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May 5, 2007

We Can Regurgitate It For You Wholesale
Posted by Patrick at 11:48 AM * 102 comments

At last, Philip K. Dick ascends to literary Parnassus: a handsome omnibus volume in the Library of America. In the New York Times, Charles McGrath commemorates the occasion by collecting the entire canon of cliches about Philip K. Dick and carefully stacking them in the middle of the floor. PKD was a “prince of pulp” who is now “legit at last,” he took lots of amphetamines, he was paranoid, his prose was uneven, he was different from other sci-fi writers because he wasn’t interested in futurism, in the end he was a “visionary,” and so forth. Terry Carr’s famous joke about how Don Wollheim would retitle the Bible is misquoted. We’re informed in an aside that the reason to read writers like Asimov and Heinlein is “for the science.” And of course no such extrusion would be complete without a classic Conquestism: Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, considered by many to be his best work, is—

barely a sci-fi book at all but, rather, what we would now call a “counterfactual”; its premise is that the Allies lost World War II and the United States is ruled by the Japanese in the west and the Nazis in the east.
Dick is definitely a major SF writer, very much worth reading, and some of the standard cliches about him are surely true. But McGrath’s essay is an impressive example of the kind of normative blather dubbed “bookchat” by Gore Vidal, writing whose main purpose is to explain to anxious readers whether it’s socially acceptable to like this stuff or not.
Comments on We Can Regurgitate It For You Wholesale:
#1 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:15 PM:

Sigh. Do I need to repeat the cliche that "mainstream is just another genre category -- and a nastily snobbish one at that" again?

(For supporting evidence, see also the running column in Ansible. Although it does get a little wearing after a bit ...)

#2 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:24 PM:

Maybe it's small-minded of me to react: "We can't let the Snobs steal Our Writer and corrupt him!"

Besides, Dick's dead, so "they" can't really corrupt him... he'll never hobnob with New York critics and celebrities at cocktail parties and hear them say things like "I had a Dickian experience on the golf court today!"

No, just ignore the literati. Read the books and enjoy them for what they are.

#3 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 12:42 PM:

A.R. 2: If he weren't dead, he'd see them at family reunions.

After all, they're a bunch of Dicks.

#4 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 02:02 PM:

Once more we have the shopworn 'if it's good writing it can't be SF/F'. Why on earth do they bother?

#5 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 02:27 PM:

Fragano, they bother because they are the "defenders" of "good literary taste." That's an actual quote from a book reviewer with whom I once shared a table at a library function.

#6 ::: Anticorium ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 02:41 PM:

Fragano: because if they don't, literary readers will get caught up in it, and then come back to say "You told me this book a) wasn't science fiction, and b) contained no Nazis."

#7 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 03:07 PM:

Well, it's the same way they managed to piss all over Vonnegut at his goddamn funeral for writing SF, and ignore his loudly saying he didn't appreciate how SF got pissed on.

It's OK in the long run; the geek revolution is slowly slowly taking over the means of production, most of them having grown up on SF & F, and eventually the insecure "bookchat" critics will find that they are standing up against the wall of irrelevance.

Or so I daydream.

#8 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 03:11 PM:

AUUUUGGGGH! Another bad batch.

You, there. Brainwipe the lot of them, and remap their cortices properly this time, please.

#9 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 03:12 PM:


I remember another word for that: "Fictional."

#10 ::: Dave MB ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 03:33 PM:

Wasn't this same Charles McGrath the guy who said that we know so much more about Shakespeare's life than we do about Austen's? Jeez, what a maroon.

#11 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 04:17 PM:

A.R.Yngve writes: "Maybe it's small-minded of me to react: 'We can't let the Snobs steal Our Writer and corrupt him!'"

Blzeerp. Every time I see someone use an expression of the form "We can't let those $PEOPLE $TRANSITIVE_VERB $OTHER_PERSON!" I am reminded of the scene in Animal House where one of the stuffy frat brothers has a similar.

I am compelled to finish your statement as follows: "Only We can corrupt Our Writer like that!"

#12 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 05:25 PM:

Well, in order to corrupt a writer you need cash (to pay for the wine, women, song, etc.). SF publishing paid Dick a pittance for his work, so the opportunities to corrupt were few.

I recall reading in
The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, how Thomas M. Disch speculates that Dick might have become corrupted if he had lived long enough to harvest the fruits of success... was that unfair?

#13 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 05:32 PM:

Emma #5: Ye gods and small fishes. They think that people who read SF/F read nothing else and certainly wouldn't appreciate 'true literature'. Some of those idiots need to spend some time here.

#14 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 05:35 PM:

Anticorium #6: Because, of course, real literary fiction can be set only in the present and explore only the lives of people in the present. Alternatives, pasts, futures, the impact of history, science and technology -- that's all pulp stuff. Not to mention anything that includes elves, goblins, dragons, and twee little creatures from somewhere in the Midlands...

#15 ::: Stephen Granade ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 05:37 PM:

While we're complaining about received wisdom presented as true insight, let me bitch about SF-as-prognostication. "Mr. Dick was relatively uninterested in the futuristic, predictive side of science fiction and embraced the genre simply because it gave him liberty to turn his imagination loose," Charles McGrath writes, missing the fact that SF is less about playing Isaiah and more about re-casting today's concerns. And it's a shame most SF writers aren't writing SF because they like to turn their imagination loose.

#16 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 05:53 PM:

Clifton @ 7... I thought that Vonnegut himself had said that his stuff wasn't SF, not even Slaughterhouse Five. I had gotten that third-hand though so maybe I am putting my foot in my mouth.

#17 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 06:00 PM:

Did anybody else ever read the unproduced script Dick had written for The Invaders? Its title was "We Are Your Police".

#18 ::: Greta Christina ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 06:41 PM:

Oh, for the love of...

I love it when people who don't read SF try to write about it. "It's science fiction -- but it doesn't have rocketships! Wacky!"

