After a review of the novelization of Spider-man 3, Adam proclaims Keeping It Real, " a novel that ... tears apart all genre conventions and mixes them together into something new. ...In a male-dominated industry, this is a novel written by someone channeling their inner teenage girl, writing for teenage girls."
Then he goes on to suggest that Justina may be carving out new territory in a direction necessary for the very health and survival of the genre. As he writes:
"Last month I spoke about SF needing to change or die. In an essay by Kristine Kathryne Rusch that appeared in Asimov's last year 'In , SF counted for 7 percent of all adult fiction books sold. In 2001, SF counted for 8 percent. The literary trend spirals downward while the media trend goes up. Half the new television dramas introduced in 2005 were science fiction, fantasy, or had a fantastic element. Most of the movies in the top twenty for the past five years have been SF. Nearly all of the games published have been SF.' The print SF world has been falling behind for decades. It can expand to reach out to this new audience, or it can continue to be incestuous and cannibalistic. Right now the only entry point for new readers is media tie-ins. But Keeping it Real may turn out to be one example of the change that SF may want to embark on. Because this isn't SF for SF readers. This is SF for a generation raised on anime, manga, and MMORPGs. This is SF for the Wii gamer. "
A discussion of Orson Scott Card's Space Boy follows. Then, turning his attention to Gradisil, Adam invokes the connection to the Ansari X-Prize as he says:
"This wasn't the top-down space travel we were promised in 2001. This is bottom up. This is tweakers and hackers seeing how far they can push technology by themselves. This is the future that Gradisil explores. Modeled after Aeschylus' Oresteia trilogy of greek tragedies, it's a multi-generational saga of man's colonization of the high frontier of low-earth-orbit. It's epic SF in the vein of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy or Allen Steele's Coyote trilogy, although it feels like it could have been written in the days of Heinlein. And perhaps most profoundly, it's a story about two Americas: The America that WAS (reflected in the rustic frontiersmen of the uplands) and the America that IS (reflected in the ambitious and expansionist US that launches a war to gain dominance of the new frontier.)"
Adam goes on to say that our Adam's book isn't engaged in "trying to writing about something new, it's trying to write new about something," and then concludes:
"There's an old saying about good science fiction: Pick one. You can have good science or you can have good fiction. You have your Hal Clements, your Poul Andersons and Gregory Benfords whose science are unassailable but whose dialog and characterization are barely above Star Wars fan fiction; and then you have your Ursula Le Guinns, your Samuel R. Delanys, your J.G. Ballards and Brian Aldisses who are as interested in science as The Prisoner was interested in the criminal justice system. In choosing between good science or fiction, Adam Roberts works incredibly hard to reach the former, but he achieves the latter effortlessly."
As B&N's Explorations wrote: “Science fiction fans looking for the next big genre classic need look no further than the Nulapeiron Sequence, a highly cerebral sci-fi trilogy by British author John Meaney that has been (deservedly) compared to Frank Herbert's epic masterwork Dune. Meaney's Nulapeiron Sequence (Paradox, Context and the forthcoming Resolution) is a landmark work for multiple reasons: unparalleled world building, the world of Nulapeiron is one of the most vividly described and utterly unique realms ever imagined in the history of science fiction; plot density, like Nulapeiron's multi-leveled society, the story of Tom Corcorigan has innumerable layers; dozens of secondary themes and subplots; and above all else, readability: fans of hard science fiction will not be able to put this sweeping and thought-provoking saga down.”
Meanwhile, Neth Space has reviewed another Meaney title, Bone Song, not available in the states yet, but kicking up waves overseas. "Bone Song is a genre-bending blend of dark/urban fantasy and hardboiled crime enshrouded in noir. Think Dirty Harry in a city created by the bastard love-child of Jeff VanderMeer and China Miéville – it’s close, but still a disservice to Meaney’s creation." I think this one is going to blow people away over here too when it comes, but then, I've thought John was a genius for a long time.
