I’d like to begin today’s blog entry by once again thanking K.J. Bishop for stopping by to spend time with us. As expected, her novel, The Etched City, engendered some fairly strong and wide-ranging opinions. According to Kirsten, she was “just amazed at the detail and thoughtfulness of the responses”. So, kudos to all those who took part in the discussion, offering up some very interesting thoughts and interpretations. Besides answering our questions, Kirsten also made it a point to throw a few questions our way…
“We’re all readers here, and I’m interested in what makes us readers,”she wrote. “What do we look for in books; why do we give them hours and days of our time?”
I already dedicated a blog entry to the reasoning behind my new-found passion for books so, to avoid repeating myself suffice it to say reading is one of my few non-guilty pleasures.
“Given the length of time it takes to read a book, is there something you as a reader expect in return that you wouldn’t expect from, say, a painting?”
Ideally, I would like to have my mind opened to new ideas, fresh ways of thinking, or arguments I’ve never considered. For the time I invest in reading a novel, all I ask for in return is a character or two I can care about and a story I can invest in.
“Do you read novels for insight into the human condition, to immerse yourself in another world, to live out fantasies vicariously?”
Both. In that respect, reading is not all that different from going to see a good movie or enjoying a well-written television series.
“Could you read a book that took abstract expressionism or cubism as its inspiration?”
Hey, like I said, if the characters are interesting and the story is engaging, why not?
“Is there anything you’d like to say about your relationship with these strange long lies called novels?”
Well, this is one relationship in which I strive to maintain an adventurous and promiscuous attitude.
Next, I’d like direct everyone’s attention to the image that accompanies today’s entry. It is award-winning illustrator John Picacio’s cover for Fast Forward 2, the follow-up to Fast Forward 1: Future Fiction from the Cutting Edge. FF1 was, of course, our SF Book of the Month Club selection back in February and the week of its discussion saw a visit from editor Lou Anders, our very first guests from the literary world. According to my sources (a.k.a. the search function on Amazon.com), FF2 hits the shelves on October 21, 2008. Don’t worry. I’ll remind you. In the meantime, enjoy the cover art. According to Lou: “this iteration of Fast Forward was very much influenced by the wonderful discussion with your readers, as well as by a joint sense, on both John and my part, that SF is very relevant to today’s world and has a very important job to play in it. That being said, the opening story, by Doctor Who’s Paul Cornell, about a sort of alt. history James Bond in a weird British-dominated solar system, is just pure wacky goodness and one of the most fun stories I’ve read in ages.” BTW, Lou’s latest anthology, a collection of alternate history crime fiction titled Sideways in Crime, was just released. Check it out.
John, meanwhile, had this to say about his work on FF2: “Covers like Lou’s FAST FORWARD 2 are dream assignments. What’s fun about them is the stories respond to the evolving state of science fiction and therefore, the covers should do the same. It’s an amazing collection of stories, and I’m proud to be associated with it. I studied posters about revolution and protest when I was working on this cover and that was certainly a conscious influence. There’s an awesome quote by Paul McAuley that you’ll find in Lou’s FF2 introduction, and it stuck in my head while I was creating this cover, “(Science fiction) not only shows us what could happen if things carry on the way they are, but it pushes what’s going on to the extremes of absurdity. That’s not its job: that’s its nature. And what’s happened to science fiction lately, it isn’t natural. It’s pale and lank and kind of out of focus. It needs to straighten up and fly right. It needs to reconnect with the world’s weather, and get medieval on reality’s ass.”
I think that people tend to overlook the importance of cover art. In all honesty, I probably would not have discovered the works of some of my favorite authors (Abercrombie, Lynch, Banks to name a few) if it weren’t for how damn good their books looked. It’s amazing how an eye-catching cover can tip the balance in favor of picking up a title while a garish or hideous cover can pretty much deep-six a purchase. What are your thoughts? Have you ever picked up a book based solely on the cover art? On the other hand, have you been so turned off by the look of a book that it actually dissuaded you from buying it? In my opinion, this is a seriously underappreciated but very important part of publishing. Agree? Disagree? What do you think? What does an illustrator like John Picacio think? Well, why don’t we ask him ourselves since he has graciously agreed to swing by and do his own guest Q&A on this blog.
Mosey on over here to check out some of John’s work (http://www.johnpicacio.com/index2.html), then come up with some hard-hitting questions for our very first guest-artist/illustrator/designer .
Next, I’d like to thank everyone for weighing in with their thoughts on Search and Rescue, our fifth season premiere. Fab director Andy Mikita continues his winning ways while Golden Boy Marty G. did a great job writing and producing what was, in my opinion, our best opener to date. Congrats to cast and crew on a job well done.
Finally, I’d like to wrap up today’s entry with a book recommendation. Or, more accurately, a re-recommendation. I already mentioned Glasshouse by Charles Stross last week when I finished reading it, but I wanted to make it a point to INSIST you pick it up. What’s it about? Well, Publisher’s Weekly offers the following write-up:
“The censorship wars”during which the Curious Yellow virus devastated the network of wormhole gates connecting humanity across the cosmos”are finally over at the start of Hugo-winner Stross’s brilliant new novel, set in the same far-future universe as 2005’s Accelerando. Robin is one of millions who have had a mind wipe, to forget wartime memories that are too painful”or too dangerously inconvenient for someone else. To evade the enemies who don’t think his mind wipe was enough, Robin volunteers to live in the experimental Glasshouse, a former prison for deranged war criminals that will recreate Earth’s “dark ages” (c. 1950″2040). Entering the community as a female, Robin is initially appalled by life as a suburban housewife, then he realizes the other participants are all either retired spies or soldiers. Worse yet, fragments of old memories return”extremely dangerous in the Glasshouse, where the experimenters’ intentions are as murky as Robin’s grasp of his own identity. With nods to Kafka, James Tiptree and others, Stross’s wry SF thriller satisfies on all levels, with memorable characters and enough brain-twisting extrapolation for five novels.”
Yep. Brain-twistingly brilliant.
Oh, and quick reminder to finish up Unwelcome Bodies. Discussion on this unsettling and no doubt controversial collection of short fiction begins Monday and author Jennifer Pelland will be dropping by to field our questions.
Today’s video: Search and Rescue. Rehearse and shoot.