Posts Tagged ‘popular literature’
Jo Walton‘s recently reposted essay for Tor.com, “Have We Lost the Future?”, makes for interesting reading. This isn’t only me speaking, recovering from my own unhappy experience with Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312. Walton makes some very interesting points about the futures imagined by science fiction writers, the ways they just don’t work with our actual realities and the ways in which futures have developed unexpectedly to observers in past generations, and the need–and ability–for science fiction to adopt new paradigms to continue to be relevant.
I think there used to be a science fiction consensus future in which we’d expand slowly out from Earth and colonize the moon and Mars and the Belt, which would be full of independent-minded asteroid miners, and outward to the stars, at first slower and then faster than light, meeting aliens and ending with galactic empires. The Cold War, naturally, would still be going on in the twenty-sixth century, and if not there would be some Cold War analog dividing humanity into big ideological blocs. Lots of the SF written between 1930 and 1989 fit into this rough future outline. It didn’t belong to anyone. Everyone could set things within this rough future and make their own specific corner of it shine. Details differed, but this was The Future we were headed for, this was almost destiny. [. . .]
I remember reading Bruce Sterling’s short story “We See Things Differently” in 1991 in a Dozois’s Best SF, and having the same feeling I had when the Berlin Wall came down. This wasn’t the future I expected to be living in. We were off track for that SF consensus future. And we sent robots out to explore the solar system for us, and there weren’t any Martians, and it seemed as if maybe space wasn’t the U.S. frontier with a different atmosphere.
When I’m writing here about older SF, I often laugh at their hilarious huge clunky computers and add “But where is my moonbase?”
During the panel I mentioned Arthur C. Clarke’s examplary little boy who would read SF and say “When I grow up, I’m going to the moon.” I was that little boy, I said, and of course everyone laughed. There are ways in which this future, the one we’re living in, is a whole lot better than what we imagined. It has women in it, and it has women who are not just trophies and are not manipulating their way around because they have no power. This future has women with agency. It has men and women who aren’t white and who aren’t sitting at the back of the bus or busy passing. It has gay people out of the closet, it has transgender people, and all over the place, not only in the worlds of Samuel Delany. Beyond that, unimaginably shaping the future we couldn’t imagine getting, it has the internet.
So this is my question. If, when you were twelve, somebody had given you a straight choice for 2012, which would you have chosen, moonbase or internet? (Let’s assume they could have explained fully what the internet was and how it would affect your life.) Moonbase, or internet? It really isn’t easy.
[. . .]
As for SF—I don’t think it has run out of ideas. I do think it’s a betrayal of the future to write things set in futures we can’t get to. And I always want more books with spaceships and aliens. But I recently read M.J. Locke’s Up Against It, which is set in space in our future and is wonderful and just the sort of thing to give me faith that there’s a lot of juice in the genre yet. And there’s plenty of future coming for it to work out.
What say you? (I think she’s basically right, for whatever it’s worth.)
I’ve owned this trade paperback edition of The Dark Phoenix Saga for some time, but it struck me as appropriate to review it now. What better time is there than now, a season of devotion to the contemplation of messiah figures and the year’s end, to take another look at the story of a godling brought to a premature end?
I was concerned that this story wouldn’t have aged well. I was drawn towards Marvel through the current continuity, a metanarrative that had evolved some three decades after this story’s publication. Since then, many of the elements that gave the Dark Phoenix Saga its power have transformed. The Phoenix Force was not merely the culmination of Jean Grey‘s potential as a psi, but was a separate cosmic force that was drawn towards the young psychic. Jean Grey herself never did die during this saga, instead lying cocooned on the floor of Jamaica Bay while the Phoenix Force impersonated her perfectly for 37 issues of Uncanny X-Men. The mythologies of both the Phoenix Force and Jean Grey have since been expanded and complicated significantly, most recently by last year’s Avengers vs. X-Men event and the ongoing All-New X-Men series. In light of all this, is it a period piece of note to completists? Or is this classic X-Men story still worthy of its elevated reputation?
Happily, the answer is that yes, the Dark Phoenix Saga is still a powerful story. I suggest that is because the core of the story hasn’t changed; the Phoenix Force’s cloning of Jean Grey has not made the story less powerful. The Dark Phoenix Saga still tells the tragic story of a heroine who, without wishing to and despite her conscious efforts to prevent it, becomes such a threat to the universe and the people that she loves that she kills herself. It tells the story well: both established characters (the X-Men, Professor Xavier) and new ones (Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost and the Hellfire Club) feel like real people, making mistakes as they try to achieve their goals. In the end, they fail; everyone loses something. This, I think, makes this space operatic superhero story feel authentic.
