7 May 2009

Ninety percent of science fiction is rubbish

A few days ago, on the 5th, in fact, I recommended a story called "The Slows", which had been published in the New Yorker. I had never heard of the author, Gail Hareven before, but as soon as I had begun reading the story I knew it was by someone who was very competent. No words were wasted. There was no flinching from the attitudes of the characters, no interjections on the part of the author in a misguided attempt to make sure the reader knew what was going on. A bit of googling showed that Hareven is already a famous writer in Israel, and that she now also has a novel, The Confessions of Noa Weber, available in English.

A bit more googling showed that Gail Hareven was a very interesting person with an interesting life that suggested that were further layers to her tale. It's possible that The Slows was written as SF because that's a safe place to put her idea that enemies look at each other and see cliches instead of people.

However, it's publication in the New Yorker has lead to some controversy. Some people simply don't like the story, feeling that the opening is boring and the dialogue melodramatic. Personally, I feel that speech would be melodramatic given a situation in which feelings are running high. However, the conclude simply that this is not one of Hareven's better works.

Why does it matter? It appears that it matters because it is also claimed that the New Yorker draws on a rather small pool of talent for its fiction, with 50% of the writers being American, and eighteen writers providing 38% of the stories.

Well, there is no reason why an American magazine should not use American writers. However, the New Yorker is a prestigious publication, and it's fine taste in writing makes it all the more exciting when an Israeli woman is represented there. There is a new voice and a new point of view being heard.

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