Three suggestions

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Three suggestions

Postby John-Henri Holmberg on Thursday, 08 October 2009, 8:48 pm

I have few complaints as to your evaluation of the authors mentioned here, but must admit to being very surprised at some of the omissions. Three of them seem particularly serious: J. G. Ballard, Joanna Russ, and Alice Sheldon, who published under the pseudonyms "James Tiptree, Jr" and "Raccoona Sheldon".

J. G. Ballard (1930–2009) was the foremost explorer of our "inner landscapes"; his major works, which include a number of short stories as well as such novels as The Crystal World, Crash, Concrete Island, and Cocaine Nights, explore the interfaces between individual, culture, and technology. Certainly he was the primary inspiration and foremost exponent of the British "new wave" of the 1960s; his stylistic and thematic innovations, aimed at creating a literary version of surrealist painting, are in my view unique in speculative fiction.

Joanna Russ (born 1937) is not a prolific author, but her work is perhaps the most exquisitely written to be found in science fiction. I would particularly recommend her novels The Female Man, We Who Are About To…, and The Two of Them, and her collections The Zanibar Cat and Extra(Ordinary) People. Additionally, her criticism and analytical writings on science fiction are brilliant and innovative.

Alice Sheldon (1915–1987) published virtually all of her science fiction under the "James Tiptree, Jr" pseudonym, and wrote only two novels, neither entirely successful. However, her eight collections contain an impressive number of deeply personal, stylistically impressive and powerfully visualised stories; she was one of the very few science fiction authors who used the form to address the basic issues of human existence: identity, sommunication, sexuality, death.

As noted, I agree with your assessment of authors like Jack Vance and "Cordwainer Smith". But these three, in my opinion, rightly belong on the same shortlist as do Vance and "Smith".
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Re: Three suggestions

Postby owlcroft on Saturday, 10 October 2009, 10:38 pm

I'm not sure if you have seen the Other Candidates page of the site, but it does list Ballard, with the observation: Ballard is one of those writers whose work I last read so many decades ago that I need to refresh myself before definitively adding him into these lists. If he is as I recall, the final tabulation for him will doubtless be rather longer than [the] mini-list [shown below at that entry]. To clarify, my memory of his work is that it is brilliant. So many books, so little time . . . .

Tiptree is on that page, too, though with less enthusiasm: I have read only one Tiptree story, "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?", which story won the Nebula award and tied for the Hugo award, in both cases for best novella published in 1976; all I can say is that those judges' criteria and mine are very different. I found it obvious to the point of juvenilia, didactic--one might even say whiny. But considering all the critical foofaraw over her work, I suppose that sooner or later I should read this entire collection [Her Smoke Rose Up Forever], which seems to be the cream of her work.

Joanna Russ I have read and classed roughly zero stars (but I remind everyone yet again that my personal scale runs -5 through +5, so zero is work that is, in my judgement, a decent read but not sufficiently memorable to retain a copy for the bookshelves). She seems another writer who ferociously wields The Great Hammer of Obviousness. I'm sorry that we seem to disagree on this one, mais chacun a son goût . . . .
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