Episode 92: Live with Gary K. Wolfe and Michael Dirda!

This week we’re joined by Pulitzer Prize award winning critic Michael Dirda to discuss his new book on Conan Doyle, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Gene Wolfe and the golden age of story. As always, we hope you enjoy the podcast!

10 thoughts on “Episode 92: Live with Gary K. Wolfe and Michael Dirda!”

  1. I haven’t read a single book by Burroughs, but I still have a distinct memory relating to him. When I was at university, there was a lecturer who was particularly sniffy and prescriptive about the supposed boundary between “serious” literature and popular trash. Not content to enjoin the pursuit for true quality, he plunged boldly into an area which most critics sensibly avoid: naming and shaming the sort of thing we shouldn’t read. There was an actual list, and Burroughs topped it.

    Thanks for another interesting podcast, and for breaking down literary barriers such as these on a weekly basis.

  2. I think I can clear up the question about Burroughs’ status in the Library of America. LoA marketing director David Cloyce Smith answered questions regarding this in a LibraryThing forum when the Burroughs books were announced. He writes: “We will be publishing (to quote the catalog copy) “popular works whose characters have left an indelible impression on our literature and our culture.”” They are not part of the “official” Library of America. Another quote: “they are not series volumes, and Burroughs has not been admitted by our advisors to the “pantheon” of LOA authors. Nor are these two volumes the start of another “series,” per se. Instead, there are a number of books of significant cultural influence that our directors believe could be and should be republished as keepsake hardcovers, both as a re-commitment to the value of print editions (in the face of the market trend to digital publishing) and as a way of expanding our audience without compromising the goals of the series itself. We hope to publish such books on an irregular basis, and we are currently considering a number of future possible candidates.” So Burroughs is not being raised to the status of Hawthorne and Melville (or Philip K. Dick and Philip Roth, for that matter)!

    As a collector/subscriber of the Library of America since the ’80s, a science fiction fan for longer than that, and a regular listener to the podcast, I’ve been very interested in the developments in regard to SF and the LOA, and Gary’s involvement. I used to suggest including SF when responding to their surveys (I occasionally get one asking what volume I’d like to see them publish) without any real expectation that it would ever happen, but since PKD and the Crime Novels were added, I’ve been wondering when a development like the ’50s collection would come along. In more recent surveys, I’ve been suggesting an anthology similar to Fantastic Tales, and was a little surprised that they’re starting with novels. Considering Gary’s point that he had to explain that there weren’t many SF novels in the ’40s, I’m curious as to whether he advocated the short fiction anthology approach at any point?

    Thanks, as always, for the fascinating podcast! Burroughs was my first literary “crush” as well!

  3. I think I saw that the ERB volumes from LOA were going to be paperbacks. Which is a shame, I’d really like a nice hardcover to replace my aging SF Book Club set!

  4. Ooooh, I’d love to see a short SF anthology from the LOA. They probably wouldn’t ask Jonathan, because he’s an Australianist, and I don’t know if GKW would want to do that one as well, but there are plenty of distinguished US editors who could become involved.

  5. The Burroughs books are definitely hardcovers. These aren’t in the same format as the regular series, but if paper and binding are the same standard, they will be of excellent quality and durability. The dust jacket art is a facsimile of the original first editions.

  6. Hello Jonathan and Gary:

    I found out about your podcasts last week and have been listening to one or two a night since. I find your podcasts extremely informative and entertaining. Continue babbling! I discovered them through the SF Signal site and the Functional Nerds Podcasts. You asked for feedback so I decided to write about how I feel about the current SF situation.

    First, something about me. I am a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel working as a contractor in Afghanistan for over 3 1/2 years. I’ll be 61 next month and I’ve been a lifelong SF reader. My initial sense of wonder came with Arthur C Clarke’s anthologies put out by the SF Book Club. Heinlein, Asimov and others soon followed. Edgar Rice Burroughs was a huge part of my reading. Tarzan, Doc Savage and Conan were my favorites. I’m a collector of vintage paperbacks, SF primarily, digests and pulp magazines. I have an extensive Galaxy collection as well as Astounding/Analog, If, F&SF and others. I also have a Kindle and iPad, which is the only way to go here in Afghanistan. My ebook collection of all genres is about 90 gigs with about the same for digitized pulp magazines. I bought the iPad to read the pulps and eBooks. I’ve attended a few pulp conventions where I’ve met Rusty Havelin, Frank Robinson, and Will Murray, who is bringing out new Doc Savage adventures. I’ve bought and sold many books and pulps on eBay. I’m an amateur artist ( no money, free issues) and have appeared in ezines, print zines, a vinyl record cover, and an ebook cover. So much for my credentials.

    I was glad to hear that you have some of the same reading issues I have. I find that many new books are way too long. This keeps me from reading them, although I want to. I also start many books and find them boring and can’t continue reading them. There are just too many interesting looking books, which is really a good thing, though.

    I’ve read Neal Stephenson’s Reamde (which I pronounce reem-dee), Cryptonomicon and the first volume of his Baroque trilogy, Quicksilver. I recently finished China M’s Kraken. I found myself wanting to finish it just to get it over with, not to see how the story resolved itself. The same with Perdido Street. I find Stephenson’s and China’s writing interesting but that it sometimes gets in the way of their storytelling. I don’t want to read anything by them for a long while. I was able to get through them by stopping in the middle of the books and reading other things.

    I’m 40% (on Kindle) through Stephen King’s new Kennedy book and I’m not sure when and if I’ll return to it. I find the protagonist annoying and the book slow. I am a King fan but he does need a good editor. I’m 38% through Connie Willis’ Blackout and was stopped by the slow storytelling. Again I don’t know when and if… Ditto Jon Armstrong’s Yarn and The Name of the Wind by Rothfuss. I’m currently reading (and will finish) Firebird by Jack McDevitt, who has turned out to be my current favorite SF writer. I find his books consistently entertaining and highly readable. I’ve read some Steampunk with interest and some reservations about storytelling.

    I’ve subscribed digitally to Locus all the SF magazines and have started reading short stories before going to sleep. I’ve read Eclipse (3 or 4?) and plan on reading more. They are good in-between reading for those long novels. I’m also reading Barry Malzberg’s Breakfast in the Ruins, thanks to your recent podcast interview, (isn’t telephonic time delay fun?), as well as Gary’s Evaporating Genres.

    I think I’ve gone on long enough. Again, I’m glad I found your podcasts and I want to thank you for making them available. I look forward to listening to them as long as you continue to produce them. Thanks for your time and thanks for what you do for the SF community.

  7. My suggested topic for discussion is: Why do authors write books with protagonists of the opposite sex? One thing that has always bothered me is hearing about an interesting new book by a good author and discovering that the male author’s protagonist is a female. I believe that it’s a trend that started a while ago and is not new. I know I probably sound like a sexist but I don’t want to read a book with a female protagonist, written by a male author and especially written in the first person. Now I would have no problem picking up a book by a female author writing with a female protagonist.

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