If you’re here because I wrote the novel Semiosis, welcome!
You might also enjoy the website devoted entirely to the novel with scenes and information that didn’t make it into the book, associated fiction and essays, the full Constitution, and a blog.
You can find it here:
My late friend Suzanne Allés Blom
, author of the novel Inca
among other works, had a theory about why books are categorized as science fiction, romance, thriller, Western, literary, etc.
As you know, Sturgeon’s Law
says that 90% of everything is crap; that is, most science fiction, romance, thrillers, Westerns, and literary fiction, etc. (along with movies, poetry, comics, you name it) simply isn’t great stuff.
But 10% of it is great. Sue thought that pretty much all of us would like the best of anything. I agree. I prefer speculative fiction, but now and then I read the best in Westerns, romance, thrillers, literary fiction, etc., and I enjoy it.
I also read a lot of speculative fiction that’s not in the top 10%, and I enjoy that, too. I can tolerate speculative crap, although romantic or literary crap sets my teeth on edge.
Sue believed that’s why there are categories. They help lead us to the shelves where we will probably enjoy most of what we pick up. Categories don’t exist just to help marketers know how to sell a book and to tell booksellers where to put it. Categories exist to protect us readers from the wrong kind of crap.
— Sue BurkePhoto of Sue Blom by David Dyer-Bennet at the 1976 Midamerican Convention.
Cerebral. Familial. Inimical. Judgmental.
The streetlights have arms and personalities along Mayor Street Lower in Dublin, Ireland. I took these photos on my way from my hotel to the Convention Centre of Dublin while I was there for Worldcon
This year’s World Science Fiction Convention, or Worldcon
, will be in Dublin, Ireland, from August 15 to 19. About 5,000 people are expected to attend. If you’ve never been, events include panels, gaming, writing workshops, costumes, speeches, awards, movies, music, dancing, parties, art, science, theater, children’s activities, and a lot more.
Worldcons are run by us fans — no paid staff. This helps account for the variety of activities. The size of the venue, not our collective imagination, is the only limitation. That’s why when you buy your ticket, it’s a membership fee. You don’t just observe, you belong.
I’m scheduled for four events:Panel: Continuing relevance of older SF
Friday, August 16, 11:30 to 12:20, Odeon 4 (Point Square Dublin)
We are in a new millennium, a literal Brave New World. Surely much of the fiction of the 20th century no longer holds relevance? Or does it? The panel will discuss the fiction of the past and how it can still be relevant in the 21st century. What lessons from older authors such as Orwell, Asimov, Butler, Delany, Kafka, and Atwood can we apply to our app-loaded, social media-driven age?
I’ll moderate panelists Alec Nevala-Lee, Aliza Ben Moha, Robert Silverberg, and Joe Haldeman.Book launch: World Science Fiction #1: Visions to Preserve Biodiversity of the Future
Saturday, August 17, 12:30 to 13:30, Point Square: Warehouse 2 - Performance space
Science fiction happens everywhere! World SF #1 collects some of the best stories published by Future Fiction, a multicultural project created by Francesco Verso to preserve the narrative biodiversity of the future. Come and celebrate these science fiction stories from thirteen countries and six languages. I translated the story “Francine (draft for the September lecture),” by Maria Antónia Marti Escayol. There will be light refreshments.Panel: Into the woods
Saturday, August 17, 16:00 to 16:50, Wicklow Hall-1 (CCD)
From Little Red Riding Hood’s forests to Annihilation’s eldritch fungi, nature and plants have been a powerful force in fiction from historical fairy tales to far-future hydroponics. How have forests shaped fiction, and how has the use of nature in fiction changed over time? What do we love — or hate — about leaves?
Navah Wolfe will moderate panelists Jennifer Mace, Sarah Gailey, Seanan McGuire, and Sue Burke.Reading: Sue Burke
Sunday, August 18, 17:30 to 17:50, ECOCEM Room (CCD)
I’ll read from Interference
, the sequel to the novel Semiosis
, and something else fun and plant-related.
My husband and I are also coming to Ireland a week earlier as tourists. We’re preparing to be enthralled by the beauty of the Emerald Isle, the depth of its culture, and the charm of its people.
-- Sue Burke
If you’re in Britain, you can hear me at 21:00 tomorrow, July 31, on BBC Radio 4, as part of the Stranger than Sci-Fi
show’s episode “Talking Plants.”
