In this much-too-long-delayed episode of SF Crossing the Gulf, we revisit stories from Cordwainer Smith’s The Rediscovery of Man, with especial focus on “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard”. More importantly, we discuss these stories with senior SF critic Gary K. Wolfe, who brings quite a bit more biographical information about Smith to our attention, to our mutual enlightenment.

Many apologies to those (Fred!) who have been waiting for this episode–I (Karen Burnham) can only plead extreme mental discombobulation. And we hope it is worth the wait!

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SF Crossing the Gulf (Episode 18): Season 2 Re-Cap

In this episode of SF Crossing the Gulf, we revisit Season 2. There’s general consensus that our podcasts on Jagannath and Distances are among our favorites ever, and that there’s still a lot of value found in some of the older science fiction such as Olaf Stapledon and Cordwainer Smith.

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In this episode of SF Crossing the Gulf, we tackle two more short stories from The Rediscovery of Man, the complete collection of the short fiction of Cordwainer Smith from NESFA Press.

We wound up finding so much to say about Smith’s stories that we decided to break this episode into two parts. In this installment we discuss “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard” (1961) and “On the Gem Planet” (1963).

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In this episode of SF Crossing the Gulf, we tackle two short stories from The Rediscovery of Man, the complete collection of the short fiction of Cordwainer Smith from NESFA Press.

We wound up finding so much to say about Smith’s stories that we decided to break this episode into two parts. In this installment we discuss “Scanners Live in Vain” (1950) and “The Lady Who Sailed the Soul” (1960). In the next installment we’ll finish the conversation with “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard” (1961) and “On the Gem Planet” (1965).

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In this episode of SF Crossing the Gulf, we tackle Flatland (1884) by Edwin A. Abbott and “The Shadow Postulates” from Yoon Ha Lee’s debut collection, Conservation of Shadows.

In one fell swoop we cover some of the most recent fiction yet (2008) and some of the oldest (1884). We hope you will agree that they are worth talking about together. Math fiction of many dimensions.

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SF Crossing the Gulf (Episode 14): NAPIER’S BONES by Derryl Murphy

In this episode of SF Crossing the Gulf, we tackle Napier’s Bones by Derryl Murphy.

Murphy introduces some fascinating ideas, but undercuts them with info-dumping and a muddled ending. Dom has the ability to see and control numbers. After running from a desert confrontation between two other numerates, he ends up in a small Utah town with an adjunct spirit called Billy riding along in his head. Along with a raw numerate named Jenna, Dom and Billy head north while avoiding their foes. The magic system itself is fascinating, if dubious at times, but the lengthy explanations often slow the story down. The final 50 pages then turn into a race to cram too much action into a sloppy and chaotic ending. Murphy’s nifty ideas might be enough to sustain the plot for some readers, but few will come away wholly satisfied. –Publisher’s Weekly

Math-Fi and Magic and History and Myth, all wrapped up in a fun (possibly urban fantasy-style) adventure!
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In this episode of SF Crossing the Gulf, we tackle Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe, the first volume of the Book of the New Sun quartet, published in 1980.

This is the first-person narrative of Severian, a lowly apprentice torturer blessed and cursed with a photographic memory, whose travels lead him through the marvels of far-future Urth, and who–as revealed near the beginning–eventually becomes his land’s sole ruler or Autarch. On the surface it’s a colorful story with all the classic ingredients: growing up, adventure, sex, betrayal, murder, exile, battle, monsters, and mysteries to be solved. … For lovers of literary allusions, they are plenty here: a Dickensian cemetery scene, a torture-engine from Kafka, a wonderful library out of Borges, and familiar fables changed by eons of retelling… The Book of the New Sun is almost heartbreakingly good, full of riches and subtleties that improve with each rereading. It is Gene Wolfe’s masterpiece. –David Langford

Despite reading this book in isolation from its series — which means that we are looking at all the set-up and none of the payoff — we find a lot to discuss and a lot to love in this classic novel.
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In this episode of SF Crossing the Gulf, we tackle Star Maker, the 1939 classic by Olaf Stapledon.

One moment a man sits on a suburban hill, gazing curiously at the stars. The next, he is whirling through the firmament, and perhaps the most remarkable of all science fiction journeys has begun. Even Stapledon’s other great work, LAST AND FIRST MEN, pales in ambition next to STAR MAKER, which presents nothing less than an entire imagined history of life in the universe, encompassing billions of years.

This relatively short novel is jam-packed with all the sense of wonder you could ask for. We talk about the seeds of any number of sf stories found within its pages, its perspective on aliens, the Omega Point, and much more. If you read Star Maker and enjoy it, we strongly recommend that you also read Last and First Men, Stapledon’s earlier work of science fiction.
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SF Crossing the Gulf (Episode 09): Children of God

Welcome back for Season 2, Part 1 of SF Crossing the Gulf!

Here’s our notional reading list for the coming season:
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SF Crossing the Gulf (Episode 08): Season 1 Wrap Up

In this episode, we (fondly, sadly) wrap up the first season of SF Crossing the Gulf. We reflect on what we’ve read so far, with discussions of POV, hard sf, immigrant tales, and international vs. slipstream fiction. While we’ve enjoyed this immensely, we both have deadlines to meet and other projects that need some TLC.

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In this episode we discuss Ghosts, a family drama set in the near future by Jamaican author Curdella Forbes. We talk about unreliable narrators, culture, symbolism, and snails.
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This week the two Karens squee mightily about 1998’s The Sparrow–and then get down to the nitty gritty of characterization, structure, theology, colonialism and intricate detail. The Sparrow is a novel rich in detail, as evidenced by this being our longest podcast yet. But like the novel, it is packed with speculation and revelation.
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This is THE Greg Egan podcast. In this episode we cover Egan’s stories “The Planck Dive,” “Glory,” “Singleton,” “Oracle,” and “Oceanic.” We talk about Egan’s approach to science and art, quantum mechanics, history, biography, religion, sexuality, and much else, putting these works into the context of all his other fiction and what little is known about his life experiences. In the process, Karen Burnham realizes that she will need to considerably re-write the introduction to the book on Egan’s work that she is currently finalizing.

Next episode we’ll be talking about the 1998 Clarke Award-winning novel The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell.