6/16/2010

Recommendations and Leith


Here's a recommendation for all the budding writers amongst you: Science Fiction 101" by Robert Silverberg (originally published as Worlds of Wonder). It's an anthology of Silverberg's favourite science fiction from a period spanning roughly 1953 to 1966, and includes a great number of stories regarded by many as genre classics. Some I love, some I love perhaps not so much, but what makes this stand out is Silverberg's commentary. Every story is accompanied by an essay in which he picks the story apart in order to figure out not only why it ticks, but what it is about the story that makes it so highly-regarded. This elevates it to the position of being an invaluable book for those wanting to write long or short-form science fiction (as a matter of fact, one of the things that decided me to buy it was a review by Joe Haldeman on the book's Amazon.com page which sang its praises). The opening autobiographical essay, in which Silverberg recounts the ways in which he obsessively analyzed fiction as a teenager in his drive to become a professional author, is worth the price of the book alone.

There's some great stories in there - Day Million, The Light of Other Days - and one or two others I can't help but find terribly creaky and old-fashioned, such as Cordwainer Smith's Scanners Live in Vain (What may not have helped in terms of reading the latter, much of which is set during a secret meeting of 'scanners' or interstellar pilots, is that I had a hard time not picturing it in the form of the Ku Klux Klan musical sequence in the movie O Brother Where Art Thou?). It's a highly regarded story - I'm just not entirely sure why.

Time to read recently has been scant. I'm on a long hard drive to finish Final Days by the early July deadline and, as I may have mentioned before (or maybe I didn't) I lost a lot of writing time because of the move back to the UK. As a result, I'm a little more rushed than usual, and therefore have rather less of a life at the moment than I usually do. Once the book's in, I can chill for a couple of weeks and catch up on reading and watching.

The event in Leith went well, although it wasn't as busy as it usually is. If you want to see more of your favourite writers and you live in the Edinburgh area, it's well worth your time checking it out this time next year. Prior to taking part in my own panel, I spent some time sitting in on a reading that included Ron Butlin, Zoe Strachan and Louise Welsh - the latter the author of, amongst others, The Cutting Room and The Bullet Trick, very fine novels set in Glasgow, and which I highly recommend you check out. What I found amusing was that the instant the 'mainstream' authors were done, they and their audience departed en masse the moment it was announced the following item would be about Haikasoru, the Nick Mamatas-edited Japanese-sf-in-translation imprint. Hey, their loss.
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