I’ll provide some strange science fiction ideas for your hosts, physicist Dr. Jen Gupta and comedian Alice Fraser. Discover real-life science that sounds too strange to be true.
If you’re not in Britain, you can listen anytime after the broadcast, online at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0007623
-- Sue Burke
Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories
by Naomi Kritzer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The seventeen short stories in this collection include the Hugo Award-winning “Cat Pictures Please.” That story begins with the words “I don’t want to be evil.”
In a way, that summarizes all these stories. The protagonists don’t want to be evil – but they have problems: a terminal illness, a missing piece from their soul, captivity, or horrible mistakes made by their parents. They may find themselves searching for their real parents, measuring alien penises, missing their friend’s robot, falling in love with a mortal, watching the Berlin Wall fall, or trying to cook for a houseful of quarantined children during a long and disastrous pandemic with dwindling food supplies.
Most are fantasies, most center on women’s lives, and invariably they are humane, sometimes even gentle, yet fascinating. The breadth of Kritzer’s imagination is on display, along with her sense of humor. If you like “Cat Pictures Please” (read it here if you haven’t)
, you’ll love this book.
-- Sue BurkeView all my reviews
You may have noticed a trend to give strange names to beer. (Wines, too.)
For example:Arrogant Bastard Ale
,Great Big Kentucky Sausage Fest Imperial Brown Ale
,Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout
,Bitzkreig Hops Double IPA
Does this help sell beer? Maybe the first purchase. I wanted to buy a six-pack and I saw Space Station Middle Finger
. I like science fiction. It sounded like fun.
The carton said: “From the dawn of time, humans have looked to the sky for answers. Space Station Middle Finger replies to all from its eternal orbit. Behold and enjoy Space Station Middle Finger, a bright golden American Pale Ale.”
So I bought it, and it was a fine brew with a citrus-like tang, not as highly hopped as some American pale ales, and overall very satisfying. As I drank, I admired the artwork on the label, which could have appeared in an episode of Red Dwarf
, and that was a pleasant thought.
Tasters at Beer Advocate
also had a good opinion of the ale.
Would I buy it again? Sure. But wandering through a beer aisle or perusing a display cooler yields no shortage of tempting fermented adventures. A brand has to find a way to stand out. A strange name helps, I guess, but what happens when all the strange names are taken?
The Science of Herself
by Karen Joy Fowler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This slim volume contains three outstanding short stories, one entertaining interview, and the essay “The Motherhood Statement,” which gave me a lot to think about. For a science fiction story to “burn the motherhood statement,” it should avoid affirming “the conventional social and humanistic pieties, e.g. apple pie and motherhood.”
That’s fine, Fowler says, but conventional societies don’t particularly affirm motherhood. Mothers are blamed for loving their children too much or too little, or lawmakers try to enforce motherhood by denying abortion and birth control, and childless women get their own kind of reproach. Maternity becomes a means to discredit women. Recently, a woman was charged
with the death of her fetus because someone shot her while she was pregnant.
So, Fowler concludes, which motherhood statement do you want to burn, and when you’re done, can we craft a new, better one?
-- Sue BurkeView all my reviews
by Cory Doctorow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book isn’t a novel, it’s four novellas – but I like short fiction, so that’s fine. The stories are all united by “our present moment,” as the cover says. I think some are more successful than others, but they all capture a truth about what’s happening now.
“Unauthorized Bread” explores the ways that technology and laws can control poor people and take from them what little money and freedom they have. They fight back, and the story dives deep into exactly how they rebel with a satisfying level of detail. The happy ending, though, seems a bit strained, although I want to believe it.
“Model Minority” has one big plot hole the story can’t successfully explain away. How did the superhero American Eagle, who is not stupid, spend so many years on Earth in the United States and not know the basic facts about racism? The lectures to get him up to speed seem didactic – which doesn’t make them any less true. He learns there’s no super-strength shortcut to justice.
“Radicalized” left me with one question. In the story, people who have been screwed over by health insurance companies decide to take revenge against the executives who sentenced them or their loved ones to needless suffering and death. My question: Why isn’t this happening now? The anger is out there and easy to find.
“The Masque of the Red Death” is a modern retelling of an Edgar Allan Poe story. A rich guy holes up in a bunker to escape the ravages of a catastrophe. He and his friends are arrogant asshats, and they get what’s coming to them. It’s a brutal kind of fun to watch them fail while the key to survival lies elsewhere.
-- Sue BurkeView all my reviews