Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

Archive for April 2010

‘Drode’s Equations’ by Richard Grant

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And we are back (although I did skip the James Blish story because I couldn’t quite face it yet).

‘Drode’s Equations’ are presumably included in The Ascent Of Wonder on the grounds of the titular equations and that fact that in the editors’ crude calculus mention of maths equals proof of hardness. In fact, this is a lovely story about achieving satori that is utterly at odds with most of the rest of the anthology.

It is set in a fantasy world or an alternative history (it really doesn’t matter, a big clue to its anti-hardness), and sees a young man transporting the unearthed equations (presumed lost) by train to a university. That is it. Its power is almost wholely descriptive – light, smell, texture – and this is used to conjure up a sense of communion with the sublime. As I said, lovely.

Quality: ****
Hardness: *

The editors describe Grant as a promising young talent and the story certainly supports this. Unfortunately, he seems to have lost the battle with History, although he did have a novel out in 2006.

Written by Martin

8 April 2010 at 09:58

In Your Face, Cormac Murphy-O’Connor

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As a general rule, I don’t take much interest in the primates of the Church of England. However, it is quite cool that the Archbishop of Canterbury has taken time out from overseeing the demise of Anglicism to write a book on Dostoevsky and review Philip Pullman’s latest novel. It doesn’t make me any more likely to actually read The Good Man Jesus And The Scoundrel Christ, mind.

Written by Martin

6 April 2010 at 14:12

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Clear Plate

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My review of A Guide To Fantasy Literature by Philip Martin is up now at SF Site. I’d completely forgotten about this review but it means that for the first time in almost a decade I have nothing pending. What freedom! Unfortunately, the book itself isn’t very good:

I still can’t tell you who the intended audience of The Guide To Fantasy Literature is, it falls between so many stools. Looking over my review, similar words and phrases crop up again and again: “scrappy,” “ragtag and vague,” “compressed and idiosyncratic,” “lackadaisical,” “remarkably casual.” These are not individually damning criticisms but they certainly don’t present any incentive to read this book. Martin’s book has passion but it lacks utility.

Written by Martin

1 April 2010 at 14:59

Posted in books, criticism, sf

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Burn This Manifesto

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It has been a short week but it has also been a hard, slow week. So not much content round here but I’m reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin, I’m off to see Kick-Ass tonight and I will be returning to The Ascent Of Wonder soon.

In the meantime, to celebrate his creation of Twenty Years, Two Surveys Niall Harrison has been posting
individual survey responses, including one from Richard Morgan in which he says:

What do you consider the most significant weakness in science fiction as a genre?

A preparedness to accept very poor levels of quality in fiction (as discussed above) so long as the gosh-wow factor is cranked up sufficiently high. Recently I was asked in an interview if I watched much TV and in response I cited The Wire as the finest TV drama around. This wasn’t what the interviewer was after, so he rephrased the question and asked me if I watched much SF&F TV. But the way he prefaced the remark was, I think, very telling. Of course they’re not in the same class as The Wire, he said, but have you seen the new Battlestar Galactica or Heroes?

As I mentioned over there, this picking up on an interview I conducted with him in 2007 and it has in turn sparked a long and interesting comments thread on Torque Control. I agree with Morgan pretty much wholeheartedly, right down to the frack/fuck issue, and it has always been a sore point for me that most SF TV is so poor.

Niall also points me towards Ritch Calvin’s ‘Mundane SF 101′ essay in Volume 289 of SFRA Review. There are a couple of notable things about this essay. Firstly, it has recently won the Mary Kay Bray Award. Secondly, it describes Niall as “her”. Thirdly, Calvin writes that:

After the Manifesto was published, critics and criticism were swift and ranged from the well considered to the vitriolic. One of the first individuals to produce an extended commentary was Ian McDonald on his LiveJournal blog.

I feel like I deserve some credit since I’ve been hating on mundane SF since 2004. Thankfully it seems to have now died a death but there are always people happy to drink the Kool-Aid.

Written by Martin

1 April 2010 at 11:51

Posted in genre wars, sf, television

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