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Group Reads 2014 > August Group Read - Dhalgren and Rendez-vous with Rama

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message 1: by Jo (new)

Jo | 1092 comments This folder is to discuss the joint winners of the August poll, Dhalgren by Samuel Delany and Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C Clarke.


message 2: by Jo (new)

Jo | 1092 comments I am reading Dhalgren first, i've only read the first few pages though so not got very far. It's quite a long books so I hope that those of you who have already read are going to tell me how good it is!


message 3: by Buck (last edited Aug 01, 2014 10:11AM) (new)

Buck (spectru) | 899 comments I read Rendezvous with Rama acouple of years ago and it's not fresh in my memory. It's a BDO story. Wikipedia describes BDO thus: In discussion of science fiction, a Big Dumb Object (BDO) is any mysterious object (usually of extraterrestrial or unknown origin and immense power) in a story which generates an intense sense of wonder just by being there; to a certain extent, the term deliberately deflates this. Probably coined by reviewer Roz Kaveney, the term was not in general use until Peter Nicholls included it in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction as a joke.

Of the books I've read by Arthur C. Clarke this is probably the one I have liked the best. Here is the very brief Goodreads review I posted when I read it: Three Goodreads stars for entertainment value plus a bonus star for being good old-fashioned honest science fiction.


message 4: by David (new)

David Merrill | 240 comments I guess it's pretty obvious from my pic, Dhalgren is my favorite book. I've read it four times over the past 35 years and I get something new from it each time. I hope no one is going to try to read it from an E-book. The last chapter, which is very long, doesn't work in the e-books I've seen. It looks better on my iPad than on my e-reader, but it isn't the same as on the physical pages as the paperback.

I'm not going to reread this right now because I reread it last year. I may try to read the extensive introduction of the Gregg Press edition and do a review of that.

For those stumbling over the first line, which is half a sentence, the front end of the sentence is the last line of the book. This is a circular novel. It has no beginning or end, technically. If you've read Murakami's 1Q84, it seems to me, he's read Dhalgren. Both take place in a sort of pocket universe. Both have people seeing two moons in the sky. Don't worry, this is not much of a spoiler. If people have questions along the way, I may be able to answer them.


message 5: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) | 899 comments David wrote: "I hope no one is going to try to read it from an E-book. The last chapter, which is very long, doesn't work in the e-books I've seen. It looks better on my iPad than on my e-reader, but it isn't the same as on the physical pages as the paperback."

What the problem? Is it graphics? It's my intention to download a library ebook later this month. I have a Kindle fire, which is similar to an iPad mini. I also should be able to view it on the kindle app in my PC.


message 6: by David (last edited Aug 02, 2014 05:48PM) (new)

David Merrill | 240 comments The formatting in the last chapter is odd. There are sometimes more than one stream of text going on. In the printed book, it takes up blocks that sometimes run through two or three pages and the major part of the text wraps around it. It allows you to choose whether you'll read everything on one page, then move on to the next, which means you'll break out of one and into the other more often or choose to read it in blocks, reading the minor chunk as a whole and backtrack to the regular text. The e-book just treats it as consecutive blocks of text. In my ereader there's not much to show where the breaks are. On my iPad, there's more of a formatting change, but the breakdown is much different than in the paper book. It takes that element of choice away from the reader, which will change your experience of the book. I suppose it isn't in that major a way, but it really bothered me.


message 7: by Jo (new)

Jo | 1092 comments I have the book of Dhalgren and due to the fact it's too big for my bag i'm not able to read on the way to and from work so my progress is slow. From the first chapter it seems to have a kind of opressive feel to the book, you don't really know what's happening but it's not good.

I was interested to read that Philip K Dick really hated this book (also Harlan Ellison but i'm not familiar with his work). I'm wondering if it's due to the contrasting writing styles or the story itself, I guess i'll have to read on to find out what's to dislike.


message 8: by David (new)

David Merrill | 240 comments Jo wrote: "I have the book of Dhalgren and due to the fact it's too big for my bag i'm not able to read on the way to and from work so my progress is slow. From the first chapter it seems to have a kind of op..."

