Episode 359: That Old Literary Divide

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We’re on a roll! Two episodes in two weeks. Surely it can’t last! Gary has been reading Margaret Atwood’s Booker Prize-winning novel The Testaments and it’s sparked off all sorts of thoughts on that old chestnut: science fiction vs. literary fiction. What are literary writers doing when they write SF? Can SF writers cross-over to the mainstream? Is this purely a generational perspective and does it just not matter any more? All these questions are at least touched on, if not settled (they’re not settled), as well as mentions of Lethem, Le Guin, Chabon and others, and a brief discussion of robots and AI in SF. They even discuss some very interesting comments on the Atwood novel by Nina Allan over on her blog.

All in all, a typical rambly shambles. As always, we hope you enjoy!

Episode 358: Science fiction, open borders, and porous boundaries

9781473227965.jpgThis week, with Jonathan hard at work compiling his year’s best anthology, we revisit one of the oldest questions about science fiction—namely, what is it and how do you decide what to include or exclude from an anthology clearly labelled as science fiction?

Rather than trying to offer our own definitions, we discuss the problem of definition in general. Gary argues that the many definitions of SF could be classed as the functional (or purely practical, like Damon Knight’s famous “what I point to”), the rhetorical (definitions designed to promote the importance of the genre), and the theoretical (lit-crit stuff). We agreed that such definitions tend to change over time.

That leads us into a discussion of the current state of space opera, and the question of whether the space setting is a defining feature, even when, as with Aliette de Bodard’s The Tea Master and the Detective, the plot is borrowed from mysteries.  

Finally, we talk about some of our current reading. Gary mentions Rivers Solomon’s The Deep, which he sees as representing a fascinating collaboration between music and fiction since the central idea began with the techno-electronic duo Drexciya, became a Hugo-nominated rap by Clipping and is now Solomon’s novel.  Jonathan mentioned Leah Bardugo’s bestselling new fantasy, Ninth House, which is out now and which he recommends.

As always, we hope you enjoy the podcast. We’ll be back soon!

Episode 357: Library of America and the year’s end…

americansf.jpgAs we approach the October Country, Jonathan and Gary start this week’s podcast discussing Gary’s new two-volume set from the Library of America, American Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s (which you can order right now) and end with discussing the challenges of editing Jonathan’s new best science fiction of the year anthology series from Saga Press.

It’s not all shameless self-promotion, though, since in between we talk about how SF changed from the 1950s to the 1960s, whether there is more high-quality SF published now than ever before, and how new writers face different challenges from those of earlier generations in establishing a career and a distinctive profile in today’s complicated markets.

All in all, a pretty full hour. As always, we hope you enjoy the episode and we’ll back soon (next week!) with another episode!

Coode Street Roundtable 2.1: Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline

Welcome to the first episode of the second season of The Coode Street Roundtable, a monthly podcast from Coode Street Productions where panellists James Bradley, Ian Mond, Gary K. Wolfe, and Jonathan Strahan, joined by occasional special guests, discuss a new or recently released science fiction or fantasy novel.

Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline

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This month James, Ian, Gary and Jonathan discuss the latest book from Annalee Newitz. It’s described by publisher Tor Books as follows:

1992: After a confrontation at a riot grrl concert, seventeen-year-old Beth finds herself in a car with her friend’s abusive boyfriend dead in the backseat, agreeing to help her friends hide the body. This murder sets Beth and her friends on a path of escalating violence and vengeance as they realize many other young women in the world need protecting too.

2022: Determined to use time travel to create a safer future, Tess has dedicated her life to visiting key moments in history and fighting for change. But rewriting the timeline isn’t as simple as editing one person or event. And just when Tess believes she’s found a way to make an edit that actually sticks, she encounters a group of dangerous travelers bent on stopping her at any cost.

Tess and Beth’s lives intertwine as war breaks out across the timeline—a war that threatens to destroy time travel and leave only a small group of elites with the power to shape the past, present, and future. Against the vast and intricate forces of history and humanity, is it possible for a single person’s actions to echo throughout the timeline?

If you’re keen to avoid spoilers, we recommend reading the book before listening to the episode (serious spoilers start around the ten-minute mark).

If you don’t already have a copy, The Future of Another Timeline can be ordered from:

North American booksellers
UK booksellers
amazon.com.au

We encourage all of our listeners to leave comments here and we will do our best to respond as soon as possible.

Books mentioned this episode

James mentioned:

  • Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker
  • Paul Kingsnorth, The Wake
  • Alastair Reynolds, Permafrost
  • Michelle Tea, Black Wave
  • Connie Willis, Doomsday Book

Gary mentioned:

  • Elizabeth Hand, Curious Toys

Ian mentioned:

  • Claire North, The Pursuit of William Abbey
  • Meghan Elison, The Road to Nowhere Trilogy

Jonathan mentioned:

Kelly Robson, Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach

 

Next month

The Coode Street Roundtable will return at the end of October with a discussion of Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

 

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.