The Torture of the Shadower, part 7: Reading

The torture this week comes from… the reading. Reading the rest of the Clarke list. I’ll be done this week. It hasn’t been the most pleasurable experience.

The other torture comes from summer vacay on the horizon and the utter desperation I feel to get through the reading and writing of this list, just to be done with it already. I’ve been quiet on the twitterz and that’s why. If I were to tweet anything, it would just be expletives and not very nice things, and we know how fandom prefers we only ‘promote the works we love, and not slag off the mediocrity that dominates visibility, money, and networking, thus elbowing out truly original works that might take us to the next level.’

Or something like that.

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The latest Shadow Clarke controversy comes to us from Gareth Beniston, who posted a provocative piece with some radical ideas about how to infuse the Clarke Award with… something different from what we’ve been getting. In the comments, there’s a lot of back-and-forth about quotas and positive action, and whether those efforts patronize writers, and the whole conversation hasn’t gone anywhere I’d like to be. My own angle is supportive, yet difficult to articulate with its socialist edge, and it seems the conversation includes enough white voices on an issue that is usually more instructive when it includes more non-white voices, so I’ve stayed out of it.

I hope it’s clear I’m pro-anything that seeks to rectify a demographic imbalance. I’m radical about most things, and this topic especially.

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Speaking of heavily advertised novels–which we weren’t, but we were–my review of The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead posted last week. We can’t ignore TUR‘s prominence in the media, but the gulf in style and substance between Whitehead’s sneaky, snakey novel and the rest of the Clarke shortlist is immense, especially between TUR and what I consider the bottom ranked novels on the list. To see intelligent, well-read SF fans nit-pick about scifi-ness is embarrassing, and I hope Whitehead isn’t watching.

My review has, for the most part (thanks, Phil, as always) encountered silence, which leads me to assume I have finally convinced everyone. Good job, me. (It might also be that the essay is too long and who has the time? That, or the stink of dead horse has finally chased off everyone.) (It’s also possible that people scrolled to the bottom first and saw my childish, mocking taunt at the end and decided to skip.) (No, I do not expect to be writing on a university blog for much longer.)

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The most famous, most advertised of the six novels on the 2017 Clarke shortlist, yet this 2016 Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner, one of Oprah’s favorite things, and a 2017 Sharke pick has been perhaps the most divisive selection in this year’s battle for the best science fiction novel—not because it’s not good enough, not because it’s not interesting enough, but because some readers believe it is not science fictional enough. Continue reading

The Torture of the Shadower, part 3: The Shadow Not-a-Shortlist, plus my personal longlist!

The torture this week comes from sticking to my own personal shortlist while experiencing major shortlist envy of my fellow shadowers. Vajra and Maureen selected books I passed on for reasons of “probably not sci-fi enough” and I’m full of regret. The six book limit is torture enough.

The lists are up and it’s time for the reviews, but first, here is a look at the first incarnation of the Shadow Clarke Not-a-Shortlist: the books with the most appearances on the shadow jury shortlists. More than six books! We are such rule-breakers and we didn’t even do it on purpose!

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This is a good-looking list. But is it the best list?

Is this a realistic Clarke list? Is this a realistic SF list? Do these questions even matter? More important: Will the books on this list survive the grueling review process we are about to put them through?

What’s most interesting about this selection of books– which is really just a list of momentary cumulative consensus (that will likely change as we move forward) rather than a bonafide shortlist– is that, although we did talk and discuss books as a jury, many of us kept some or all of our cards to our chests. Many of the other jurors’ shortlist picks were genuine surprises to me.

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January 2017 Reading Review

For the past few years, January has been Potential Shortlist Catch Up Month for me, when I try to read all the big name books I overlooked the year before, in preparation for the 10-month SF book award season that’s about to kick off. So that I may have opinions on things. So that I may nurture my FOMO. So that I may mock the system I continue to participate in. So that I may mock myself.

This year is no different, though, to be honest, I’m not really feeling it this year: It all feels trite and meaningless compared to more important things going on, so I’m basically just going through the motions. I mean, why bother seeking out contrived experiences of estrangement and repulsion by reading SF when I see it played out in the political arena every day? I need respite, but books feel false. I experienced a similar plummet in enthusiasm after the 2000 election and 9-11 fallout, and it took me over a decade to recover interest in anything that involved critical engagement with the world, so… if this blog isn’t an interesting space to watch, at least my wobbling dedication to it might be.

Fortunately, things are coming up… BIG THINGS… and that’s enough to keep me active for at least another season. The kindly prods from other people have been unexpected and welcome.

I must say, though, it does feel nice to just sit down and get all this out finally. There is that.

Eesh, and it is a lot. I read an average number of books this month, but a collection of mini-reviews can be a big task. On we go…

2017 BOOKS I READ LAST YEAR Continue reading