February 21st, 2010

Summary: Slipstream anthologies, 2009

Slipstream anthologies, 2009

These two books I perceived to include a number of stories that might be called "slipstream". The books are:

Interfictions 2, edited by Delia Sherman and Christopher Barzak; and
Conjunctions 52: Betwixt the Between, edited by Bradford Morrow and Brian Evenson.

The two books between them had a total of 45 stories, 8 novelettes and 37 shorts (2 short-shorts), for over 220,000 words of fiction. (Not counting a novel excerpt.) I called 11 stories SF (24%), and 17 were by women (38%).

Interfictions 2 is the second anthology of "interstitial fiction" put out by the Interstitial Arts Foundation. "Interstitial Fiction" and "Slipstream" are not necessarily the same thing, but I think it's fair to say that a lot, perhaps all, the stuff usually called "Slipstream" qualifies as "Interstitial", but that some stuff called "Insterstitial" probably wouldn't usually be called "Slipstream". Keeping in mind that definitions of such subgenres are noticeably, er, slippery. (Henry Jenkins, in his introduction, calls interstitial fiction "stories that don't rest comfortably in the cubbyholes we traditionally use to organize our cultural experiences".) Anyway, I found Interfictions 2 often interesting, usually challenging, but not as often satisfying (to me). I suspect sometimes that the editors don't want stories in such anthologies necessarily to satisfy. Or perhaps more fairly, not to satisfy everybody, and hopefully different stories might satisfy different readers. One story I was satisfied by, indeed I loved, was "Child-Empress of Mars", by Theodora Goss. lush subversive fun set on a version of a "High-Burroughsian" Mars, about the reaction of the title character to the arrival of a Hero. Other strong stories came from Alaya Dawn Johnson, Carlos Hernandez, David Schwartz, and Elizabeth Ziemska.

Conjunctions is a literary magazine out of Bard College that has often dabbled in the waters of genre. It's sort of both a magazine and a book -- it has an ISSN and an ISBN. (Or at least this issue did.) So I listed it as an anthology. The 52nd issue, Betwixt the Between, the editors say, "investigates ways in which, on the one hand, works of fiction treat the impossible as if it were the solid groundwork of the real, or on the other hand how the ineffable can sometimes flash lightning-quick through the realms of the real, leaving everything the same and yet unaccountably changed." I found it quite a fine book. I wrote, in Locus: "That is not to say that all of the stories in Conjunctions 52 are slipstream. Several read to me as Science Fiction, in fact, and others are more purely fantasy than slipstream. And some are more experimental -- even playful -- than anything else."
 
I particularly liked James Morrow’s "Bigfoot and the Bodhisattva", a very funny and intelligent near future SF story about a yeti who serves as a bodyguard for the true Dalai Lama while he visits the Chinese-installed puppet Dalai Lama -- and who also takes lessons in compassion from him -- out of a certain concern about his habit of eating humans; Robert Kelly’s "The Logic of the World", a moving philosophical story of a knight’s encounter with a dragon; and Elizabeth Hand’s "Hungerford Bridge", about a strange and beautiful creature a man is privileged to see -- with a curious condition. I'll also mention work by Jon Enfield, Stephen Marche, Karen Russell, and Scott Geiger.

Some quick and dirty comments

Saw Avatar. I have nothing profound to say beyond echoing one of the standard views: it's an utterly gorgeous film -- the 3D is remarkable -- and it has a stupid plot and absurd characters. Very nearly the same film, with essentially the same story, could have been very good. But we didn't get that. It should NOT win the Academy Award, though it very probably will.

I note that my hometown -- Naperville, IL -- is now the home of the current Super Bowl Champion coach (Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints) and the current Olympic Gold Medalist in Men's Figure

Some quick and dirty comments

I finally saw Avatar. I have nothing too profound to say beyond echoing a common view of the film. It's utterly gorgeous -- and the 3D is wonderful -- and the plot is remarkably stupid and the characters are caricatures. And it was all fixable even without losing the politics -- but I guess that's not in Cameron. Certainly it does not deserve the Best Picture Oscar.

I note that my hometown, Naperville, IL, is now the home of the current Super Bowl Champion head coach (Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints) and the current Olympic Gold Medalist in Men's Figure Skating (Evan Lysacek). I don't know either of them, mind you, nor anyone in their families. Of the famous people from Naperville, I don't really know any, although Jim Sonefeld, a founding member of Hootie and the Blowfish, is a friend of my brother (and I probably did meet him, back in the day), and I did go to school with Paula Zahn (newscaster) -- she was in one of my brothers' classes, and I don't recall her at all. (Now I did know novelist Bill Hazelgrove quite well, back in 7th grade, but alas he's not quite famous, and a neighbor, two houses down, Dave Anderson, became a high-powered adman, working on the McDonalds account, among others. But again, not exactly a household name.)

