1. John Scalzi has a fascinating post on “Why there are no great video game critics (yet).” His first argument is that they aren’t yet a mature medium, which is probably true; he notes that it took several decades for mature film and pop music criticism to start appearing (the same is probably true for genre sf, even though it was a subset of an existing form, prose fiction: Astounding 1926, Damon Knight 1952). On the other hand, as a general rule I do think we’re feeling the lack of such criticism today. One of the things Adam Roberts argues in his Palgrave History of Science Fiction is that just as the novel supplanted the short story as the dominant form of sf in the mid 20th century, so film and tv have started to supplant the novel, if they haven’t done so already. I think you can quite easily add computer games, and possibly comics, to ‘film and tv.’ One of my formative sf experiences was playing the later Final Fantasy games on the PS2, for instance—it’s clearly going to become increasingly untenable to talk about sf as a cultural discourse while considering prose fiction in isolation. I’m not saying all critics have to know about everything, and neither am I saying that written sf is going away, but … already we have stories like Kelly Link’s “Magic for Beginners,” which is part of a dialogue with a tv series (Buffy), or David Marusek’s Counting Heads, which is more-or-less consciously structured like a season of US tv; and we have writers like Sean Stewart and Neil Gaiman who happily hop, skip and jump between multiple media.
2. Andrew Wheeler, a senior editor at the Science Fiction Book Club, posts a list of “The Great SF Novels of the 90s.” Context: the SFBC has been reprinting eight books a year from successive decades each year for the past four years. As preparation, each time he’s surveyed readers of RASFW, and latterly his blog, about their preferences, to get ideas. He cuts the data several different ways, but some books keep showing up, as you’d expect—Snow Crash, A Fire Upon The Deep, The Sparrow, Red Mars, Use of Weapons. What’s a little embarrassing, considering this is supposed to be my period, is the number of books and even writers coming up that I’m not very familiar with. I haven’t read Hyperion, or The Iron Dragon’s Daughter, for instance, and very little Bujold, George RR Martin, or Connie Willis. On the other hand, it’s a pretty US-centric list, as you would expect; it doesn’t look complete to me without something by Stephen Baxter, and probably Ken Macleod and Greg Egan as well. What do you think’s missing, though?
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