Sunday, September 12, 2010

New SF Column from the New York Times!

But it's not by my ol' punching bag, David Itzkoff (who, it appears, was quietly relieved of the job sometime over the past two years since his last column).

No, it's by...{drumroll, please}...someone who actually understands SF and Fantasy and writes well about it! Our own Jeff VanderMeer!

VanderMeer is writing under the heading "Science Fiction Chronicle," and his first column -- which went up last weekend [1] -- covers Karen Lord's Redemption in Indigo, Ian McDonald's The Dervish House, Karin Lowachee's The Gaslight Dogs, and Georges-Olivier Chateaureynaud's A Life on Paper. (That's more books that Itzkoff reviewed in his last calendar year in the same slot, so even if VanderMeer weren't a vastly stronger critic than Itzkoff -- which of course he is -- his work would be preferable purely on the bases of volume and efficiency.)

I hope that VanderMeer gets to do longer reviews, as Itzkoff did -- the current column is very similar in scope and length to one of Marilyn Stasio's mystery columns, or the occasional SF columns that Gerald Jonas did for the Times through the '80s and '90s -- but having dedicated SF coverage back at the Times is wonderful, and having it be Jeff VanderMeer is about as good an outcome as I could have hoped for. Even if we only get back to the Gerald Jonas level of reviews -- one round-up approximately quarterly -- that will be immensely better than Itzkoff's thundering bigfoot of unrealized ignorance and misguided enthusiasm.

So this will, I expect, be the very last Antick Musings post tagged as "Itzkoff," and I couldn't be happier to retire it. I expect to be linking much more appreciatively to VanderMeer's columns in the future. [2]

[1] Yes, I know. I should have linked to it before. But last week I was caught in a confluence of end-of-vacation and back-to-work stuff, leaving very little blogging time. But I certainly hope you're not relying on me for links at this point -- I got out of that game three years ago.

[2] Though I also note that we seriously disagree about Charles Yu's first novel, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. I wanted to like it, but it wore out my patience by endlessly circling the same theme (which I found tired and cliched) and stretching a novella's worth of material like butter over too much bread. VanderMeer, on the other hand, thinks it's one of the best books of the year so far. He almost makes me want to re-read it, and describes the book I hoped Live Safely was going to be. But, given that discrepancy, if you like literary-ish SF at all, you should at least take a look at Live Safely. It's definitely ambitious, and clearly readers and reviewers don't at all agree on how well it has achieved that ambition.

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