Horizontal Connections 07.07.11

Posted by Jonathan McCalmont

Fresh from this year's Science Fiction Foundation Masterclass, I bring you... FIRE. Well, either that or links to some of the pieces of genre writing that have grabbed my attention over the past couple of weeks. 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...


Tony Keen produces three different pieces considering different facets of Tricia Sullivan's Maul (2003). One on the nature of reality, One on feminist SF and One on product placement:

If written by a man, this could be seen as misogynist claptrap, or at the very least wet-dream wish-fulfilment. But Sullivan’s point is that women can be as interested as men in the fetishization of guns and violence – they just have to be given a chance.


Madeline Ashby reviews the new Charles Stross novel Rule 34 (2011) and, somewhat unexpectedly, praises the characterisation:

you find actual humanity, that rare depth of characterization that is like the appropriate depth of field in a film, the one your eyes can already deal with, the kind that does not require a set of cheap, gimmicky lenses. There are people here. Real ones. Dirty ones. Made of meat. Delicious, juicy meat.


Lavie Tidhar puts up a story that would most likely not have found a publisher. I normally don't link to short fiction in this feature but given that the whole point of "The School" is to directly challenge some of the more politically dubious aspects of science fiction, I feel perfectly justified in considering it a piece of criticism:

Humans are the best possible life form and white humans are the best possible humans and, also, we have a manifest destiny and the universe is our heritage. This is known as the John W. Campbell Axiom.


Adam Roberts puts on his stomping boots and takes a look at Iain M. Banks' Culture novel Surface Detail (2010):

The ostensible moral of the novel is that ‘cruelty and the urge to dominate and oppress’ are ‘childish and pathetic’; which runs the risk of coming over, in terms of its didactic effectiveness and analytic sophistication, as a touch, well, childish and pathetic.


Martin Lewis produces a double-review of Jeff VanderMeer's Monstrous Creatures (2011) and Daniel M. Kimmel's Jar Jar Binks Must Die (2011) in which he asks what purpose review collections actually serve:

You love the fantastic, it is in your blood. You have devoted a substantial part of your life to it, a part friends and colleagues have sometimes suggested has been wasted. Sometimes you wonder if they are right. You have poured your blood out through your pen but you find yourself unregarded, unrewarded and out of pocket. You are invested... so you want a return on your investment. How do you crystallise this labour into something that means something? How can you -- whisper it -- moneterise it? The answer is, of course, a book. A book is an artefact that has value (even in this day and age) beyond its pulped wooden weight. Commensurate with this prestige is a question though: why do my thoughts deserve collecting?


Brit Mandelo takes it upon herself to read all of Joanna Russ' fiction starting with The Adventures of Alyx (1967-1970):

Really, I love the women of Alyx’s stories, most especially Alyx herself. What a refreshing surprise it is to see a woman hero of an adventure story, and later on in the more SFnal tales like “The Barbarian” to see that she’s not just a tough fighter but also remarkably intelligent as she works her way through the tricks of the man from the future who’s pretending to be a wizard. She’s competent, capable and genuinely well-developed as a person. Even today, there aren’t many women playing the protagonists’ role in stories like these.


Graham Sleight shares his thoughts on the writings of Shirley Jackson:

If I had to isolate one structuring device running through Jackson’s work, it would be a kind of intensity with which she constructs small groups with very distinct values.


Aishwarya Subramanian looks back at Mervyn Peake's lesser-known work Letter From a Lost Uncle

Reading Letters from a Lost Uncle, it's tempting to suggest that Peake's true genius lay in this ability to invoke tragedy in the midst of absurdity. This is insufficient (my ideas of what made Peake great will change within the hour) but he was a genius and we were lucky to have him.


John H. Stevens on the social function of all of those 'Is SF Dying?' debates:

"The Death of Science Fiction" is a shibboleth. When someone in the field wants to write about where they think the genre is going, and/or what it's doing wrong, and/or what crimes are being committed against it, they pen an article or blog post proclaiming The End.


Kat Howard looks at Arthurian myth and T.H. White's The Once and Future King from an interstitial perspective:

It is in the story already, of course, that between place. It is hope. Of all the places Arthur has been said to dwell, it is here, the most interstitial of all, that he lives. Rexque futurus. The final words of White's text are "The Beginning." The lack of eucatastrophe means there is hope it will come later – that Arthur will return from Avalon, that Camelot will rise again, that this time it will last for more than one brief shining moment. We hope that we have lived the story backwards, and that Arthur is before us, in our future, immortalized in all the stories.