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Showing posts from January, 2011

Strange Horizons Reviews, January 24-28

As well as my own review of The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman, these week Strange Horizons features Matthew Jones's review of the film Monsters, which makes me all the more eager to see it.  There's also an interesting discussion in the comments.  Today also marks the Strange Horizons debut of Aishwarya Subramanian, who reviews Karl Alexander's sequel to his 1979 novel Time After Time, Jaclyn the Ripper.  She finds the novel utterly baffling, but the review is a lot of fun to read.

Women Writing SF: Gwyneth Jones

Before we get started, some other reading projects inspired by Niall's focus week.  At Torque Control, new blogger Shana Worthen is planning to read and host discussions of the eleven books selected in Niall's poll of the best SF by women from the last decade.  The schedule is here.  Martin Lewis, Martin Wisse and Ian Sales have also embarked on similarprojects to read SF by women during 2011.  The first installment of Ian's series, on Rosemary Kierstein's The Steerswoman, is here.  Finally, as Chance reminds us in the comments to Martin's post, she's been blogging about women writers since before it was the popular thing at a blog with the self-explanatory name of 365 Days of Women Writers.  Happy reading to everyone, and kudos to Niall for inspiring so many people.

On to Gwyneth Jones, who, like Joanna Russ, is a name that has come up a lot in discussions of SF by women and feminist SF in the last couple of years.  My first foray into her fiction came last ye…

Review: The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman

My review of Felix Gilman's The Half-Made World appears today at Strange Horizons.  This has been one of the most well-reviewed genre novels of the last few months, and though I found much to admire and enjoy in it I fall short of the ecstatic praise that has been heaped upon it.  I was more enthusiastic about Gilman's debut novel Thunderer, which I reviewed here several years ago.

Strange Horizons Reviews, January 17-21

This week's Strange Horizons reviews kick off with something a little different: Karen Burnham's review of Mary Roach's popular science book Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, which Karen finds funny and fascination.  On Wednesday, Shaun Duke (in his reviews department debut) makes an argument in favor of Tron: Legacy and its worldbuilding, though the discussion in the comments has turned mostly on whether the film's plot holds together.  Today, Hannah Strom-Martin enthuses about Mike Allen's third collection of "strange and beautiful" stories, Clockwork Phoenix 3.  In addition, John Clute's column Scoresappears this week, and its subjects are Johanna Sinisalo's recently-translated Birdbrain and M. Rickert's new collection Holiday.

Today's Happy Thing

My review of the essay collection With Both Feet in the Clouds, edited by Hagar Yanai and Danielle Gurevitch, has been nominated for the 2010 BSFA award in the best non-fiction category.  It joins a ballot made up of two blogging projects (Paul Kincaid's four-partdiscussionof the 2010 Hugo nominees at the group blog Big Other and Adam Roberts's epic review cycle of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time), Francis Spufford's Red Plenty, a work of creative nonfiction (which Farah Mendlesohn and Niall Harrison insist is actually a novel), and Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan's Coode Street Podcast.  A slightly crazy and mismatched set, which I think is about right, as it gets at the way that the science fiction community has been using the internet, in its various guises, to proliferate opinions and criticism, while leaving space for traditional publishing.  I don't expect to win, nor do I think that I should--as pleased as I am by how the Clouds review came out, I d…

At the Strange Horizons Blog: What to Review

In the second post in my series about reviewing at the Strange Horizons blog, I discuss the question that occurs long before the editor gets down to editing: which books (and films and TV shows) to commission reviews of?
As seems to happen quite often in discussions of genre or reviewing, the question of what to review boils down to a choice between prescriptive and descriptive. Is a reviews department a paper of record, reporting on the state of the genre and on the important names at its core, or is it a partisan platform, evangelizing for little-known writers and works and reflecting an inevitable editorial bias? Is its purpose to report on tastes, or to make them? Follow the link and add your thoughts.

Strange Horizons Reviews, January 10-14

This week's Strange Horizons reviews begin with Paul Kincaid's take on 80! a festschrift published for Ursula K. Le Guin's 80th birthday last year and now being made publicly available.  On Wednesday, Chris Kammerud take his first look at Philip José Farmer's writing in Up the Bright River, a collection of Farmer's short fiction, and finds Farmer more interesting and more varied than he expected.  Finally, Kelly Jennings reviews the two latest books in Liz Williams's Inspector Chen series, The Shadow Pavilion and The Iron Khan, and finds them both entertaining and interesting.

