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Hull 0, Scunthorpe 3
March 29, 2012 1:02 AM   Subscribe

How can one describe it? For fuck’s sake, it is a quest saga and it has a talking horse. There are puns on the word ‘neigh’. Christopher Priest on the 2012 Clarke Award shortlist, the self-described "most prestigious award for science fiction in Britain".
posted by Hartster (226 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
How can one describe it? For fuck’s sake, it is a quest saga and it has a talking horse. There are puns on the word ‘neigh’.

Heh. Withering. It also makes me really want to read the book.

Also, I haven't read "Embassytown" yet, but Miéville's neologisms/SF nonce-words don't bother me at all. Well, they haven't so far. I sort of like the experience of being terribly bewildered by a lot of the language at first, and then as the story unfolds becoming more and more (and eventually intimately) familiar with this new territory (where the "territory" is the fictional world, its inhabitants, its history and politics, and the unfamiliar words used to describe all that). That's part of what's really fun for me about my favorites of his novels, the Bas-Lag stories.
posted by taz at 1:24 AM on March 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


I guess I shouldn't make another "Christ, what an asshole" comment just 24 hours after the last one, but seriously. Old SF, moderately well known SF writer, a considerable proportion of whose published output is movie novelizations, takes himself way too seriously, and hates young writers, who should consequently get off his lawn.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:29 AM on March 29, 2012 [14 favorites]


At the risk of, perhaps, derailing the thread a little, I spotted something really cool about Arthur C. Clarke yesterday, not quite FPP-worthy, but fascinating:

Mr. Clarke more or less predicted the Internet in 1974, including at least one non-obvious ramification. And he sort of predicts the PC, getting the form factor right, but thinking that it would be a terminal to a big computer somewhere, instead of being completely self-contained. He knew it would be small, it would have a keyboard, it would have a monitor, it would connect you to everything, and you would have it by 2001.

He didn't seem to get (and who would?) that a pocketwatch would have more power than the mainframe behind him, just 25 years later. But he understood personal computing and networking so much sooner than almost anyone else.

He passed away in 2008, so he certainly saw much of the early stages of his predictions coming to life. I wonder if he even remembered that old ABC interview?

Sorry -- this just didn't quite deserve its own FPP, and voila, here's a Clarke-related thread the very next day. :-)
posted by Malor at 1:32 AM on March 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure why Priest thought it would be a good idea to slag Miéville at length for being nominated for an award Priest is also competing for. Anyway, for comparison, I'll just put Ursula K. Le Guin's reviews of both Priest's novel and Miéville's here.
posted by mek at 1:34 AM on March 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Joakim: I don't shy away from calling old fogies like Moorcock out on their bullshit and I was completely ready to hate on Priest for the same thing. But I read his entire piece and... well I won't say I agree with every single word but I can't argue with his main thrust. His knowledge and love of the field shines through with every word, even the ones I disagree with. Which is completely unlike guys like Moorcock where nothing comes across save disdain.

It was a seriously weak year for SF and works are often nominated for the top awards which have no place on the shortlist.

I'm not sure why Priest thought it would be a good idea to slag Miéville at length for being nominated for an award Priest is also competing for.

Priest addresses this at the end.
posted by Justinian at 1:38 AM on March 29, 2012


Maybe he's an asshole, but I really want to read "Osama" now.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 1:39 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can someone explain wtf Hull 0, Scunthorpe 3 has to do with anything? I get that it is an association football reference of some sort but... why?
posted by Justinian at 1:39 AM on March 29, 2012


Can someone explain wtf Hull 0, Scunthorpe 3 has to do with anything? I get that it is an association football reference of some sort but... why?

Hull Zero Three.
posted by inire at 1:43 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Justinian: "It was a seriously weak year for SF and works are often nominated for the top awards which have no place on the shortlist."

Well, annual awards are usually given to the year's best, so that it was a weak year shouldn't matter much. In fact, although Priest does open by saying he think it was a weak year, his main complaint seems to be that the wrong books were shortlisted.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:43 AM on March 29, 2012


Mr. Priest's contribution is the first this year in what is sure to be a lot of barking at clouds concerning science fiction award nomination slates, all of which will essentially boil down to "my tastes are different than yours, and your tastes are wrong." This format of complaint will no doubt pick up considerably, as it does on an annual basis, regardless of what is nominated, when the Hugo slate is announced in a couple of weeks.

That said, as a representative of the format, it's pretty good: Mr. Priest writes it with an engaging amount of piss and vinegar, varies his tone from target to target (more in sorrow than in anger for Mr. Mieville, blithe condescension for Mr. Stross, outright contempt for Ms. Tepper), and to his credit, offers viable suggestions for an alternative slate, at least one of which, Mr. Tidhar's Osama, is in my opinion eminently slate-worthy. So for connoisseurs of the form, this is top-shelf stuff, much better than the usual entitled bleating of the tendentiously aggrieved.

Whether Mr. Priest is right in his cane-shaking is, of course, a matter of personal taste. But with a piece like this, that's always the case.
posted by jscalzi at 1:45 AM on March 29, 2012 [19 favorites]


Can someone explain wtf Hull 0, Scunthorpe 3 has to do with anything? I get that it is an association football reference of some sort but... why?

Probably a reference to the Housemartins album London 0, Hull 4. Which was itself a reference to a band in-joke, where they described their gigs in terms of football scores. So London 0 Hull 4 was a declaration of pride both in the album and (presumably) in coming from the small, northern, working class town of Hull as opposed to the London of the record industry.

Not sure how Scunthorpe comes into it.
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:47 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


3. The award fund (£2,012.00, as I understand it) should be held over until next year. Next year’s fund should be added to it, so that the prize for 2013 becomes £4,013.00.

Using the power of Future Maths!
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:50 AM on March 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm a big fan of Priest, both as writer and (now) critic. He's absolutely right on most counts. Much as I enjoy Stross and Miéville, I can't see either of them (particularly Stross) having done anything to redefine the boundaries of SF, despite having enjoyed the work of both. An award like the Clarke should be rewarding today's Dhalgren or Canticle for Leibowitz. Which is not to say that work of that calibre isn't around today; it definitely is, but it's not always easy to fish out of the sea of mainstream SF.

When an award becomes a popularity contest for the latest mainstream SF successes, it's dead in the water. Priest's own recent book, The Islanders is a frustrating and complicated thing, not so much a novel as an experiment, perhaps even a curate's egg; but he's trying to push off in a direction that takes him well outside the mainstream, which is brave for a writer of his age. The book may be an failure (I'm not sure yet), but at least it's not, to use his own words, people getting into spaceships to go somewhere to do something. He's obviously feeling conflicted about having his work nominated for an award he can't bring himself to respect.

Criticism of popular SF tends to go down badly here on the blue, but I'd like to remind people that being a critic isn't the same as being an asshole. Assholes are negative out of malice. In the case of Priest, he's just a man genuinely concerned about the future and reputation of the genre.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:50 AM on March 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Whether Mr. Priest is right in his cane-shaking is, of course, a matter of personal taste.

Don't pet the Internet Puppy.
posted by eriko at 2:03 AM on March 29, 2012


I get overwhelmed by genre offerings and tend to wait for the short lists to help me winnow down what's new and worth reading.

Sometimes it's the same old names, sometimes it doesn't click for me, and sometimes it's The Quantum Thief and it knocks my socks off.

I'm hoping next week's Hugo noms look better than this list.
posted by thecjm at 2:08 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is indefensible that a novel like Charles Stross’s Rule 34 (Orbit) should be given apparent credibility by an appearance in the Clarke shortlist. Stross writes like an internet puppy: energetically, egotistically, sometimes amusingly, sometimes affectingly, but always irritatingly, and goes on being energetic and egotistical and amusing for far too long. You wait nervously for the unattractive exhaustion which will lead to a piss-soaked carpet.

giggle.
posted by chavenet at 2:08 AM on March 29, 2012


He was totally not kidding about the puns, guys. On page 2 of "The Waters Rising":

"It was all those neighs that did it," the horse said, approaching a curve in the road. "They decided we were not dangerous because I kept de-neighing it."

o_0
posted by taz at 2:11 AM on March 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


thecjm: "and sometimes it's The Quantum Thief and it knocks my socks off."

I'm hoping this is better than the only other quantum crime based novel I've read, "A Quantum Murder", because that was fucking horrible.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:19 AM on March 29, 2012


SF's no longer a stranger in a strange land. Surrounded by worlds, both real and virtual, it helped to create, it's a genre of ideas that are now familiar, overworked and over-adopted. Like the British Empire between the wars, the urge to conquer has been spent and what has been built -- which should have been cause for celebration, and is still being sold as such - now begins to look like an unsustainable embarrassment. Other, more vital cultures

So, how to decolonise? In the words of the London cabby: where to, guv?
posted by Devonian at 2:20 AM on March 29, 2012


Whoops - that should have been 'other, more vital cultures (looking at you, Hollywood), have taken the industrial revolution and commercialised it better.'

Darn kids.
posted by Devonian at 2:21 AM on March 29, 2012


I guess I shouldn't make another "Christ, what an asshole" comment just 24 hours after the last one, but seriously. Old SF, moderately well known SF writer, a considerable proportion of whose published output is movie novelizations, takes himself way too seriously, and hates young writers, who should consequently get off his lawn.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:29 AM on March 29


I'm guessing you don't know much about Priest. He's written a lot of books, most of which have not been movie novelisations, and some of which have been mind-stretchingly fantastic.
posted by Decani at 2:23 AM on March 29, 2012


I'm sticking with the opinion that it's pretty bizarre to criticize Miéville for failing to redefine scifi with Embassytown given that it's his first novel that is explicitly "science fiction" in intent and is clearly, clearly paying homage to that genre in general and a few works like Delany's Stars In My Pocket Like Grains of Sand specifically. It does all that while also being extremely entertaining while meditating at length on the nature of language, metaphor, and signification, as well as wrestling with the murky moral territory of colonial living.
posted by mek at 2:32 AM on March 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


It should be said that Charlie Stross seems to be taking the criticism well: note his Twitter profile tagline and icon.
posted by jscalzi at 2:35 AM on March 29, 2012 [15 favorites]


I hope we're not allowing the shock of criticism from name checking metafilter illuminati whenever they come up in conversation. That's metafilter's own cstross to the likes of us.