(Translation: "I have an ignorant misconception about the genre, based not on my reading in the genre -- which I haven't bothered to do -- but on broad stereotypes of the genre in popular culture. But in this one particular instance, my misconceptions were incorrect! Who'da thunk it?")

You know what this reminds me of? The recent avalanche of writing in the mainstream press about comics and graphic novels. It's become a kind of game for me: who's writing their "Hey, everybody, comics are a serious literary form!" article this week? Is it the New York Times? Harper's? Atlantic Monthly? Place your bets, folks!

#19 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 07:15 PM:

And then there was what happens when Dave Itzkoff tries to write about *any*thing. Yesterday in the NYT he was writing about cons, and how it's us old farts who are the only one who pay attention to that book stuff. (Unless I missed something.)

#20 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 07:33 PM:

Serge, Vonnegut famously denied being an SF author because critics mistook the SF shelf for a urinal. He was very polite about SF authors and fans, he just disliked having his work dismissed as exploding rocketship nonsense by serious critics.

Which I think showed an unusual deference for established critics from a critic of the establishment like Vonnegut, and a sad lack of solidarity with other authors writing serious works about exploding rocketships.

#21 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 07:58 PM:

Charlie, it's not the genre itself that's snobbish, it's the lit'ry critics, who've got a really great gig being the arbiters of all taste that matters, and don't want to give it up to some johnny-come-latelys in spacesuits.

Does anyone remember the name of the Damon Knight story where all the critics are killed off and Utopia ensues?

And on the topic of PKD himself, now that the mainstream loves him so much, maybe it's time for a movie of "The Man Who Japed". The prop department could go nuts finding huge pots and pans for the expose jurer gur jbeyq vf gbyq gung gur erirerq Sbhaqvat Snguref jrer pnaavonyf.

#22 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 08:10 PM:

While driving home last night, I was listening to public radio show called The Book Guys*, in which people call in and ask about their old books, and The Book Guys estimate an auction price. Someone had a first edition of the novel-length Flowers for Algernon, and everyone agreed that it wasn't really science fiction: "It's almost like literature." Oddly enough, a first edition Flowers for Algernon can bring up to $2000 (really?), because "some people like to collect this sort of thing."

*The first time I heard The Book Guys, they were talking about a first edition of poetry by someone named "Arthur Rimm-Bawd." Apparently, this "Rimm-Bawd" fellow was some kind of symbolist prose-poet. He's quite popular with the sort of people who like that sort of thing.

#23 ::: Emma Anne ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 08:13 PM:

I suspect there have been threads here talking about people's favorite scifi authors, but I am not finding them via the search function. Could someone please point me to them, as I need some new authors? Thanks much.

#24 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 08:14 PM:

Mr. Dick was relatively uninterested in the futuristic, predictive side of science fiction

despite having predicted: micro-robot insects as espionage devices, totally immersive virtual reality, electronic mood organs, global internet trivia networks, post-Asimovian robots and androids that can only be identified through Turing-like tests, wisecracking flying taxicabs with GPO devices, talking suitcase psychiatrists, robot SPAM that needs to be disabled with a shotgun, and the destruction of democracy in the United States by an egomaniac Republican criminal.

#25 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 08:25 PM:

Question: Do mainstream critics resent SF for being able to second-guess the future (to a degree), while mainstream lit can't or won't?

#26 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 08:51 PM:

#20: Pffft! Exploding spaceships. Like that will ever happen in the real world.

#27 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 08:53 PM:

Howard Peirce @22: While driving home last night, I was listening to public radio show called The Book Guys [..]

Is this like Car Talk?

#28 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 09:20 PM:

Talking of post-Asimovian robots, did they ever recover that Phil Dick simulucrum that went missing?

#29 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 09:32 PM:

Joann @19,

Agreed about Itzkoff at the convention, aka Welcome Interstate Satyrs*.

He annoys me. At least with the old G. Jonas reviews, it felt like the NYTimes itself was the problem: he was doing the best he could. With Itzkoff, he's voluntarily remaining ignorant. If only... if only...

Hey, All You Writers and Editors Here:

Many of you are going to be in NYC next week for the Nebulas, right? And Itzkoff is in NYC, right? How about some of you sit down with him and use your sufficiently advanced technology to do something. Dazzle him. Make him realize that his knowledge of SF hasn't progressed much beyond his high school reading experiences. Make him promise to not write more until he's read at least 5 of the most recent Dozois or Harwell/Cramer anthologies.

* I'm not sure if his coverage is better or worse than the Daily Show's. When the latter discovered cons, they went straight to the furry porn.

#30 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 09:42 PM:

Kathryn: Brilliant idea, but I'd change that to read "five anthologies covering a 25-year period." If you hand him Stross or Doctorow without some preparation first, his head will explode.

#31 ::: Torie ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 09:58 PM:

#29 - Oh lord. I hadn't seen *that* article. I'm tempted to write him a letter and invite him to WisCon in a few weeks. Actually, that's a bad idea. I'm sure he'd just write another inane opinion piece about what happens when crazy women sympathizers get together and worry their silly pretty little heads about "literature" or politics.

Oh, but did you notice? He referred to science fiction as a "literary category." What the hell does that mean?

#32 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:11 PM:

Rob (27): It's like Car Talk, but less literate.

#33 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:15 PM:

I thought Itzkoff's article on SF conventions was pretty fair, actually.

I really don't share the animus toward him that a lot of SF people seem to have developed. He seems to me like a sympathetic and respectful reader who doesn't happen to have been utterly immersed in SF since age 10. Since I happen to feel that the audience for SF books is coming to contain more and more people like him and proportionally fewer and fewer of the old-fashioned hardcore types like me, I'm interested in what he has to say.

Itzkoff also seems to me to be making an honest effort to do good work. Unlike McGrath's PKD piece, everything I've read by Itzkoff contained at least one or two observations that were new to me.

And I cut him a lot of slack for his front-page NYTBR review of the Tiptree bio. Never has the Times extended more respect to our field.

