ILB Argues About Who is the Greatest Science Fiction Author

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I know there are quite a few readers of sci-fi on ILB and thought it might stimulate an interesting discussion to propose this subject.

What matters most for you in determining first place: invention? trail blazing new types of stories? designing whole new worlds? craftsmanship? imagination? characterization? profound themes? stylish prose? a synthesis of all these aspects?

I really don't belong in this discussion, as I read little or no sci-fi, but I'll mention a few well-known names as grist for the mill:

Ray Bradbury
Arthur C. Clarke
Robert Heinlein
Ursula K. LeGuin
Olaf Stapledon
Philip K. Dick
L. Ron Hubbard (just kidding)
J G Ballard
Isaac Asimov
Frederik Pohl
Harlan Ellison (also kidding)
Roger Zelazny

Just adding your opinion on who else ought to be in the conversation should get the ball rolling.

Aimless, Saturday, 24 October 2015 18:46 (five years ago) link

greatests are not my bag

first thought is that Brian Aldiss unarguably belongs on that list

systems drinking (Noodle Vague), Saturday, 24 October 2015 18:49 (five years ago) link

don't know why i gave him his own italics tho

systems drinking (Noodle Vague), Saturday, 24 October 2015 18:49 (five years ago) link

better than his own exclamation point

Aimless, Saturday, 24 October 2015 18:51 (five years ago) link

this could also be considered as a nomination thread for some kind of poll, but I fear the vote would split so badly that 18 authors would get 1 vote and any one with 4 votes would win it.

Aimless, Saturday, 24 October 2015 18:53 (five years ago) link

Aimless, have you read anything by Thomas M. Disch? I like him a lot, though I don't have anything particularly intelligent to say about him

soref, Saturday, 24 October 2015 19:00 (five years ago) link

no. as I said, I read little or no sci-fi. but perhaps scott seward has read him.

Aimless, Saturday, 24 October 2015 19:04 (five years ago) link

Not sure what the point of this thread is, given that Aimless has little interest in the subject and I believe it has been discussed on other threads.

Are You A Borad Or Are You A URL? (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 24 October 2015 19:06 (five years ago) link

Ballard's short stories are amongst the very best short stories in sci-fi. Clarke too, although his short stories are more along the lines of shiny space rockets which are not to my personal taste.

"Tell them I'm in a meeting purlease" (snoball), Saturday, 24 October 2015 19:08 (five years ago) link

Fair amount of talk about Disch on the rolling spec fic threads

But yeah why are we doing this?

Οὖτις, Saturday, 24 October 2015 19:09 (five years ago) link

We don't have to do this. I guess my interest is to hear what committed and enthusiastic sci-fi readers have to say about the qualities they find compelling in an author's work. Most of what I see or hear from sci-fi readers is limited to "I think author X is really great!" without much in the way of corroborating details about what that greatness consists of.

If all that great sci-fi has to offer are a few imaginative wrinkles and a certain strangeness of outlook that match some people's taste when reading for entertainment, then I guess I will continue to read little or no sci-fi, because I don't strongly share that particular taste. But it seems likely to me that the top of the profession must have more to offer a thoughtful reader and they may offer it in a way that is not possible in other genres.

Since ILBers tend to be a very discerning crew, I suspect they can bring a lot more to the table than just "hey, I loved this!" That's what I hoped to elicit by starting the thread.

Aimless, Saturday, 24 October 2015 19:28 (five years ago) link

everybody should read ray bradbury. everyone on earth.

scott seward, Saturday, 24 October 2015 19:30 (five years ago) link

Aimless, you're kind of implying that sci fi can't be considered "serious literature" without really explaining why..

brimstead, Saturday, 24 October 2015 19:34 (five years ago) link

If all that great sci-fi has to offer are a few imaginative wrinkles and a certain strangeness of outlook that match some people's taste when reading for entertainment

yes that is definitely all it has to offer, very astute of you

brimstead, Saturday, 24 October 2015 19:35 (five years ago) link

you stopped reading too soon, brimstead, and you missed the "if" entirely.

Aimless, Saturday, 24 October 2015 19:36 (five years ago) link

you're kind of implying that sci fi can't be considered "serious literature" without really explaining why..