Anyway, I can't agree with this at all. You get good years and bad years all the time. So it was, and so it shall be.

Even good years get prize turkeys nominated. You look back at 2010 (when I started buying as many hugo nominated books as I could) you had awesome books like The City and The City, Palimpsest and The Windup Girl. You also had Boneshaker by Cherie Priest.

#stares wistfully out of the window. 2010 was a *fantastic* sci-fi year.
posted by zoo at 2:39 AM on March 29, 2012


cstross:

I kept expecting CP to end with: WHAT IS THIS I DON'T EVEN ... FUUUUUUUUUU ...

ha!
posted by taz at 2:44 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the great tradition of internet nobodies fastidiously pronouncing on the microscopic failures of others, my first problem with C. Priest's sermon is that:

But with Sir Arthur now gone to the great communications satellite in the sky,

is an idiotic thing to write. First, communication satellites are typically located in the sky, so this formulation robs the cliché of what little magic it can produce, i.e. in lifting mundane and earthly things to the celestial realm. Secondly, the metaphor is inapt, because Sir Arthur has not gone to a place where he now relays or produces communication for the benefit of world-bound beings. Thirdly, while Clarke predicted communication satellite systems, it is faintly moronic to suggest that his afterlife is just a physical instantiation of a famous prediction or speculation involving sky-located entities. Did Leonardo da Vinci go to "the great helicopter in the sky"? Did Thales go to "the great eclipse in the sky"? Did Dante go to "the great heaven in the sky"? FUCK YOU, Christopher Priest. You don't know me but I am SOMEONE ON THE INTERNET and I just wasted my precious minutes writing an incomprehensible paragraph about something you did. BURN.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:44 AM on March 29, 2012 [19 favorites]


mek:

it's pretty bizarre to criticize Miéville for failing to redefine scifi with Embassytown given that it's his first novel that is explicitly "science fiction" in intent and is clearly, clearly paying homage to that genre

This is probably the right time to bring up The Space Machine.
posted by zoo at 2:46 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh God! Wake. I forgot that Wake was nominated for a Hugo. Of all the "Blind girl can see the internet and it's alive" books that could ever be written, this is easily the worst.

Anyway - Nominations can be shitty. It's not the end of the world.
posted by zoo at 2:51 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I enjoyed it. It's got a good beat. The kids can dance to it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:57 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Setting aside Priest's opinions about the books, I'm curious about his view of awards. I had thought that the Clarke awards (and the Oscars, the Hugos, the Grammys, etc.) look at all the eligible works in their category that year, and select for the "best" from that pool.

Yet Priest seems to be saying that there is a measure of quality for the shortlist, and if fewer than six books in the set of eligible books meet that standard, then there's no need to even fill up those spaces.

Is that a common assumption about any other award?
posted by dubold at 4:15 AM on March 29, 2012


Metafilter:You wait nervously for the unattractive exhaustion which will lead to a piss-soaked carpet.
posted by Renoroc at 4:19 AM on March 29, 2012


Ah yes, Christopher Priest... not exactly the most diplomatic person I've ever interactive with...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:51 AM on March 29, 2012


I don't really care for the "your favorite book sucks" genre, and I've read and enjoyed books by Mieville and Stross, but I sort of understand where Priest is coming from here -- some of the stuff he's done, like The Inverted World and Indoctrinaire, is truly strange and unsettling in a way that Mieville and Stross don't come close to. And one view of literature, especially speculative literature, is that its indispensable purpose is to unsettle.

I think of it like this: if I were Louis CK and Modern Family won the Emmy every year, I would feel like writing a crabby article about it. Even though Modern Family is a well-written, well-acted show which may take the easy way out sometimes but overall does a superb job of executing the customary tasks of the sitcom genre. Despite this, Priest/CK wants to keep in front of us the question: is that all there is?
posted by escabeche at 4:56 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I realized that it was a Sherri S. Tepper novel that he was dissing, he lost all of my respect. That woman can write - and if she's written a quest novel with a talking horse, it's gonna be a damn good quest novel with a talking horse.
posted by jb at 5:18 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Understanding Christopher Priest.
posted by ninebelow at 5:40 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Re: "Understanding Christopher Priest," as I noted on my site, I don't think it has to be as complicated at that. I think he just looked at the slate, thought "what the hell?" and then in a moment of poor impulse control went to his keyboard.
posted by jscalzi at 5:58 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Understanding Christopher Priest

What an odd article. A barely-on-the-fringes-of-SF writer criticises Priest for trying too hard to be a serious writer, and being jealous of the success of other, lesser practitioners - the subtext being that he'd be a happier, more well-rounded sort of chap if he'd only relax and write some young-adult novels about steampunk zombies or something.

There's room for both sorts of work in SF. There's a market for pulp and a market for more serious, challenging, literate writing. I think interpreting a writer's anger at an award panel for praising the former over the latter as mere professional jealousy is just an attempt to cheapen the argument. By all means reward the success of mass-market SF, but don't hold it up as being an example of the peak of the genre.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:00 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I read Priest's rant I was instantly reminded of Norman Spinrad's fulminatory review essays in Asimov's -- in particular, the ones in the 1980s when he seemed to have a full hate-on for Orson Scott Card (for reasons that have nothing to do with why people tend to have a hate-on for OSC nowadays: essentially, OSC was winning Hugos and Nebulas, WTF?).

Still, as screeds go, it was kind of fun to read. I expect Stross will be inserting that paragraph as a blurb on the Rule 34 paperback -- or will be doing his level best to do so.
posted by mcwetboy at 6:02 AM on March 29, 2012


Alas, Chris left his essay a bit too late to get on the back cover of the paperback (it's already typeset).

As for me, well: when life hands you lemons, it's obviously time to sell lemonade. Anyone want to buy a tee shirt?
posted by cstross at 6:10 AM on March 29, 2012 [33 favorites]


Speaking of outrages, let’s turn to the shortlist with which we have actually been presented.

Ouch! But reading his descriptions of the books, I'd say that these simply aren't books that would interest me as someone who loves science fiction but isn't excited by the mainstream of the genre. (The only one on the list that I've tried to read was the Miéville, and I put it down after a chapter or two because it was sucking so hard.) It's an essay that palpably comes from a place of love for the genre and a frustration with what is being rewarded and encouraged; he's speaking my language here and I agree with him that I would love to see these awards lists spotlighting books that are genuinely at the forefront.

When I realized that it was a Sherri S. Tepper novel that he was dissing, he lost all of my respect. That woman can write - and if she's written a quest novel with a talking horse, it's gonna be a damn good quest novel with a talking horse.

I had the opposite reaction: the author of The Gate to Women's Country is writing a book that relies on cheap horse puns? WTF? We all have to pay the rent, and good for her if it sells well, but an odd choice for the shortlist.
posted by Forktine at 6:10 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


jb: I'm generally a fan of Sheri S. Tepper, but I found the waters rising pretty damn weak. It was an extremely forgettable sequel to one of her more middling books.
posted by DRMacIver at 6:22 AM on March 29, 2012


I've read none of the nominees. I've read and enjoyed cstross's books (but not Rule 34) and, ahem, appreciate what Miéville tries to do -although the only book of his I've enjoyed was The City & The City.

I will say that Lavie Tidhar is the most exciting new SF author I know about. Here's the Insurance Agent.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:24 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the Understanding Christopher Priest link:

"It has all the qualities of someone who has spent decades studying, learning, dedicating every fraction of a considerable intellect to learning the rules and structures of fiction, but never quite managed to get his own soul on the page. Which, in the end, is the only thing we really demand of a novelist."

Who the hell are "we"? I demand a lot more than that of a novelist.
posted by escabeche at 6:27 AM on March 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Charlie Stross! Can you talk about this tweet a bit? "Critic was expecting Mozart. Walked into a Dead Kennedys gig by mistake."

I have not read your books or any of the others being discussed, but I might one day. I gather from this that there is some kind of low-to-the-ground authenticity in the current crop of books that certain older critics are unable to appreciate. Is there something fundamentally new going on? Something old being rejected or turned on its head? What's at the root of all of this? (Anyone else is welcome to answer but that tweet in particular made me curious.)
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:36 AM on March 29, 2012


A rather more measured condemnation of the shortlist from Nina Allan, another SF writer.
posted by ninebelow at 6:38 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Stross writes like an internet puppy: energetically, egotistically, sometimes amusingly, sometimes affectingly, but always irritatingly, and goes on being energetic and egotistical and amusing for far too long. You wait nervously for the unattractive exhaustion which will lead to a piss-soaked carpet.

I don't agree, or maybe I do but enjoy puppies anyway. But I just love that bit. I'll probably find an excuse to use the analogy myself. I'm going to read some of Priest's stuff now.
posted by CaseyB at 6:40 AM on March 29, 2012


Maybe he's an asshole, but I really want to read "Osama" now.

Pretty much my takeaway too. Hey, it's up for a Kitschie! As is Embassytown...
posted by Artw at 6:56 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, they both were up for a Kitschies. The award went to A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (which is ineligble for the Clarke Award) last month.
posted by ninebelow at 7:06 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


> a considerable proportion of whose published output is movie
> novelizations

I think you are thinking of the wrong Christoper Priest.
posted by dgeiser13 at 7:07 AM on March 29, 2012


Well, they both were up for a Kitschies. The award went to A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (which is ineligble for the Clarke Award) last month.

SCIENCE FICTION IS DEAD!
posted by Artw at 7:09 AM on March 29, 2012


From the Nina Allan essay:
When I look at this year’s shortlist, what I see is not an honest selection of the best SF novels of 2011, but a political decision to promote what is known as core or heartland SF at any cost, regardless of literary quality, regardless of how far the work goes to promoting speculative fiction as a credible artistic movement. That cost is not only to the authors of the five or six genuine works of literature that have been wilfully excluded from the sbortlist, but to SF in general and those who love it and care passionately about it.
That's not good for the genre, and it's not good for the reader.
posted by Forktine at 7:10 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


PercussivePaul: Leaving aside stylistic quirks (like the novel being written in multi-viewpoint second person present tense -- for a reason, I should add) and other issues (all but one of the major protagonists are non-straight) it's set in the near future, 10-15 years out. That's a time frame most SF authors have abandoned, and for good reason: the near future of the 21st century is nothing like the clean futurist dreams of the early 20th.

