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A catching-up post:

Overclocked by Cory Doctorow is awesome, especially "When sysadmins ruled the earth," a dark post-apocalypse short story on the power and risk of the internet(s), and what really matters when you come right down to it. On a related note, Doctorow has an interesting recent essay on science fiction as "radical presentism" -- in other words, what speculative fiction is really about is the tensions of the present, extracted and highlighted by projecting them into a [ ] near [ ] alternate [ ] distant (pick one) future. "Science fiction writers don’t predict the future (except accidentally), but if they’re very good, they may manage to predict the present...Science fiction is a literature that uses the device of futurism to show up the present."

Pastorialia by George Saunders. Clever and entertaining but not his best. Most of the stories are written in the same breathless, stream-of-consciousness narrative, meandering about from hither to yon -- the fun is in the trip; the destination isn't always that great. I liked "Sea oak" (nothing like zombie grandmas aunties to really make a point) and of course the title story with the characters stuck playing cavemen in a human zoo, which somehow manages to evoke office politics and the cubicle farm despite the sheep carcasses and the mutual social lice-grooming. Both Civilwarland and The brief and frightening reign of Phil were better. In persuasion nation of course was fabulous and still my favorite (that might have been the one that got him the Macarthur Genius Grant).

Beauty by Robin McKinley -- seriously ho-hum. Not bad, just ho-hum. Another fairy tale retelling, obviously, but so much like the Disney version I had a hard time swallowing it. Since this was published long before the Disney version it's entirely possible Disney got ideas from her, or maybe they both used the same source text (Perrault, maybe? It has a definitely French flavor to it), but it's lamentably simplistic even given that it's published under HarperTrophy, a children's imprint. (I have a hard time with HarperTrophy books anyway because I always think of "hypertrophy" -- not what they were going for, I'm sure, but there it is.) For this particular fairy tale I still have to name Tanith Lee's short-story version in her Red as Blood collection (ignore the horrifically cheesy cover and trust me -- it has sexy alien leopard cats, woohoo!) and Sheri Tepper's Beauty.

Let's see, this leaves me...three more, one of which is the Harvard Lampoon's spoof of Twilight. Will do those tomorrow.



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January 2018


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