Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A short reflection on taste

Jeff Vandermeer brought up something -- I think it was on the Nightshade Books boards -- that got me thinking.

I'm not so much blown away by eyeball kicks. So when I'm talking about stories (and I will get to talking about some more specific stories Real Soon Now, I promise), I may not appreciate the stuff that's cool qua cool. Looking back at the Hugo short story comments, for instance, Jim Kelly's story (still far & away my favorite) was interesting to me more because I thought the human interaction and psychological truth of it was interesting. Nicholas Whyte's Mega-meta-review cites the cute anthropomorphic robots as a reason not to cotton to the story, and that's a perfectly valid point. De gustibus...

The thing is I didn't really get bothered by them one way or another, because I put them in my (previously un-identified) "yes, yes, very sf-nal" box and moved on.

Reading Onyx's post and the responses to it, I'm wondering if we young writers are maybe getting a little too caught up in people -- what's the phrase? Shutting up and doing something cool? I think about the work that I've enjoyed the most in recent years, and most of it's been pretty low eyeball kicky stuff. Mary Doria Russel's The Sparrow. Ted Chiang's The Story of Your Life. Some stuff -- and I'm thinking of the New Weird and Stepehnson's Baroque Cycle -- seems to be built almost entirely out of cool, and yet they don't move me.

I don't really want to degenerate into a "what's wrong with the field"/"what happened to the good old days" conversation. More by way of self-disclosure, it appears I am a skeptic of coolth. And maybe that's part of what I'm looking for in the things I read -- a sense that cool is not enough.


Blogger ScottM said...

Found my way here from Brutal Women... this was a great post to welcome me.

I agree; I've long enjoyed "less active" novels, such as LeGuin's Ekumen novels. Blowing stuff up is fun... but if it's all visuals, I wind up skimming.

2:15 PM  
Blogger David Moles said...

Who says cool = eyeball kicks?

4:25 PM  
Blogger Safe Light said...

Well, I may have been oversimplifying, but I did. Just now.

Cool is really a catch-all term. I dont think you can make a single definition. But I think a lot of folks (myself included) try to make something *look* *really* *nifty* when they're trying to reach coolth.

5:00 PM  
Blogger chance said...

I'd be more interested in the discussion you are trying to start if you added some substance of what you liked about The Sparrow and the Ted Chiang story and how they are similar, and for the ones you don't like and what you think the critical differences between the two groups are. "Cool" is a pretty meaningless term without context.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Safe Light said...

Good point. I'll do what I can.

5:17 PM  
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