My personal position is that I don't think we can understand the near future without understanding the social implications of the spread of ubiquitous networking technologies. A spread which will have as disruptive effect on the way we live — between 2010 and 2030 — as the First World War had between 1910 and 1930. That's a horrifying rupture with the present day, and many older readers (especially those who grew up before 1980 and the victory of the new right in the Anglosphere) seem to shy away from it.

"Rule 34" is a novel about the personal consequences of changes in the nature of crime and law enforcement over the next 20 years. It's also the most brutal deconstruction of the cozy detective mystery sub-genre that I could come up with (without being glaringly obvious about it). It's not surprising that lots of people find it difficult or unpleasant.
posted by cstross at 7:12 AM on March 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


On the other hand I read Preist's complaint about the Bear book and think "Oooh, something with an actual spaceship in? That's novel these days."
posted by Artw at 7:13 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's not good for the genre, and it's not good for the reader.

Well, it wouldn't be good for either if it was true. But it isn't.
posted by ninebelow at 7:17 AM on March 29, 2012


cstross

SILENCE, INTERNET PUPPY!
posted by Artw at 7:19 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read Preist's complaint about the Bear book and think "Oooh, something with an actual spaceship in? That's novel these days."

Stay far away from Hull Zero Three unless you want to end up agreeing with Priest. It's a truly embarrassing effort in clone-on-a-colony-ship cliché, with not a lick of originality or innovation, cast in ugly, leaden, declamatory prose reminiscent of the worst sci-fi of the '40s. That book ending up on an award shortlist really is, all by itself, a strong argument that there's something wrong with the judges' taste and/or motivations (Allan's "political decision to promote what is known as core or heartland SF at any cost, regardless of literary quality" seems like a very likely explanation, since only to a Golden-Age-nostalgic hard-SF fundamentalist would it look like an even passable piece of work).
posted by RogerB at 7:29 AM on March 29, 2012


Interesting that I walk away with a distaste for Priest and a mistrust of his opinions, but Nina Allan has basically the same views and I don't end up feeling the same way about her. I'm actually left thinking that "Osama sounds interesting, but if Priest is advocating for it, it probably isn't."

Also, what an odd thing he says about Mieville -- does anyone say "Meryl Streep has won 3 Oscars, but that's not her fault, and she probably isn't trying to?"
posted by tyllwin at 7:30 AM on March 29, 2012


I dont agree with him - I enjoyed entering the world of Rule 34 for example - Preist's essay followed the two rules of successful screed writing, first be entertaining, second you need to actually like something.
posted by shothotbot at 7:32 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I will drop anything to read more from Vinge, Banks or Watts. They each have their flaws but what's really important to me in my SF, an exploration of the personal and societal ramifications of technological shifts, is what they do well.

Of the three of them, Vinge seems to write about places I
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:36 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm hoping next week's Hugo noms look better than this list.

Oh, you poor dear.
posted by Justinian at 7:45 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


seanmpuckett obviously hit the Singularity.
posted by Justinian at 7:46 AM on March 29, 2012 [10 favorites]


... wouldn't mind vacationing and Banks about places I'd like to live. And I'm rather resigned to the notion that the world I'll end up living in will have been penned by Watts.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:46 AM on March 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Priest wrote a whole book about Harlan Ellison not publishing The Last Dangerous Visions. The butthurt is strong with this one.
posted by NathanBoy at 7:54 AM on March 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


he understood personal computing and networking so much sooner than almost anyone else.

another Clarke-based side-bar - sorry, there aren't many places where people might appreciate a good Clarke story as here - the thing that made Clarke so amazing to me was not just his genius and creativity, but his almost child-like glee at what science can and did accomplish - embodied by his own personal computer. I had the good fortune to interview him in his house in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1994, for the syndicated series "Sightings," and in one of the ultimate "damn why weren't we rolling moments" of my whole career, as the local cameraman was setting up, Sir Clarke said to me "listen, listen, you must listen to this" with pure unadulterated glee turned off his PC, which meant I heard HAL say "my mind is going Dave...." while Clarke beamed with pleasure, glee, and happiness. after the shutdown was complete, he turned it back on, which was accompanied by the now-expected "I'm a HAL 9000, fully functional and ready to serve" audio.
posted by TMezz at 7:56 AM on March 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


which meant I heard HAL say "my mind is going Dave...." while Clarke beamed with pleasure, glee, and happiness. after the shutdown was complete, he turned it back on, which was accompanied by the now-expected "I'm a HAL 9000, fully functional and ready to serve" audio.
posted by TMezz


Along those derail-y lines, I've found that installing this HAL9000 Win7 theme pack has made my daily work experience 1000% better. Nothing beats my computer passive-aggressively asking me if I'm sure I want to do that.
posted by COBRA! at 8:04 AM on March 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


> a considerable proportion of whose published output is movie
> novelizations

I think you are thinking of the wrong Christoper Priest.


He wrote the novelization for Short Circuit. Presumably he excluded the robots as a science fiction cliche.
posted by Artw at 8:10 AM on March 29, 2012


(also, looking at his Wikipedia page, he was dumped off of Doctor Who for refusing to kill Adric, who they killed anyway. Black screen, no music.)
posted by Artw at 8:12 AM on March 29, 2012


Also, what an odd thing he says about Mieville -- does anyone say "Meryl Streep has won 3 Oscars, but that's not her fault, and she probably isn't trying to?"

I haven't read any of the books on this year's shortlist (yet -- free time is scarce!), so I don't have an opinion on Priest's specific complaints about them. But, this particular statement of his, regarding Miéville not being at fault, is not really that strange.

In any scenario where awards are being given for creative works, there's always going to be the possibility that a particular work was crafted specifically to appeal to whoever is choosing the winners of the awards. This is so commonplace in film that "Oscar bait" is a well-known, well-understood trope (and whole film releases are timed to maximize the potential for awards).

Priest has noted that Miéville has won the Clarke Award 3 times, and is now on the shortlist again (and thus, may potentially win it a 4th time). And what he is saying, quite simply, is that he doesn't believe Miéville is specifically angling to get his works on that shortlist. He's giving Miéville the benefit of the doubt, and saying that, while anyone who creates is likely to want approval, Miéville is not writing novels specifically aimed at pleasing the awards committee.

Thus, it's not Miéville's fault that he has won 3 times (and will possibly win a 4th time) -- he's just writing the novels he wants to write, and is not gaming the system or appealing to the committee. But, it is the fault of the awards committee for repeatedly choosing those novels over others (presuming you agree with Priest's assessment of the award-worthiness of the novels, that is).
posted by tocts at 8:19 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


He was totally not kidding about the puns, guys. On page 2 of "The Waters Rising":

"It was all those neighs that did it," the horse said, approaching a curve in the road. "They decided we were not dangerous because I kept de-neighing it."


I have a strong feeling that any decent MLP:FiM fanfic writer could have slipped at least two or three more horse puns into those two sentences. If that's typical of the whole novel, I don't think it'd pass Equestria Daily's quality control pre-readers.
posted by radwolf76 at 8:27 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


"They decided we were not dangerous because I kept de-neighing it."

I never expected Sheri S. Tepper would remind me of Piers Anthony.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:29 AM on March 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


The Scunny Bunny
posted by josher71 at 8:30 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, what an odd thing he says about Mieville -- does anyone say "Meryl Streep has won 3 Oscars, but that's not her fault, and she probably isn't trying to?"

I've only read Leviathan, and while that did make me curious enough to file away The City and the City to try later at some point, I will say if that dude's won four out of the last ten it raises questions either about the strength of the genre or the taste of the judges. The Chandler Rule is quite a worthy thing --- when in doubt, have a man with a gun enter the room --- but he seemed to invoke it with more and more frequency as that novel went on, so by the end I think it was about every third page. It kept you moving fast enough that you got through it, but then again I think the merest pause for breath and the reader might have realised large bits of his mythic underpinnings conflicted with each other and didn't explain the character's motivations very well. And priest was right about how thin his characters are.
posted by Diablevert at 8:31 AM on March 29, 2012


Yeah, CM's characters are not his greatest strength. I have a hard time with anything other than the Bas-Lag novels and actively thought The City and The City was awful and Embassytown was plain dull.
posted by josher71 at 8:33 AM on March 29, 2012


I am also utterly fascinated with Osama (the description of which makes me think it's like The Mirage, only without sucking so much) after those two articles. The kindle edition isn't even all that expensive, and it's free for Amazon Prime members.

I hadn't heard of it before these articles, so that's been a nice plus.
posted by jeather at 8:40 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you've never read Priest's The Last Deadloss Visions, you really should.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:46 AM on March 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


For all of the intellectual discussion in here, all I can think of is INTERNET PUPPEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:47 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


William Gibson has offered him pads.
posted by Artw at 8:59 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


The kindle edition isn't even all that expensive, and it's free for Amazon Prime members.

Yup. It now sits as next on my to-read stack.
posted by Artw at 9:00 AM on March 29, 2012


Yup. It now sits as next on my to-read stack.

I hate you people who are eligible for Amazon Prime.
posted by jeather at 9:01 AM on March 29, 2012


I'm also an Amazon Mom.
posted by Artw at 9:08 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I bet that reading this in print on a blog is a very different thing from listening to Priest relate these same opinions in person. I suspect an arch, ironic, understated, and wry tone to much of this that would undercut any seeming meanness.

Sort of relatedly, I'm always surprised Mefites leap to the defense of China Miéville and dump on Cory Doctorow, given they're both high-profile self-promoters. I suppose it helps Miéville that he has a larger body of somewhat higher-quality writing than Doctorow.