#34 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:18 PM:

#31: Did Itzkoff actually say something slighting about women in SF? Using phrases like "silly pretty heads"? I doubt that rather a lot.

And I really don't understand why I'm supposed to be offended by the phrase "literary category."

#35 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:42 PM:

TexAnne @30,

He did review Marusek's Counting Heads, which falls into not-for-starting-SF SF. Insulted what he couldn't understand, but he'd read it.

Torie @31,

I'm reminded of arriving at a con where the hotel had on their highway-facing sign "Welcome Sci-Fi Expo." They knew just enough to be wrong. Itzkoff too.

He also reminds me of C.S. Lewis's comment in his essay on reviewing science fiction, about how people who despise the genre they're reading shouldn't review it.

Itzkoff doesn't know that his attempts to recapture his high school joy* of science fiction are a form of despising SF. Haven't read a single review of his that doesn't spike my blood pressure. Itzkoff, Grrrrrrr***.

* that innocent arrogant state which makes it possible for teenagers to be impressed** by Ayn Rand or Battlefield Earth. It's something to be outgrown. Applications of Sensawonda help.

** dictionary or Anne McCaffrey definition.

*** Yay that Googlegroups search is down, so I can't find my old rants about the Margaret Atwood attitude towards SF, because I'm reminded of that too. Between the threads here, the latest Ansible, and a few other recent articles (like Timberg's LATimes review of apocalyptic fiction that never mentions SF), my literary trollometer is going offscale, and it's logarithmic.

#36 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 11:14 PM:

Patrick @33,

(Note, for the sake of rant and time I'm not going to actually go back to read his reviews. I'll just go on what I remember as annoying.)

Itzkoff's review of Marusek.

First, yes, I was pleased as chocolate that Marusek got into the NYTimes. That was unexpected. Generous. Would be as if Watts' Blindsight got reviewed: the books that exemplify the best SF aren't often by known-to-the-NYtimes authors.

In retrospect, Marusek there is good. I'll give DI that.

But, as I recall, he was rude in how he talked about the complex and technical parts of Counting Heads. Sure, that type of writing will appear overly geekish to the non-SF reader. I think Itzkoff could have done better in writing about that aspect of SF.

I got a "I didn't like it, so it's bad writing" vibe. I'd have liked to see a "I didn't get it, because it could be bad writing OR it could be too complex for me" vibe instead*.

It's analogous to how I'd review fine wine, given that I don't drink much wine at all and rarely go to tastings**.

I personally don't eat grass, mud, or oak, so I don't expect these to be flavors in a drink. Yet wine reviews are filled with these odd-to-me flavors. But I'm not going to go around insulting sommeliers as unartful wine-geeks just because I don't get the flavors.

* I admit to not recalling if the complexity of other books gets written about in this more respectful way. I'll bet a small coffee that examples from science nonfiction can be found.

** Which if I wanted to I could do every week given Silicon Valley's proximity to Napa, etc. But I don't. A major reason is because I can't drink most reds: they give me a bad headache, not related to sulfurs.

#37 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 11:32 PM:

global internet trivia networks

That bit in Galactic Pot-Healer about the translation game is astounding. Bored office workers supplied with network access to machine-translation servers amuse each other by translating phrases and book titles from English to some other language to English, then challenge each other to identify the original.

Dick was probably inspired by some anecdotes about early attempts at machine translation, but everything about his futurism here is pretty much spot-on: that there would be something like an Internet with publicly available machine translation servers; that these servers would not be that great at catching idioms; but especially, that bored office drones would have access to the net and goof off on the job by using the net for email chatter and time-killing games. Maybe it's not that amazing an act of prescience given a basic understanding of human nature, but that's what the best futurism is like.

#38 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 11:34 PM:

...Of course, the rest of the novel has nothing to do with that at all and is impressively bizarre. One of my favorites, though.

#39 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 11:45 PM:

K from S: "my literary trollometer is going offscale, and it's logarithmic"

Well, I certainly hear you there. Been there. Done that. Nothing but sympathy.

#40 ::: Torie ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 11:50 PM:

#34 - No, he did not say anything slighting about women in SF. His review of cons, however, reduces fandom to a bunch of Yu-Gi-Oh trading card enthusiasts and people who dress up in latex. I've been to plenty of cons and while things like cosplay and anime catgirls abound, I have *always* found those people to be outnumbered by intelligent, insightful people (and hey, tons of cosplayers and anime catgirls are intelligent, insightful people, too). And if he's willing to reduce a cons to a gathering of a bunch of weirdos, I'm wouldn't be surprised if he reduced something like Wiscon to a gathering of a bunch of, well, feminist weirdos. Yes, SF cons are branching out to things like anime and comics that attract younger and younger audiences--but some of the best intellectual discussions I've had with fans have happened over a gaming table.

That being said, I'm not familiar with his reviews and have no opinion about his general treatment of such things.

Quick anecdote: Margaret Atwood visited Columbia about four years ago, and I went to her Q&A. A professor of our English department was interviewing her to promote her latest book. He asked her what she thought of the direction that science fiction was taking, and where she fit into it--and she cut him of with an abrupt "I do NOT write science fiction." The interviewer was dumbfounded.

#41 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 12:08 AM:

Serge, here is the Vonnegut quote I was referencing, as cited on Wikiquote:

I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled “Science Fiction” ... and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal.

It's pretty clear to me that he is registering precisely the same complaint against the critics which Patrick, Dave Langford, and others regularly do. It is only those smug fatuous critics who are too self-important to see which way his sarcasm is pointing. It is particularly evident as coming from a writer who had the main character of one of his novels address a convention of SF writers thus:

I love you sons of bitches. You’re all I read any more. You're the only ones who’ll talk all about the really terrific changes going on, the only ones crazy enough to know that life is a space voyage, and not a short one, either, but one that’ll last for billions of years. You’re the only ones with guts enough to really care about the future, who really notice what machines do to us, what wars do to us, what cities do to us, what big, simple ideas do to us, what tremendous misunderstanding, mistakes, accidents, catastrophes do to us. You're the only ones zany enough to agonize over time and distance without limit, over mysteries that will never die, over the fact that we are right now determining whether the space voyage for the next billion years or so is going to be Heaven or Hell.
#42 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 01:22 AM:

More on Kurt Vonnegut on Science Fiction.