I think you either love this book or hate it. I've never met anyone who has read it that was indifferent. Dhalgren definitely has its excesses but it is also incredibly ambitious.


message 9: by Jo (new)

Jo | 1092 comments Due to work it's taking me longer to read Dhalgren than i'd like. I'm up to chapter 4 now and have to say it's really growing on me. I can definitely see the comparison with Murykami although this has a darker edge to it.

It is a strange book and it seems to me as i'm reading it that i'm missing things. I get the feeling that it's not going to become clearer as I read on and it's going to be a book you need to re-read to truly appreciate. Although as i'm only on chapter 4 I could be completely wrong....


message 10: by Jo (new)

Jo | 1092 comments I've finished Dhalgren this weekend and it's difficult to give a summary as it's such a strange book. There are great parts and parts which are totally incomprehensible, I can see why it splits it's audience.

It's still got me thinking about it now, I certainly can't say I understand the book. In fact i'm still unsure as to whether it's a work of genius or just completely exasperating. I'm glad i've read it but i'm holding off scoring it until I have time to think on further.


message 11: by Buck (last edited Aug 23, 2014 09:19AM) (new)

Buck (spectru) | 899 comments I started Dhalgren late last night. I was concerned that its reputed strangeness would make me not like it. The writing style is unconventional. The very beginning was quite dreamlike, but now it has gained its footing, still quite early on. So far so good.

This is a very long book, 800 pages. I don't expect I'll finish it before the end of the month.


message 12: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) | 899 comments Jo wrote: "I've finished Dhalgren this weekend and it's difficult to give a summary as it's such a strange book. There are great parts and parts which are totally incomprehensible, I can see why it splits it'..."

So, Jo. what did you think?


message 13: by Jo (new)

Jo | 1092 comments Buck wrote: "Jo wrote: "I've finished Dhalgren this weekend and it's difficult to give a summary as it's such a strange book. There are great parts and parts which are totally incomprehensible, I can see why it..."

I've decided to give it 4 stars for what it tries to do. Overall I liked it, I just found it confusing in places but I think this was intentional. Sometimes I need to re-read books to truly appreciate them and I think this is one.


message 14: by David (last edited Aug 24, 2014 07:35AM) (new)

David Merrill | 240 comments Jo wrote: "Buck wrote: "Jo wrote: "I've finished Dhalgren this weekend and it's difficult to give a summary as it's such a strange book. There are great parts and parts which are totally incomprehensible, I c..."

Dhalgren is definitely confusing. I don't think I realized the circularity of it the first time I read it at 17. I pretty much read it in a vacuum. The last chapter seems to be intended as a transcription of Kid's notebook, but it doesn't quite work as that. It brings more questions than it answers. Which parts are written by Kid and which are written by the original owner of the notebook? Or was Kid also the original owner and his loss of memory obscures this even from him? The last chapter repeats passages described in earlier parts of the text, sometimes from a slightly different perspective. It makes us question, if this is his notebook, what then is the rest of the book and why does it join seamlessly with the end of the notebook? Is all of the book the notebook? That doesn't seem quite right either. Delany seems to be calling into question where reality ends and fantasy begins or where the reality within a novel begins and ends when we have an unreliable narrator. Or maybe it's a more general question. Where does story begin and end?

The last chapter deconstructs the novel, causing it to unravel before our eyes. We end up where we began and the book loops back on itself, leaving us stranded somewhere in the middle, wondering what is the beginning and what is the end, two moorings usually found in novels that give us context and something to hold on to, but are denied us here. I think this is what makes Dhalgren such a difficult novel. It often takes away what we expect from a story, but it is also what makes it great, but possibly also what makes it fail on some level as a novel.