And while Priest has paid the bills over the years with tie-in writing, his original novels are almost uniformly (in literary terms) excellent, though not being very "hard" sf they are probably not every sf reader's cup of proverbial tea. (Well, The Inverted World would please the hard sf readers, too, I suppose.)
posted by aught at 9:40 AM on March 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Charlie Stross is selling t-shirts.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 9:48 AM on March 29, 2012


Also, while it's only an indirect, highly subjective, and unscientific measure of quality in the sf field, every time I read through the Locus "New Books" posts, it seems like 90% of the listings contain the phrase, "Fantasy novel, part x of a series," which just makes my heart sink under the weight of (to coin I think a Nielsen-Hayden phrase) extruded fantasy product.
posted by aught at 9:51 AM on March 29, 2012


aught: "extruded fantasy product"

Not a PNH/TNH coinage.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:54 AM on March 29, 2012


Mr. Clarke more or less predicted the Internet in 1974

The ghost of Murray Leinster says "So what. Big deal. Try having done it in 1946 bucko."
posted by Zed at 10:21 AM on March 29, 2012


Yet Priest seems to be saying that there is a measure of quality for the shortlist, and if fewer than six books in the set of eligible books meet that standard, then there's no need to even fill up those spaces.

Priest says why he thinks this, though; he thinks that the Clark awards aren't (or shouldn't be) just about recognizing the best book, but also functioning as an advertisement for SF as a whole: in which case you want the book to be selected from a field of strong contenders.
posted by kenko at 10:22 AM on March 29, 2012


This, also, I think is pretty damning:
Of the existing Clarke shortlist, we have heard no dissent from any of the panel. Here is Andrew M. Butler, quoted on the Guardian website (26th March 2011): “[The shortlist]‘s got something for everyone: alien contact, post-apocalyptic disaster, near future cyberpunkish police procedural,” he said, adding that the variety demonstrates the health of the SF scene. “It’s exciting because you can’t fit it in a box.”
It really does seem, from what Butler says, as if the shortlist is created to be appealing to already existing fans, rather than to promote good work as such.
posted by kenko at 10:23 AM on March 29, 2012


God save me from "an arch, ironic, understated, and wry tone." But I think you're right and I think that sensibility is one reason I won't agree with him.
posted by tyllwin at 10:25 AM on March 29, 2012


Major Highlights in the History of Space Opera

FUCK YEAH 1940s! (minus some antiquated social values and a certain cardboardness of character)

I dunno, if Hard SF type stories are going to be driven out of SF awards in favour of steampunkery and magic-driven nonsense then an award that's named after Clarke seems like a fitting last bastion for them.
posted by Artw at 10:37 AM on March 29, 2012


It really does seem, from what Butler says, as if the shortlist is created to be appealing to already existing fans

Really? Sounds to me as he is describing the outcome of the process, not the process itself.
posted by ninebelow at 10:43 AM on March 29, 2012


Of the three of them, Vinge seems to write about places I
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:36 AM on March 29


... wouldn't mind vacationing and Banks about places I'd like to live.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:46 AM on March 29

IANAScience Fiction Writer, but I bet there is a good short story in there somewhere about seanmpuckett's missing ten whole minutes and not even noticing it himself.

posted by Fiberoptic Zebroid and The Hypnagogic Jerks at 10:54 AM on March 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Zed: "The ghost of Murray Leinster says "So what. Big deal. Try having done it in 1946 bucko.""

Vannevar Bush's Ghost: "Read my article in The Atlantic the year before, did you?"
posted by radwolf76 at 10:55 AM on March 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


IANAScience Fiction Writer

You may be outnumbered in this thread.
posted by Artw at 10:57 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


1934: Triplanetary by E.E. "Doc" Smith: The first book in Smith's Lensmen series is published

It wasn't in the Lensmen universe until Smith retconned it in 1950-something. The serial version of Galatic Patrol was the first recognizably-lensmen thing, IIRC.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:57 AM on March 29, 2012


Vannevar Bush's Ghost: "Read my article in The Atlantic the year before, did you?"

E.M. Foster has a chilling warning against your future from 1909.
posted by Artw at 10:58 AM on March 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I weirdly blocked on The Machine Stops when I posted about Leinster, and considered following up my own comment, but I figured I'd hit my self-linking limit for one thread he says, self-linking.

The rise of Facebook and Twitter has made The Machine Stops only look better as forecast.
posted by Zed at 11:05 AM on March 29, 2012


Not a PNH/TNH coinage.

Yeah, "extruded fantasy product" was definitely coined on RASFW in the very late 90s. The linked thread with William December Starr matches my recollection so I think that must be it.
posted by Justinian at 11:06 AM on March 29, 2012


My prediction for the 2011 Hugo ballot. I haven't read all of these (I'm way behind this year!) nor do I believe all of the choices I have read should make the ballot. But that doesn't mean the voters won't nominate the usual suspects! Come on and surprise me, Worldcon members. Please.

THE CHILDREN OF THE SKY by Vernor Vinge
VORTEX by Robert Charles Wilson
RULE 34 by Charles Stross
THE WISE MAN'S FEAR by Patrick Rothfuss
EMBASSYTOWN by China Mieville
posted by Justinian at 11:18 AM on March 29, 2012


I do love Cat Valente.
posted by zoo at 11:20 AM on March 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ted Chiang hasn't written a short story this year, has he? IT'S ALL UP IN THE AIR!
posted by Artw at 11:21 AM on March 29, 2012


I had the opposite reaction: the author of The Gate to Women's Country is writing a book that relies on cheap horse puns? WTF?

Tepper has a breathless, gorgeous style that kicks you past the silly parts of her plotting. I mean,


[SPOILERS]


The Gate to Women's Country is engaging, and also makes no sense because we learn at the conclusion that they're breeding out male violence . . . except for ultraviolent ninjas with flying guillotines. Now I think ninja-eugenics might be rad, but that's 13 year old Wolverine comics reader-me talking, not the part that supports feminism and nonviolence. Also, because homosexuals are inconvenient, she destroys them all, and that's not cool.

Once A Plague of Angels got into "Kill the poor to stop AIDS!" I was basically done -- but I still finished. It kind of saddens me is she has actually failed stylistically, because she was good enough to actually carry me through class extermination and pacifist flying guillotines.
posted by mobunited at 11:28 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


The early paragraphs appear to exist only to allow Chris Priest to have a rather unpleasant pop at Mark Billingham, which has very little to do with the rest of the post, and which does make me wonder how many of Billingham's books Priest has actually read in order to determine that his works are 'plodding and laddish'. (In one para he calls the books police procedurals and Billingham a thriller writer, which for someone so keen on exactitude of language...)

On the main thrust of the piece, maybe it's just me, but if I were a novelist who wanted to have a go - from lofty principles and love of the genre - at the paucity of imagination of the judges who have shortlisted for an award, I'd save it for a year in which I hadn't published a novel which failed to make that shortlist.
posted by reynir at 11:34 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


> That's a time frame most SF authors have abandoned, and for good reason: the near
> future of the 21st century is nothing like the clean futurist dreams of the early 20th.

The near future lost out the day we realized spaceports were going look just like ATL, DFW, and LAX.
posted by jfuller at 11:55 AM on March 29, 2012


Justinian:

If you're making predictions rather than personal choices, you'd be remiss in discounting the chances of Dance With Dragons.
posted by jscalzi at 12:20 PM on March 29, 2012


Mr. Clarke more or less predicted the Internet in 1974 , including at least one non-obvious ramification. And he sort of predicts the PC, getting the form factor right, but thinking that it would be a terminal to a big computer somewhere, instead of being completely self-contained. He knew it would be small, it would have a keyboard, it would have a monitor, it would connect you to everything, and you would have it by 2001.
There were already devices like that on the market in 1974. They were just expensive. The Apple 2 came out in 1977, and the Altair 8800 came out in 1975.
posted by delmoi at 12:36 PM on March 29, 2012


Ever time I see a summary of Osama I wonder if it's intented to be some sort of love letter to PK Dick, what with all the parallels to The Man in the High Castle.

But then none of the reviews even mention that and I start wondering if I just slipped into an alternate universe again.
posted by Cironian at 12:50 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wevs, SFF awards have been meaningless since 1968 when the justly forgotten Alexei Panshin's justly forgotten novel Rite of Passage won the Nebula for some justly forgotten reason.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:52 PM on March 29, 2012


Ever time I see a summary of Osama I wonder if it's intented to be some sort of love letter to PK Dick, what with all the parallels to The Man in the High Castle.

I thought of Spinrad's The Iron Dream when I first heard of it.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:53 PM on March 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hey, I liked Rite of Passage.
posted by mcwetboy at 12:56 PM on March 29, 2012


"This could conceivably be the best SFF novel of the year it was written in, which was the same year Stand on Zanzibar and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" liked it?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:07 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a difference between "I can't believe X won/was nominated when Y was eligible" and "X has no business being on the ballot, much less winning the damn thing." There are plenty of examples of the former, then and now. The Nebs sometimes have interesting outcomes, in part because the voting population is so small (and it was much smaller in the 1960s).
posted by mcwetboy at 1:12 PM on March 29, 2012


The Nebulas also historically have had really weird eligibility rules-not everything that qualified for the same year Hugo was eligible.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:41 PM on March 29, 2012


True but Stand and Androids were on the same shortlist, according to the Nebula site.

I feel like I might have been a little obnoxiously vitriolic toward Rite of Passage: it's competent and all, it's just so utterly by the numbers.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:46 PM on March 29, 2012


Interesting Jo Walton essay on Rite of Passage, fwiw.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:55 PM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you're making predictions rather than personal choices, you'd be remiss in discounting the chances of Dance With Dragons.

You're right. I completely forgot ADwD came out in 2011. Hah! That one obviously goes on the ballot. But which will it replace? I'm guessing WISE MAN'S FEAR.
posted by Justinian at 2:09 PM on March 29, 2012


aught: "extruded fantasy product"

Not a PNH/TNH coinage.


Ah, well close. I do associate them strongly with rasfw in the pre-blog years.
posted by aught at 2:18 PM on March 29, 2012


Weren't they more active on RASFF than RASFW?
posted by Justinian at 2:20 PM on March 29, 2012


Apologies, that may be overly pedantic. And thus precisely in the spirit of RASFF.
posted by Justinian at 2:21 PM on March 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've only read Leviathan, and while that did make me curious enough to file away The City and the City to try later at some point

I think that you're mistaking the title of Mieville's work or you're confusing Mieville with Scott Westerfeld.

