The Janitor on Mars, by Martin Amis

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The Janitor on Mars, by Martin Amis

Post by Omphalos »


In the last two-and-a-half years, roughly the length of time I have maintained a blog dedicated to SF, I have noticed about myself that I tend to read certain types of stories in blocks. For example, sometimes I will plow through five or six post apocalyptic stories in a row, or will begin, put down and start again three of four non-fiction books all at once. One other feature that I have been drawn to of late is SF stories that were written by mainstream writers. I currently have SF works by Michael Chabon, B.F. Skinner, Gore Vidal, Martin Amis and Sinclair Lewis sitting in my pile of things to be read. These stories often amaze me, I think because the authors who write them have only a beginner's understanding of the idiom of the genre. That is to say, they understand that in order to write good SF they must not flout the rules of science, but if they do, they had better have a pretty good explanation of how and why. What they often are not burdened with are the methods by which established SF authors have fleshed-out those thematic frameworks, and because of that I think that the SF stories that mainstream authors produce are often fresher and more imaginative. Certainly that is not the only reason. For example, often SF authors can be successful and well regarded in their genre by adhering to the rule stated above, even if the work that they put out is subliterary. Larry Niven is a perfect example. His writing style is often bad, sometimes atrocious even, but he is scientifically accurate and wildly inventive, so that when he does not adhere to the known, we are told the reason why very convincingly. Now, so I am not accused of swinging too far the other way here, I will also state that there are some very literary writers in the genre. Samuel Delaney, Ursula K. LeGuin, James Tiptree and Robert Silverberg are some of my favorites. But I think that mainstream authors generally make better SF authors, at least when they conform to the rule above, because they are generally better at the literary aspects, and have wider and deeper experience with important things such as characterization, setting and metaphor, and are generally more literary authors. After all, mainstream literary critics will tear them apart if they are not...Please click here, or on the book cover above, to be taken to the complete review..
Something is about to happen, Hal. Something wonderful!

-James C. Harwood, Science Fiction Writer, Straight (March 5, 1956 - May 25, 2010)

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