Please read the whole discussion, but here's a clip from Adam Roberts to whet your appetite:
"The problem isn't that space exploration isn't a noble, or a necessary, human aim. It clearly is. The problem is that enormous boondoggle governmental programs to put people into space are exactly the wrong way to advance that aim. What we need is a genuinely popular and ground-up move into space, not a top down one; something that taps into the groundswell of popular fascination with space travel. The technologies NASA are using to put people into space can be thought of this way: at the time of Apollo it cost as much to put a man in orbit as that man's weight in gold. Chemical propulsion is the same technology, and the costs haven't come down very far. Now, the USA would never have come about if it had cost that much to ship colonists over from Europe. There needs to be serious investigation of: cheaper models of space elevators; next-generation high altitude zeppelins as launch pads; re-jigged and less polluting Spaceship Orion nuclear-propulsion projects, boosting spaceplanes with electromagnetic effects from the earth's magnetosphere; and anything else that people can think of."
Ian McDonald. Pyr, $25 (480p) ISBN 978-1-59102-543-6
British author McDonald's outstanding SF novel channels the vitality of South America's largest country into an edgy, post-cyberpunk free-for-all. McDonald sets up three separate characters in different eras—a cynical contemporary reality-TV producer, a near-future bisexual entrepreneur and a tormented 18th-century Jesuit agent. He then slams them together with the revelation that their worlds are strands of an immense quantum multiverse, and each of them is threatened by the Order, a vast conspiracy devoted to maintaining the status quo until the end of time. As McDonald weaves together the separate narrative threads, each character must choose between isolation or cooperation, and also between accepting things as they are or taking desperate action to make changes possible. River of Gods (2004), set in near-future India, established McDonald as a leading writer of intelligent, multicultural SF, and here he captures Latin America's mingled despair and hope. Chaotic, heartbreaking and joyous, this must-read teeters on the edge of melodrama, but somehow keeps its precarious balance. (May)
I arrived back late last night from my trip to New York for the Fantastic Fiction Reading Series at the KGB Bar. Co-organizer Ellen Datlow was kind enough to post photos of the event on her Flickr account.
The reading, I felt, went fabulous. At 40 people, the reading audience was both the largest and most attentive I’ve ever been in front of. I read my story “Mathralon,” which, as I told the audience, is the first science fiction short story I’ve finished since around 1991. Despite the fact that the story had no plot, no characters, and (almost) no dialog, it seemed to get a very good reaction from the crowd. A few laughs, a few smiles, a few people rushing up after I finished to discuss it. The 35 signed copies of “Mathralon” I brought disappeared in short order. I would post the story here, but I’m hoping to give it one more quick polish and then submit it for publication.
Carol Emshwiller, the main attraction of the night, was most fabulous as well. She read a surreal and somewhat tender story called “God Clown” which had the audience alternately laughing, smiling, and just staring around misty-eyed in appreciation. She was even nice enough to repeatedly lie to me by saying I was a tough act to follow.
Among the folks in the audience that I got to schmooze with were John Joseph Adams, assistant editor at Fantasy & Science Fiction, which would be a great venue for “Mathralon” (and have I mentioned what a dashing, handsome, intelligent fellow John is?); Douglas Cohen, who holds the same title at Realms of Fantasy; Jenny Rappaport, literary agent extraordinaire; Josh Vogt, an up-and-coming SF writer, frequent commenter on this blog, and as I discovered, very nice guy; Eugene Myers, another SF writer and Clarion graduate who put my name in front of Ellen Datlow for this reading in the first place; and Victor Klymenko, who helpfully pointed out some science flubs in “Mathralon” that I wasn’t aware of.
At dinner afterwards, my wife and I got to sit at the “grown-ups” table next to organizers Ellen Datlow and Gavin Grant. Other denizens of said table included Robert Legault, Gordon Linzner, Chris Fisher, Tempest Bradford, and Rick Bowes. Sighted at the other table were Liz Gorinsky and a nice, gregarious woman who I just knew I recognized and only just now looking at the Flickr feed do I realize was Kelly Link. My fellow DeepGenre blogger Constance Ash said she was going to show up, but she couldn’t make it, for which I will never, ever, ever forgive her until — okay, she’s forgiven.
I’m told that next month, KGB is hosting novelist Jon Armstrong, whose debut novel Grey I read on the train. It was a light, enjoyable read, and trippier than anything you’ve ever written. (Okay, not you, Jeff VanderMeer, or you, China Mieville. But trippy nonetheless.)
