1.29.2004

as for reading...

For the third time, I'm re-reading David Hartwell's Age of Wonders. I kind of love this book, though I have a hard time pinning down the reason for that. It's a bit less snarky than, for instance, Tom Disch's The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, which I also kind of love. On the other hand, AoW is more personal and user-friendly than even Edward James' Science Fiction in the 20th Century.

A lot of what Hartwell says in AoW is heartfelt and intelligently presented... and why wouldn't it? Hartwell is a premiere SF editor, and he knows his shit. Likewise, he's been around long enough to have thoroughly examined the whys behind the reading and writing of SF, so when he speaks, he speaks with authority.

Also occupying my time is Storming the Reality Studio, subtitle "A casebook of cyberpunk and postmodern fiction" and edited by Larry McCaffery. This overview of the cyberpunk aesthetic contains sample fiction from many of the postmodern and 'cyberpunk' authors, along with a bucketload of nonfiction pieces. Very good stuff, and I find it intriguing to go back in time to view the movement as it was occurring (this was published in 1991), to see what was happening in a broader context than when I was experiencing it first-hand. Not to mention the writers contained herein are excellent.

When I get fed up with those texts, though, I find myself dipping selectively into Terry Carr's Year's Finest Fantasy and Year's Finest Fantasy 2. God, but there are some good stories in these two books! Interestingly, is this marks the first time I've ever read Stephen King's The Gunslinger in its original story form, as published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I've always found King to be most effective in short form, which seems odd considering his penchant for massive doorstopper novels. With The Gunslinger, the story contains a palpable sense of mystery that doesn't shine through as well in the novel format, and I find that it works better as a shorter, tighter piece.

I've been trying to slog my way through Peter F. Hamilton's Pandora's Star, and am having a hard go of it. Funny, considering how much I loved Fallen Dragon last year. But I'm just not making it this time, and I think I can trace my difficulty all the way back to page 10, and this passage:

"In the twenty-first century, a physicist named Freeman Dyson had postulated that the artifacts of a technologically advanced civilization would ultimately surround their star in order to utilize all of its energy."


OK. Why do SF writers always have to do this?!?! Pandora's Star apparently takes place hundreds of years in the future, but the characters are referencing 21st century theoretical science? Why? Hasn't anything else come along in the intervening centuries??? Oi. Every time I see something like this, it becomes an incongruity that bugs the shit out of me for weeks, kind of like watching a Western and seeing the cowboy wearing Abercrombie and Fitch jeans and a pair of sneakers.

Am I the only one that finds these hokey bits distracting and annoying? Or am I too picky? Why not remove that first "In the twenty-first century..." and use only "Freeman Dyson had postulated..."?


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