It's not all as nice as this:

"But listen--about the editors and anthologists and publishers who keep the science-fiction field separate and alive: they are uniformly brilliant and sensitive and well-informed. They are among the precious few Americans in whose minds C.P. Snow's two cultures sweetly intertwine. They publish so much bad stuff because good stuff is hard to find, and because they feel it is their duty to encourage any writer, no matter how frightful, who has guts enough to include technology in the human equation. Good for them. They want buxom images of the new reality.

And they get them from time to time, too. Along with the worst writing in America, outside of the education journals, they publish some of the best. They are able to get a few really excellent stories, despite low budgets and an immature readership, because to a few good writers the artificial category, the file-drawer labeled ''science-fiction,'' will always be home. These writers are rapidly becoming old men, and deserve to be called grand. They are not without honors. The lodge gives them honors all the time. And love. "

#43 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 01:56 AM:

I recall that, when Itzkoff first saddled up as an SF reviewer, he also published a list of his ten(?) favorite SF books. (Googles briefly.) Ah, here it is.

On a mailing list I was reading, Itzkoff's list came in for a lot of sniping from seasoned SF enthusiasts. I thought this was wrong.

I think the list was a useful signpost to the guy's tastes, and worth having to gauge his reviews in the light of differences between his tastes and mine. Good idea.

#44 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 02:24 AM:

"Talking of post-Asimovian robots, did they ever recover that Phil Dick simulucrum that went missing?"

I'd heard they did, but it had been corrupted.

#45 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 03:11 AM:

Clifton, #7: I have to disagree. What will eventually happen -- I see it happening now, so frequently that I can't decide if it's more amusing or infuriating -- is that the concepts of science fiction will be taken into the mainstream, but the term itself will remain firmly in the ghetto. This, I submit, is why mainstream people are so determined to divorce science-fiction writers they happen to like from the genre... so that they don't have to admit to being One Of Those Freaks.

Torie, #40: I have to say here that no matter what Atwood thought she meant, in point of fact she was distressingly close to being accurate.

#46 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 03:36 AM:

That bit in Galactic Pot-Healer about the translation game is astounding. Bored office workers supplied with network access to machine-translation servers amuse each other by translating phrases and book titles from English to some other language to English, then challenge each other to identify the original.

Dick leaves one for the reader: Bogish Persistentisms, by Shaft Tackapple. I didn't get it when I read the book, but I figured it out tonight...

#47 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 04:08 AM:

Bill Higgans @43,

You know what that list is?

That's the SF which was in his high school's library. Maybe Jr. High for the Bradbury (not the Burgess or Pynchon). Because school libraries don't have the up to date stuff, but they can have good stuff.

Classic, classic, classic, classic, Letham, Mieville, classic, classic, Twilight Zone list, Watchmen.

On the positive side, he truly does represent a new* generation of new SF reader. Oh, and I see he has read one modern collection. He reviewed Nebula Awards Showcase 2006, edited by the Elder Emeritus Dozois, the theme of which was, evidently, nostalgia*** and letting out our inner children.

That's what he found in it- that's what he was looking for. For some reason he didn't mention Green Leopard Plague at all. I'd have seen GLP as one of the top stories, but I'm not the 30 year old reviewer-guy at the NYTimes.

Anyways... [wanders off. Shakes stick at kids on lawn.]

* Now, about when he went to high school. I don't want to complain about that, but I do want do complain about that. I think he was in a high school graduating class of 1994 or 1993. Based on that he was "twentysomething" in 2005**, when his book "Lads, a Memoir" was published.

** Not that people don't do great work in their 20's. Nobel Prizes in Physics and all that.

*** looks like that collection was, in fact, about nostalgia and changes to SF. Darn. Takes the edge off my point.

#48 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 04:21 AM:

#1: As Charlie says, the morbid fascination of the As Others See Us department in Ansible does sometimes pall. But the readers ("I love you sons of bitches.") keep sending them in, and what's an editor to do?

#41: Let us not forget the paragraph that follows Mr Rosewater's famous love-letter to sf:

Eliot admitted later on that science-fiction writers couldn't write for sour apples, but he declared that it didn't matter. He said they were poets just the same, since they were more sensitive to important changes than anybody who was writing well ...
#49 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 04:23 AM:

#44 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 02:24 AM:

"Talking of post-Asimovian robots, did they ever recover that Phil Dick simulucrum that went missing?"

"I'd heard they did, but it had been corrupted."


#50 ::: Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 07:03 AM:

The Phil Dick simulacrum is missing? Then I must b

#51 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 07:47 AM:

Wow! That's quite a fireball over in the mountains.

Anyway, I like the list linked from #43. I like his little blurb on The Crying of Lot 49, especially the ending.

#52 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 08:54 AM:

Thanks, Niall, Clifton and Stefan... The problem with third hands is that their hearing isn't so good. Now, I feel guilty having had that misconception about Vonnegut for so long and not properly mourning his passing.

#53 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 11:23 AM:

That's a pretty good list from Itzkoff. I have no problem whatsoever with someone for whom those are their touchstone SF books.

Yes, of course it's "what was in his high school library", for an approximate value of "high school library." What's wrong with that? He's twenty years younger than me. He's grown up into a different world and read different books. He surely hasn't read some works that I consider essential. He values some stuff I don't care as much for. (The differences don't just map on age; he's more interested in The Twilight Zone than I ever was.) This is the way things are. It would be staggering if his values and tastes were the same as mine. Good grief.

