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Posts from the ‘Genre Observations’ Category

CROSSROADS: How speculative are police procedurals?


Amazing Stories LogoHappy Thursday, everybody! It’s time for this week’s Crossroads post over at Amazing Stories.

This week, I take a look at the degree to which police procedurals are reliant on some of the same narrative techniques which speculative fiction has used and refined for decades (actually, since SF/F’s inception more properly). In particular, this week’s essay explores some of the dangers and trade-offs inherent to world-building set in our real world, and to the use of accurate technical jargon for simultaneous neologism and verisimilitude.

I hope you stop by and join the conversation!

Crossroads: Speculative Devices in Police Procedurals

CROSSROADS: Are police procedurals and speculative fiction incompatible?


Amazing Stories Logo Welcome to Thursday! Okay, for those of you in the US, welcome to Thursday afternoon (I’ve been running around like mad today and haven’t had a chance to get this post up until now). Considering today’s day of the week, it’s time for another Crossroads post over at Amazing Stories. This week, we kick off June’s month-long exploration of how police procedurals intersect with speculative fiction.

And for the first time in the Crossroads series, I’ve found a genre intersection that may be difficult. Noir, romance, westerns, comedy, and literary fiction could all integrate with SF/F, could all easily exchange aesthetic approaches, narrative techniques, structural conventions, and character archetypes. Yet it seems from some of my initial research that police procedurals may be in greater tension with the conventions/devices of speculative fiction. Which is cool, because that gives us the rest of the month to explore why and how!

I hope you’ll stop by and join the conversation!

CROSSROADS: The Difficulty of Police Procedural Speculative Fiction

The SFWA Bulletin, Censorship, Anonymity, and Representation


First things first: my name is Chris Gerwel, and I am not anonymous. The past several months have seen mounting controversy around The SFWA Bulletin, a quarterly trade publication published by SFWA (The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), a trade group representing writers of science fiction and fantasy. This controversy centers around the field’s ongoing examination of its relationship to gender, both in the field’s works (literary and visual) and in its published rhetoric.

I won’t go into the history of the controversy, which you can review for yourself here. Instead, I’m going to briefly suspend my blogging vacation to respond to Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg’s most recent salvo in the latest SFWA Bulletin. You can find their complete article at the bottom of this post from Radish Reviews (preceded by some good discussion of the article as well).

I have a huge problem with Resnick/Malzberg’s attitude. I consider it regressive, out-dated, and condescending. I am married to a “lady editor”, am friends with many more, and have great friendships with many “lady writers”. But I don’t think of them as “lady [anything]”. They are editors. They are writers. They are people. When I consider their work, I do exactly that: consider their work. Nothing else matters. Not their genders, not their sexualities, not their political views, and certainly not their appearances. When, in a professional context, we consider the work of plumbers, rocket scientists, and lawyers, it is the quality and characteristics of their work which are subject to our commentary. That focus on the work itself is precisely what “professional context” implies.

What Resnick and Malzberg have forgotten is that words matter. Images matter. They are what the world sees of our work, whether in our fiction or in our behavior. The criticism that has been leveled at the SFWA Bulletin’s gratuitous “warrior woman” cover (issue #200) is not that it is bad art, but rather that its old-fashioned and highly sexualized portrayal of its subject sends a regressive and out-dated message about the genre. Resnick and Malzberg’s dialogues are being criticized for the exact same failing: that to those in the field, and to those looking at the field from outside, their words communicate an attitude towards women that is condescending, dismissive, and not representative of the field.

In their most recent article, they make two spurious claims that are inaccurate, illogical, ignorant and ultimately irrelevant:

First, their critics are not anonymous as Resnick/Malzberg claim. That is a neat little rhetorical device to sideline detractors and to gain legitimacy through victimization. Unfortunately, it doesn’t pass the test of truth. Criticism of Resnick/Malzberg is happening online: in blogs, on Twitter, on Facebook, and on (various) forums. Their critics are not anonymous in these venues: Our names are known and typically displayed alongside each Tweet, comment, or post. However, Resnick/Malzberg wouldn’t know that simply because they are not participating in the modern field’s discussions. Their laments about “anonymous complainers” are the logical equivalent of someone calling the civil rights movement anonymous simply because they had never ventured into Harlem. Their claim is factually incorrect, and does little more than call attention to Resnick/Malzberg’s willful ignorance of today’s field.

Second, no one is calling for their thoughts to be censored. Their bombastic claims of “censorship” and “liberal fascism” are demagoguery of the basest sort, and as someone who has personally seen the consequences of real censorship and whose family has suffered at the hands of actual fascism, I find their ignorant rhetoric extremely offensive. Kameron Hurley discusses this from a slightly different perspective very eloquently here, as well.