Women Writing SF: Joanna Russ

When Niall Harrison launched his project to highlight SF written by women by polling for the best such novels from the last decade, I reviewed my reading lists and came away feeling mortified.  I know that I don't read as many books by women as I should, but it turns out that I had read almost no SF by women at all.  So the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 are dedicated to rectifying that situation, with an ambitious reading list and a perhaps even more ambitious blogging plan (but then, one of my goals for 2011 is to blog more about books, and to that end I've laid out several reading projects for the year).  The first stop on this tour is Joanna Russ, an author and critic whose presence on my radar has been growing steadily over the last few years, usually in the context of feminism and SF criticism, but whose books are frustratingly hard to come by.  Happily, a confluence of used book finds over the course of 2010 left me with four of Russ's books with which to rin…

At the Strange Horizons Blog: On Reviewing

I've been the Strange Horizons reviews editor for just over two months, and in that time two things have become crystal clear.  One, the zombie novel thing has gotten completely out of hand, and two, I need to articulate what I want from the department's reviews, and what I think a review should or shouldn't do.  As I say in my post at the Strange Horizons blog:
It's easy, when you're writing your own stuff, to get by on gut instinct—something feels right or it doesn't, and if you've got a good editor (like Niall) they can often help you articulate what isn't working, what you're trying to accomplish, and how to fix it. ... since I've started editing other people's writing, I've found myself struggling for words, for the tools with which to explain what I want for the review department, and how specific reviews are failing to bring their point across, or sometimes just muddling it.  I've felt a keen awareness of the need for some sor…

Five Comments on Caprica

A few months ago, io9's Annalee Newitz calledCaprica "one of the most literary scifi shows ever aired," and this strikes me as right, not necessarily because of the show's themes, as Newitz claims, but because the type of world Caprica was set in, and the story it told in that world.  It's a rather rich irony that the spin-off to a series whose core failure was its writers' lack of interest in worldbuilding, and their willingness to sublimate their SFnal world to a present-day allegory, had some of the best SFnal worldbuilding ever seen on TV, and the fact that Battelstar Galactica gained not only fannish but critical acclaim while Caprica received neither (a few blips notwithstanding, such as New York Magazine's Emily Nussbaum (no relation, alas), who seems both nonplussed and excited by the show's use of virtual reality) probably says everything that needs to be said about the current state of televised SF.  Caprica is set in a world in which the im…

Strange Horizons Reviews, January 3-7

Before I get to the year's first reviews, the big news at Strange Horizons this week is that the magazine's blog is switching to full-time activity (whereas before it published mainly to advertise the magazine's yearly fund drive).  Editor in chief Niall Harrison has already got some posts up, as well as an editorial detailing other changes in the magazine's publishing schedule (while at the same time getting ready to hand over the reigns to Torque Control to Vector's incoming editor Shana Worthen and its reviews editor Martin Lewis), and I will hopefully have something up there this weekend.  You can follow the blog on RSS, and it's also syndicated on LJ, and while we're at it, here are the RSS and LJ links for the reviews feed as well.

On to the week's reviews: as has become traditional, the reviews department rings in the new year by looking back at the previous one.  We asked our reviewers what their favorite, and least favorite, genre-related thing…

The 2011 Hugo Awards: An Appeal to the Hugo Nominators

The year is a scant few days old, and yet Hugo season is already upon us.  Renovation, the 2011 Worldcon, started accepting Hugo nominations on January 1st (and will continue to do so until March 26th), which means that from now until August 20th we're all on Hugo readiness alert.  It's customary for fandom to spend the nominating period recommendingworksand people, pimpingtheirown eligible novels and stories, posting their ballots online to inspire, and to be criticized by, others, and just encouraging them to nominate.  I'm not a member of Renovation and I don't plan to become one (if I do--depending on the ballot and the availability of the Hugo voter packet--it'll be after the nominating period closes), but I'd like to join in this tradition.  Not with a recommendation, though, nor with its opposite.  More like a request.

Dear Hugo nominators: please do not nominate Connie Willis's Blackout/All Clear as a single work.

Some background: Blackout and All C…