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Episode 364: On being a fan

The Vanished BirdsThis week, after more or less inadvertently falling into a discussion of Simon Jimenez’s new novel The Vanished Birds (Del Rey) and whether it will successfully gain attention from both SF and mainstream literary readers, Jonathan and Gary mention a few other forthcoming books and eventually circle in on a discussion of fandom—what it means to be a fan, different kinds of fandom, and questions of what happens when you stop being a fan of a particular series or author, what major works you may have missed or over-looked despite considering yourself a fan of the author, and why some fans drift away in the face of too much sameness, while others remain fans because of that sameness.  Characteristically, we fail to adequately answer any of these questions, but at least we raise them. 

Next episode

We are officially moving from a weekly schedule to a two-weekly schedule, so look for the next episode on the weekend of Febuary 8th, wherever good podcasts are sold.

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cityj.jpegAfter last week’s episode where Jonathan and Gary discussed their favourite books from 2019, this time they talk about books they're looking forward to in 2020 (a few of which, in fairness, they’ve already seen or in Jonathan’s case even edited).

It’s a pretty varied list, and probably incomplete, so feel free to suggest more titles that we might not have known about. Overall, though, 2020 is starting off as a pretty promising year.

Gary's list

  • Susanna Clarke, Piranesi
  • William Gibson, Agency
  • M. John Harrison, The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again
  • N.K. Jemisin, The City We Became
  • Hao Jingfang, Vagabonds
  • Nancy Kress, Eleventh Gate and Sea Change
  • Yoon Ha Lee, Phoenix Extravagant
  • Ken Liu, The Veiled Throne
  • Paul J. McCauley, War of the Maps
  • Tamsin Muir, Harrow the Ninth
  • Tochi Onyebuchi, Riot Baby
  • K.M. Szpara, Docile
  • Lavie Tidhar, By Force Alone
  • Jo Walton, Or What You Will
  • Gene Wolfe, Interlibrary Loan
  • Alexander Irvine, Anthropocene Rag
  • Greg Egan, Dispersion
  • Jeffrey Ford, Out of Body
  • The Best of Elizabeth Bear
  • Ken Liu, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories
  • The Best of Jeffrey Ford
  • Jonathan Strahan (ed.), Made to Order: Robots and Revolution
  • Jonathan Strahan (ed.), The Book of Dragons

Jonathan's list

  • Agency, William Gibson (Viking)
  • Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, Deepa Anappara (Chatto & Windus)
  • The City We Became, NK Jemisin (Orbit)
  • Burn, Patrick Ness (Walker)
  • Utopia Avenue, David Mitchell (Sceptre)
  • Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury)
  • By Force Alone, Lavie Tidhar (Head of Zeus/Tor)
  • Vagabonds, Hao Jingfang (Saga)
  • The Angel of the Crows, Katherine Addison (Tor)
  • Unconquerable Sun, Kate Elliott (Orbit)
  • The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again, M. John Harrison (Gollancz)
  • Or What You Will, Jo Walton (Tor)
  • The Left-Handed Booksellers of London, Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin/Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins)
  • Ghost Species, James Bradley (Penguin)
  • Comet Weather, Liz Williams (Newcon)

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It's been a long time! Jonathan and Gary are together again for the first new episode of Coode Street since October!

There's a lot to catch up on, ranging from the current climate apocalypse in Australia—and the question of whether SF has done much to prepare us for this sort of thing—to major events of 2019, such as the renaming of major awards, the dramatic growth in awareness of world SF (from Asia in particular, with important recent anthologies of Chinese, Korean, and South Asian fiction), the explosion in the market for novellas and the question of whether short fiction can be similarly profitable for writers after years of getting it for free on the web, and our own lists of major books and likely award nominees from 2019. 

Our expectation and hope is that the Coode Street Podcast will return to a more or less regular schedule during the coming year, complete with brilliant guests and our own half-baked ideas and theories.

As always, we hope you enjoy the episode!

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It's been quiet here at Coode Street, of late. Jonathan has been working on books and recommended reading lists, and Gary has been travelling. Just two weeks ago Gary travelled to sunny Los Angeles, California to attend the 2019 World Fantasy Convention.

During the weekend Gary was busy, interviewing guest of honour Margo Lanagan, doing some panels, and seeing friends. He did take a moment to sit down with newly minted World Fantasy Award Lifetime Achievement recipient Jack Zipes to discuss fantasy, fairy tales, and more. 

