But if it is a stricture to suggest that apophasis-ridden SF texts are time-wasters (I do mean to suggest that), then Wilson and Gregory are exempt…
That’s the logline, more or less, of John Clute’s review of Robert Charles Wilson’s Vortex and my book Raising Stony Mayhall. I love reading Clute’s reviews and essays, even when they’re not about me (and they’re never about me — this is the first), if only because I have to work so hard to figure out if I’m getting scammed. Is he serious? Is this a con job? Can a guy really create, unilaterally, new critical terms, define them as he sees fit, then club you over the head with them? And get away with it?
As it turns out, yes, yes he can. Because Clute thinks hard about SF, fantasy, and horror, and he’s wicked smart. I’ve learned a lot from his essays and interviews, not the least of which is at least one new vocabulary term per outing. (“Apophasis”, as it turns out, is a real word. I looked it up. Later in the review he uses the phrase “apophatic-lock-in.” Bonus!) And as you can see from this blog post, if you’ve read some Clute recently, it’s inevitable that soon you’ll be writing long sentences with an inordinate number of commas and coining terms like Cluted and Clutastic-Lock-In.
Clute’s review (and isn’t it fun to say Clute? Clute Clute Clute) isn’t going to sell more copies of RSM. In fact, it may scare off a few people, by making the novel seem like a brainy deconstructionist exercise in genre-bending wankery. Which it is, in part. I only have three themes in my fiction — messiahs, the mind-body problem, and mash-ups (of genres, that is) — and RSM hits all three of those, but especially doth whale upon the genre-warping whammy bar. But as a writer, it pleases me to have a critic like Mr. C take the book seriously for what I was trying to say about SF, fantasy, and horror –or as he calls it, the metatext. When he says, “The first hundred pages of the book, which are sustainedly engrossing, contains some of the most quietly virtuoso negotiations of the SF megatext I’ve run across for a long time,” I get all glow-y inside. (Or perhaps that’s the Dogfish Head 60-minute IPA I just drank. Regardless…) The glow fades a bit when he says the rest of the book isn’t as good as that first hundred, I have to remind myself that he called RSM and Vortex two of the best SF books of the year.
So he liked it, right?