Nobody (that I have seen) is saying that Resnick/Malzberg cannot have or publish their views in whatever venue will take them. I’m reasonably certain that every one of their detractors would agree with Ben Franklin in saying “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” If Cantankerous Cane-thumpers Weekly is willing to give Resnick and Malzberg a platform, then I’m happy for them.

What people are saying, however, is that SFWA — an organization whose mission is to “inform[s], support[s], promote[s], defend[s] and advocate[s] for [authors of science fiction, fantasy and related genres]” — should not give such regressive views a platform. That is not a call for censorship. That is a call for principle, and for the responsible fulfillment of SFWA’s fiduciary duty to ably represent and promote the interests of its membership.

Like it or not, the SFWA Bulletin is an official trade publication published by an organization representing science fiction and fantasy writers. It is one of that organization’s public voices. The words and images it contains matter. They send a message to current members, they send a message to potential members, and they send a message to future generations of writers about the values and priorities of our field.

I could criticize Resnick and Malzberg for their antediluvian attitudes until I was blue in the face. But it wouldn’t do any good. They will hold to their views, and I will hold to mine, and never the twain shall meet. But Resnick and Malzberg – and their values – are irrelevant for today’s field. The relevant question is whether such attitudes (whether espoused by Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, CJ Henderson, or anyone else) will benefit from the imprimatur of the field’s most significant organization.

This is a question of editorial policy, and it is one that should instead be directed at Jean Rabe (The SFWA Bulletin’s editor) and at SFWA’s Board. And it is in this that I see a light of hope: All of the SFWA board members I know are good, thoughtful, considerate, logical people. They have done and will continue to do excellent, often thankless, work on behalf of SFWA’s members and the field in general. And unlike Resnick/Malzberg, they are all active in that field’s modern forums of discussion and debate. The critics are not anonymous to them, and our concerns are being heard and listened to. In particular, I applaud Rachel Swirsky’s reasonable, considerate, respectful statements on Twitter today. I have every confidence that the SFWA Board will address these concerns in a thoughtful, considered manner.

This controversy may be considered yet another storm in a teacup, and no doubt it is. But to those of us who are either inside the teacup or hoping to board, it remains a tempest. To be clear, I am not yet a SFWA member. Some might say that fact invalidates my opinion. I disagree. I have long hoped to be a member, and I eagerly look forward to the day when I am eligible. I look forward to joining an organization that will inform me, support me, promote me, defend me, and advocate on my behalf. I hope to join an organization that will represent the kind of genre that I want to contribute to, one which has abandoned a pernicious history of discrimination and condescension.

Yes, the organization is facing a storm in a teacup. But this storm shall pass, and I have every confidence that SFWA’s Board will help the organization navigate the waves. It will take time, because such is the nature of organizations. But I genuinely believe that SFWA will get to a far better place, and it is because of that belief that my hope of joining has not wavered.

This fact notwithstanding, in the meantime, we should continue to condemn Resnick/Malzberg’s views, and we should continue to loudly proclaim:

Science Fiction and fantasy are enriched by all of our participants, regardless of gender, race, creed, sexuality, politics, eye color, hair length, or any other characteristic. Every writer and every editor deserves our respect and gratitude. Condescension and dismissal add nothing of value to the conversation, and merely show their adherents to have become irrelevant.

My name is Chris Gerwel, and I stand by these views.

CROSSROADS: SF/F Techniques in Literary Fiction


Amazing Stories Logo Last Thursday, I looked at how science fiction and fantasy employ a variety of techniques typically found in mainstream literary fiction. Of course, the door swings both ways and literary fiction is increasingly adopting the devices, tropes, and techniques of SF/F. Which brings us to this week’s Crossroads essay over on Amazing Stories, where I look at some of the typical science fictional techniques applied in mainstream literary fiction.

This piece wraps up my month long series on the intersection of speculative fiction and mainstream literary fiction, and if you’ve missed any of this months’ Crossroads essays, here are the links:

I hope you stop by and join the conversation!

CROSSROADS: The Techniques of “Literary” Speculative Fiction


Amazing Stories LogoSomehow, we seem to keep coming back around to Thursday. And what will we do this Thursday? The same thing we do every Thursday. Try and take over the world. Post another Crossroads essay over at Amazing Stories.

This week, I continue our discussion of the intersection between mainstream literary fiction and SF/F. Last week, I outlined a general theory suggesting that literary fiction and speculative fiction are not binary conditions, but instead that they each shade into each other depending on what narrative axis we’re considering. Continuing that exploration, this week I take a look at the techniques that speculative fiction deploys in works “closer in kind” to works of literary fiction.