But these are also the things that keep bringing me back to Dhalgren. It's like a puzzle I seem to believe I'll someday solve if I keep coming back to it. I do seem to get more of a grasp on it each time I read it and there's always more of the puzzle that reveals itself to me. But I don't really believe there's a solution here to be found. There are just more depths to encounter and for me that's what makes this a great novel in the end.


message 15: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) | 899 comments I've completed parts I and II. So far, I haven't found it too confusing, though Delany writing seems perhaps more concerned with his artistic vision that with clarity. The way he describes Kidd's writing and crossing through and rewriting in the notebook - I wonder if that is Delany's own process.

The one thing I wonder about is what happened. Acouple of times things have been said, like "Were you here when it happened/", but it's still completely up to our imaginations what it is that happened. I think I won't be surprised if we never find out.

While I'm reading Dhalgren, I'm also hearing the audiobook of Stand on Zanzibar, which is much more... disjointed. (Confusing isn't quite the right word, but it is difficult to follow.)


message 16: by David (new)

David Merrill | 240 comments Buck wrote: "I've completed parts I and II. So far, I haven't found it too confusing, though Delany writing seems perhaps more concerned with his artistic vision that with clarity. The way he describes Kidd's..."

I can't imagine trying to follow Stand On Zanzibar as an audio book. This is another book that relies heavily on the structure of the text, chap[ter breaks, font choices, and all upper case in places. I don't know how you would convey that in an audio book. I think it could work as a ebook as long as the structure and formatting is maintained.

These are two books I think are most suited to paper that would lose the most in other formats. There aren't many others I would put in this category. Brunner wrote a couple of other books using this style. House Of Leaves would be another book I'd rather read in a paper edition because of formatting, color and fonts used to delineate text.


message 17: by Buck (last edited Aug 24, 2014 07:52PM) (new)

Buck (spectru) | 899 comments David wrote: "I can't imagine trying to follow Stand On Zanzibar as an audio book. This is another book that relies heavily on the structure of the text, chap[ter breaks, font choices, and all upper case in places. I don't know how you would convey that in an audio book.

I think you're probably right, especially for the Context chapters. The reader does a pretty good job, though, sounding sometimes like an old-style top-40 DJ, or a car salesman, or a TV huckster, etc. Still, I think you're probably right...


message 18: by David (new)

David Merrill | 240 comments Buck wrote: "David wrote: "I can't imagine trying to follow Stand On Zanzibar as an audio book. This is another book that relies heavily on the structure of the text, chap[ter breaks, font choices, and all uppe..."

So, that's how they do it. That might work for Stand On Zanzibar. It's a long time since I read it, though. I do remember it took some work in the beginning to get into it. After that I really liked it. I think I had to read a good 50 or 75 page chunk all at once to get it started and grounded enough in the characters to keep them straight in my head.


message 19: by Jo (new)

Jo | 1092 comments David wrote: "Jo wrote: "Buck wrote: "Jo wrote: "I've finished Dhalgren this weekend and it's difficult to give a summary as it's such a strange book. There are great parts and parts which are totally incomprehe..."

It was at the last chapter where I got completely confused. I knew the book was circular but I was also struggling with what was true or not, particularly with the missing time and memories. I was also thinking a lot above whether the story was really what happened after an event or if it was more was a kind of study of insanity via the delusions of the Kid or even a mixture of both. I never reached a conclusion.


message 20: by David (last edited Aug 25, 2014 04:58PM) (new)

David Merrill | 240 comments Jo wrote: "David wrote: "Jo wrote: "Buck wrote: "Jo wrote: "I've finished Dhalgren this weekend and it's difficult to give a summary as it's such a strange book. There are great parts and parts which are tota..."

I think he's intended more as an amnesiac than insane. A lot of the book is based on similar real happenings in Delany's life in Greenwich Village in the 60's. I think it's more about how he approaches an insane world from the perspective of someone without a past to draw from to cope with it. And also how others around him cope with a world without the structure of civilization as we're used to it. Some go into denial and approach the world as though nothing's changed, which obviously leads to disaster. Kid approaches it by adaptation as many others do. He is probably the most successful at it and becomes a leader, even if it's almost by accident.

