This is the first in a series of biweekly posts that will bring you some of the latest and greatest online commentary on science fiction, fantasy and horror. These posts draw on a wide array of blogs, newspapers and magazines but, though they may aspire to completeness, are bound to miss things. So I begin this series of posts with a personal appeal: If you are writing about genre and have produced something that you are particularly proud of then please drop me a line via the means of communication suggested on my website and let me know about it. Too many people are writing intelligent and passionate things about genre only to be met with a wave of online indifference and while these posts can never completely solve the problem of intellectual isolation, they can help to make blogging, reviewing and writing criticism feel a bit less like talking to yourself and a bit more like joining in a conversation so please... if you are out there writing about genre, get in touch and let me know.
And now, onto the links...
Jeff VanderMeer presents us with an interesting overview of the recently-announced Nebula Award shortlists:
The Nebula short form categories are reflecting more and more acclaim for the next generation of writers. Many of these nominees will publish first novels in the next few years.
Martin Lewis has a statistical breakdown of the state of British SF:
A protagonist in a science fiction novel is more likely to kill someone than have sex.
Through The Lord of the Rings Tolkien appropriates the classical age in order to see it through the lens of guilt culture, the result of which is slave morality.
Sam Kelly writes on the relationship between science fiction and literature:
Science fictions are peculiar things, a sheaf of complex curves plotted by an entire troop of drunken ramblers on a walk through L-dimensional bibliographic phase space.
Graham Sleight's Locus magazine column on Doris Lessing has been reposted online:
When we say, as we often do inside our community, that SF is a literature of ideas, these are the kind of books we should be pointing to.
Stefan Fergus writes about Daniel W. Drezner’s Theories of International Politics and Zombies (2011):
Nuclear deterrence relies on fear of overwhelming, devastating retaliation to prevent or reduce the likelihood of conflict. But zombies don’t know fear.
Jonathan Rosenbaum has an overview of the work of Olaf Stapledon:
He remains a rarity among writers by being a rational mystic with a sense of the concrete, a humanist visionary with a profound — and profoundly English — sense of the everyday.
Nic Clarke looks back at Tricia Sullivan's Maul (2003):
Dialogue and narration alike flit restlessly from topic to topic, as Sullivan throws out ideas as fast as she does the real and invented brand names; characters lose their train of thought and don't regain it, distracted by adverts and data feeds and horniness and interruptions from other characters.
Paul Kincaid looks at Kàroly Pintèr’s The Anatomy of Utopia (2010):
Pintèr recasts cognitive estrangement as narrative estrangement and gives it a somewhat broader remit, and in so doing simply emphasizes the fact that such estrangement is a characteristic of any work of fiction, not just genre works.
Martin Lewis completes his comprehensive review of David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Kramer’s The Ascent of Wonder (1994):
Is literary genre primarily a form of conversation among writers? Examining writers who claim to write hard SF is certainly one approach but how justifiable are these claims? How well examined are the writers own beliefs about their work? Are they simply delusional?
Niall Harrison kicks off a discussion of Gwyneth Jones's Bold as Love (2001):
Time is cruel to science fiction, that the relentless now eats into the future and leaves husks of stories in its wake and, per William Gibson, the lag time is decreasing.
Nicholas Rombes looks at snapshots from Ridley Scott's Alien (1979):
If Star Wars was the first film of the 1980s, then Alien was the last film of the 1970s. Not literally. But spiritually and aesthetically. Star Wars, with its polished nostalgia, its uncluttered futurism, its clean-shaved hero, as opposed to the loose, slovenly, unshaved camaraderie of Alien, with its undercurrent critique of corporate greed.
Rosanne Rabinowitz writes about her reaction to Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan (1890):
Machen conjures up such a dark sense of foreboding in the breeze that blows through a field in Wales on a hot summer afternoon, the odour of decay lurking beneath the scent of wild roses, the turns of a dank street off a busy London thoroughfare. In each reading, I am filled with an uneasy wonder as the puzzle almost comes together. That's what strange fiction is all about.
Jo Walton takes a second look at Kim Stanley Robinson's Icehenge (1984):
More than that, the spirit of the poem is the spirit of Nederland. He reads Cavafy, but he breathes Eliot. This is very hard to do, and even harder to do subtly, but Robinson manages it. It’s a strange dance of despair. Nederland knows that we can’t really know what happened in history, that we constantly revise and reimagine it, even our own history, even when we do remember it.
Geoff Dyer is apparently working on a book about Tarkovsky's Stalker (1980), here is a taste of what it might contain:
Forget about other ideas of time. Stop looking at your watches, give yourself over to Tarkovsky-time, and the helter-skelter mayhem of The Bourne Ultimatum will seem more tedious than L'Avventura.
Dr Senbai looks at the influence of H.P. Lovecraft on Japanese popular culture:
The media mix model of cross-pollinated entertainment guarantees that a successful franchise will bleed into neighboring mediums.
Adam Whitehead also goes cross-media in his assessment of Tad Williams' Shadowmarch (2004):
The epic fantasy novel as remade by Blizzard Entertainment: totally unoriginal, very comfortable and somewhat predictable, but polished to a terrific sheen.
It’s sense-of-wonder entertainment curdling over decades into nonsense-of-wonder, snowballing up with fragments of flimsy vaguely related pseudo evidence and cyberspace junk into a terra-threatening near-Earth object passing ever closer each orbit. It’s a manifestation of the under-religious, over-educated strata of noosphere’s latent Messiah Complex.
Kvothe tells the stories he wants – so we get to see him talk endlessly about his lady love. We get to hear all about those stories from the University – you know the types that your buddy tells over and over even though you’ve heard them all 1000 times before. The events that you feel are important are either lacking or different.