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December 20, 2009 12:26 AM   Subscribe

SffMeta - Metacritic for Science Fiction.
posted by Artw (40 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm kind of hoping the large number of high rating titles with only a single review is a result of it just having started and that they will be less common over time as more reviews come in.
posted by Artw at 12:32 AM on December 20, 2009


Yeah, exactly what I was thinking. When none of the top-rated books have more than two ratings and two of those books are Warhammer 40,000 'novels', I doubt the site's current usefulness.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 12:38 AM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


The "2008 High Scores" and "2007 High Scores" are much better inthat regard.
posted by Artw at 12:40 AM on December 20, 2009


Only one review of Neuromancer: "Gibson didn't invent a whole lot in Neuromancer."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:41 AM on December 20, 2009


"Gibson didn't invent a whole lot in Neuromancer."

"Gibson spends like half the book talking about cyberspace. Talk about an over-used cliché. Totally derivative."
posted by delmoi at 12:44 AM on December 20, 2009 [10 favorites]


Brunner did it all first. :-)

My basic measure of how far into the future I am is re-reading Neuromancer every so often and seeing how dated it seems. For a long time it could respectably claim to be "not very dated at all", but lately it's been slipping pretty bad.

Gibsons been posting some fun stuff on Twitter in the wake of Avatar, which is clearly not his cup of tea:

The problem may be that I have never been much of a fan of mainstream SF. I love *indie* SF.

If SF was Springsteen's ouvre to date, my favorite's still Nebraska.

Heinlein, Bradbury, Asimov, not much. Sturgeon, Leiber, Bester, hugely. So there has always been less sf cinema, for me.

Star Trek, Star Wars, no. Blade Runner, Alien, yes.

Neuromancer was a conscious critique of all the mainstream SF I'd read up to that point. Why it worked, IMO.

posted by Artw at 12:55 AM on December 20, 2009


Brunner did it all first

All literature is derivative, to a point. To say Gibson didn't innovate or that his writing was clichéd in his first book is a bit strong. That might be true now, but only to the extent that he kept populating his books with the same kinds of characters, thrown into worlds with differing levels of technology.

lately it's been slipping pretty bad

To be fair to the writer, 64 KB of hot RAM was a big deal back in the 80s, and with Reagan threatening nuclear holocausts in between astrology readings, few expected to see the human species break the megabyte wall.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:08 AM on December 20, 2009


I think it's unfair to Gibson to accuse him of writing the same kinds of characters. He wrote a trilogy that more or less defined cyberpunk, then moved on to 'ten years into the future' stuff. He has never claimed to be even so much as a geek - and while I, personally, feel his later imaginings of the nearer future have been problematic, they are better novels than say Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End. IMHO

I am up for a MeFiMail on this is anyone wants to nerd out
posted by Sparx at 1:25 AM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Worlds of IF (rather than is) d'accord
posted by Sparx at 1:26 AM on December 20, 2009


I was going to say something along the lines of "isn't literature highly subjective, and isn't it kind of absurd to reduce a novel down to a single number?" but then I realized the same could be said for movies and games and all the other stuff metacritic and rottentomatoes rate.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:32 AM on December 20, 2009


Poses an interesting question in my mind as to whether the essential "fan" nature of the audience would result in more polarized reviews than other genres? So perhaps we need a metametacritic analysis?
posted by fallingbadgers at 1:59 AM on December 20, 2009


My basic measure of how far into the future I am is re-reading Neuromancer every so often and seeing how dated it seems.

Lack of mobile phones is a bit of a killer. And the Japanese ruling the world.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:42 AM on December 20, 2009


Star Trek, Star Wars, no. Blade Runner, Alien, yes.

Why choose?

they are better novels than say Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End.

Yeah, that book was terrible. What I read of it, anyway. Not a single likable character to hook into. I hated them all, so I put it down. What a relentlessly nasty vision of the future.

What I read of it, anyway.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:48 AM on December 20, 2009


What a relentlessly nasty vision of the future.

The bookscanning thing seemed prescient.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:10 AM on December 20, 2009


I'm hoping to set this aside and come back to it in a year or two. The lack of significant numbers skews the results, as mentioned above, and yeah, you really shouldn't see licensed novels anywhere on a "best of" list, let alone three Warhammer novels on the front page (or that Robert Jordan at the end there).

In a couple years, especially if they're going to devote any time to novels written from the last century, the site might really be worth digging into.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:15 AM on December 20, 2009


Brunner did it all first

Tell that to Thucydides.
posted by Smart Dalek at 3:27 AM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Apropos of nothing, it's amazing how little SF/Fantasy book covers have changed it the past 60 or 70 years.