On the contrary, I am saying that I suspect that it may abound in serious literature, but that I've not yet figured out whose work to look to for that. My difficulty is that I am not willing to wade through tons of stuff that appeal greatly to sci-fi enthusiasts, who are used to just telling one another what they personally enjoyed and that's good enough because they all belong to the tribe of sci-fi enthusiasts and "it's great!" is all the recommendation they need.

I can already find my way around in non sci-fi 'great' literature. If I am ever going to find those authors in sci-fi who will appeal to my personal taste, it will be because someone will understandingly point me to the qualities it shares with great literature, as distinct from the quality of evoking enthusiasm among those who mostly read sci-fi. There's way too much of the latter for me to even get a grip on it.

Aimless, Saturday, 24 October 2015 19:46 (five years ago) link

you stopped reading too soon, brimstead, and you missed the "if" entirely.

― Aimless, Saturday, October 24, 2015 12:36 PM (14 minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

sorry i probably missed the convo that led to this thread, just assumed you were building a straw man with that "if" statement

brimstead, Saturday, 24 October 2015 19:53 (five years ago) link

If I am ever going to find those authors in sci-fi who will appeal to my personal taste, it will be because someone will understandingly point me to the qualities it shares with great literature, as distinct from the quality of evoking enthusiasm among those who mostly read sci-fi.

ok but i'm googling "qualities of great literature" and i'm not finding much in the way of qualities that are never present in sci fi..

brimstead, Saturday, 24 October 2015 19:56 (five years ago) link

had a seriously tumultuous relationship w ray bradbury as a kid, from poring over zen in the art of writing to taking it into the backyard and shooting it w a bb gun. we're just distant friends now and i love something wicked best of all, which is not sf. but the martian chronicles is second place (wish john ford had made it, in technicolor), and "the veldt", "the long rain", "the rocket", "kaleidoscope" i think the nasty one about falling into the atmosphere is called?, and a bunch of other stories i don't remember the titles of are really terrific, his weakness for solemn purple kept just enough in check to make things vivid+lyrical.

speaking of solemn purple kept in check, gene wolfe should be in here.

playlists of pensive swift (difficult listening hour), Saturday, 24 October 2015 20:01 (five years ago) link

this is a pretty good list of starting points. not enough women though. and i wouldn't recommend the marge piercy on there.

https://www.worldswithoutend.com/lists_pringle_sf.asp

scott seward, Saturday, 24 October 2015 20:10 (five years ago) link

i think when most people don't know where to start they just read Dune. some stop there. some go on.

scott seward, Saturday, 24 October 2015 20:12 (five years ago) link

xps

i'm not finding much in the way of qualities that are never present in sci fi..

Again, you're responding to the argument you are used to hearing, but not anything I said. I could put it into italics for you: I believe that some sci-fi exists out there that would give me every bit as much pleasure as I derive from other books that are nearly universally considered great literature. I just haven't figured out where to look and the field is too fucking huge to just take stabs in the dark based on the types of vague but enthusiastic recommendations I normally run across.

Aimless, Saturday, 24 October 2015 20:14 (five years ago) link

oh god. I read Dune at about age 18. Please tell me it isn't the apex of sci-fi.

Aimless, Saturday, 24 October 2015 20:18 (five years ago) link

sorry, aimless. In all seriousness, ng ballard's short stories are wonderful, they can be thought provoking and emotionally stirring

brimstead, Saturday, 24 October 2015 20:38 (five years ago) link

jg

brimstead, Saturday, 24 October 2015 20:39 (five years ago) link

Dune is considered one of the best SF books ever written by lots of people. so, yeah, for a lot of people it's an apex of sorts.

scott seward, Saturday, 24 October 2015 20:54 (five years ago) link

This is a slippery business. A lot of great literature isn't considered to be amazingly written even now, like Dostoevsky - and yet it didn't matter that much to people who voted him above Austen on the ILB thread. Much great literature was rejected at first or had to be released through other channels -- Joyce and Proust. Bet we all have friends who love great literature and think Proust is a madman.

