Wednesday, July 01, 2015
Half Past 2015
But the First of July provides larger perspective, extending both ways. We are mid-way through the year, and, depending upon our nature (both in general and at the moment) we may ask:
Is this year half-over, or only half-begun?
The answer differs from year to year, but more often than not, the older I get, I choose the latter,
I've had easier years than this one, but this one's only half-started.
Plenty of 2015 tomorrows ahead, after all.
Half a year's worth.
Monday, December 16, 2013
Some Thoughts on the Occasion of Arthur C. Clarke's Birthday
It didn't take long for me to seek out -- and, happily, find -- more by him. In pretty quick order I worked my way through the first round of classic Clarke:
Monday, September 02, 2013
PAT CADIGAN, HUGO WNNER!
Throughout the 90s she continued to write exceptionally good short fiction, for OMNI and elsewhere. She proved herself a fine nonfiction writer as well, as her 1995 "Carnival Diablo" piece, written for me at OMNI (actually it was written for OMNI's readers, who were the prime beficiaries as they were of the Cadigan fiction OMNI and OMNI Online published, but I'll bask in whatever reflective [sic] glory I can).
Approaching and then entering the new century/millennium, Pat Cadigan began ringing changes, some subtle, some audacious, on her explorations of virtual lives (and deaths) and virtual responsibilities, not to mention the nature of the virtual world's effects on the real world we were increasingly using our virtual connections to distance ourselves from. Her set of matched novels, Tea From an Empty Cup (1998), and Dervish is Digital (2001), marries -- and consummates the marriage! -- of cyberpunk with procedural noir. The novels have a gritty reality and an even grittier virtual reality. They deserve to be better known than they are. Caveat (sorta): I am one of the dedicatees of Tea, which doesn't affect at all the esteem with which I regard that novel.
Throughout all of this, Pat Cadigan was (and is) a working writer as well as a gifted and ambitious one. Much of her work over the past decade has been on assignment, movie tie-in novels, movie tie-in nonfiction, round-robin fiction, and more. She brings to each of those projects an impressive professionalism, delivering precisely the goods and then some that the publishers commissioned.
Throughout all of this, too, Pat has continued to produce a body of short fiction that is among the very best of her generation -- and any other for that matter. Her stories continue to be highlights of the magazines and original anthologies in which they appear, as they are of the best of the Year anthologies they also inevitably (well, almost inevitably) appear in.
"The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi," in fact, can be found in Gardener Dzois' latest Best Science Fiction of the Year, along with a couple of hundred thousand words of other terrific SF.
Her gifts for short fiction are even larger than her novelistic gifts, as any reader of the collections Patterns, Home by the Sea, or Dirty Work discovers quickly. It is high time for a collection or two of her recent work, and past high time for a Best of Pat Cadigan.
What sets Pat's fiction apart is that for all the sharp edges, unflinching toughness, awareness of just how rotten humans can be, there is a humanity, a heart, that is most often revealed in a blood-fierce anger and rage at what we do to each other, and what our creations are doing to us. She hates much of what she sees in the world around her, and transmutes into the worlds she builds, but she hates it with love, and not gently.
Se can also be a very funny writer, and also not gently.
A wonderful writer, and a magnificent human being, one whom I am proud to call friend, as I also call her equally magnificent husband, the original one-and-only-they-broke-the-mold-when-they-made-him Christopher Fowler. Theirs is one of the best marriages I know of. Pat's son Robert Fenner is a grown man now, but based on who I to got know a little when I spent some time with him when he was a boy, I have no doubt that he is a fine man.
Now Pat is a Hugo winner, and about damned time. "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi" (love that title!) may signal a new direction in her work, being set in a meticulously built and vividly realized outer solar system some time from now. It is interesting to see Pat working in space, as it were, and working it and its venue(s) as thoroughly and as originally as she has every other venue she has turned her talents to. Check out the story's opening:
Nine decs into her second hitch Fry hit a berg in the Main ring and broke her leg. And she didn't just splinter the bone -- compound fracture! Yow!
No mistaking that voice either -- it's Pat Cadigan's.
It is clear that after three decades of gathering strength and power as a writer, Pat Cadigan is in the springtime of her career.I look forward to the blossoming and growing seasons ahead.
Still known as the "Queen of Cyberpunk," my own
feeling is that Pat Cadigan is the Queen of whatever she wants to choose to become the Queen of, and long may she reign.
Friday, May 03, 2013
Window on the World
This year's progress was slow, even fitful, and for a time I wondered -- as I have before, probably most years -- if some of the older limbs would bear leaves again.
Some of them haven't this year, and may not last through the next heavy storm.. But the ones I have been most concerned about appear to be doing fine.
I love the view during all seasons.
And during all seasons, today's season most definitely included, it is a view that calls for me to step away from the desk, to get outside, to take a closer look at the world the trees live in, and be reminded, as always anew, of the ways in which that world informs and expands whatever world or worlds I am engaged with at this desk.
Tuesday, January 01, 2013
IVY 1998 - 2012
I can see her there, and feel her there, and I am sure that I will always be able to.
She is at rest now, next to Holly, on this land that was, from the time she was six weeks old, the only home she ever knew.
And how wonderfully she graced it.
Goodbye, little Ivy. Goodbye, our good girl.
Thursday, October 04, 2012
Brian Aldiss Reflects Upon Russian Literature, Leading Me To Reflect Upon Aldiss
Brian Aldiss briefly (to say the least) on classic Russian novels in today's Telegraph.