As for the "controversy" about Lysacek's win, because he didn't do the quad, that seems absurd to me. If that's all that matters, as Plushenko would have it, why not just skate out, do a quad, and skate off? It seems to me (admittedly biased) that Lysacek's performance was better throughout -- faster spins, a more balanced program, better footwork -- than Plushenko's, and that Plushenko got due credit for his quad, and debit for the rest ... and he deserved to be second.

One book I read recently that I'll mention, because again I have little to say about it, though I enjoyed it, is the latest Kitty Norville novel from Carrie Vaughn, Kitty's House of Horrors, in which Kitty agrees to participate in a reality show with a bunch of other supernatural types, and a skeptic. Alas, a bunch of murders follow ... indeed, there's quite a body count, too much for my taste. Still, an enjoyable book, a solid entry in the series, but nothing spectacular.

My Hugo nominees

My Hugo nominees, 2010

I'm only listing nominees in fiction. A couple of notes on other categories. The only prominent SF movie I've seen is Avatar, which I thought both beautiful and stupid. In the Fan Writer category I will again nominate both James Nicoll and Abigail Nussbaum, and urge others to check their work out as well. I am also going to nominate Niall Harrison, for his consistently stimulating work at the Vector blog, Torque Control, and for his reviews (mainly at Strange Horizons), and Graham Sleight, primarily for his series of articles reexamining classic SF writers, in Locus.

Novel:

I'm only nominating three, as I feel I haven't read enough. But I wanted to get my oar in for the two McAuley novels, which may be at a disadvantaged, as having ambiguous publication dates (for Hugo recognition): each was published a year later in the US than in the UK. And I loved Scott Westefeld's Leviathan, though it's not really a complete story. So ...

The Quiet War, by Paul McAuley (Gollancz (2008, UK), Pyr (2009, US))
Gardens of the Sun, by Paul McAuley (Gollancz (2009, UK), Pyr (2010, US))
Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse (2009))

Novella:

I thought this a slightly down category this year. But I haven't seen two very well-regarded ones: John Scalzi's Nebula nominee The God Engines, and Vandana Singh's "Infinities". My nominees:

"Crimes and Glory", by Paul McAuley (Subterranean, Spring)
The Push, by Dave Hutchinson (NewCon Press)
Horn, by Peter M. Ball (Twelfth Planet Press)
"Broken Windchimes", by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Asimov's, September)
"Vishnu at the Cat Circus", by Ian McDonald (Cyberabad Days)

The last two made the list out of a small pack which also included "Earth II" by Stephen Baxter (Asimov's, July), and "Halloween Town", by Lucius Shepard (F&SF, October-November).

Novelette

This is always the toughest category for me. My top five ended up being:

"Things Undone", by John Barnes (Baen's Universe, December)
"Eros, Philia, Agape", by Rachel Swirsky (Tor.com)
"The Island", by Peter Watts (The New Space Opera 2)
"This Wind Blowing, and This Tide", by Damien Broderick (Asimov's, April-May)
"The Qualia Engine", by Damien Broderick (Asimov's, August)

But there is a horde of stories very close (and my final ballot may end up changing). These are: Robert Charles Wilson's "This Peaceable Land; or, The Unbearable Vision of Harriett Beecher Stowe" (Other Earths); John Kessel's "Events Preceding the Helvetican Renaissance" (The New Space Opera 2); Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear's "Mongoose" (Lovecraft Unbound), John Langan's "Technicolor" (Poe), and Chris Adrian's "A Tiny Feast" (The New Yorker, April 20).

Short Story

My short story nominees will be:

"Three Twilight Tales", by Jo Walton (Firebirds Soaring)
"The Radiant Car Thy Sparrows Drew", by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, August)
"Child-Empress of Mars", by Theodora Goss (Interfictions 2)
"On the Human Plan", by Jay Lake (Lone Star Stories, February)
"A Story, With Beans", by Steven Gould (Analog, May)

A couple more Clarkesworld stories vied for a spot on the ballot (Kij Johnson's "Spar" (October), and Lavie Tidhar's "The Dying World" (April)).

Campbell Award

My five nominees are Toiya Kristen Finley, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Eric Gregory, Saladin Ahmed, and Alice Sola Kim, which strikes me as a very diverse group, without me even trying. I've reprinted a story by Kim, and will be reprinting one by Finley, and hope to announce soon another reprint from among this group.