I've read essentially none of the books on the shortlist (the exception being Rule 34) or the ones mentioned by Priest, which inordinately depresses me. So many books, so little time....
posted by AdamCSnider at 2:26 PM on March 29, 2012


Apologies, that may be overly pedantic. And thus precisely in the spirit of RASFF.

Heh. My memories of All Things Usenet are getting a little blurred with the years, hence my original mis-attribuion, but you're probably right.
posted by aught at 2:28 PM on March 29, 2012


Wow, thanks for the link to The Last Deadloss Visions. That's amazing, and sad.

Sad, because when you look at this list of LDV authors you start ticking off the ones who are no longer with us, and it's far too many ticks.
posted by feckless at 2:37 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


On the "predicted the internet" sweepstakes, I think Edward Bellamy got the essence of it back in Looking Backward (1887).
posted by zompist at 2:46 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really liked The Inverted World.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:21 PM on March 29, 2012


Is it just me, or do spurned SF writers really like to take a shot at China Miéville? I mean, disproportionate to his fame, I've seen more criticism aimed at this particular author than anyone else in SF. Is there something akin to the crab bucket effect in genre fiction? I find this bizarre. I haven't read Embassytown yet. Maybe it's a stinker, but anyone who writes as much as Miéville does much is bound to produce some turds among the diamonds – he has averaged a book a year for the last eleven years, by my count. And the criticism here is specifically that he doesn't work hard enough. A new book every year! Every fucking year!
posted by deathpanels at 4:42 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, that Nina Allan critique of this year's Clarke shortlist is really sharp, poking at some of the same folks in the same way as Priest, but with much more intelligence, going after the "overworked, ignorant question" Should Science Fiction and Fantasy Do More than Entertain?

Of course it should, she says, and then slams the awards for basically ignoring style and form - what she seems to think makes great scifi also great lit:

Let me stress that this is not a diatribe against hard SF. I write literary speculative fiction, and so my own personal tastes are bound to err in that direction. But when I find and read SF with a hard science edge that is as achieved as art as it is as SF – Ian McDonald, Neal Stephenson, Simon Ings – then I am exhilarated, excited, passionate in its defence. It is not about the what, but the how.

Writing earlier this month about Greg Egan’s The Clockwork Rocket (not one of the shortlisted novels but I sense it very easily might have been), Adam Roberts gets it spot on:
We ought to hold out for the highest standards in our SF content—but we ought simultaneously to hold out for the highest standards in our SF style and form too. Why can’t be have both?…… SF is a metaphorical literature, one that aims to reproduce the world without representing it. It is more akin to poetry than it is to science.
The answer is of course that we can have both, do have both, and that a generous handful of the novels submitted contain both. It can only be a source of shame that this year’s Clarke shortlist does not offer a full and frank representation of that fact.


I've lately been nosing around the past 6 decades looking for smart, formally interesting scifi and mostly coming up disappointed, so for now I'll just add, "yeah, what she said."

Oh, and the Roberts piece Allan links is provocative and fascinating in its own right - more worthwhile than Priest's angry rant - and includes this great quote from M. John Harrison:

‘Every moment of a science fiction story must represent the triumph of writing over worldbuilding. Worldbuilding is dull. Worldbuilding literalises the urge to invent. Worldbuilding gives an unnecessary permission for acts of writing (indeed, for acts of reading). Worldbuilding numbs the reader’s ability to fulfil their part of the bargain, because it believes that it has to do everything around here if anything is going to get done. Above all, worldbuilding is not technically necessary. It is the great clomping foot of nerdism. It is the attempt to exhaustively survey a place that isn’t there. A good writer would never try to do that, even with a place that is there.
posted by mediareport at 4:46 PM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is the attempt to exhaustively survey a place that isn’t there.

No, that was Dance with Dragons...*tear*
posted by Chekhovian at 4:51 PM on March 29, 2012


Every moment of a science fiction story must represent the triumph of writing over worldbuilding.

Hmm. I wonder if that's why I couldn't remember anything about Light 15 minutes after I finished it.
posted by Zed at 4:58 PM on March 29, 2012


Is it just me, or do spurned SF writers really like to take a shot at China Miéville? I mean, disproportionate to his fame, I've seen more criticism aimed at this particular author than anyone else in SF.

I haven't read Miéville. Perdido Street Station has been on my To Read list for close to a decade now, I suppose. I'm kind of afraid that it's the sort of thing that ten years ago me would've loved, but right now me will only be able to "appreciate," so it's not a high priority and I don't have an opinion on Miéville as an author. I do see him criticized a lot, though--more than I'd expect--and I think part of it may just be a "Target of the Month" factor.

Neil Gaiman inspires a lot of passionate criticism that I've never really understood. Some people genuinely don't like anything he's written, and that's fine, but lots of people always trip over themselves to dismiss him whenever he comes up in certain circles. It used to be that those people disliked him for being humorless and grim (and writing things that made fifteen year old girls want to read comic books), but then he started writing more and more things that were really sort of funny and light hearted and sometimes actually sweet and those same people disliked him for being "twee" and "fluffy" (and writing things that made twenty seven year old women want to read fantasy novels).

Some people are just grouchy. Here Priests demonstrates that grouchiness can be an art unto itself. Maybe if I organize some kind of Ellison Award for literary cantankerousness, all those idle naysayers will apply themselves to become the next Charlie-Brooker-before-his-heart-grew-three-sizes.
posted by byanyothername at 5:16 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm so pissed that Strangers didn't get a nod this year. I may have to fire the head writer. Still, it's probably because of an underuse of genre tropes.

Charlie, this is the first time you've dropped in on a thread here while I was heads down on one of your books (er, messes, or accidents or whatever we are supposed to call them now). It's like multitrack recording or something, one voice coming out of those speakers over there and the same voice out of these over here. Where's my bong?
posted by mwhybark at 6:16 PM on March 29, 2012


I wonder if that's why I couldn't remember anything about Light 15 minutes after I finished it.

Yeah, Light was so highly praised I was a bit shocked when it left me cold. Great, great ideas, but the odd, elliptical way Harrison presented the emotional lives of his characters would have been much more fascinating if the emotional lives of the characters hadn't turned out in the end to be so damn tedious. Shame, that.

Still, it's worth a read, not least for the way it experiments with telling a seriously hard scifi story in a formally unusual way. I think mostly (but not wholly) failed experiments like that are key works in the field, and it's worth noting Light was shortlisted for the Clarke award in 2003.

Anyway, I think Harrison's general 'writing v. worldbuilding' point stands as a challenge whether or not you enjoyed Light. And the specific arguments Priest and Allan are making about this year's awards seem to me cogent, aggressive, and worth taking seriously. It's too bad Priest bungled the furious insult to Stross so badly; I suspect now a significant chunk of scifi fandom will think they've successfully responded to a fairly pointed and powerful set of criticisms by buying a t-shirt.
posted by mediareport at 6:23 PM on March 29, 2012


On second thought, it was glib to call Light a mostly failed experiment; it has significant flaws but it succeeds at a lot of great stuff.
posted by mediareport at 6:37 PM on March 29, 2012


Is it just me, or do spurned SF writers really like to take a shot at China Miéville? I mean, disproportionate to his fame, I've seen more criticism aimed at this particular author than anyone else in SF.

Neil Gaiman inspires a lot of passionate criticism that I've never really understood. Some people genuinely don't like anything he's written, and that's fine, but lots of people always trip over themselves to dismiss him whenever he comes up in certain circles.

See also Cory Doctorow, Bruce Sterling and (not on Metafilter, but on other sites I've encountered) Charles Stross. I think a big factor is the "cooler than thou" need to disparage authors who are popular and highly visible, particularly when they have loudly vocal followings, which all of the above do, at least online.

As someone who thinks Mieville is a great writer but how has observed in himself a knee-jerk tendency to criticize him, I also think that the way that Mieville writes is a factor as well. He weds literary styles more familiar to mainstream fiction to sci-fi and fantasy tropes in breathtakingly creative ways, but that combination is going to in turn irritate people who just want the sci-fi fantasy as well as those who are looking for literary fiction with only a faint sci-fi fantasy flavor. He bounces between two spheres whose inhabitants tend to have very strong and very narrow tastes and expectations.

I suppose politics might also be a factor for some - although his more recent work tends to beat the Brit-Left-Wing-Trotskyist drum less and less often. But its the sort of thing that some Internet denizens might be inclined to pick up and get irritated by.
posted by AdamCSnider at 6:39 PM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


[Miéville] has averaged a book a year for the last eleven years, by my count. And the criticism here is specifically that he doesn't work hard enough. A new book every year! Every fucking year!

And that's on top of teaching courses, publishing academic work, and of course, doing various media-y things like interviews and side projects, eg. London's Overthrow.
posted by mek at 6:52 PM on March 29, 2012


My left eyebrow went up at this 'Oxford in the preternaturally warm March weather looked ravishing' and I more or less decided not to take anything he said seriously thereafter.

I mean, I know, Christopher Priest and all, but come on.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:17 PM on March 29, 2012


Also, Hull Zero Three wasn't supergreat or anything, but it was an amusing romp that did indeed take me back to the golden-agey stuff I loved when I was a preteen. And hell, at this stage, anything that makes me feel young is a Good Thing.

I've been on an SF for a good while now. I am keen to read ctross's latest, as soon as I finish this interminable Peter K Hamilton thing that was recommended to me and that I refuse to let defeat me, as a kind of palate cleanser.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:22 PM on March 29, 2012


...and SF kick...
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:23 PM on March 29, 2012


Oh for fuck's sakes.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:24 PM on March 29, 2012


See also Cory Doctorow, Bruce Sterling and (not on Metafilter, but on other sites I've encountered) Charles Stross. I think a big factor is the "cooler than thou" need to disparage authors who are popular and highly visible, particularly when they have loudly vocal followings, which all of the above do, at least online.