When I first read this book it seemed like a fascinating alien world with few rules. I didn't know a lot of it was taken from Delany's real life. It seemed so extreme to me nothing like it could happen in real life. Then I went to college and found life there to be very similar to what I found in this book. It didn't seem o alien after all.


message 21: by Buck (last edited Aug 26, 2014 08:49AM) (new)

Buck (spectru) | 899 comments I'm into part IV -a little past a third into the book. I don't find it confusing at all; a little strange, but not confusing. It has pulled me in and I am engrossed in the story. There definitely are some things that are unexplained, the whole situation - how did this city get to be the way it is? And the decorative chains - what is their significance.

A lot of the people and the way they are reminds me of the hippie underground of the late 60s and early 70s - The so-called counter-culture. I was in college at the time and got a taste of it. It didn't last long, but it was happening in the time just before Delany wrote this book.


message 22: by Jo (new)

Jo | 1092 comments The further on you get the more conusing it becomes, although this maybe just me. I do tend to over-think about books and there was a lot I could think about in this one.

I didn't realise a lot was based on Delany's life, I assumed it was based on the events of the time. It's funny that you both have mentioned it reminds you of college. Clearly college in the U.S is much more exciting than in the UK!


message 23: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) | 899 comments Every now and then there is a paragraph or so written in the first person. Its style is slightly different from the main text, but almost unnoticeably so. It as if it were Mr. Newboy speaking. I've wondered if it is from the other side of the notebook pages. Of course, it may just be the way Delany writes and has no special significance.


message 24: by Buck (last edited Aug 26, 2014 07:25PM) (new)

Buck (spectru) | 899 comments Jo wrote: "Clearly college in the U.S is much more exciting than in the UK! "

I would have preferred to have been a professional student. I didn't go to graduate school because I had to go earn a living.

Weren't there hippies in the UK? or maybe it was before your time.


message 25: by Jo (new)

Jo | 1092 comments Buck wrote: "Jo wrote: "Clearly college in the U.S is much more exciting than in the UK! "

I would have preferred to have been a professional student. I didn't go to graduate school because I had to go earn a..."


It was a bit before my time. There were hippies in the uk but I always thought it was not really a big movement like in the US but others know better than me here.


message 26: by David (last edited Aug 27, 2014 05:07AM) (new)

David Merrill | 240 comments Jo wrote: "Buck wrote: "Jo wrote: "Clearly college in the U.S is much more exciting than in the UK! "

I would have preferred to have been a professional student. I didn't go to graduate school because I had..."


I was in college during the 80's, the tail end of the Animal House years. There was still a bit of free love in the air, though a little complicated. The affect of AIDS on that mentality hadn't taken hold yet. So, there was a gang bang at one of the frat houses one night. I didn't participate. I wasn't into that sort of thing but I definitely had Dhalgren flashbacks while I was at that party and at other times at that college. I guess dormitory life with different fraternity factions at an institution divided from the real world isn't that far off from the situation in Bellona where different rules apply, communal living and gangs are the norm. The college I went to had all the clocks set 5 minutes fast, so it really felt like we were on this island set apart from the outside world. It was like we were experiences a temporal shift.


message 27: by Jo (new)

Jo | 1092 comments I wonder if this is why I find Dhalgren more alien than you do. I come from a small city and I went to university in a small town. There weren't really any factions(or at least I wasn't involved in them). I always thought of the whole frat thing as something specific to the US but now I live in Belgium I find they they have a similar kind of thing.

Personally I find Sci-fi based on reality, even if distorted in the writing leaves more of an impression. You have more of a possibility to relate to it even if you don't totally understand it.


message 28: by David (new)

David Merrill | 240 comments Jo wrote: "I wonder if this is why I find Dhalgren more alien than you do. I come from a small city and I went to university in a small town. There weren't really any factions(or at least I wasn't involved in..."

