Monday, October 12, 2015

Throngs of New York


I spent Sunday at the New York Comic Con, autographing copies of Chasing the Phoenix, and at times all I could think of was the line from Don DeLillo's Mao II, "The future belongs to crowds."  There were a lot of of people there.  Last year racked up over 150,000 distinct visitors and since this year's con was sold out months ago, I can't imagine there were any fewer this time around.

Here's the thing, though. DeLillo's novel, first published in 1991, was a dark meditation on the death of liberal humanist values -- privacy, the primacy of the individual, literature, personal agency, and so on. And in the crowds of people paying for the privilege of being allowed to buy into corporately branded fantasies, you could certainly see something like that, if you chose.

But it didn't look like that from the floor.

There were some superficially positive things -- a nice mix of skin colors, the fact that women and girls were far from a rarity -- that you could write off as irrelevant. But so many of those people looked to be having fun in a way that didn't seem to have anything to do with herd mentality. Parents brought their children. A lot of those children came in costume. And sometimes the parents wore costumes too.

It was striking how many people were in costume. It seemed obvious to me that this was their way of emphasizing that however the exhibitors might see the event, it was not for them a solely commercial operation. They were there to celebrate their love of popular culture.

It wasn't a crowd in the sense of DiLillo's despairing vision, mindless and controlled, but something more democratic, and more joyful. All those values that intellectuals were despairing of were in full play -- only focused not on winners of the Penn/Faulkner Award but on Deadpool and Buffy and Power Rangers Dino Charge.

Of taste and scent, no argument," as Avram Davidson liked to say. You can make grumpy noises that, really, people out to have more elevated tastes than they do. But you can't argue with joy.

Above: But it really was very crowded.


Fallen Leaves (October 12)


"I Should Have Gone For Tenure"

Sunday, October 11, 2015

TODAY At New York Comic Con!!!

I'll be at the NYCC today. If you're there, why not say Hi?

There are two events:

A signing at Noon (booth 2223).

A panel, GET OUT OF YOUR CHAIR AND OFF THE PLANET in the afternoon.

It should be fun. I'm looking forward to it.

Fallen Leaves (October 11)



Saturday, October 10, 2015

Friday, October 9, 2015

Ask Unca Mike


Science fiction and fantasy writers are a group are extraordinarily generous with advice to new writers. A moment's thought, however, reveals that this is just encouraging talented young people to occupy the publishing niches and win the awards that would otherwise go to to us Old Hands. Ask Unca Mike is an attempt to rectify this deplorable situation.

A Real Quandary

Dear Unca Mike,

This is a real quandary. I have always shied away from mass-market bestselling science fiction. I've always preferred writers like (if anyone could be like) Lafferty, Hughart, Swanwick, Waldrop, etc. Yet, I am reading The Martian right now and loving it. Why? It is a bestseller, is being made into an immensely popular movie. Worse yet, it has a storyline that might even make the puppies happy (or at least less sad for a brief moment). It is a story about a clever guy doing clever things in space to get himself out of improbable deadly situations. It should read like a piece of "Golden Age" pulp, yet I can't put it down, and I'm really enjoying reading it. Is it actually a good book, or am I failing at being a literary snob?



If you have a question for Unca Mike you can post it below. Or write to AskUncaMike ("at" sign) I'll respond to those I have the best answers for.

Ask Unca Mike appears here on Fridays.


Fallen Leaves (October 9)


"Had I Known Death Would Be So Common
I'd Have Died Sooner -- And Avoided The Rush"