Reading: Jonathan Strahan (ed.) — Fearsome Journeys: The New Solaris Book of Fantasy

This one I ordered entirely because it has a piece by my new favourite author, Saladin Ahmed, he of Throne of the Crescent Moon, which is extremely likely to appear very high on my books of the year list, and whose Twitter is equal with current Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s for personal enjoyment. Ahmed writes hmm, how to describe? demonic working class Persian sorcerer fantasy. I decided to read him because it’s so rare to find scifi or fantasy that isn’t in the default or implicit white hetero male paradigm, both in content and authorship and immediately wished he’d already more than one work in print.

So, Fearsome Journeys: The New Solaris Book of Fantasy, in which he has a story I’ve just finished. Here’s also how I decided to buy this: 1, 2, 2-1, hmm not sure, 2-2, 3-2, 4-2, 4-3, 5-3, 5-4, 5-5 (ok 2 but one story) (worked it out yet?), 6-5 … ok 6 male-named authors, 5 female-named, and one determinedly non-committal. I mentioned this before with the (disappointing) Iain Banks book, that it’s rare to get more than a 30% turnout of female-named people in any setting, and that’s my threshold for whether or not I’ll buy a book, so a 50%-ish split qualifies as revolutionary.

Fantasy then. I realised as I was enjoying Scott Lynch’s brilliant story that the difference for e between scifi and fantasy is the former I can plausibly imagine being real (possibly why I generally don’t enjoy traditional Space Opera such as Hyperion; there’s scant actual reference to today’s world – though Iain Bank’s space opera (like Excession) does work for me because it’s based on a conceptual culture that is transferrable to this), while fantasy, as much as I enjoy it at times, is really not likely to be a future we evolve to, nor does it often rest on a conceptual world which can serve as a philosophical example for this. Or to put it as I did to a friend recently when being asked what anarchist texts I’d read, I replied that Banks’ Culture was largely responsible for my socio-political musings.

I’m reading this strictly for enjoyment then, with the hope of perhaps tripping over some new authors I haven’t yet heard of who compel me to buy all their works, perhaps even ones who cross blithely between skiffy and fantasy. Two stories in, I’m having a great time, feet propped up, coffee being drunk, stinking cheese on thick German bread being ate, a small stash of fresh figs and dates nearby, windows open letting in the tattered remains of summer. Books! Bloody hell, they’re good!