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St Ives Returns!

St Ives Returns!

As I near the end of Lord Kelvin’s Machine, which holds up very well on re-reading, I thought I would mention an upcoming addition to the Langdon St Ives oeuvre: The Ebb Tide.  Here is what the publishers have to say:

A flaming meteor over the Yorkshire Dales, a long-lost map drawn by the lunatic Bill “Cuttle” Kraken, and the discovery of a secret subterranean shipyard beneath the River Thames lead Professor Langdon St. Ives and his intrepid friend Jack Owlesby into the treacherous environs of Morecambe Bay, with its dangerous tides and vast quicksand pits. They descend beneath the sands of the Bay itself, into a dark, unknown ocean littered with human bones and the remnants of human dreams. In this tale of murder, infamy, and Victorian intrigue, the tides of destiny shift relentlessly and rapidly as the stakes grow ever higher and the pursuit more deadly….

Dashed intriguing, what?

Polluto

Polluto

At the risk of simply copying everything Matt Staggs posts (he may have to take out an internet exclusion order or something), he has an excellent and intriguing interview with Adam Lowe, editor of the frankly irresponsible and horrid-sounding magazine Polluto.

I strongly advise readers of this blog to RESIST this kind of immoral filth with all their might (don’t click that link…)

August Issue

August Issue

Clarkesworld Magazine has a wonderful interview with Wolfe here.

I know I’m probably days, possibly weeks late with this, but if you missed it too, you might like it.

The Romanian editor and bibliophile Horia Ursu is guest-blogging on Ecstatic Days this week.

The spot has got off to a raucous start with Predators, Aliens, T-Rex eggs (dino not Bolan) and Romanian dark beer (yes please!), among other strange things.

A good debate is running on Matt Staggs’ site which he has also transferred to his guest spot on Ecstatic Days here. Naturally, I’ve plunged right in with some of my own pithy and insightful nuggets of wisdom.

Check it out and join in.

It really is Matt Staggs week!

I read in the aforementioned interview that he is working to promote the re-publication of Tim Powers awesomely strange masterpiece The Stress of Her Regard by Tachyon Publications. The book blends Vampires, Poets and Secret Societies in a crazy but seamlessly readable way, and has been out of print for far too long.

I have an old bashed-up ex-library copy with a terrible cover. This one looks considerably better, though I’m not completely sold on the figure with the raised arms…

Tim Powers’ website can be found here.

Matt Staggs is guest blogging at Ecstatic Days! The series so far has been amazing and has really broadened my awareness of SF and its contemporary practitioners. In fact, blogs like Matt’s and Jeff Vandermeer’s have literally introduced me to a whole new world, particularly in terms of new names, female writers and different ways to think about (the) genre. Once my imminent bestseller is out (end of August if I follow Valente’s advice) I have a pretty large reading list to purchase…

It will be interesting to see what he comes up with.

I’ve been looking forward to this.

This post from Sci-Fi Standpoint. I wonder about gene-modifying out such a fundamental part of human nature, not that I’m happy about these nasty characteristics… it’s a bit like getting rid of competitiveness, stress or aggression. None of them are nice things, but their elimination could have serious unintended consequences. Try the Vonnegut classic ‘Harrison Bergeron‘ for a dystopian projection of the attempt to iron out all human differences and make everyone ‘equal’.

I know Banks isn’t saying this exactly, and I love the idea in principle of getting rid of –isms, I’m just a little skeptical.

Still, anything we can do to bring on The Culture gets my vote.

I’m a little upset with Ursula Le Guin, which is not something I ever thought I’d say as I am a bit of a fan. You see, I just picked up my eagerly awaited copy of The Jack Vance Reader and unceremoniously cracked its collectible spine to get to ‘The Languages of Pao’, one of the few gaps left in my sadly shrinking still-to-read Vance list.

I was overjoyed to see that Le Guin had written the foreword, but I must say I winced when I noticed that she writes about Vance using the past tense. I hope I am still right in saying that he is alive. I know that he has had some serious problems with his eyesight and that he is getting on a bit, but I think it a little insensitive to refer to him as if he no longer exists.

In her piece, Le Guin says some thoughtful and generous things about Vance’s work and the novel in question. But later on she begins to attack it for its ideological failings, principally in terms of its ‘complete absence of active women characters’. Le Guin says that she ‘tried to see the story as a critique of male dominance’ but that because of this absence it was an ‘unconvincing’ reading. In the end, she sees the novel as ‘old-fashioned’ and inescapably masculinist, ‘an almost universal failing of the genre at that time’ – the book was first published in 1958.

I’m not so sure about this assessment. The absence of women seems to me to be so pronounced and their treatment in the story so awful (Le Guin is right when she says they are seen as mere appurtenances) that Vance is doing something deliberate, rather than just trundling obliviously down the chauvinistic super-highway. In the story, large numbers of women are procured by the megalomaniacal ‘Wizards’ for a period of ‘indenture’ during which they are expected to bear sons, and after which they are returned to their home planets with any daughters or other ‘defectives’ they have produced. Surely Vance is not simply unconsciously reflecting male mores of the day (I hope!) but consciously constructing a fictional society, a fable – like Animal Farm or The Left Hand of Darkness. Perhaps he exhibits a little too much of his trademark wry detachment and sometimes cruel irony, but, to me, the issue of the use and abuse of women by men fairly leaps off the pages of this novel screaming.

I do agree with Le Guin that is is a shame that there are no strong female roles here, but this is almost certainly intentional and it fits with the monstrous tone of the story. I know that Vance has been criticised for this before, but I would argue that, through almost all his work, the roles of men and women and their relative status, attitudes and treatment of one another are clearly addressed, though usually heavily satirized. For example, the ‘Flower of Cath’ episode in Planet of Adventure is a classic instance of his fictional portrayal of male-female relations, though not perhaps a very comfortable one. His oeuvre displays a range of finely nuanced and complex approaches to gender and other human issues and also has some notable examples of strong female lead characters: The Jacynth (largely holding her own in To Live Forever back in 1956), Wayness Tamm and Madouc spring to mind; there are many others.

I love Le Guin’s books. A Wizard of Earthsea (a novel that come to think of it is also notable for its lack of powerful women – Serret, Yarrow and the village witch notwithstanding – though I wouldn’t call it dated) is still one of my very favourite novels, as are The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed. I’m glad Le Guin has expressed her views about Vance here – I’d love to know more – and it is refreshing to get some critical input in an anthology like this, as Vance has too often been afforded uncomfortable outpourings of sycophancy. But I am disappointed that she seems to be targeting this novel with resentments that may more justifiably have been pointed elsewhere.

June 2017
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