These qualities shift around too. Is Bolano's 'Part about the Crimes' great literature? Not going to answer that but the distinctions made between qualities in SF and 'great literature' are mostly bogus.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 24 October 2015 21:01 (five years ago) link

Aimless, have you read anything by Thomas M. Disch? I like him a lot, though I don't have anything particularly intelligent to say about him

― soref, Saturday, October 24, 2015 2:00 PM (2 hours ago)

Fundamental Disch is one of the best short story collections I've ever read by anyone.

In SF, I'd rather talk about peak value rather than career value, to borrow sportsy terminology. In other words, greatest works in the genre rather than greatest authors. But this is a "career value" thread, and that's worthwhile too.

Exit, pursued by Yogi Berra (WilliamC), Saturday, 24 October 2015 21:30 (five years ago) link

there is an ILX best SF thread or poll or best 100 or something. from some years back.

scott seward, Saturday, 24 October 2015 21:33 (five years ago) link

but, you know, if you go into something suspicious from the start that you are not going to enjoy it or suspicious that there isn't enough value in it for you, it might not be for you. you should be open to it at least. just dig in! or don't.

scott seward, Saturday, 24 October 2015 21:41 (five years ago) link

Asking about the greats of the genre might not always be the best approach, especially in this one, where some of the most acknowledged turn out to be gas giants. I am interpreting this thread as "recommend an sf book to Aimless that you think would appeal to his sensibilities." In that spirit, I am recommending M. John Harrison's Signs of Life, because Harrison is a superior stylist who is very interested in the natural world and the outdoors-he took several off from writing to go rock climbing around the UK- and this book in particular has a lot of that.

Are You A Borad Or Are You A URL? (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 24 October 2015 21:53 (five years ago) link

Huh i love harrison's sf stuff but have never come across that one

Οὖτις, Sunday, 25 October 2015 02:26 (five years ago) link

Contra scott - idk anyone who considers Dune the apex of the genre.

Οὖτις, Sunday, 25 October 2015 02:27 (five years ago) link

This is a slippery business. A lot of great literature isn't considered to be amazingly written even now, like Dostoevsky

In my opinion, "amazingly written" is not a matter of stylish sentences, symbolism, or deep structure. A book can lack many of the attributes that are commonly admired in lit crit and still be great. "Amazingly written" should apply to a book's entire conception and execution. This applies as much to Dr. Seuss as to Dostoevsky. There are as many ways for a book to be amazing as there are for human faces to be amazing.

Is Bolano's 'Part about the Crimes' great literature?

The Part about the Crimes cannot be sensibly considered outside the context of the rest of 2666, but within that context it operates exactly as the author intended and contributes considerably to the overall effect of the book. So, yes, it is great literature imo.

Aimless, Sunday, 25 October 2015 18:09 (five years ago) link

Huh i love harrison's sf stuff but have never come across that one

Believe he wrote it after the rock-climbing hiatus and the sf elements are perhaps minimal. Think he wrote that and then The Course of the Heart, which has a similar feel with more of a fantasy than sci-fi trace element. Would also recommend that.

Franzen Arcade (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 25 October 2015 18:27 (five years ago) link

Sorry, Course of the Heart came first. And the rock-climbing started way before. Still

Franzen Arcade (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 25 October 2015 18:38 (five years ago) link

idk anyone who considers Dune the apex of the genre.

same here.

new noise, Sunday, 25 October 2015 18:44 (five years ago) link

I think the main problem w aimless' question is that it glosses over a) what is scifi and b) what constitutes "greatness". Both of which we could argue about forever.

Οὖτις, Sunday, 25 October 2015 18:44 (five years ago) link

And no doubt already have.

Franzen Arcade (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 25 October 2015 18:46 (five years ago) link

a) what is scifi

We may easily sidestep this difficulty by admitting as a sci-fi author any author that you or another ilxor considers in good faith to be a sci-fi author. Bad faith trolling is pretty easy to detect and ignore.

b) what constitutes "greatness"

To my mind there need not be a consensus about what is "greatness". We each get to define it in our own terms.

But merely calling author X or book Y "great" and stopping at that is pretty thin gruel. It constitutes an argument based wholly upon an appeal to authority, where the authority is ones self and no evidence of that authority is provided. At bottom, all it says is that the author or book suits one's tastes. Who could disagree with so bland a statement as that?

