The likely controversial, but all-in-all far better second effort from Dave Itzkoff; the relevant (to me) paragraphs:

The Nebula Awards, bestowed annually by a literary society called the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, don’t have a special prize for the speculative work possessing the year’s most striking literary imagery. So I hereby invent the category myself, and declare its first winner to be Christopher Rowe for his story "The Voluntary State," a surreal work collected in the Nebula Awards Showcase 2006 (ROC, paper, $15.95) anthology. Rowe’s vision of an American South, hauntingly different from the one we know, begins with an artist sketching what appear to be children floating in a body of water. But as the inhabitants of this alternate reality know, the convincing cherubs that kick and struggle in the surf are not really children at all, but highly sophisticated decoys used by submerged predators. They are "nothing but extremities, nothing but lures growing from the snouts of alligators crouching on the sandy bottoms."

Rowe intends this scene, and its suggestion of swimmers enticed to their deaths by a Spielbergian impulse to save youth at all costs, to be taken literally. But as a metaphor, it is an extremely potent representation of the science-fiction and fantasy community’s complicated relationship with the idea of nostalgia — a dynamic simultaneously defined by an inextinguishable yearning to search for lost time, and by an eternal vigilance for the dangers that even a quick glance in the rearview mirror can pose to forward-looking genres.

Now’s as good a time as any to point out, once again, that "The Voluntary State" can also still be read online. As can Ben Rosenbaum’s also-rightfully-lauded "Embracing the New."

As for the column as a whole, the key thing to me is that it shows that regardless of what Itzkoff intimated in Ron Hogan’s PW piece, he is listening and does care about the field’s reaction.* A little bit. And that’s a good thing, because he could do a lot of good with that column, if he so chose. And hey, if that’s how it goes down, a list debacle like that seems almost a gift to a beginning literary critic — if it leads to a reevaluation of the critic’s tastes and an ultimate broadening of them. (And clearly, Itzkoff does have a measure of good taste; that was never in dispute, the narrowness of it as represented on the list was. I want to believe!)

Re: McCaffrey and the rest of the column — those are supportable, legitimate opinions, whether you agree with them or not.

*I doubt there was much other reaction.

4 thoughts on “Itzkoffian”

  1. Oh, there was quite a bit of reaction, from both bloggers and industry professionals. Cheney’s criticisms were actually among the mildest of the bunch.

  2. Bloggers and industry professionals (wonder what a Venn Diagram of those two sets would look like) outside the sf/fantasy field ? Do tell.

  3. Oh, wait, that was confusion on my part. I thought “I doubt there was much other reaction” was referring to the Cheney comment, not to the field’s reactions as a whole. So, yeah, in the realm of the Normal Folk, to the extent that I heard anything at all about it, all I heard was, “Oh, right, I saw that. Whatever.” Maybe it convinced somebody ELSE to go out and read Matusek, but I dunno about that.

  4. Yeah, pretty much what I was thinking, Ron. Although I do wonder what the effect was. The more I think about all this, the more that initial column and list seem meant to draw in people who would spark to the older titles on it, who maybe are slightly interested in SF but don’t read it much anymore. This new column seems geared to the same readership to me.

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