The college I ws referring to was a rather odd one. It had a limit of 750 students in its charter, so it was small, but there were 4 fraternities and I think 3 sororities on campus, each with their own house or dormitory. I was not in a fraternity myself, so I lived in a non-frat dorm, but everyone attended frat parties pretty much. The school was located in a small town on the eastern shore of Maryland. The side of the town where the school was located was very upper crust wealthy, preppy. The other side of town was very poor and largely minority. I remember seeing houses with their doors falling off. So, the school very much occupied its own little island separate from these two sides of town. Sometimes those realities encroached on the school. The mayor would visit campus every now and then. He'd be wearing very preppy bright colored suits and was rather clown-like. My writing class once attended a reading by Gwendolyn Brooks at the local Baptist Church on the bad side of town. A lot of people were scared to go and didn't but our teacher urged us to attend. I did and it was quite an experience. The reading was fantastic, but so was entering into a world quite different from the one I was used to, being stared at by the congregation, because they weren't used to seeing us college kids in their church either.


message 29: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) | 899 comments Buck wrote: "Every now and then there is a paragraph or so written in the first person. Its style is slightly different from the main text, but almost unnoticeably so. It as if it were Mr. Newboy speaking. I..."

Those first person paragraphs - it's the kid, his thoughts, or maybe just impressions. It's not the way he talks.


message 30: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) | 899 comments I finished it, not in the same month I started it, but I finished it. I wrote a somewhat hurried review of it that I think is probably too long for this thread, so I'll simply include the link to it: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

David, I'd be interested to know what you think of my reaction to Dhalgren


message 31: by Buck (last edited Sep 03, 2014 11:05AM) (new)

Buck (spectru) | 899 comments According to fictional poet, author, and Nobel laureate Ernest Newboy, in a conversation with the Kid: "The Three Conventions of science fiction: First: A single man can change the course of a whole world; Second: The only measure of intelligence or genius is its linear and practical application; Three: The Universe is an essentially hospitable place, full of earth-type planets where you can crash-land your spaceship and survive long enough to have an adventure. Here in Bellona...”

It's a bit of a stretch to put Dhalgren in the science fiction genre, but that's where it's been put. It's playing in the same league with Vonnegut, Dick, and Gibson, but perhaps not in the same ballpark.


message 32: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 4208 comments Mod
Good review, Buck. I doubt if most people today understand just how freeing the Pill was or how much attitudes have changed since the 60's. I don't think so judging by other books from the times. I remember several young ladies disliking Heinlein's attempt at female equality in Stranger in a Strange Land. Not great as seen from today, but they hadn't even realized he was trying.


message 33: by David (new)

David Merrill | 240 comments Buck wrote: "I finished it, not in the same month I started it, but I finished it. I wrote a somewhat hurried review of it that I think is probably too long for this thread, so I'll simply include the link to ..."

I liked your review Buck. It's hard for me to imagine coming to this book for the first time today, but I suspect I would have reacted much the same way. It would have recalled the things in my life I mentioned above, rather than foreshadow it. Or maybe I would not have had those experiences at all because I wouldn't have been as open to them. And I really think that's what Dhalgren did for me at the time, it opened my eyes to other possibilities, other ways of seeing things, other ways of life. I suppose something else would have done that eventually, but it would have probably taken years more. I'm glad you ended up liking the book. It's just barely Science Fiction. I think were it to be published today, it would probably not be classified that way.


message 34: by Aurélien (new)

Aurélien Thomas Well, I will go against the tide here: I don't like 'Dhalgren'.

I have no doubt Delany had great fun writing it -ambiguous characters thrown into a strange world beyond logic. The writing style is good -light and poetic, even if there's a lot of annoying broken dialogues and, pompous and pretentious digressions, for example on the act of writing itself (Ernest Newboy is such a pain! The typical self-centred 'Artist' whose philosophy and rants are as a vacuum as I guess his poetry is). But I don't understand his success at all -it's too long, boring, meaningless (to me in any case).

