For the past six years, The Issue at Hand and More Issues at Hand. ’s spirit was more “critical” in the popular sense of the word: Much of what he did was holding up various writers as examples of failed literary craft, sometimes at a very basic level. ’s essays, even when they point out faults, are celebratory in spirit.has been blogging at the Tor Website about books she’s read. While many are now collected into this book, these blog posts aren’t “reviews,” because they aren’t about new books, or about her first readings of books; rather, they’re about second or Nth readings of older books. They’re not “criticism” in the formal or scholarly sense. They could best be described as the reactions of a fan to the things she’s a fan of—but an exceptionally perceptive fan, and one who expresses those reactions with clarity and wit. I can’t think of any fannish commentary to equal this since (as “ ”) wrote the fanzine pieces that became
This shows up very clearly, for example, in the two long series of essays embedded in this collection: One on all of’s Barrayaran novels (except for the most recent two, written after a long hiatus) and one on all of ’s Dragaeran novels. I’m not a wholehearted fan of Dragaera—only the Paarfi of Roundwood books strike me as really enjoyable—but I’ve read all the Barrayaran corpus, and I found something thought-provoking in every one of ’s essays on it. And writing about an entire series in this way is clearly the expression of fannish enthusiasm.
Ha’Penny (a dystopian alternate historical police procedural). But her choice of authors to reread includes several who have won repeated Prometheus Awards: , , and . acknowledges the libertarian ideas in their writing, without treating them as a barrier to appreciation; writing about ’s Fall Revolution books, for example, she say’s that “They’re a fully imagined future where the capitalist criticism of communism is entirely true, and so is the communist criticism of capitalism. They’re kind of libertarian (several of them won the Prometheus Award) and they’re grown up about politics in a way that most SF doesn’t even try.”clearly isn’t a libertarian, despite her 2008 Prometheus Award for
And then she goes on to point out that The Sky Road is structurally similar to fantasy; in fact, she identifies all the elements that it shares with “The Ballad of Thomas Rhymer” or “La Belle Dame Sans Merci.” Or, in other essays, she points to the grim dystopian settings of ’s juveniles, or to the tragedy buried within ’s A Deepness in the Sky, which can only be recognized by someone who’s read A Fire upon the Deep as well.’s
One of the very best pieces in this book, number 95, “SF reading protocols,” discusses the peculiar mental skills that are needed to make sense of actual science fiction or fantasy. (In particular, she points out that readers of literary fiction expect the dragons in fantasy, the zombies in horror, or the space travel in science fiction to be a metaphor for the novel’s real subject, rather that seeing that the envisioned reality of those things IS the novel’s real subject.) Reading’s book was very much like having a long conversation with a newly met fellow fan—a highly intelligent and civilized one, but one whose enthusiasm for SF as such is never in doubt for a moment.
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