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Links 1 through 10 of 117 by Shaun Green tagged sf

Genre culture’s ability to produce short fiction now so comprehensively outstrips its ability to engage with short fiction that the odds of any given story receiving much attention are rapidly approaching zero. Dozens of anthologies can drop out of print without ever being reviewed and entire magazines can launch, acquire a following, lose vital editorial staff, and collapse without anyone ever bothering to comment on the nature of their output. Little wonder that Hugo voters now find it almost impossible to pick five short stories that stand out against the deafening hum of cultural production. Increasingly dominated by a suite of free online publications, the genre short fiction scene is becoming a literary niche in which readers are entirely optional. As with academic publishing, many of the institutions supporting genre short fiction are less interested in reaching an audience than they are in providing the rungs for a vast aspirational ladder

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Iain M. Banks's Culture is one of the most well-known and best-loved science fiction utopias. Beginning in 1987 with Consider Phlebas, Banks published eight (or nine) novels, a novella and one (or two) short stories in this setting, exploring the joys and complexities of his far-future post-scarcity society before his devastatingly untimely death in 2013. Working both with and against the space opera traditions of the UK and the US, Banks was frequently cited as a leading figure in the British Boom, using the Culture texts as a political platform and an ethical playground. These interviews were conducted by email between April and June in 2010 as part of my PhD on the Culture, drawing on the extraordinary way Banks's writing investigates and interrogates language, the body, the relationship between the self and society and the relationship between the self and the other, to consider what it is to be a person. The full, strident, and often playful answers he gives here are entirely characteristic of his writing and persona more generally. —Jude Roberts

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Under Sennyi’s feet the mud is hissing a mantra for health and prosperity. The path is a burial ground for seven hundred and seventy-seven monks, sealed behind yellow-paper firewalls. In death their vestments were stripped and torn to little talisman shreds, wards against illness and accident. Their prayer beads went too, spread out on merchants’ mats on- and off-world, touted for their sanctity and bringing terrible misfortune to all buyers: virulent malware that scrambles networks in seconds, infects medical equipment in hospitals, upsets commute at rush hour.

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Benjanun Sriduangkaew describes herself as a writer "of SF, F, and other things in between." Her first published story, "Courtship in the Country of Machine Gods", appeared in The Future Fire in September 2012; since then her fiction has appeared frequently in magazines such as Clarkesworld and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and in anthologies including We See A Different Frontier and Clockwork Phoenix 4 (both 2013). Many of her SF stories are set in her far future/space opera "Hegemony" setting; notable entries in this sequence include "Annex" (Clarkesworld, April 2013), "The Bees Her Heart, The Hive Her Belly" (Clockwork Phoenix 4), and "Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade" (Clarkesworld, December 2013). In 2014, her stories are being reprinted in The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year vol. 8, edited by Jonathan Strahan, and The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2014, edited by Rich Horton. She is also a finalist for this year's John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. This interview was conducted by email in May 2014.

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So I'm going to tell you about it, Ms. Russ, because I think I've just discovered another strategy to suppress women's writing. You wrote the book, How to Suppress Women's Writing, describing in gory detail all the different ways that have been used to disallow, prevent, discourage, disbelieve, discredit, devalue, ignore, categorize, debase, forget, ridicule, malign, redefine, re-evaluate, and otherwise suppress women's writing. I'm sure that you meant to warn us with your book--to warn us that the suppressive strategies are still around, armed and dangerous--and that it's important for women to recognize them and to work against them. But still, I remember (or perhaps I imagined) an up-beat ending to your book and I'm surprised that there really is no happy ending. That the business is still going on today. You observed some of the strategies that suppress women's writing: "She wrote it, but she wrote only one of it," or "She wrote it, but she had help," or "She wrote it, but she's an anomaly." Well, the late 1970s and early 1980s spawned many women SF writers who wrote quite a bit of highly praised fiction. The old strategies don't quite work. Here's the new one: "They wrote it, but they were a fad."

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Perhaps once in a generation, the science of criticism is shaken by a conceptual breakthrough so revolutionary that the literary establishment can only dismiss it as deluded quackery. Such a breakthrough is described in these pages. If I draw comparisons with Darwin, Einstein, Lysenko, the sceptical reader may smile. Yet they laughed at Leavis; they creased themselves pink at Edmund Wilson; they barfed up gobs of lung tissue at Derrida's Of Grammatology. To all such shallow-minded so-called "scientists" I say: go ahead and hoot! The High Speed Train of progress makes no unscheduled stops to pick up late travellers, nor can it be tilted in its tracks. The failure of the old paradigm is simple. There's a curious bias in the vernacular of critical discussion towards the qualities that make a book good. Most of the language traditionally used to describe a book's achievement has to do with its positive qualities: the plot, characterization, style, ideas, significance. Moreover, it's a bias that carries over into all those gruesome handbooks on How To Write Totally Brilliant Novels and Win Big Cash Literary Prizes. The reason nobody's yet become a big time novelist by reading up on Diane Doubtfire is just that all the advice in such booklets is directed towards getting you to write a book full of plot, characterization, style, ideas, significance. In short, a good book.

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Like many people surveying the shortlists, I could not help but feel irritation and regret over the fact that genre literature’s most prestigious and well-known award continues to get it wrong all too often. However, this regret was as nothing when compared to the regret I felt when reading much of the discussion of these shortlists. These types of discussion have never been particularly pretty but I think this year’s flotilla may well have sunk to a new low.

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New space opera – the good new space opera – cheerfully plunders the tropes and toys of the old school and secondary sources from Blish to Delany, refurbishes them with up-to-the-minute science, and deploys them in epic narratives where intimate, human-scale stories are at least as relevant as the widescreen baroque backgrounds on which they cast their shadows. There are neither empires nor rigid technocracies dominated by a single Big Idea in the new space opera; like cyberpunk, it’s eclectic and pluralistic, and infused with the very twenty-first century sensibility that the center cannot hold, that technology-driven change is continuous and advancing on a thousand fronts, that some kind of posthuman singularity is approaching fast or may already have happened.

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One of the unlovely things that has been happening in Anglophone SF/F (in line with resurgent religious fundamentalism and erosion of democratic structures in the First World, as well as economic insecurity that always prompts “back to the kitchen” social politics) is the resurrection of unapologetic – nay, triumphant – misogyny beyond the already low bar in the genre. The churners of both grittygrotty “epic” fantasy and post/cyberpunk dystopias are trying to pass rape-rife pornkitsch as daring works that swim against the tide of rampant feminism and its shrill demands.

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