Empty Your Heart of Its Immortal Cyclonopedia

For some time now I’ve been meaning to mention Paul Charles Smith’s excellent new blog Empty Your Heart of Its Mortal Dream, which is devoted to all manner of weird and decadent literature. But now it’s become imperative, because he’s gone and tackled Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia, a recent favorite of mine.

He’s also been mucking about with Cormac McCarthy…

frolicking with J.G. Ballard

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Charles Yu’s How to Live in a SFnal Universe and Other Best SF/F of the Year to Date

I just posted a kind of interim year’s best list, showcasing titles that energized and challenged me thus far in 2010. Novels by Michal Ajvaz, Darin Bradley, Brian Conn, N.K. Jemisin, Karen Lord, Thomas Mullen, Nnedi Okorafor, Dexter Palmer, and Charles Yu are all on the list, with further mentions of McDonald, Lowachee, and Holmes.

I want to focus on the Charles Yu novel, How to Live in a Science Fictional Universe, for a moment, as a kind of corrective.

The novel has gotten its share of praise in high-profile venues like the NYTBR, which published a great (and highly analytical) review. I’m not going to quote from it because it deserves to be read in full.

And then it’s gotten poor reviews from people like Andrew Wheeler, who I really respect as a reviewer, and Publishers Weekly—“Mainstream readers will be baffled by the highly nonlinear Oedipal time travel plot, but the passive, self-obsessed protagonist is straight out of the mainstream fiction that many SF fans love to hate, leaving this book without an audience.”—along with mixed reviews from places like The Book Smugglers. The Amazon reviews thus far are hit-or-miss as well.

I’d just like to say that…those negative reviews do not describe the novel I read at all. I read a very intricate, funny, and often sad book about a dysfunctional relationship between a father and a son against a backdrop of unbelievably amazing SFnal ideas. Some of these reviewers appear to believe Yu’s novel will be dissatisfying to both mainstream and SF readers. I believe that it will be intensely and wonderfully satisfying for most all of those readers, if they’ll just do the book the favor of ignoring these mediocre reviews and come to the book with an open mind.

I certainly respect the validity of the negative opinions, but I also know that sometimes novels that cross genres and approaches to fiction like this one does can be severely misinterpreted, and not enjoyed for the truly unique qualities they bring to readers.

I thought this was one of the best SF novels of the year, and I hope that readers will reject the idea of (1) a book being just one thing and (2) being just one thing themselves, and pick up this awesome book.

Last Call for Micro-Submissions for HarperCollins Antho

Want to be in a cool book? All it might take is writing 100 to 150 words. But you’ve only got until the midnight EST on September 7th. That’s two days from now.

All the details here, which is also where you should post your entry.


PS My NYTBR SF column runs today in the print version. check it out!

New York Times SF Column: Lord, Lowachee, and More

My SF/F Chronicle column appears in the New York Times Sunday Book Review this weekend, and the electronic version is already available online. I reviewed novels by Karen Lord, Ian McDonald, Karin Lowachee, and Georges-Olivier Chateaureynaud.

I enjoyed all of these books, but I must say I haven’t cackled outloud at anything quite so hard as I did at some of the more comical scenes in the Karen Lord novel, Redemption in Indigo, nor been so rewarded in that laughter by the grounded seriousness that follows. A highly recommended first novel that doesn’t read like a first novel.

The Karin Lowachee novel, Gaslight Dogs, was much overlooked when first published in the spring, and I want to thank the site Beyond Victoriana for spotlighting the novel, an act that brought it to my attention. (Slight typo in the review: “distinct” at the end should be “distinctive”.) By chance, Clarkesworld just ran an interview with Lowachee.

I was unable to talk about the quality of the translation of the Chateaureynaud given space limitations. It’s by Edward Gauvin, and it is quite fine.

All of these books will be at least mentioned in my “Best SF/F of the Year (Thus Far)” post scheduled for the Omnivoracious book blog next week.

I’ve done two prior reviews for the NYTBR, of Dexter Palmer’s The Dream of Perpetual Motion and Marcel Theroux’s Far North, both extremely ambitious and rewarding novels.

Have a great long weekend!

Thursday Stuff: Last Drink, Booklife UK, 3-Bear, Finch UK

(Yes, there will be Last Drink Bird Head awards again this year…)

This is the dreaded flush-it-all-out-in-one-post post. Too many books out, too much stuff associated with the books, so let’s tackle it all here and let you sort through the bits and pieces.

First off, Last Drink Bird Head, the ProLiteracy charity antho we edited Wyrm Publishing last year is out in a Kindle edition. That’s right–all the coolness of the John Coulthart layout, Scott Eagle cover art, and Jacob McMurray cover design, along with awesome flash-fiction from Peter Straub, Tanith Lee, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Hal Duncan, Stephen R. Donaldson, Ellen Kushner, and 60-plus others, now available electronically. Woo-hoo! And all proceeds go to charity. How can you go wrong?

Next, in the welter of projects ongoing and projects just published, I forgot to mention that Booklife is out in a UK edition. I have no intel on how it’s doing or whether it’s readily available, but you can order it for sure.

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Brian Conn’s The Fixed Stars

I just participated in a MindMeld where I didn’t take the assignment about new movements that seriously, except in the entry entitled “Next Wave”. However, another bit, while played for humor, also had a serious component:

Connpunk: Stealthvirus Brian Conn will rewire all of our brains by 2015 and connect them to the Mother Spider that we may power the engines of his narrative monsters. No book not written by Conn will exist by 2020. All hail Conn. (Damn you, Conn.)

Although a joke, I was also referring to Conn’s excellent debut novel, The Fixed Stars, which came out earlier this year to much less fanfare than it deserved. Here’s the description:

Juxtaposing barbarity and whimsy, Brian Conn’s “The Fixed Stars” is a novel that has the tenor of a contemporary fable with nearly the same dreamlike logic. At the novel’s heart are the John’s Day celebration and the interactions of a small community dealing with a mystery disease. Routinely citizens are quarantined and then reintegrated into society in rituals marked by a haunting brutality. The infected and the healthy alike are quarantined. In a culture that has retreated from urbanism into a more pastoral society, the woman who nurtures spiders and the man who spins hemp exist alongside the mass acceptance of sexual promiscuity. Conn delivers a compelling portrait of a calamitous era, one tormented by pestilence, disease, violence, and post – late capitalism. An unflinching look at a world impossible to situate in time, “The Fixed Stars” is mythic and darkly magical.

It’s one of the most original novels I’ve read of late, and it deserves more attention.

“Ann VanderMeer Presents” Art Galleries at io9

(The mighty Ivica Stevanovic; we’re collaborating, slowly, on a graphic novel of Finch.)

Time’s just gotten away from me, but I wanted to point readers and lovers of cool, grotesque, weird art to Ann’s regular art gallery showings of great artists over at io9.

You can view all of them, including the most recent, right here.