#54 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 02:17 PM:

Tim Walters (#46) -- Ooh, I got it! I got it! I'd like to have a little puzzle book with nothing but those (to tide me over till my next cryptic crossword compendium shows up).

#55 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 05:50 PM:

That's a pretty good list from Itzkoff

[pulls over baggage from the Romney thread. pulls down book of logic, tosses it aside]

Yes, it's a reasonable list. those are great classics- all show up on top SF lists*.

I see it as a good favorites list from a pop culture reviewer. Possibly a good list for a NYTimes SF Reviewer (nytsfr).

But I've already decided that Itzkoff's favorites support my unsubstantiated hypothesis that he doesn't yet have the reading experience to understand modern SF in a way that Cory or China Mieville would**.

Would either of Cory or China be good nytsfr by the NYTimes' standards? Seeing as how the NYTimes rarely (at all?) has SF writers review SF (SF as such, or as that which we'd call SF-by-mainstream-authors and they'd call "ironic commentary on modern culture through an original use of what this reviewer will call 'Post-Today' methods") , no.

As to Itzkoff's age, I arbitrarily expect that the nytsfr will be at least as old as the average Campbell winner, and Itzkoff misses that by 6 years***.

Using my wine analogy, Itzkoff is a wine reviewer (SF reviewer) who'd be great for introducing wine to new generations. However, he believes that wine should taste heavily like oak (classic sf), and doesn't know about steel barrels (cyberpunk) or non-European regions (New Wave). He also doesn't get that fortified wines (hard SF) are different, and instead complains that they got him drunk (confused). (****)

* except the Pynchon. So another +1 for Itzkoff for bringing Pynchon in, and +1 for calling Lot 49 what it ought to be called. And a +1 for once mentioning Delillo as SF.
[tests preconceived notions on how fandom treats Pynchon] OK, another +1 for Itzkoff.

** there exhausting the list of big SF writers born in Itzkoff's decade. 1969 catches Scalzi. Of Campbell winners, Bear, Doctorow and Burstein are the only ones born in the 1970's.

(which reminds me of Scalzi's Myth of the Monoculture)

*** Average age 35.7, median age 36.5, mode 38. Youngest were Tuttle (22) and Chiang (25). 9 were in their 20's, 15 in their 30's, 7 their 40's, 2 their 50's. (Note- assumed 1962 for Kristine Smith)

**** Something about how his article on going to a wine tasting (SF convention) overemphasized expectoration (whatever you least like about cons).

#56 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 07:24 PM:

I'd like to note with implied comment that as of now there are 23 reviews of Crace's Pesthouse found by Google News. Only three explicitly mention "science fiction," in all three cases to say Pesthouse isn't SF.

Cryer in Newsday writes [emphasis mine]:
"Crace has vividly imagined an entirely new creation, fabricated from the one we inhabit now, one we've read about in his stories, and one our descendants may have to endure. Mysterious remnants of a lost world - the skeletal ruins of a train, binoculars they call "spy pipes" - by turns bewilder and delight his characters. Neither science fiction nor naturalism, "The Pesthouse" perches, like "1984" or "Animal Farm," on the elastic margins."

#57 ::: Samuel Tinianow ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 09:36 PM:

The way I see it, everybody is a closet science fiction fan. Another thing I can never help but laugh at is when I see people who look down their noses at science fiction reading it, watching it, and printing it in magazines that "don't accept science fiction."
I'm reminded of an experiment that pops up in pretty much every chemistry textbook ever written, in which a beaker of salt water and a beaker of freshwater are placed under a glass dome. Evaporation and condensation causes all the water to eventually end up in the saltwater jar. This experiment really works, but it takes, like, ten years. So shall it be with literary fiction. I honestly think things will get better, just not for a good long while yet.

From "Take Your Literary Out of My Sci-Fi, You Dirty, Dirty Author!" in Spinning Whorl #3, an article which I guess I really ought to post on my blog.

#58 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2007, 09:57 PM:

joann@19, Kathryn@29: Having just read Itzkoff's article on cons, I found it pretty good.

He even captured a couple of nuances in fandom that I would not expect an outsider to be aware of, specifically the tension between, on the one hand, gamers, mediafen, and cosplayers and, on the other hand, literary fans. As to only the old farts being interested in written sf -- that's an observation I've heard made by many fans and pros. Some phrase it as a lament, that the written genre seems to be dying out. Others phrase it as a rant: "You kids these days are subliterate troglodytes with your computer games and TV shows and get off my lawn!"

Torie@40: I'm a bit uncomfortable with this

I've been to plenty of cons and while things like cosplay and anime catgirls abound, I have *always* found those people to be outnumbered by intelligent, insightful people (and hey, tons of cosplayers and anime catgirls are intelligent, insightful people, too). And if he's willing to reduce a cons to a gathering of a bunch of weirdos...

In other words: cosplay and anime catgirls are second-class citizens in fandom, who can be granted first-class citizenship only if they demonstrate intelligence and insight?

We are a bunch of weirdos. That's one of the things that makes us great.

#59 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 12:40 AM:

Kathryn @ 35 and Torie @ 40: Margaret Atwood recently (2005) admitted that she writes science fiction. And defended science fiction in the process.


I suppose the fact that we've "won" -- that SF tropes have taken over so many places, that kids model their speech on Joss Whedon's writing, that SF&F movies are consistently the top earners, that "geek" has become a badge of honor (even if it's applied to weird topics -- what's a "skiing geek"?) -- means that those who are defensive about their canon will get even more defensive. If SF was trash when it was in the gutter, it's even more threatening now that it's all over the street.

#60 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 01:48 AM:

Rachel, I've been hearing for years that Margaret Atwood's rejection of sf was an urban legend.

Supposedly when I heard it she initially had the common mundane prejudices about sf (as we've been discussing here). But when someone made a case to her that she'd been misjudging the genre, her reaction was: "Oh."

Of course, the story I heard might be the UL. I'd like to see some evidence one way or another.

#61 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 02:11 AM:

I heard her defending science fiction on the radio a while back. I don't remember exactly when, but it was well before 2005.

