June 14th, 2006


Book List

Now here's something of interest: The Modern Library's 100 Best Novels.

Lists are, by and large, a curiosity only, but as curiosities go, this one that has a reader's choices next to the board of respected people choices is interesting. Who would've thought so many Scientologists would ban together a vote L Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth in at number three, much less Mission Earth at nine, and Fear at ten. Did they poll a Scientology convention? Tom Cruise's house? And who would have thought that Ayn Rand would've gotten so many books into the top ten--seriously, there's a cult for her, isn't there? A kind of new age spiritualist cult or something, right?

The board selections are fairly ho hum, really. Fitzgerald's the Great Gatsby? Am I the only person who doesn't get this book? I'm fairly sure it's an American thing, really, because I read that book, and thought, "A book trying to make something out of shallow rich people--kind of like Entertainment Tonight." People assure me there's more to it, but I'm just turned off, I guess. At least Nabokov is in the list--sure, Pale Fire is at fifty three, but you can't have everything. Lolita is at four, so I suppose that counts for something, too.

It's mainly the readers selections that are interesting, however. Who would have thought Heinlein could move with Stranger in a Strange Land to number sixteen, ahead of authors that could make prose work like Aldous Huxley, JD Salinger, and yes, Nabokov. Always Nabokov. Sure, Heinlein is not as shocking on a purely literate level like Hubbard, but Hubbard's got that Jesus vote, so it's easy to understand him, you know? But Heinlein? And he's there with about three books, as well, while someone like Stephen King is in there with, well, one. Neither of them hold up to Charles de Lint's dominance, however.

Strange world. Least Orwell is still holding his own.
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Women For Sci-Fi

Of course, what the feminist movement in science fiction requires is a bunch of guys speaking for them, but I present you these links, anyway:

Charles Coleman Finlay (ccfinlay) talks about how Fantasy and Science Fiction doesn't publish many women, and noting that many women he respects tell him that they feel unwelcome. After talking with editorial assistant John Jospeh Adams, who agrees that not many women are published in the pages of Gordan Van Gelder's magazine, he figures that what is necessary is for 100 submissions by women to Fantasy and Science Fiction, in the hope that this will over turn the idea that the magazine is primarily a male playground.

Well, to that, I say: Way to go guys. Way to organise them women.

It's not that I don't see the point, really, I do, but you got to admit that there's some irony in watching a white male who has been published in Fantasy and Science Fiction fairly regularly motivate the poor, downtrodden, and unwanted feeling women to submit. There's nothing like breaking down those social power structures, I find. Incidently, have I pointed out that I'm a white male who is pointing out the power structure of men and women, here? Perhaps I could have a nice chair put above everyone and I could look down upon everyone and say, "positions of power are a difficult thing to navigate. If you find an already dominate power figure to champion the cause of the minority, and to be their voice, what then are you truly accomplishing?"

Well, it's the blogsphere, and Finlay has his heart in the right place, so there's not much damage, I suppose.

For my money, however, I'd have to side with Nick Mamatas (nihilistic_kid), who calls Fantasy and Science Fiction and the other big three fetish magazines: "F&SF is essentially a men's magazine. Given its price, its atavistic trim size, its choice of cover art, etc., it is no surprise that the majority of contributors are male. It, and the other "big three" magazines are essentially non-sexual fetish rags, designed for a very specific and ever-shrinking audience of die-hards. It's ironic that many women writers are banging their fists against these doors, or giving up, as magazines for women actually predominate on the newsstands."

As Mamatas says, I'd be more interested in finding different markets if I was a female sci-fi author (go where the getting is good, as he says).
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