‘I do love the basic Anglo Saxon vocabulary,’ said US-writer Lydia Davis at Hay Festival. The remark was prompted by a question from the audience (Why do you write so many single-syllable words?) Davis continued: ‘I do like the Latinate, too, but Anglo Saxon is the language of great emotion. “I am so mad.” “You are so wrong.” When to use different registers of language is an interesting question. The story itself makes the choice.’ Read more
At Hay Festival in 2006 I intercepted Will Self between events and he very kindly signed my hardback copy of The Book of Dave. Only… he wrote “From Anne” instead of “For Anne.” No matter how hard I try to untangle this briefest of encounters (what exactly did I say? what did he say?), I can’t fathom how this misunderstanding was precipitated. Maybe he thought I intended the book as a gift, hence “From Anne.” I did sense, just momentarily, that Will realized something had vaguely gone awry. In this comical, typically English exchange, neither of us remarked on the error (if that’s what it was). I said, “Thanks, Will.” And that was that.
Anyway, in readiness for attending his talk at Hay Festival later this month, I’ve read his novel Umbrella, in eBook format; nothing for him to sign this time. He’ll be talking with Sarfraz Manzoor not only about his novel but also about ‘the possibilities of the digital form’. Should be good.
So, what do I think of Umbrella? Read more
I’ve deciphered my scribbly notes from last week’s Arthur C Clarke Award and Write the Future micro-conference, organized by Tom Hunter, and I thought I’d share my favourite quotes from the day:
Lauren Beukes, author of Zoo City (winner of the Arthur C Clarke Award in 2011) and The Shining Girls, quoted Muriel Rukeyser:
“The universe is made of stories, not atoms.”
Ben North of HarperCollins quoted Ludwig Wittgenstein:
“If a lion could speak, we could not understand him.” Read more
Chris Beckett was presented with the Arthur C Clarke Award 2013 yesterday evening at a packed event at the Royal Society. Many congratulations! I hope this award will create a bigger readership for his brilliant book, Dark Eden.
And I’m holding off to the second paragraph to say – I told you so!
Yesterday I stuck my neck out and said Dark Eden was my favourite on the shortlist (and I’ve read and reviewed them all on this blog over the past month). It was the second book I read on the shortlist and here’s the review. Read more
Well, I’ve slept on it… and I’ve re-read my reviews. There are two novels that, for me, stand out from the six on the 2013 shortlist:
Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden and
Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars.
Each of the remaining four novels obviously have great merits in terms of subject matter, plot, writing quality or experimental daring in genre cross-over. But I’ve taken into account particular issues that rankle with me. For example, I’m a tad averse to meandering tales and loose writing styles. Read more
I have to admit that I haven’t read Kim Stanley Robinson’s fiction before and on the strength of 2312 I’ll read his Mars Trilogy, which established him as a big hitter, with a literary bent, in the realm of hard SF.
Truth is, I don’t really gravitate to other-world science fiction. I suppose because I’m mainly interested in social science fiction I’ve tended towards Earth-based scenarios. I’m now thinking I should reconsider this bias.
Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 is the sixth, and final, novel I’ve read on the shortlist for this year’s Arthur C Clarke Award. The winner will be announced tomorrow evening (1 May) at the Royal Society in London. And I’ll be there! Read more
A global flu pandemic has decimated the human population and, if that’s not bad enough, the worst effects of global warming are taking their toll. The Dog Stars is set in Colorado nine years after the flu pandemic. Hig, a pilot, has made a life for himself at a remote airfield and he’s coping with his emotional trauma – ‘being at the end of all loss’ – thanks to the companionship of his dog Jasper.
Ken MacLeod presents a vision of a near-future world in which many of our freedoms are rolled back in the cause of child protection, specifically the protection of the unborn foetus. For starters, smoking and drinking are illegal in pregnancy. Employers must prove their workplaces pose zero risk to pregnant women and as a result many women (pregnant or otherwise) operate from home where the legal restrictions are looser. And then there’s ‘the fix’ – single-dose medication (produced by SynBioTech) that women are obliged to take during pregnancy to mend any dodgy sections of DNA. Read more
Nick Harkaway’s sprawling yarn Angelmaker starts out in present-day London and brings together two characters who are an unlikely SF duo. Joe is the son of a gangster and Edie is an octogenarian female spook. She’s ever vigilant with her bags packed, waiting for her past to pay a visit. Which it does.
Joe Spork leads an impecunious life having shunned a life of crime despite his first-class underworld connections. Instead he follows his grandfather’s trade – fixing clocks and Victorian automata. The relationship between the three generations of Sporks, is explored by jumping back and forth in time, providing some of the best writing in the novel. Harkaway also writes well about Joe’s relationship with technology: Read more
Dark Eden is the story of lone-voice John Redlantern who, with his extended family, is stranded on a distant planet. This is a planet with no Sun; the only light sources are the forests with their shining treelanterns. All 532 people in the Family are descendants of Angela and Tommy. Unable to leave Eden, as they named it, they created a new human colony in Circle Valley that stretches ‘all the way from Peckham Hills to Blue Mountains and from Rockies to Alps.’
Once a year (roughly speaking, as it’s difficult for the oldest members to keep track of time), they gather for an ‘Any Virsry’ to recount the oral history of the settlement and to revere the few mementoes of Angela, Tommy and Earth – the plastic kee board, the sky-boat models, the boot, the backpack… Read more