Falling Sky

11/7/06

Sitting Down with Ian McDonald: The Christian Bale of SF

Ian McDonald is interviewed on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, in a long, indepth piece that's one of the best interviews I've read in some weeks. Ian talks about both River of Gods and the forthcoming Brasyl, as well as a host of other subjects. I highly recommend reading the whole interview, but here are some highlights for me:

On Brasyl:

It's definitely not RoG2: that was one thing I wanted above all to avoid, but I think you'll find it as rich, deep, dazzling and strange. India is in yer face. The culture slaps you the moment you step out of the airport (in fact, as the plane was touching down). Brazil creeps up on you, shakes its ass, gets you to buy it a drink and the next morning you wake up with your passport gone, your wallet lifted and one kidney replaces with a row of sutures. Peter Robb's magisterial 'A Death in Brazil' carries the line 'Brazil is one of the world's greatest and strangest countries', and it's only a year after being there that the full understanding of that arrives. It is like nowhere else --certainly not in South America, in the same way that India is like nowhere else. And it's history is more or less completely unknown in the rest of the West.

On his favorite novel from the Pyr catalog:

David Louis Edelman's
Infoquake. So fresh and good I shamelessly stole an idea from it: the whole premise of a future corporate thriller. I remember Lou Anders pitching this one at the Pyr panel at Worldcon in Glasgow and thinking, of course! It's so bloody obvious! That's a genius idea. It sent me back to an old novel by James Clavell called 'Noble House' about corporate intrigue in an old Anglo-Chinese trading company (it got made into a pretty dire TV miniseries), so that's in the mix at the back of my head. Buy Infoquake, read it (I think The Steg already has). Give him the Philip K Dick award.

On growing the readership for SF:

I'm with Gollancz editor Simon Spanton when he talks about the 'lapsed Catholic' audience on this, those who once read SF but dropped away, because it wasn't doing it for the, because they want more than juvenile lots and characters, because they want worlds and people and situations they can believe in, because media SF has so successfully colonised the low and fertile floodplain that it's all people think of when they hear the words Science Fiction. This was a brief blog-bubble between myself, Paul McAuley, Lou Anders, Charlie Stross and Paul Cornell as a counterblast to the 'back-to-basics' movement advocating a return to Golden Age style space adventure. My position on this is well known: of course there's always going to be a need for space-fic --what the general public think of and call 'sci-fi', and it may draw readers in at the bottom end, but it sure won't hold them. 'Mediaesque' sci-fi may, in that sense, 'save' science-fiction, but it sure will lobotomise it. And there are a lot of general readers out there who will buy and enjoy science-fiction if they can convince themselves it's not that geeky stuff...

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