Elsewhere, the style of The Dark Phoenix Saga is three decades old, but it still stands up well as a high point of the state of the art. Certain frames have a pop-art energy that makes me want to expand them into wall posters. One area that hasn’t dated so well is the Claremont/Byrne narrative’s heavy dependence on the third-person narrative. This puts it at odds with the current style in graphic novels, which uses the art and the characters’ dialogue to frame the narrative, to show, not tell.
My biggest problem with the story is that I to wonder how the Hellfire Club could ever have approved the terribly risky plans of Mastermind to dominate the Phoenix. “I have a great plan! I’ll use my powers of illusion to derange the mind of Jean Grey, the frighteningly powerful telepath/telekinetic who just broke the mind of the White Queen, and make her into my corset-wearing S&M consort. Who’ll give me funding?” The story does not become more plausible if we know that the Phoenix was actually the favoured avatar of the cosmic force that burns away what doesn’t work. I suspect that these sorts of catastrophically risky plans may have been de rigeur for comic books of the era, but this convention certainly does not aid the plausibility of the plot within its conventions.
This is a great book, one still worth reading. It deserves its fame.
Xtra!‘s Michael Lyons writes about the ongoing success of Glad Day, run for a year by a well-financed group of community investors.
[F]or local teacher and activist Michael Erickson, who, along with 21 other community members, purchased the iconic Yonge Street bookshop one year ago, the opportunity to buy the store was a dream waiting to happen. “When we did the call-out for who’d be interested, I think a lot of the owners had always secretly wished that one day they could own a bookstore,” Erickson says. “I think a lot of us fantasized about this.”
Following the closure of New York City’s Oscar Wilde Bookshop in 2009, Glad Day became the world’s oldest queer bookstore, Erickson says. “We spent the past year focusing on sustainability of the store, which I think we’ve done a good job at, but in order for us to survive we have to move to build.”
The next step, he says, is turning Glad Day into an online brand. “We would like to create our own platform to sell books on,” he says. “It would also have a space to list our events coming up. We have some ideas for a community memory project we’d like to post and house on there as well. We also have a book review blog in the works.
“Ideally, it’s the sort of site where people could go on a regular basis, get reviews on books, get connected with the past and hopefully even propose visions and ideas for the future for our community. And buy books.”
There’s online fundraising for this brand at IndieGogo. So far, $792 of a goal of 15 thousand Canadian dollars have been raised. (No, I’ve not yet contributed. Yes, I probably should.)
This morning I was saddened to discover, via Towleroad then blogTO, that biweekly GLBT magazine Fab is set to cease publication. Editor Phil Villeneuve described what happened for the magazine’s readers.
It’s with a very heavy, but hopeful, heart that I announce Fab magazine will cease publication this spring. Our final issue will be released April 24 and will be in boxes until May 7.
The first issue of Toronto’s little gay-party-animal diary came out Pride weekend 1994, and it has been a relentless pop-culture beast ever since. Aimed knowingly and directly at a gay male audience, Fab has been on the streets of this fine city for 19 years, covering everything from politics, to social issues, to underwear trends, to fascinating new lube flavours. It’s overseen the evolution of Toronto gay men and covered every type of party, play and festival.
Always with its glittering finger on the pulse, Fab has been guided by a juicy handful of editors and supported by a talented army of columnists, freelance writers, photographers and designers — each and every one committed to having a good time and letting boys across the city, and for a time across the country, know how great it is to be gay.
The realities of the print publication world have finally taken their toll on our free glossy. Pink Triangle Press has had to make some difficult decisions over the years, including closing The Body Politic back in the day. Today, the press simply can’t afford to keep the magazine running. Despite the contributors, content and the amazing people that fill its pages, it’s time to say farewell.
But don’t think we’re going out with a whisper. Fab is a unique publication and an iconic one for our community. We plan to celebrate it with a final goodbye issue, as well as a great big party. So stay tuned for details, because we’ll want to see you all there — and be sure to get your hands on that final issue, ’cause those bitches will be collectors’ items by Pride.
Here’s hoping that the new website dailyxtra.com, which will apparently incorporate a lot of content from Fab, will do well.