwarya Subramaniam talks about her nominations for the Future Classics poll
- Michael Froggatt on 2017 by Olga Slavnikova
- Cold Iron and Rowan Wood on The Meat Tree by Gwyneth Lewis, part of Seren Press’ “new stories from the Mabinogion” series.
- Jonathan McCalmont on The Red Tree by Caitlin R Kiernan and Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard
- Tansey Rayner Roberts talks about the new Norma K Hemming Award, for excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class and disability in sf published in Australia or written by an Australian citizen
- Details of the latest Galactic Suburbia podcast
- David Hebblethwaite on An A-Z of Possible Worlds by AC Tillyer and on Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
- Matt Denault on Walking the Tree by Kaaron Warren, and its marketing:
I wrote at the outset that my two chief frustrations with Walking the Tree involve its outside and its inside. The frustration with the outside is easy enough to describe: the book’s cover. The back cover of my published UK edition contains the instruction to “FILE UNDER: FANTASY” and a quote from Ellen Datlow, best known in recent times for her work editing dark fantasy and horror; the front cover bears a quote from Trudi Canavan, “bestselling author of the Black Magician trilogy,” a fantasy work. Additionally the publisher, Angry Robot, is marketing as similar two more of its books on the back cover: Warren’s debut novel Slights and Aliette de Bodard’s Servant of the Underworld, a dark fantasy. In short, this is a science fiction book by a female author that is being marketed very hard to look like a fantasy book—and a fantasy book for a primarily female audience. This was done, I’m sure, with the best of intentions. But there is a deeply insidious notion about the relationship between women and science that’s suggested by this chosen marketing. Labeling a science fiction book by a female author as fantasy contributes to the fallacious but widespread idea that women don’t write science fiction. This in turn can only reinforce the stereotype that women aren’t any good at science. Parallel to this, to fixate the book’s marketing so squarely on women reinforces that damaging gender paradigm that men’s stories should be of interest to both men and women, while women’s stories should be of interest only to women. The two problems are entwined: men’s stories are important to all because they are seen as real, and thus can be grounded in something real like science; women’s stories are dismissed as fantasy, nothing that could ever happen and so nothing that’s worth treating as actionable. So I’d argue that the book’s marketing, whatever its intentions, is actively, damagingly in opposition to the ideas of the book’s content.
- Shana Worthen thinks about categorising Lavinia, in response to its poll ranking
- Ian Sales looks at the first half of the Bold as Love sequence
- Two takes on Kate Griffin: Arthur at Ferretbrain on A Madness of Angels, and William Mingin at Strange Horizons on The Midnight Mayor
- Also at Ferretbrain, Kyra Smith on The Hunger Games and its sequels
- Anil Menon on Sandra McDonald’s Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories at Strange Horizons
- Richard at Solar Bridge on Dreaming in Smoke by Tricia Sullivan
- Adam Roberts on Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas
- Duncan Lawie on Guardians of Paradise by Jaine Fenn
- An interview with Margaret Atwood in The Guardian
- An interview with Elizabeth Hand at Chasing Ray
- An interview with Vonda N McIntyre at io9
- Theodora Goss interviewed at Clarkesworld and at Booklife
- Nic Clarke at Eve’s Alexandria on Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge
- Anne K Yoder at The Millions on The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich
- Two reviews of Catherynne Valente’s books: Richard at Solar Bridge on Palimpsest, and Faren Miller in Locus on The Habitation of the Blessed
- Sady Doyle’s “Geek Chick” column at The Awl: The Fantasy of Girl World: Lady Nerds and Utopias, Lady Robots: The Shape of Things to Come On, and Ellen Ripley saved my life
- And another Zoo City review, by David Hebblethwaite.
- Tansy Rayner Roberts is also blogging about women and sf this week: so far, on science fictional fantasy and the women of the five Doctors
- And another Galactic Suburbanite, Alex, has posted about Bold as Love
- Speaking of science fictional fantasy, a Zoo City review round-up: Aishwarya from the Indian Express; Jason at Kamivision; t’other Niall at The Speculative Scotsman; Saxon Bullock in SFX; and John Clute at Strange Horizons
- And there’s an interview with Lauren Beukes at Kamivision
- Adam Roberts on Arslan by MJ Engh
- Paul Kincaid on Kate Wilhelm’s 1975 short story collection The Infinity Box:
Two things struck me very forcibly when reading the Wilhelm collection. First, that the stories were even better than I had remembered. Second, that while I knew these stories were unequivocally science fiction when I first read the collection (probably about 1977), today they would almost certainly not be considered sf.
- David Hebblethwaite reviews Candor by Pam Bachorz
- Richard at Solar Bridge on Midnight Robber
- Michael Levy on Half World by Hiromi Goto, and a suite of guest posts by Goto at Omnivoracious: on romance in dark fantasy, the relationships between fantasy and reality and fantasy and horror, and her inspirations.