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Monday, October 27, 2008

Sorry but he still sucks

My oppo sent me this: Neal Stephenson lecture on Sf as a literary genre

So my response is:
OK, well he isn't stupid. And most of what he says is sort-of truthy, at least worthy of an argument. Now you started it; since I spent 38:45 listening to his talk, you're gonna get the full 5 minutes.

He's very centred in his time and place, don't you think? I mean we were just talking about Fred Hoyle and John Wyndham (and there are loads of others*, not just Brits) who were very smart, wrote well and published compelling, yes, literature, 45+ years ago. (Not to mention Jules Verne or H.G. Wells).

Just because he didn't know about a bunch of stuff, it doesn't exist? It's like knowing the Rolling Stones and then realizing they were ripping off a bunch of poor black people.

My main beef with Quicksilver is that it is badly written, or badly edited (it's hard to tell the diff), predictable and was obviously written as a potboiler. It led me basically nowhere (except perhaps to set the scene attempting to force me to buy the next door-step of a book). It is appallingly Ameri-centric (the Crypto-thing is more so, according to Don). I would argue that even Heinlein was more honest in his idea porn. The protagonist as the super-hero is exactly what Quicksilver has. At the end of it I didn't care if the character lived or died, which is a good measure of how involved I was.

However, like I said before, he does have a few nice turns of phrase ("idea porn" being one of them, guilty, compelling pleasures of what might be, right?) I just wish he hadn't become so vastly popular before he became a better writer. If you say his earlier books are good, then I might give it a try.

If you haven't read the Da Vinci Code, you should before you slag it. It's crap but it is popular for a reason and it is quite well-written**.

And I have read one Hairy Potter book and seen one movie. No more, but I now know what I'm bleating about.

Now come back when you're ready for the full half-hour.


* All probably contemporary with Heinlein, far better writers and more typical of the best sf writing of the time:

Samuel R. Delaney,
Doris Lessing,
Harry Harrison (well perhaps not exactly contemporary, but I like it)
Philip K. Dick,
J.G. Ballard,
Ursula K. Le Guin,
Issac Asimov,
Brian Aldiss,
Ray Bradbury.

p.s. “This is not the age of reason, this is the age of flummery, and the day of the devious approach. Reason’s gone into the backrooms where it works to devise means by which people can be induced to emote in the desired direction."
John Wyndham

** Update: OK, I lied. But it WAS a dark and stormy night!

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