Episode 19: Live with Gary K. Wolfe!

Things slowly get back to normal as Gary and I jump back into the pod to discuss radical new hard SF, Interzone, Paul McAuley, Stephen Baxter, whether Mundane SF makes any sense, what we’ve been reading and some other stuff in what struck me as we were chatting as a particularly crunchy podcast. I did ask for suggestions on Twitter, but got so involved in this that I didn’t get to them. I’ve made note though, and we’ll get to them next week!

18 thoughts on “Episode 19: Live with Gary K. Wolfe!”

  1. About the Hugos and fantasy…

    Firstly there has never been a rule change that allowed fantasy into the Hugos. It has always been allowed in. Fritz Leiber won Best Novella with a Lankhmar story in 1971. If fantasy stories have come to dominate the awards recently, that’s more a question of changing reader tastes than anything else, I suspect.

    Secondly, the key difference between the Hugos and the World Fantasy Awards is the nature of the decision-making. The WFAs allow a certain amount of popular input, but the final decision as to who wins is down to the jury, and their decision is final. It is relatively easy for a small group of people to come to a decision as to whether a work is fantasy or not.

    The Hugos, on the other hand, are voted on by the WSFS membership. There is no way you can craft a rule that will allow them to agree on what is fantasy and what isn’t. If the Hugos had a “no fantasy” rule it would have to be enforced by the Hugo Administrators, and those decisions would be under constant scrutiny from the voters. There would be endless arguments in the Business Meeting about whether a work had been fairly disqualified. It’s just not workable.

  2. Jonathan & Gary,

    I’d like to read the Interzone editorial by David Pringle and Colin Greenwood
    you mention at the start of the podcast. Know where I can find it ?

  3. Authors never nominated for a Hugo and all deserving of a win.
    Iain Banks
    Peter F Hamilton
    Neal Asher
    Al Reynolds
    Ken MacLeod
    S Baxter
    Paul McAuley
    Justina Robson
    Robert Reed
    B Stableford
    K Schroeder
    Jack McDivett

  4. Great podcast, the best yet!
    I agree the Hugo should go to a science fiction novel.

    I’d like to hear you two talk about the history and current status of the New Space Opera (especially of British and Australian variety).

  5. That was a nice & crunchy podcast. I wanted to mention, in case anyone was curious, that the Daryl Gregory novel that Gary was talking about is titled “The Devil’s Alphabet” and is well worth a look.

  6. Thanks for that! I actually spotted the book part way through the chat, but got distracted. For a little part of it I was sitting there waiting for Gary to get to a question I could answer.

  7. Don’t worry about stopping to look up something on the internet, I actively pause the podcast and do the same. Cheers! Bob

  8. This is possibly a digression, but I’m not convinced that “radical hard SF” went on to become “new space opera.” In his introduction to Mirrorshades, Bruce Sterling says that “Radical Hard SF” was another name for what he called “The Movement,” aka cyberpunk.

    Without the full text of their editorial available, I can’t say for certain what Pringle and Greenland meant by the term, but I did find this excerpt online:

    Last issue we described Interzone as a magazine of radical science fiction and fantasy. Now we would like to go further and outline (however hazily) a type of story that we want to see much more of in this magazine: the radical hard SF story. We wish to publish more fiction that takes inspiration from science, and uses the language of science in a creative way. It may be fantastic, surrealistic, “illogical”, but in order for it to be radical hard SF it should explore in some fashion the perspectives opened up by contemporary science and technology. Some would argue that new electronic gadgetry is displacing the printed word – if so, writers should fight back, using guerrilla tactics as necessary and infiltrate the territory of their enemy.

    (found here)

    To me this sounds closer to cyberpunk than it does to new space opera.

  9. I need to go an excavate some old issues of Interzone. Certainly McAuley has repeatedly made the “radical hard SF” –> to “new space opera” connection, which on the surface of it is more convincing than the “radical hard SF” –> “cyberpunk” connection. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to find it was, as it always is, somewhat more complex and that it’s actually “radical hard SF” –> NSO/cyberpunk, or some such. Cyberpunk is such an ill-defined beast, in and of itself, that it’s not always simple to untangle connections etc.

  10. Another comment, this time about the latter portion of the podcast: Geoff Ryman has said that Air is not Mundane SF because it contains magic. Ian McDonald’s Brasyl would presumably be disqualified because of the parallel universes; in a discussion on the Mundane SF mailing list, his River of Gods was disqualified because of its inclusion of time-traveling artifacts.

  11. My take on radical hard SF was that it wasn’t really crystallised as a movement until the cyberpunk wave was already breaking. Certainly no one started writing it until quite some time after the IZ editorial, and cyperpunk was effectively over, as a literary event, by 1986. Personally I’d point to Schismatrix as the point where the two movements intersected, and in many respects it anticipates much of the “new space opera”. (I don’t, myself, believe that there is/was any such thing as the NSO, just a steadying maturation of a form that had never gone completely away, but that’s another issue).

    Enjoying the podcasts…

  12. I need to go back and re-read the editorial. It’s been some time. I’ve always seen ‘new space opera” and cyberpunk as being related – both being a response to a historical period and possibly a different answer to the same set of questions. Hmmm. Amnd thank you!

  13. The original Mundane Manifesto cited titles like 1984 and Neuromancer. There have always been SF novels that avoided the forbidden tropes; the problem was specifying what distinguished Mundane SF from traditional SF that’s set on Earth. As you discussed in the podcast, the lack of good exemplars has kept the movement from gaining traction.

  14. Cheryl: I strongly prefer SF to fantasy but I have to say I see more noteworthy fantasy books these days than SF books. Of course, I see a lot more fantasy than SF period so fantasy gets more chance to excel.

    Ted: The problem with Mundane SF is that the people identified with it via the blog give the impression that they lack certain necessary qualifications to write the stuff, like actually having read the books they claim are examples of MSF.

    To quote my comment from that thread:

    Or you can hypothesize that the problem is due to the pernicious weeds that have grown up within the genre, such as faster than light travel, aliens, brain downloads, etc. which strangle all other development. Gibson, below, mentions that he dropped the space travel and aliens in order to make his seminal book, Neuromancer.

    I don’t know which Neuromancer you read but the one I read had commercial space flight, orbital facilities numerous enough to be refered to as the L5 archipeligo, mind-mapping (both fixed and updatable) and messages from Alpha Centauri.

    The success story for MSF seems to be the hilariously awful Windup Girl, which willfully ignores technologies like nuclear power (or even bioengineered oil-producing plants, well within the ability of the tech they use) to create the setting it wants while cheerfully introducing a spring technology that somehow manages to store more energy per kilogram than is possible using only chemical bonds. It’s possible to use those springs to built a single stage to orbit rocket, although nobody ever does. Note that it won a Hugo.

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