Entering the Mainstream?

July 8, 2009

Two SF writers have been in the news recently.

The first, Alastair Reynolds, for securing a million pound publishing deal for his next 10 books…


The second, Chris Beckett, for winning the Edge Hill prize for short fiction…


At times like this, its tempting to say that SF is finally coming of age, that it is finally being accepted by the mainstream.

Of course we’ve all been here before.   Every so often the media takes note of SF, it picks up on a new writer or trend, but the fuss soon dies down and SF is left back where it belongs, if not in the gutter, then beneath mainstream notice.

Should we care?

Well, yes and no.  It’s nice to see two writers get the recognition they deserve.  Actually, nice is not strong enough a word.  I think most of us in the community are very proud of what they have done.  But let’s face it, we don’t need the media to tell us that House of Suns or the Turing Test is worth reading, we knew that already.

It would be nice if there were a few more million pound contracts out there, it would be nice if there were more literary prizes being won within the genre, but the truth is Reynolds and Beckett were good writers without these things, I’m sure they will continue to be so afterwards.

The rest of us will continue to enjoy their work, and that of other writers within the field who have so far escaped mainstream attention.

And if the mainstream doesn’t know about those other writers, then that’s the mainstream’s loss, not ours.

The Turing Test by Chris Beckett

March 28, 2009

The Turing Test is written by one of my favourite authors, Chris Beckett, and is a collection 14 short stories that originally appeared in Asimov’s and Interzone.

Now, as it says in Al Reynold’s introduction to the book, in a perfect world you wouldn’t need me to tell you why you need to read this collection, but, sadly, this is not yet a perfect world. 

So why read it?

Well, Chris Beckett writes a form of literary SF that is under-represented in the shoot ’em first and then torture ’em later sort of Sci Fi that makes up the bulk of stuff published today.  He has a facility for taking a straightforward idea and then drawing out the story for the reader to see.  What emerges can leave you with the feeling I should have thought of that, accompanied by a growing sense of unease at where the story is going to take you, a little like being trapped on a genteel roller coaster that you know is going to take you, despite its leisurely pace, on an extremely uncomfortable ride.  All this written in a economical but descriptive style that is easy to read to but deceptively hard to master.

Now, as I’ve said before, this blog doesn’t do reviews, (In case you’ve forgotten, it does Robots and Accordions), so if you want to know more you’ll have to search elsewhere (and I suggest that you do), but think on this:

Chris Beckett’s reputation is growing all the time, but there’s still time to get in on the ground floor and have the great pleasure in later years of saying “I told you so”.