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An International Perspective

First off, let me say that I am a huge fan of io9.  I read it every day, frequently link to it, and take its recommendations to heart.  If it wasn’t for io9, I never would have found the criminally unknown masterpiece that is The Sparrow.

Cover of "The Sparrow: A Novel"

Seriously, go read this book NOW.

I also enjoyed their recent #scifi101 syllabus.  For a week, they talked about classics of sci-fi in film, television, books, graphic novels and videogames.  They also dissected frequently used tropes and principles of actual science that inform the genre.  Overall, a wonderfully informing series that will thoroughly introduce you to science fiction works of art.

Or more accurately, American and UK science fiction works of art.

With few exceptions, almost every work featured was either by an American or a UK production.  I am not doubting their artistic merit, or even the far reaching influence of the works chosen, even if I’m not a fan personally.* However, I’m fairly certain that great works (and even not so great but entertaining works) of speculative fiction have come from other countries.  For instance, the dystopian literature section on the booklist for SciFi 101 feature the well known 1984 and Brave New World, but did not mention the Russian predecessor to both, We.  And how is any scifi 101 list complete without a work by Jules Verne?  These are two glaring omissions and I’m not even out of Europe yet.

Io9 later remedied this somewhat with a list of ten foreign Sci-Fi films, but has not made a list for TV shows or books from other countries.  Hence, with the help of the GreenDragon group, I’m on a quest to find interesting genre books from not from America or the UK.   Granted, it will not be easy as many of these books do not have English translations, and the ones that do are inevitably filtered through the translator’s interpretation.

The first few I have on the list are a mixed bag.  One of the books, The Invention of Morel is a novella that’s apparently a Latin American classic** and if a college ever tought a class on Latin American science fiction, I guarantee this book would be in the list.  Another one is The Last Wish, is a Polish urban fantasy novel written in 1993 and is the basis for a PC RPG.*** No point in literary snobbery now-my goal is to get as full a picture of how different nations approach genre fiction as possible considering the time and language barriers.

* I was only mildly interested in Doctor Who during Christopher Eccleston’s run and completely lost interest when David Tennant took over.  Tennant annoyed me to no end, as did the overemphasis on how Rose was the most spectacular specialist girl ever.  And I can’t bring myself to make the time to check out if Matt Smith’s Doctor is any better.

** The back cover of the New York Review of Books edition has a blurb by Octavio Paz, a claim that Jorge Louis Borges compared this favorable to a Henry James novel, and a comparison to Phillip K. Dick.  In other words, quite the literary pedigree.

*** The Last Wish is less likely to on a college syllabus.  Or rather, less likely to be on a literature syllabus and more likely on a “media and culture” type class.

  1. nadine
    September 28, 2010 at 2:59 PM

    Never read your blog before; just had it come up in my Google Alerts; do have to comment though.

    As a fan of David Tennant’s Doctor, I also bristled (and still do) at any mention of the name of Rose. The season with Martha – who proved herself a so much BETTER, more useful companion – was still tainted with thoughts of her. When Donna showed up, hype-less, awe-less and all around her own unwhining unself-absorbedly awful woman, the show improved ten-fold(so poor a pun it’s not even worth noting) before finally ending Tennant’s run. Having said all this, I urrrge you to do yourself the favor of checking out Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who; though it actually took me a while to watch it myself.

    Matt is refreshingly brilliant and somewhat detachedly alien in his portrayal of the Doctor. You need not worry about any girlie-audience-pandering companion hype in this one, either: At least none that is completely strictly related to story arc; and I mean Strictly. There’s also no ‘isn’t-he-so-cute-and-magnificient-and-perfect-and-and-and?’ garbage being forced down your throat either. (should say:
    really, still a fan… of both show and actor… but DAMN – you’d have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to get annoyed at some point!)

    The first two Moffat-led episodes; a bit slow and lumbering -though the first must be watched for key series arc info- but by the time that you hit Vampires in Venice and Amy’s Choice, the series hits its stride as some damn good television. As a sci-fi fan, I humbly think you own yourself that chance.


    Winchester, MA

    • September 28, 2010 at 9:25 PM

      Thanks for the comment. Yeah, I tried to give Ten(nant) and Rose a chance, but by the time I got to the first Cybermen two parter I just couldn’t deal (I almost quit after the Sarah Jane episode but decided to give it a bit more time). I liked Rose at first but it seemed like the praise of her was inversely proportional to her likability and competence. Tennant was just too manic for me.

      I’ll keep an eye out for when the Matt Smith season is available on Netflix. Who knows…maybe I’ll really enjoy it with Eleven.

  2. nadine
    September 28, 2010 at 3:01 PM

    doh! that should read ‘…owE yourself that chance.’

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