Latest newsletter, on finding 'good' in a sea of 'ok' and (somewhat relatedly) James Patterson:
The thing is about creative quality - or cultural quality - or however you want to call it - it is a fantastic living experiment in watching standards erode. If I read, or ‘consume’, a lot of stuff in a row that’s fine, I very, very quickly find that ‘fine’ becomes ‘ok’, or even ‘good’. My own expectations become managed, as I convince myself that what I’m consuming is satisfying, simply because I’m consuming it. The sunk cost fallacy + a DIY shift in social norms = boiling the frog of quality. (And, of course, this very much applies to any other area as well, from Netflix binges to creative campaigns.) Given enough adequacy, you can forget what good looks like.
The midyear 'Reviewers' Choice' picks for Tor.com, including my three selections:
...a slow-burning, introspective science fiction novel; an examination of human resilience in impossible conditions. Think of it as the sociological, characterful version of The Martian, or a secularised, contemporary version of The Sparrow. A unique perspective on ‘hard’ SF, and I hope to see it in discussion come awards season.
I sadly can't claim this fantastic long-read as my own, but a terrific piece on South Asian science fiction, with a few references to the 'excellent' The Djinn Falls in Love:
One of my favourite stories in this vein is ‘Bring Your Own Spoon’, a short story by Bangladeshi SFF writer Saad Hossain, published in an excellent anthology edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin called The Djinn Falls in Love. The story is set in a futuristic, dystopian Dhaka ravaged by climate change, a world where the boundary between the human and superhuman worlds has become threadbare because of a collective struggle for survival... With masterfully done world-building and brimming with hope (very hard to pull off in a dystopian narrative), Hossain uses a distinctly desi mythological figure to comment on the unique ways in which climate change and capitalism are affecting contemporary South Asian society.
And a terrific review of The Best of British Fantasy 2018, courtesy of the British Fantasy Society:
Suspenseful and well-written, most of the stories in this collection steer an alluring path between being emotional yet stylish, traditional but also meaningful for our times, hilarious and disturbing, psychologically consistent yet weirdly easy to identify with.