Things to Come

So. A Clarke judge no longer. More free time. What am I going to do with myself?

Well, first up, Thursday sees the “science fiction as a literary genre” symposium organised by Gresham College, at which I hope to see a fair few of the people reading this. After that comes the BSFA/SFF joint AGM event, on Saturday 7th June, and then at the end of June there’s the SFF Masterclass in SF criticism. So, no Wiscon (or Readercon) for me this year, but I won’t be short of things to do.

In blogging terms, once I’ve caught up on various other (mosty Vector-related) tasks I’d been letting slide a bit, I’m hoping to get a slightly more regular schedule going — say, links on a Monday, a review on a Friday (or possibly vice versa). The Baroque Cycle Reading Group continues (next installment due Friday 16th!), and by the end of the month I hope to be joining Karen in blogging about some of the Masterclass reading. There’ll probably also be more discussions, after the fashion of the Matter roundtable, at some point.

And speaking of reading, here’s my current TBR-imminent:

Image004

From top to bottom:

  • Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos — an impulse buy from a second-hand book stall a while ago. Given that Stand on Zanzibar is on the Masterclass reading list this seems like an appropriate time to try Dos Passos.
  • Speculative Japan, edited by Gene van Troyer and Grania Davis — a review copy for Strange Horizons, which I have very selfishly been sitting on because I want to read it. Now I have time.
  • Hopeful Monsters by Hiromi Goto — one of the stories in this is on the Masterclass reading list; I’ve been meaning to try Goto for a while, so I’m going to take this opportunity to read the rest of the book as well.
  • Intuition by Allegra Goodman — Abigail raved about this a while ago, and Nic bought it for me for Christmas. And it does sound right up my street.
  • Dreamers of the Day by Maria Doria Russell — if the pile was sorted by the order in which I intend to read it, rather than by size, this one would be at the top.
  • The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block — the latest sf/f-ish book from Faber, this one dealing with, as you’d expect, memory; and it’s already had a glowing review from the New York Times.
  • Flood by Stephen Baxter — the big science fiction novel in this month’s reading; I’ll be reviewing it for IROSF.
  • Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson — as noted above.

Plus, almost certainly, the mundane Interzone, when I get my hands on a copy. All of which, hopefully, should keep me out of trouble. What are you reading at the moment?

20 Responses to “Things to Come”

  1. David Moles Says:

    Funny, I just finished reading my first Dos Passos (42nd Parallel). I hadn’t made the Brunner connection, but I guess the influence is pretty obvious when you look for it.

  2. Niall Says:

    I have encountered people who rebut any praise of Brunner, and Stand on Zanzibar in particular, with, “yeah, but he ripped the whole style off from Dos Passos, who did it better anyway”. Which has always struck me as a bit unfair, but since I’ve never actually read any Dos Passos I’m not really in a position to refute it. Having done a bit of research since acquiring Manhattan Transfer, I get the impression that the true proto-Zanzibar work is the USA trilogy; but MT looks interesting anyway.

  3. Martin Wisse Says:

    Last month was a bit science fiction heavy, so currently I’m reading Michael Mann’s Dark Side of Democracy, a light look at genocide and ethnic cleansing and such matters, as well as Evolution’s Workshop, a book about the Galapos islands by Edward J. Larson and finally a Margery Allingham detective novel, The Case of the Late Pig.

    I finished off several “big” science fiction novels (Matter, The Prefect, Rainbows End) recently, so am on the lookout for the next big thing. Suggestions?

  4. Niall Says:

    As the commentator on your site says, you should try Black Man. ;-)

    As for this year’s books, I guess the one that’s imminent is Incandescence. Or Doctorow’s Little Brother.

  5. Nick Hubble Says:

    I shall be reading Quicksilver and its two sequels. Re-reading: Moorcock’s Cornelius books for a conference paper; Carhullan Army for an article; Wells’s Tono-Bungay, Boon and the The Bulpington of Blup (reading for dirst time in case of latter) for a conference paper in September; also Jameson’s Postmodernism book and a lot of other postmodern stuff for a course starting in October. Also want to read Pat Barker’s Life Class and possibly John Cowper Powys’s Owen Glendower cos holidaying in North Wales this year (or perhaps while on holiday). There’s a lot of other stuff I need to read as well – but the above are the priorities.

