[GUEST POST] James Bloomer On The Bleeding (and Tedious) Edge of Science Fiction


James Bloomer has a PhD in particle physics(he studied Tau Leptons at CERN) and has probably forgotten more physics than most people ever learn. He won the 2010 James White Award and the winning story was published in Interzone. He runs the blog Big Dumb Object and you can find him on Twitter @bigdumbobject.

Living Away From The Bleeding Edge

I used to live on the cutting edge of Science Fiction, perhaps even the bleeding edge. I would review Science Fiction TV episodes the instant they finished. I was lucky enough to receive ARCs/Proofs of books and review them before they were released. I would find news and rumours that the growing masses of blog readers hadn’t heard. I would read every SF blog I could get my hands on, every day, hundreds of posts. I would even post to my own blog several times a day! (I know, shock horror.)

But not any more.


I have excuses. There are always excuses. But it’s not really that I’m spending more time writing (I’m not) or that my life is busier (it is). It’s due to a stark reality that I’ve come to face: I’ve started to find the cutting edge of Science Fiction tedious. That’s not to say I don’t want to read the latest cool books, I do (for example I can’t wait for the new Christopher Priest novel), what it means is that I realise that I can’t read everything. It means that I’m going to read the backlog of books on my To Read pile rather than buy some new ones. In my own time. It means that I’m going to lag behind the wave of PR and marketing and relentless Twitter hawking.

It means that I don’t care about reading every rumour about next years big Science Fiction film. Or even care about reading every review of the current Science Fiction films. It means that I’ll skip the hype and watch films in my own time and then talk about it with my friends, or may be on my blog. Or maybe I’ll just sum it up in a few sentence on Google+. The important thing is that I enjoy consuming it. Not speculating about it.

The problem appears to me to be that Science Fiction as a genre moves slowly: books take a year to write, films take two years to write, video games take even longer to create. The fastest we get is twenty two episode of American SF TV a year. All of which are glacial in comparison to the speed of the internet and the now, Now, NOW! of the now. What will we occupy ourselves with in between the production of our Science Fiction? Can I suggest reading old SF books perhaps? Rather than rumours of what doesn’t exist yet.

So what measures am I taking to rectify the situation to re-stoke my love of the genre? Well, this summer (if it ever arrives in the UK) I’m going to read Against The Day by Thomas Pynchon, which has been sitting on myself for a couple of years but has always looked too humongously daunting. Also I am watching Fringe, finally, after giving up on it originally two episodes in. I’m a couple of episodes away from the end of season one and really enjoying it. Old stuff. But good stuff. It won’t make Science Fiction headlines, but I’m going to enjoy it.

5 thoughts on “[GUEST POST] James Bloomer On The Bleeding (and Tedious) Edge of Science Fiction”

  1. I find as I get older (I’m 43) I move farther and farther away from the “cutting edge” (far enough away that I am now putting the term in quotation marks) and go deeper into the older works of S.F. I’ve also never been terribly interested in seeing/reading a work the INSTANT it becomes available. It’s refreshing to hear from a luminary in the science and science fiction field and to have his thoughts echo mine.

     

    Thanks for the post!

    –Sean O’Brien

  2. Nice post. While I have my moments of bleeding edge-ness–I couldn’t not get China Mieville’s Embassytown for example–I find that I am drifting back more often to earlier times. I just finished Planet Stories’ collection of Silver John stories by Manly Wade Wellman, Who Fears the Devil?, thrusting me back to the 50s and 60s, and it’s a journey I heartily recommend. I’ve also been perusing the collection of Great Science Fiction Stories to further reinforce my understanding of the roots of the books I grew up reading.

    Perhaps Sean has nailed it, and it is a function of age (I’m about to turn 46)?

  3. Every time I see the name “Pynchon”, all I can think about is the SNL skit where Amy Poehler is playing Dakota Fanning as a super-genius interviewing Daniel Radclife. She asks him, “Have you read the new Pynchon? It’s really good”.

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