[DWJ] my years best list

Farah Mendlesohn farah.sf at gmail.com
Wed Jan 3 03:25:03 EST 2007

NOTE: the following commentary contains spoilers for Larklight.

> Could you explain more about why you liked Larklight?
> The illustrations too follow in the footsteps of the Lemony Snicket
> illustrator (and the Spiderwick Chronicles) and many others. Nice, but
> not outstanding.
Hi Anita

I don't know that it was spectacularly original, it just touched a lot
of buttons. Have you read Harm's Way by Colin Greenland or seen the
"Enlightenment" sequence in Dr. Who? They are part of a tradtition of
Aether Romance, an alternate Victorian England/Empire where Charles
Babbage built his computer* enabling space travel, and space turned
out to have aether waves that could be sailed along.  I loved the cold
romance of the aether. I loved the "brick moon" satellite the children
lived on (an idea from Edward Everett Hale, in a story called "The
Brick Moon" from the 1860s). I loved the challenge to the hypocrisy of
the empire, the navigators' guilds, the discussion of race and species
and science, I love the ironies of femininity and masculinity. I loved
the Crystal Palace turning into a spider (but then I am a lone voice
in thinking _Wild, Wild West_, one of the best sf movies ever).

Larklight is a homage book. I am not so familar with other genres, but
sf, while rather fixated on original ideas, is also very much embedded
as a discursive community and homage writing is almost a sub-genre in
itself ie Ken MacLeod's The Cassini Division has chapter titles from
other utopian novels; Alexei Panshin's Rite of Passage is a Heinlein
novel, as is Homer Hickam's autobiography, Rocket Boys; Karen Joy
Fowler's "What I didn't See" which is a nod to James Tiptree Jr, or
Bujold's A Civil Campaign which honours Georgette Heyer's A Civil
Contract. And that's even before we get to the many meta-texts.

So what I enjoyed about the book was precisely the resonance and the
tongue in cheek Victoriana. But I also just loved the gosh wow of
giant spiders spinning the universe into webs.


*see also Gibson and Sterling's _The Difference ENGINE_.

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