"Ahh, governments! How about Libertarians in Low Earth Orbit? When Gradisil's grandfather develops a way to use old aircraft, instead of huge rockets, to get into orbit, Things Change. With 'Elemag' technology, a suitably sealed and adapted airplane can become a spaceplane, climbing the branches of the Earth's magnetic field, like Yggdrasil out of old Norse mythology. ...and there's more than one betrayal. It seems, as the story closes, that the blood of patriots must water even Yggdrasil, as well as the tree of liberty."
Of Justina Robson's Keeping It Real, he says:
"Robson's cyborg heroine, Lila Black, is hired as bodyguard for an Elven rock star, which is a much bigger job than it seems. This is not YA material, but, yeah, even an embittered cyborg can grow up."
Also reviewed are titles by Kim Stanley Robinson, Hal Duncan, China Miéville, and Eliot Fintushel.
As she writes, "Recent reports of the death of independent booksellers are way overstated. I just came back from a trade show of independent booksellers, and I can testify that hundreds of its members would be greatly surprised to learn that they are dead."
Here is Kay at a well-attended signing:
And here is Kay with Janet Lee Carey, YA author of Dragon's Keep.
Kay says, "80% of all books are still bought in brick and mortar bookstores--so no, it's really, really, not all online these days. You might not have much influence on the clerk at the big box store, so if you're an author, I say get to know your local indies." For those in her neck of the woods, she recommends A Book For All Seasons in Leavenworth, WA and Village Books in Bellingham, WA.
But it's this review in the April/May 2007 issue of Asimov's, that may be the most interesting analysis of the book that I've read thus far. In the latest of his always enjoyable On Books columns, "Whither the Hard Stuff?", Norman Spinrad praises Infoquake as a "high-speed, high-spirited tale of high-powered and low-minded capitalist skullduggery, corporate and media warfare, and virtual reality manipulation. It’s the sort of thing that would make a perfect serial for Wired magazine, given the nature of its ad base, if it ever decided to publish fiction."
He further praises Edelman for his skill in crafting hard SF, saying "Edelman seems to have convincing and convincingly detailed knowledge of the physiology and biochemistry of the human nervous system down to the molecular level. And cares about making his fictional combination of molecular biology and nanotech credible to the point where the hard science credibility of the former makes the questionable nature of the latter seem more credible even to a nanotech skeptic like me. And after all, let’s not kid ourselves too far, that’s really the nature of the hard science fiction game; otherwise it wouldn’t be hard science fiction."
Here I have to warn you there's a spoiler in the review as to what the MacGuffin of the book is (or seems to be), but Spinrad finds all of this struggle for verisimilitude erected around a core concept that he feels is a "'doorway into anything'—superpowers conjured up at will out of the bits and bytes, infinite replay of actions in order to come up with the desired result—in other words, magic" to be disturbing. Yes, disturbing!
He concludes, "I have no quarrel at all with the use of magic as a literary device in fantasy or surrealist fiction, where it has produced masterpieces. Magic masquerading as science and/or technology is another matter, and a graver one. And the better the masquerade, the more successful on a literary level, the more disturbing the transliterary consequences."
Unfortunately, or fortunately, or both, I doubt a great many of today's readers will get hot under the collar about "transliterary consequences," a state of affairs that is part of the lament of Spinrad's broader article. As he says, "Literarily and commercially, the question of whether or not such a novel could be considered 'hard science fiction of the post-modern kind' is ridiculously irrelevant. " But it is nice to imagine a world where the debate might reach titanic proportions, like the shouting matches once provoked by the New Wave. I'd love to hear reports from Nippon 2007 that there were knock down drag outs between the Mundanistas and the Infoquakers. As well as constituting a healthy sign of the state of SF, that would be high praise indeed.
"Last June I reviewed Ian McDonald's most recent book, River of Gods, and I called it 'The most important SF novel that has been released in my 18 years of fandom.' So it may be a bit surprising when I say that the forthcoming Brasyl is just as strong, a bit tighter, a lot faster paced, and all-around probably a better, more enjoyable novel.... Brasyl is almost guaranteed a Hugo nomination."
Lexner's "rapturous review" finds itself lampooned on the hysterical My Elves are Different.