It is far better and more useful if one can persuasively describe the qualities one finds in that author or book, both good and bad, and then argue that the sum of these qualities should be viewed as having a kind of greatness. We can disagree, but there is at least a sound basis for agreement or disagreement. But this approach requires having personal standards that one can apply and personal appreciation that one can articulate.

Aimless, Sunday, 25 October 2015 19:08 (five years ago) link

I am still sticking to the idea that the purpose of this thread is to find some books for Aimless to read that he might actually have a chance of liking. Let's face it, if you have been reading ILB with the least bit of care this past decade, you know that Aimless is not skot, it's not like you can point him at a blog post about the 50 Greatest SF novels and then he will go out the next weekend and buy thrift store copies of all fifty, then buy fifty more by the same authors then another fifty more just for the heck of it and then start a photo thread about them.

Franzen Arcade (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 25 October 2015 19:38 (five years ago) link

Well, I did go to my library's site and put a hold on a book of short stories by M. John Harrison, so, thanks for the pointer JRatB.

Aimless, Sunday, 25 October 2015 20:02 (five years ago) link

Things That Never Happen? Awesome.

Franzen Arcade (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 25 October 2015 20:22 (five years ago) link

Yup. That's the one.

Aimless, Sunday, 25 October 2015 20:27 (five years ago) link

Wonder if your copy will have the Iain Banks intro. Probably is the Nightshade Books edition so I assume it does.

Franzen Arcade (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 25 October 2015 22:35 (five years ago) link

Ursula Le Guin: one of the most compassionate and generous authors I know. She does convincing world building and is famous for experimenting (in fiction, not in life afaik) with radically different sexualities, family units, societies, but it's all in the service of trying to understand people. The Left Hand of Darkness is usually the one suggested to start with as it has like plot and thrilling chases n stuff; The Dispossessed also highly rated, a bit drier imo but I need to reread it.

Stanislaw Lem: sci-fi as philosophy, or vice versa. His USP is exploring the idea that alien intelligence, if we ever find it, might be so unlike our own as to be utterly incomprehensible. He got two great novels out of that idea: Solaris (the relationship to the films has been highly exaggerated) and His Master's Voice, which also contains a lot of political rumination - I know, sounds awful. Also wrote The Cyberiad which is a collection of silly sci-fi folk tales, and a bunch of other stuff I haven't read.

Yeah so apparently my idea of great sci-fi involves being tediously worthy and highbrow.

ledge, Sunday, 25 October 2015 23:02 (five years ago) link

It is far better and more useful if one can persuasively describe the qualities one finds in that author or book, both good and bad

Sure

and then argue that the sum of these qualities should be viewed as having a kind of greatness.

Nah

ledge, Sunday, 25 October 2015 23:06 (five years ago) link

asimov seemed like the smartest to me

flopson, Sunday, 25 October 2015 23:18 (five years ago) link

He got two great novels out of that idea

i hereby retract this factually and philosophically flawed statement

ledge, Sunday, 25 October 2015 23:26 (five years ago) link

asimov seemed like the smartest to me

And he would tell you so himself, if he were still with us.

Franzen Arcade (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 25 October 2015 23:29 (five years ago) link

that'll teach you to use the "not un-" formation!

i think crash is his best work of his that ive read - a few of his novels and a reasonable amount of his short stories - reads like a mix of pornography, a technical manual, and topographical description. also has the plus point of being "relevant" through its "prescient" exploration of celebrity culture

Cornelius Pardew (jim in glasgow), Friday, 5 February 2016 21:29 (five years ago) link

I haven't read all of his novels, such as the early "disaster" ones, but most days I actually think "Hello, America" is my favorite. It's got a lot of his usual tropes - obsessed/insane cult figures, dissections of mass media imagery, strange aircrafts, desolate landscapes and deserted cities - all wrapped up in a tidy bildungsroman.

Οὖτις, Friday, 5 February 2016 21:42 (five years ago) link

I loved concrete island

scarcity festival (Jon not Jon), Friday, 5 February 2016 21:46 (five years ago) link

three months pass...