As always, our thanks to Jack for taking the time to join us and my thanks to Gary for this special shorter episode of Coode Street.

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It's been quiet here at Coode Street, of late. Jonathan has been working on books and recommended reading lists, and Gary has been travelling. Just two weeks ago Gary travelled to sunny Los Angeles, California to attend the 2019 World Fantasy Convention.

During the weekend Gary was busy, interviewing guest of honour Margo Lanagan, doing some panels, and seeing friends. He did take a moment to sit down with Margo Lanagan, Eileen Gunn, and Ellen Klages - all long-time friends of the podcast - to discuss fantasy, fairy tales, and more. 

As always, our thanks to Margo, Eileen and Ellen for taking the time to join us and my thanks to Gary for this special shorter episode of Coode Street.

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We're on a roll! Two episodes in two weeks. Surely it can't last! Gary has been reading Margaret Atwood's Booker Prize-winning novel The Testaments and it's sparked off all sorts of thoughts on that old chestnut: science fiction vs. literary fiction. What are literary writers doing when they write SF? Can SF writers cross-over to the mainstream? Is this purely a generational perspective and does it just not matter any more? All these questions are at least touched on, if not settled (they're not settled), as well as mentions of Lethem, Le Guin, Chabon and others, and a brief discussion of robots and AI in SF. They even discuss some very interesting comments on the Atwood novel by Nina Allan over on her blog.

All in all, a typical rambly shambles. As always, we hope you enjoy!

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9781473227965.jpgThis week, with Jonathan hard at work compiling his year’s best anthology, we revisit one of the oldest questions about science fiction—namely, what is it and how do you decide what to include or exclude from an anthology clearly labelled as science fiction?

Rather than trying to offer our own definitions, we discuss the problem of definition in general. Gary argues that the many definitions of SF could be classed as the functional (or purely practical, like Damon Knight’s famous “what I point to”), the rhetorical (definitions designed to promote the importance of the genre), and the theoretical (lit-crit stuff). We agreed that such definitions tend to change over time.

That leads us into a discussion of the current state of space opera, and the question of whether the space setting is a defining feature, even when, as with Aliette de Bodard’s The Tea Master and the Detective, the plot is borrowed from mysteries.  

Finally, we talk about some of our current reading. Gary mentions Rivers Solomon’s The Deep, which he sees as representing a fascinating collaboration between music and fiction since the central idea began with the techno-electronic duo Drexciya, became a Hugo-nominated rap by Clipping and is now Solomon’s novel.  Jonathan mentioned Leah Bardugo's bestselling new fantasy, Ninth House, which is out now and which he recommends.

As always, we hope you enjoy the podcast. We'll be back soon!

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americansf.jpgAs we approach the October Country, Jonathan and Gary start this week’s podcast discussing Gary’s new two-volume set from the Library of America, American Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s (which you can order right now) and end with discussing the challenges of editing Jonathan’s new best science fiction of the year anthology series from Saga Press.

It’s not all shameless self-promotion, though, since in between we talk about how SF changed from the 1950s to the 1960s, whether there is more high-quality SF published now than ever before, and how new writers face different challenges from those of earlier generations in establishing a career and a distinctive profile in today’s complicated markets.

All in all, a pretty full hour. As always, we hope you enjoy the episode and we'll back soon (next week!) with another episode!

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Welcome to the first episode of the second season of The Coode Street Roundtable, a monthly podcast from Coode Street Productions where panellists James Bradley, Ian Mond, Gary K. Wolfe, and Jonathan Strahan, joined by occasional special guests, discuss a new or recently released science fiction or fantasy novel.

Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline

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This month James, Ian, Gary and Jonathan discuss the latest book from Annalee Newitz. It’s described by publisher Tor Books as follows:

1992: After a confrontation at a riot grrl concert, seventeen-year-old Beth finds herself in a car with her friend’s abusive boyfriend dead in the backseat, agreeing to help her friends hide the body. This murder sets Beth and her friends on a path of escalating violence and vengeance as they realize many other young women in the world need protecting too.

2022: Determined to use time travel to create a safer future, Tess has dedicated her life to visiting key moments in history and fighting for change. But rewriting the timeline isn’t as simple as editing one person or event. And just when Tess believes she’s found a way to make an edit that actually sticks, she encounters a group of dangerous travelers bent on stopping her at any cost.

