Everything Is Nice

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

Archive for October 31st, 2009


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As long term readers of this blog will know I am a big fan of Margaret Atwood. She is a bit of a lightening rod for genretards (latest example here) because she has the temerity to have an outsider’s perspective on science fiction. At the same time, there are occasions when I can feel an insider’s frustration. Here is Sue Arnold in her brief review of the audio book edition of The Year Of The Flood:

No one does doom and gloom with such savage, satirical humour as Margaret Atwood. Who else could imagine a facility for condemned criminals called “painball” where offenders can choose between being spray-gunned to death or doing time in the painball arena – more of a forest, really. “You got enough food for two weeks plus the painball gun like a regular paint ball gun, but a hit in the eyes would blind you and if you got hit by the paint you’d start to corrode and then you’d be an easy target for the throat-slitters on the other team.”

Who else? Well, I can think many, many purveyors of such crude satire and it is the sort of thing that is often thrown in as background colour in SF stories. It seems a strange thing to single out for praise as well. I’ve recently started reading The Year Of The Flood and the punning neologisms and silly satire are by far the most irritating thing about the novel (as was true of Oryx And Crake). Different strokes for different folks but also different horizons.

Written by Martin

31 October 2009 at 15:36

Posted in criticism, sf

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To mark their thirtieth anniversary, the London Review of Books have made the whole of their latest issue available online. Which is nice. The LRB can be a bit hard work but this issue contains Daniel Soar on Sebastian Faulks’s “high-class bodice-rippers” which is good fun:

But if the women are special because they’re more modern than their surroundings, they also make Faulks’s readers feel special because they’re begging – or, more usually, ‘imploring’ (as in ‘her body, independent of her, implored his attention’) – to be made aware of things we know but they have yet to discover. They are attractively virginal, or effectively so, apparently innocent in a prelapsarian sort of way, but they aren’t the passively naive recipients of male attention that Mary (above) presents herself as being, with her ‘little sense’ of the effect her inverse filmy stuff might have on the ‘clothed man standing opposite’. They will their man to do to them what they want, or what he wants and they know – but don’t exactly know – that they want too. Sometimes, as in Birdsong, Faulks is happy to have his woman be the seemingly uneager quarry of a determined man (though being unlocked obviously changes her mind); but usually the heroine’s basic message is: ‘Ravish me.’ The man in Charlotte Gray, a Hurricane pilot with a roving eye and chicken legs, says, ‘You’re a very determined woman, Charlotte,’ after she makes it impossible for him not to have his way with her thanks to a stray movement of her hand. So if these women are the fantasies of a sensitive modern male, they are also autonomous enough, as fictional creations, to be fantasising into existence the very type of sensitive male who has created them. This is quite a metafictional trick.

Written by Martin

31 October 2009 at 10:16

Posted in books, criticism

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