The Reengineering of Fantasy

Look. I like Conan. If stories let us play out our secret fantasies in widescreen technicolor, then clearly there’s a part of me that longs to be a muscular barbarian, crushing my enemies and hearing the lamentation of their women. While Robert E Howard’s original Conan stories aren’t quite as good as the epic JohnContinue reading “The Reengineering of Fantasy”

Mieville, Embassytown and radical SF

Is SF becoming cool? If it is, as China Miéville claims, then the award-winning author, whose new novel Embassytown hit the shelves yesterday, may have something to do with it. In our current era of austerity, with the largest-ever protest march on the nation’s capital and a previously apathetic youth culture rallying to the UKContinue reading “Mieville, Embassytown and radical SF”

Kraken by China Mieville

China Miéville has a passion for London. The multi-award winning author has reflected the city’s surreal side in Un Lun Dun, set it to a drum’n’bass beat in King Rat, and inundated it with vampire imagoes in The Tain. Now, in his new novel, Miéville threatens to destroy the nation’s capital entirely in the tentacledContinue reading “Kraken by China Mieville”

End-of-the-world literature

I’m on the Guardian book podcast again this week, discussing literature of the apocalypse as the Angry Volcano God put us all in that frame of mind. At the end I call Kraken ‘H.P.Lovecraft via J.G.Ballard’. Not sure if that will make it into the final review, but it certainly has a ring to it!Continue reading “End-of-the-world literature”

Is fantasy just entertainment?

Just because fantasy is everywhere doesn’t mean it has to appeal to the lowest common denominator. We must keep sight of its roots in ancient storytelling and its power to transform. There are few things people love more then a well-told tale. We’ve been gathering around the fire (or that 20th-century equivalent, the television set)Continue reading “Is fantasy just entertainment?”

Cheer up! The future is Shiny

The future. If our television screens are to be believed, it’s not a place you’d want to go. Dwindling resources will continue to fuel national rivalries, pitching the world into a state of endless war. Our environment will become ever more chaotic and unpredictable. Our economic system will collapse under its own weight, plunging theContinue reading “Cheer up! The future is Shiny”

Guardian Books Podcast – SF Special

I have the pleasure of being a guest on this week’s Guardian Books Podcast. This was my second time on the show, but this time around the whole episode is dedicated  to speculative fiction. Hurrah! We discuss the new John Wyndham novel (yes, you heard that right) and the reasons why there are so manyContinue reading “Guardian Books Podcast – SF Special”

Bookshops are not Churches. But.

Earlier this week the Guardian book website unleashed a tumult of anger and frustration against the UK’s largest bookseller, Waterstones. The thrust of Stuart Jeffries article was that with its increasing commercialisation (3-4-2 sales, celebrity biogs etc etc) Waterstones had gone from saviour to destroyer of bookselling in just over a decade.