The Torture of the Shadower, part 5: Bleeding tongue

My third review for the Shadow Clarke project posted last week, this time on The Destructives by Matthew de Abaitua. This is a fair and balanced review.

Since I normally comment on the comments in these updates, I should say the author of the novel has decided it’s in his best interest to go on record to voice his dissatisfaction with the review. Obviously, I wouldn’t have written what I’ve written if I thought any of it was inappropriate or undue. I would like to say more regarding his area of concern, as my earlier drafts had, but, while it’s perfectly okay to allow one particular vein of commentary to dominate, say, a Heinlein review, it isn’t appropriate here, and would have overshadowed (as it has now) what I’m most interested in conveying.

It’s never wise to respond to aggrieved authors, however, I wonder if, in biting my tongue, I am giving the appearance of having been effectively silenced. I am also disturbed by the degree of silence surrounding this review, especially when my reviews tend to generate a comfortable level of thoughtfulness and chattiness, which this one should have done.

My review stands as it is, which you can see below. Its biggest flaw is in overstretching to accommodate the strangely mismatched modes of the novel, which I’m still okay with because I still find this turn especially interesting.

*****

His instinct was to remember everything about individual humans. The inexactitude of these remembrances could be beautiful, in their own way; he sought to create a perfect living replica of the past, and in failing to do so, his project almost attained the status of art. His project, with its tiny imperfections, overwrote his memories of the past, warped events as they had once occurred. This was the paradox of remembering, how each act of recollection was also an act of destruction. It was frustrating, yes, but also wonderful. (ch. 26)

De Abaitua wrote one of the most complex and difficult novels from 2015, If Then, and I still find myself wondering about it at random times. I was so taken by that strange novel about an algorithmic society in decay—a novel that feels so uneven on the surface, yet so complete in substance—I couldn’t articulate my thoughts well enough to write a decent review. Since then, The Destructives has been on my “most anticipateds” list. Placed on a Clarke award shortlist only once before, for The Red Men in 2008, de Abaitua was unaccountably left off the list for If Then in 2016. The Destructives is the latest piece in this abstract thematic series and, given its scope, it seems primed to make up for last year’s Clarke snub. Continue reading

[Book Review] Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

My second review for the #ShadowClarke project posted last week at the @csffanglia site. Here it is in all its unimpressed glory, although I recommend you make your way over to the site, at least to read the enjoyable comments.

*****

Good Morning, Midnight is a bit of a shortlist risk, as shadow jury conversations have proved. Ranging in complaints about too much lyrical sciencing to complaints about too much overt preciousness, overall, the general jury criticism toward the book has been along the lines of “too much too much.” And yet, the novel has been blurbed as a blend of Station Eleven and Kim Stanley Robinson– two supreme yet entirely different approaches to SF, flawed in their own “too much” ways (the first, a well-written, but literary carpet bagging of superficial SF tropes, the other, an over-lingering on most things, including the sublimation of ice). With comparisons like these, Good Morning, Midnight might be just the kind of “too much too much” I, and other Clarke readers, would relish. Besides, it has stars on the cover, a spaceship in the story, and is free of the usual, predictable pew-pew hijinks that tends to come with spaceship stories, so, for those reasons, it seems like something worth discussing within the context of possible Clarke contenders.

Good Morning, Midnight is about two corresponding perspectives on silence, isolation, and unacknowledged regrets. As Sully and her fellow crewmates return from their mission to Jupiter, all signals from Earth go silent. Meanwhile, Augustine, an aging astronomer, is the only person left at his research station in the Arctic after he stubbornly refuses an unexpected evacuation. Neither scientist knows what has happened to the rest of the earth, but now they find themselves navigating their respective silent voids, inside and out.

It sounds promising and poignant, but it’s considerably less than what the blurbs promise. Continue reading

The Torture of the Shadower: The 2017 #ShadowClarke

Cool things happening…

Recently, Anglia Ruskin University launched the online ARU Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy, spearheaded by Dr. Helen Marshall, in order to “explore science fiction and fantasy as products that depend on the interaction of literary and visual media and that are constructed by both the publishing industry and fan communities,” with plans to launch a master’s degree in SFF in 2018.

That alone is exciting news, but one of the first big projects of the Centre is to act as the central hub for the doings of the Clarke Award shadow jury, announced last week, which will work to bring robust discussion and debate to the Arthur C. Clarke Award, a juried UK SF award that is known for being both prestigious and controversial.

As you might know, I have informally shadowed current and vintage lists for the past few years, and my own experience with the Clarke Award has been short and rather grumpy (and podcasted!), so much so, that I maybe declared last year that I would never read the shortlist again. Now I’ve been made a liar.

This has been in the works for a long time, and I am delighted to finally be able to share that I am one of the nine jurors to shadow the Clarke Award this year, along with some of my favorite book people: Nina Allan, Vajra Chandrasekera, David Hebblethwaite, Victoria Hoyle, Dr. Nick Hubble, Paul Kincaid, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and Jonathan McCalmont. Out of this group of accomplished writers, critics, editors, and academics, I will be playing the part of amateur American blogger who sometimes likes what she reads. You can find all of our bios here. (Mine’s a bit… rude.) (And, yes, that is me with the donut. It was alright.)

I don’t know how I landed on this shadow jury, but I have respected and admired all of these people from afar, and am thrilled to have an opportunity to work and debate with them.

It seems I wasn’t far off by predicting that Valentine’s Day will kick off the 2017 SFF book award season, as the Clarke Award submissions list will drop this Tuesday. Each shadow juror will examine the (likely) 100+ submissions list for their own personal shortlist of six faves and/or most anticipated novels, and begin reading up. In the meantime, over the coming weeks, the ARU Centre for SFF will begin posting each shadow juror’s manifesto.

Some links if you’d like to brush up on the whole, quoting Vajra here, Sharkenado:

BBC announcement

Dr. Helen Marshall’s intro piece

Nina Allan’s intro piece at her blog

Nina Allan’s manifesto

Paul Kincaid’s introduction from The Arthur C. Clarke Award: A Critical Anthology

Victoria Hoyle’s booktube explanation about the process

On twitter: @csffanglia and #shadowclarke

 

To my vintage SF friends, I promise I’ll return to the land of the neglected and forgotten in the latter half of this year, but for now: Nina. Effing. Allan. I’m sure you understand.