The Space Opera Renaissance

For my money, David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer are the best critical anthologists working in the field today. Every so often they edit enormous critical anthologies like The Dark Descent, Foundations of Fear, The Ascent of Wonder, The Science Fiction Century, The Hard SF Renaissance, or The Science Fiction Century, each of which has been thoughtful, provocative and entertaining. The stories in these books are never less than good, and the theories behind them are never less than interesting – even when you disagree with them passionately, or perhaps especially when you do.

I’ve been waiting for some time for David and Kathryn to finish their latest project, The Space Opera Renaissance, which stands as a companion to The Hard SF Renaissance, and according to Kathryn’s blog it’s all done. The galleys are out and the book is due in July, I think. I don’t know how much I’ll agree with it, but I’m fascinated by it because this is the first major critical anthology to come out while I’m actively editing anthologies myself (and perhaps becoming a true student of the field for the first time), and because I’m working on an original anthology of new space opera stories at the moment. While I have some notions about what they might say on the subject, I can’t wait to see the book itself. I’ve no doubt it’ll be one of the best anthologies of the year, and that every lover of good science fiction should grab a copy.

It also strikes me that you could do a great panel on this for WorldCon. Get David or Kathryn, Gary Wolfe maybe, someone like John Scalzi or Al Reynolds, and maybe Gardner or myself, and then have it. Get a chance to talk about space opera, the new space opera and so on. It’d be good. And, no doubt, David and Kathryn’s book would make the perfect warm up reading for it.

More Hugo comments

I thought I’d make some comment on the Hugo ballot, since it seems to be the thing to do at the moment. Overall, I thought the ballot was pretty good, though it missed a few obvious things.

# Accelerando, Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit)
# A Feast for Crows, George R. R. Martin (Voyager; Bantam Spectra)
# Learning the World, Ken MacLeod (Orbit; Tor)
# Old Man’s War, John Scalzi (Tor)
# Spin, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)

I’m not going to pretend that I’ve read the Martin, which breaks my cardinal rule about not reading anything that’s more then 400 pages long and has a series number on it. I also haven’t read the Scalzi, though I’ve heard pretty good things about it. I don’t get sent as much stuff as I used, and I guess Tor just didn’t get around to sending me one.

I have read the Stross, the Wilson and the Macleod, and I liked all three. I think the Stross is the book of the moment, the one that best reflects its time, but the Wilson is a better book. I’m a little stuck over how I’ll vote, but it’ll probably be Wilson, Stross, Macleod.

I’d add that I was stunned that Dan Simmons’ Olympos and Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys didn’t make the list, and disappointed that neither Kim Stanley Robinson’s Fifty Degrees Below or Justina Robson’s Living Next Door to the God of Love were recognised.

# Burn, James Patrick Kelly (Tachyon)
# “Identity Theft”, Robert J. Sawyer (Down These Dark Spaceways, SFBC)
# “Inside Job”, Connie Willis (Asimov’s Jan 2005)
# “The Little Goddess”, Ian McDonald (Asimov’s Jun 2005)
# “Magic for Beginners”, Kelly Link (Magic for Beginners, Small Beer Press; F&SF Sep 2005)

This may be the best category on the ballot, with three of the stories listed likely to be recognised in future years as classics. I think the McDonald is the best SF story of the year, the Link the best fantasy, and the Kelly one of his best. I can’t pick between them, but will probably vote McDonald, Link, Kelly, Willis.

# “The Calorie Man”, Paolo Bacigalupi (F&SF Oct/Nov 2005)
# “I, Robot”, Cory Doctorow (The Infinite Matrix 15 Feb 2005)
# “The King of Where-I-Go”, Howard Waldrop (Sci Fiction 7 Dec 2005)
# “TelePresence”, Michael A. Burstein (Analog Jul/Aug 2005)
# “Two Hearts”, Peter S. Beagle (F&SF Oct/Nov 2005)

I was disappointed that neither Vonda McIntyre (“Little Voices”), Alastair Reynolds (“Zima Blue”), or Bruce Sterling (“The Blemmye’s Strategem”) made it on the ballot, but I’m really happy about the Waldrop story making the cut. I’ll almost certainly vote Waldrop, Doctorow, Beagle, Bacigalupi. I also think Matt Hughes probably deserved to make this list.

# “The Clockwork Atom Bomb”, Dominic Green (Interzone May/Jun 2005)
# “Down Memory Lane”, Mike Resnick (Asimov’s Apr/May 2005)
# “Seventy-Five Years”, Michael A. Burstein (Analog Jan/Feb 2005)
# “Singing My Sister Down”, Margo Lanagan (Black Juice, Allen & Unwin; Eos)
# “Tk’tk’tk”, David D. Levine (Asimov’s Mar 2005)

There are too many strong stories that could have made it for me not to find this comparatively weak ballot disappointing. That said, I’m delighted to “Singing My Sister Down” on the ballot. I’ll probably vote Lanagan, and then skip the rest.

# Science Fiction Quotations, Gary Westfahl (Yale)
# The SEX Column and Other Misprints, David Langford (Cosmos)
# Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996, Gary K. Wolfe (Beccon)
# Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, Kate Wilhelm (Small Beer Press)
# Transformations: The Story of the Science Fiction Magazines from 1950 to 1970, Mike Ashley (Liverpool)

This is a purely personal decision. I don’t follow the category particularly, but I’ll be voting for Gary Wolfe, who really deserves the award.

# Ellen Datlow
# David G. Hartwell
# Stanley Schmidt
# Gordon Van Gelder
# Sheila Williams

This one is very tricky. I’m enormously disappointed to see that Gardner Dozois didn’t make the list. He did some great work during the year as an anthology editor, and deserved to be there. That said, I thought Stan Schmidt just oversaw Analog’s best year in a long time, Gordon Van Gelder continues to do a bang up job, Ellen was terrific again, and David Hartwell deserves to win this damn category at least once. I’m not even going to pick this one. If Ellen, David, Stan or Gordon were to win, I’d be equally delighted, though for different reasons.

# Ansible, David Langford, ed.
# Emerald City, Cheryl Morgan, ed.
# Interzone, Andy Cox, ed.
# Locus, Charles N. Brown, Kirsten Gong-Wong & Liza Groen Trombi, eds.
# The New York Review of Science Fiction, Kathryn Cramer, David G. Hartwell & Kevin Maroney, eds.

I work for Locus. I love Locus. I won’t pretend to be objective. Go CHARLES, Kirsten and Liza. I hope you guys win the prize.

# Claire Brialey
# John Hertz
# Dave Langford
# Cheryl Morgan
# Steven H Silver

And on this, I’m going Vote 1 Cheryl. She’s going to overrun that Langford chap one time, so it might as well be now. And that’s it for my comments. I’m skipping the other categories, but wish everyone well.