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How the NY Times see SF/F
Bella
ellen_datlow
Here, without comment and thanks to Gordon Van Gelder, is a generous sampling of quotes from NY Times reviewer Dave Itzkoff's columns about science fiction and fantasy:

"What they expected from Mr. Crichton was his honoring the unspoken
understanding that exists between readers and writers of speculative fiction: the
reader will suspend disbelief as long as the writer starts with basic scientific
fact before weaving his science fiction. With these last two novels, they
concluded that Mr. Crichton, in his warnings of perilous futures, had violated
the pact."
---"When Science Fiction Morphed Into Politics" Nov. 8, 2008

"All science fiction has some element of titillation - a strategy of taking
known facts and stretching them to the limits of credulity, for the purposes
of both entertaining and enlightening."
---"Genetic Park", Jan. 7, 2007

"My tinfoil hat is off in admiration for anyone who translates speculative
fiction for fun or profit."
---"Cthulu Meets Godzilla," April 7, 2007

"It feels almost too confining to place Zivkovic's work in the category of
speculative fiction, but until our limited language can generate a more
befitting name for his genre, the classification will have to do."
---"Cthulu Meets Godzilla," April 7, 2007

"When an emerging science-fiction writer´s work earns him comparisons to
Robert A. Heinlein, should he take them as a compliment? Don´t misunderstand me:
I have no reason to doubt that the old master´s classic novels "Stranger in
a Strange Land" and "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls" are still as good as
I remember them (and if they aren´t, please don´t tell me). But Heinlein´s
military sci-fi, particularly the book that practically invented the genre, "
Starship Troopers," has not aged well, to put it mildly."
---"War of the Worlds", Dec. 24, 2006

"Maybe the right question to ask about Neil Gaiman isn't ''Why is he so
fixated on dreams?'' but ''Why aren't more of his fellow fantasy writers as
obsessed with the topic as he is?'' After all, dreams would seem to be the ideal
subject matter for any author of speculative fiction."
---"Dreamland," Nov. 5, 2006

" 'Dune,'' published in 1965, remains a perfect, self-contained work of
science fiction."
---"Dune Babies," Sept. 24, 2006

"Perhaps the surest sign that I paid too much for my college education is
the amount of time my classmates and I spent in a freshman philosophy seminar
debating the metaphysical underpinnings of the technology on "Star Trek" . . .
But do not squander your pity on a few precocious undergraduates
contemplating a 40-year-old television series - save it instead for the contemporary
science-fiction novelist, whose job requires him not only to reflect perpetually
on technology's philosophical consequences but to create such technology
ceaselessly out of pure imagination."
---"Fast Forward," July 9, 2006

"HERE'S a question I don't expect to come anywhere close to answering by the
end of this column: Why does contemporary science fiction have to be so
geeky?"
---"It's All Geek to Me," March 5, 2006

"Even in a science fiction writer´s most inaccurate predictions, there are
sometimes valuable truths to be gleaned."

---"Alice's Alias," Aug. 5, 2006


"I sometimes wonder how any self-respecting author of speculative fiction
can find fulfillment in writing novels for young readers."
---"Elsewhere's Children," Feb. 3, 2008

"Since this is a science fiction column, perhaps the best way to understand
Moorcock´s past is to peer farther into his future. In the late 1970s, with
the Tories preparing to take power and _George Lucas's "Star Wars" saga in ascendancy, he published his pioneering essay "Starship Stormtroopers," a brilliant, bench-clearing diatribe that ought to be required reading for any speculative-fiction fan who is ready to put down his
20-sided dice and become an adult."
---"Amorality tales," July 20, 2008

"Have the worlds of science fiction and presidential politics ever been more
closely aligned than they were in 2007?"
---"Planetary Politics," Dec. 16, 2007
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"I sometimes wonder how any self-respecting author of speculative fiction
can find fulfillment in writing novels for young readers."


I sometimes wonder how people who say crap like that don't get punched in the face a lot.

Me, I sometimes wonder why the hell anybody gives a fart in a high wind for anything that a New York Times book critic has to say. Or any other critic for any other publication, for that matter. (He said, remembering the years he spent working as a book, movie, and media critic for a plethora of forgotten publications, and attempting to keep from choking on the self-loathing.) The easiest way to deal with such morons is to stop reading their blatherings, and yet they still remain employed because nobody can resist. "Everyone's talking about [critic]'s commentary!", the editors scream, even though the only thing being talked about is putting the critic back on welfare where s/he belongs, and how many times a day the publisher accepts the critic's oral and anal attentions in order to keep from being thrown back into the mail room.

Edited at 2008-11-10 07:04 pm (UTC)

A year or so back, the writer at the Times had the audacity to cry about the number of critics that were being let go thanks to newspaper cutbacks. Let us never mind that the number of truly outstanding critics in just about any category in the last century can be counted on one hand and still leave enough fingers to jack off all the others who pretend that they're important. For every critic who honestly wants to make a change and stand up for quality, you have twenty film critics who just want to see the movie a week before everyone else does, thirty book critics who look at those review copies as an alternative source of revenue when sold off at the local Frumpy Fiftysomething's Used Books franchise, and fifty music critics who are determined to get even with the guys they knew in high school who got all the cute girls because they could play guitar.

Wait a minute there--I'm a frumpy fiftysomething!!!!

But are you running a crappy used bookstore where the scheduled reading events for the next six months are all about the guy who's sleeping with the manager? If not, then don't worry about it. Besides, we know that you're not that old. I'm older than you are.

Edited at 2008-11-10 10:46 pm (UTC)

Nope (but I did want to work in a bookstore when I was very young and naive).
I'll bet you're not!

(Deleted comment)
I'm assuming that's a rhetorical question?
It IS a pisser though, isn't it?

Also, I'm an adult and he can have my d20 when he pries from my cold dead hand.

Amen!

"Maybe the right question to ask about Neil Gaiman isn't ''Why is he so fixated on dreams?'' but ''Why aren't more of his fellow fantasy writers as obsessed with the topic as he is?''"

Paging Dr. Freud! Paging Dr. Freud!

Argh. Annoyed at Itzkoff all over again! I swear if it wasn't for the Washington Post, I'd give up on book sections altogether...

"the reader will suspend disbelief as long as the writer starts with basic scientific fact before weaving his science fiction. With these last two novels, they concluded that Mr. Crichton, in his warnings of perilous futures, had violated the pact."

There is a legitimate argument that, for instance, The Andromeda Strain or Binary (the latter published under Crichton's "John Lange" pseudonym, which makes some prose-deaf idiots believe the author of the Gor books wrote them) fits both of the above. Or even Jurassic Park.

The objection to the "last two novels" wasn't that they warn of perilous futures; it was that the "science" informing them was Crichton's bullshit misinterpretations. (See Benford, for instance, who went public about it.)

So the second phrase is nowhere near appropriate; dystopia/"warnings of perilous futures" has no necessary relationshuip to exclusion from "sf."

Or am I completely misreading it?

Shit, that's a good idea -- Dreams. Why didn't I think of that?

Andy Wheeler has been amusingly bashing on Itzkoff (and occasionally giving him small amounts credit where infrequently due) since the beginning:

http://antickmusings.blogspot.com/search/label/Itzkoff

Oh he's not the only one. We've been all bashing him on various listserves I'm on. ;-)

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