With our customary meticulous planning, we manage this week to veer from the topic of what causes you to bounce off a particular book—or to keep reading—to the Clarke Awards, which will be announced in a few weeks (Gary volunteered to be on the Shadow Jury this year), to the question of how mainstream writers handle science fiction or fantasy elements in their fiction, and then to the issue of why many excellent British or Australian writers have either failed to gain much traction in the U.S., or in some cases seem to have lost the traction they once enjoyed. In other words, we had no idea where we were going until we got there.
This week Gary and Jonathan spend some time discussing the work and legacy of Gardner Dozois (1947-2018), who died recently. A friend and colleague, Gardner was also a brilliant writer, a perceptive critic, a skilled story doctor and possibly the most influential editor in the history of science fiction. His three novels, several short story collections, and well over a hundred anthologies will stand the test of time, with the 35 volume The Year’s Best Science Fiction and his nearly 20 years as editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction standing at the heart of his legacy. He was also kind, supportive, and enormously good fun. He’ll be sorely missed by everyone who knew him.
This week’s episode ranges from a discussion about the growing importance of novellas and their advantages both for readers and writers, the difficult question of which story you might pick to introduce a new reader to a favourite author, the importance of distinctive voices in both short fictions and novels, the upcoming 87th birthday of the great Gene Wolfe, and James Cameron’s new TV documentary on SF, which features appearance from several SF writers and critics, including Gary.
Then Jonathan springs on Gary the question of what his favourite book is, so Gary tossed it right back to Jonathan. We both came up with answers that date back to our respective childhoods. In addition to Gene Wolfe, some of the authors mentioned include R.A. Lafferty, Ted Chiang, Margo Lanagan, Kelly Link, Robert A. Heinlein, T.H. White, Sam J. Miller, Kate Wilhelm, Ursula Le Guin, Andy Duncan, Howard Waldrop, Catherynne Valente, Jeffrey Ford, Lavie Tidhar, John Varley, James Patrick Kelly, Alec Nevala-Lee, and Joseph Heller. In other words, another ramble.
This week, the always bustling Coode Street Motel battles technical difficulties, sound dropouts, and other gremlins of the Skypesphere to welcome Sam J. Miller, whose Blackfish City is just out, and whose young adult novel The Art of Starving received great notices last year.
We discuss balancing his day job as a community organizer with his fiction, the genesis of his new novel in a couple of earlier short stories, the writers who made him want to become one, the arbitrary nature of classifying stories as SF, horror, fantasy, YA, etc., and even the choice of pronouns in describing particular characters.
As always, our thanks to Sam and we hope you enjoy the episode.
Gary was looking through the books that seem to tumble endlessly through his front door for review and came across a new edition of David R. Bunch’s classic story collection, Moderan, which is set to be re-released by New York Review Books this coming August with an introduction by Jeff VanderMeer.
It led to a conversation about to whether there’s an art to re-reading books, how you should go about republishing classic books, and much more. We also snuck in an apology or two at the very end of the episode. As always, we hope you enjoy the episode. See you next week (in all of our lo-fi glory).