Notes from New Sodom: The Spelunkers of Speculative Fiction
by Hal Duncan at BSC Review
When you watch enough of the daily dogfights down in the SF Café, you can get a bit jaded with it all. It’s science fiction versus Science Fiction versus Sci-Fi versus science fiction versus Fantasy versus fantasy — and all of these labels simply tags on one collar of a single Hydra-headed hound, our rabid Cerberus unbound, trying to rip its own throat(s) open. And all too often it’s the same fight underneath it all; clear away the rhetoric (e.g. “magic” and “science”) and what you find is Romanticism and Rationalism going at it yet again, the ideal of the sublime versus the ideal of the logical.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend, as they say, and it’s no different here in the SF Café. Those dogfights sometimes take an interesting turn when the sword and the scalpel pair up against the spectacles, or the spectacles and cigarette piar up against the sword. To put a grossly superficial gloss on it, we could say that the two warring clans, the Campbells and the Macdonalds of Science Fiction and Fantasy, sometimes find strange bedfellows in the black sheep of each other’s families. The intellectualists find themselves fighting side-by-side with realists who might hold little faith in Reason, who might have little real respect for the mechanistic process of logic, but who despise the grandiose glamours for perverting honest passion. The sensationalists find themselves fighting back-to-back with surrealists who might hold little faith in Passion, who might have little actual interest in the emotional dynamics of the sublime, but who reject wholesale dogmatic meta-narratives that deny disorder rather than investigating it.
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Two Books by Michael Chabon: review
by Helen Brown at the Telegraph
In his first collection of essays, Maps and Legends, Michael Chabon admits he’s the kind of guy who worries about “whether it’s better to be wrong or pretentious when pronouncing the word ‘genre’”. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist suspects that lovers of “serious literature” feel a similar tension within themselves when it comes to approaching the genre fiction that he loves. “Intelligent people”, he thinks, are drawn to the pleasures of ghost stories, detective fiction, sci-fi trilogies, fantasy adventures and comic book superheroes, but feel the need to handle them “with gloves of irony and postmodern tongs”.
Chabon thinks such superior squeamishness arises from a suspicion of being “entertained”.
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Two Literary Superstars Publishing Science Fiction Novels Soon
By Charlie Jane Anders at io9
The trend of literary authors veering into science fiction shows no sign of slowing down, as science fiction remains the best way to talk about our weird era. Ian McEwan and Rick Moody both have SF books in the pipeline. McEwan’s book, Solar, comes out March 18, and has to do with a new technology that could rescue the environment.
According to the Guardian, McEwan’s main character “discovers a way to fight climate change after managing to derive power from artificial photosynthesis, using light to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.” And Beard is a bit of a dickhead, having gotten himself into trouble by saying publicly that the scarcity of women at the top of the sciences is due to inherent differences between men’s and women’s brains, not sexism. That’s going to make him a hard protagonist for me to sympathize with, to be honest.
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