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Kelwyn Sole

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

There’s Science Fiction, and Then There’s Science Fiction

“The enormous pressure to become a reliable cash cow has resulted in a huge portion of bookstore shelf space being taken up by franchise work, reinforcing wish-fulfillment fantasies of people in search of an entertaining escape from reality. This situation has been lamented in scores of eloquent jeremiads, and it is indeed a nasty situation for writers trying to do new and interesting work, and readers looking for same. But it is not as if this is a situation confined to science fiction alone. The particular SF novel we are living in these days is a kind of “happy dystopia,” in which a technologically advanced version of feudalism rules the planet and the stupidification of the culture of the well-off is therefore a widespread phenomenon, helping to obscure the situation to all concerned.

But resistance to this phenomenon, and to the world order it masks, is widespread also, in science fiction as elsewhere. And science fiction is particularly well-suited to resist.  Our business after all is depicting alternatives to the present, in a whole scattering of future scenarios that can, if constructed cleverly, question current reality. And the future is still there, of course, unconquerable – it could become anything, no matter how heavily mortgaged it seems now.”

- Kim Stanley Robinson

According to Pasolini (or: when the other is not a self in disguise)

“The most odious and intolerable thing, even in the most innocent bourgeois, is that of not knowing how to recognize life experiences other than his own: and of bringing all other life experiences back to a substantial analogy with his own. It is a real offense that he gives to other men in different social and historical conditions. Even a noble, elevated bourgeois writer, who doesn’t know how to recognize the extreme characteristics of psychological diversity of a man whose life experiences differ from his, and who, on the contrary, believes that he can make them his by seeking substantial analogies – almost as if experiences other than his own weren’t conceivable – performs an act that is the first step toward certain manifestations of the defense of his privileges and even toward racism. In this sense, he is no longer free but belongs to his class deterministically; there is no discontinuity between him and a police chief or an executioner in a concentration camp.” – Pier Paolo Pasolini

Reviewing and Affiliation

Just a thought – wouldn’t it be nice if reviewers made clear what their own job/affiliation is when they do a review? I must say I’m getting wary of seemingly ‘independent’ reviews, when one works out that said reviewer works for e.g. a bookshop….

New Interview

In the Centre for African Poetry journal, just out:


Becoming Conceited

How many more writers and critics will become conceited?


Frederick Pohl (1919-2013)

Frederick Pohl, one of the great science fiction writers, died a week ago at age 93.

One of the original Futurians, Pohls’ best early work in my opinion appeared in the 1950s, with novels like The Space Merchants (a collaboration with CM Kornbluth) and short fiction such as ‘The Tunnel Under the World’ and ‘The Midas Plague’. In the 1970s and early 1980s there was a resurgence with the novel Gateway (and its weaker sequels) and brilliant short work such as ‘The Gold at the Starbow’s End’, ‘Fermi and Frost’, ‘Shaffery Among the Immortals’, ‘The Day the Martians Came’ and ‘The View from Mars Hill’. The last three named show him to be a brilliant acerbic satirical writer.

He won quite a lot of awards – Hugos, Nebulas, John Campbells…..if you don’t know his work, maybe you should have a look.

The bite at Apple

The suggested measures against Apple re ebooks:


Jack Vance

For those who know about science fiction and fantasy, note that Jack Vance has just died, aged 96. Probably better known for his fantasy: written in sharply-delineated, glittering prose, and nearly always with a dry, slightly acerbic, slightly cynical edge. His series of (somewhat) interlinked stories that came out in The Dying Earth (1950); The Eyes of the Overworld (1966), Cugel’s Saga (1983) and Rhialto the Marvellous (1984) are perhaps best known; imo his trilogy of novels that came out in the 1980s as Lyonesse / The Green Pearl / Madouc are perhaps the best. Also a pretty good science fiction writer, and a master of shorter fiction: again, good places to start are the novellas The Moon Moth (1961) which won a Hugo, and the Nebula/Hugo winner The Last Castle (1966), which seems to riff on American consciousness during the Vietnam War.

The Crisis in African Publishing

Jeremy Weate’s blog may be of interest, re his view on the crisis in the marketing of African writing. It’s to be found at

It’s not only the details of the global market, but also the role/profile given to the African (and more widely the Postcolonial) writer within this market. Two interesting books in the last decade: Graham Huggan’s ‘The Post-Colonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins’ (Routledge, 2001) and Sarah Brouillette’s  ’Postcolonial Writers in the Global Literary Marketplace’ (Palgrave, 2007).

Nobel Prize Winner Likes Censorship

In case anyone missed this re the latest Nobel winner, Mo Yan.