My two day workshop, Touring Speculative Fiction,* begins tomorrow and it's the reason for the schedule disruption. It only gets run every six months, so I have to spend time finding the photocopies of fiction, the notes on each, and debate what I want to add and subtract out of the texts. There's not much in the way of difference this time--I usually try and slip a new work in, but I haven't come across any in the last six months that I liked enough. Though I tell you, I always have a crisis of thought when I think about adding George Turner's Genetic Soldier. It's a fine book, probably my favourite of Turner's due to its incorporation of Australian history into the development of the thematics. (If you've never read it, it's about a starship returning to Earth millions of years later. The crew drop down in Australia, finding it a paradise of sorts, but populated by an indigenous culture. There are no white folk or cities round at all, in other words. It's probably not clear from what I wrote then, but the arrival of the starship mirrors the arrival of the First Fleet.) At any rate, I taught the book once and I know it doesn't play well with the class. It's too much like being in school and having history shoved down your throat. I swapped the book with Michael Moorcock's Behold the Man and as anyone will tell you, Jesus is always a bit more fun.
Still, without getting too caught up in the texts and boring people, I'll tell you what the favourite text is: Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. It's a bit of a rough translation, but I swear to you, after reading this, half the class owns a copy the next day, and the majority of what's left will have one by the end of the week.
The novel is pure cool.**
If I had to pick an entry level text of speculative fiction for new readers, I'd give them Battle Royale. It's a brilliant and nasty thing about teenagers killing each other for the Government's amusement, and it burns along with emotion and energy. The book's a swift beating to all those dull and slow, morally driven dry gut raw throat retching experiences like Lord of the Rings. It's nothing but a crime to give a new reader Tolkien, especially in this day and age. Might as well just pluck their eyes out now and put them in little glass jars where they can stare at pictures of Kings and Queens and let them dream of a Government that loves them. It's irresponsible.
I'll just stop there, okay. No need to continue with that... but it is, y'know, irresponsible. Tolkien: bad for children. Bad for adults. Just bad for everyone.
At any rate, I hope tomorrow will be as good as the previous couple of times I've run the workshops. I've always got a bit worry before I get there, worried that the texts will fail, that they'll hate it... all that usual stuff. Still, least I'm not a math course. Figure that's a plus.
Of course, as this entry is showing, my whole writing for the week is screwed. That said, as an update for those who care, I've finally embraced footnotes for the novel. Anyone who has read 'the Dreaming City' will remember the use of footnotes there (and I also use footnotes in the Allandros and Balor stories). At any rate, I've always thought the footnotes worked quite well. They're a neat little stylistic trick that can bring in extra narrative meaning/development. Still, you got to be careful with footnotes, since people react differently. Some folk love them, some folk hate them, some folk just don't read them. You just can't use them in everything, and despite my love, they don't fit in everything. Anyhow, my original plan for a Walking Tour of the Dreaming City was to cut the footnotes out of 'the Dreaming City', since it didn't seem much of a point to keep them in one chapter, when none of the following chapters would have them. At the end of last week, I changed my mind--there were just too much potential to leave them on the cutting floor, too much madness, too much fun, too much joy.
Yeah, I do love my footnotes.***
* Yeah, I really did come up with that boring title.
** As opposed to rock 'n' roll, which everyone knows is dead.
*** This is joke footnote. It contains nothing of value except that I made you look.