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Showing posts from October, 2003

Fahrenheit 451, 1984, and the Politics of Dystopia

This morning I had my classes listen to a program on New Hampshire Public Radio which discussed Ray Bradbury's 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451. One of the guests on the show was James Patrick Kelly, the best science fiction writer in New Hampshire and one of the best in the world. My students demanded that I call in to the show, and so I did, even though I didn't really have any sort of question ready. Inevitably, I was the first caller on the air, and was rather surprised to suddenly find myself needing to say something, so my question (asking what the perfect audience for the book might be) was hardly brilliant. I was just glad I didn't completely embarrass myself. (The students also demanded that I say hi to Jim to prove that I actually know him. Thankfully, he said hi back, so now my students think I'm Well Connected.)

Most of the discussion on the show wasn't quite at the level I'd hoped it would reach, but it was 9 o'clock in the morning and host Laur…

Genre, Imagination, and J.M. Coetzee

The announcement that J.M. Coetzee has won the Nobel Prize for Literature is welcome news -- Coetzee is a brilliant, challenging writer, certainly one of the best alive -- and the response to his most recent book, Elizabeth Costello (due to be released in the U.S. October 16), which is sort of a collection of essays disguised as a novel with occasional elements of memoir, shows that the SF field is not the only one challenged and hampered by genre boundaries.

Though, because it hasn't yet been released, I haven't read all of Elizabeth Costello yet, three parts of it have been available for a few years: two chapters of the book The Lives of Animals are included in Elizabeth Costello as well as an essay/story, "What is Realism", part of which has been excerpted by The Guardian. I have read all of these, and look forward to reading the full book.

I thought about the SF world when I read Adam Mars-Jones's review for The Observer of Elizabeth Costello, a review title…