Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mundane SF Enters the Genre's Lexicon

Posted by Trent Walters at 7:29 AM
Due to the recent appearance of two zines soliciting Mundane SF, I performed my first google for "mundane SF" in awhile--to see how it is faring in the lexicon. Despite the initial misunderstanding of the manifesto's tone--I was surprised to learn--that idea is percolating quite well.

The biggest news is that two novelists, with novels coming out this year, have avowed their work is Mundane. Charles Stross told Scifi that he'd written a Mundane SF novel. It turns out he had already told this to in an interview. Anil Menon also has a Mundane SF novel coming out--his debut novel, in fact. In his journal, he compares MSF to "the Kashmiri pundit Kshemendra describ[ing] a poet's education in the Kavikanthabharana." Author Paul Cornell called David Louis Edelman's Infoquake MSF (which the publisher, PYR, proudly linked to)--as if that were a good thing. Edelman, in fact, does link to the group. (Earlier Stross had mentioned that he considered Vernor Vinge's Rainbow's End to be MSF, but I have no link for that.) (Side note on authors, #1: Ian Hocking has podcast his entire novel, Deja Vu. I can't recall if he said if it were MSF. Side note #2: A number of as yet unpublished novelists are also claiming their work as Mundane, such as David Mace, an aspiring author in the UK who is working on a Masters in linguistics.)

Tim Pratt told SFRevu that MSF had potential for exciting stuff. Patrick Samphire discusses MSF off-hand as a means of distinguishing rational SF from irrational. Hobby Space shares the MSF vision of a developed solar system but nothing else (which is not to exclude MSFers who believe only in a developed Earth). Playing with the alternate definitions of "mundane," he calls this idea "anything but mundane."

I loved this: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan translated into Italian the ideas behind Mundane SF and Infernokrusher. MSF stirred vigorous debate while infernokrusher bored them. Abigail Nussbaum described/debated MSF for SF readers in Israel (she gets hung up on the tone, but that's old news; the manifesto had always mocked itself for being a manifesto, which was supposed to be part of the fun; funny, how some people pick up on that immediately while others never do: Paperback Writer, for one, enjoys the antagonism: without evidence she attributed a Dark Cabal to MSF and a commenter of hers described his and her work as writing that doesn't "give a hang about the science." I do honestly wish Viehl the best with her writing).

In the comments, Niall Harrison compares/contrasts MSF to Spinrad. Ben Burgis described "V for Vendetta" as MSF as though that were a good quality. Someone in the commentary at Washington Monthly recommended the blog.

I finally found a description of the live debate between Ian McDonald and Geoff Ryman, written up by Andrew Ducker:

"I made it to the start of the programming in time to see Ian McDonald and Geoff Ryman argue about Mundane SF. Or rather, since Geoff turned up 20 minutes late, to see Ian McDonald defend Mundane SF by proxy until it could be defended in person. Various people seemed baffled by the idea that SF with certain limits might be considered particularly interesting, and Geoff was very careful to describe the whole thing as "rules for a particular game that I'd like to see played" as opposed to "How SF should be written".. Some members of the panel seemed slightly confused that FTL might not fit into hard SF, or that just because the story was obviously fiction didn't mean it was ok for absolutely anything to happen. Anyway, it was all fascinating, and hearing Geoff talk about the fact that Cyberpunk was effectively SF written after the fact, because people were so busy looking 3000 years into the future they weren't looking 30, made for a good discussion."

Six months ago, in Part 2 of a four part interview, Carolyn Hill for the Chronicles Network asked Geoff Ryman about MSF and how it was misunderstood. Actually, the whole interview is worth reading. Hill did a good job.


Blogger David Marusek said...

Hey there--

I think you can list my first novel as mundane--COUNTING HEADS (Tor 2005). I've never signed the MSF pledge, but I am allergic to magic in all forms, so I am a natural-born follower of your principles.

1/18/2007 05:36:00 PM  

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