Time to catch up with a few more pieces from my recent back catalogue. And I start with this review of Bete by Adam Roberts, which was published in Vector 279, Spring 2015. Continue reading
Adam Roberts, Aldous Huxley, Carolyn See, China Mieville, Darko Suvin, David Karp, Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Erskine Childers, George Orwell, George R. Stewart, Gordon R. Dickson, H.G. Wells, Hugo Gernsback, Ignatius Donnelly, Joanna Russ, Johannes Kepler, Jules Verne, Karel Capek, Kenneth Mackay, Margaret Atwood, Mark Bould, Mary E. Bradley Lane, Mary Shelley, Michael Crichton, Philip K. Dick, Pierre Benoit, Robert Heinlein, Sherryl Vint, Stanislaw Lem, Stephen Baxter, Strugatsky Brothers, Thomas M. Disch, Yevgeny Zamiatin
This review of The Routledge Concise History of Science Fiction by Mark Bould and Sherryl Vint was first published in Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, Volume 23, issue 2, 2012: Continue reading
Many years ago, I had the opportunity to interview Geoffrey Household. I travelled up to his home in Oxfordshire, and had a very pleasant afternoon. He and his wife were charming hosts, there was plenty of tea and cake and biscuits, all went well until I started the interview. No matter what I asked, he answered only ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. He wouldn’t expand on any point. No matter how I tried to rephrase questions so that he would have to say something else, I still got only ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. To cap it all, the local station was just a halt, with no shelter at all; it was winter and I had over an hour to wait for the next train. That was not a happy experience. I managed to get an article out of it, but that is certainly not one of the review I’m likely to reprint here any time soon.
Then at the other end of the spectrum you get Adam Roberts. I was asked to review Jack Glass by Interzone, and at the same time do an interview with Adam. My usual practice, doing an interview by email, is to send off half a dozen broad introductory questions. Then, when I get those answers, I go back with further, more detailed questions to open it all up. With Adam, the answers I got to my initial questions practically filled the word length I’d been given for both the interview and the review together. There was no point going back with supplementary questions, I simply wouldn’t have space for them. And I wasn’t sure I’d have room to review the book.
In the end, I combined the review and the interview, an experiment that I don’t think was a great success but it was interesting to try it. Then I edited the whole thing, edited it again, cut and cut and cut. I tried to make most of the cuts in my own words, though inevitably some of what Adam said had to go. In the end, I was still a couple of hundred words over my word limit, but Interzone, bless ’em, managed to fit it in. The whole appeared under the suitably punning title of ‘Adambrating’ in Interzone 243, November-December 2012. What I’ve included here is the original interview, before the necessary cuts and without the review interpolated. Continue reading
Adam Roberts, Algis Budrys, Brian Aldiss, Donald Sassoon, Gary Westfahl, John W. Campbell, L. Ron Hubbard, Lester Del Rey, Mark Bould, Nicholas Ruddick, Robert Heinlein, Samuel R. Delany, Sherryl Vint
I seem to have been immersed in various histories of science fiction lately. Or rather, since I still have my mind on the project I started but sort-of abandoned many years ago but can never quite bring myself to forget, I’ve found myself hyper-aware of historical perspectives on sf.
For a start, I have been working my way through Donald Sassoon’s monumental work, The Culture of the Europeans, a book that is so heavy it is almost impossible to carry, but that is unfailingly fascinating to read. And as I read through it, I keep being startled by ideas or bits of information that would belong in my own history of British science fiction. So I start to jot down notes. Unfortunately, my notes for the project are not actually in good order, there are three or four notebooks, scraps of paper, odd cuttings, and god knows how many pages of One Note, and I need to wrestle it all into some sort of shape. Continue reading
Shortly after reading Adam Roberts’s excellent post on awards, Maureen pointed out a passage in the current TLS. It is a review, by Keith Jeffery, of My Dear Hugh: Letters from Richard Cobb to Hugh Trevor-Roper and others edited by Tim Heald. Cobb was the chair of the Booker Prize in 1984, and, as Jeffery quotes him:
There he claimed to have done “a little NEGATIVE good” by keeping Martin Amis and Angela Carter off the shortlist, “and manoeuvred so that Ballard did not get the prize”.
My dilemma is that I am a great supporter of awards (given my history, you wouldn’t really expect much else), but I can’t help seeing problems with them. Continue reading
Back at the beginning of the month I read a book called Speaking with the Dead for review in The Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, even though the book has practically nothing to do with science fiction or fantasy. It is devoted to a rather esoteric point of New Historicism (the whole book is built around one sentence in a work by Stephen Greenblatt) and I don’t want to say much more about it here since the review will be appearing in JFA. But I found myself considering one intriguing question in relation to the study of sf prompted by this book: why does so little sf criticism employ the tools of New Historicism? Continue reading