Reading The New Yorker’s Science Fiction Issue

I will be reading it, partly because, of all places, claims that it’s not got real science fiction writers. That’s already been concisely debunked by Nick Mamatas, but I decided to read the magazine on my Kindle.

Updates on Twitter as I go along. I’ll stack up the tweets at the end of during the progress of the experiment here.


To battle hateful dreams, am reading the New Yorker’s SF issue. #newyorkersf
Sat, 02 Jun 2012 17:27:53 -0700

Ray Bradbury’s “Take Me Home” essay: wistful geeky nostalgia and its inspirations for his work. This is so an SF issue. #newyorkersf
Sat, 02 Jun 2012 17:58:11 -0700

I’m withholding judgement about the whiteness of the essays chosen for the #newyorkersf issue. It is annoying me greatly.
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 01:31:18 -0700

But then, I’ve only read two essays so far: Ray Bradbury’s and Anthony Burgess. Burgess’ 1973 essay is rather rambly. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 01:32:11 -0700

He talks about _A Clockwork Orange_, incidental nature of what turns into a success for a writer, nature of good and evil… #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 01:33:24 -0700

… the history of some of the branches of Christianity, predestination vs free will with an omnipoetent/omnipresent god… #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 01:34:32 -0700

… right/wrong versus good/evil, and the inherent evilness of brainwashing. His essay illustrates relation of SF & politics. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 01:36:11 -0700

After Bradbury’s and Burgess’ essays, I’m looking rather forwards to Le Guin’s and Miéville’s. For tomorrow them. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 01:37:47 -0700

But so far, this is definitely a gateway-to-SF issue, explaining some of the higher motives for the genre over action/asplode. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 01:38:38 -0700

Ursula K. Le Guin writes about the SF Golden Age, and she kept me from puking about it. It’s not male-centric. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 08:38:50 -0700

“Once the ghetto’s gone, you can indulge in ghetto nostalgia.” She pulls no punches talking about the Golden Age gender ghetto #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 08:41:14 -0700

Le Guin ends with an illustrative anecdote, and I am content, more or less. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 08:43:08 -0700

China Miéville’s essay is unique. It’s written to his younger self, tolling out his own answers to “how did you get into SF?” #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 08:53:28 -0700

“Mostly those ‘into this’ are those who simply never leave.” On children’s frankly SFnal interests which then wane for most. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 08:55:20 -0700

China talks about in detail his influences. He doesn’t shy from problematic aspects if there’s something to be gained. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 08:58:55 -0700

Example: Enid Blyton. But at the same time he acknowledges the problematic. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 08:59:56 -0700

China: “There can be a philistinism within this field that is philistinely denounced as infra dig.” #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 09:05:33 -0700

I always end up needing to unpack China’s words. “Infra dig”? In any case, he points out that weird can be found outside genre. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 09:07:48 -0700

My pleasure in the #newyorkersf essays, from hi to lo, are: Miéville, Le Guin, Bradbury, Burgess (who rambles ooooooooon).
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 09:09:59 -0700

Hang on, there’s even more essays in #newyorkersf ! O frabjous day!
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 09:12:02 -0700

Margaret Atwood covers the theme of “truth” versus “truth” in various degrees of SF. Some is “extremely made up.” #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 09:23:01 -0700

as children we don’t notice the truth-values of stories: pure fantasy vs not. She compares a SF story she once read to 1984. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 09:25:55 -0700

The SF story, while interesting and heady, was rather unlikely to ever be true. But 1984 (yes, also SF) is far more likely. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 09:27:23 -0700

Atwood: “in the midst of the Cold War, it more or less already was. Such distinctions still matter. To me, at any rate.” #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 09:29:41 -0700

Fitting commentary from the writer of _The Handmaid’s Tale_. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 09:31:06 -0700

Colson Whitehead’s piece is not explicitly part of the SF line-up, but he does talk about B-movies, which are SFnal. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 13:47:26 -0700

I think if you’re a fan of low-budget horror, his little personal history entry will be interesting. If you aren’t, it bores. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 13:48:10 -0700

I think if I wanted to beat something out of writing in general, it would be the habit of making endless lists. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 13:49:03 -0700