I don't remember if she said whether she considered her own work to be SF, though.

#62 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 03:03 AM:

Rachael @59.

Good to see, and I'm glad to read that.

Mitch @60,

No. In 2003 she directly said Oryx and Crake wasn't science fiction. Around then she'd been using (not always consistently) an elaborate 3-category definition of SF that allowed her to claim this. Her 2002 review of LeGuin's Birthday of the World is one example.

In retrospect, it was the type of elaborateness that signifies a broken paradigm that ought to be replaced. She replaced it. That she replaced it quickly, and thoughtfully, and in the face of all sorts of snarky fandom sniping* shows she has class**.

See this interview in New Scientist, the source (I think: the full article is dollarwalled off) of:
"Oryx and Crake is not science fiction. It is fact within fiction. Science fiction is when you have rockets and chemicals. Speculative fiction is when you have all the materials to actually do it. We've taken a path that is already visible to us. In 1984 and Brave New World, you could see all the elements that were farther down that particular path. I don't like science fiction except for the science fiction of the 1930s, the bug-eyed monster genre in full bloom."

A response to that from 2003:
'When I read the interview I think of an alternate musical universe, where Atwood the composer is saying... "Jazz is New Orleans and sometimes is done nicely, but often is done in bars. My music is Improvisational Syncopated Classical. Jazz is trumpets and the blues. My music is mixing new rhythms and chords with the musical materials we have now. I don't like jazz except for ragtime."'

* that's what I was doing at the time.

** or however I can phrase the complement without sounding snarky or condescending. It isn't easy to go back on a claim you've made and say you were wrong, no matter how trivial the claim. Much easier just to find new justifications.

[Goes back to being annoyed at Itzkoff.]

#63 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 04:16 AM:
It isn't easy to go back on a claim you've made and say you were wrong, no matter how trivial the claim. Much easier just to find new justifications.
Very, very true.

By the way, it's Rachel, not Rachael. One "a" only, please.

#64 ::: Sean Sakamoto ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 10:01 AM:

writing whose main purpose is to explain to anxious readers whether it’s socially acceptable to like this stuff or not.

This line really grabbed me. I had an ah-ha moment when I was trying to break into freelance magazine writing and a friend of mine told me that those lists of "What's In" and "What's Out" aren't reports, they are instructions. He said that glossy magazines are instruction manuals for the timid.

It's probably a bit overstated, but there is some truth there. Like a "Do's and Don'ts" column, this bookchat you mentioned tells people what to think, rather than illuminating any ideas or aspects of the work it discusses. People want to be led.

#65 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 10:49 AM:

I find it a bit weird that Itzkoff is being criticized for, on the one hand, being too young and, on the other, for having old-fashioned tastes.

*wrestles knee down from jerking at the idea that people who graduated high school in 1994 aren't old enough to be good reviewers*

*plans for 15th reunion in two years*

I have no opinion about his reviews, as I don't read them. I will note that of the older stuff on his list, the only one I've read is _Canticle_.

Anyway. I was commenting for a *different* self-centered reason, my Theorem of Science Fiction Denial:

If an artist makes a point of asserting that a creative work is not science fiction, then (1) the odds that the work is science fiction increase to a near-certainty, while (2) the odds that the work's science fiction elements (e.g., world-building, science) are good decrease dramatically. Nb.: the work as a whole may still have artistic merit.
#66 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 11:40 AM:

When all is said and done, will the "canonization" of Philip K. Dick lead to more people reading his work?

(Or will it be more like those people who put The Satanic Verses in their bookshelves without ever reading it, just to show off their "cred"?)

#67 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 02:29 PM:

A.R.Yngve @ 66

Sadly, the answer to both questions is probably "yes".

Years ago, when my younger son was in high school, we went to a weekly evening seminar on science fiction books that had been the basis of movies, including "Solaris" and "Bladerunner". Most of the people attending had seen "Bladerunner", almost none had previously read "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?", and from the discussion, many were prepared to reject the book as "not being like the movie", despite the best efforts of the moderator to point out how many differences showed the original story to be more coherent and thematically focused in some ways.

So I expect more real readers, but still more shelf anchors.

#68 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 02:30 PM:

Kate @65,

"I find it a bit weird that Itzkoff is being criticized for, on the one hand, being too young and, on the other, for having old-fashioned tastes."

"the idea that people who graduated high school in 1994 aren't old enough to be good reviewers"

I think I'm the only one here doing the first (too young / non-modern tastes).

I didn't think I was doing the second. Are there great SF reviewers in their 20's? Yes. Is DI one of them? I claim no.

Yes, you can be a great at what you do in your 20's. I know people who made their first 100 million in their 20's. Got their Campbell award in their 20's. But if you're made a senior manager- power to hire, fire and promote*- in your 20's, if there isn't strong external evidence of your competence, then maybe it's nepotism. I believe the NYTimes chose using the latter.

About his age: I'm using age as a proxy for experience. I'll then claim he hadn't applied himself in learning science fiction by the time he was made The science fiction reviewer for the NYTimes.

I believe that as he started out as the nytsfr he was insightful about the SF he knows- the classics. The stuff he read in high school, and maybe reread in college. What I don't believe is that he worked at keeping up with science fiction for his first few years out of high school.

I believe that keeping up with SF right out of high school is relatively and absolutely difficult because of 1. lack of time and 2. the high reading volume you'd need to do to catch up and stay caught up.

A great 20-something SF reviewer will have done this. Itzkoff didn't.

* and the NYTimes is like a hiring manager who has the power to give you a giant raise, plus bonus.

Not long ago I'd helped with a book, and then was watching how reviews affected sales. Definitely there was a blogger bounce, one that increased with the blogger's A-listiness. But none of them had an effect like the NYTimes review. Blogger's reviews changed the Amazon rank. The NYTimes review got it onto the NYTimes Bestseller list.

