Everything Is Nice

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

Archive for July 23rd, 2009

Charlie Stross – Happy Soul

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I’ve just finished reading Wireless, the latest short story collection from Charles Stross, which I am reviewing for Vector. It won’t be a particularly positive review; my pleasure in some of the individual stories was outweighed by my issues with the collection as a whole. However, one problem I didn’t have was that it was all doom and gloom. Such was Andrew Wheeler’s diagnosis:

Stross is without a doubt one of the most inventive and thoughtful writers in the modern SF idiom, and that makes it doubly unfortunate that his output so consistently takes the tone of battling to ever-so-slightly slow down the inevitable fall of night. Wireless collects some of the very best stories in modern SF, by one of the most important writers in the field — but, collectively, they form a singularity of depression and bleakness from which no optimism can escape.

My review, by necessity, won’t go into too much detail about the individual stories so I thought it might be helpful to go through the table of contents here and provide a different perspective to Wheeler:

1) Missile Gap – Ape shall always lose to ant. Negative
2) Rogue Farm – After the inevitable collapse of society a man can still have a wife, a dog, a plot of land and the nous to run troublesome posthumans off said land. Positive
3) A Colder War – Everyone has their soul eaten. Negative
4) MAXOS – Aliens are all Nigerian. Neutral
5) Down On The Farm – Life’s a riot with spy versus spy versus shoggoth. Positive
6) Unwirer – “Hi, I’m a journalist, I can fix the American government.” Positive
7) Snowball’s Chance – Even an itinerant Scotsman can outsmart the Devil. Positive
8) Trunk And Disorderly – PG Wodehouse is immortal. Positive
9) Palimpsest – Human civilisation either outlasts the galaxy or outlasts the galaxy and colonises known space. Positive

Two thirds positive! I think that counts as a sunny outlook on the future.

Written by Martin

23 July 2009 at 22:18

Posted in sf, short stories

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A Time For Heroes

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When Heroes was first shown in the UK a great deal of fuss was made over it, both by the BBC (who broadcast it in this country) and by British SF fandom. I watched the first couple of episodes, thought it was bollocks and switched off. I did promise to return to once it was released on DVD and I didn’t have to make it a weekly commitment though. I have now done this and, in fact, I devoured them. This is not because Heroes is any good, it is because Heroes is crack.

In a recent discussion about spoilers I suggested that:

You’d have to have a pretty mechanistic way of consuming art if the only thing that held your interest was wanting to know what happened next. Equally if that it is all there is to it then it would be a pretty lousy work of art.

Heroes is just such a work. The whole point of the programme is finding out what happens next. There was some kerfuffle over the fact that the whole of the season was nominated for the Hugo in the Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form category. Every episode ends with “to be continued” because it isn’t really an episode, simply a sliver of the whole, and the cliffhanger at the end is no different from the cliffhanger at the end, apart from the fact it further escalates the arms race of gotcha moments. You can forgive everything – the awful writing, weak acting, Sendhil Ramamurthy’s voiceovers – in exchange for the glee with which they endlessly pull rabbits out of hats. Characters aren’t really characters, rather they are endless malleable pieces of scenery, anyone could die but only because anyone could come back to life, it is utterly free of any need for consistency. It sounds awful but somehow it is not. Actually, it sounds like Lost, a programme I similarly gave up on after a couple episodes and also keeps a drug-like hold on people.

Apparently seasons two and three are shit. So it goes. I’m interested to see what “shit” means in this context though.

Written by Martin

23 July 2009 at 21:21

Posted in sf, television

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