Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Evolution of Beautiful Science Fiction

(I strongly object to the idea that Science Fiction has to be about science. In that regard it is the worst named genre ever. But undoubtedly some of it IS about science…)

— Damien G. Walter “To be true, Science Fiction must be beautiful”

Over on his blog, Damien G. Walter has written a short piece about beauty in science, mathematics and fiction (with a focus on Science Fiction). I agree with Damien’s argument that where prose fiction is at its most beautiful is when it interrogates the internal human experience. When fiction, under whatever label, takes the plunge and dives deep into inner space.

However, I want to talk a little about the statement quoted above, within the parentheses. Science Fiction is not the end of all fiction. No form of fiction is the final word. What evolved from one label (Scientific Romance) into another (Science Fiction) will evolve into other forms with a different labels. Maybe it is time to accept and understand that as a whole genre Science Fiction is just a step on this evolutionary path which will continue until all human language dies out.

(There is at the heart of Science Fiction I think a very American and extremely mid-twentieth century set of attitudes which is becoming a distant memory, even for Americans.)

Does that mean that Science Fiction is dying? Not exactly. At least not in an obvious and visible way. But at some point in the future it will be extinct. Nothing lives forever; everything dies. This is only natural and it causes less suffering to accept the transient nature of all things. Science Fiction is just a stage in the evolution of fiction that was born in 1926 and has, for a literary genre, had a long and relatively stable life. I do not want to be a cheerleader for the death of the Science Fiction label, but something better adapted to its environment and more beautiful will emerge to replace it and its institutions. Just as the literary fiction of the 19th, and the early and mid 20th centuries have been usurped by new fictions with new labels

Of course, on a personal level I would be very disappointed if in a thousand years, or even one hundred years, we were still reading something we’d easily recognize as Science Fiction.

Cold Dark Winter

A fresh flurry of snow has just started to fall onto the streets and field outside my house. Both of which are already waterlogged after two days of intermittent rain. Thick grey cloud covers the skies over my part of England and the sun has almost set. The winter solstice is coming and the playlist I compiled on Monday is starting to feel more and more appropriate.

This playlist was compiled on Monday and first tested on the drive to Kibworth with a car fill of friends as I drove them to the launch of Graham Joyce’s new book “The Silent Land” on Tuesday evening. Initial results from this testing suggest that the playlist is terribly good at convincing my passengers that they’re in a horror film.

This was a playlist which was constructed with the following limitations: Where possible tracks would alternate between instrumental tracks and songs. All tracks had to have been released this year and the mix had to be long enough and varied enough to listen to on repeat during long journeys where I couldn’t change the CD. These rules all get broken at least once.

I give you Cold Dark Winter:

  1. Forest by Zoe Keating from Into The Trees
  2. Escape Artist by Zoe Keating from Into The Trees
  3. Night by Zola Jesus from Stridulum EP
  4. A Dark Wind Blows by Texture
  5. Me and the Devil by Gil Scott Heron from I’m New Here
  6. Bad Romance by Caro Emerald
  7. You Are Here by Taphead
  8. A Drowning by How to Destroy Angels from How to Destroy Angels
  9. Tea by The Whitechapel Orchestra from Session 01
  10. Echo Boomers (Generation Why) by Texture from Synaesthesia
  11. Spraw II (Mountains beyond Mountains) by Arcade Fire from The Suburbs
  12. Optimism by Zoe Keating from Into The Trees

Musical Story Modelling

My major operating metaphors about fiction are all about making equivalences between music and stories. For instance in my general scheme of thinking, short stories are singles and short story magazines are compilation albums.

There is a spectrum of different kinds of singles which has at one end pop music and pulp fiction. This the realm of the two and a half minute single with a strict adherence to traditional song structures and of squids in space with plot and conflict at the heart of every scene. It isn’t the smartest music out there, but it is made to be danced to while pissed. Here we are all about the chorus and surface story, and what that makes the audience feel in their heart.

Two Different Covers for Two Different Markets

In America, at least according to Amazon, the edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories has this as its cover:

In the UK, Penguin publish this cover for a collection with similar intent:

Do you know who I think looks more like they understand what they’re buying? Yeah, I love Penguin’s design department.

100 Artists’ Manifestos From the Futurists to the Stuckists

In this remarkable collection of 100 manifestos from the last 100 years, Alex Danchev presents the contradictory and echoing spirits of such diverse movements as Vorticism, Feminism, Dogme, Surrealism, Communism and Cannibalism, taking in along the way cinema, architecture, fashion and cookery.

Written by a wide range of artists including Wassily Kandinsky, Wyndham Lewis, Claes Oldenburg, Derek Jarman, Gilbert and George, Rem Koolhaas, Werner Herzog, Takashi Murakami and Billy Childish, the revolutionary spirit is clear in each manifesto, as they promote and critique every aspect of Art from fun and fearlessness to violence and freedom.

100 Artists’ Manifestos From the Futurists to the Stuckists

This is the first essential book of 2011.

A Lost William Gibson Interview

Are there still some goals or plateaus you want to reach that you haven’t attained yet?

Oh yeah, certainly. I’m never set, although I can’t tell you what they are, only that I’m never satisfied with these books. If I’m very, very satisfied they would be about seventy-five per cent of what they might have been. The book I’m working on now is the end of some aspect of my work, I’m not sure what to call it. And the next one I think will be very different, but I haven’t a clue what that will be.

I keep feeling that there’s a kind of book that hasn’t been written that I want to write now, in the same way that when I wrote Neuromancer there was a kind of book that hadn’t been written that I wanted to write in 1983. That was really the impulse there, the sense that there was something missing that was needed in the world. When I wrote Neuromancer I knew it had to be sort of like The Stars My Destination and sort of like Robert Stone’s Dark Soldiers and sort of like a Velvet Underground album. I had a whole list of things it had to be sort of like, and if it all went together it would become one of those seamless pop artefacts that sort of resemble everything and nothing at the same time.

An Interview With William Gibson by Edo Van Belkom (1998)

I have been looking for this quote subconsciously for the past few days, and just now as I am about to head to bed (it is 01:11 as I write this) and Lou Reed (Caroline Says II) shuffles into playing, I find it.

The Maybe Not So Marvellous Manny

If you want a clue at how quickly cats grow up take a look at the three pictures below. The first was taken soon after Manny was born by an old friend from high school, and the person responsible for Manny’s litter being born.

This was taken back in April.

And this was taken last Monday.

As was this picture taken while he was exploring our neighbours tree.

This explains the title. Manny did this when he kicked against me as I pulled him from the fence because I needed to bring him inside from the cold, so I could close the back door and go upstairs to work. He wasn’t happy. His current anti-social habit is attacking the sofa and reaching up to scratch the front of the speakers.