This week marks the publication of Jonathan’s new hard-SF anthology Mission Critical, the title of which reminded Gary of the first SF serial he read, Hal Clement’s Close to Critical. This lead, by our usual process of carefully structured random free association, to a discussion of Clement as an example of an author whose fiction is not widely read anymore, but whose influence nevertheless shows up even in writers who may not have read him. In Clement’s case, it was carefully extrapolated SF environments and creatures, but Jack Vance and Clifford Simak are also mentioned as writers whose influence has long outlived their popularity.
This somehow led to a discussion of SF’s oldest saw, the sense of wonder, how it can be achieved by current writers, and whether the SFnal sense of wonder can really be achieved in fantasy or horror. After rambling through a few other topics, including our favourite dragons, we mentioned a few new and upcoming books we’re looking forward to (see the links below). And then we noted that this week represents the 10th anniversary of the death of our old friend, Charles N. Brown, who in many ways was the inspiration for this podcast.
Links for the episode
This week Jonathan and Gary are back, fitting another episode in between travel, work, and family commitments. Gary opens up with a thoroughly reasonable discussion about writers from the 1990s and 2000s who may have published major works but have fallen from sight in recent years, while Jonathan attempts to get Gary interested in a new segment. Along the way there’s discussion of the history of anthologies and whether genre fiction is more likely to be the home of theme anthologies, a new Gwyneth Jones book on the work of Joanna Russ, the state of various Library of America projects, and more.
All in all, a typical ramble. In coming weeks Gary will be in Seattle for the 2019 Locus Awards weekend, Jonathan will be in Seattle for Clarion West, and both of them will be in Dublin for WorldCon 2019. Hopefully more podcast episodes will be recorded before then.
With the Nebula Award winners about to be announced, we took a look this week at the question of whether science fiction has demonstrated much continuity of theme and style since the 1969 Nebulas, or whether the field has essentially reinvented itself in the last few decades.
But before we even get around to that, we note the death of bestselling author Herman Wouk, whose only science fiction work was the relatively undistinguished The “Lomokome” Papers, which raised the issue of mainstream writers who attempted SF with limited success vs. those who approached the material with respect.
Then we spent some time talking about the different generations of science fiction writers, the role of nostalgia in science fiction, the value of differing perspectives even on familiar themes, and somehow touched upon the New Wave somewhere in there as well.
As usual, we started with interesting ideas and ended up with a farrago.
This year has been something of a whirlwind. When we published Episode 350 we did so without managing to upload the full recording. Apparently, 10 minutes or so were missing. A new file has now been uploaded for your listening pleasure which you can listen to or download from here:
Our apologies and we hope you enjoy the extra tidbit.
After a much longer than expected hiatus, we’re back (sort of)! Gary’s been working and travelling and Jonathan’s been working and planning to travel and it’s made it very difficult to squeeze recording time in. Or even to plan recording time.
Still, for a moment, early on Mother’s Day in Australia and late in the evening in Chicago, Gary and Jonathan stop to discuss the books they’ve been reading, the movies they’ve been watching, the stuff they’ve been working on, awards and ballots, and Joanna Russ. There are mentions of fiction in translation, Chen Qiufan’s Waste Tide (and Liz Bourke’s Tor.com review of it), Avenger’s Endgame, and much more.
I don’t think either of our hosts is sure the conversation is coherent or intelligible but here it is, along with a promise to try to do better in the coming months.