Monday, June 23, 2003


The July 2003 issue of NYR of SF has arrived in the VanderMeer household, presaged by a house-wide fleaspray and a rather dangerous look in the eye of Pretty Ugly, one of our cats. Plenty of interesting reviews this time around--in particular:

- Walter Minkel's intriguing review of Diana Wynne Jones' The Merlin Conspiracy. Minkel makes her work sound so enticing, I think I will have to sample it.

- Damien Broderick's fair/unfair review of Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Broderick's review is so influenced by the great publicity for the book that he damns it with faint praise. I don't think this book is as uneven as Broderick makes it out to be, but I do agree it's not as good as Jonathan Strahan and others have said. It's a small book, really an extended novella. It makes for decent entertainment, and as a first novel shows a lot of promise. Broderick should not use Doctorow's ability to publicize the book against him. Should he and his publishing house, TOR, have tried to be less successful in his PR efforts? "Please, NYT Book Review--I beg you: don't run that review of my book. I am not worthy." Of course not.

- Faren Miller's excellent analysis of K.J. Bishop's wonderful first novel, The Etched City. Yet more publicity for an author and book that really deserve it. I would not be surprised if Bishop found a major U.S. publisher soon.

- Eugene Reynolds' suspect review of Jeffrey Ford's The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories, in which he tries to make the claim for Ford being a Catholic writer. I suppose it makes no difference how Ford defines himself. I'm afraid we have a kind of New Weird scenario in this review, whereby Reynold's attempts to make Ford conform to a narrow definition make the entire discussion of the work much less interesting. I'm glad it's a good review, because the book deserves it, but Reynold's approach is at times laughable.

- David Griffin's response to an article by Darrell Schweitzer, "The Uses of Fantasy." I can't recall the Schweitzer article, but apparently it concerned the divide between fantastical and realistic literature, especially as expressed through reviews and reviewers. Griffin points out a phenomenon that I've commented on several times in the last few years: fantastical literature has entered the mainstream, and is being reviewed in the mainstream. Griffin points to a recent NYT Book Review issue in which Edward Carey's fantastical Alva & Irva and Paco Ignacio Taibo's magic realist Returning as Shadows both received positive reviews in the general fiction review section. It is true that books marketed as genre are not getting reviewed much in the general fiction section of major review outlets, but fantasy not marketed as such is getting reviewed there. If such reviews drive sales, perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from that. More importantly, a lot of really good fantasy is being published through mainstream imprints. It pays to hunt around for it.

Jeff V