[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
Late last year, after John Ottinger wrote a passionate review of John C. Wright’s Count to a Trillion, he was asked by Tor Books publicist Cassandra Ammerman on twitter about why, in his opinion, Space Opera, hadn’t gone more mainstream, like steampunk? (her words.) The question made sense: since Steampunk was The Next Big Thing a few years ago and apparently still hasn’t begun to lose its (steam) power, should science fiction writers and readers worry about its predominance as a subgenre in detriment of Space Opera, even with many new novels fresh in the market?
So, we asked this week’s panelists…
Here’s what they said…
How could anybody think space opera was losing its appeal when we have such stellar practitioners as Iain Banks, Walter Jon Williams, and Lois McMaster Bujold? What I like is that space opera is a big pie-in-the-face to the mundane science fiction movement. Space opera just outright says, so what, it’s unrealistic, it violates the laws of physics, but it’s heart-racingly imaginative (Ooooh, that Culture), so get used to it. And every time I sit down to a really great space opera (a good place to start is that gorgeungous anthology, edited by Kathryn Cramer and David Hartwell, THE SPACE OPERA RENAISSANCE), I feel that I’m going back to my fannish roots — this is how SF started. Think big. Think romantic!
But steampunk is an alluring contender: Tobias Buckell does both genres with all kinds of sparkle. But think of Cheri Priest and even Cory Doctorow. The one appeal steampunk has is the visual: there are whole catalogs featuring steampunk clothing (The Pyramid Collection). Last time I went to my optometrist, I was just so dismayed that he didn’t have any goggles with funny gears on the side. Soon everybody will be wanting steampunk sunglasses. And then there are movies like HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE and HUGO. This isn’t all that new, really; a very stylish 90’s TV show, THE ADVENTURES OF BRISCO COUNTY, JR. is an early contender. Oh, heck, let’s even go back to WILD, WILD WEST. How many fans watched that and said to themselves, “Well, what is this all about? Western? SF?”
As for me, why do I have to choose? I’ll take both, thank you very much, by the bushel! Read the rest of this entry
[This week's question was submitted by an SF Signal reader. Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
Recently Neal Stephenson wrote an article for the World Policy Journal titled “Innovation Starvation“. In the article he discussed the serious lack of innovation in science today. Later in the article, he discusses a presentation that he made at the Future Tense conference where he said that good science fiction supplied “a plausible, fully thought-out picture of an alternate reality in which some sort of compelling innovation has taken place.” One scientist that he talked to complained that SF writers are slacking off, saying that SF writers need “to start supplying big visions that make sense.” With Planetary Resources announcing their plan to mine the asteroids, it seems that reality may be encroaching on science fiction’s “big idea” territory.
We asked this week’s panelists:
Here’s what they said…
Possibly neither. The arc of big, epochal, scientific ideas may have run its course in science fiction – having flowed on into nonfiction and reality. In addition to asteroid mining, think about Google as an example. Bruce Sterling remarked at a convention that despite a unitary artificial superintelligence being a big idea in SF, there hasn’t been one invented, but there’s such an amazing, unanticipated thing as the distributed intelligence of Google searching and all.
I don’t think SF writers are slacking – although many on the advice of editors and agents have been writing fantasy because it sells better. Some are creating alloys of SF and fantasy. In the century we’re in now, for a big idea to catch fire with the upcoming scientists and engineers it may have to be not just an an overweening head trip, but a profound heart trip as well.
Read the rest of this entry
This is a first. A book trailer…with extras.
Alastair Reynolds was born in 1966. His first short fiction sale appeared in 1990, and he began publishing novels ten years later. Chasm City, his second novel, won the British Science Fiction award in 2002. His ninth novel, Terminal World, is due imminently. He is about to embark on an ambitious and broadly optimistic trilogy documenting the expansion of the human species into solar and then galactic space over the next 11,000 years. A former scientist, Reynolds worked for the European Space Agency until 2004, when he turned full-time writer. He is married and lives in Wales, not too far from his place of birth.
It’s the only stimulus that lights up a very particular part of my
brain – and I like having that brain area stimulated! Nothing else does
it, not even media SF.
- Introduction by Stephen Baxter
- “Nunivak Snowflakes”
- “Monkey Suit”
- “The Fixation”
- “Feeling Rejected”
- “The Receivers”
- “Byrd Land Six”
- “The Star Surgeon’s Apprentice”
- “On the Oodnadatta”
- “The Sledge-Maker’s Daughter”
- “Tiger, Burning”
My name is JP and I’m a science fiction fanatic. Sure I’ve tried other genres, fantasy, horror and mainstream come to mind, but science fiction is always my primary interest and the genre that I read almost exclusively when it comes to fiction. The reasons are numerous, and in future installments I’ll go over other reasons why I like science fiction over all other genres, but today I’m going to focus on science fiction’s arch nemesis, at least in the minds of many fans: mainstream fiction.
A look at the New York Times Bestseller List shows an all too common site for fiction, namely it’s populated by thrillers, crime/mystery stories and other assorted dramas. Most of them don’t venture outside the realm of the mundane, focusing on the “real”, albeit fictionally. There are the exceptions, but those are usually in the fantasy/supernatural department. Rarely does a science fiction book hit the list, and rarer still does one stay on for an extended period of time. A glance at the summaries of most of these books does absolutely nothing for me. They are mundane, slightly boring and most definitely not interesting to me. That’s why I love science fiction. It’s not afraid to explore those ideas that mainstream won’t, or can’t.
“Best of the Year” lists start appearing as early as November, so we are perhaps a little late in asking folks around the community:
[Also added was this note: They don't have to have been released in 2009. Feel free to choose any combination of genres (science fiction/fantasy/horror) and media (books/movies/shows) you wish to include.]
Read on to see their sometimes-surprising favorites…
- Interviews and Profiles:
- @Wizards of the Coast: Marty Durham has a two-part video interview with fantasy author R.A. Salvatore. [via QuasarDragon]
- @GeekDad: Alan Dean Foster.
- @Agony Column: Lou Anders, Editor of Fast Forward 2.
- @The Nebula Awards website: Richard Bowes.
- Copper Robot podcast-interviews Robert Charles Wilson (Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America). (See also: Their Second Life video version) [via Boing Boing]
- Niall Harrison has posted the transcript of a BBC interview with Alastair Reynolds and Adam Roberts.
- For those still looking for the now-missing SciFiction archive from the SciFi Channel’s original website, behold the Internets!
- The Art Department shows us the Spectrum 17 Call For Entries poster.
- Dean Wesley Smith on what the world would be like without copyright.
- Mark Chadbourn’s Omnivoracious Guest Post on the Age of Misrule series: The Invisible Hand of the Gods of Writing.
- Nancy Kress likes Shadow Unit.
- At Black Gate, James Enge looks at Henry Kuttner’s Gallagher Stories.
- Seth Godin on The purpose of a book cover. [via Bibliophile Stalker] Meanwhile, Bookninja says All Book Cover Designers Are Liars.
- The Internet Review of Science Fiction welcomes new Editor Robin Shantz of Bloginhood and Not a Planet Anymore fame. Well, not fame so much as court orders. Hiyo!
- Is the Science Fiction Book Club considering eBooks?
- Tanga is selling a Sexy Slave Leia Costume for $WhoCares. [Thanks, Kevin!]