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Kim Stanley Robinson is interviewed by Lynne Jamneck at Strange Horizons:
LJ: You are a self-confessed utopian, and certainly, this comes through in your work. When faced with current world conflicts like war, famine and AIDS, what makes you veer towards this positive outlook rather than the opposite?

KSR: War, famine, and plague have existed for millennia, maybe for as long as humans have been a species, and so given this situation as a baseline, we're now approaching a time when we must do something about it, or cause the sixth great extinction event for the Earth's biosphere, and untellable suffering to humanity as well. And we have a very rapidly expanding technological ability, and scientific understanding of the world. So it seems to me a kind of race between progress and catastrophe; and that being the case, why not write about progress winning out? We need some visualizations of what we might want to work toward, and how we might go about it.

It makes for interesting novels to try to tell these tales, and there are not that many novels doing this work, so it is a slightly empty ecological niche in world culture, especially given its potential importance. So obviously it's one of the things to try.
Kelly Link is interviewed by Stephany Aulenback at Maud Newton's place:
SA: What do you think of the idea that there is no room for error in a short story, the way there might be in a novel? And can we talk a little about how you combine the use of very strong, deliberately obvious metaphors (the way they’re used in fairy tales) with images that seem like they should stand for something, but it’s difficult to suss out exactly what that is?

KL: I’ve been trying to write different kinds of stories recently. I’m trying to be more digressive, to show a little bit more, to use more novelistic techniques. I’m trying to leave more room for error and slippages, if that makes sense, because I think that errors and digressions are part of what makes art. On the other hand, when I read novels, I’m very much a short story writer. I get impatient with sloppy or indulgent writing. Even if the plot is thrilling, I get bogged down. For example, I stopped reading The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova because she used the adverb "warily" over and over and over again, sometimes on the same page. (On the other hand, someone has just rereleased Stephen Bury’s — who was really Neal Stephenson writing with another man — Cobweb. That’s a fantastic thriller.)

I’m most forgiving of endings. I don’t believe in them. And it’s very rare that you get an ending that’s as perfect as, say, Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle.
(And she wrote 'The Faery Handbag' in a day. One day!)

Chris Roberson is interviewed by Rick Klaw at Revolution sf:
RK: You are currently working a new book for Pyr. What can you tell us about it?

CR: The new book is called Paragaea: A Planetary Romance, and it's one that I’ve been tinkering with for the last few years. The intention is to do a science fantasy in the vein of Edgar Rice Burroughs or Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, but to do it as strictly rationalized, 'hard' SF. The story concerns a female Soviet cosmonaut who, in the early Sixties, is transported to another dimension, and finds herself in a post-historic world of Jaguar Men, timelost Napoleonic-era British naval officers (one of whom has a really familiar last name ... ), pterosaur-riding pirates, ancient androids, talking trees, floating cities, airships ... you know, the same old story
John Crowley is interviewed by Nick Gevers at Sci-Fi Weekly:
NG: Well, Lord Byron's Novel does have many very exciting elements one might associate with genre fiction—the atmosphere of the Oriental fantasy tale; ferocious combat among Albanian clansfolk; an ancient crumbling mansion; a mysterious murder; a zombie rescuer; smugglers; battle scenes; doppelgangers; somnambulant episodes; a global revolutionary brotherhood; and so forth. And a certain "Roony J. Welch" may just be quasi-immortal. ... Is LBN in any major sense a work of fantasy?

JC: Well, I don't think Byron's novel is—as Ada points out, it may be sensational, wild and fantastic, but there are no strictly supernatural elements in it. Is mine? I think that if a novel has no whiff at all of the impossible, the fabulous, the inexplicable, the metaphysical as the Romantics meant the word, then it isn't very realistic, because the real (this, our shared physical and biological) world does have those intimations in it. (When the intimations become certainties, you have fantasy.)
And Michel Faber, whose new collection The Fahrenheit Twins is out next month, enthuses (slightly self-importantly) about short stories:
None of these stories are trifling distractions from the truly substantial work of writing novels. They are pieces that demanded to be brought to life, and that decided, in their own wisdom, to be 12 or 29 pages long rather than a few hundred. Forget all that nonsense about short stories being essentially different from novels, more like poetry, blah blah blah. A good short story is a fictional vision which, in its optimal form, happens to have a short page count. It need not be short on ideas; indeed, some of the best have more content than many puffed-up magnum opuses.
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Kelly Link's Magic For Beginners is reviewed in the New York Times by Michael Knight (yes, really). He seems a bit confused:
Take ''Some Zombie Contingency Plans.'' It's about a recently released convict who drives around the suburbs looking for parties to crash because he's lonely. There are zombies here, but are they real? The premise is fresh and the characters (the con, the girl whose party he crashes, her little brother who sleeps under the bed) are likable and Link puts a metafictional twist on the narrative voice (''This is a story about being lost in the woods,'' she says), but the story doesn't quite come together, and those zombies -- are they supposed to be a metaphor?
Scott Westerfeld explains:
Allow me to explain, Mr. Non-sf-Reading Reviewer Man. Sure, zombies can “be a metaphor.” They can represent the oppressed, as in Land of the Dead, or humanity’s feral nature, as in 28 Days. Or racial politics or fear of contagion or even the consumer unconscious (Night of the Living Dead, Resident Evil, Dawn of the Dead). We could play this game all night.

But really, zombies are not “supposed to be metaphors.” They’re supposed to be friggin’ zombies. They follow the Zombie Rules: they rise from death to eat the flesh of the living, they shuffle in slow pursuit (or should, anyway), and most important, they multiply exponentially. They bring civilization down, taking all but the most resourceful, lucky and well-armed among us, whom they save for last. They make us the hunted; all of us.

That’s the stuff zombies are supposed to do. Yes, they make excellent symbols, and metaphors, and have kick-ass mytho-poetic resonance to boot. But their main job is to follow genre conventions, to play with and expand the Zombie Rules, to make us begin to see the world as a place colored by our own zombie contingency plans.
EDIT: A relevant comment at Making Light:
I got into a rather heated argument a few months back with someone who was insisting that Tooth and Claw was good because "it isn't really about dragons." I said that it was too really about dragons, and that it would have been a much worse novel if it had not been really about dragons. "But I mean, really about dragons," said the other person. And I said yes, really about dragons. It didn't matter how many kinds of typographical emphasis she attempted to vocalize: Tooth and Claw is about dragons.

It also does other things, but if every little thing in it was a metaphor for man's inhumanity to radishes or some damn thing, it would suck.
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In case anyone going to Eastercon this weekend didn't know, most of the stories nominated for the short fiction award are available online. So, no excuse for not casting an informed vote, then.
'Point of No Return' by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
'Delhi' by Vandana Singh
'The Wolfman of Alcatraz' by Howard Waldrop
'The Faery Handbag' by Kelly Link is available in The Faery Reel; and the fifth story, Stephen Baxter's 'Mayflower II', is not online, but I've written about it here (and if you ask nicely I can lend you my copy. Actually, for some of you if you don't ask nicely I might forcibly lend you my copy).
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What do you want from a story?

I've been thinking about that question recently. Partly because of a post Chance made, in which she talks about how important she finds sentence-level writing, and partly because I've been reading the poll-winning collection Stranger Things Happen, and noticing the differences between the kinds of stories that Kelly Link likes to tell and the kinds of stories that I like to read.

Read more... )

So. I certainly recommend the collection; I just don't do so unreservedly. And I ask again, because I want to know: what do you want from a story?

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