I swear I can detect the scent of woodpulp coming off the screen.
posted by Target Practice at 4:22 AM on December 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Heinlein, Bradbury, Asimov, not much. Sturgeon, Leiber, Bester, hugely. So there has always been less sf cinema, for me.

How are Sturgeon, Leiber and Bester not "mainstream"? Granted they're nowhere near as well-known or well-read as those others now, they were still pretty popular in their own day.
posted by Target Practice at 4:28 AM on December 20, 2009


Cool, I can't wait to see what they gave the new Song of Ice and Fire book.

Oh right...
posted by total warfare frown at 5:32 AM on December 20, 2009


How are Sturgeon, Leiber and Bester not "mainstream"?

Availability in bookstores is the litmus test for "mainstream".
Heinlein, Bradbury, Asimov: everywhere, including the worst.
Sturgeon, Leiber and Bester: nowhere, not even the best.
posted by bru at 6:15 AM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really want this to be good. Recently I started to look up books in my local SciFi bookstore on librarything and amazon for reviews, but this isn't really practical on the small iPhone screen. A metacritic site would help a lot...

I wonder why they have so frew reviews, is it too new? They seem to have all the mayor review sites listed.
I don't see a reason why they don't include publishers weekly for example, or other non-SciFi sources, if they review a work of the genre.
posted by ts;dr at 6:43 AM on December 20, 2009


I really enjoy science fiction and do not enjoy horror or fantasy at all. I never understand why they get lumped together. I've given up looking at bookstores because I have to wade through trolls and elves to find something I enjoy.

That said, I love Iain M. Banks and sure wish I could find more writing of that quality.

This site didn't help much.
posted by cccorlew at 9:21 AM on December 20, 2009


The "2008 High Scores" and "2007 High Scores" are much better in that regard.

Not much better... the reviews still top out at 10 or so at the very most. Of course, it's been up for less than a week.

Thanks, one to keep an eye on.
posted by Huck500 at 9:35 AM on December 20, 2009


Rainbows End was a weird one for me, as it uses almost kind of sort of the same characters as in Fast Times at Fairmont High, and yet it's all subtely different and somehow lacking in charm and likeability...

The destructive book scanning thing was fun though.

He's working on a Fire Upon the Deep sequel next. High hopes for that one.
posted by Artw at 11:09 AM on December 20, 2009


When none of the top-rated books have more than two ratings and two of those books are Warhammer 40,000 'novels', I doubt the site's current usefulness.

In all fairness some WH40K novels are much better than others (and by "some" I mean those by Dan Abnett) so I wouldn't dismiss them out of hand based solely on the universe they're set in.
posted by MikeMc at 12:26 PM on December 20, 2009


yeah, you really shouldn't see licensed novels anywhere on a "best of" list, let alone three Warhammer novels on the front page

Yeah, cause it's inconceivable that any licensed novel could ever be anything other than a piece of shit. Clearly only horrible hacks would ever deign to write a licensed novel, because all talented writers of SFF are rolling in the dough, free and clear, with nothing to worry about financially. QFT, it is categorically impossible that a licensed novel might be a good book.
posted by Caduceus at 12:28 PM on December 20, 2009


Sturgeon, Leiber and Bester: nowhere, not even the best.

Bester's The Stars My Destination is always lurking around in bookshops whenever I visit, waiting to kill me filthy. But Sturgeon and Leiber are criminally absent, it's true.

QFT, it is categorically impossible that a licensed novel might be a good book.

In his rage, Caduceus miswrote QED. Alas, universal information speed limits set by the Eschaton prevented redress and the economic vertebrae of entire publishing galaxies were shattered.

But to get to Ghidorah's point, and it is definitely both arguable and contentious:

POINT: a licensed novel is a lesser act of creation. It may be literature, it may be awesome, but it is, by definition, not the act of a creator cutting from whole cloth to create their own vision, and, as such, should be regarded differently.

COUNTERPOINT: Just like pretty much everything by Shakespeare including Roms and Jules, or Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, or, indeed, like Sons of Anarchy, which is really Hamlet in a leather jacket or The Gap into Power which is the Ring of the Nibelung in spaceships, because there is nothing new under the son, matey jim.

COUNTERCOUNTERPOINT: Leiber and Sturgeon are being crowded off the shelves by tedious Star Trek: TNG tie-ins and I always hated that show because it was sterile, joyless and lame and had Wesley in it wearing horrid 80s sweaters.

RIPOSTE: I once read this awesome Warhammer40k tie-in.

