Sunday Links for October 24, 2010

Slipstream, anyone? Despite Nick Mamatas’s comment, quoted in this piece, I have to say that slipstream, New Weird, whatever you want to call it, is my favorite sort of literature: the stuff that’s tough to categorize, basically. Is it mainstream? Is it fantasy? Magic realism? I don’t care what you call it; to paraphrase Damon Knight, slipstream is what I point to when I’m saying “Slipstream.” But categorization debates are amusing, somehow, and this discussion fits that particular bill just fine. That it uses as its departure point an analysis of China Mieville’s The City & The City just makes it that much more fun.

A different sort of categorization argument apparently arose at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, as related by Niall Harrison on his blog, Torque Control. Apparently the question arose – as it so often does – why science fiction is ignored when it comes to major awards such as the Booker. As we SF fans have suspected for a long time, many of those serving as judges for such awards simply don’t have a good understanding of what science fiction is. That means that when Kazuo Ishiguro writes Never Let Me Go, critics are surprised that science fiction readers are interested in it; they simply don’t realize that the ideas Ishiguro is discussing are old hat for those of us immersed in the genre. It seems to me that those critics and tastemakers who stick their noses in the air and state haughtily that they don’t read science fiction, fantasy or horror are doing not just themselves a disservice, but those who depend on their judgment.

Steampunk fans might be interested in this list of steampunk comics. The visuals, it seems to me, might well be spectacular. Five Fists Of Science sounds especially intriguing to me.

It’s the time of year when we start thinking about ghosts – that is, if we’re not horror readers who think about ghosts a good deal more. But Halloween gives everyone the opportunity. This essay on some of the more classical ghosts reminds us of how traditional a ghost story really is.

Bouchercon, the annual mystery convention, was held in San Francisco last weekend. Lots of prizes were awarded, including the Macavitys (which generally are for cozier titles) and the Anthonys. I’ve got a copy of Louise Penny’s The Brutal Telling, the Anthony Award winner, waiting for my attention; its win moves it up the list for me.

As the midterm elections draw nearer and nearer, tempers seem to be flaring at the same time that people seem to be getting more thoughtful about their freedoms and their privileges. John Scalzi writes about the things he doesn’t have to think about, having been born white, male and American. It’s an intriguing list, especially to me, who has known for a long time (at least since I was 14) that my life would have been a lot easier in about a million different ways if I’d been born male. Yet I still understand and recognize that it would have been a hell of a lot harder if I’d been a female born in Saudi Arabia. Freedom is so precious and so fragile.

The flaring tempers are far more evident for the science fiction community in WisCon’s decision to disinvited Elizabeth Moon to be the guest of honor at its next convention based on her comments about Muslims. Catherynne Valente’s journal post on the decision is eloquent. Timmi Duchamp has some interesting things to say, too. The Steering Committee for the convention has its say as well. Author Will Shetterly, though, feels that disinviting Moon was the wrong decision. It’s an interesting controversy, but I have to say that I come down on Valente’s side of the fence on this. But then, I also thought NPR did the right thing in firing Juan Williams over a similar controversy. I’m in good company; read what Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic has to say about it here.

Along the same lines, but dealing instead more specifically with complaints that a number of important anthologies lately have been comprised almost entirely – and in one case, absolutely entirely – of stories written by men led to this post by Gustavo Bondoni. You absolutely must read the comments, numerous and lengthy as they are, to really get the import of this discussion. I found it fascinating.

And after all that serious talk, why not go here and admit what you haven’t yet read that you really should have by now? Me, if I started listing my lacunae, I’d be typing all night.