Episode 90: Live with Gary K. Wolfe!

And then we rambled… After several weeks hosting some wonderful guests, this week Gary and I just fired up Skype and rambled away about stuff: the Nebulas, some old Hugos, whether having a Golden Age at all is a good idea.  While we apologise for the self-indulgence, we nonetheless hope you enjoy the podcast.  Only ten more till the big one!

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4 thoughts on “Episode 90: Live with Gary K. Wolfe!”

  1. Jonathan,

    Here is a suggestion for the 100th episode of the podcast (or any other episode, actually): a discussion of the relationship between genre and literary form (especially the short story vs. the novel).

    Some thoughts on the topic:

    In British and French science fiction, there is a tradition of novels going back to the nineteenth century, H. G. Wells, and Jules Vernes providing obvious examples. In contrast, the short story seems to be the “native” form of American science fiction, reflecting the heritage of the pulp magazines, with novels not really coming into their own until relatively late (i.e., the 1950’s).

    - Is the short story still the “center of gravity” in written science fiction? (Not in commercial terms, but in terms of the interest of the SF community. A good measure might be voting participation for the different Hugo categories.)

    The relation of fantasy to literary form seems rather different, with Tolkien’s influence being concentrated on the novel from the beginning, with little impact on short stories. In fact, in contrast to science fiction, there seems to be a much greater dichotomy in fantasy between novels and short stories. One encounters very few fantasy short stories with elves (or any similar Tolkien-influenced trope) in the leading short story markets, much less on major award ballots (e.g., Hugo, Nebula, or World Fantasy). Even writers like Gene Wolfe, who loves Tolkien, show rather little direct influence of Tolkien.

    - Apart from the most commercial segment of the novel market, is Tolkien-influenced fantasy dead?
    - Is Edgar Allen Poe arguably a greater influence on the contemporary fantasy short story than Tolkien?

    I hope some of this is helpful!

    Stephen Gordon
    ironnoir@gmail.com

  2. Another nice episode.

    I’m going to cast my vote for the 1950s being the Golden Age — as defined by new ideas, economy of expression, and the development of sociological sf in Galaxy.

    And it’s not the period of sf I started with. I’m slightly older than Jonathan, so I first started regularly reading sf in the 1970s. The school library had a conveniently walled off section marked “science fiction”. I not only found Dune there but also the Harrison and Aldiss Best SF series. I admit I found some of the stories bewildering, but I did get an idea of the variety of what was going on.

    However, when in my 20s and 30s, I read a lot of the famous 1950s’ novels, and I do regard that period as more significant than the 1970s (which, in my mind, is tagged as the dolphin and clone era of sf).

    But I, as you said Jonathan, haven’t actually read all the novels of the 1950s or 1970s or even all those on the SFWA list found in Gunn’s Road to Science Fiction anthologies or Pringle’s 100 Best SF Novels or Baird Searles’ Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction. I’m going off impressions formed by reading plot synopses, what I actually have read in each decade, and the fact that I prefer the authors of the acclaimed 1950s’ novels over the authors of the acclaimed 1970s’ novels.

    I think it would be interesting to maybe devote a show to each decade and discuss what, if anything, made it distinct. (Of course, it’s about as arbitrary an exercise as a sociological discussion of the 1960s when you don’t really mean the ’60s but only part of that decade and some of the 1970s.) Maybe it could be a discussion of what you think the genre history milestones are: publications of certain works, start of authors’ careers, or the foundation of some publishing outlet.

    And I also liked hearing the list of 1950s Hugo nominees and how many of them a norew forgotten despite being considered some of the best of the year once.

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