SF Crossing the Gulf

Whirlpool Galaxy and Companion. Credit: NASA, ESA

The last episode of my podcast series with Karen Burnham went up on SF Signal last Thursday. I was at first slightly peeved that there was another cool thing to blog about that would have to wait until I got back from Toronto, but the delay ended up being profitable. Thanks to Cheryl Morgan and Karen Burnham, we now have a cleaner, better audio for Episode 6 (The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell).

All the podcasts can be accessed via the link http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/category/columns/sf-crossing-the-gulf/ but they show up in reverse chronological order, as tagged posts are wont to do. This gives me an excuse to list them here separately with relevant comments and links.

Episode 1: A Discussion of Ted Chiang’s “Exhalation” and Others

Click here for my post on this blog introducing the podcast in general and this episode in particular. I included library links for My Bones and My Flute and The Rainmaker’s Mistake.

Episode 2: Edgar Mittelholzer’s My Bones and My Flute

My deepest regret for this podcast was the challenge to readers trying to find a 1950’s, out-of-print book. But Mittelholzer is a key West Indian author and I could not imagine starting a discussion on Caribbean SF without him. You can read about the lengths I went to in order to secure a copy.

Episode 3: Discussion of Greg Egan’s “Crystal Nights” and Others

Running out of time for Ted Chiang during Episode 1 proved an advantage as we spent Episode 3 comparing and contrasting his work with Greg Egan’s.

Episode 4: Discussion of Erna Brodber’s The Rainmaker’s Mistake

Click here for a reading and interview with Erna Brodber, and links to other interviews, reviews and resources.

I was afraid this would be too challenging, but Karen took to it like a duck to water and shared with me some important insights into this literary work from the point of view of a non-West Indian and a genre reader.

Episode 5: Discussion of Greg Egan’s “The Planck Dive” and Others

I had to urge Karen not to be modest about the fact that she has spent over three years researching Egan’s fiction. With her knowledge of Egan’s entire fictional universe(s), she stopped me from making assumptions based on the snapshot of a single short story. We acknowledge that we’ve missed out some of Egan’s best work because we chose stories available for free on the internet. We hope to make up for this in the future.

Episode 6: Discussion of Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow

Oh, you have no idea the pangs this episode gave us. We loved the book, we were in awe of the author, and we spoke with fluid eloquence (relative to previous podcasts!) about our love and awe. But Karen was moving house and the change in the usual setup resulted in some distressingly poor audio. We actually decided, very sadly, to re-record the podcast, but bad weather (I cannot podcast during heavy rain and/or thunder!) and continuing tech issues made that impossible. Karen did her best to manually improve what we had. However, I am very happy to report that Cheryl Morgan recently performed some added cleanup and with their combined efforts we now have a fresh upload of a podcast that should be much easier to listen to.

Episode 7: Discussion of Curdella Forbes’s Ghosts

I thought Karen would find this easier and more enjoyable than The Rainmaker’s Mistake and I was wrong (though thankfully not badly wrong). I think there is more in there for the reader who knows West Indian history, culture and literature and gets the little hits of nostalgia and recognition at the right moments. Nevertheless, Karen was very appreciative of the author’s talent and put it into the slipstream category with The Rainmaker’s Mistake. Overall verdict on Caribbean SF? Readable, enjoyable, layered, literary and well worth the effort.

Episode 8: Season One Wrap Up

We made it to the end, and we finally found a graphic for the podcast! You may already know that Karen Burnham’s internet moniker is Spiral Galaxy. The photo shows the Whirlpool Galaxy interacting with its companion NGC 5195. We decided this interaction was a symbol of clear boundaries vs fuzzy boundaries, the linear vs the elliptical … which is a good way of differentiating between hard SF and Caribbean SF as well as different reader/critic approaches to understanding them. I won’t be changing my moniker to Elliptical Galaxy just yet, but it pleases me to think that there might be a curve and a swerve and a cycle to how I tell and read stories as well as a certain lack of defined boundaries that might be a challenge or a delight.

Whirlpool Galaxy and Companion. Credit: NASA, ESA

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