The year marches on and on, conventions come and go and none of us ever gets any younger but between the looming shadow of death and the wasted potential of birth there is always genre. As ever, If you have any suggestions, feedback or think that you may have written something that deserves a wider audience then please do not hesitate to get in touch with me via the address on my website. Thanks.
And now, onto the links...
Dina Khapaeva wonders what it is that is so special about vampires:
If humans can be thought of as food for superior, and not only more powerful but also aesthetically more attractive—even if imaginary—beings, then this is a sign that the status of humans and humanity has been altered. It puts an end to the idea of human exceptionality
Aishwarya Subramanian looks at Karen Russell's Swamplandia!(2011):
The fantasy elements of the story are intangible and unsettling, but fit perfectly.
Although I can see influences from both modernism and postmodernism in Roberts’ work, I think his books are actually a fairly traditional form of science fiction: idea-driven, short and punchy, not too bloated with world-building, aiming for an original mix of style and substance.
Shana Worthen begins her look at Justina Robson's Natural History (2003):
They are odd, they are Other, but their core of personality is human. Robson is inspired in the ways she demonstrates how different they are.
Nicholas Tam produces an essay on how to read Fantasy maps:
A map tells the reader that the creator of the fictional space has really thought this place out. Storytelling always happens in façades, but evidence of the author’s forethought fills out the setting’s illusion of depth.
Paul Charles Smith writes about Michael Cisco's The Great Lover (2011):
The absurd works in Cisco’s novels to provide a duality between the cosmic and the comic; his novels are very dark but they are also at times very funny
I find human culture to be extremely disturbing and alienating. I’m not in synch with the world as it is. That feeds into how I conceive my stories. My normal is not the consensus normal.
Jo Walton writes about Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet:
These are books about love and death and power, about gender and cultural expectations, about parenting and fertility, about growing up and growing old. The more I read them the better I like them, and I liked them a lot the first time.
John H. Stevens writes about the tendency to exaggerate the value of a favoured genre by denigrating all other genres:
Creating barriers and aggrandizing one strain of literature rarely creates understanding or heightens the appreciation of it. Such formulations can divide readers, pigeonhole works, and limit the pleasures and panoramas that all of literature, and the fantastic more particularly, can offer both writers and readers.
Karen Burnham reviews Karen Lord's Redemption in Indigo (2011):
It is both funnier and deeper than I expected when I picked it up (knowing little about it other than the fact that it won this year's Crawford Award), and it completely won me over.
Adam Roberts looks back at Ian Watson's Miracle Visitors (1978) :
The complete novel demonstrates amazing aesthetic and conceptual coherence, despite being built around an ontology that is deliberately incoherent; repeatedly lurching adjustments of our sense of what is constituted by ‘reality’ à-la-Philip Dick, though Watson is a much better writer of English prose than PKD
Graham Sleight Yesterday's Tomorrows column looks at the career of Fritz Leiber:
Leiber’s imagination was not just urban, it was one that was determined to be contemporary.
Damien G. Walter tries to work out the appeal of Military SF:
No real war can be fought without an enemy. A millennia ago the neighbouring county were the enemy. A century ago the neighbouring nation. But now that neither Germany or Surrey make credible adversaries we are having to look to the next star system for opponents.
Sam Kelly suggests that it is much harder for the privileged to write fantasy than it is for the oppressed:
One of the fundamental aspects of privilege is that it allows you to remain isolated from life, to an extent that others can’t. Write, as They say, what you know.
Cassandra Clare and Holly Black share their favourite GLBT young adult characters at GayYA.org a blog devoted to discussing the representation of GLBT people in YA fiction:
With every year, there are more offerings, but there are also older titles that we come back to again and again.
Matt Hilliard reflects on the entirety of Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking trilogy:
In the end, the transition of Noise from metaphor into magic culminates in some wizard duels where Todd and his antagonist cast magic missile at each other until someone loses. This actually sounds (and sometimes reads) worse than it is, since lurking beneath all this is the idea that Todd is genuinely connected to other people while the story’s various villains merely control them.
This isn’t Lord of the Rings, where you know Frodo will destroy the Ring one way or another. This is a story where a little boy already lies ill and injured from the machinations of others. Anything can happen. And does.
Maureen Kincaid Speller reviews Emily Gee's The Sentinel Mage (2011):
I have a suspicious mind and I also read rather more slowly than this narrative would like me to. So high a finish makes me think about misdirection and I wonder what it is I am being encouraged to overlook.
Karen Burnham chairs a three-part roundtable discussion about the utility of genre awards featuring Elizabeth Hand, Brett Cox, Andy Duncan, Terry Bisson, Gary K. Wolfe, Paul Di Filippo, John Kessel, Cat Rambo, Ellen Klages, Stefan Dziemianowicz, Tim Pratt, John Clute, Rachel Swirsky, Jeffrey Ford, Karen Joy Fowler, Brian Evenson and Paul Witcover (Part One and Part Two):
It is true that awards don’t often change much in your life, but the only way to know this for sure is to win some. So what changes is that you now know this, that awards don’t change your life and knowing this turns out actually to be a big change. It’s sort of a zen koan.
Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond return with another issue of their The Writer and The Critic podcast. This month they look at The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao <2007) by Junot Díaz, Liar (2009) by Justine Larbalestier and Above/Below (2011) by Stephanie Campisi and Ben Peek:
Feed, as entertaining as it is, the political aspects are a lot less mature than what you get in Above/Below. Feed is a five hundred page book and Above/Below is... what? fifty thousand words split between two.