As I write this, we are two weeks past the US presidential election and three weeks away from the Electoral College, that unloved relic of America’s colonial past, meeting to elect Donald Trump as the next president. In the two weeks since the election, Trump has: appointed an openly anti-Semitic far-right propagandist as his Chief Strategist; picked fights with the crew of Hamilton and Saturday Night Live, demanding apologies and “equal time”; mooted as National Security Advisor a man who calls Islam “a vicious cancer”; nominated as attorney general a man who helped gut public education funding in Alabama; and just in the last day as I write has declared “the president can’t have a conflict of interest” while his children, who will be managing his businesses, sit in on his meetings with foreign heads of state.
San Francisco: Tachyon Publications, 2016; $15.95 tpb/$9.99 ebook; 285 pages
The concept of this series is interesting but a bit confused.
The series editor (Adams) reads thousands of short sf/f stories each year and picks eighty of them—forty sf, forty fantasy. Then he gives them, stripped of identification, to the year’s guest editor (Fowler), who picks ten sf and ten fantasy stories, and that’s the book.
The first part I find confusing is the “American” criterion: the stories have to be in English, by an American or Canadian writer, published in a nationally distributed American or Canadian publication. Which excludes (reasonably, I suppose ... ) Francophone Canadian fiction—but also seems to exclude (say) an American’s story published in a British magazine such as Interzone, which seems problematic. If that’s the case, then why not a Briton’s story published in an American magazine? The criteria seem artificially narrow. (And one might quibble, given the North American focus, about whether Hawai’ian fiction should be allowed....)
As part of an extended study of science, science fiction, and society, I interviewed 24 science fiction authors during the second half of 2015. Those interviews focused on how authors conceptualized their role linking science to society and how they expressed that role through authorial intent. Out of the authors I interviewed, the response from Gregory Benford on the topic of representing science and the scientist was like a distilled version of the whole conversation. Benford is a prolific and award-winning science fiction author, but he is first and foremost a scientist. As he put it, “I never really considered becoming a full-time science fiction writer. I just always thought it would be a fun hobby and then I got interested in it again in the middle of graduate school and kept at it over the years, but I have always put my academic career first.” (Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes of Benford are from a personal interview conducted on 10 December 2015.)
Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning begins in the middle as if A Clockwork Orange opened when Alex has committed his mayhem after he has been captured and defanged and returned to the street, there to render defenseless service to his droogs. This novel’s Alex is Mycroft Canner, a forcibly reformed reprobate whose philosophical convictions precipitated his youthful commission of the most infamous crimes of his generation. As part of his ongoing restitution to society, he narrates his personal history of several days that reshaped his times.