c is for cat

Rules for Anchorites

Letters from Proxima Thule


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That essay mostly struck me as very sad. It seems very much like many similar essays I've seen by older SF&F authors, where what they mostly seem to be dismayed about is how little most modern SF&F looks like the books they admired when they were in their teens or 20s (which can produce many different essays of dismay, depending upon exactly what sort of books the author admired in their youth).

This seems to me to be related to the way in which some (and perhaps most) elderly authors start writing books that most closely resemble the style of writing they wrote when they were much younger, as if all the intervening years of both experience and external change vanished.

Priest was rightly critical of Greg Bear's dull and turgid lost-ship novel, but he was considerably less critical of that (IMHO barely readable) novel, than of Stross's wonderful Rule 34, and Mieville's excellent Embassytown, and I think that's because Bear's novel was of a sort far more familiar to him. It closely resembles many equally mediocre (and a few actually good) novels of 40 or 50 years ago.

Priest also inexplicably praises Rogers' novel, which while I haven't read, every review I've seen makes it looks like many similar novels (like Herbert's utterly vile The White Plague), where the post-apocalyptic genre brings out large amounts of the author's buried misogyny (or not so buried in the case of Frank Herbert). Sadly, that sort of book would also be of a type that Priest would be exceedingly familiar with, and in the 1960s and early 70s, post-apocalyptic novels of that sort were quite in with the more literary SF crowd.

Embassytown was one of the best written explorations of colonialism that I've ever read and was in every way an excellent modern novel, just as Rule 34 was equally modern and while merely very good rather than excellent (IMHO at least), was even less similar to anything Priest would have read in his youth, and thus his mild dismay at one and utter dismissal of the other.


I love this comment. It so happens that I've had to re-read a lot of 1950s novels (SF and otherwise) for my job at a community college, and it was surprising to me how poorly written a lot of the "classics" are. I'm talking about really n00b errors, like "conversations" between six people where only two of them talk while the other four are not only silent but unmentioned until everybody walks offstage; the sort of totally arbitrary deus ex machina that would get you laughed out of a continuing ed writer's workshop; solemn-yet-defensive explanations of phenomena that make no narrative or psychological sense; and so on. I mean, you don't even need to get into "identity politics" or whatever to see that these books wouldn't make it past a literary agent today (and if you do want to get into "identity politics", hoo boy.)

I don't blame writers of A Certain Age for feeling nostalgia for the books they grew up with -- I have plenty of my own as well, and will probably acquire more as I get older -- but this uptight "get off my lawn"ism really REALLY does not impress me. And as you said, it's easy to detect that GOMLism from a mile off, even if it's disguised as a critique of a young writer's prose style.


"Priest also inexplicably praises Rogers' novel, which while I haven't read, every review I've seen makes it looks like many similar novels (like Herbert's utterly vile The White Plague), where the post-apocalyptic genre brings out large amounts of the author's buried misogyny (or not so buried in the case of Frank Herbert)."

Priest's praise of Rogers is one of the few parts of his graceless rant that actually makes sense. I suggest you keep researching Jane Rogers' Booker/Kitschies/Clarke/etc nominated book, as clearly not "every" review is negative. And accusing it of misogyny - without even reading it - is just a bit weird.

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