#69 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 04:03 PM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale: ah. That's a different claim than what I'd understood you to be making, and since I have no opinion on Itzkoff's merits, I have no further issues with your arguments.

#70 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 08:13 PM:

Patrick--What is the correct quote from Carr?

#71 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2007, 07:08 PM:

PNH, original entry:

Terry Carr’s famous joke about how Don Wollheim would retitle the Bible is misquoted.

Robert L asks in #70:

Patrick--What is the correct quote from Carr?

Let me take it.

Wollheim published Ace Doubles-- two short novels back to back in the same book. Terry Carr said, "If Don Wollheim had published the Bible, it would be WAR GOD OF ISRAEL and THE THING WITH THREE SOULS."

(Do I have that right?)

#72 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2007, 10:12 PM:

Terry Carr said, "If Don Wollheim had published the Bible, it would be WAR GOD OF ISRAEL and THE THING WITH THREE SOULS."

I wants one. My preciousss.

Abi? How much? Leather, gold stamped, gilt top edge (should the gilt just cover the right-side-up part?), 2 bookmark tapes? King James, natch.

I've always wanted to be a bible-thumping-atheist. This would be just the tool for bible discussions with Jehovah's Witnesses.

#73 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 12:49 AM:

John, it's a nice idea, but if you get a beautiful binding from Abi, it won't look like an Ace Double. Which would miss the point.

#74 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 01:10 AM:

Bill @73,

Appropo of the original threadstarter, I assume he's asking for the Harvard Classics style version of the Ace Double.

Because this doesn't much look like these, either.

#75 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 07:42 AM:

Bill, doing the Bible as an Ace Double wouldn't look a lot like an Ace Double. How thick would it have to be? Pulp paper, a lot fewer words per page. A whole shelf thick, perfect binding wouldn't hold up (OK, it would have that in common with the rest of the line). It might work as a series, though. We'd have to come up with appropriate titles for all of the books of the Bible.
Genesis -- The War God of Israel: Into the Wilderness: Firstborn.
Exodus -- The War God of Israel: Into the Wilderness: The Ten Plagues.

#76 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 09:16 AM:

John Houghton @ 75
A lot of the novels in the Ace books were "too long for the format"; they either got edited down from manuscript or they were abridged versions of stories serialized by the magazines or previously published in hardback. "Foundation", originally written as a series of novelettes in Astounding got a 2 sections ripped out IIRC, and ended up titled "The Thousand-Year Plan". This was rather tasteless; it was published less than 10 years after the end of WWII and the defeat of the "Thousand-Year Reich".

So reducing the Pentateuch to 2 books and giving it a politically-incorrect title is perfectly in keeping.

#77 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 02:19 PM:

Apropos of #65 and Kate Nepveu's shiny new Theorem of Science Fiction Denial, I have just discovered this 12 April article, which you may have seen already: "Writers, Directors Fear 'Sci-Fi' Label Like an Attack From Mars."

Jason Silverman reports intelligently about something that Fluorospherians have often discussed: that science fiction is viewed in some circles as a ghetto to be avoided. No matter how many ray guns, time travelers, or post-apocalyptic canned-food hunters you have in your novel.

I suppose that as long as this is the case, at least in unpacified pockets of the culture, claims of victory in the 81-year-long Scientifiction Wars are premature.

#78 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 02:29 PM:

What was the movie adaptation of A Scanner Darkly like? To be avoided?

#79 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 02:31 PM:

#78: I didn't read the book. I enjoyed the movie. Very trippy, and captures the desperate pathos of addicts' lives.

#80 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 02:38 PM:

Stefan @ 79... What about Imposter? I never read the original story, but I liked the movie well enough. (Heck, it has Vincent d'Onofrio, Gary Sinise and Madeleine Stowe.)

One book by Dick I think would be interesting, but would be a commercial failure, is Ubik, which I did read.

#81 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 03:10 PM:

I actually think a scanner darkly is much closer to the spirit of the original than other filmed versions of Dick have been.

#82 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 03:20 PM:

Whenever I read a Dick novel, I'd visualize it as a low-budget movie, not as a triumph of art design like Bladerunner, or as a (scratching-my-head-looking-for-nice-description) like Minority Report... Am I the only one who has had that reaction?

#83 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 03:50 PM:

I thought Blade Runner did a pretty good job of building a PKD-styled world.

Minority Report? no.

#84 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 03:50 PM:

#82: Yes. You should be able to film a PKD movie with a digital video camera, permission to shoot around some run-down office buildings and suburban homes, and a cast of weirdos. Props = MAKE magazine gear.

#85 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 03:53 PM:

Since we've spent some time talking about PK Dick movies, and traffic has slowed down, maybe y'all won't be upset if I rant just a tad. So far, of all the "adaptations" of PKD to the screen, I've only been really happy with two, was unhappy with some, and loathed one with a deep and abiding passion.

The pair that I like are a mixed bag: "Bladerunner" is not very much like "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", but it has a charm of its own. "Imposter", on the other hand, is very faithful to the original story, and I think it works well.

That's the good. The bad include "Minority Report" which succeeds in making Max von Sydow look bad, no small feat. On the other hand, it was my introduction to Samantha Morton, who has really impressed me. If you get a chance, check out "Code 46", with her and Tim Robbins. The plot has some problems, bu the acting is terrific.

And then there's "Screamers", based, with some fidelity, on "Second Variety", one of Dick's best little nightmares. This movie started out life with possibilities; the very pedestrian production and the somewhat clunky script (very surprising, that was Dan O'Bannon) did it in. Peter Weller was left stranded, another shame.

On the gripping hand (perhaps the choking hand would be more appropriate) we have the ugly. "Total Recall" reminds me of raising puppies: it's truly a dog's breakfast. No crappy plot device was left unstoned. No, wait, that was the writer.