Right. You only take a swing at the big guy because if you can knock him down a peg, even only in your own mind, you've risen an inch on the totem pole. Add the anonymity of the internet which lowers inhibitions better than the most potent liquor and you get a form of reverse-bullying, where the peons on the bottom, clever fame-seekers and hacks, try to puff themselves up by spearing celebrity writers with glib criticisms.

I also feel that there is a backlash by older SF writers against any writing that embraces the schlock of science-fiction, anything that plays with genre conventions instead of forging bold new paths. And pointing to a lack of originality is the dreariest of criticisms one can leveled against a writer. Goodness, I'm looking forward to reading Osama (and a big props to Mr. Priest for bringing it to our attention; perhaps he should write more scathing reviews of popular authors in the servie of directing us to new talent) but the plot sounds like a twist on The Man In The High Castle, albeit a very clever twist. And I don't care. I'm going to read it anyway.

Plot isn't so important to me when I read SF. I think Sterling and Gibson had it right: SF is all about the ambience, the feeling of being in the world, the potential to take culture, run it through a blender, and show us what it's made of. Most SF plots are copies of copies of copies, and it's only natural for a writer to play with the tropes, especially in our post-deconstruction world where everything is commenting on itself.

I'm certainly not as knowledgable of the SF world as someone like Mr. Priest, haven't more than dipped a big toe in it, really, but something strikes me as neurotic about his anxiety concerning whether SF is projecting itself as literarily relevant. Any story's cultural relevance is surely more reflected in its message and its themes, the stuff of art, than in its plot or its seriousness. Neuromancer was a big hit, and it's basically a repackaged detective novel. Perhaps Priest means some other kind of relevance.
posted by deathpanels at 7:32 PM on March 29, 2012


as soon as I finish this interminable Peter K Hamilton thing that was recommended to me and that I refuse to let defeat me

Give up now and save yourself the disappointment. It's like eating the entire cockroach because you aren't a quitter.
posted by Justinian at 7:34 PM on March 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


but the plot sounds like a twist on The Man In The High Castle

I should think something more like Spinrad's THE IRON DREAM, a presentation of "Lords of the Swastika", a deeply purple SF tale by one Adolph Hitler, pulp writer and post-WWI emigre to the United States. Or maybe a combination of the two.
posted by Justinian at 7:38 PM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


a twist on The Man In The High Castle, albeit a very clever twist.

For a super fun alt. history twist on The Man In The High Castle I can highly recommend The Two Dicks, in his cheap Kindle-only anthology Little Machines. I've given one away, but I got a great kick out of who the two Dicks turned out to be an what event it was an ahistorical recreation of.
posted by Artw at 8:08 PM on March 29, 2012


as soon as I finish this interminable Peter K Hamilton thing that was recommended to me and that I refuse to let defeat me

Is it the series where the whole premise is incredibly annoying but about 1/5 of the book takes place somewhere you are really interested in?
posted by shothotbot at 8:54 PM on March 29, 2012


And since we've mentioned it's dread name a couple of times...
What is the Kindle Doing to the Science Fiction Genre?
posted by Artw at 9:12 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


(I suspect the answer is "Long-tailing the fuck out of it so you can't tell shit from Kindle Best Sellers in Science Fiction except that items at the top of Kindle Best Sellers lists benefit massively from positive feedback loops)
posted by Artw at 9:14 PM on March 29, 2012


Is it the series where the whole premise is incredibly annoying but about 1/5 of the book takes place somewhere you are really interested in?

I don't know about his other stuff, but this thing -- the Commonwealth pair of books, I guess it's known as -- mixes a mildly interesting if well-trodden scenario with a) thud-dullard levels of creativity with language (wetwired software agents are called 'e-butlers'? Seriously? My first impulse when I read that was just to stop. I should have followed the impulse.) b) wordy wordy words more words I'm getting paid by the word and did I mention words lots of 'em c) skeevy sexual politics (though that's never been that unusual in the genre, so only half a demerit there) d) 'science' that's handwavier than it ought to be, given the subgenre and e) a seeming inability to tell the difference between an intricately woven tapestry of story threads and a bowl of noodles.

I don't know. I've only got like a fucking thousand pages left or something in Book 2, and I'm going to burn the fucker down then try to forget it. I'm singleminded like that.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:58 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I sincerely hope Mr Hamilton isn't a Mefite -- I hate it when people diss creative folks right to their faces here on the site. But man, even though it's potboilery pageturny amusing, for the most part, I'm not real impressed with his work.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:00 PM on March 29, 2012


TBH I have no idea why people read him when there's at least half a dozen far far better UK Space Opera writers.

(Though I may be prejudiced because he is the only Tory of the bunch)
posted by Artw at 11:04 PM on March 29, 2012


I sincerely hope Mr Hamilton isn't a Mefite -- I hate it when people diss creative folks right to their faces here on the site.

Being that he's the best-selling sf writer in the UK, I imagine he's crying into his big pile of money right now....

For what it's worth, I quite liked his first books (probably helped by them being set not a million miles from where I live) but his epic Space Opera With Zombies (interestingly coming out before the current zombie craze really got going)... well, I could not get through it, despite a couple of attempts.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:24 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


fearfulsymmetry: AIUI Pete is the second best-selling SF author in the UK, per book; it's just that he writes four times as many SF novels as Iain M. Banks.

(Who, I gather, has just sent the next Culture novel off to his editor this very week.)
posted by cstross at 3:51 AM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


(Who, I gather, has just sent the next Culture novel off to his editor this very week.)

Now that is some welcome news.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:07 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Neil Gaiman inspires a lot of passionate criticism that I've never really understood.

That's easy. Gaiman wrote a decent fantasy series, but because it was done in comics form,t he soft bigotry of low expectations meant it was hailed as a masterpiece and ever since everything he has done has been overpraised and overrated.

Combine that with a high visibility and it's no wonder he's a frequent (and easy) target.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:51 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey, cstross: the ageist stuff - making sure to note Priest is 69, calling him a "Grand Old Man" - is getting old. You should stop.
posted by mediareport at 5:53 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey mediareport, MeFi mail is a thing that you should probably use.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:57 AM on March 30, 2012


See also Cory Doctorow, Bruce Sterling and (not on Metafilter, but on other sites I've encountered) Charles Stross. I think a big factor is the "cooler than thou" need to disparage authors who are popular and highly visible, particularly when they have loudly vocal followings, which all of the above do, at least online.

I agree, those authors (along with Neil/Neal Gaiman and Stephenson, among others) are particularly polarizing, more so than some other authors who sell a lot of books but don't inspire the intensity of criticism. I think the criticisms are more stylistic, rather than being anti-popular, but I'm sure both are an issue. Personally, I've been trying (though perhaps failing, including in this thread) to temper my comments about the authors who I dislike on stylistic grounds, because it's just not a productive discussion.

(As well as odd when the authors are participating, too -- I mean, even if I think their books suck ass, I don't want them to stop writing or to stop participating here. Even writing that I think of as bad is bringing pleasure to thousands of readers, and at that point it's maybe more on me to step back and see more clearly what is making it work, not just go for the easy criticism.)
posted by Forktine at 5:59 AM on March 30, 2012


I think the ageism is worth talking about, sorry. Like the stupid, unfair and unnecessary attack Priest made on Stross is worth talking about. Both are ridiculous.
posted by mediareport at 5:59 AM on March 30, 2012


Your call, man. Just, as they say, sayin'.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:02 AM on March 30, 2012


But not in memail. :)
posted by mediareport at 6:04 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Who, I gather, has just sent the next Culture novel off to his editor this very week.)

Yay!
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:05 AM on March 30, 2012


I know it is way, way, way off topic, but I think the best thing that could ever happen to our species would be scientific confirmation that there is somebody else out there. I don't care if it's the Culture, or the Borg, it just doesn't matter. Something to let this sorry little planet full of navelgazing primates know that there's someone to see up in the sky that isn't a bearded, robed, petulant child with a burning glass and borderline personality disorder. We'd have to pull up our socks and get on with the business of civilisation.

Also, it would make SF totally mainstream. So everyone wins!
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:25 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


mediareport: ageism is an interesting point to bring up.

In this line of work (writing fiction) it is very rare for an author to sell their first novel before the age of 30 (usual breakthrough age is 35, +/- 3). You're semi-officially classified as a "hot young author" if you're under 45. And you don't get to retire at 65.

Compare it with the rock star career progression, and weep. (If you're a writer your career is just getting under way at an age when most popular musicians who aren't living off the residuals and reunion tours are skilling up for their new career in fast food.)

Final note: "grand old man" is usually read as a term of affectionate respect.
posted by cstross at 6:30 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


seanmpuckett: actually, there's a really good idea for an SF novel in there:

Aliens are discovered. Too far away to talk to, but with works visible across hundreds of light years.

The rest of the novel describes how the lives of a handful of people, including a couple of SF writers, are affected by this.
posted by cstross at 6:32 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hmm... Aliens exist, SF Writers are covering it up due to the disruptive effect the knowledge would have on their industry.
posted by Artw at 6:39 AM on March 30, 2012


I'm late to the discussion, but one thing about Priest's diatribe did stop me in my tracks. Did he actually READ "The Testament of Jessie Lamb" before deciding it was his favourite? Seriously? The first chapter was quite spectacular: a dystopian novel with a feminist bent. I was ready for an amazing read but unfortunately the rest of the book reads like badly-written YA Margaret Atwood fanfic. If Priest likes to bandy phrases like "poorly drawn characters" and "weak writing" around, he might like to apply it to "Jessie Lamb". It did not make sense - not structurally, not plotwise. It is one of those books that I just had to finish because - surely - it could not go on being that awkwardly bad..

But, you know, at least Christopher Priest has got a lot of website hits and a lot of publicity this week. Good for him.
posted by kariebookish at 7:07 AM on March 30, 2012


A prime number pulsar? Ideas are overpriced a penny a pound; it's execution that matters. Do as you will.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:08 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Who, I gather, has just sent the next Culture novel off to his editor this very week.)