Meanwhile, Another Piece of Shooflypie really enjoys Fast Forward 1: Future Fiction from the Cutting Edge:
"My fourth book of the year was the original SF anthology Fast Forward 1, edited by Lou Anders. Anders is the editor of the Pyr line, which has quickly become one of the best SF publishers around (River of Gods and Infoquake and Paragaea, to name a few). This book is also from Pyr and does not disappoint. There are 19 stories and 2 poems (both by Robyn Hitchcock, former lead singer of The Soft Boys and current solo artist) underneath yet another brilliant John Picacio cover (and I really need to buy that book on his work). There was only one story I didn't care for, which is a fantastic ratio for any anthology. The highlights include Paul Di Filippo's "Wikiworld," where a guy in love with an oyster pirate ends up running the government for a few days in a future where Wiki is the basis of all interactions from political to economical to social; Ken MacLeod's "Jesus Christ, Reanimator," a look at how things might go if Christ actual did return to today's world; and John Meaney's "Sideways From Now," about quantum linking and alternate realities and politics and loss (and I must start reading his novels). Almost all of the rest of the stories are at that high quality and I can't recommend it enough. The best part is the "1" in the title...I can't wait to read the second in the series and I hope that one day I'll actually have a story in Fast Forward as well."
Now go read this. It's a book by Adam Roberts, of which Starburst says, "the magnetic boost technologies he uses to put planes into orbit has the smack of an SF trope that’ll become a universal cliché in a few years."
Or just a reality.
Update: Technovelgy has picked up on the story. Although the post mentions not having heard back from Adam, we are putting them in touch.
*March 21 KGB Bar/New York, NY Fantastic Fiction Series, 7 pm ET
*April 20-22 Penguicon/Troy, MI
*May 5 Annapolis Book Festival/Annapolis, MD
*May 25-27 Balticon/Baltimore, MD
*July 5-8 Readercon/Burlington, MA
Kay Kenyon will be signing copies of her forthcoming sci-fantasy epic, Bright of the Sky,on the following dates:
*Apr. 15 A Book For All Seasons/Leavenworth, WA 1-3 pm
*Apr. 17 Read it Again Books/Wenatchee, WA 7 pm
"Worlds overlap in unexpected ways ... in this action-packed futuristic sci-fi that will appeal to techies and fantasy fans alike. Tension between the characters is credible even if the premise is a bit farfetched and it’s fun watching Black grow into her new self as she confronts magic in ways few other humans have managed in this first of the Quantum Gravity series."
"In the future conjured by the first book of The Entire and the Rose, megacorporations control Earth, and only the best and brightest get company jobs. Titus Quinn was on his way, though, until he piloted a Minerva corporation colony ship through a network of black holes. The ship disappeared. Believed dead, Quinn showed up six months later on a distant planet that no transport had visited in years, with disjointed memories of a parallel universe in which the sky is fire. There he lost his wife and daughter, also the ship. In hope that the place will provide a safer alternative for interstellar travel, Minerva sends him back. Once there again, Quinn becomes embroiled in strange politics and faces terrible choices and the emerging, awful memory of what he did during his last stay in the Entire. In a fascinating and gratifying feat of worldbuilding, Kenyon unfolds the wonders and the dangers of the Entire and an almost-Chinese culture that should remain engaging throughout what promises to be a grand epic, indeed. "
I haven't sent out an Infoquake newsletter in a little while, because — well, because there hasn't been much newsworthy Infoquake stuff to report. So I thought I'd take an opportunity to talk about upcoming appearances.
- March 21: KGB Bar Fantastic Fiction Reading in New York, NY. I will be reading at Ellen Datlow and Gavin Grant's celebrated KGB Fantastic Fiction Series on Wednesday, March 21 at 7 PM, along with Nebula and Philip K. Dick Award-winning author Carol Emshwiller. If you're in the New York area, you probably know all about these readings. They tend to be very lively and well-attended, and then everyone hangs out at dinner afterwards. So come on down and bring your friends! (Can anybody recommend a good, cheap place nearby to stay?)
- April 20-22: Penguicon in Troy, MI. This promises to be quite an intriguing event: a convention devoted to both science fiction and open source software. I'm already on the hook for a reading and a signing, and will probably be signing up for more.
