Visions of Paradise

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Banks / Heinlein / prozines

Some random sfnal thoughts:

I was disappointed in Iain M. Banks Culture novel Use of Weapons. While the basic storyline was strong, the author muddled it by jumping around too much from present time to different parts of the main character’s past, as well as inserting numerous sections which seemed like little more than excuses for Banks to demonstrate his writing chops. Since Weapons was published a decade earlier than the wonderful Look to Windward, it seems as if Banks had not mastered his writing ability yet and had bit off more than he was yet capable of chewing. Too bad Banks does not go back and re-edit the earlier novel to eliminate the confusion and bring out the novel’s strengths rather than muddle them with its weaknesses.

I was discussing Robert Heinlein in an email with my fellow blogger Jim Harris, and I confessed to him how few of his juveniles I have actually read. I told Jim that I’ve only ever read 3 Heinlein juveniles largely because I’ve always had some problems with Heinlein’s fiction. I started reading science fiction in the mid-1960s when Heinlein was going downhill so, with the exception of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, I read most of his second- and third-tier fiction before going back and reading any of his "Golden Age" stuff. By that time most of his then-innovations were commonly-used stuff by most, if not all, sf writers, so I did not initially understand why he was generally considered the most important sf writer of the past thirty years. By the time I did understand, I had so many other sf books to read that I never had much incentive to go back and read all those juveniles. At this point, I am not even sure which are the ones I should try to read.

For my first forty years reading sf, I subscribed to various prozines. Galaxy was my first love, and I subscribed to it from 1963 through its untimely death in 1980. Worlds of If, Worlds of Tomorrow, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog, and Asimov’s all passed through my mailbox for many years. But about a dozen years ago I realized that reading prozines was taking up such a large portion of my limited reading time that if I did not eliminate my subscriptions I would be missing out on many worthwhile books. A decade later I do not really miss the prozines, and buying a few best-of-the-year collections enable me to keep up with the pulse of the sf field.


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