Sunday, December 04, 2005

Best recent light reading is wonderfully good novel

called War for the Oaks by Emma Bull. It was staggeringly good and just the kind of novel I most like, a sort of urban fantasy (with rock n roll musicians) set in Minneapolis-with-Faeries-type thing. Of course it was written before either of these, but it had the feel of a cross between Holly Black and Gwyneth Jones's excellent Bold As Love and its sequels. I must get all of Bull's other books and read them RIGHT AWAY. (And on Emma Bull's blog there's a good discussion, too, of the silliness of many attempts to define fantasy as opposed to science fiction as opposed to more 'respectable' kinds of fiction, most of which are rather denigrating to fantasy in ways that are pretty useless: click here if you're interested in following up the discussion).

Two further thoughts on the matter: (1) I can't remember now exactly where I got the recommendation on this one, but I'm fairly sure it was off a blog responding to the overwhelming maleness of the Guardian's top 20 geek novels with alternative "girl geek" female-authored lists. (Obviously this begs a number of questions--are they books for or by girl geeks, for instance? and do boy geeks read books written by women? and in what sense are the books "geeky" anyway?--but you get the basic idea.) In other words, I'm not sure who to thank, but am very grateful for the recommendation. (2) The funniest thing I've recently seen apropos of this "how do we define fantasy and science fiction and what is the relative prestige of so-called science fiction compared to other kinds" came in this sentence of the bio of John Wyndham that appears at the front of the Penguin edition of The Midwich Cuckoos: "In 1946 he went back to writing stories for publication in the U.S.A. and decided to try a modified form of what is unhappily known as 'science fiction'." I love that tone, it's so English and morally disapproving...

(In other light reading, I just finished Kelley Armstrong's Dime Store Magic--much better than a lot of what's out there, of course, and she's an appealing writer, but you can't help but feel she could be writing much better books than this: however I have admittedly enjoyed all the ones I've read so far and doubtless will read her others too.)

I have just had the most idyllic trip to New York, a fantastic conference on enchantment (an academic conference, but it touched on a lot of questions that might be fruitfully pursued in conversations in/around contemporary fantastic fiction as well), a lot of great meetings with friends and colleagues and students, etc. etc. I even got to see my friend Tanya Selvaratnam in Super Vision at BAM. She was excellent, as was the storyline (to which she contributed much of the writing as well as acting, I believe) about the New York granddaughter teleconferencing with her Sri Lankan grandmother--she's putting together a digital archive of photos and mementos and documents and it's all about the interplay between photography and identity and memory and artifacts and technology, but it's genuinely human and moving as well. Not all the story-lines were so successful, but the technology they use to represent all this makes the production really visually breathtaking, BEAUTIFUL to look at. I enjoyed it, anyway.


  1. I do think the discussion has gotten sily over F & SF, but Ted's a genius so it didn't start that way. (I think you would really love his collection -- it is FABULOUS.) If it were wrong to think analytically about things like this at its face then we'd all think a lot less of writers like Sam Delany.

    I highly recommend all Emma's novels, but especially Bone Dance, which is my personal favorite.