I'm not sure what to say per se about Ted Chiang except he should absolutely be mentioned on this thread.

Arguably one of the best authors of sci-fi short stories ever, certainly the most consistently amazing.

Here are two of my favorite recent ones online:

http://subterraneanpress.com/magazine/fall_2010/fiction_the_lifecycle_of_software_objects_by_ted_chiang

http://subterraneanpress.com/magazine/fall_2013/the_truth_of_fact_the_truth_of_feeling_by_ted_chiang

(I think about the latter pretty constantly)

germane geir hongro (s.clover), Friday, 3 June 2016 02:19 (five years ago) link

(i know he gets discussed on occasion on ILB -- I don't know if we've had convos on him that go beyond "holy heck that's good" or even if there's a good way to have them)

germane geir hongro (s.clover), Friday, 3 June 2016 02:22 (five years ago) link

He's done so little he's easy to forget, unfortunately. Agree he's a superior stylist.

Οὖτις, Friday, 3 June 2016 02:24 (five years ago) link

not just a stylist. the way his later stories use technology as a way to think about memory and communication is really subtle and insightful.

germane geir hongro (s.clover), Friday, 3 June 2016 02:35 (five years ago) link

Allegedly 'Stories of Your Life' is being Hollywood moviefied. Just reread it, and can't see how it won't be fucked up.

I cant see that getting made. Not a franchise + zero name recognition.

Οὖτις, Friday, 3 June 2016 03:03 (five years ago) link

It's definitely being made (I think Vintage is reprinting the collection as a tie-in, I saw some ARCs at a local bookstore last month), but I don't know what kind of audience it'll find.

one way street, Friday, 3 June 2016 03:41 (five years ago) link

I know he has been mentioned here several times because I read whatever I could find of his about six years ago after seeing him rated very highly by a few ilx0rs.

Prince Rogers (Version) (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 3 June 2016 03:47 (five years ago) link

just checked IMDB, it's in post-production and stars Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. This does not seem like a success in waiting.

We are talking about the story itself right. It's so well done, he has kind of an amazing controlled but not controlling tone to go with the emotional issues he is dealing with- in this story and others (what's the one about the guy finding out he can divide by zero?)- feel like the movie machine moguls of today will have to amp it up and set the pendulum swinging with tender waterworks alternating with big rescues from fiery buildings, but hey stranger things have happened.

Prince Rogers (Version) (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 3 June 2016 06:01 (five years ago) link

yes, just the specific story. Though now I'm imagining one of those anthology films derived from his stories.

whatever they've made of that story is going to be nothing like the story, whether it's a horrible film or a good one

Noodle Vague, Friday, 3 June 2016 06:22 (five years ago) link

lifecycle of software objects would make an amazing film in the right hands.

germane geir hongro (s.clover), Friday, 3 June 2016 17:20 (five years ago) link

I like this recent piece by Chiang, the only nonfiction of his that I've seen:
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/05/16/if-chinese-were-phonetic

dow, Friday, 3 June 2016 22:12 (five years ago) link

he has kind of an amazing controlled but not controlling tone to go with the emotional issues he is dealing with
This is the appeal of all the TC stores I've read. The kind of disciplined self-(and-other)-searching which may be why he's such a quality-over-quantity guy, unusually enough in SF and fantasy.

dow, Friday, 3 June 2016 22:19 (five years ago) link

and other genres etc.

dow, Friday, 3 June 2016 22:20 (five years ago) link

I've only read the two upthread and The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate and the latter is without question the best time travel story ever written. It doesn't fuck around with bullshit physics, incomprehensibly tangled causal loops or alternate timelines, and although it's ostensibly (sf&) fantasy it is, even more than the two upthread, purely and transparently about the human heart. So yeah I really should seek out more of his stuff.

I've had Eno, ugh (ledge), Saturday, 4 June 2016 21:11 (five years ago) link

three weeks pass...

Working my way through Stories of Your Life and Others, finding it fairly so-so tbh, not really feeling the emotional resonances; Tower of Babylon is neat, Seventy-Two Letters feels like a weird solution to a question no-one was asking. Then I got to Hell is the Absence of God, holy shit. Like a stand up routine that ends with the comedian jumping off the stage and punching you in the stomach.

