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A collaborative blog by Locus editors, contributors, and other invited guests. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect the editorial position of Locus Magazine or Locus Online.

 




 


Editor

Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

Contributors

Alan Beatts
Terry Bisson
Marie Brennan
Karen Burnham
Siobhan Carroll
John Clute
F. Brett Cox
Ellen Datlow
Paul Di Filippo
Michael Dirda
Gardner Dozois
Andy Duncan
Stefan Dziemianowicz
Brian Evenson
Jeffrey Ford
Karen Joy Fowler
Kathleen Ann Goonan
Theodora Goss
Elizabeth Hand
Cecelia Holland
Rich Horton
Guy Gavriel Kay
James Patrick Kelly
Mark R. Kelly
Ellen Klages
Russell Letson
Karen Lord
Brit Mandelo
Adrienne Martini
Tim Pratt
Cat Rambo
Paul Graham Raven
Graham Sleight
Maureen Kincaid Speller
Peter Straub
Rachel Swirsky
Paul Witcover
Gary K. Wolfe
E. Lily Yu

F. Brett Cox: Recurring Themes

F. Brett Cox is a writer, editor, and educator living in (currently) snowy Vermont. He and Andy Duncan co-edited the anthology Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic (2004).

Over years of teaching, as over years of anything, recurrent themes emerge. Here are a couple from my experience teaching college-level classes in sf.

The arguments about the “literary” qualities of sf are as present in the classroom as they are in convention hotel bars. The first time I taught Theodore Sturgeon’s More Than Human, one student declared, “This is everything I came to science fiction to get away from,” while another student announced, “This is the first book we’ve read that didn’t feel like a homework assignment.” Some twenty years later, when I asked the students to list their favorite and least favorite works from the class, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness got the most votes for both favorite and least favorite. In that same class, we read Slan; a colleague told me that, in her class, during a discussion of canon formation, a student from my class cited Van Vogt as an unfairly neglected American writer.

The New Wave still freaks people out. Whenever I teach Samuel R. Delany’s “Aye, and Gomorrah,” the students are almost always genuinely unsettled. They never know what to make of Pamela Zoline’s “The Heat Death of the Universe”; one or two have been outraged that it’s on the syllabus for a science fiction class. (Although the last time I taught Zoline’s classic, one student not only sang the story’s praises, but did so to one of his engineering professors.)

But they love Alfred Bester. When taking the aforementioned favorite/least favorite survey, the highest favorite score I ever recorded was for The Stars My Destination.

The geeks and nerds have not yet inherited the earth…. In any class of, say, 18 students, there will probably be no more than 3 or 4 hardcore sf enthusiasts. The rest are there for various reasons—I need a humanities credit, I saw the Matrix movies and thought they were pretty cool, I’m a computer science major so I ought to like this, right?—and sometimes they leave the course with a genuine sense of discovery. Which is, of course, why I chose the ed biz in the first place.

But maybe someday. Those 3 or 4 hardcore sf enthusiasts? They want to be writers. Almost always. Stay tuned.

Comments

Comment from Gregory Benford
Time March 30, 2011 at 2:34 am

“The New Wave still freaks people out.”
Amazing! Yet the field digested it long ago; it had a major influence on me. Silverberg, too. Haldeman…a long list.

Pingback from SF Signal: SF Tidbits for 3/30/11
Time March 30, 2011 at 7:26 am

[...] Can Be Bad.Jamie Todd Rubin My first Analog story has arrived! Congrats, Jamie! F. Brett Cox on Recurring Themes. Pornokitsch lists 8 Great Fantasy Cities. The Guardian asks What are the books to pass on to the [...]

Comment from Karen Burnham
Time March 30, 2011 at 5:49 pm

“The New Wave still freaks people out.” I’ll second that! I remember first encountering Joanna Russ’ “The Female Man” in 2008, and it was still a disturbing & unsettling experience. I haven’t read as much of the New Wave period as I hope to, but I’d say there are elements there that are still as disturbing to 2011 sensibilities as they were in 1971.

Comment from A. A. Roi
Time March 31, 2011 at 12:08 am

It’s understandable that people are still freaked out by the New Wave. The vast majority of Science Fiction that kids are exposed to (Media SF) hasn’t really progressed beyond a 50′s sensibility. I agree that Van Vogt is unfairly neglected (although, I do hope the Teacher pointed out to the student that he was a Canadian.)

Pingback from March 31, 2011 Links and Plugs : Hobbies and Rides
Time March 31, 2011 at 9:44 pm

[...] Brett Cox on Recurring Themes. [...]

Pingback from Strawberry Daiquiris Blended With Beasts : The ICFA Conference Post « GLITTERING SCRIVENER
Time March 26, 2012 at 11:47 pm

[...] Charles Vess, Nalo Hopkinson, Kat Howard, Joe Haldeman, Delia Sherman, Ben Loory, Rick Wilber, Brett Cox, China Miéville…um, wouldn’t you want to be sitting at that table, drinking those [...]

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