Everything Is Nice

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

Archive for May 10th, 2012

‘Enchantress Of Venus’ by Leigh Brackett

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Brackett identifies herself as a space opera writer, giving the lie to the editors’ repeated assertion that no self-respecting person would do such a thing, but it doesn’t actually seem a very good way of describing this story. Indeed the editors acknowledge that it is basically a Martian version of Tarzan despite going on to describe ‘Enchantress Of Venus’ as an archetype for space opera. Much more compelling is Michael Moorcock who the introduction quotes as noting “her first love was science fantasy… a kind of bastard progeny”. In this she stands in opposition to the purer SF tradition represented by her husband, one Edmond Hamilton. It is a connection that the editors make in an extremely unsatisfactory manner:

By the mid-1970s, at least one European literary critic maintain (in “Le Space Opera et L’Heroic Fantasy”) that space opera has two poles, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Edmond Hamilton. In the latter, “the combat spreads over at least a galaxy, mankind confronts a hostile, alien race and the destiny of the universe is in the balance”. The Burroughs type is more pictorial, “the anachronistic, baroque world of the first adventures of Flash Gordon.”

At least one? Who? Googling reveals that it was Jacques Van Herp and ‘Le Space Opera et L’Heroic Fantasy’ was a chapter in Panorama de la science fiction (1973). I found that information in Peter Fitting’s Science Fiction Studies review of the book and that is obviously where the editors found the information too since they have lifted the above quote verbatim from his review. This is lazy scholarship, at best.

Regardless of all that, the story itself contains nothing of interest.

Quality: **
Operaticality: *

As an aside, of Brackett’s script for The Empire Strikes Back the editors say: “The connection between Brackett, the queen of space opera, and Star Wars, the biggest SF film of its day, was very potent in establishing a link between space opera and commercial success.” No matter how many of these nonsensical sentences from Cramer and Hartwell I come across, they still have the power to surprise and perplex.

Written by Martin

10 May 2012 at 18:51

Everyone Is Entitled To My Opinion

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The sixty submissions were read, the shortlist was agreed, the six shortlisted novels were re-read, the winner was agreed and, finally, The Testament Of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rodgers was announced as the winner of the 2012 Arthur C Clarke Award last week. I missed the ceremony last year because I was on holiday so I made sure I did it properly this year. This involved lining my stomach over the road from the Apollo at the Japan Centre’s newish restaurant Toku in order to take advantage of the free bar (this being central London, a bottle of Peroni was £5.05 at the afterparty). Inside the venue I was impressed to find awards director Tom Hunter wearing a tie (for the first time?) and that I was not the only one dressed to impressed (photos forthcoming in SFX, I believe). It isn’t the easiest to mingle but it was nice to chat to old friends. I also finally met Claire Brialey (despite working not just in fandom but the same building our paths had never crossed), got Simon Ings to confirm that Dead Water isn’t SF (although he pointed out that the author is dead) and fanboyed Jeff Noon about Vurt changing my life (unlike Paul Graham Raven I waited until he’d left the urinal) and got talking to a random Canadian who turned out to be Jim Munroe, author of the excellent Everyone In Silico (he was in town promoting Ghosts With Shit Jobs at Sci-FiLondon). All in all, a good evening out and I only managed to spill a small amount of red wine on myself.

It was an immense privilege to be a Clarke judge. After two years, it is also a pleasure to hand the responsibility on to the next set of judges. It also means I am free to indulge in prolifigate book buying:

  • My Dirty Little Book Of Stolen Time by Liz Jensen – I reviewed The Rapture for Strange Horizons so when I saw this for a quid in Whitstable I snapped it up.
  • The Illywhacker by Peter Carey – From the same shop. Carey must be one of the top five living authors and this is the only one of his novels I didn’t own.
  • The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett – Mysteriously not submitted for the Clarke Award, Bennett is getting a reputation for doing interesting interstitial things within commercial fiction.
  • The Oxford History Of Britain, edited Kenneth O Morgan – Partly inspired by Mark Newton’s posts about Roman history and partly inspired by my huge ignorance of anything that happened before World War II.
  • Dark Matter by Juli Zeh – Her latest novel, The Method, was brought to my attention by Niall Harrison but it isn’t out in paperback yet so I thought I’d try this.
  • Dark Matter by Michelle Paver – A coincidental title and a random punt in that Whitstable bookshop.
  • Edgelands by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts – I’m not sure how this first came to my attention but liminal zones float my boat.
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Called in for the Clarke but not submitted, this debut SF novel received pretty good reviews.
  • Beechcombings by Richard Mabey – Having exhausted Roger Deakin and in need of the nature cure, I turn to Mabey.
  • The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt – Purchased and already read. Well done me! FT puff says “Cormac McCarthy with a sense of humour” which is good shorthand but overselling an extremely readable but relatively lightweight novel.
  • Swamplandia! by Karen Russell – Pretty much ubiquitous last year. It was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize which demonstrated that the Clarke isn’t the only award to attract controversy.
  • Wildwood by Colin Meloy – A rare hardback purchase (it costs less than most paperbacks), this is the first novel from the bloke behind The Decemberists. I love his lyrics, will I love his prose?

Trying to muscle in on the photo is My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West. I have spent pretty much the whole of 2012 listening to Watch The Throne by him and Jay-Z and, if you want to know why, you should check out this brilliant profile-cum-tour diary by David Samuels in the Atlantic. Or just buy it.

Written by Martin

10 May 2012 at 10:14