Science Fiction Foundation Masterclass 2010

This just dropped into my inbox:

Science Fiction Foundation announces SF Criticism Masterclass for 2010

Class Leaders:
Istvan Csicsery-Ronay
Roz Kaveney
Justina Robson

The Science Fiction Foundation (SFF) will be holding the fourth annual Masterclass in sf criticism in 2010.

Dates: 11th June to 13th June 2010

Location: Middlesex University, London (the Hendon Campus, nearest underground, Hendon).

Delegate costs will be £180 per person, excluding accommodation.
Accommodation: students are asked to find their own accommodation, but help is available from the administrator (

Applicants should write to Farah Mendlesohn at Applicants will be asked to provide a CV and writing sample; these will be assessed by an Applications Committee consisting of Farah Mendlesohn, Paul Kincaid, Adam Roberts.

Completed applications must be received by 28th February 2010.

Those who have been around a while may remember that I attended this a couple of years ago and had a good time. I didn’t go this year, sadly, in large part because Anticipation and associated travel ate up my holiday budget, but I think I’ll almost certainly be applying for next year. Anyone else considering it?

Short Story Club Reminder: “Thieves of Silence”

This week’s story: “Thieves of Silence” by Holly Phillips. Let’s hope it sparks a bit more discussion than last week.

London Meeting: Ian McDonald

The guest at tonight’s BSFA London meeting is Ian McDonald, author of Cyberabad Days, Brasyl, River of Gods and many other books. He will be interviewed by Simon Bradshaw (and not, as previous announcements have indicated, Tony Keen, because Tony is ill. Get well soon, Tony!)

The venue is the upstairs room of The Antelope, 22 Eaton Terrace, London, SW1W 8EZ. The closest tube station is Sloane Square, and a map is here.

As usual, there will be people in the bar from 6-ish, with the interview starting at 7. The meeting is free, and open to any and all, though there will be a raffle with a selection of sf books as prizes. See you there, I hope.

Short Story Club: “From The Lost Diary of TreeFrog7”

The story, and the comment, starting with Alvaro Zinos-Amaro at The Fix (link to Google cache, since the site seems to be down):

“From the Lost Diary of TreeFrog7” by Nnedi Okorafor is an inventive tale of exploration in which the pregnant TreeFrog7 and her husband Morituri36 compile entries to upload to the Greeny Jungle Field Guide. Their quest is a fabled mature CPU plant, in pursuit of which TreeFrog7’s friend BushBaby42 mysteriously disappeared. The story takes the form of the field guide entries themselves, a neat structure that provides firsthand perspective on the field guide’s scope and the author’s travails in obtaining their knowledge. Also, it allows first-person narration by both main characters, a useful point-of-view flexibility. The hyperlinking to entries on mentioned creatures is a nice added touch.

Okorafor’s displayed strengths are her imaginative detail and the immersive quality of her world. The plot, though, doesn’t generate as much suspense as I might have wished, and leads to an almost foregone conclusion. This isn’t helped by some of the expository repetition, perhaps resulting from the notion of each entry as self-contained. This story isn’t quite at the level of last year’s other guide, “A Buyer’s Guide to Maps of Antartica” by Catherynne M. Valente, but it is more accessible and more immediately rewarding.

Lois Tilton at IROSF:

There is much here to delight readers: TreeFrog7’s narrative voice, the jungle setting described in evocative prose.
The journey in this case is the reward, more so than the destination. But I have to wonder, if the wingless hawkmoth is guarding the CPU plant, why it has gone so far away to follow the explorers. I wonder also at Morituri36’s name, if it was meant to telegraph the ending, and why. There seem to be hyperlinks in the text to entries in the Field Guide, but they did not work on my computer—as in fact none of this site’s links ever do.

James is less keen:

The language is evocative of the jungle and eventually reveals the characters. However the plot didn’t do enough for me, it was more or less the standard alien exploration story. And I’m not really a big fan of zoological or botanical style stories, I think it might be because I gave up Biology at school as soon as I could and did Physics instead, so the descriptions of the creatures didn’t really do anything for me.

In the end, I kept waiting for the story to go somewhere else, somewhere promised by hints in the story. Instead all we got was a tantalising glimpse of that.

And a lengthier discussion by Charles Tan:

That digression aside, it’s all too easy to admire the widgets and forget the actual story. Okorafor goes for a character-centric piece and her conceit–that her protagonists are explorers who are keeping records–gives the perfect excuse to tackle the setting and its unique ecosystem. If you don’t like the world-building aspect, one will likely drop the story early on but if you’re like me, discovering the nuances of Okorafor’s fabricated world is a pleasure albeit one that can get tedious due to the length. There’s several points of tension in the story but because of the format, only one is truly explored. The interaction between the characters feel human and fleshed out, but the danger of a stalking predator loses much of its effectiveness because of the epistolary form. There’s clearly a build-up in the story but somehow, it lacked the impact I was hoping for. Overall not a bad piece, but it lacks that compelling voice as there’s still a certain sense of detachment despite the first person point of view.

So: what did you think?

Short Story Club Reminder: “From The Lost Diary of TreeFrog7”

This week’s story: “From the Lost Diary of TreeFrog7” by Nnedi Okorafor. Note to those who dislike reading on-screen: if you print this one out, you will be missing the “field guide” entries. See you Sunday.

This Is What 80,000 Words of Survey Looks Like

Wordle: BSFA Survey

Or, if you prefer one that shows you (most of) the names involved:

Wordle: BSFA Survey Names

This is to say that as of last night, I have a draft (minus introduction). This weekend will be about revising, proofreading, and writing author biographies; then I’m going to let it sit for a week or ten days, hopefully get comments from a few people, give it a final read, and send it off to be typeset. At which point I might even start blogging more regularly again.

Short Story Club: “A Tulip for Lucretius”

Not much discussion about this story out in the wilds of the internet, or at least, not that I could find; just James:

As I can’t, as yet, put down my thought in a coherent sense, I’ll resort to lists. Please forgive me.

The downsides of the story in my opinion are:

— Large chunks of infodumpy-ness. It’s a short show, with a lot of tell.
— Complicated religious arguments. For someone not versed in religion, or even used to thinking about religion, it can be difficult to follow.

The upsides:

— It made me think!
— Some great ideas.

And Maureen:

So, is there too much crowding into this story? Is it actually going anywhere? Or is it suggesting that it all comes round again, no matter how far into the future you go? Human/post-human impulses being what they are, we/they inevitably pursue certain ideas, certain tracks, same thing, different version? Or is he suggesting that no matter how much you try to strip life of meaning in order to survive, in the end you need meaning in order to survive.

And I think that means I like this story, because it engages me intellectually in a way that most of the others so far haven’t. It is making me think about what I believe in. I’m not sure if that is something I actively demand of fiction, or rather, I’ve not been aware in the past that I demand that of fiction (and sometimes, shock, horror, I really do just want to be entertained) but this story seems to be inviting me to take up a discussion.

But I still think it has some structural problems.