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Archive for March 17th, 2011

Lewis’s Revelation

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Today I saw someone on the internet say that 90% of everything is crud. Now, I have complained about Sturgeon’s Revelation before. It is, in a word, balls. I know, I know, someone is wrong on the internet, so what? But the thoughtlessness of the statement still offends me and its persistence depresses me.

Then I remembered that I love evidence. I could, in fact, test Sturgeon’s Revelation against the 54 novels submitted for the 2011 Arthur C Clarke Award, a selection of novels that we’ve agreed form a pretty good proxy for British science fiction as a whole. So, was 90% of everything crud?

Taking a liberal approach to the word “crud”, you could perhaps claim that 72% of science fiction published in Britain in 2010 was crud. So now we can obviously extrapolate from this that 72% of everything is crud. I call this Lewis’s Revelation. But wait! What if I asked one of my fellow judges to provide their own percentages? Or I repeated this exercise again for the 2012 Arthur C Clarke Award? Or I took it upon myself to read every science fiction novel published in the US in 2010? Or every thriller? Wouldn’t the percentages change? Why, it is almost as if Lewis’s Revelation is meaningless. Funny that.

Written by Martin

17 March 2011 at 20:44

‘Preface’ by Bruce Sterling

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Predictably Bruce Sterling opens his preface to Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology by gesturing towards the obnoxious nature of labels but he quickly acknowledges: “it’s possible to make broad statements about cyberpunk and to establish its identifying traits.” He then provides a historical, cultural and literary contextualisation for cyberpunk. For a subgenre often seen as revolutionary today, it is interesting for the contemporary reader to see it described in evolutionary terms. Sterling describes the cyberpunks as being “steeped in the lore and tradition of the SF field”. For example, here is his list of andecedent authors who were major influences: Ellison, Delaney, Spinrad, Moorcock, Aldiss, Ballard, Wells, Niven, Anderson, Heinlein, Farmer, Varley, Dick, Bester and Pynchon. That is as broad a church as you could wish for. It certainly doesn’t adhere to one specific stylistic or political persuasion.

From talking about the evolution of the movement – sorry, Movement – Sterling moves on to dicussing cyberpunk as a product of the decade. Here he suggests that, in fact, it is a revolutionary subgenre because the Eighties are a revolutionary period, specifically name-checking Alvin Toffler’s The Third Wave which heralds the dawn of the information age. This is all just a bit too Eighties for me. It is interesting stuff but with a bit of distant it doesn’t necessarily seem like such a paradigm shift. It’s not that it is dated – although Sterling’s futuristic technology (“the Sony Walkman, the portable telephone, the soft contact lens”) raises a smile – rather than that it isn’t Now. Sterling’s preface is an insiders snapshot, extremely valuable for that reason but a bit too close to the action.

That passion whets the appetite for the anthology though. Let’s get onto the book itself; helpfully, Sterling clearly sets out his aims:

I hope to present a full overview of the cyberpunk movement, including its early rumblings and the current state of the art. Mirrorshades should give readers new to Movement writing a broad introduction to cyberpunk’s tenets, themes, and topics. To my mind, these are showcase stories: strong, characteristic examples of each writer’s work to date.

So that is what I will be measuring it on.

Written by Martin

17 March 2011 at 20:06

Posted in sf, short stories

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