I do hope you’ll stop by and take a look!

Crossroads: “Literary” Speculative Fiction and Literary Sensibilities

CROSSROADS: Literary Fiction vs Speculative Fiction – Round Infinity!


Amazing Stories Logo Even though I’m theoretically on a blogging vacation, I’m still doing the weekly Crossroads series over at Amazing Stories. This week, we’re continuing May’s exploration of the intersection between mainstream literary fiction and speculative fiction, and to that end I discuss how the core of each genre lies on various creative spectrums.

This week I take a stab at some theoretical groundwork in preparation for next week’s in-depth exploration of literary and speculative narrative strategies. I hope you stop by and enjoy this week’s discussion (and diagrams!)!

Crossroads: The Cores of Literary Fiction and Speculative Fiction

CROSSROADS: Magic Realism and Negotiating the Unreal


Amazing Stories Logo Welcome to Thursday, folks. Somehow, no matter what I do, this day just keeps coming around. Weird, huh? Well, Thursday’s mean that it’s time for another one of our weekly Crossroads posts over at Amazing Stories, and this week we get deeper into speculative fiction’s often-stormy relationship with mainstream literary fiction.

This week’s essay explores some of the structural and thematic differences between (most) magic realist works, and (most) works of fantasy. While the fantastical devices and conceits may often be similar, their purpose and the way they are used structurally tend to be very different. I hope you stop by to take a look and join the conversation!

Crossroads: Negotiating the Unreal in Magic Realism and Fantasy

CROSSROADS: Satire and the Fantastic


Amazing Stories LogoIt’s Thursday, so that means it is time for my weekly Crossroads post up at Amazing Stories. This week, I’m rounding out April’s exploration of humor and speculative fiction by discussing satire and its relationship to the fantastic. (DISCLAIMER: If that sounds familiar, that’s because I explored the same theme here about five months ago as well – but it is a good and interesting theme, so well worth exploring again, I think.)

This is the final post in this month’s series on humor and speculative fiction, but next week brings us the merry month of May, in which I’ll be taking a look at the intersections between mainstream literary fiction and speculative fiction. In the meantime, I hope you stop by to discuss satire with me:

Crossroads: Satire and the Fantastic

Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays & Commentary Now Available



So here’s a bit of really cool news: today marks the pub date for Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary, edited by Justin Landon of Staffer’s Book Review and Jared Shurin of Pornokitsch.

This is awesome because it marks the first (to the best of my knowledge) curated collection of online critical discussion about science fiction, fantasy, and horror. As a work of critical scholarship, and as a snapshot of influential voices in the field, it is a significant work featuring over fifty essays by writers from multiple perspectives and backgrounds. The authors included (I’m one of them, so perhaps I’m biased) are an impressive roster of genre creators, analysts, and reviewers:

  • Abigail Nussbaum
  • Adam Roberts
  • Aidan Moher
  • Elizabeth Bear
  • Paul Kincaid
  • Rose Lemberg
  • Ana Grilo and Thea James
  • Kameron Hurley
  • Kate Elliott
  • N.K. Jemisin
  • Chris Garcia
  • Foz Meadows
  • Christopher Priest
  • …and many more!

My own essay on “The Circus as a Fantastic Device” is included as well, in case you haven’t seen that one yet. So far I’m only about a third of the way through my contributor’s copy, and I am duly impressed by the quality of the commentary and analysis this collection contains.

If you want a print copy, they are available from Amazon for $11.99 (£8.99 in the UK) here: Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary

If you want a digital copy, unfortunately Amazon seems to have messed up the eBook files so you’ll have to wait until May 2nd…but that’s only a short week away! (NOTE: It is worth mentioning that buying a copy helps a good cause: proceeds from sales of this collection will go to support Room to Read, an organization dedicated to improving global child literacy and gender equality in education.)

Incidentally, on May 2nd, there will also be a Reddit AMA featuring the editors of SpecFic 2012, along with some of the contributors. I don’t yet have all of the details of that AMA, but as soon as I do, I’ll let you know. Hope to see you there!

CROSSROADS: The Importance of Parody for Speculative Fiction


Amazing Stories LogoHello, everyone! Since today is Thursday, that means it is time for our weekly Crossroads post over at Amazing Stories. Continuing with April’s humor theme, this week I look at how speculative fiction uses parody to subvert and challenge the genre, and so move the literary conversation forward.

I hope you stop by and join the conversation!

Crossroads: The Importance of Parody to the Speculative Fiction Genre

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