Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Adventures in Hyperreality

I posted a couple of lists of worthwhile science fiction and fantasy books a little while back, and was gratified by the degree of knowledgeability and enthusiasm displayed by the commentariat. I left those two lists incomplete, and thanks to numerous suggestions have been able to finish them off and have just posted them on the cobwebby web site (which I really must do something about, soon; it’s really showing its age). They were generated for a short, intense creative writing course I’ll be teaching next week. The idea is to provide a list of books anyone with an interest in science fiction and/or fantasy might consider interesting, worthwhile, or even essential. There aren’t any titles less than twenty-five years old because I planned to ask the people taking the course to generate short lists of their own. Lists of books - or anything else - they’ve found inspiring.

That ‘anything else’ brings me to another pair of lists, got up by M. John Harrison over at his blog around about the same time I was working up mine. They’re far more catholic than mine, don’t have an artificial end point, and include all kinds of stuff in addition to books: David Bowie’s 'Diamond Dogs' for instance, and Tom Waits’s ‘What’s He Building’. I stuck up a link to the video of the latter because I was going to write something appreciative about those lists, but then life (okay, mostly a big block of copy-editing) intervened and more than a week has passed. Anyhow, MJH’s lists are seriously playful, crammed as they are with ‘stuff that turned me on when I read it or watched it; or which still turns me on now’, and embody the kind of stuff that gets incorporated into writers’ creative juices. In a later post, MJH lays out another good boundary-demolishing, viewpoint-skewing thesis - a lot of the stuff in the happening world, from L’Oreal ads to Lewis Hamilton’s career, are fantasies as carefully constructed as any triple-decker post-Tolkein magical kings’n’queens commercial fantasy novel. Hyperreality rules.

Oh, and found over on John Crowley’s blog, here’s another great reading list: non-fiction books any good fantasy writer should study and absorb, structured around the topic of ‘Cultures We Really Evolved that are Stranger Than Any You can Think of.’ We need to be reminded as often as possible that the world is stranger than we can imagine.


Blogger PeteY said...

Maybe I should have noticed this before, but you have Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde on the Fantasy list, whereas for me, it's clearly SF. Depends whether you consider psychology a science, I suppose.

May 14, 2009 1:37 am  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Hi Pete,

I think it's one of those examples of quantum indeterminacy in categorisation. Where it is located depends on the observer. I think it's fantasy because of its gothic/horror tone. But, yes, it could as easily be defined as sf by the idea behind its story. See also, Frankenstein.

Maybe both lists should be collapsed together!

.It was written feel it's

May 15, 2009 11:46 am  

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