Horizontal Connections 26.05.11
Posted by Jonathan McCalmont
25 May 2011
And the hits keep on coming... every day brings new wit and wisdom from the greatest SF-oriented minds of the Internet. Like Travis Bickle in his Taxi, we can but look out the window and recoil in horror at the ceaseless churn of human interaction. Um... by which I mean: here's the latest edition of Horizontal Connections! As ever, If you have any suggestions, feedback or think that you may have written something that deserves a wider audience then please do not hesitate to get in touch with me via the address on my website. Thanks.
And now, onto the links...
Nic Clarke returns to Paolo Bacigalupi's short story collection Pump Six (2008) and shares her thoughts:
But Bacigalupi resists making this a simple conflict, whether that be backwards villagers versus improving modernity, or life-affirming tradition versus soulless city.
Abigail Nussbaum takes a look at the 2011 Hugo Short Fiction ballot and is not too enamored with what she finds:
Unfortunately, the ballot also functions well as a snapshot of the reasons that the Hugos so frequently disappoint me--its stories prioritize sentimentality over quality of writing or ideas; what little fantastic invention there is in them is staid and predictable; even the one deserving piece is derivative, much to its own detriment.
Martin Lewis reviews Maggie Gee's The Flood (2004) and an interesting discussion follows about Margaret Atwood and the centrality of satire to the SF idiom ensues:
[Nice moments are] crowded out by ghastly artistic decisions, a convoluted and contrived web of serendipity, baldly re-stated back story, leaden “mediations” on Themes, characters who are relentlessly over-share in the most banal terms and dialogue that clearly issues form the author’s mouth rather than those of the characters.
Mark Player writes about depictions of transhumanism in Japanese cyberpunk cinema:
Japanese cyberpunk is raw and primal by nature, and characterised by attitude rather than high-concept. A collision between flesh and metal, the sub-genre is an explosion of sex, violence, concrete and machinery; a small collection of pocket-sized universes that revel in post-human nightmares and teratological fetishes, powered by a boundaryless sense of invasiveness and violation.
Paul Kincaid considers Peter Beagle's latest collection of short stories Sleight of Hand (2011):
We are left with the conclusion that Beagle is at his best when he sticks to his comfort zone, when he keeps to the same soothing voice he has made his own over the years.
If the series had been planned as a trilogy from the start, District 13 and its dubious rulers could have been introduced and established earlier. Katniss's relationship with them and her lack of respect for authority, even an authority trying to achieve her long-term goal of destroying President Snow's regime, makes for a solid storyline, but it is under-explored here.
Paul C. Smith writes about Adam Roberts' New Model Army (2010):
More than just a military history, Thucydides writes the last great tragedy of an era about the dangers of democracy. New Model Army shows us a future where democracy and perpetual warfare goes hand in hand, where chaos reigns because, as the Judge says, “War is God”, it persists “because young men love it and old men love it in them”.
Bridget McGovern celebrates Andrew Stanton's Wall-E (2008) :
Wall-E is the last holdout of romanticism, stranded in an isolated industrial wasteland—and where Keats had a Grecian urn and Wordsworth had all sorts of abbeys and daffodils to inspire him, Wall-E’s experience of the sublime stems from a random 1969 Barbra Streisand musical…and that is genius.
Ryan Britt reviews Victor LaValle's Shirley Jackson Award-winning Big Machine (2009):
Employing an occasional use of the 2nd person, LaValle creates another fantastic mystery about who the story is being narrated to in the first place.
Athena Andreadis reacts to Annie Jacobsen's work of 'non-fiction' Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base (2011) :
My theory (and I’ll be happy to talk to Hollywood agents about it) is that the engineered youngsters decided to defect, commandeered the craft and crashed it while drunk on freedom and contraband beer.
Martin Wisse reviews C.J. Cherryh's Foreigner (1994) :
Science doesn’t work that way, you cannot just keep parceling out little nuggets of information like that without sparking off a scientific revolution.
Rajann Khana writes about Veronica Roth's Divergent (2011) :
One of the things that really works in Divergent is that Roth captures that feeling so intense in our teenage years—the need and yearning to belong and yet the feeling that one doesn’t. It’s all too easy to say “I identify with this, this is who I am,” but it’s rarely so black and white, the borders of the factions that people choose are rarely so rigid and that’s an element that Roth captures in her future society. Those labels and categories, the things that the factions stand for, seem so absolute and so established, but are they really?
Kev McVeigh looks at Leigh Kennedy's collection of short stories Faces (1986) :
Faces is long out of print, but worth seeking out as a collection that delicately balances the magical and the quotidien on one hand, whilst calmly exposing the dark impulses tearing at that balance. Mixing SF and non-SF, Leigh Kennedy tells charmingly disturbing stories in the spaces between lives and genres.
Richard Palmer encounters Gertrude Friedberg's The Revolving Boy (1966) :
I didn’t have any particular expectations of this novel, but I was hopeful that it may turn out to have been a neglected and under-read classic from the SF field. Unfortunately, this really wasn’t the case.
David Thomson writes about our addiction to the Pirates of the Caribbean films:
We have gone along with them because we recognize that their function is less to entertain us than to make their money—and we try to be conscientious these days about “their” economy, as witness the bizarre mercy shown to our banks. It is a kind of slavery—where once we fancied the cinema was attempting to liberate or express us in an America that was a great wild park made for freedom.
A.O. Scott takes the mediocrity of Kenneth Branagh's Thor (2011) to be par for the course:
Mr. Branagh has not failed to make an interesting, lively, emotionally satisfying superhero movie, because there is no evidence that he (or the gaggle of credited screenwriters, or Paramount, the sponsoring studio) ever intended to make any such thing. On the contrary, the absolute and unbroken mediocrity of “Thor” is evidence of its success. This movie is not distinctively bad, it is axiomatically bad.
Stine Leicht tells us about the experience of being a female genre author:
For some reason, a female stating that she doesn’t like Romance as a genre is often treated as gender betrayal. Hell, I’ve seen men take abuse in public for not wanting Romance in their SciFi/Fantasy. When did not liking a genre become so… politically charged?
Karen Burnham kicks off the Locus Magazine short story club with a discussion of Aliette de Bodard's "The Jaguar House, In Shadow" (2010):
"Jaguar House” was another short story where I got to the end and felt like the story closed down its options instead of opening them up. I got to the end and had that slight feeling of “that’s it?” It didn’t quite seem to pay off either the setting, the emotional conflict, or the moral one. I feel like this setting has the richness and potential to really open up interesting new questions and vistas, but this story didn’t quite do that for me.
Pyrofennec contemplates R.A. Salvatore's Road of the Patriarch (2006):
RA Salvatore. He’s kind of like the Dan Abnett of Forgotten Realms, except without any of the self-awareness, with only the most remote interest in writing women well, and not even so much as a single solitary acknowledgment that gay people exist. He also keeps writing about the same set of characters over and over and over.
Matt Hilliard tells us about Glen Cook's standalone SF novel The Dragon Never Sleeps (1988) :
The Dragon Never Sleeps is a novel that shows just how great space opera can be, even if in some ways it falls short of its own potential.