Is it a cultural thing? I ask because, all of you seem to be American and see it as 'revolutionary' in some sort and, I am European (French) and I don't. Sexually for instance -the long stream of polyamory, gay sex, gang bang etc. are things that have already been explored before, by others and, with far more impact (starting with the Marquis de Sade, who wrote far more revolutionary and burning stuff... 200 years before!).

All in all I think it's, well, pretentious.


message 35: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) | 899 comments Aurelien wrote: "Well, I will go against the tide here: I don't like 'Dhalgren'.

I have no doubt Delany had great fun writing it -ambiguous characters thrown into a strange world beyond logic. The writing style i..."


I'm not surprised at all at your reaction to Dhalgren. From what I had read about it I had expected to feel the same way and after reading it, I can understand how you could feel that way. I am surprised that I liked it as much as I did.


message 36: by James (new)

James Parsons | 7 comments I feel that Arthur C Clarke's Rama has been forgotten in recent times. Years ago, it obviously had such a great impact on SF writing at the time. This style and type of tale has passed away, but it is still now a very well crafted and tense space tale to read. Quite similar to Clarke's own 2001... book series, this has also had a big influence on science fiction in movies over decades since.


message 37: by David (last edited Sep 13, 2014 07:20AM) (new)

David Merrill | 240 comments Aurelien wrote: "Well, I will go against the tide here: I don't like 'Dhalgren'.

I have no doubt Delany had great fun writing it -ambiguous characters thrown into a strange world beyond logic. The writing style i..."


Dhalgren isn't particularly revolutionary within the context of literature as a whole, but it was revolutionary, at the time, within the genre of Science Fiction. Previous to Dhalgren, sex was mostly addressed by a vague set up implying that a character would be having sex followed by a space break and the next scene would begin, if it was addressed at all. In other words, sex, for the most part, did not exist in the world of science fiction before this. Philip Jose Farmer was probably the first to experiment with actually including sex in Science Fiction. It's difficult for us to be reading this book now and look back and understand what kind of impact that had on the field, particularly with so many human/alien sex scenes since then.

What you're experiencing may well be cultural. During the 50's the U. S. Experienced a very puritanical period with the McCarthy hearings calling out anyone who might have a connection to communism and blacklisting them, Fredric Werthem's The Seduction Of The Innocent and his hearings before congress that gutted the macabre and sexual from the comic book industry. During that time sex was a forbidden subject and hidden, except in pornography or in the sleeze fiction of the period. No one talked about gay sex much either. Then we had the sexual revolution in the late 60's- early 70's, which I understand was mostly an American phenomenon. Suddenly you could talk about sex openly and have it freely, which I think was happening in Europe already. Delany was riding the wave of that. This book could not have been published previous to that.

What made this revolutionary was the fact he was putting pornographic style scenes in a serious work of fiction, particularly science fiction and writing them in a literary fashion. Also, he was doing experimental post modern style fiction and writing science fiction, which is something no one had done much previously. He was also breaking out of a length restriction that was imposed on a lot of science fiction in the 50's and 60's because a lot of it was published by Ace in ace doubles. They would have an author cut scenes out of a work to make it fit their publishing restrictions. Much of Delany's previous work was done for Ace.

I have read criticism similar to your take on Dhalgren in the past and feel all of what you said is accurate and valid about Dhalgren. I think it's why some people love this book and others hate it and you don't get much in between. You can love it despite or even because of its excesses and failings or those things might turn you completely off of the book. I think it still remains either the most or one of the most ambitious experimental Science Fiction novels of all time.


message 38: by Aurélien (new)

Aurélien Thomas @David
Thanks for the comments!

Yes, I think my issue with the book comes from my own cultural background (French). After all, what was going on in the US during the sixties was a way of life already known decades before in France -as an American, maybe you have read the autobiographical work of Henry Miller set in Paris during the twenties-thirties?

