Did I recently return from the library with a bag of books by Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Samuel R. Delany?
Did my husband sign on to live with a woman who has strayed into an alternate history in which she never left the library in Bloomington, Indiana?
Perhaps I have gotten a little carried away.
I have now turned from SF novels to short stories. On my bedside table is an anthology, Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. It includes 18 stories by such quirky, compelling writers as Gregory Maguire, Tanith Lee, and Catherynne M. Valente.
In the preface, Dadlow and Windling explain the genre of Gaslamp Fantasy, which is not quite like steampunk.
Steampunk fiction, which blends nineteenth-century settings with science fiction elements, receives a great deal of popular attention these days, yet it is only one form of the diverse range of fiction that falls under the Gaslamp Fantasy label. You’ll also find historical fantasy, dark fantasy with a deliciously gothic bent, romantic tales, detective tales, and ‘fantasies of manners’: magical fiction that owes more to Jane Austen, William Thackeray, and Anthony Trollope than to C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.
This summer, when not reading SF, I’ve been reading early 20th-century realistic comedies by H. G. Wells and Elizabeth von Arnim (who were briefly lovers, and their influence on each other’s work shows).
And so I’m behind on my Man Booker Prize longlist predictions. Not that I ever HAVE predicted them, but this year I’ve read very few new books. Since the Booker list will include Americans, I would love to see Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, on the list. (I wrote about her stunning novel here.)
The British know how to create suspense with their longlists and shortlists, and readers and bloggers seem genuinely to care about who wins. At our house we are always excited about the Booker longlist. In 2009 we even read James Lever’s Me Cheeta, the autobiography of the chimp in the Tarzan movies. (We found it in the nonfiction section of a suburban library, and the librarian ignored our insistence that it was fiction.)
Can’t wait to see the longlist tomorrow.