Looking like an October launch too... so that's two Banks in a year!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:32 AM on March 30, 2012


DON'T CROSS THE STREAMS!
posted by Artw at 7:38 AM on March 30, 2012


Understanding Christopher Priest

So why then would a man held in rather high esteem by the community of Science Fiction writers and readers throw a hissy fit about the recently announced Clarke awards shortlist? The immediate assumption one might make is that Priest is somewhat vexed about his own novel The Islanders being overlooked for this year’s shortlist. And no doubt this is one of many straws piled upon this particular heehawing donkey’s back, but in this case probably not the most significant one.

A more significant reason might be that Christopher Priest has spent most of his professional career not being J G Ballard.

posted by Artw at 8:43 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


And thus precisely in the spirit of RASFF

Gold star.
posted by eriko at 10:25 AM on March 30, 2012


That's easy. Gaiman wrote a decent fantasy series, but because it was done in comics form,t he soft bigotry of low expectations meant it was hailed as a masterpiece and ever since everything he has done has been overpraised and overrated.

Um, no.
posted by Artw at 10:52 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Artw: "Understanding Christopher Priest
"

Yeah, I think Scalzi pretty convincingly throws cold water over this one.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:59 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wait a minute... why isn't my fucking novel on the list?! Oh yeah, I've not written it yet... next year, next year...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:00 PM on March 30, 2012


I didn't even get a bullshit Eagle award longlist entry this year...
posted by Artw at 12:05 PM on March 30, 2012


Yeah, I think Scalzi pretty convincingly throws cold water over this one.

I don't think he gets it quite right. It seems to me not so much "who let the rabble in" as "why is so much writing of mediocre quality being taken so seriously," which, if you think back on the literary goals of the 70s new wave generation of speculative fiction writers, must be pretty disheartening for someone like Priest. I have to say, when I go to the bookstore (particularly a big box one) and peruse the sf shelves, the obviously poor quality of the majority of the books depresses me too. But likely it was always that way and I am just sugar coating the past in my memory.
posted by aught at 2:07 PM on March 30, 2012


A more significant reason might be that Christopher Priest has spent most of his professional career not being J G Ballard.

Or Martin Amis or William Boyd or Kazuo Ishiguro or Salman Rushdie or Julian Barnes or Pat Barker or Ian McEwan or Graham Swift or Rose Tremain etc etc
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:08 PM on March 30, 2012


Pat Cadigan writes a letter to the Guardian

I have been on the jury for the Arthur C. Clarke Award twice. This was after I won the Arthur C. Clarke Award...twice. In fact, I was the first writer to win twice. I had two before that upstart Miéville even had one, or before Christopher Priest won his. Yes, Christopher Priest is a previous winner of the award he seems to covet so intensely.

Jury members for the Clarke may serve for two years. During that time, they agree to keep deliberations confidential. That means not revealing who liked–or hated–what book, or which books narrowly missed the shortlist, or which books they favoured. The chairman is likewise expected to keep shut and is enjoined from trying to influence the five jury members in any way.

I am not going to violate those rules by revealing anything about the deliberations I was part of but I don't have to reveal anything to say that Mr. Priest's description of jury deliberations bears no resemblance to anything in my experience. Other people have presented as fact their own surmises as to what juries were "thinking". They decided to play it safe. They're courting the mainstream. The Clarke juries are different every year because one or more members are replaced by other people. This is good–new people, new attitude, new taste. Jury members never serve together long enough to develop alliances. "I couldn't get book A on so I compromised by making them put book B on instead" is, in my experience, pure fiction, at least in the way Christopher Priest is presenting it.

At the end of the day, the jury chair and members are expected to present the shortlist and then the winner in a professional manner–i.e., without disparaging any of them. Like the best movie of the year or the best actor of the year, the best science fiction book of the year is a matter of taste–the taste of the jury that selects it, in the case of the Clarke, or the taste of the majority of people who vote for it, in the case of the Hugo Award. There are times when some of us find this absolutely spot on and other times when it's completely mystifying. That's just how life is and getting angry about it is like getting angry with the weather.

posted by Artw at 9:35 AM on March 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why don't we just wait for the announced winner, then assume that the choice was the will of Allah. I mean, it worked for the Iranians with that last election with Ahmadinejad and his cronys.
posted by Chekhovian at 11:06 AM on March 31, 2012


Cadigan's letter is a whole lot of words saying essentially nothing. It is nothing but "Awards... whaddya gonna do?".
posted by Justinian at 11:41 AM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


For those keeping score at him, Priest has left an interesting comment on jscalzi's blog addressing why he said what he did.
posted by Justinian at 3:16 PM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


keeping score at HOME, obviously. Although some people may be keeping score at Priest.
posted by Justinian at 3:16 PM on March 31, 2012


Yeah, I think Scalzi pretty convincingly throws cold water over this one.

I liked the snarky reply...
Entertained that @scalzi 's defence of Priest as a 'top table' writer is followed by a bunch of people saying they've never heard of him...

Which is, you know, kind of true. He's got his David Bowie movie, but outside of that saying that he's got that same kind of recognition and acclamaition as Ballard, or ever Mievile or Stross, is being charitable to the point of being silly.

(And that goes for the UK as well as the US, despite his protestations)
posted by Artw at 5:57 PM on March 31, 2012


Heh.

Weird Council: an International Conference on the Writing of China Miéville

/awaits news of the Priest conference.
posted by Artw at 6:10 PM on March 31, 2012


Oh come on. The "who's more popular, huh?" garbage is a nice way of avoiding the deeper issues, which were nicely explained by Nina Allan. At this point, allowing the focus to turn to "Priest-Stross-Mieville: who's got more money?" is nothing but moronic.
posted by mediareport at 8:37 PM on March 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


And yeah, I liked Cadigan's early novels a lot when I read them years ago, but her letter also avoids dealing with the deeper criticism of this year's Clarke result in favor of throwing insults like "an extended tantrum by a disappointed writer" and painting the attack as whining that the award missed "one of my deathless masterpieces." That's beneath Cadigan, just as much as Priest's personal vitriol was beneath him.

It doesn't help to focus on the garbage when there's better stuff in the same pile.
posted by mediareport at 8:42 PM on March 31, 2012


The "who's more popular, huh?" garbage is a nice way of avoiding the deeper issues

Well, just so long as we're giving up on the whole "Priest is a Top Tier Author at the heart of the action" argument.
posted by Artw at 10:23 PM on March 31, 2012


Oh course there are two Christopher Priests....
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:32 AM on April 1, 2012


Spot betting scandal hits British SF
posted by Artw at 6:10 AM on April 1, 2012


rainman voice: definitely a post dated April 1st, definitely
posted by taz at 6:24 AM on April 1, 2012


Strange Horizons has an interesting roundup of reactions. Worth noting that Cathrynne Valente's take on the Clarke Award ("for the type of person who goes on the Internet to weep about the death of hard science fiction") is at odds with Nina Allan's March 3 post ("the one award that sets out specifically to reward innovation and the pushing of the literary envelope").
posted by mediareport at 2:53 PM on April 1, 2012


The Prestige was a very good book and I've looked forward to reading more Christopher Priest. (I also like comics' Christopher Priest, particularly his Black Panther run.)
posted by Zed at 5:32 PM on April 1, 2012


definitely a post dated April 1st, definitely

Orbit Books to Release Limited Edition “Remix Novel,” Rule 35 by Arthur C. Clarke Award Finalist Charles Stross
posted by Artw at 8:18 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Have not read "Embassytown". Did read an excerpt of what I believe was that one at the end of "The City and the City". If this fellow is objecting to an excess of "alright" as it was used in that excerpt, then he's objecting to realistic dialogue. I have recently moved to the UK, and "Alright?" is used as a greeting, to ask if you need help in stores, as an introduction to a coffee purchase, by waiters... It's a really, really common phrase (or word, in this case, but I usually hear it prefaced with an abbreviated "you"--y'alright?) over here. Mr. Mieville is very, very from over here. I don't know whether this reviewer is American or British, or something else entirely. But if he's not from England, it might seem like overuse in fiction. In fact, it's overuse in reality. It's like "aloha", if "aloha" meant "hello", "how are you doing", "may I help you with something", and no doubt eight hundred other things I am not quite clear on yet. If Mr. Mieville is writing dialogue in a colloquial style, it's probably pretty accurate.

My husband and I have started picking it up. There's a particular intonation that goes with it. We're still not quite sure how to answer it correctly in all cases. It's slightly maddening. However, trust me, it's realistic.
posted by Because at 1:14 PM on April 3, 2012


I have to say, when I go to the bookstore (particularly a big box one) and peruse the sf shelves, the obviously poor quality of the majority of the books depresses me too. But likely it was always that way and I am just sugar coating the past in my memory.
posted by aught at 5:07 PM on March 30 [+] [!]


As a followup, in yesterday's "New Books" post on locus.com:

- Urban fantasy novel, fourth in a series...
- Urban fantasy novel, fourth in the ... series...
- Fantasy novel, second in a series...
- Military SF novel, ninth in the ... series...
- “Gaslamp fantasy” novel, second a series...
- Fantasy novel, second in a series...
- Young adult novel, fifth in a series...
- Fantasy novel, first book of a trilogy...
- SF novel, fifth a series... about a woman who discovers that alien invaders from Alpha Centauri are turning humans into monsters... [the only supposedly "SF novel" on the list is about monsters? "SF" must stand for "Syfy" here]
- Horror novel ...
- Urban fantasy novel, eighth novel in the series...
- Historical fantasy novel...
- SF thriller...
- Fantasy novel, first in a new series...
- Paranormal thriller...
- Fantasy novel, fifth in a series...
- Fantasy novel, fifth in a series...
- Literary novel with fantasy elements...
- Urban fantasy novel, first of a series...
- Associational mystery novel...
- Urban fantasy novel...
- Fantasy/mystery novel, second in a series...

Talk about extruded product. This lifetime sf/speculative fiction writer has been finding himself reading a lot more literary, postmodern, and slipstream fiction (think Rick Moody, Roberto Bolano, or Scarlett Thomas) than genre novels lately.
posted by aught at 5:35 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Has Theodore Sturgeon been alerted?

