Well, I haven’t gotten COVID: Vector interviews Nick Mamatas

Nick Mamatas author pic. Taken from Wikipedia under CC license - credit Melinda R. HImel

Thanks for chatting! How are you? Are you working on anything at the moment?

Well, I haven’t gotten COVID and my son didn’t get COVID and my parents didn’t get COVID and my sister didn’t get COVID. I am purposefully not working on anything at the moment. I’m watching deadlines crumble like empires.

Back in the past, you wrote on Livejournal: “A subculture is not a counterculture. A consumer culture is not a subculture. We are not all in this together.” Recently there were ripples in SFF writer communities over the term “squeecore.” Raquel S. Benedict and JR talk about it on an episode of Rite Gud. They weren’t expecting their words to get fine-toothed, so their description of squeecore is a grab-bag of gripes and jibes, not some kind of elaborate legal case. But the core of squeecore, as I understand it, is something like a “subculture that thinks it’s a counterculture.” What do you think of the term?

Squeecore seems to be a name for the commercially published writing created by authors who got interested in writing by participating in post-fanfiction.net fan fiction cultures. So, it reads differently from previous writing, including previous fanfic-inflected writing from, say, the K/S photocopy generation. I think the podcasters were essentially right, but made the error of creating a taxonomy in order to dismiss a particular taxon as bad and their own stuff as good. 

Yes, there was a lot about the episode I liked — and I fully get why they would want to move from critique to pointing out alternatives — but I did find the recommendations list a wee bit less convincing. To their credit, they are upfront about the personal connections.

This is every new writer’s impulse. I was teaching at an MFA program a decade ago, and had to sit through a meeting of students pitching their academic theses. They had to write one academic thesis, and one creative thesis. Every thesis was “Why do all these books suck, except for the ones that inspired me?” I once asked Rudy Rucker why he created “transrealism” and he said that it was because he was just starting out and hadn’t been published much, so he wanted to get some extra attention. It works every time!

I used to invent a new genre every Wednesday, and none of mine caught on. So not every time. Can squeecore claim to any countercultural credentials? 

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Anathem coverMy review of Anathem has been published in this month’s IROSF:

One repeated theme, for instance, is how much can be figured out from very limited knowledge by the systematic application of logic and reason: how accurate a picture is possible from a limited number of facts. But at this point, I run into a problem not dissimilar to that facing reviewers of Ian McDonald’s Brasyl last year, which is to say that the specific nature of the story being told is a withheld revelation that it would be unfair to spoil. Suffice it to say that it’s a familiar kind of sf narrative, and that although from one perspective it’s a version of that narrative that takes an extraordinarily long time to get to the point, from another it’s the most detailed working-out of the theory underlying that narrative for many years. This is, of course, what many people said of The Baroque Cycle. I am not one of them: in fact, my reaction to Quicksilver is handily summed up by Raz in this book, who is at one point sentenced to the standard punishment of his Order, to copy out a number of chapters from a tome whose contents are said to have “been crafted and refined over many centuries to be nonsensical, maddening, and pointless … The punishment lay in knowing that you were putting all of that effort into letting a kind of intellectual poison infiltrate your brain” (157). But while on one level I’m ready to acknowledge that Anathem simply engages with a cluster of ideas that are more interesting to me, I think it is also a better book.

See also Liz’s review; and elsewhere in that issue of IROSF, Nick Mamatas on “Why Horror is the Odd Man Out in Genre Fiction“, and Ruth Nestvold and Jay Lake asking “Is it the Age of Fantasy?“, among others.