Philip Jose Farmer, rebel against reality

Philip José Farmer, who passed out of this world yesterday, was among the last of a generation who emerged from the revolutionary literature of science fiction. Along with contemporaries including Robert Heinlen, Isaac Asimov, Philip K Dick and and Kurt Vonnegut, Farmer dedicated his life to writing stories that forced their readers to confront and question many of their most basic assumptions about life, the world, and that slippery beast called “reality”.

Read more on the Guardian book blog


A Story of Courage, Tenacity and Dedication

Here in the UK we once had a prime time children’s TV programme called Record Breakers. On said programme, the now sadly departed Roy Castle would play the trumpet over the theme song whilst a chorus of gospel singers (I may be exagerating, but this is how my memory remebers it) sang the shows catch phrase over the top. ‘If you want to be a record breaker, dedications what you need’.

Well, if you really want to see what dedication means, swing over to The Watchtower of Destruction and read in Ferrett Steinmetz own words his story of courage and tenacity. I was there the day in week 5 when the students of Clarion ’08 played their part in pushing Ferrett to his limit and beyond. If souls made a sound when beig crushed, I think it quite likely we might have heard Ferrett’s crack as we delivered our critiques. Being it that room felt like watching a back alley beating, and then realising you were in the gang and it was your turn with the baseball bat. It wasn’t a pleasant expereince, but it was necessary. A Clarion critique can be a brutal, brutal expereince, and without doubt Ferrett took the toughest of our six weeks there.

But Ferrett took that critique, learned the lessons and turned in his best story for week 6. And not only that, Ferrett then went and sold the story to best market in speculative fiction, Asimov’s. I have only one thing to say about that.

Good on you Ferrett. You are the paragon of dedication.

Pedants’ cumupence

Stephen Fry delivers a long deserved slap down to pedants everywhere in the latest episode of his podcast series. My favourite moment is when Fry compares pedantry to sins like sloth and gluttony; a natural human response but one to be roundly discouraged. Also listen out for Fry’s cal for a new term for CCTV. I’ll be very surprised if we aren’t all calling it the SS (Security System) in a mater months. So much more appropriate.

The next generation of sci-fi writers

There’s a wealth of talent out there – so who will be the SF and fantasy authors of tomorrow?

The Guardian’s recent quest to catalogue the 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read scoured the vast galaxy of tales told under the banner of “science fiction and fantasy”, and boiled them down to a few dozen of the many invented worlds the genre has to offer. From the fey fantasy of Susanna Clarke to the hard-boiled cyberpunk of William Gibson, from pulp adventure to high literature, the list provides enough great reading to keep most of us happy for half a lifetime at least.

Read more at the Guardian book blog.

The 100 most beautiful words

Alison Flood toys cat-like with the 100 most beautiful words over at the Guardian book blog. Now I’m more of a storyteller than a wordsmith, and once appalled a friend by saying that words for me were just a means to end, but even I can see the pleasure in these words. Looking at the full list I’m torn between cynosure (a focal point of admiration) and penumbra (a half shadow, the edge of a shadow). The latter wins out however, both on the aesthetic level, and on meaning.

Now how about the 100 ugliest words. Thuggery? Spitefulness? Bankruptcy? Hmmm….

Horizon reviewed @ The Fix

Horizon gets a good review from Michelle Lee over at The Fix, and overall Murky Depths #6 gets a good response. Which reminds me, I’m well behind on my reviewing chores at the moment. Poluto #4 here I come…

“Horizon” by Damien G. Walter is a standout of the issue, a dark science fiction tale of space travel and settling new lands. The worst of human nature can’t be escaped in the far future, like a planet can be. Though whether the worst humanity has to offer is the rebel streak of a man who wakes from his regeneration and defies the procedure, or is in the method of civilizing an alien planet, is a decision left up to individual readers.