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Old October 24 2012, 01:14 AM   #7
Brendan Moody
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Re: Is SF in a state of exhaustion?

I found Osama more interesting as a notion than successful as a novel, but it's certainly a good example of ambitious, relevant contemporary SF. Which is why McCalmont's claim that Tidhar "achieved notoriety as a writer of Steampunk novels" is amusing, and a good example of what's wrong with the "what I've seen = the state of the genre" approach. Doubtless for some readers Tidhar's steampunk novels are his most salient work (I've read the first, and it's not bad-- dodges a lot of iffy steampunk tropes even if it does go a bit too traditional at the end), but what I've seen, and what has made me think of him as a significant writer, does indeed draw on his experiences in places outside the bounds of traditional genre fiction. (The story "The Projected Girl," from Ellen Datlow's anthology Naked City, is especially fine.) Not that there's anything wrong with Tidhar and other writers using their talent to explore the tropes of Western literature-- as on the commenters on the LJ post suggests, there's something unpleasant about the implication that authentic work by them involves "engag[ing] with the realities of those places." And it makes me wonder to what extent the exhaustion at work here exists in reader rather than genre. Unless one imagines that Tidhar and others magically become better when writing about "exotic" locales, then the difference such work provides is cosmetic, a matter of narrative furniture rather than literary substance. To what degree, then are critics of the status quo tired not of uninspired work but of particular trappings common to inspired and uninspired alike?
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