This morning I went to the Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival for an event. Zsuszi Gartner was hosting three of the writers from Darwin’s Bastards. With four writers reading from their work, there wasn’t as much conversation as I might have enjoyed, but it was entertaining. The split between the bigger writers (William Gibson & Yann Martel) and the smaller writers (Adam Lewis Schroeder & Anosh Irani) was something that could have been more interesting to explore. There was a question from the audience about whether they write for an audience or think about their works as marketable items, which is a fundamentally different question when you’ve written a “big” book like Life of Pi, vs created a genre, vs are a playwright no one has ever heard of.
I think my favourite part of the panel was watching the writers listen to each other reading. Martel seemed very contemplative, inwardly focused while Gibson listened carefully and openly loved the funny bits. Also, he did his “imaginative fiction being every kind of fiction” thing which I do appreciate when people try to pigeon-hole sf. The way Irani read his story was much less flippant than the voice that was in my head, but that seriousness made the black comedy of that womb-creature even more stark. Schroeder also sang a song, in a Feist-like way. He was pretty fun, very much the dramatizer of his tale.
After the discussion I stood in line to get my copy of Darwin’s Bastards signed by the four of them. And it’s funny, but when I’ve been talking about this book to people (in person, apparently I didn’t mention him in my thing here), I’ve tended to tell them about the Schroeder story first. I told him that, and he seemed to appreciate it. I didn’t mention that William Gibson is the first author in the collection I mention.
Next week is the Vancouver International Writers Festival, and one of the sessions I’m going to has four writers from Darwin’s Bastards: Astounding Tales from Tomorrow, (editor) Zsuzsi Gartner’s collection of short stories. The idea was to get science fictiony stories from people who aren’t known for their sf work (apart from William Gibson).
William Gibson has a sort-of-ghost-story about Kitsilano in there (“Dougal Discarnate”), and Yann Martel’s story of the end “We Ate the Children Last”, and Anosh Irani’s acerbic countdown to birth story, “Notes from the Womb.” I also really liked Heather O’Neill’s robot love story “The Dreamlife of Toasters” and “The Divinity Gene” by Matthew J. Trafford (about cloning Jesi from miraculously appearing blood) and Timothy Taylor’s “Sunshine City” (a murder mystery set in a retirement home/golf-club).
Generally good stuff, there were only a few stories that seemed like someone trying to write sf who’d never done it and thought s/he was inventing the genre.