Earlier this month I swung by one of the local used bookstores and snapped up Robert Silverberg's Hawksbill Station for cheap. SIlverberg is one of those SF authors who doesn't get much credit — he was more workmanlike and dependable than brilliant, and I kept getting him confused with that other Robert (Sheckley), whose acid humor set him a cut above the pack. But Silverberg was also quite good — The Man in the Maze, for instance, is a great little book, and Dying Inside is one of the few times an author has crossed freely from "SF" to "literary" territory without tripping on the threshold in either direction.
The idea behind Station is pretty neat: political radicals in America's future are exiled into the Cambrian era rather than executed, and have established a colony of sorts that's teetering on the edge of collapse. What I found most interesting about Station is two things about SF generally that pop out at me more and more: the way it's always dominated by the moment of time it was produced in, and the way casual sexism makes a lot of otherwise-good work from SF's earlier years hard to read.Read more
I feel bad admitting to people that there was a time in my life when I stopped reading SF entirely for something like years on end, despite having been steeped in it as a kid. It's a little like confessing you haven't eaten in that restaurant since you got slightly sick in there ten years ago, despite them having changed the staff and remodeled the place.
I'm willing to accept some of this as a product of being attached to whatever it was I grew up with (Lem, Dick, Sturgeon, Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Tiptree Jr., Delaney, Zelazny, Ellison, Philip Jose Farmer, etc.), but also a matter of the way my expectations changed for it. A lot of what I encountered of SF as a kid was escapism, but the stuff that really stuck with me, that convinced me SF was not just escapism and had the seeds within it for saying things as profound about the human condition as any other literature could, became my bar-raiser.Read more
One of the better pieces of creative advice I've received is "Look for the cracks in things." Leonard Cohen has a couplet along those lines: there's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in. But the right way to apply that advice eluded me for a long time.Read more
I've got several possible review items on my desk, most of them for the Science Fiction Repair Shop, and something crossed my mind as I was figuring out which one was best to talk about. Is a comic book movie best approached as a kind of fantasy, or can we sneak it into the SF Room by sliding it in under the door, so to speak?Read more