That is not to say that, moral conservatism was inexistent but, it was far less oppressive and controlling -I think because of historical factors. France, unlike the US, is a country that culturally knew very deep (and at times brutal) conflicts with the Church (and moral Christian conservatism as a consequence), leading to more 'open' views on sexuality.

I acknowledge Delany introducing sex in the SF field but, having read such openness even in the canon of French literature long before the sixties (for example, the Libertines in the... 18th century!) I have seen nothing revolutionary here.


message 39: by David (last edited Sep 13, 2014 02:44PM) (new)

David Merrill | 240 comments Aurelien wrote: "@David
Thanks for the comments!

Yes, I think my issue with the book comes from my own cultural background (French). After all, what was going on in the US during the sixties was a way of life alr..."

What was going on in science fiction in France during the time Dhalgren was written? Was sex an integral part like with other fiction? I have to admit, I haven't read any French SF, but now this discussion has me curious about what was going on in the genre in other countries. I've read some soviet SF, mostly by the Strugatsky brothers. I have one or two French SF novels, but haven't read them yet. Are there any particular French works of Science Fiction I should look to start with?

I think the puritanical bent of U. S. Culture still affects us in a pretty drastic way. We still have a lot of trouble dealing with sex in our media and culture. I think it causes sex to be viewed in a pretty twisted way here. And in saying that, I don't discount the fact my own view could use some work. Growing up in this culture, I think, has left me in the position of being affected by it, but because of my reading and the friends I've had over the years from other countries, I'm very much aware it leaves me often in a vacuum when it comes to my understanding of the world. It can be pretty frustrating here having that awareness and living among people who can be pretty dense, yet also knowing my awareness only takes me so far.


message 40: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) | 899 comments Even though Dhalgren has a lot of explicit sex, and that may have been groundbreaking for science fiction, I don't think it is the sex that makes Dhalgren what it is. It's the weirdness of the setting, and all the weird circumstances, and Delany's shrugging off of any resolution of those circumstances, that makes Dahlgren what it is. It's a cop-out. Those kind of things usually drive me crazy and will usually sour a novel for me, but somehow, Delany made Dhalgren work for me despite its shortcomings.


message 41: by Aurélien (new)

Aurélien Thomas I am sorry to don't be of any help here but, my knowledge of French SF is very poor (despite being French!). The genre is not very popular in France. It's perceived as quite childish (all the caricatures of monsters and aliens, that might appeal to immature teens but is not serious intellectually) and, is limited to a very tiny circles of fans among readers. Even, American and Eastern Europeans writers are more popular among these fans than their French counterparts!

Once again, I think it's a cultural thing -science is not as attractive in France as it is in the English speaking world (or was in USSR during the Cold War), hence a lack of enthusiasm regarding everything scientific (even speculative fiction). You'll find French people more interested in Humanities (philosophy and the Arts) than in hard sciences! This shows in our fictions -turned towards inner worlds and with great emphasis on writing styles, more than wild imagination and speculations.

I don't know why really. We had a knack for scientific discoveries and exploration during the Enlightenment (I was reading 'Micromegas' by Voltaire again recently). Of course, Jules Vernes is a unmissable classic (advertised for children!), but it seems nothing great came after him. To give you an idea of what was done in the sixties, the only example coming to mind is 'Planet of the Apes' by Pierre Boulle!