Karen Russell unabashedly denounces non-genre books in favor of genre. Brooks & Rowling triumph uber alles. Gag. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 14:04:21 -0700

Now, I’m a fan of Harry Potter, and I like Brooks’ stuff when I’m in a mood for it, but I don’t claim them deathless prose. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 14:08:24 -0700

There are a ton of writers out there better than Rowling and Brooks, both in and outside of genre. I say this loving Rowling #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 14:09:47 -0700

Also, I’m appalled at the idea that books MUST have world-flying stakes in order to be “good”. Look at slice-of-life. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 14:15:14 -0700

She also missed the point of Pride & Prejudice. It’s not about girls vying for dance cards; it’s like saying HP is about wands. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 14:17:16 -0700

Pride & Prejudice is about two different people who eventually change enough to love one another. *That* is what matters. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 14:18:13 -0700

Give me all the explosions and sensawunda you got, but you ain’t got nothing if you don’t have people stories. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 14:18:52 -0700

The reasons I like Rowling and Brooks is because they did put in enough people story amongst the wonders for it to matter. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 14:19:39 -0700

Anyways, I shall stop beating this dead horse. Miéville and Atwood have by themselves shown up Russell. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 14:21:26 -0700

William Gibson’s essay reminds me of Bradbury’s essay, with the times tilted a little differently; childhood inspirations etc. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 14:29:33 -0700

He acknowledges that “possibly the majority” of SF is about monocultures dominated by white males, but does not talk further. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 14:30:35 -0700

Possibly! Try knocking off that weasel word, Gibson, you should know the field well enough to not squirm your way out of it. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 14:31:11 -0700

Ah well, at least Gibson mentions the issue, which is more than I can say for Bradbury or Burgess. I’ll try for less grouch. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 14:35:19 -0700

Laura Miller ponders on the history of fictional aliens; we can live with ’em (Men in Black) or not (War of the World). #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 15:04:36 -0700

Miller talks about the first Lamarckian SF endeavors to the sub-genre she calls “invasion fiction” (she focuses on Britain). #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 15:06:06 -0700

“Invasion fiction” in Miller’s article refers to Britain being subjected to colonialist forces by aliens. Reverse-colonialism. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 15:07:09 -0700

She called it the guilty conscience of empire; that in fiction Britain gets a taste of the medicine it meted to its colonies. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 15:07:58 -0700

Emily Nussbaum writes about, primarily, the new Doctor Who, a good summation and recommendation for the uninitiated. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 15:15:10 -0700

And with that I’ve reached the precipice of the Fiction section. Still kind of raw from nightmares and a little nervous. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 15:17:02 -0700

Sam Lipsyte’s “The Republic of Empathy”: character sketches, a non-linear presentation of the plot, a poke at YA narrative. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 15:58:17 -0700

Lipsyte’s story is a firework: we follow each trailing ember until it fizzles. The SF element is there and never explained. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 16:01:03 -0700

Is Lipsyte’s story SF? Yes, as there’s a reality shift, but it’s not the heart of the story. The heart’s the people. Or drones. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 16:03:06 -0700

Lipsyte’s story is a brew of cynicism, and what sentimentality there is is a side-effect of his ability to sketch characters. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 16:05:00 -0700

Now that I think about it, Lipsyte’s story is unquestionably SF in its ending and its message, soul. I’ve read worse in Analog. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 16:06:37 -0700

Jonathan Lethem’s “My Internet”: The SF element is not so SF, but only because we’re awash in the ‘net. Aimed for NYer folks. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 16:17:14 -0700

Lethem’s story wouldn’t fly in most SF mags because most SF readers wouldn’t like the hand-wavy nature of the internet here. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 16:18:23 -0700

Long-time (or even short-) SF fans would also be unsurprised at the results of just such a private internet. Socks, anyone? #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 16:19:25 -0700

Jennifer Egan’s “Black Box” is pretty damn spectacular and an excellent use of 2nd person. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 16:53:41 -0700

I don’t know how to judge poems, and the two in this issue don’t seem to be SF, so that’s it for the issue from me. #newyorkersf
Sun, 03 Jun 2012 17:43:44 -0700