When Eleanor Lerman’s Radiomen won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year back in August–out of ten other much more widely talked about, publicized, and celebrated SF novels–it absolutely caught my attention. Compared to its shortlisted peers (even Linda Nagata’s initially self-published series), Radiomen seemed to come out of nowhere, having appeared on zero other SF shortlists–not even the 218-item Tiptree recommendation list!– and absent from any of the SF discourse I usually observe. Even after winning the award, the book seems to have drifted back into obscurity, despite having won against an impressive and critically solid shortlist (not counting the few bits of gristle I’m choosing to ignore). I don’t know how this small press gem wound up on the shortlist, but the Campbell Memorial Award jury did us a service to bring it out into the open like this.
I want to take back what I said in my monthly review about this Simak novel being more wacky than contemplative. Looking back, I see no reason why I would say such a thing. In a way, it reminds me of his Time is the Simplest Thing (1961), which is wacky–or whacked out, rather–with a giant pink alien blob and meat plants and a kind of Halloween motif, but All Flesh is Grass isn’t quite that ridiculous, so maybe what I meant to say was that it’s ‘colorful.’ Continue reading →
I enjoyed a momentary snicker at that quote from a local newspaper a few weeks ago when it addressed our own local epidemic of painted jokers who were creeping in parks at midnight and scaring kids, prompting superfluous arrests and increased weapons sales. (Not that it takes much to do that around here.) But it also marked a moment of fiction-reality overlap that spun my own rational stability into a tailspin.
My sense of estrangement occurred just before the peak of public hysteria, when I pulled into the parking lot of my place of work at 7:30 am and nearly collided head-on with a swerving red car driven by a blue-wigged, red-suited individual. Naturally, I forgot the incident just seconds after they zoomed by, and went about my day, only recalling it hours later, just after the explosion of local and national headlines, arrests, and pepper spray kiosks, prompting me to wonder if I had really seen what thought I had seen, or if the day’s events had somehow transformed the memory in my mind.
I haven’t been as fastidious about my blog this month, partly because I got hung up on writing that stupid review of The Clone. I’ve been doing this long enough now that I think I’m running out of things to say about the schlock I’ve been reading– I’ve said it all before, others have said it all long before, and lately I’ve been more interested in reading those other people than just spouting off my ignorant drivel. Also, I’ve been restricting my post-writing time to a small window in the mornings, as this blog has been leaking into my weekend days more than I’d like.
Plus, the weather has been nice! It’s like we’re having an actual autumn this year and it’s only been like in the 80-somethings this month, which makes me want to be outside more.
One night, beneath the streets of the city, four ingredients found their way into the same collector box in the underground sewer system. There these ingredients–muriatic acid; trisodium phosphate; a bit of meat; and a fleck of silica gel– combined in a warm, seething liquid and gave birth to a hideous, destructive force: the clone…
If you pay attention to any B-movie film analysis–which I don’t, so I assume it’s entered the realm of common knowledge ever since SF clickbait sites have gotten hold of it– you are likely aware that the sci-fi and horror B-movies of old have been interpreted as figurative embodiments of subconscious social fear, usually of communism, but sometimes of sex. The Blob (1958) is a classic example of this idea, where theorists have posited that the pulsating, slithering, red glob of taciturn goo from outer space is actually a metaphor for America’s uninformed terror at the spread of the Soviet state. The Blob is the embodiment of the Red Menace. Continue reading →
Throughout all my writing (including TMITHC especially) there is a preoccupation with fakes and the fake: fake worlds, fake humans, fake objects, fake time, etc… Again and again I attempt to formulate critieria for what is fake and what is not fake. (21:22, Part Two, The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick)
TMITHC is a fascinating adjunct to all this, i.e., to the Gestalt. Fakes are discussed. Alternate universes exist. Fascism is the topic, and a book is reality, which seems to have some connection with Tears. TMITHC seems to be a subtle, even delicate questioning of, what is real? As if only the 2 books in it, Grasshopper and the I Ching, are really the only actual reality. Strange. (19:35, Part Two, The Exegesis…)
Juliana’s bra size is thirty-eight, signaling the 38th hexagram in the I Ching, ‘opposition is a prerequisite for union.’ The ongoing bra references are a metaphor for our own irreality, an effort to lift-and-separate the converging realities, the borders of which we cannot otherwise perceive.” (Archer Maytree, controversial PKD scholar and author of The Grasshopper Lies: The Philip K. Dick of the I Ching, p. 38)
This year’s Exegesis with a side of fiction PKD challenge hosted by BookPunks means that I have officially overdosed on Philip K. Dick and it’s a lot worse than just seeing a pink light while an AI satellite channels God or something into my brain. I’ve temporarily postponed The Three Stigmata of Timothy Archer because I simply could not do with more quasi-religious psychedelics, and moved ahead to his politically-charged alt-history The Man in the High Castle. This was a good decision.Continue reading →
Disorienting and blurry, the subterranean world of Vonda McIntyre’s The Exile Waiting (1975) hosts a confusion of social structures that aren’t easily deciphered. The first few chapters are especially complicated as the first act winds its way through a series of tunnels and bends and broken thoughts as Mischa resists Gemmi’s empathic tugs, rescues a self-destructive Chris, and observes the so-called normalcy of this alien place called Center. Disjointed journal excerpts by an outsider named Jan intensify the narrative haze.
Center is a strange place. Unfamiliar in the ways it defies present-world logic (hired beggars; dormant political and mechanical power systems in some places, active in others; nuclear-crystal alchemy) and familiar in the ways it employs standard sci-fi tropes (telepathic communication, dog-eat-dog dystopia, pernicious underboob cleavage), but all of those odd details add up to a cohesive and thought-provoking framework from which McIntyre hangs her complex and many-tendriled tale. The claustrophobic and oppressive atmosphere is intertwined in each theme, where a potent mix of ageism, lookism, ableism, and toxic family systems has the potential to drag each character down into a self-hating pit of inaction. Some succumb; some overcome.Continue reading →