There was an uncontrollable amount of me within myself, and I didn’t know how to stop it.
You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine, p. 208
Disappearing Dad Disorder. Game shows that swap out spouses for a prize. Grocery stores that rearrange weekly in order to facilitate the shopping journey. People ghosting themselves in real life… wearing sheets with eyeholes cut out of them even.
What has been blurbed as a nihilistic rumination on eating disorders in the millennial age turns out to be a bizarro sci-fi satire on the generic interchangeability of modern life, with unreasonable standards of thinness being just one aspect of this.
They all have the same body type: spookily thin. Their bodies weigh against your retina like light–you hardly feel it, you hardly see them at all.
But it’s the generic interchangeability of modern life that weighs heavily on this book. White, middle-class men disappear mysteriously from their households, only to be found weeks or months later, confused and wandering around a mall or living with a similar looking household in a similar town nearby. When found, they respond, “Sometimes you’ve just got to be content with the way things are.”
And a minority voice pointed out that this had been happening forever in minority communities, but it wasn’t called a disorder until it started happening to well-off white people.
Lately, I find myself enjoying a lot of what should probably be called post-satire, a term I wish I would have coined, but other people beat me to it. I’m still hung up on Paul Beatty’s refusal to accept the satire label on his award-winning The Sellout, not because I don’t get his reasoning, but because it’s a disturbing reminder that satire can’t be a thing because it doesn’t have normal to push up against. There is no normal. Normal was just an illusion before, and for those of us who fell for it, current reality is forcing us to acknowledge that anything, no matter how horrendous, is possible. What we’ve been calling satire is really just a natural response to the state of things we choose not to see.
The 2018 Clarke Award submission list has been revealed (is it late this year? it feels late this year and I have wild speculations about this), and the latest Shadow Clarke (Sharke) jury is already gnashing its teeth on it. At first sight, I went straight for Alexandra Kleeman’s You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine because it was the one that got away: When it hit the US scene two years ago, it caught my attention with its fantastic critical coverage, but the SF scene neglected it, so I assumed it wasn’t SF enough for me and neglected it as well. How foolish of me.
And now, having read it, I find it perfectly sci-fi. And very, very good. And how apropos that I selected Kleeman’s novel as my first official Clarke submission read, in that it merely takes the generic interchangeability of modern life one small step further and with that, paints a bizarro world landscape of food-grade plastic snack cakes and foam-head store personnel. Both the Clarke and Sharke juries know this feeling well: They have the unenviable task of sorting the worthwhile novels from the inevitable windfall of generic, interchangeable SF books… to the point where it feels like a parody of how every book is so much like this or that more popular other thing or things we have all read or watched.
So, while the Clarkes and Sharkes are over there sorting and discussing, I’ll be over here, paying cursory attention to their process, reading what I want to read, offering up my own thoughts when I can, positing wild speculations and offering opinions as fact, and throwing shade as I see fit.
But mostly positing wild speculations and offering opinions as fact.
I am the ShadeThrow Clarke jury. And that was your first dollop of sunblock.
Like last year, there are a lot of people I like and admire on the Clarke jury (Dave Hutchinson is on the jury! And I have wild speculations about this!), so, like last year, this is all in good fun and not intended to be a threat to anyone. Some people get Trumpy about speculation, opinion, and criticism, and… well, I honestly don’t know what more I can say about that, but it certainly makes me feel like I should be more obnoxious about it. Maybe I’ve been too subtle.