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Monday, February 18, 2013

China Mieville's "50 SF/F Works Every Socialist Should Read"

I think the list might be more aptly pitched to every "lefty" since the connection to socialism or even social democracy is awfully loose in many of the choices, but the list is still mostly excellent. I'd be well pleased to see Philip K. Dick vanish from that (and every such) list to make room for, say, Atwood, Di Filippo, Ruff, others, but lists are made to quibble with. I've actually taught quite a few of his chosen titles to undergraduates over the years.


jimf said...

Here's how well-read I am: out of that entire list, I've

Banks' _Use of Weapons_
Le Guin's _The Dispossessed_
Peake's _Gormenghast_ trilogy (35 years ago)
Shelley's _Frankenstein_
Swift's _Gulliver's Travels_
Wolfe's _The Fifth Head of Cerberus_

I've seen the _Dr. Moreau_ movie (the one with
Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer).

Quite a few of the rest I haven't even heard of
(either the authors or the works). Of course I've
at least **heard** of Edward Bellamy, Octavia Butler (read
the _Xenogensis_ books), Philip K. Dick, Thomas Disch,
Max Ernst, Anatole France, Jack London,
Ken MacLeod, Michael Moorcock, William Morris,
Philip Pullman, Ayn Rand (!), Mack Reynolds,
Kim Stanley Robinson, Norman Spinrad (ST:TOS
"The Doomsday Machine" ;-> ), Michael Swanwick,
H. G. Wells (I've read _The Time Machine_,
and seen the movies ;-> ), Oscar Wilde,
Yevgeny Zamyatin (I **may** have read, or at least
started to read, _We_).

So there. I'm an illiterate. ;->

Dale Carrico said...

The Rand suggestion is a know thy enemy kinda sorta thing -- I've actually taught Atlas Shrugged at Berkeley in much the same spirit. Little inoculates even quotidian intelligences from vulnerability to neoliberal/ neoconservative pieties than a sustained critical reading of the terminally awful La Rand I have found. Btw, the Kilmer/Brando Moreau is for me a scarcely equaled high camp ecstasy.

Raymond Johnson said...

what is the objection to PKD?

Dale Carrico said...

I think he is hugely overrated both as a stylist and as a thinker, I think he was a one trick pony good for one pony ride, I think he symptomizes rather than critiques American paranoia and hence I find him much more tedious than provocative. I realize mine is a minority opinion, of course, ymmv.

Raymond Johnson said...

but you gotta love the fact that he was sitting in a psych ward going on about how the FBI ransacked his safe and papers, and it was TRUE! He was indeed a person of interest to COINTELPRO. And they black bagged his house, took everything as it came out years later. The new edition of his "Valis Exegesis" excerpts gives more meat and dimensionality to his thinking, as deranged as it can be in places.

Dale Carrico said...

you gotta love


deranged as it can be

Derangement I can enjoy -- it's the boredom I object to.

Black guy from the future past said...

Will read them. USA needs a revolution of culture, ideas and Now people are trying to pimp out another straight laced safe black guy named Ben Carson. I find him appalling. Just another safe christian traditionalist black guy, like Obama. It is my dream that one day this country will have a liberal-leftist-socialist atheist minority(black, native American, female, queer, get the idea) president who will be willing to correct the many injustices of he past of which are so well known that I don't even have to list here. We have never had a president willing to rebuild native Americans, socially, politically or economically. Or a president willing to put an end to military excursions, or a president willing to tear down the ghettos that still exist in America which is a crime against human flourishing and well being. This is essential if American civilization is to survive and thrive.

wetwiring said...

I would have thought maybe we could slip Andrei Platonov and Joe Haldeman. If Jack London is there then we can make room for Samuel Butler. Also, Sheri S. Tepper's Beauty for sure.

Athena Andreadis said...

Out of the 50:

Women, 11.5 (Bull/Brust is the 0.5)
Non-Anglo, 8

Woo-hoo (not).

Raymond Johnson said...

James Tiptree Jr. was female and belongs on this list... aka Alice Sheldon aka Alice Racoona

jimf said...

> Alice Sheldon aka Alice Racoona

Raccoona Sheldon.

I can still remember the afternoon I discovered she had
killed her husband (suffering from Alzheimer's) and then
herself. Via Usenet, no less.

More than a quarter of a century ago, now.

mtraven said...

I was surprised that The Space Merchants didn't make that list.

I think everyone agrees that PKD was a pretty bad stylist. But he's incredibly important to the field, if nothing else.

Raymond Johnson said...

I do not agree at all that PKD was a poor stylist, and neither mainstream majority critical opinion nor his sales and success support that assertion.

Dale Carrico said...

His sales?

Raymond Johnson said...

Nabokov and Paul Bowles are my idea of stylists. PKD was more direct and workmanlike, but he certainly was not a poor stylist especially in comparison to today's NYT best sellers like Stephanie Meyers who barely reaches a 4th grade reading level with shoddy monster porn intended for an adult audience.

mtraven said...

Don't get me wrong, I love PKD and even went to a recent meeting of the PKD Society. But his prose tends to be awkward, and even his most devoted fans and promoters (like Jonathan Lethem) acknowledge that.

Check out the conservative response to Mieville's list. Pretty weird choices. Including Lovecraft was brave: “One way to think of Lovecraft is as a demented anticipation of Russell Kirk. Kirk praised the permanent things. The permanent things in Lovecraft are
revolting monsters from outer space or undersea who, it turns out, have been here for eons, and sometimes have interbred with us.”

Raymond Johnson said...

Now Lovecraft was a shite stylist!

And he expressed genuine and vile racism in his letters to his many correspondents....

Raymond Johnson said...

On the Creation of Niggers (1912)
by H. P. Lovecraft
written 1912

When, long ago, the gods created Earth
In Jove's fair image Man was shaped at birth.
The beasts for lesser parts were next designed;
Yet were they too remote from humankind.
To fill the gap, and join the rest to Man,
Th'Olympian host conceiv'd a clever plan.
A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,
Filled it with vice, and called the thing a Nigger.