Yesterday was my birthday. I didn’t really celebrate a whole lot, since I had school until the afternoon, though I did buy some rhubarb cake for my parents and myself at the bakery next to the school. I also got some books from my parents (hurrah, books) and had a few phonecalls from my uncle and two of my cousins. But I won’t celebrate “properly” with lunch at a local Thai restaurant until Friday, when I have don’t have any afternoon classes.
And of course, my bloody washing machine had to give up the ghost completely today. And it’s not even that old and was a quality brand, not one of those 250 Euro cheapies from the electronics mart. Ah well, I learned my lesson. The next one will be a Miele, because I’ve never known anybody to regret a Miele purchase.
And now here’s a bouquet of links for your reading pleasure with more awards discussions, James Tiptree Jr on German TV, dystopian YA science fiction, some writing advice (and a cute baby) and the truth about The Simpsons.
Once again, literary fiction does the recent conflicts about speculative fiction awards one better and awards the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction to no book at all, since none was deemed worthy. Lev Grossman comments at Time (and says that he would have nominated George R.R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons, had he been allowed to do so), while Ryan Britt comments from a genre POV at Tor.com.
The German/Austrian/Swiss TV arts program Kulturzeit decided to make me a special birthday present today (yeah, right) and ran a report/discussion about James Tiptree Jr. a.k.a. Alice B. Sheldon tonight, because there is a new German translation of some of her stories available. There’s also a video of the discussion between the host of the program Ernst A. Grandits and literary critic Denis Scheck, wherein Tiptree/Sheldon is compared to Kafka among other things. Denis Scheck is my favourite of the current cadre of German literary critics, because he is genre-savvy and not afraid to discuss and recommend genre fiction. Besides, he’s funny, which is always a plus for a literary critic.
My Mom extra called me to ask me if I had seen Kulturzeit, by the way. I said I hadn’t, so she told me, “Oh that’s a pity. They had this really interesting discussion about a science fiction writer.”
“Which writer?”, I asked.
“Oh, I’ve forgotten the name. It was a man’s name, but the writer was really a woman…”
“Wow, now that narrows it down”, I thought.
“A friendly looking elderly lady, but everybody thought she was a man at first…”
“Was it James Tiptree Jr. by any chance who is also known as Alice B. Sheldon?”
Mom: “Yes, that’s it.”
While on the subject of gender and SF, Phoebe North has a fascinating post on YA science fiction (what is commonly called dytopian YA these days, regardless of whether it really is dystopian or not) and how the genre is being rejected by many male critics and readers for its romantic content and skipped over during awards time, etc… And if a dystopian or post-apocalyptic YA science fiction novel garners critical acclaim inside the genre and is nominated for awards, it’s far more likely to be something like Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi than the current crop of dystopian bestsellers by Allie Condie, Veronica Roth, Catherine Fisher, Lauren Oliver, etc…, even though the highly lauded Shipbreaker has no better worldbuilding and its dark future vision is no more believable (I first learned about the practice of shipbreaking and how it was carried out by inadequately protected workers in so-called Third World countries in the early 1980s – so much for topicality) than the more romantic fare by Condie, Roth, Fisher, Oliver, etc… However, Bacigalupi is a male writer and largely free of romance, whereas the others are women.
No I am no big fan of the dystopian YA subgenre and the sheer popularity of these books has me baffled. Besides, it is kind of depressing that we apparently cannot offer a positive vision of the future to young readers anymore – everything is either post-apocalyptic or dystopian and even a regular generation ship novel like Beth Revis’ Across the Universe is suddenly labeled as dystopian. Nonetheless, the way dystopian YA science fiction is marginalized by the SFF community is very similar to the way urban fantasy had been marginalized ever since women started writing it and injecting romantic plotlines and even sex into the books. Never mind that it is notable that fantasy and SF aimed at men are simply marketed as fantasy and SF, whereas fantasy and SF aimed at girls and women is marketed as dystopian fiction, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, futuristic romance, i.e. anything other than regular SF and fantasy. Because publishers just “know” that women don’t read SF and fantasy.
Tor.com congratulates my birthday buddy Rick Moranis. Other birthday buddies of science fictional relevance include Kristine Scalzi, David Tennant and Eric Roberts. Yes, I share a birthday with both a former Doctor and a former Master.
This has been linked all over, but it’s a really good post, so I’ll link it again: 25 Reasons I hate your main character by Chuck Wendig. Plus, there’s a bonus photo of Chuck’s extremely cute baby son.
At Booklife Now, John R. Fultz writes about the relationship between writing and dreaming. Over the years, I’ve received quite a few story ideas from dreams. One of them that made it into print is “He has come back to me…”. Carrie Ragnarok from Courier Duty is also the product of a dream though that particular story hasn’t made it into print so far. Though they usually need a lot of wrangling to be turned into viable fiction (Dream logic isn’t like fictional or real life logic). Plus, most of them only provided the beginning of a story.
Matt Groening has revealed which of the many Springfields in the US is the one where The Simpsons is set (Springfield in Oregon, it turns out) and that The Simpsons are (loosely, I hope) based on his own family. I always assumed it was Springfield in Illinois, because that was the only one I knew of at the time, though it became clear quite quickly that the geographic features of the Springfield in The Simpsons don’t fit with Illinois. Though they don’t perfectly fit with Oregon either, since at least one episode shows Springfield as being located near a desert.