Saturday, August 8, 2009

Great SF reviews!

Probly the best reviews & critical articles on science fiction Bing written 2day R those by John Clute, which can B found in spots all over the Internet. (I'll give U a few places 2 check-out, but a quick web search'll get U started).
Clute started out in the late '60s writing SF reviews 4 Britain's controversial NEW WORLDS magazine. When I 1st read him in the mid-'70s in the pgs of THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, at 1st I didn't know WHAT 2 think. He was so DIRECT -- brutal, abrupt, cynical, sarcastic, almost abusive about a lotta old-fashioned SF that he felt was tired, worn-out, pointless. While obviously passionate, he also Cmd awfully cranky, & I wasn't sure 4 awhile what all his fussing was about.
It took me awhile 2 figure-out that his abrupt & sometimes abusive crankiness could also B a pleasure 2 read -- if I was in the right mood.
A lotta other readers of F&SF apparently didn't know quite what 2 think either. Clute's apparent disrespect 4 & abuse of old-time SF writers like Poul Anderson, Gordon Dickson, Harry Harrison, Clifford Simak & others put summa those readers on-edge, & they Xpressed their displeasure. If Clute thot those Old Pros were writing in their sleep he SAID SO. & he wasn't nice about it. Nor did he apologize. In the intro 2 1 column he admitted all his weaknesses & bad 10dencies, agreed that they could B noted by chapter & verse ... & then kept right on going.
He only reviewed 4 F&SF 4 a few yrs, but I Njoyed him. Then he found other things 2 do, other places 2 write 4. W/ others, he founded Britain's INTERZONE magazine in the early '80s, & wrote much of the huge & marvelous ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SCIENCE FICTION. A few books of his criticism have bn published (STROKES includes the F&SF columns), & he's also published a coupla critically-acclaimed novels.
But things have changed over the yrs. From the cranky, sharp, opinionated & sarcastic reviewer of his early days, Clute has turned in2 1 of the central figures 2 read when trying 2 get a handle on Where SF Is At Now. & where it might B going....
I wouldn't say Clute LIKES everything now -- he doesn't LIKE everything & he doesn't READ everything -- but he's mellowed quite a bit. He can still come right out & say when something's a piece of shit, & he does. But he Cms a lot gentler, more intrested now in where a piece of fiction, a novel or short-story collection fits in w/ both the history of SF & Where We're At Now, & how a given piece of fiction might help chart a path in2 the future.
He's also Bcome WAY 2 good at writing obituaries 4 fellow SF writers. Some recent obits he's written 4 J.G. Ballard, Thomas M. Disch & Algis Budrys R superb eulogies 4 those talented men -- & they don't shy away from presenting the darker stuff.
Clute was writing reviews 4 but has apparently shifted over 2 His newest reviews can B found at A pretty huge trove of older reviews under his 4mer column title "Excessive Candour" can B found at A few other fairly-recent reviews R stashed at There R also a few 5-yr-old reviews from Infinite Matrix that can B found at This will at least get U started....
Clute is carrying on his Xcellent work in the tradition of great earlier SF critics like Damon Knight, James Blish, Algis Budrys, P. Schuyler Miller, Harlan Ellison, Joanna Russ, Spider Robinson, Barry N. Malzberg & Norman Spinrad. I think he's the best SF critic since Budrys died & Spinrad apparently retired.

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