Episode 356: Space opera, WorldCon, Campbell, and other unicorns

empress.jpgAfter acknowledging that we failed to record a single podcast during the Dublin Worldcon, Jonathan and Gary compare notes about the con and the general wonderfulness of being in Ireland, than discussed perhaps the most debated bit of news emerging from Dublin: the renaming of the John W. Campbell award following the passionate acceptance speech by Jeanette Ng. This raised the issue of whether it’s a good idea to name an award in honour of any past figure in the field, given the shifting historical and literary influences of modern writers, and the problems that might arise concerning such figures.

Then we spent a bit of time talking about a new kind of “new space opera” such as Max Gladstone’s Empress of Forever, and how space opera, like time travel, seems to survive and get reinvented in each new generation of writers.

Finally, we recommend a couple of forthcoming books we’ve both been reading, Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January and Dominic Parisien and Navah Wolfe’s anthology The Mythic Dream.

Episode 354: Influence, impact, the sense of wonder, and other critical missions

Mission CriticalThis week marks the publication of Jonathan’s new hard-SF anthology Mission Criticalthe title of which reminded Gary of the first SF serial he read, Hal Clement’s Close to Critical. This lead, by our usual process of carefully structured random free association, to a discussion of Clement as an example of an author whose fiction is not widely read anymore, but whose influence nevertheless shows up even in writers who may not have read him. In Clement’s case, it was carefully extrapolated SF environments and creatures, but Jack Vance and Clifford Simak are also mentioned as writers whose influence has long outlived their popularity.

This somehow led to a discussion of SF’s oldest saw, the sense of wonder, how it can be achieved by current writers, and whether the SFnal sense of wonder can really be achieved in fantasy or horror. After rambling through a few other topics, including our favourite dragons, we mentioned a few new and upcoming books we’re looking forward to (see the links below).  And then we noted that this week represents the 10th anniversary of the death of our old friend, Charles N. Brown, who in many ways was the inspiration for this podcast.

Links for the episode

Episode 353: New projects and old books

9781598535013.jpgThis week Jonathan and Gary are back, fitting another episode in between travel, work, and family commitments. Gary opens up with a thoroughly reasonable discussion about writers from the 1990s and 2000s who may have published major works but have fallen from sight in recent years, while Jonathan attempts to get Gary interested in a new segment. Along the way there’s discussion of the history of anthologies and whether genre fiction is more likely to be the home of theme anthologies, a new Gwyneth Jones book on the work of Joanna Russ, the state of various Library of America projects, and more.

All in all, a typical ramble. In coming weeks Gary will be in Seattle for the 2019 Locus Awards weekend, Jonathan will be in Seattle for Clarion West, and both of them will be in Dublin for WorldCon 2019. Hopefully more podcast episodes will be recorded before then.

 

Episode 352: A Surplus of Us

With the Nebula Award winners about to be announced, we took a look this week at the question of whether science fiction has demonstrated much continuity of theme and style since the 1969 Nebulas, or whether the field has essentially reinvented itself in the last few decades.

But before we even get around to that, we note the death of bestselling author Herman Wouk, whose only science fiction work was the relatively undistinguished The “Lomokome” Papers, which raised the issue of mainstream writers who attempted SF with limited success vs. those who approached the material with respect.

Then we spent some time talking about the different generations of science fiction writers, the role of nostalgia in science fiction, the value of differing perspectives even on familiar themes, and somehow touched upon the New Wave somewhere in there as well.

As usual, we started with interesting ideas and ended up with a farrago.