I cannot answer your question about sex in French SF but, sex in French literature as a whole is far from new and groundbreaking.


message 42: by Aurélien (new)

Aurélien Thomas @Buck
I agree that it is more than sex but, as creative as all the weirdness is, it's just a succession of a few odd ideas (two moons, a gigantic sun, time and space making no sense) all gathered together over a far too long amount of pages. The length doesn't suit it -to me it was far too wordy, no matter how pleasant the style.


message 43: by David (last edited Sep 14, 2014 07:12AM) (new)

David Merrill | 240 comments Surprisingly, I guess I know more about French SF than you do. I knew I'd seen a publisher somewhere that specialized in English translations of French Science Fiction a while back. I found it by accident while searching for something else. It took a lot to find it again on purpose. Lord knows why I didn't bookmark it at the time. It's bookmarked now.

http://blackcoatpress.com

Brian Stableford does a lot of the translations. He's on a mission to translate all the Important French proto SF. I had to remember that to find the website again. No amount of searching French Science Fiction brought much in the way of results.

From the titles and descriptions it looks like a lot of it is for the children's book market. I wrote to the publisher asking if they could suggest a good place to start because there are so many here.

I do own a few books by French writers. Michel Jeury's Chronolysis was an award winner in France and a translation was published by Macmillan. They're the ones who published the Soviet Science Fiction series. Too bad they didn't do a French series too, though the books would now be very expensive in the secondary market. Bantam published a couple of books by Elizabeth Vonarburg, The Silence In The City and In The Mother's Land. The latter won the Philip K. Dick Award in the U. S. I have to admit, I haven't read any of them yet. I guess I know where to start reading.

Then I remembered the Prix Apollo Award which was usually won by a novel written originally in English translated into French. I'm familiar with it because Zelazny's Isle of the Dead won the first one and Brunner's Stand On Zanzibar won the second. There were a few Prix Apollo Awards that went to French language original works. The Wikipedia article led me to Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire, an award that took on a category for works translated into French and replaced the Prix Apollo.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prix_A...

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_...

From there I get a nice list of French Science Fiction to look for at Black Coat. Silly me, I know I did all this research the last time I found Black Coat and wrote nothing down. Hopefully it will stick this time.


message 44: by David (new)

David Merrill | 240 comments I also found this Wikipedia article on the history of French Science Fiction:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/French...


message 45: by Aurélien (new)

Aurélien Thomas Thanks for the links! I will use the Wikipedia article to try and remediate to my own ignorance... It's an interesting read too -the idea of WWI and WWII leading to a backlash towards scientism and, in France in any case, against science as a whole, could explain why the field (and its speculative possibilities) is not as popular as in the English speaking world. After all, we experienced such horrors on our soils!

I am not surprised either to learn about postmodernism impacting on a 'Lost Generation'. After all, France is where postmodernism (that snobbish and overcomplicated philosophy^^) was born!

DON'T be fooled by the fact most of it is advertised for children! It's just a patronising way of pushing the genre under others, deemed more 'serious' intellectually (literature). Fantasy too was long advertised to children (Tolkien for kids?!)... Jules Vernes himself is considered an author for teenager, despite his remarkable talent for extrapolating on the science and technologies of his time!

Funny, though, to see the only genre attracting respect are the graphic novels... Comics ('BD' in French) are indeed a serious business, some targeted to adults only.


message 46: by David (new)

David Merrill | 240 comments Aurelien wrote: "Thanks for the links! I will use the Wikipedia article to try and remediate to my own ignorance... It's an interesting read too -the idea of WWI and WWII leading to a backlash towards scientism and..."

Marvel brought some French comics to the U. S. a few years back under the Soleil imprint. The ones I read were quite good.

The books I was referring to on the site that were billed as child oriented were compared to things like Hardy Boys, so I think they really are children's literature. There are plenty of others that aren't. I think they're just trying to give you an idea of the reading level for those not familiar with the titles.

Science Fiction before The New Wave hit in the 60's was considered mostly for kids here too. It's novels like Dhalgren that improved people's opinion of Science Fiction outside the genre. I think Dhalgren has always been much better received outside of Science Fiction circles. People who read primarily Science Fiction or Fantasy seem more likely to dislike it, in my experience. I don't mean this as a criticism of those people. I think what novels we read lead us to have expectations of what subsequent novels will be like. Dhalgren flies in the face of what most of us expect from a Science Fiction novel.


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