Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Mundanespotting Asimov's January 2011

Posted by frankh at 7:56 AM
It's hard to complain about the state of mundane sf after the incredible breakout year of Paolo Bacigalupi. But I will try. I "discovered" Bacigalupi during his first big wave of stories that preceeded the various award nominations, and had the unprecidented pleasure of buying his first story collection knowing that I had read all the previously published content. I started blogging way back in 2004.

But Bacigalupi is about the only bright spot, and his reliance on the small press ghetto a massive indictment of sf publishing. In 2009 I made a heroic effort (meaning: with the help of interlibrary loan) to find and read all the nominated short fiction for the Hugo, Nebula, and Sturgeon awards. Not just mundanespotting, but full-on reading. I came up 3 novellas short (still might finish 'em), but read quite a lot of what was considered the best. There was not much mundane sf at all, and despite some good writing, there was some blatant crap, even among the winners.

Which brings me to today. I have made various attempts to revive the mundanespotting habit, but they all fell short of pressing the "Publish Post" button. This time it's for real. I'm going to attempt to mundanespot the nominal 2011 magazines, all in old school paper format, from front to back. In 2011, that's the big three, Asimov's, F&SF, Analog, plus Interzone, all still functioning.

My new trick is that I will not wait to finish a magazine (and risk losing all momentum) before posting. So here's starting with Asimov's January 2011 [since edited to completion].

1) "Two Thieves" by Chris Beckett -- warp gate
2) "Dolly" by Elizabeth Bear -- android homicide, ripped from headlines
3) "Visitors" by Steve Rasnic Tem -- the blurb says "collateral consequences of cryobiology," and I say mundane
4) "Interloper" by Ian McHugh -- seems to be about mind-controlling aliens in the Outback, though there wasn't much of an infodump
5) "Ashes on the Water" by Gwendolyn Clare -- mundane future India
6) "Killer Advice" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch -- ftl

Two out of six is not so bad for a start, and both of the mundane stories are worth a read.



Blogger Jetse de Vries said...

You said:

"But Bacigalupi is about the only bright spot, and his reliance on the small press ghetto a massive indictment of sf publishing."

'The Windup Girl', indeed released by 'small press' Nightshade Books has sold over 50,000 copies (and counting), and won almost every major SF award (Hugo, Nebula, and more).

Paolo's YA novel 'Shipbreaker' (also full-on mundane SF) is published by Little & Brown, a big time publisher. It won the Printz Award (YA category from the American Libraries Association), was a National Books Award finalist (didn't win, though), so it's making a big splash *outside* the genre ghetto, as well.

Then there's Ian McDonald: his last three novels -- 'River of Gods', Brasyl' and 'The Dervish House' are also very much mundane SF, with the former two being Hugo nominees (and 'River of Gods' barely losing against "Jonathan Strange', which had a 6 figure ad budget), and I would be surprised if 'The Dervish House' didn't make the ballot, either (as it should).

And yeah, there's this little anthology called SHINE...;-)

1/27/2011 05:21:00 AM  
Blogger frankh said...

Yes, as I said, Bacigalupi kicks ass. And now he kicks ass in the mainstream. But his great work prior to Windup Girl would have been enough for the major sf publishers to snap him up for his first novel, *back in the day.* But now they are too busy devoting what resources they have in buying another endless warrior quest, counterfactual, or time travel series.

McDonald was thoughtfully heckling here a while back. I don't remember the sequence of events, but I probably said that he had ruined some great mundane material with time travel. I haven't noticed what he's done since, but I applaud anything he's keeping real. (And grudgingly respect it anyway, but I still need to keep score here.)

I have to assume that SHINE is totally sucky since it has escaped my notice.

1/28/2011 01:28:00 AM  

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