Tuesday, January 28, 2014

sf/f/h books 2014

I always pay attention to new science fiction and fantasy (and to a lesser extent, horror) releases each year. The "speculative fiction" genre umbrella is the literary place I call home. This year, I'm going to attempt to not only keep up with the news but actually READ as many new titles as I can. I've had a good start in January, keeping up with most of the short fiction periodicals, but I haven't started any 2014 novels yet. I'm currently in the middle of Gunn's Transcendental (from last year) and Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (from longer ago). Once I finish those two, I'm planning on dedicating most of my non-Libripox non-Simak reading to 2014 titles. Of course, I'll be happy if Ben agrees to a few 2014 sf titles for future Libripox picks.

Here's a list of what I'd like to read:

Short Fiction

I'd like to keep up with (in the order that I prefer them): The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Subterranean Magazine, Clarkesworld, Asimov's, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Lightspeed, and Analog. I'm not too impressed by the fiction in Strange Horizons and I haven't yet tried Apex. But all those I've just listed are the major mags. I'll have a post soon about a few of my favorite stories so far.

There are also several upcoming anthologies that look promising:

Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson's Worlds edited by Greg Bear and Gardner Dozois
Strahan's next "Fearsome" antho

(I'm also looking forward to the new KJ Parker collection, the next NESFA Anderson reprints, and whatever Centipede Lafferty titles we get, but none of those qualify as new 2014 releases.)


Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (and the two that follow it)
Lock In by John Scalzi (I dislike Scalzi, but everyone reads him so I guess I have to)
Beautiful Blood by Lucius Shepard (maybe this is releasing this year?)
War Dogs by Greg Bear (also not much info about this one)

(I'm most excited about Subterranean Press's limited edition of Drawing of the Dark, one of Tim Powers' best novels, but that also doesn't count as a new release)

And a few other books that I'm keeping an eye on. And probably a whole lot that I haven't even heard of yet. I don't know if I'll actually get around to reading many of these, but I'm going to try! I'm hoping to start Hang Wire soon and then Annihilation. Not sure what I'll read after that.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

SF Academy

As he guessed, I am happy to know that Jeff will be taking a Science Fiction class.

Here's the reading list for his class:

H.G. Wells, War of the Worlds
Yevgeny Zamyatin, We
Isaac Asimov, I Robot
Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed
Greg Bear, Blood Music
Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars
William Gibson, Neuromancer
Vernor Vinge, Rainbow's End
Paulo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl
China Mieville, The City and The City
Philip K. Dick, Dr. Bloodmoney
Charles Yu, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
Ben Bova, Mars

Of that list, I've fully read two titles. So much for my sf cred. It just went down the automated waste receptacle. Oh well. That won't stop me from commenting on the above titles.

The two I've read are War of the Worlds and Red Mars. You've probably heard Welles' radio adaption of War. If not, stop reading this now and give it a listen. I don't remember much of the book itself besides thinking as a child that Welles was telling an incredible story in the most boring way possible. I don't know if that is fair or not. I should re-read it as an adult.

I read Red Mars when it first came out in paperback, either late 1993 or mid-1994, I guess. 20 years ago! It was the first really "hard" science fiction book that I ever read ("hard sf" being sf that stresses detailed scientific realism). The science in it is serious and it convinced me that terraforming Mars would be completely crazy and also completely possible. I liked it enough to read Green Mars the following year. I never did read Blue Mars.

We has always interested me. I couldn't find a copy back in the dark ages when I had to rely on finding copies of books in physical stores.

I've read a handful of Asimov's robot stories but I haven't read any of his collections. I'm pretty sure that I, Robot is just a collection of some of the Astounding stories, right?

Growing up, I knew Le Guin as the Earthsea author. At the time, I didn't realize that she was a critical darling and mostly known for The Dispossessed and Left Hand of Darkness. I've never really liked any of the short fiction I've read by her and never tried any of the novels.

I'm looking forward to hearing what you think of Bear's Blood Music. I recently read Bear's original novelette that the novel was expanded from. I thought that it worked incredibly well at that length. It's definitely science fiction but its impact is the impact of horror. I can't imagine how Bear expands it out to novel length without sacrificing its succinct gut punch.

Gibson's Neuromancer is the one on the list that I'm most ashamed to have never read. I grew up in the midst of the cyberpunk "movement" but I was only dimly aware that it was going on. My experience of the genre was largely one of discovering older writers like Heinlein and Sturgeon and Silverberg while my contemporary reading often skewed more toward the (epic) fantastic.

Vinge is a writer I only know by reputation. I'm pretty sure that his work was relatively early in jumping on the singularity bandwagon.

I like Bacigalupi. I've only read a couple of his stories as they were published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (or maybe Asimov's) throughout the Aughts (I think they're all collected in Pump Six now). His stories are dark and depressing and truly relevant. He's one of the few writers I'm aware of who has thought through some of our insane contemporary agri-biz practices and tried to show how much worse things could get if we continue down the same road. Paul di Fillippo just wrote a funny/loving parody of Bacigalupi in the most recent F&SF.... http://www.sfsite.com/fsf/2014/pdf1401.htm

I've heard nothing but good things about China Mieville. And I haven't read any of his books.

Dr. Bloodmoney is a strange Dick choice. I haven't read it, though, so I don't know. Maybe it fits in well with the rest of the choices. I remember seeing it mentioned somewhere else recently, too. Maybe it's lesser Dick that is finally getting its moment. I'll definitely check it out, maybe this year.

I avoided the Yu when it came out because it looked too cute.

I've read some of Bova's Analog columns in a collection a while back but I haven't read any of his fiction. I think that Mars is his most recent, right?

Overall, it looks like a decent list of books. I'd want to take this class!

That said, I do wonder what the stated goals of the class are. The above titles are a decent representative sample of novels treating various major issues (alien invasion, artificial intelligence, ecology, microbiology gone awry, massive terraforming, etc). This isn't a survey course because most of these titles are from the last 30 years. I don't know if the above titles will be supplemented with any short fiction. I sure hope so. Science fiction is at its best in short form. Science fiction, more than almost any other genre or area of literature, has kept alive the novella and the novellette as vibrant and necessary forms of lit.

I might try coming up with my own alternative "master's level" sf course. It would be highly idiosyncratic and not at all better than the above list.

I do hope, Jeff, that you'll get me a copy of the syllabus. Besides short fiction, I'm curious to see if there will be any assigned non-fiction readings. And I'm curious about what sort of papers will be required.

Somewhat related, I've been seriously considering buying a "supporting membership" to next year's WorldCon. It's a silly thing, but I've wanted to vote for the Hugos since I was 10 or so. I've already started off this year by reading about ten stories from places like The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Tor.com, and Subterranean (and I'll get to Strange Horizons and Asimov's soon and maybe even Analog though it may be a lost cause). I'm going to try to keep up with 2014 fiction and cast my small vote next year. I'm pretty sure that my little vote will mean next to nothing. Still, I plan on enjoying keeping records and making a ballot. Maybe this enthusiasm won't last. Maybe it's all just mad rambling and crazy thinking brought on by the nearness of a new year. I like to think that this will be the year that I wreck the Hugo.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014: The Year of Love Rampant


2014, "year of Love’s Roar, the year of Love Rampant, the Year of the Love-Beast!"


May it be so!