Further consideration of the 32
Yesterday I blogged about this list of 32 recommended SF novels. I mentioned at the time I wasn’t sure how much store to set by the compiler. Last night, as I considered the list further, I realised there are some serious flaws.
Firstly, the things I think are good about the list:
- There were a few books, and some authors, I hadn’t heard of. They might actually be crap, but it’s cool to have new people suggested – and not to have lists dominated by the same old people. Now, perhaps I’m just not entirely up with my SF classics, and these are all people I ‘should’ have heard of – but I don’t, so it works for me.
- It covers a good range of time – from Mary Shelley through Jules Verne and HG Wells, up to Cory Doctorow and Richard Morgan. It’s useful to see the history of SF reflected in a list like this, and presumably shows the compiler has a good understanding of the range of SF over time.
- There’s a variety in types of SF. That is, you’ve got your loony Douglas Adams, the slightly farcical Michael Crichton’s Timeline, through to the more serious, epic-like works such as those of Frank Herbert and Robert Heinlein, as well the cyperpunk of William Gibson. It’s good to see this range reflected, too – because SF is no monolithic structure.
However, there are obviously some problems with the list. Now, this just may reflect the compiler’s reading taste, but it’s still interesting – I hope – to offer a critique.
- Firstly, I’m not sure all of the works mentioned count as SF. Animal Farm, basically. Not convinced.
- By my count, only Lois Lowry and Mary Shelley rate a mention to represent female publishing. What happened to Ursula le Guin, and Left Hand of Darkness? Perhaps the compiler hasn’t read it, but if they claim to be making a somewhat-authoritative list, she’s a fairly glaring omission. Octavia Butler (of whom I’ve only read short stories), Nancy Kress… I could go on. It’s the main thing I’ve got a beef about, actually.
- One, by my count, young-adult book (the Lowry, which again I haven’t read). Now, perhaps again this reflects the compiler’s reading habits – came to SF as an adult? – but there are some truly awesome YA scifi books out there. Madeline l’Engels’ Wrinkle in Time, for starters… and a lot more I won’t bother to list.
- Clarke’s 2001 only rates a little mention at the end??
- There shouldn’t be more than one book by any one author, I think. Fair enough to say “this is representative of the author, see also…” but I think that padding the list with multiple entires from one author is laziness, or the compiler isn’t as well-read as it might seem… or they really wanted it to be 32 books in the list and didn’t think anything else rated.
- Finally, as a list of recommendations, it bugs me a little that it’s got only quotes from Amazon (and Wikipedia). Does this mean the compiler hasn’t actually read them, or doesn’t trust their writing/reviewing skills, or thinks people want something more ‘objective’ than a more personal opinion would seem?
Anyway, those are my thoughts. I will still try to read some of the things of the list, despite my reservations about the list as a whole – because even given those, there are still some books that I know are good and interesting, and this has in some ways simply jogged my memory, as well as giving me some others to consider.
Farthing Magazine: a rant
As in far-thing, not an old coin.
As part of Last Short Story, we’re obviously trying to cover all the paying markets. At the start of the year in particular, we had to buy any copy we wanted because very few people knew about the crazy idea and review copies were few and and far between (and always warmly welcomed). Now, things are getting a bit easier, and we’ve got a few more review copies coming in (generally warmly welcomed, with only a very quiet groan of: ‘what, more?’).
One of the magazines I volunteered to buy was Farthing Magazine. I thought it looked cool – they have a great quote from Ursula le Guin on the site! – and some interesting-sounding stories. I eventually managed to pay by Paypal, which was a bit of a saga in itself, and then… nothing.
That was June.
They definitely took my money – can’t even remember how much now. I’ve sent a number of emails to the editor’s contact email address. There is no way postage from the UK should take 4 months. Is there?
I’d love to hear from anyone who’s received Farthing – so that I know it can be done, and to know whether it’s something I should bother with chasing up. I really don’t want to just put zeros in its columns, on our little LSS spreadsheet…
Channel Ten, in its Infinite Wisdom, has changed the time for Torchwood.
Midnight! Tuesday night/Wednesday morning!
Seriously! indeed. That is so … unspeakably annoying. Admittedly I usually tape it, but – !! I had to go to the Ten website to find out when it was on because it sure as hell wasn’t announced anywhere….
OK, over it now. Until tomorrow when I have to set the video.
Have they not learnt?
Just caught a snippet of Hack, on Triple J. It was obviously about ANZAC Day, asking young people what they think of the day.
I don’t know what the actual question was, but the responses I heard were along the lines of ‘I don’t agree with it because it’s, like, glorifying war and stuff (?) (the ? is because of the upwards inflection at the end of the sentence…’.
I don’t much care what your opinion of ANZAC Day is – well, I do, but I respect your right to hold any opinion (with all the usual caveats of respectfulness), but truly – have you not learnt? Do you not understand? There are so many things wrong with that statement – how could commemorating ANZAC Day, initiated to mourn the dead, celebrate war? And I thought that the aftermath of the peace protests against the Vietnam War had taught people to divorce soldiers, doing their job, from war as a concept – it has become trite, listening to American protests, but it really is possible to support and sympathise with soldiers while still protesting the war they are fighting.
I was mad at the ignorance. Now I’m just sad.
I hate it when people use phrases such as “woman president.” The French woman would be a female president if she gets elected! It’s like calling someone a Germany athlete or a happiness husband.
Drives me nuts.
"Do’s and Don’ts"
That may well be one of the most annoying phrases – at least in its written form.
1. It’s got an apostrophe in the wrong place! My bete noir if ever there was one!
2. It’s not even internally consistent. If you were going to have an apostrophe in the first, you’d have to have it in the second as well – so Do’s and Don’t’s – which clearly looks ridiculous, although I have actually seen it written like this in some places.
3. It should just be Dos and Don’ts. And if you’re not happy with Dos because you hate PCs, then DOs and DON’Ts is probably the way to go.
Ok. End rant,
Some of my least favourite words
Kids at school use the word ‘verse’ all the time, as in “Australia is going to verse the world in cricket.” I understand where this come from – it seems to make sense if you can say that the game is Australia versus the world – but of course it’s a reflection that they don’t know how to spell versus, nor do they know what means. It nearly drives me to distraction, particularly because it’s very hard to explain it properly while on the run, as I usually am when I hear it.
In a different context, using the word action as a verb makes me nutty too. I know it’s all very typical business language, but I Don’t Care. You don’t action something, you just do it.
Bit of a morbid title there, I realise… the reaction of people to Steve Irwin’s death has been a bit over the top, I think. Particularly twinned with Colin Thiele’s death on the same day, and the distinct lack of matching grief or accolades from the public or politicians. Beattie’s “oh, we could have a national park or award named after him…” thing is great, but seriously – millions of books sold, Storm Boy for heaven’s sake, and nothing for Thiele??
I am embarassed to admit that we are watching the Aust Idol trials. I blame J. Anyway, there was a dude just on singing R&B – Marcia and Kyle said yes, Mark said no. He then had a go at the other two, asking them if they really thought that 14 and 15 yo girls would buy R&B (cos they’re the ones who buy Aust Idol, obviously). HELLO!?!?! Who else buys R&B BUT 14 and 15 yo girls?? Goodness me.
And I have to say – Kyle? PRAT.
Hamlet at the printer
On this show, some pop-science thing, there was a throw-away comment about how 400 years ago, Shakespeare would have been sending the final draft of Hamlet to the printers.