Tess and Beth’s lives intertwine as war breaks out across the timeline—a war that threatens to destroy time travel and leave only a small group of elites with the power to shape the past, present, and future. Against the vast and intricate forces of history and humanity, is it possible for a single person’s actions to echo throughout the timeline?

If you’re keen to avoid spoilers, we recommend reading the book before listening to the episode (serious spoilers start around the ten-minute mark).

If you don’t already have a copy, The Future of Another Timeline can be ordered from:

North American booksellers
UK booksellers
amazon.com.au

We encourage all of our listeners to leave comments here and we will do our best to respond as soon as possible.

Books mentioned this episode

James mentioned:

  • Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker
  • Paul Kingsnorth, The Wake
  • Alastair Reynolds, Permafrost
  • Michelle Tea, Black Wave
  • Connie Willis, Doomsday Book

Gary mentioned:

  • Elizabeth Hand, Curious Toys

Ian mentioned:

  • Claire North, The Pursuit of William Abbey
  • Meghan Elison, The Road to Nowhere Trilogy

Jonathan mentioned:

Kelly Robson, Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach

 

Next month

The Coode Street Roundtable will return at the end of October with a discussion of Alix E. Harrow's The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

 

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empress.jpgAfter acknowledging that we failed to record a single podcast during the Dublin Worldcon, Jonathan and Gary compare notes about the con and the general wonderfulness of being in Ireland, than discussed perhaps the most debated bit of news emerging from Dublin: the renaming of the John W. Campbell award following the passionate acceptance speech by Jeanette Ng. This raised the issue of whether it’s a good idea to name an award in honour of any past figure in the field, given the shifting historical and literary influences of modern writers, and the problems that might arise concerning such figures.

Then we spent a bit of time talking about a new kind of "new space opera” such as Max Gladstone’s Empress of Forever, and how space opera, like time travel, seems to survive and get reinvented in each new generation of writers.

Finally, we recommend a couple of forthcoming books we’ve both been reading, Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January and Dominic Parisien and Navah Wolfe’s anthology The Mythic Dream.

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Episode 355: A short one

Just before Gary K Wolfe and I went to Dublin for the WorldCon we recorded a short episode. We've been too busy to publish until now. And we do have new plans for new episodes. We will be back!!!

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Mission CriticalThis week marks the publication of Jonathan’s new hard-SF anthology Mission Criticalthe title of which reminded Gary of the first SF serial he read, Hal Clement’s Close to Critical. This lead, by our usual process of carefully structured random free association, to a discussion of Clement as an example of an author whose fiction is not widely read anymore, but whose influence nevertheless shows up even in writers who may not have read him. In Clement’s case, it was carefully extrapolated SF environments and creatures, but Jack Vance and Clifford Simak are also mentioned as writers whose influence has long outlived their popularity.

This somehow led to a discussion of SF’s oldest saw, the sense of wonder, how it can be achieved by current writers, and whether the SFnal sense of wonder can really be achieved in fantasy or horror. After rambling through a few other topics, including our favourite dragons, we mentioned a few new and upcoming books we're looking forward to (see the links below).  And then we noted that this week represents the 10th anniversary of the death of our old friend, Charles N. Brown, who in many ways was the inspiration for this podcast.

Links for the episode

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9781598535013.jpgThis week Jonathan and Gary are back, fitting another episode in between travel, work, and family commitments. Gary opens up with a thoroughly reasonable discussion about writers from the 1990s and 2000s who may have published major works but have fallen from sight in recent years, while Jonathan attempts to get Gary interested in a new segment. Along the way there's discussion of the history of anthologies and whether genre fiction is more likely to be the home of theme anthologies, a new Gwyneth Jones book on the work of Joanna Russ, the state of various Library of America projects, and more.

All in all, a typical ramble. In coming weeks Gary will be in Seattle for the 2019 Locus Awards weekend, Jonathan will be in Seattle for Clarion West, and both of them will be in Dublin for WorldCon 2019. Hopefully more podcast episodes will be recorded before then.

 

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Episode 352: A Surplus of Us

With the Nebula Award winners about to be announced, we took a look this week at the question of whether science fiction has demonstrated much continuity of theme and style since the 1969 Nebulas, or whether the field has essentially reinvented itself in the last few decades.