KAESHI: Grr Argh

Etc.
posted by Sparx at 1:43 PM on December 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


That said, I love Iain M. Banks and sure wish I could find more writing of that quality.

This site didn't help much.
posted by cccorlew at 9:21 AM on December 20


Then let me try: Have you read Dan Simmons yet? Hyperion or Illium are both excellent. Or Robert Charles Wilson? Spin is one of the best SciFi novels of the last few years (imho). Or Ken MacLeod's brilliant socialist Engines of Light novels? If you liked the Culture, you might get something out of those too.
posted by ts;dr at 1:55 PM on December 20, 2009


Dan Abnetts 40k stuff is a bit suspect IMHO, being not nearly grim enough and having actual likeable characters. Still, I'd pick it over any number of titles in the American Military SF subgenre.
posted by Artw at 2:17 PM on December 20, 2009


On the one hand, I could improve this site by writing actual reviews of a vast number of good SF&F. On the other hand I could stuff my face some more and play some XBOX. Laziness wins!
posted by Justinian at 3:10 PM on December 20, 2009


Dan Abnetts 40k stuff is a bit suspect IMHO, being not nearly grim enough and having actual likeable characters.

Hmm, you may be on to something there. I hadn't factored in Abnett's relatively low GrimDark score before I commented.
posted by MikeMc at 5:58 PM on December 20, 2009


two of those books are Warhammer 40,000 'novels'

I've never heard of Warhammer... but I assume the main selling point is that there are forty thousand novels to read? So unlike a George R. R. Martin fan, you're never stuck waiting for the next book?
posted by problemspace at 7:10 PM on December 20, 2009


No, no, no, They're set post the year 40000. There's only about 5 thousand of the novels, tops. Abnett has written about 3000 of them.

See the MeFi ONLY WAR! thread for more details.
posted by Artw at 8:49 PM on December 20, 2009


I've never heard of Warhammer...

Just know that in the grim darkness of the far future there is only war!
posted by MikeMc at 9:01 PM on December 20, 2009


Sorry Art, I meant to say "in the grim darkness of the far future there is ONLY WAR" and chainsaws and cleansing fire oh, and BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!!!!! Did I miss anything?
posted by MikeMc at 9:27 PM on December 20, 2009


@Caduceus:

You wrote:

"Yeah, cause it's inconceivable that any licensed novel could ever be anything other than a piece of shit. Clearly only horrible hacks would ever deign to write a licensed novel, because all talented writers of SFF are rolling in the dough, free and clear, with nothing to worry about financially. QFT, it is categorically impossible that a licensed novel might be a good book."

It isn't inconceivable, but it is certainly rare enough that it isn't unreasonable for Artw to question the "site's current usefulness."
posted by Chasuk at 10:50 PM on December 20, 2009


We have reached a point in time in human history where a licensed game, toy, or television series is less likely to suck than a licensed novel. This was not always true, and I find it interesting to contemplate when we crossed the line. It must be relatively recently, because for most of human history, licensed videogames and toys were uniformly awful, and a vast majority of toy license television series were pretty janky.

I wonder: was it LEGO Star Wars that put us over the edge, where slathering some branding on an otherwise unremarkable platformer led to a product some measurable amount less crappy than, say, your average Halo or Warhammer shovelware novel? Not long ago, slathering branding on things actively made them worse, serving as a bright visual warning to potential consumers that the product within was poisonous, and for some reason that still holds true in the publishing world.

Is it just a case, once again, of book publishing being decades behind everyone else?
posted by majick at 5:03 AM on December 21, 2009


This is perhaps the time to mention my involvement in LEGO Romeo and Juliet. I wrote the script. This time they are not twelve and there are LEGO motorbikes!

You'll love it.
posted by Sparx at 5:09 AM on December 21, 2009


Sites like this remind me that, as much as I love some sf and take great efforts to ferret out the good stuff, there's simply a huge amount of complete crap scifi and fantasy product being published. (Nod to Sturgeon's Law.)

Two, if you didn't read Neuromancer when it was published, you are not going to get it, I don't think. It was very much an artifact of its era (when I read it, the internet and cell phones didn't exist, I didn't have cable tv or VCR, and my computer had two 256k floppy drives, crappy 16 color graphics, and no hard drive).

Also, I don't get the hate on Rainbow's End. Oh well.
posted by aught at 6:36 AM on December 21, 2009


I can't say I thought it was horrible, just sort of unsatisfying. And like I say, I really liked the related short, so it was a disappointment on that front.
posted by Artw at 10:52 AM on December 21, 2009


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