How can science fiction writers invent aliens and entire planets but not include multifaceted characters of color in their fiction? At The Atlantic, Noah Berlatsky discusses the genre’s equality problem and analyzes how race is viewed in everything from The Left Hand of Darkness to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. “When that future unthinkingly reproduces current inequities, it seems like both a missed opportunity and a failure of imagination.”
Pre-college creative writing seems to be a sort of group therapy — gush out your feelings and nobody can criticize them because you’re being “creative.” Nobody teaches you the bones of the language. Nobody teaches you forms. Imagine trying to learn to play violin if no one taught you pitch and fingering, if you never practiced. But that’s what we do to children.
”[Paul] Scheerbart’s book bears the subtitle An Asteroid Novel, and all of its action takes place far from Earth. Not a single human character appears in the story; nor do its protagonists resemble the anthropomorphized aliens of so much science fiction. Rather, Scheerbart populates the asteroid Pallas with a race of newt-like creatures who are capable, when provoked, of expanding their bodies to several times their normal size. Moreover, the Pallasians have eyes that extend on stalks and function as telescopes or microscopes (the latter for reading micro-books: the Pallasians wear, as personal adornment, entire libraries around their necks).”
The answer that came back was unanimous, and surprising to me. They wanted to know something about the artist, what kind of a person he was. And then something about the background to the pictures — how they came to be painted, what was going on in the artist’s life at the time. And nothing else — “none of that art interpretation stuff,” as one person put it.
Who else was unaware that Jasper Johns and Michael Crichton were besties? Lary Wallace tells us more.
Teddy Roosevelt could read an entire book before breakfast. Kim Peek (Rain Man) could read two pages of text simultaneously. Perhaps by using some combination of both techniques, you’ve managed to make your way through our entire Great 2013 Book Preview. Or perhaps you’re just looking for some poetry and science fiction recommendations. Well, either way Mark Sanderson and China Miéville have you covered, respectively.
In the science fiction and fantasy worlds, there are acclaimed and famous and award-winning writers that aren’t really famous in the slightest. (It’s like “famous blogger” or “famous literary critic”; nobody has really heard of those jerks either.) Going deep in the world of SF creates a delightful, soothing feeling in a reading writer; it makes you forget all about what a small group of people think is the “real” world. In the SF world, when they refer to a writer as just “Egan,” they still mean Greg, not Jennifer (or, I suppose, Timothy!).
Each year, there are multiple “Best Of” collections. The Year’s Best Science Fiction, edited by Gardner Dozois, put out its 29th annual this year. The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2012 is the fourth annual. And Year’s Best SF is up to number 17, having started in 1996.
Over the last few years, as an attempt at an education, I have read nearly all of these collections.
"The science fiction of the 1960s, with its narrative-busting experimentations is seen as being more daringly au courant and thus worthier of critical attention. Somewhere between the spacesuited squares like E.E. Doc Smith and countercultural innovators like Harlan Ellison, though, lies a golden seam that contains some of the century’s most thoughtful, jazzy, and dazzling literature.”
The six novels nominated for this year’s Nebula Awards run from clanking steampunk fantasy from a first-timer Genevieve Valentine to heady and otherworldly linguistic theorizing courtesy of China Miéville—wonders await.