China Miéville on challenging the reader

Paul Raven @ 24-08-2010

We break briefly from the predominantly near-future science fiction remit of this website in order to bring to your attention an author who I think all lovers of great fiction should discover, if they haven’t already. Wired has a podcast chat with the incomparable (and coolly charming) China Miéville; not only does he write brilliant books that subvert and mash together two or three (or maybe more) subgenres at a time, but his mind is sharper and shinier than a samurai sword*. Go listen to him talk. You may not agree with everything he says, but I defy you to not have your brain stretched.

I rather suspect there are a few Miéville devotees already among the audience here – I like to think our devotion is primarily to great writing rather than partisan notions of genre adherence (though I may be wrong). So, which Miéville would you most heartily recommend? (Or, conversely, which one didn’t you like, and why?)

My personal favourite would be The Scar, but the recently released Kraken is probably the best entry text to the Mieville oeuvre.

How do you get your ebook signed by the author?

Paul Raven @ 04-01-2010

No, it’s not really a trick question. In fact, it’s a business idea from Danie Ware, public relations ubergeekstress of London’s world-famous Forbidden Planet store, a solution to the intangibility of an ebook by comparison to the collectible physicality of its dead-tree equivalent. So I’ll let Danie explain the idea herself:

Removable, collectable vinyl [ebook reader] covers – plain, a selection of colours, maybe they can be stylised by your favourite art toy designer – but ultimately, they’re there to collect signatures. Take one to a Convention, keep it on you, it protects your Kindle, it looks cool – and you get to show off all the autographs/sketches you’ve collected.

It’s a talking point in the bar – a great way to chat up fanboys/girls and a lovely excuse to approach your favourite writer. Plus the authors get to keep up with their public appearances – hell, if this is marketed right and catches on, it could be a new and different lease of eventing life… bigger multi-author signings will surely become more popular, and (we’re back to this again) everybody wins.

Definitely not the craziest idea I’ve heard so far this year… hell, I’d buy one right away (if I had an ebook reader to put in the thing).

What do you lot think – will your ebook reader be owner-decorated, like a sticker-bedecked and/or laser-engraved laptop (or, going back in time a little bit, the school bags, folders and pencil-cases of teenagers), or will it stay largely uncustomised, like your phone?

Rudy Rucker guesting at BoingBoing

Paul Raven @ 18-05-2009

Rudy RuckerRudy Rucker is one of the authors I go out of my way for, so I’m stoked to see he’s guest-posting at BoingBoing for a couple of weeks; he’s kicked off today with a brief introduction to his “gnarly” plotting methods.

Experience  shows that Rucker’s fiction divides opinion sharply between those who love it and those who loathe it; I’m firmly in the former camp, though I think I understand what it is about transrealism that puts others off. [image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

That said, he’s got lots of interesting and weird stuff to say outside of his stories: he’s a professor of mathematics with a psychedelic outlook, he was a core member of the cyberpunk movement (which means he has some great tales to tell about the other characters involved) and he’s got a unique eye for photographing the mundane and making it seem alien. Go pay him some attention; you may not agree with him, but I defy you to be indifferent!

So, any other Rucker fans in the house? Which story or novel would you recommend to a newcomer to Rucker’s body of work?

What would you ask Kim Stanley Robinson?

Paul Raven @ 06-04-2009

Kim Stanley Robinson portraitWell, what? If you could put any question to Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the legendary Mars Trilogy as well as the more recent Science in the Capitol series, what would it be? [Image from Wikipedia]

This is not a rhetorical question, by the way. The nice people at Harper Collins are soon to be launching their new website and getting to grips with the intermawebz, and as part of the preliminaries they’re throwing six of their biggest genre fiction authors on the mercies of six different genre fiction blogs, including Big Dumb Object, SFF Chronicles, SFF World, Speculative Horizons and Book Geeks. The good Mr Robinson has been chosen to appear here at Futurismic, and you lot get to pick the questions.

I dare say it’s a pretty good match; Robinson’s interests – science, politics, climate change and space – are very much in line with the stuff we talk about here from day to day, and I’m sure he’ll be amenable to questions about his writing in more general terms (provided you don’t ask him where he gets his ideas from).

So, here’s the way we’re gonna do it: if you’ve got a question you’d like to put to Kim Stanley Robinson, leave a comment below.

Simple enough? There are some basic rules, though – honest and non-snarky questions only (I’ll just ignore or delete anything silly or rude, I’m afraid, but controversial science and politics are fine), keep them to a reasonable scale (something that can be answered in a few paragraphs or so), and the deadline will be 1800 hours GMT this Wednesday, 8th April 2009. If there are too many, I’ll pick out the best.

Yep, that’s the lot. So, thinking caps on, folks; I’m looking forward to seeing some interesting questions. 🙂

David Brin guestblogging at Sentient Developments this week

Paul Raven @ 24-03-2009

David BrinThis week, transhumanist blogger George Dvorsky’s site Sentient Developments plays host to no less a science fiction luminary than David Brin as guest blogger. Says Dvorsky:

David will be writing about biological uplift, the Singularity, Active SETI (messages to extraterrestrial intelligences), and how a transparent society might work to help us mitigate catastrophic risks.

Topics that should be of some interest to Futurismic regulars, then; I file David Brin among the group of authors and thinkers with whom I don’t always agree, but who never fail to challenge my thinking.

Dvorsky has taken the time to provide a reading list around Brin’s first topic, namely biological uplift, and that first post is ready to read as I type. Here’s a snippet:

1. Can we replicate – in other creatures or in AI – the stunning way that Homo sapiens outstripped the needs of mere hunter-gathering, to reach levels of mentation that can take us to other planets and invent symphonies and possibly destroy the world? That was one hell of a leap! In Earth I speculated about half a dozen quirky things that might explain that vast overshoot in ability. In my next novel Existence I speculate on a dozen more.

In truth, we just don’t know. I frankly think it may be harder than it looks.

Go read. [Brin portrait from Wikimedia Commons]

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