#86 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 04:08 PM:

My 'favorite' what-the-heck moment in Total Recall was near the end, with Arnie winding up on Mars's surface without any pressure suit and his eyeballs swell to the size of oranges but luckily the alien thingie builds an atmosphere all over the planet and Arnie's eyeballs go back to their normal size. No noticeable damage, no nothing. Yeah, sure, he was built by aliens, but Rachel Ticotin went thru the same situation and she was human.

#87 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 04:21 PM:

re: Scanner Darkly: John and I enjoyed it, though our friends thought it was depressing. It has been *cough* a long time since I read the story. Long enough that I thought it was an ok adaptation.

#88 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 06:44 PM:

Serge 86: especially since it's not the pressure on Mars that's a problem, IIUC. It's the lack of oxygen. Those effects were completely out of place.

#89 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 07:10 PM:

True, Xopher... It's still a sucky movie.

#90 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 07:22 PM:

Bruce Cohen #85: Minority Report was my introduction to Samantha Morton, who has really impressed me.

Anyone who hasn't seen Morvern Callar, see it this instant. I mean it.

Coincidentally with this thread, I'm currently reading A Scanner Darkly for the first time and finding it unbelievably...difficult. Every other PKD I've read has been quick and zippy, an afternoon for a novel, but I've been reading this one for two weeks and still have almost a hundred pages to go. I find myself reading paragraphs over and over and over and not realizing it until much later, reading to some point and realizing that I don't remember what came just before well enough to understand what's's possibly the weirdest book I've ever read, in some ways.

I second the emotion that PKD books should be adapted into low-budget hand-held real-locations hand-made cheap props movies.

#91 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 08:00 PM:

Has anyone else seen the just-released film Sunshine? I was in part pleased and impressed, with niggles, and also disappointed and puzzled in other parts. There are some very obvious references to 2001: A Space Odyssey, also Alien, and I suspect other film references for the trainspotter. This review is a reasonable encapsulation (unspoilered).
It was certainly a lot more interesting and enjoyable than many 'science fiction' films over the last decade or so have been for me.

#92 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 09:53 PM:

Sell lines:

War God of Israel: He gave in to temptation--and destroyed paradise!

The Thing with Three Souls: He defied an empire--and paid with his life! Or did he--?

As far as PKD adaptations go, there's also Paycheck, which despite the presence of Uma Thurman and Paul Giamatti, is pretty mediocre, though it works well enough as a basic action flick. The star is Ben Affleck, at his smirkiest. It's directed by John Woo, who throws in his trademark exploding cans of flammable liquid at every opportunity. Then there's the totally bizarre Confessions d'un Barjo (usually called just Barjo for its U.S. release), based on Confessions of a Crap Artist. Not so bad, considering the book is more or less unfilmable. I couldn't really recommend either film, though I didn't hate either one.

#93 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2007, 09:56 PM:

Bill, #77: I've been floating the notion of trying to get Christopher Moore as a GOH for ApolloCon. Mentioned this to one of the major SF booksellers, and was told that Moore's publisher WILL NOT ALLOW him to go to anything science-fiction-related, period.

Now, that's only hearsay, but it strikes me as extremely plausible precisely because of attitudes like the ones in that article. What's wrong with these people? Do they think that admitting they've liked something that was science fiction will make their dicks fall off* or something?

* Or whatever the female equivalent might be.

#94 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 03:40 AM:

#86 Easily explained if you subscribe to the "the whole thing after the start was part of the fake implanted memory he asked for" view. Which is a cheap cop-out, but according to the Wikipedia page the special edition DVD makes it unambiguous that that was what was intended.
(This does still leave it as a "what-the-heck" moment on the part of Rekall.)

#95 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 08:16 AM:

Alan Braggins @ 94... Easily explained if you subscribe to the "the whole thing after the start was part of the fake implanted memory he asked for" view. Which is a cheap cop-out

The cop-out wasn't cheap. I paid money for Total Recall I could have spent on beer, and I paid with 2 hours of my life.

Maybe I'll suddenly wake up and learn that Arnold Schwarzeneger is the governor of California.

#96 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 06:01 PM:

Lee @ 94 - Why is Christopher Moore running away from the sci-fi label? I haven't read the article in question, so I'll speculate without the handicap of actually knowing what I'm talking about:

#1: Fear of catching cooties. Cuz all sci-fi fans have poor social skills, smell bad, are either morbidly obese or cadaverously skinny, wear Spock and/or Hobbit costumes, and are incapable of dealing with reality in any way. We don't have spouses or SOs, or decent jobs, and we -- c'mon, say it together with me now -- live in our mothers' basements.

#2: Science fiction sales are much smaller than mainstream sales. He's afraid the sci-fi label will cost him money.

#97 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 06:12 PM:

Mitch Wagner @ 96... Not true. I lived in the loft when I was living at my parents's. When I moved to my own place, it was a basement appartment, but my mom had nothing to do with that choice.

#98 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 06:48 PM:

The only place we were stationed where we could have a basement was here in NoVA, and I did spend the first summer mostly in the basement -- the previous owners left the house filthy and I'm violently allergic to dust, so that was my first taste of listening to the radio in the cool basement while everybody else cleaned. After that, I did all the cleaning.

#99 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 06:53 PM:

I lived in my parents' basement! If you can call it that. It was below-ground in the front of the house and ground-level in the back, and completely finished as a separate apartment. And I only lived there during college and for a few months after. Does that count?

#100 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 10:27 PM:

I lived with my parents through most of college and for the first year afterwards. I had a bedroom on the ground floor. I also lived with them for about six weeks when I was 28 years old. By that time they'd sold the house and moved; I had a sofabed in the bedroom of their 18th-floor condo in Queens.

#101 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 10:47 PM:

The last time I lived with my mother, the basement was full of my father's office and workshop. I did sleep downstairs in the office for a few nights when the back bedroom was needed for company (he kept a cot folded up in the closet).

#102 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 03:22 AM:

Mitch, #96: What I was told was that it's not Moore himself who's anti-SF, but his publisher who is scrambling desperately to keep that label far away from him. So your #2 is a good bet.

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