A sneak peek at issue #4’s editorial…

Hey all; while I haven’t even put together issue #3’s yet, I have something already burning its way out of my mind and into draft for issue #4: the important SF/F books of 2010.

There’s still a few months left, but here is a sneak peek at what and why:

  1. The SHINE anthology edited by Jetse de Vries (Solaris). Optimistic SF is hard and important; if we as speculative fiction writers cannot see our way convincingly to something optimistic from where we are, perhaps that is as good an argument as any that we’re in a lot of collective trouble here on this shimmering blue rock. SHINE delivered this, but not in a token, “oh, they found some optimistic stories” way. Rather, it was with great stories. So that’s important, and hopefully sets the tone for what makes a book important to me.
  2. THE DERVISH HOUSE by Ian McDonald (Pyr). I’m not going to talk to much about this, as I’ll let the review in issue #3 from Richard Dansky do that; but while the book has its critics for being labelable as (paraphrasing Saladin Ahmed in late 2009, off-handedly responding to the jacket copy) “yet another terrorism in the near future arabic world book” it does almost the inverse of what the SHINE anthology does. In a way similar (to me) to how THE WINDUP GIRL did so in 2009, THE DERVISH HOUSE shows us, clearly and believable, where we are currently going. It shows a possible positive future in negative space. Of course, that is likely my reading through my incredibly narrow lens into the book, which attempts to fit as many nearly square pegs into a rigidly square hole as possible, but: there it is.
  3. THE ALCHEMIST & THE EXECUTIONESS by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias Buckell. This book, a pair of novellas (yes, yes, I heart novellas) by two of this generation’s most imaginative authors, would not make this list on its beautiful, dark fantasy alone; or on its deep, convincing worldbuilding; or its touching and very human characters. That is because this list is not about “the best” books — those qualities I mentioned might indeed put this book onto such a list, but I will not be doing such a list, so that leaves me with my own list. It is something else about this book, combined with its quality, which brings it here. That is: this is not actually a “book”. It is produced first and exclusively (so far) as an audiobook from Audible. Let me say this again: two of this generation’s most imaginative storytellers took an amazing pair of novellas and it is published directly and only as a digital audiobook. Something about that tips the scales from a “best” list to my “important” list.

And there’s still those months left to go. And there are a couple of other books (and “books”) already on my radar for consideration:

  1. SACRED SPACE by Douglas E. Cowan (Baylor University Press). This is a non-fiction book which tackles the idea that much of our science fiction is a quest for meaning. Baylor University Press sent it my way some time ago, but I haven’t had a chance to dig into to see how it does at its task. It is asking an important question, which gets my attention.
  2. The AETHER AGE anthology edited by Christopher Fletcher and Brandon Bell (Hadley Rille). This book has had my attention since its inception as a “Shared World” anthology — to be published as a Creative Commons share-alike world. These things have happened before, but this one is really in a position to be interesting and important, as it asks a couple of questions. What might have happened if the printing press and literacy had been widespread as early as 3000 BCE? Can a CC-SA licensed book really be, well, good?
  3. The GATEWAYS anthology edited by Elizabeth Hull (Tor). (Did I mention this was the year of the anthology? It was. So many good ones.) Based on some reviews, this one has me quite curious. Pohl wrote (and writes!) on some important themes (consumerism, overpopulation) and an anthology of work inspired by his is indeed something I hope to find time to check out before the year runs out.
  4. The MONGOLIAD. I don’t know at all what to make of this yet. But another attempt at a serialized novel (the last one I followed was King’s THE PLANT) along with illustrations, maps, all kinds of odd weird historical fiction goodness. From Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, and more.

Honorable mention is METATROPOLIS, which came out from Tor this year; but it was first published (in audio!) in late 2008, and first in print last year from Subterranean. So it might not fit into a 2010 list, despite my aforementioned ability desire to squeeze merely square-like pegs into the square hole that is my idea for what makes a 2010 book important. And I might change my mind and put this on the list proper, anyway. Hey, it’s my list, right? I make the rules. And a selection of “outsider anarchist fiction” and “the idea of mutual aid economics and horizontal structuring” certainly, certainly fits the bill.

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