Yet in even in the three paragraphs the Telegraph allowed for his comment, Aldiss manages to remind us of several Russian classics we've meant to read or re-read, and to refer us to one that may be unfamiliar.
His comments on Dostoesvsky, Gogol. Tolstoy pack much resonance into few words, and will have me revisiting both House of the Dead and Resurrection in the near future (the Tolstoy probably nearer than the Dostoevsky).
But it is the author Aldiss leads with, Marie Bashkirtseff, who will be the the large discovery for many readers. Aldiss writes of the powerful effect of Bashkirtseff's diary on him at 14 -- an effect that has lasted for nearly 75 years!
Marie Bashkirtseff died at 25 after a remarkably productive decade of writing and painting. At 87, Brian Aldiss is still vigorously producing novels, stories, essays, poems, paintings.
I realize now that I was around 14 when I first encountered Aldiss's work, and have myself remained enthralled with this elegant, energetic, intellectually and stylistically adventurous and audacious writer ever since. While that's far less than 75 years, it's somehow closer to 50 than to 40, a reminder of the ruthless accuracy of the title of Aldiss's superb autobiography, The Twinkling of an Eye.
There is nearly always some Aldiss reading or re-reading going on at this desk or in my reading chair. He is an imminently re-readable author, always offering new levels to discover when one brings new perspectives (if only those of time passed) to familiar pages.
And through those pages Aldiss has always been generous in introducing readers to other writers. Had I not read Brian Aldiss, would I have discovered Kinglake's Eothen -- to name only one of a hundred or more books I came to through the pages of Brian Aldiss.
Now I will be reading Marie Bashkirtseff -- and looking at her paintings -- as well as adding House of the Dead and Resurrection to my re-read list.
No need to add Aldiss to either my re-encounter or new encounter plans. On the former front, I dipped back into Galaxies Like Grains of Sand (originally known, with slightly different cintents, as The Canopy of Time) just a few a days ago, and found myself recaptured with some of the same intensity, though far larger perspective, as when I first read it as a teenager.
And on the new encounters front, I have been making my way slowly, though only because I am savoring the experience rather than devouring it, through Walcot, Aldiss's massive and massively audacious (to repeat, deliberately, that word) novel of the last century and then some. Beautifully if a bit obscurely published by Goldmark, Walcot deserves a large audience which I am certain it will ultimately find -- a prospect made easier, and I hope likelier, by the ongoing republishing of most of Aldiss 100 books in e-book format. Not clear yet when Walcot will be made available as an e-book (but one hopes its title will be correctly spelled, unlike its mention in the publisher's press release). I'll have more to say here about Walcot in the future.
And there's a new science fiction novel, Finches of Mars, due soon, a new collection of essays, An Exile on Planet Earth (which I have probably longed for more than any book in a while), and more --
Including, as if he didn't have enough work (not that there's any such thing) coming out, a new series of daily short stories appearing on his Web site.
An incredible writer, still in his prime. The dilemma -- and I am endeavoring to say this without irony, though not, I hope without self-mockery -- is that Aldiss's admirably brief piece in the Telegraph managed to nod at four writers and a huge nation's literary history, offering some insight and depth on three of the writers, while this long piece barely skims the surface of Aldiss's own work.
I will have still more to say about Aldiss and, clearly, I am confident that Brian Aldiss will as well.
Wednesday, October 03, 2012
H. G. Wells And The Intolerant Future
-- H. G. Wells, Mankind in the Making, 1904
The first futurist -- I called Wells the"First Citizen of the Future" in my biography of him -- understood, at least early in his career, that he was not a prophet. Rather in books such as Anticipations and Mankind in the Making, he was developing a sophisticated and exuberant schema for thinking about change and its consequences, which is the first key to thinking seriously about the future or possible futures we may inhabit.
Yet in those early books he was also something of an optimist, or at least a hopeful social critic as the passage above indicates. Wells held real hope, even belief, that the spread of education and literacy, culminating in a universal encyclopedia that made the whole of human knowledge available to all the world's citizens, and in doing so would make possible a true global dialogue.
For with such dialogue came the possibility of true hope. Its cornerstone was to be a further refinement and enhancement of the toleration he writes of in the opening of Mankind in the Making. In that book, even as his larger vision of education was taking shape, he wrote of his hope that readers who disagreed with him would
exchange a vague disorderly objection for a clearly defined and understood difference. To arrive at such an understanding is often for practical purposes as good as unanimity; for in narrowing down the issue to some central point or principle, we develop just how far those who are divergent may go together before separation or conflict becomes inevitable, and save something of our time and of our lives from those misunderstandings, and those secondary differences of no practical importance whatever, which make such disastrous waste of human energy.
Wells's vision darkened as the years passed -- the passages quoted here appeared a decade before World War I began; he lived long enough to see the Second World War with its horrors, culminating in atomic energy used to devastating military ends.
He did not, obviously, live long enough to see more than the first hints of the promise of computers and telecommunications.
Yet I wonder, were he able to see the Internet, with its ability to provide virtually any piece of knowledge to virtually anyone on the planet, and at the same time see or even experience how as one consequence of the Internet's universal accessibility of public communication, just how very much of that conversation and commentary on "ethical, social, and political questions" is presented only from a perspective of "there is no truth but truth" -- and presented so in the harshest, most condemnatory and derisive, even hate and loathing-filled tones and tenors, I wonder ----.
I wonder if presented with our modern world and even an hour of political, social, ethical chatter and cant, I wonder Wells would view his younger self as a naif, even a fool for having held out hope for reasonable dialogue, debate, and accommodation, or his older, bleaker self as the truest Cassandra, the realer prophet.