But before we even get around to that, we note the death of bestselling author Herman Wouk, whose only science fiction work was the relatively undistinguished The "Lomokome” Papers, which raised the issue of mainstream writers who attempted SF with limited success vs. those who approached the material with respect.

Then we spent some time talking about the different generations of science fiction writers, the role of nostalgia in science fiction, the value of differing perspectives even on familiar themes, and somehow touched upon the New Wave somewhere in there as well.

As usual, we started with interesting ideas and ended up with a farrago.  

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Episode 350: Updated

This year has been something of a whirlwind. When we published Episode 350 we did so without managing to upload the full recording. Apparently, 10 minutes or so were missing. A new file has now been uploaded for your listening pleasure which you can listen to or download from here:

https://jonathanstrahan.podbean.com/e/episode-350-hey-well-how-about-that/

Our apologies and we hope you enjoy the extra tidbit.

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Episode 351: A Quick One

After a much longer than expected hiatus, we're back (sort of)! Gary's been working and travelling and Jonathan's been working and planning to travel and it's made it very difficult to squeeze recording time in.  Or even to plan recording time.

Still, for a moment, early on Mother's Day in Australia and late in the evening in Chicago, Gary and Jonathan stop to discuss the books they've been reading, the movies they've been watching, the stuff they've been working on, awards and ballots, and  Joanna Russ. There are mentions of fiction in translation, Chen Qiufan's Waste Tide (and Liz Bourke's Tor.com review of it), Avenger's Endgame, and much more.

I don't think either of our hosts is sure the conversation is coherent or intelligible but here it is, along with a promise to try to do better in the coming months.

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For our 350th(!) episode, Jonathan and Gary basically just ramble on. We begin with the question of how long to stick with a novel which seems to be going off the rails, and comment a bit on what different kinds of readers expect from long novels.

Later we move on to questions about anthologies, and what to expect from recent anthologies of Chinese, Korean, South Asian, and Israeli science fiction: should they try to represent an entire national tradition, or simply focus on excellent stories? And can readers not from those cultures ever fully appreciate the full nuances of such fiction?

That, in turn, leads us to discuss anthologies that have been historically important, although not always widely recognized, such as Vonda McIntyre and Susan Anderson’s Aurora: Beyond Equality from 1976, and anthologies widely celebrated, like Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions.  On a personal note, anthologies that shaped our own reading included (for Gary) Judith Merril’s horribly titled England Swings SF and (for Jonathan) Michael Bishop’s Light Years and Dark. And we end briefly discussing an issue, raised by Fonda Lee, about writers gaining shelf space in bookstores amid all the perennial classics and bestsellers.

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Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker A Song for a New Day by  Sarah Pinsker

This week, we are joined by Nebula Award-winning Sarah Pinsker, whose first story collection Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea has just been published, and whose first novel, A Song for a New Day, will appear from Berkley Books in September.

We talk about the challenges of a dual career as writer and songwriter/performer—and the differences in audience interactions between the two—as well as her early reading and writing in the field, her creative writing classes in college and later attendance at the Sycamore Hill workshops, and the varied relationships between SF, fantasy, dystopia, the classic road novel, and mainstream “literary fiction.” 

Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea is available from Small Beer Press and her novel is available for preorder.

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As usual at this time of year, Jonathan and Gary sit down to discuss the beginning of the awards season, and in particular the recently announced Nebula finalists and the fact that the Hugo nominations remain open for another couple of weeks.

Needless to say, this leads off in various directions about whether there is really more first-rate short fiction these days, or merely a broader range of venues, a more diverse pool of editors, or perhaps even more specialized readerships. We also touch upon the comparative virtues and disadvantages of text files vs PDFs vs Kindle, and the sometimes challenging logistics of convention attendance. We also strongly urge everyone to seek out not only online venues, but print magazines before finalizing their Hugo votes.

Links

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Charlie Jane Anders joins Jonathan and Gary to discuss her second novel, The City in the Middle of the Night, which will be in shops during the coming week. Her powerful and engaging new novel follows her award-winning debut, All the Birds in the Sky, and we chat about following that novel, her hopes for the new book, and much more.

As always, our thanks to Charlie Jane for taking the time to talk to us. We hope you enjoy the episode and the shorter format.  We'll have a new episode out soon.

Coode Street for February 3rd

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