Friday, 14 January 2011

bite me: the week in bite-sized chunks

I haven’t written a post for ages because of several factors. It was Christmas. I was in a food-induced stupor. It was my birthday (not particularly relevant but I was determined to eat my weight in tiny little cakes and it was very time consuming). A further food-induced stupor followed. My assignments were due in for my MA. I started a new job. So. After all of those excuses, I’m finally back behind the computer and fighting the food haze in order to fill a genteel black hole.

So what have I missed whilst preoccupied with cake?

i09: these guys, whoever they are, have released The Power List, filled with people who ‘rocked science fiction and fantasy in 2010’. These 20 listed individuals have been helping to cajole SFF out of its niche and into the glaring spotlight of the public eye, which is exactly what my dissertation is focussed on (or will be, one day). Even better, rather than simply striving to reach a mass market, they’ve only made the genre richer for the rest of us. Some of those involved in drumming up the geek chic in 2010 are: Steven Moffat who demonstrated that it was possible to do a worthy remake of Sherlock Holmes without resorting to Dick Van Dykian dialects. Oh, and pulled off a freaking ace new series of Doctor Who. Orbit author Paolo Bacigalupi (pronounced Batch-i-ga-loop-ee according to Paulo), whose novel The Windup Girl has won the Hugo and Nebula awards, is on there for proving that ‘hard SF can still be relevant and popular’. I’m experiencing a love-confusion relationship with it at the moment, as I’m not a major fan of SF (barring Douglas Adams, obviously), but it’s engaging and like nothing I’ve ever read before. Also the cover is gorgeous and, while this might sound odd, the book has a weighty feel to it that makes it so satisfying to hold and read. Also it smells great. Review to follow. Another score for Orbit as Publishing Director Tim Holman has been setting up the imprint’s New York branch. Even Sandra Bullock gets a nod for playing self-consciously kooky crossword writer (she wears red boots!) in All About Steve. No wait, for being in SFF movie Gravity directed by Alfonso Cuarón. After Steve she knows the only possible way is up. Head on over to i09 for the full list. Now.

Voyager: the blog has been a bit quiet over Christmas, but they did receive some honey off author Janny Wurts, which is nice. Also, I’m heading down there for a week at the beginning of February as part of my MA, something I’m a little (read: ridiculously) excited about. I really just wanted to share that.

Orbit: on the Orbit blog Robert Jackson Bennett (author of Mr Shivers, reviewed here) wrote this hugely interesting piece ‘On the Death of Geek Culture’, in response to Patton Oswalt’s ‘Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time to Die.’ The essence of the latter is Oswalt saying that everyone can be an expert (ie, a geek) on an aspect of niche culture so no one is. The niche has become the norm. Oswalt wants a return to the niche, pre internet, pre YouTube fan-bashing of classics, pre wiki-bloody-pedia (god, I love that thing). Bennett’s response is interesting because his arguably unique stance, as a Horror/thriller author, is that this would be a Bad Thing. Geek culture is cultural agoraphobia. It’s under the bed sheets with the torch and comic. It’s secular, insular and it’s well and truly down the rabbit hole. I can see both of their points. But Oswalt seems to want a return to a pre-nostalgia driven society so he can be, well, nostalgic (but original). And Bennett is suggesting that SFF and geek culture can be used as escapism, rather than a momentary retreat, which is a bit too dismissive of what is a wide-ranging passion for so many people. Or maybe I can’t agree with him because I don’t feel like I’m ‘trapped in a prison of artifice and quirk’, geek culture isn’t an excuse not to step out of my comfort zone because there is nothing comforting about reading a book with a dragon on the front of it in the middle of a crowd of commuters reading Hilary Mantel. Or maybe that's just my geek-shame speaking. Maybe it's time to push the boundaries and try something new. Like reading Science Fiction instead of purely Fantasy, that would be totally wild.

Angry Robot Books: ever the savvy publisher, this relative newbie in the SFF world is always ready to innovate and do things just differently enough to get noticed. For the entire month of March, the imprint will be accepting unsolicited manuscripts. They’ve hired a team of readers to wade through what will inevitably be an absolute mountain of novels composed of wannabes, no-hopers and, just maybe, a diamond in the rough that otherwise wouldn’t see the light of day. Contain yourselves long enough to pen that bestseller/Angry Robot desk ornament.

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