I wanna whole Dior hand (ledge), Tuesday, 28 June 2016 21:32 (five years ago) link

Tower of Babylon is the one that's stuck with me the most for some reason. central imagery is v memorable I guess

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 28 June 2016 21:37 (five years ago) link

five years pass...

*don't bump*

oh, wait.

Two Severins Clash (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 00:50 (one month ago) link

I thought I had escaped this Charybdis of a thread.

it is to laugh, like so, ha! (Aimless), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 03:34 (one month ago) link

now reading 'a scanner darkly'

it is good and better than the other dicks i've encompassed, if you will. we'll see.

of the others in aimless's original list, heinlein sucks and was a dick, asimov had wonderful ideas but was a terrible writer, i like most of the others, and it's probably ballard for legit pushing the envelope

mookieproof, Wednesday, 4 August 2021 04:25 (one month ago) link

Frank Herbert should probably be included, just for Dune, if nothing else.

o. nate, Wednesday, 4 August 2021 15:15 (one month ago) link

fyi, that list was compiled out of my exceedingly scifi-deficient knowledge base in about four minutes, tops. it was only meant as a provocation.

it is to laugh, like so, ha! (Aimless), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 18:24 (one month ago) link

dune is too weird/fantasy adjacent/sui generis and niche.

Believe me, grow a lemon tree. (ledge), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 20:15 (one month ago) link

I think it's a rather narrow definition of science fiction that would exclude it though.

o. nate, Wednesday, 4 August 2021 20:18 (one month ago) link

sure but i wouldn't put him in a list of greatest authors for his one weird magnum opus. either way there's really no need to carry on arguing about yet another canon of white dudes.

Believe me, grow a lemon tree. (ledge), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 20:31 (one month ago) link

so, how about we usher in Octavia Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin for a refreshing twist?

it is to laugh, like so, ha! (Aimless), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 20:36 (one month ago) link

I think we could do better than that.

Joanna Russ, The Female Man. Articulate rage about the expectations for women in mid century America (marriage, children, housewifery; education? get tae fuck) in a mindbending postmodern style.

Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time: I came for the feminist agrarian utopia, I stayed for the brutal picture of a woman trapped in an abusive relationship by poverty and the state.

James Tiptree Jr: The Screwfly Solution. A sublime example of using science (in this case biology and sociology) to hold up a mirror to society, done with absolute panache. Head and shoulders above 99% of other SF short stories, Aimless if you haven't read this one then start here, it won't take up much of your time.

Believe me, grow a lemon tree. (ledge), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 21:17 (one month ago) link

^this last

Two Severins Clash (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 21:34 (one month ago) link

James Tiptree Jr is really good, but I read an entire collection of hers front-to-back recently and it gets incredibly depressing after a while. If I hadn't known she was a woman I'd have thought "why does this author love making women suffer so god damned much?"

emil.y, Wednesday, 4 August 2021 22:06 (one month ago) link

Fair enough, but if it is the main collection of her work, Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, it is grebt.

Two Severins Clash (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 22:19 (one month ago) link

Yeah, not going to disagree, just my own experience with it wore me down a little. And honestly, it's at least partly because she has important shit to say that it was so depressing. The ways in which women were and are treated, and what humans do to each other in general - those are super important topics. But it's hard to read a collection where literally every story involves rape or the prospect of it, and similar violences. My interpretation is also that she intentionally mimics that "macho sci-fi" tone of voice that was prevalent for some decades, which makes it more exhausting to me, and why I said if I didn't know she was a woman I'd feel like it was some scumbag dude getting off on making women suffer. I don't feel like any of this is doing her down as a writer, or saying that her stories aren't great, but rather explaining my own feelings while exploring that work.

emil.y, Wednesday, 4 August 2021 22:45 (one month ago) link

not being a big reader or sci-fi i would venture to say that i would include cixin liu in my personal pantheon as his three-body problem is probably my favourite sci-fi series

《Myst1kOblivi0n》 (jim in vancouver), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 23:41 (one month ago) link

emil.y agree with all of that. even if one is prepared for some brutal misogyny the 'macho sci-fi' tone does grate and make it hard to get into the stories, though it's used to particularly good effect in 'the women men don't see', where the whole story passes over the head of the macho narrator.

depressing though it is i guess it speaks to the maturity of SF that some of the most celebrated stories by women are about patriarchy and male violence (the ones mentioned above, 'the handmaid's tale', 'kindred', 'tehanu'...)

