Thought For The Day

M. John Harrison:

Every moment of a science fiction story must represent the triumph of writing over worldbuilding.

Worldbuilding is dull. Worldbuilding literalises the urge to invent. Worldbuilding gives an unneccessary permission for acts of writing (indeed, for acts of reading). Worldbuilding numbs the reader’s ability to fulfil their part of the bargain, because it believes that it has to do everything around here if anything is going to get done.

Above all, worldbuilding is not technically neccessary. It is the great clomping foot of nerdism. It is the attempt to exhaustively survey a place that isn’t there. A good writer would never try to do that, even with a place that is there. It isn’t possible, & if it was the results wouldn’t be readable: they would constitute not a book but the biggest library ever built, a hallowed place of dedication & lifelong study. This gives us a clue to the psychological type of the worldbuilder & the worldbuilder’s victim, & makes us very afraid.

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Vector 250

Vector 250 landed in my letterbox this afternoon, so hopefully it’s landed in other peoples’ as well. Here’s the lineup, and when you’ve read it, letters of comments should go to the usual address.

Torque Control — editorial
Letter to Vector — by Paul Raven
Behind the Scenes: Origins — Peter Weston on the changing purpose of the BSFA
The View from Vector — past editors remember. Contributions from Rog Peyton, Ken Slater, Doreen Rogers, Malcolm Edwards, Joseph Nicholas, Paul Kincaid, David V. Barrett, Kev McVeigh, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Gary Dalkin, and Andrew M. Butler
The New X: Pattern Recognition — Graham Sleight on the state of the genre
The 2006 Thomas D. Clareson Award — Farah Mendlesohn’s remarks at the presentation of the Award to Paul Kincaid
First Impressions — Book reviews edited by Paul N. Billinger

(Yes, this time the magazine has a colour cover! If you can’t appreciate the full beauty of the Woking Martian from the version above, there’s a larger image here; photo courtesy Peter Young, who also provided the funky photos of books on the back cover and throughout the interior.)

Crawford Award

Award season continues. As reported at Locus Online, the shortlist for this year’s Crawford Award, for best first fantasy book (previous winners here) is:

A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham
Skinny-Dipping in the Lake of the Dead by Alan DeNiro
The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
In the Forest of Forgetting by Theodora Goss
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
Temeraire by Naomi Novik
Map of Dreams by M. Rickert

The winner will be announced at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in March.

Posted in Awards. 8 Comments »

London Meeting: Paul Cornell

The guest at tonight’s BSFA meeting is Paul Cornell, writer of various things, including several episodes of some TV show called Doctor Who. He will be interviewed by Graham Sleight.

As usual, the meeting is free to any and all who might be interested, and the interview will start at 7pm. However, the usual venue, The Star Tavern, is closed for urgent work. The alternate venue they have arranged for us is The Antelope on Eaton Terrace, which isn’t far away (Map here). See you there?

EDIT: Ian’s comment reminds me that, given the weather, it would probably be a good idea to check your transport routes for this evening.

The Last Linkfinder

I was hoping to get something vaguely substantial written this week, but I have unfortunately been clobbered by a bout of plague. So here are some links, instead.

  • A conversation about The Road between Henry Farrell and China Mieville.
  • Guardian review of Tricia Sullivan’s latest novel, Sound Mind; on the one hand, it has one of those teeth-grinding introductions about how Sullivan “may be nearing escape velocity” from genre, but on the other hand, it sounds like Patrick Ness has read and appreciated plenty of Sullivan’s other novels.
  • Gary K. Wolfe reviews Resplendent by Stephen Baxter and Galactic North by Alastair Reynolds. I’ve finally got around to reading the original novella in Resplendent, “The Siege of Earth”, and it’s just as brilliant as Wolfe says it is.
  • The Velcro City review of Blindsight
  • On reviewing long and/or hyped books.
  • Locus Online will be compiling lists of books by editor; along with the wiki of editors, this should make nominating for the Hugos in an informed fashion easier.
  • Oscar nominations are out. No nod in “best adapted screenplay” for either The Prestige or A Scanner Darkly? Bah, I say, bah.
  • And finally, Tony wants feedback about potentially changing the start time of BSFA London meetings.
  • EDIT: I KNEW IT: Did 24 go too far? “The key question is whether the drama is a bit of absurd science fiction, or the projection of a not-so-distant future, not in its particulars, but in its awful core depiction.” (OK, the article is a right-wing rant, but still. I knew 24 was turning into sf, and there’s no better confirmation than someone feeling the need to deny that it’s sf. Spoilers if you haven’t seen the first four episodes of season six.)
  • FURTHER EDIT: Ann and Jeff Vandermeer’s New Weird anthology, coming in 2008. And whatever else might be said about this project, I do like that cover.

The 2007 Arthur C Clarke Award

And the shortlist is:

End of the World Blues, Jon Courtenay Grimwood (Gollancz)
Nova Swing, M. John Harrison (Gollancz)
Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, Lydia Millet (Heinemann)
Hav, Jan Morris (Faber)
Gradisil, Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
Streaking, Brian Stableford (PS Publishing)

EDIT: the official announcement is now up on the Clarke Award website, Paul Kincaid has linked to some reviews of the nominated books here, and there are some reactions here, here, and here.

A Competition

Today’s the day. When I’ve posted this, I’ll be heading into London, to a room in the Science Museum, to sit down with the other judges and decide the shortlist for the 2007 Arthur C. Clarke Award.

So here’s a competition, to get you interested: what do you think should be on the shortlist? What do you think were the six best science fiction novels published in the UK in 2006? I’ll be offline for the whole day, obviously, but if it turns out that anyone’s guessed the entire shortlist correctly, top-to-bottom, I’ll buy it for them.

The rules: one guess per person; all guesses to be posted here; and all guesses must be receieved by 1800 GMT. If your memory needs to be jogged, there’s a list of books here — but bear in mind that (a) it’s incomplete, and (b) it includes fantasy novels. Good luck!

(PS: For those who were following the discussion, there have been a few new comments about the BSFA’s non-fiction award.)