  6. Tony Keen Says:

    Current reading: Weaver, then a selection of Andrew J. Wilson’s short stories, then Masterclass reading.

  7. David Moles Says:

    Even if Brunner did rip his style off from Dos Passos — or his structure, anyway; I think his style owes more to later folks although I’m not sure just who — it’s kind of a poor excuse for a complaint. I mean, nearly all SF writers rip their stuff off of somebody, and most of them seem content to rip it from James Michener or Mickey Spillane. Everybody steals, but we could do with more stealing from a higher grade of victim.

  8. David Moles Says:

    content to rip it from James Michener or Mickey Spillane.

    (Often, I should add, at several removes.)

  9. Victoria Says:

    I don’t see Atonement on that pile… ;-)

  10. Niall Says:

    Bah. Next month, next month… (really: Nic has now vowed to persecute me until I read it.)

  11. Nick Says:

    I’ve read both Stand on Zanzibar and Manhattan Transfer. My view? Anyone who says Stand on Zanzibar is rubbish because Brunner ripped off Dos Passos is a tit. A massive, massive, tit. Taking inspiration from earlier writers is a long held tradition in literature. Genius steals.

  12. Niall Says:

    Nick: well, here’s the thread I was thinking of. To be fair, they’re saying Brunner’s not as good at the technique as Dos Passos, not that SoZ is bad because it’s the same technique. Although I can see how I got that impression first time around.

  13. Graham Says:

    I’m late here, but a couple of things:

    1) In answer to the original question, I’m currently reading Morgan, The Steel Remains [proof, for review]; Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March; James Patrick Kelly, Think Like a Dinosaur [in anticipation of JPK’s forthcoming GoH-ness at Readercon]; Joanna Russ, The Zanzibar Cat [re-read, for awesomenosity], plus various bits of Masterclass stuff.
    2) What’s with all these slightly freaky tangram-style icons we all have?
    3) Re Dos Passos/Brunner: I’ve only read Dos Passos’s USA, but had the impression that that’s the work, more than any other, to which Stand on Zanzibar owes an acknowledged debt of technique. (And let’s be fair here: other Brunner uses very different stylistic models.) My own feeling is that the technique itself is used interestingly and appropriately to the subject-matter, but that SoZ has dated badly in other respects, principally the Mary-Sue-ness and attitude to women that blue_condition mentions in that LJ thread.

    Also, huzzah for Liz as co-blogger!

  14. Nick Says:

    Ah, that clears things up a bit. It certainly is hard to split the two when someone says “This is a bad book” and “He doesn’t use the technique very well” together. In any case, they’re not quite a tit, then. Just a wronghead. :)

    I forgot to say what I’m reading at the moment. It’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City, by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, about the American occupation of Iraq (Baghdad particularly).

  15. Nic Says:

    (Commenting mostly, I confess, to see what little icon I get, not because I think you don’t already know what I’m reading…)

    Currently: ‘Empire in Black and Gold’ by Adrian Tchaikovsky (for review in SFX) and ‘Faust’ by Ivan Turgenev (the Russian Reading Challenge trundles on).

    Upcoming: ‘Quicksilver’ (for the Baroque cycle group), ‘Artemisia’ by Anna Banti, ‘Lost in a Good Book’ by Jasper Fforde (his second and final chance), ‘Music of the Spheres’ by Elizabeth Redfern, ‘Arabia and the Arabs’ by Robert Hoyland, and many, many more.

  16. Nic Says:

    Oh, and Ted Chiang, ‘Stories of Your Life and Others’. Finally!

  17. Liz Says:

    I don’t know where the little icons have come from, but they’re kinda cool. If you have a wordpress account (which I know you do, Graham), you can log in and get your own icon.

    And huzzah for me as co-blogger! I am currently waiting for Niall to hurry up and read Intuition. And for one of you to finish your review of The Steel Remains then I can steal it. :)

  18. Trudi Topham Says:

    Be very interested to see what you think of Speculative Japan, Niall.

  19. fameby50 Says:

    I written a review of Hopeful Monsters you’re welcome to check out.
    http://fameby50.wordpress.com/2009/01/26/review-hopeful-monsters/
    Looks like a very interesting and ecclectic list you have there.

  20. Niall Says:

    Thanks for that — very interesting review! I ended up writing about Hopeful Monsters myself here (though I approached the title story from a very different perspective!).


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