This started in a conversation with Chilton Williamson, late of National Review and Chronicles and now independent and writing a monster novel in Laramie. It spread to Bronwen Fullington, who attended a world science fiction convention when we were young and briefly married. The it transferred to Chas Clifton, expert in snake bites and cougar attacks in Colorado. At that point I saw I was going into lecture mode so I thought I’d blog it. In the real world, Tom McIntyre has just replied with a stirring defense of his reading fantasy . I’ll see if I can get him to comment here.
(Me) A lot of people— see Tommy Mac- read one great genre tale or writer but are discouraged from reading more, epsecially in SF or Fantasy, because of the seemingly inherent ”Geekiness” of the field. I believe there are enough inherent virtues in the genre that it is worth keeping an eye on It has never kept me away from “Real” fiction
As such things as “dystopian” writing ,it sometimes sneaks in anyway. I am talking about YOU, Rebecca. it may keep such readers safe from drug fueled nights at the computer- hey, carbidopa- levodopa in the form of Big Striped Ritary is a drug, a strong one- but it doesn’t do anything else but keep our snobberies snug. Who would miss Declare (reviewed in NR),Waking the Moon, Folk of the Air, The Sparrow , Children of God ,and yes, The Wanderer, maybe on a slightly less elevated level. How about Ray Lafferty’s Past Master,or Cordwainer Smiths Instrumentality tales? These might more be considered religious satire or fantasy-. Ray, who also somehow got a Native American award for some other piece of Oklahoma stuff— !het is as Irish as Paddy’s pig.,, and one of he most wickedly sly storytellers around, with a dark Irish humor- any Miles Nacgopaleen readers here, or pogues fans> And “Smith” ” s generally thought of as a lightly surreal ‘future historian” but the firs t in his celebrated Instrumentality series, “The Dead Lady of Clown Town ” , is about the martyrdom of a dog… How about about Poul’s A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows ( From Tom O’Bedlam), superior tragic (unbearably so) ‘SPACE OPERA” rather than mainstream SF,, a decidedly inferiorn sub genre. And nobody wrote it to be Conrad until Poul consciously did’.
And the very good, rather noir realist writer Peter Heller, author of Celine (easily my favorite thriller of the last few years, starring an aging American aristo private detective, married to a 30 something Maine lobsterman, the only portrait of a social register woman I have believed since Edith Wharton, and I lived for years with Bece, who also assured me there were none in current lit who reminded her of HER people. Anyway, she (Celine) also shoots a Savage 99 rifle ,which pleases me no end, because Bets also shot one, in “250 — 3000″ at that! Heller’s first novel, Dog Star, was dystopian SF.
To anticipate Tom’s question: Dune was a remarkable phenom because it did EVERYTHING wrong. It was first published in not only a science fiction mag but the hard core GEEKIEST of all SF markets, John Campbell’s Analog, as a SERIAL — you can’t get geekier, or less modern, than that. Only things it had going for it (minor) it had an excellent illustrator, Jon Schoenherr, whose moody black and white illos (mostly black) graced a lot of natural history work too, back in the day; and second, it was an excellent property; a great tale by a graceful and seasoned but practically unknown to the world author, some “orientalist” horseshit to make it seem real to a reader with a taste for the exotic; some super – Bedouins who wouldn’t be ungrateful like the house of Saud; and above all, a real ecological theme, which came at the perfect time. Stewart Brand was in the saddle, and he pushed Frank Herbert over the edge to popularity….
UPDATE: Tom replies; in part:
Au contraire. Despite the presumption, I have read my fair share of SF and fantasy–Dick, Asimov, Clarke, Wells, Burroughs, half a dozen or more Tim Powers books, etc., and so on, and so forth. Certainly have never shied away from geekiness. Currently, I am reading Ted Chiang and Stanislaw Lem….
Finally, I have not only read fantasy, I have–below–written fucking fantasy, for my sins and as some may recall!
[Tom’s Snow Leopard is a unique, wonderful modern fantasy=-SB]