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January 30th, 2010


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01:58 pm - Reading
The shortlist for the BSFA Awards has been announced. Here are the nominated novels:
Ark by Stephen Baxter
Lavinia by Ursula K Le Guin
The City & The City by China Mieville
Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts

I have already read Lavinia. I think I'll read the other three. Well, I'm not sure about Ark because it's a sequel.

Anyway, my reading seems to have slowed to a crawl this month. All I have read if Voices by Le Guin, and The Children's Book on audio (which I've not even finished yet). I have read bits and pieces of other books but nothing all the way through. Something about the restless way I have been feeling. At the moment I'm reading Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing? by Leszek Kolakowski, which is just a quick romp through the history of philosophy, from a relatively easy-going capitalist/monotheistic perspective. I find this point of view a bit complacent, but his writing is pleasant to read; he doesn't come across as a git like some modern philosophers.

(19 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


From:cdybedahl
Date:January 30th, 2010 02:04 pm (UTC)
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My first though was what the heck Baxter is doing in the same company as LeGuin and Miéville...
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From:communicator
Date:January 30th, 2010 02:11 pm (UTC)
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He's a different kind of writer that's for sure. I realise I don't read that type of SF very often nowadays. Perhaps it would do me good.
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From:dfordoom
Date:January 30th, 2010 02:17 pm (UTC)
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He's a different kind of writer that's for sure. I realise I don't read that type of SF very often nowadays. Perhaps it would do me good.

I read one of his books, and that was enough for me.
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From:dfordoom
Date:January 30th, 2010 02:16 pm (UTC)
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my reading seems to have slowed to a crawl this month

My reading has been at crawl speed for about a year now. I'm just not getting enthused about anything. And I haven't read any science fiction for a couple of years now. Even though I've enjoyed Mieville's writing in the past (enjoyed it a great deal) I'm not really tempted. Never could read le Guin. I always feel I'm being bludgeoned with a message. I guess you could say the same about Mieville, but at least his writing and his characters are colourful.
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From:communicator
Date:January 30th, 2010 02:37 pm (UTC)
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Well, I think this might be a good stimulus for me to catch up a bit.
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From:kalypso_v
Date:January 30th, 2010 03:37 pm (UTC)
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Bit baffled as to why Lavinia is in. How does it fit the genre?
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From:communicator
Date:January 30th, 2010 04:27 pm (UTC)
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I think the scope includes fantasy + SF.
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From:kalypso_v
Date:January 30th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC)
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But why is it fantasy? Because of the scenes with Virgil? I read it as a historical (or mytho-historical) novel with some literary meta-stuff. Well, really I read it as a straight novel, but if I'd had to assign it to a genre it would have been historical.
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From:communicator
Date:January 30th, 2010 05:01 pm (UTC)
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I think it does have fantasy elements - the reality of the spirit world, and prophecy and so on. And I think people are influenced by the previous writing of an author.
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From:kalypso_v
Date:January 30th, 2010 05:22 pm (UTC)
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The latter is how it seems to me; "Le Guin has written SFF, therefore all books by Le Guin are SFF." It was the careful attempt to reconstruct pre-Roman religious belief and practice that led me to put it into the historical genre.
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From:coalescent
Date:January 30th, 2010 11:26 pm (UTC)
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But it's explicitly not a historical setting; it's set in the world Virgil imagined when writing The Aeneid.

Some discussion here.
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From:kalypso_v
Date:January 31st, 2010 01:19 pm (UTC)
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Yes, Abigail Nussbaum expresses my position more eloquently, and provides the word "metafictional" which I was groping for (or deliberately forgetting, as it's another bloody Greek-Latin hybrid. Wonder what it should be - metapoetic?).

It's the scenes with Virgil which add the non-historical dimension, but I think I saw Lavinia's conversations with him as symbolising the fact that Le Guin's novel was a sort of conversation with Virgil's poem, and thus a literary device. It seemed to me that there was an interplay between Virgil's world and the historical one glimpsed through research; she states in her Afterword that she deliberately made Latium less grand, replacing his "Augustan magnificence" with "a more plausible poverty". (The joke about Lavinia's hair colour stands for this sort of correction.)

The least historical thing is Lavinia's perception of herself as a character in Virgil's poem, because though I would expect her to be familiar with epic poetry of an earlier age I'd imagine her to see that as something very close to history, so she'd see it as "I am remembered in song" rather than "I am fiction". That's a sophisticated idea from a more advanced form of literature.

But I still don't see any fantasy in this (perhaps I don't understand the definition of fantasy). It's part historical novel, part literary exploration of an earlier text. There's no reason why one could not add science fiction or fantasy elements to such a novel, but I can't see them. I note that the quote from Publishers' Weekly on the dustjacket says "as unique and strange as any fantasy" - I took that to mean "it's not really fantasy but that's what we expect from Le Guin so we'll pretend it is somehow."
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From:coalescent
Date:January 31st, 2010 03:02 pm (UTC)
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To me, a character who is aware of their existence as a fiction is a fantastical device. Metafiction doesn't have to be fantastical, but that sort of metafiction is. And I can't see why the fact that Virgil's appearances are a literary device should stop them being fantastical; they still violate the consensus reality of the established world of the novel.
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From:communicator
Date:February 1st, 2010 07:18 am (UTC)
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Thanks for that reminder of that discussion which I skimmed at the time because I knew I was going to read the book. I think the gods are not absent from the story, but I'll do a post about that.

Edited at 2010-02-01 07:18 am (UTC)
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From:steverogerson
Date:January 30th, 2010 10:04 pm (UTC)
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I'm actually reading The City & The City at the moment. I'm about a third of the way through and not over impressed, I must admit, especially given how good I've found his previous books.
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From:communicator
Date:January 30th, 2010 10:10 pm (UTC)
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It's in a different style than usual I think? More like Hammett or Chandler someone said.
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From:coalescent
Date:January 30th, 2010 11:28 pm (UTC)
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I wasn't a huge fan of TC&TC, but I was impressed that he could manage such a different style so well.
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From:coalescent
Date:January 30th, 2010 11:30 pm (UTC)
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I haven't read Ark yet, but I doubt it's a very direct sequel; I believe it shares all of one character with Flood, and takes off from that story (literally!) at a tangent.
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From:communicator
Date:January 31st, 2010 07:38 am (UTC)
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OK that's reassuring thanks. I'll definitely read those three then. I think it's a good shortlist - short for a start, which makes it possible to commit to reading it - and diverse. In fact - how diverse is this genre now? It seems to have opened up in the last few years.

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