This week marks the publication of Jonathan’s new hard-SF anthology Mission Critical, the 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
This 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.
After a much longer than expected hiatus, we’re back (sort of)! Gary’s been working and travelling and Jonathan’s been working and planning to travel and it’s made it very difficult to squeeze recording time in. Or even to plan recording time.
Still, for a moment, early on Mother’s Day in Australia and late in the evening in Chicago, Gary and Jonathan stop to discuss the books they’ve been reading, the movies they’ve been watching, the stuff they’ve been working on, awards and ballots, and Joanna Russ. There are mentions of fiction in translation, Chen Qiufan’s Waste Tide (and Liz Bourke’s Tor.com review of it), Avenger’s Endgame, and much more.
I don’t think either of our hosts is sure the conversation is coherent or intelligible but here it is, along with a promise to try to do better in the coming months.
For our 350th(!) episode, Jonathan and Gary basically just ramble on. We begin with the question of how long to stick with a novel which seems to be going off the rails, and comment a bit on what different kinds of readers expect from long novels.
Later we move on to questions about anthologies, and what to expect from recent anthologies of Chinese, Korean, South Asian, and Israeli science fiction: should they try to represent an entire national tradition, or simply focus on excellent stories? And can readers not from those cultures ever fully appreciate the full nuances of such fiction?
That, in turn, leads us to discuss anthologies that have been historically important, although not always widely recognized, such as Vonda McIntyre and Susan Anderson’s Aurora: Beyond Equality from 1976, and anthologies widely celebrated, like Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions. On a personal note, anthologies that shaped our own reading included (for Gary) Judith Merril’s horribly titled England Swings SF and (for Jonathan) Michael Bishop’s Light Years and Dark. And we end briefly discussing an issue, raised by Fonda Lee, about writers gaining shelf space in bookstores amid all the perennial classics and bestsellers.
This week, we are joined by Nebula Award-winning Sarah Pinsker, whose first story collection Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea has just been published, and whose first novel, A Song for a New Day, will appear from Berkley Books in September.
We talk about the challenges of a dual career as writer and songwriter/performer—and the differences in audience interactions between the two—as well as her early reading and writing in the field, her creative writing classes in college and later attendance at the Sycamore Hill workshops, and the varied relationships between SF, fantasy, dystopia, the classic road novel, and mainstream “literary fiction.”
Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea is available from Small Beer Press and her novel is available for preorder.