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Wednesday 28 August 2002

§ The Guardian August 24, 2002
More about that putative link between Isaac Asimov's Foundation series and "al-Qaida" (as previously reported in Ansible, and here, last November), in a lengthy article with background from Nick Mamatas and University of Minnesota's Dennis Lien, and discussion of previous connections between SF and criminals Ted Kaczynski, Charles Manson, and Japan's Aum Shinrikyo sect. As the article eventually acknowledges, the connection between Asimov and Bin Laden is almost certainly just a coincidence. SF bloggers Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Gary Farber have posted their reactions, while comments to the former's post links to Arabic speaking weblogger Colin Brayton who assures the story is "completely bogus".

§ Los Angeles Times August 26, 2002 [requires registration]
A feature article by Mary McNamara is about the new respectability of kids' books, in the wake of Harry Potter, with special focus on Michael Chabon's upcoming Summerland, not to mention Carl Hiaasen, Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates, and Isabel Allende.

"Summerland" is almost exactly the book [Chabon] dreamed of writing when he was a child. In it, an 11-year-old boy goes on an epic quest into a magical land where good can triumph only by superior skill in baseball. The characters had been hanging around in his imagination for almost 25 years, Chabon says, and when his eldest child, Sophie, began reading chapter books, he decided to finally let them out.

§ Washington Post Book World August 25, 2002
Fiona Kelleghan reviews books by Jack McDevitt, Lisa Goldstein, Robert Silverberg, and Jeffrey Ford, plus Gardner Dozois's latest Years Best Science Fiction anthology. On McDevitt:

The mystery-plot structure of Chindi provides a marvelous expectation of profound experiences that lie just ahead. Chindi is rife with humor, too, especially in McDevitt's dialogue -- and in an otherwise terrifying scene in which Tor must be rescued from an alien ship's bathroom. Rumor has it that a fourth Priscilla Hutchins novel is on its way. I recommend the purchase of every one.
On Goldstein:
My only quibble with this compulsively readable book is that Goldstein's expertise in recreating Renaissance Europe did not lead her to write a longer novel. ...She has written an award-worthy novel that should be remembered when compiling your Christmas and Chanukah lists.
Silverberg writes clearly and accessibly, but for much of the book he seems to be trafficking in tossed-off ideas rather than sustained fictional invention. ... Silverberg shows every sign of having written the book quickly and without the desire to replace clichés with fresh tropes.

§ San Francisco Chronicle August 18, 2002
Michael Berry's SF column covers Carol Emshwiller's The Mount, plus books by Kage Baker and Lisa Goldstein.

Emshwiller uses a deceptively simple narrative voice that gives "The Mount" the style of a young-adult novel. But there's much going on beneath the surface of this narrative, including oblique flashes of humor and artfully articulated moments of psychological insight. "The Mount" emerges as one of the season's unexpected small pleasures.

§ New York Times Book Review August 25, 2002
Jeffrey Ford's novel The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque is briefly reviewed (scroll down) by Erik Burns.

§ The Independent 17 August 2002
An interview with Clive Barker, conducted in Hollywood by Roz Kaveney.

He is fond of that term "fantastique" as a way of getting away from the preconceptions involved with standard publishers' categories - science fiction, horror, children's books - which have more to do with helping people find their way around bookstores than with the actual work.

"People say that they don't read horror, or fantasy, and ignore the fantasy in horror fiction, the horror implicit in fantasy fiction." The logic of the situation is that people end up only reading novels set on Tuesday and featuring purple monsters.

§ January August 2002
An interview with Terry Pratchett.

Saturday 17 August 2002

§ Publishers Weekly July 29, 2002
Laura J. Mixon's Burning the Ice (Tor, August) gets a starred review.

While hardly short of action or fascinating scenes of alien contact, the novel's real strength lies in the author's depiction of the future society, with its complex system of degrees of kinship, social obligations and controls, sexual mores and even appropriate pronouns... perhaps Mixon's best work to date.
So does Dan Simmon's latest mystery novel, Hard Freeze (St. Martin's Minotaur), which follows 2001's Hardcase.
Hannibal Lecter meets the Godfather in multitalented Simmons's hard, brutal crime thriller... Whatever qualms one may have about Kurtz--surely one of the darkest, most amoral protagonists of recent crime fiction--it's Simmons at his hard-driving best.

Friday 9 August 2002

§ The Onion A.V. Club July 31, 2002
Tasha Robinson reviews two books by Neil Gaiman: Murder Mysteries (Dark Horse) and Coraline (HarperCollins). The former is a graphic-novel version of a 1992 story by Gaiman, scripted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell.

Russell's meticulous, thin-lined art occasionally approaches photo-realism, but he has an admirable knack for alternating detail with evocative abstractions. He shows similar skill in adapting the story, generally using Gaiman's exact words, mostly eliding the text where his own illustrations neatly fill in the ellipses. Gaiman's flowery but precise verbiage shows similar restraint in sketching out a pair of chilling, nested stories that each contain their own subtle shock.

§ Independent Publisher August 2002
A department called BiblioMania: The Fine Art of Books interviews Jeff VanderMeer about designing the deluxe hardcover edition of City of Saints & Madmen (Prime).

When I received permission from the publisher, Prime, to guide the design of the book, I turned my attention to the cover first. As it turns out, we actually played against most current ideas on how to promote a book through its cover...

§ Salon Aug. 5, 2002
Laura Miller briefly recommends Carol Emshwiller's The Mount (Small Beer Press).

How [the main character] sorts out his loyalties is much more psychologically nuanced and observant than what you usually get from science-fiction novels of this kind, and Emshwiller's prose is beautiful, too.

§ Slate August 6, 2002
Adam Kirsch asks, Does the world need another golem novel?. He identifies current fascination with golems as beginning with Cynthia Ozick's The Puttermesser Papers in 1998, and discusses recent novels by Thane Rosenbaum, Michael Chabon, Nomi Eve, and Frances Sherwood.

Recent author interviews include Hiromi Goto (author of Tiptree Award-winning The Kappa Child), Alexander Irvine, and Orson Scott Card:

How do you describe the difference between literary fiction and sci-fi?
Literary fiction these days is a private conversation among people who have stopped caring so much about the story as about how well it is told. Speculative fiction is still very much story-centered, and while much of it is also private -- in the sense that there is much sci-fi that can only be read by people who have already read a lot of other sci-fi -- the best of the writers in both fields reach out to try to include new and untrained readers. The difference is that most sci-fi writers are in this category and are writing public, not private, fiction, while only a relative handful of literary writers are creating public fiction.

July Field Inspections

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