October 7th, 2009

How some British non-SF magazines see SF

I've just been reading an article on Why science fiction authors just can't win (via ellen_datlow) - which reminded me of some thoughts I had a couple of weeks ago about the treatment of SF in recent issues of three non-SF magazines (links are to the relevant issues' contents pages).

The first was the New Scientist sci-fi special issue, with an already much-discussed article on this topic by Kim Stanley Robinson together with some reviews and several short-short stories by leading British SF writers - a good collection of items relating to contemporary (particularly British) SF.

The second was an issue of the New Statesman guest-edited by the British Labour politician Ken Livingstone. Also advertised as (in part) a "sci-fi special", the SF-related items were relatively disappointing - an adequately competent article by Toby Litt which, however, mentioned no contemporary written SF apart from Toby Litt's forthcoming novel, a list of science fiction classics stopping with Neuromancer and an interview of Iain Banks by Ken Livingstone, whose introductory question understandably stars in this month's issue of Ansible (but I would add - read the interview. Ken Livingstone is an SF fan, if not a well-read or active one).

The third was the most recent issue of Prospect, which didn't mention SF on either its cover or contents page - but nevertheless has three clearly SF-related items in its Arts & Books section. I will leave identifying them as an exercise for the reader - but will give these clues:
- One is an interesting reminiscence of a well-known SF writer by a personal friend.
- Another is a review of two recent Canadian SF novels which treats them as SF (despite the known opinions of one of the writers concerned about SF).
- The third is a review of a novel by an Irish mainstream novelist which is clearly speculative fiction (and, depending on definitions, may be science fiction). Unlike the other two items, the review does not mention SF (in any form) at all.

An interesting and instructive assortment, I think.