Believe me, grow a lemon tree. (ledge), Thursday, 5 August 2021 09:10 (one month ago) link

I'm sure you've had the same reaction as me to reading 1950s SF written by men tho, ledge - those stories about patriarchy and male violence HAD to be written, urgently, just because of the genre's legacy of crazy sexism and outright misogyny.

This is a difficult thing to express - but isn't Sheldon's use of the Tiptree persona, and use of 'macho' language/viewpoint, partly a 'cover' for the expression of lesbian desire in her work, and life, from what I know of her biography.

Robert Sheckley seemed to have a very golden 1950s - that NYRB collection of his short stories is enough to put him into the v top tier of SF authors.

Ward Fowler, Thursday, 5 August 2021 09:34 (one month ago) link

those stories about patriarchy and male violence HAD to be written, urgently, just because of the genre's legacy of crazy sexism and outright misogyny.

yes, absolutely.

i know the hugo and nebulas are no longer the sausage parties they once were but i've just discovered the otherwise award (formerly the tiptree award) 'encouraging the exploration & expansion of gender' which I think might be a more fruitful source of un-macho sf - started in 1991, the retrospective awards in 1995 mention russ, piercy and tiptree, delany, butler, atwood, and some others i haven't heard of:

https://otherwiseaward.org/award/1995-retrospective-award
https://otherwiseaward.org/award/1995-retrospective-award/1995-retrospective-honor-list

Believe me, grow a lemon tree. (ledge), Thursday, 5 August 2021 10:25 (one month ago) link

Which, um, used to be the Tiptree Award.

Two Severins Clash (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 5 August 2021 11:13 (one month ago) link

which I think might be a more fruitful source of un-macho sf

― Believe me, grow a lemon tree. (ledge), Thursday, August 5, 2021 11:25 AM

Good publisher
http://www.aqueductpress.com/

I don't know if it's un-macho but woman centred swashbuckling is an interesting mission statement
https://queenofswordspress.com/

Robert Adam Gilmour, Thursday, 5 August 2021 11:47 (one month ago) link

Which, um, used to be the Tiptree Award.

And don’t sleep on the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, which has a different emphasis but still.

Two Severins Clash (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 5 August 2021 12:04 (one month ago) link

I recently seen Farah Mendlesohn say that Gollancz Masterworks had a shortage of women because they only pull from their own already existing catalogue (I think Lafferty was an exception?) which is apparently missing a lot of contenders despite its enormity. Gwyneth Jones recently got 5 books on the list and they were mostly Gollancz books in the first place. I'd like to see Tanith Lee on there sometime, they have a large chunk of her on ebook.

I posted that Mendlesohn interview on the speculative thread, it's really good and she stans pretty hard for Heinlein over authors she's more politically in line with, but she's convinced most people (including his fans) are wrong about him.

Robert Adam Gilmour, Thursday, 5 August 2021 13:19 (one month ago) link

btw there is a great article about Cordwainer Smith and TIptree by a guy who was writing a bio of the former which I don't think he ever finished.

Two Severins Clash (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 5 August 2021 18:34 (one month ago) link

Oh, here is a link to download the pdf: Painwise in Space: The Psychology of Isolation in Cordwainer Smith and James Tiptree, Jr., by Alan C. Elms.

Two Severins Clash (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 5 August 2021 18:36 (one month ago) link

Took a while but here is the index that shows more of his publications. Some have links to pdfs, including a few more about Smith, some don't, include more about Tiptree.

Two Severins Clash (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 5 August 2021 18:55 (one month ago) link

One of which is mentioned here: https://weirdfictionreview.com/2016/02/101-weird-writers-39-james-tiptree-jr/

Two Severins Clash (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 5 August 2021 18:58 (one month ago) link

But I can't click on those pdfs directly, I had to copy the links and repaste to browser.

Two Severins Clash (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 5 August 2021 19:05 (one month ago) link


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