- May 5: Annapolis Book Festival in Annapolis, MD. I'm going to be appearing on a science fiction authors panel with (so far) Catherine Asaro.
- May 25-27: Balticon in Baltimore, MD.
- July 5-8: Readercon in Burlington, MA.
I'll be bringing along stacks of promotional Infoquake CDs to all of these events, with sample chapters in a variety of formats and other goodies.
A couple pieces of Infoquake-related news since the last newsletter:
- Appearance on NPR Weekend Edition. Yes, I was on NPR's Weekend Edition, interviewed by Rick Kleffel of the Agony Column. You can listen to the piece here.
- 20 Minute Audio Interview with the Dragon Page. The popular science fiction podcast Dragon Page Cover to Cover posted a 20-minute audio interview with me in January. Interviewer Evo Terra grilled me about how nanotechnology is changing our world, the real world/virtual world hybrid of the multi network, whether the book's protagonist Natch is really just a power-hungry bastard, how the characters in Infoquake differ psychologically from 21st century people, and how Natch compares to modern-day entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. (The interview begins about 7 minutes 50 seconds in to the podcast.)
- Reviews from NY Review of SF, Libertarian Futurist Society. The New York Review of Science Fiction called Infoquake "a brisk, well-told science fiction adventure... where incident crowds onto incident, where jeopardy makes us hold our breath, and rabbits are pulled from the hat only at the very last moment." Meanwhile, Prometheus, the newsletter of the Libertarian Futurist Society, praised the book as "a raw and fascinating novel, with a fast pace and and nifty economic themes." Finally, SF blogger Christian Suavé said in his review: "Fluent in the languages of business and information technology, Infoquake is a ride through a fresh future, a strong debut from a promising writer, and a proud representative of Pyr's early line-up."
For those who continue to ask when MultiReal will be coming out... I've finished what I somewhat haphazardly labeled the Fourth Draft of the book and am on the line-edits-with-pen stage. I hope to have an announcement on a publication date sometime in the next couple months, but in the meantime you can read a preview of what's in store on my blog. The book's gonna rawk.
Coming up: the venerable Asimov's magazine will be reviewing Infoquake in their 30th anniversary April/May issue. Let's hope it's a good one.
Kenyon, Kay. Bright of the Sky.
"Reminiscent of the groundbreaking novels of Philip K. Dick, Philip Jose Farmer, and Dan Simmons, her latest volume belongs in most libraries."
Roberts, Adam. Gradisil.
"A picture of a possible future ... that is both chillingly possible and dryly tongue-in-cheek. Fans of sf sagas will appreciate the attention to detail and engaging characters."
Robson, Justina. Keeping It Real.
"...skillfully builds a seamless connection between sf and fantasy in this fast-paced series opener featuring a strong, action-oriented heroine and a unique world setting." They go on to recommend the book to fans of both "contemporary culture" and "mature YA."
"This is a fun, entertaining and action-packed novel. There's a lot of humor, and the pace is at times fast and furious. I was using Keeping it Real as my "commute" book, and I was always disappointed when I realized that my stop was next. Indeed, I found myself turning those pages, always eager to see what would happen next."
Patrick also offers his thoughts on what KIR has to say about our line. He feels its inclusion in the list "demonstrates just how diversified Pyr's stable of writers and novels will ultimately be. Once again, it's evident that their desire to publish works that are different from what's being released by the powerhouses continues to fuel Pyr's passion for both science fiction and fantasy. And although they made a name for themselves with thought-provoking books by authors such as Ian McDonald, Sean Williams, David Louis Edelman and many others, by publishing novels such as Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself and Justina Robson's Keeping it Real they show that Pyr is not averse to release more humorous and entertaining books.
Also pictured, a hunting spider shot in Lope National Park, Gabon, which Alan says was six inches across. Touareg women photographed in their camp at Darkoye, "their group having just come over from Niger," a mud-brick mosque at Bani, and a forest elephant, from Langouie Camp near Langouie Bai (in Gabon) "famous from Michael Bey's (National Geographic) megatransect of central Africa.
"Forest elephants are smaller than their Eastern and Southern relatives, have rounder ears, and...different toe arrangements."
As Alan says, "another interesting part of the planet."