Oh, and though I am enjoying Obama so far I can defiantly say that it would not be taking home any theoretical "prose far better than anything Mieville or Stross could pull off" award, not by a longshot.

(I wouldn't give it to Preist either, but that's a little unfair as I only have some deliberately stilted pseudo-Edwardian stuff to go on there. )
posted by Artw at 8:34 AM on April 4, 2012


Has Theodore Sturgeon been alerted?

What he said. There's a hell of a lot more sf&f being published than there used to be. That list has a bunch of stuff that doesn't look interesting to me as well. It also has a new Christopher Moore ("historical fantasy") novel and a new Kate Wilhelm ("associational mystery") novel. On the basis of those alone, I'd call that a pretty good haul for a single week.
posted by Zed at 9:43 AM on April 4, 2012


Have not read "Embassytown". Did read an excerpt of what I believe was that one at the end of "The City and the City". If this fellow is objecting to an excess of "alright" as it was used in that excerpt, then he's objecting to realistic dialogue....I don't know whether this reviewer is American or British

He's British. Embassytown isn't set on Earth, it's future SF on a distant planet with aliens. The use of 'alright' is definitely not as the colloquial English greeting. (Maybe you're thinking of Kraken, which is set in London?)
posted by Infinite Jest at 11:15 AM on April 4, 2012


Artw: "Has Theodore Sturgeon been alerted?"

Sadly, my time traveling Delorean is in the shop again.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:17 AM on April 4, 2012


And overall I'm a bit suprised at some of the reaction to this - a lot of people are seeing Priest as being nasty and vitriolic - but he doesn't really attack any of the authors other than Stross - he attacks the books. And even w/r/t Stross you could argue that he's criticising "the author of Rule 34" rather than "Charlie Stross", given that his critique certainly can't be applied to all of Stross's work* (I mean, you'd hardly say 'A Colder War' was the work of an "internet puppy").

But his comments about Mieville? Seem fair enough, actually. He thinks Mieville is a good writer who was lazy in Embassytown. That's a criticism I'd make of a lot of the genre - why didn't you do one more re-write, get a better editor? I'd tend to agree that Embassytown could have been a lot better.

Stross (especially, for telling people on Twitter not to boycott Priest, that he's a good writer) and Scalzi deserve credit for their measured reactions.

(*Haven't read Rule 34, so quite possibly it's a ridiculous criticism of that, too.)
posted by Infinite Jest at 11:22 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


2012 Eisner Awards Drop 'Best New Series' for 'Level of Quality' in Eligible Submissions - possibly a reaction to half the submitted items being Batman 1, Daredevil 1 and the like, bit sucks for folk doing honest good new work.
posted by Artw at 7:01 AM on April 6, 2012


And overall I'm a bit suprised at some of the reaction to this - a lot of people are seeing Priest as being nasty and vitriolic

Well, this *is* mostly Internet-driven posts and reactions, where a lot of what happens is fairly "cult of personality"-driven, and therefore tends to extremes. The fact it was "MeFi's Own(TM)" jscalzi and cstross who Priest was critiquing had a lot to do with the tone of the third-party reactions.

Happily (and as one would expect from their past behavior) Scalzi and Stross' own responses were measured; one expects that since both have been publishing successfully for some time that they have mature understandings of how criticism in the business works, how to contextualize negative comments, how to walk away from the keyboard for a while before reacting to something that stings, etc.
posted by aught at 10:20 AM on April 6, 2012


Let Me Tell You About the Birds and the Bees: Gender and the Fallout Over Christopher Priest
posted by Artw at 8:06 AM on April 7, 2012


Well, they are here...

2012 Hugo Award finalists

Embassytown makes the best novel list.
posted by Artw at 2:11 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, the Hugo voters did surprise me. I was way off. Not having read the Walton (I know, I know, RASFW fail on my part) or the Corey I do not know if this should be a good surprise or a bad surprise, but it's certainly refreshing that the ballot isn't a total regurgitation of the usual suspects.

Among the other three I'd be tempted to vote No Award. Not because I think they are bad like in some years (although the Martin is depressingly close) but because I don't believe they are superb, and the Hugo winner should be superb. I quite enjoy Mira Grant's zombie books, for example, but I'm not sure they are the best the genre has to offer.

To be fair that's how I feel about roughly 2/3 of past winners.
posted by Justinian at 11:45 PM on April 7, 2012


In summary, Hugo Voters > Clarke Jury. Oh and Carthago Delenda Est.
posted by Justinian at 11:46 PM on April 7, 2012


Let Me Tell You About the Birds and the Bees: Gender and the Fallout Over Christopher Priest

That one's got legs -- it's still spreading through multiple blogs. Destined to have some catchy -fail name.

Wow, the Hugo voters did surprise me. I was way off. Not having read the Walton (I know, I know, RASFW fail on my part) or the Corey I do not know if this should be a good surprise or a bad surprise, but it's certainly refreshing that the ballot isn't a total regurgitation of the usual suspects.

Among Others is a hell of a good book. I borrowed it from the library and then immedietaly bought the hardcover because I know it's a book I'll reread (and I wanted to toss money in Walton and her publisher's directions.)
posted by Zed at 11:03 AM on April 8, 2012


The problem with the Birds and the Bees link is, well, I think it's completely wrong. If Ursula K. le Guin had written virtually the same thing Priest had written it would have gotten more or less the same reception. Hell, it may have been received in a more positive light as it wouldn't have been seen in some quarters as self-serving.

That's not really the point of her post, of course, and the other stuff stands. I just think it is unfortunate that she started out with what looks to me like a counter-factual.
posted by Justinian at 11:16 AM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Destined to have some catchy -fail name.

Oh good, that means I can ignore anybody who uses it once it's coined.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:09 PM on April 8, 2012


(to be clear: I like Valente's piece, but I hate kutesy kontroversy koinages)
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:11 PM on April 8, 2012


The problem with the Birds and the Bees link is, well, I think it's completely wrong.

And, frankly, dishonest. I got as far as "she was called a rabid animal by Peter Watts...Because she thought a book was sexist". Clicked on the link to Watts' post, here's what he said:

"Also, there is at least one rabid animal who hates it, someone who goes by the monicker “acrackedmoon”.

Notice what I did there: I reduced a fellow human being to the status of a mentally-diseased animal.... I’d generally show more restraint, but for the fact that acm has beaten me to that particular punch by referring to Scott Bakker as “a self-important little roach”. She calls him a number of other things, too, but I figure that particular shot justifies my own epithet"
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:27 PM on April 8, 2012


The fact it was "MeFi's Own(TM)" jscalzi and cstross who Priest was critiquing had a lot to do with the tone of the third-party reactions.

Oh indeed, as far as this place goes. I was thinking of the wider reaction, too, not just MeFi.
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:29 PM on April 8, 2012


Wow, IJ, that's a complete misrepresentation of what happened. Thanks for pointing it out.
posted by Justinian at 12:42 PM on April 8, 2012


I think* Christopher Preist just won a BSFA award, so maybe that will shut him up.


* Because Twitter tells me. Maybe it is a joke. Actual BSFA news releases seem thin on the ground. Maybe it's just a cruel joke.
posted by Artw at 4:02 PM on April 8, 2012


It would surprise me if Priest had won a BSFA award since the winners aren't announced until tomorrow. Unless I'm completely misinformed.
posted by Justinian at 8:48 PM on April 8, 2012


I think you're misinformed, Justinian. Lots o' people tweeting about the outcome -- I figure they can't all be spoofing us. These were the nominations; according to multiple twitter reports, the fiction winners were Christopher Priest for novel, Paul Cornell for short fiction.

I hadn't known Priest was up against Mieville for another award; I don't think it reflects well on Priest that he ranted about a slate that included Embassytown while that was the case. (I had previously been fairly indifferent to his rant -- someone thought an awards slate sucked. Whatever.)
posted by Zed at 8:58 PM on April 8, 2012


Weird. I thought voting wasn't even closed until the 9th. Perhaps it was the 8th and I have become confused.
posted by Justinian at 9:46 PM on April 8, 2012


Or... maybe I have committed time zone fail.
posted by Justinian at 9:47 PM on April 8, 2012


BSFA winners
posted by Artw at 11:00 PM on April 8, 2012


TimezoneFail '12: the Chrononating
posted by Zed at 6:43 AM on April 9, 2012


Oh course there are two Christopher Priests.

Heh -- I only just saw that christopherpriest.com gets you a disambiguation page that lets you choose-your-own-Priest.
posted by Zed at 9:30 AM on April 9, 2012


Wow, the BSFA awards sound like a total clusterfuck.
posted by Artw at 10:30 AM on April 9, 2012


Priest wrote: "For reasons some people might readily understand, I have not until now had anything to say about this novel, but events have freed me." That was 3/28. Ah-hah, thought I -- he had been refraining from comment while his novel was up against Embassytown for the BSFA, but had been told he'd won then. Except that that's all wrong. Advance voting for the BSFA was open through 4/2, and in-person voting at Eastercon was all the way up till noon 4/8.

Anyone have any guesses what events freed him?
posted by Zed at 9:22 AM on April 10, 2012


Maybe the investigation as to who ran over his dog concluded?
posted by Artw at 9:27 AM on April 10, 2012


I liked Christopher Priest's BSFA acceptance speech which, in its entirety pretty much went:
I think this means everyone in fandom should be forced to resign.

[Christopher Priest turns over award and looks at the bottom of the base]

Does that say... 'made for...' 'made for...' oh wait, that says made in China.
And then he thanked all and sundry and left the stage.
posted by Kattullus at 5:03 PM on April 12, 2012


The Re-Match: Hull 3, Scunthorpe 0

We are all unworthy. Unless, you know, we are giving him big-ups.
posted by Artw at 11:01 AM on April 17, 2012


Adam Roberts has written a longish and thoughtful review of the Clarke shortlist.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:07 AM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the link, IJ, Roberts is great.

Also, his term "Utility English" (to describe non-"literary," unadorned, workmanlike prose) is great.
posted by aught at 8:19 AM on April 19, 2012


What the Pulitzer Dust-Up Does (And Doesn’t) Mean for SF
posted by Artw at 9:28 AM on April 19, 2012


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