[DWJ] Atwood

Minnow minnow at belfry.org.uk
Tue Apr 21 09:20:31 EDT 2009

>Minnow wrote:
>> Has anyone here ever actually encounted a giant space-
>> travelling squid in a work of science fiction?  I never have...

and Jennifer responded:

>Doesn't Ken Macleod have some somewhere? Possibly in the Engines of Light
>series? Charlie Stross has a space lobster an Accelerando, I think, unless
>it's a cyberlobster.

If it is Charlie Stross it is almost certainly playing with a stereotype,
at a guess.  He has a wicked sense of humour.  Just as if DWJ wrote a giant
squid that travelled in space it would be urbane to a degree, I'm sure.
:-)  But Roger says "not a squid", and I'm sure he knows Strozza's work
better than I do: as so often happens, I've known the bloke for years
(since before he was published, by quite a long time) and only just got
round to reading anything he has written.  I'm not about to judge him by
only one book.  (And I forgot to put it onto my list of "books read over
Easter" because I can't remember what it was called, but I did read it,
honest.  Then I gave it back because it was only a loan for the duration.)

>Also I'm pretty sure I've read a blurb of something very recent featuring
>Uplifted squid who're designed to be starship pilots, but can't remember
>what (at this stage it's probably deliberately playing off the "Squids in
>SPAAACE!" stereotype, of course).

If I wrote space opera (which I think is what most specifically
space-travel work now has to be called) I might just create a race of
space-travelling squid who were a great deal more civilised that the
space-travelling apes who encountered them, and made the apes look a bit
small, silly and needlessly bellicose.

I would be doing it as a reaction against a stereotype -- one that I
suspect has its origins in Atwood's comments about it, because I am by no
means sure that it existed much before she decried it.  When I was aware of
people who read them being rude about the pulps it was "silicon-based
life-forms" that were deemed silly -- why would they be interested in
pulchritudinous carbon-based life-forms, we wanted to know, or indeed in
the invasion of planets they wouldn't want to inhabit if they did grab
them.  :-)

In *The Blind Assassin* I'm fairly sure Atwood gives the wrong name to a
pulp that publishes the dire-sounding part-story that provides the title of
the book: I don't think that the one she names would have published the
first part of an unfinished work of a genre-type that doesn't seem to occur
within its pages, and by an unknown auther.  I could be wrong.  I'm not
interested enough to go and find all the editions of that pulp from the
early 1940s to check on its usual content.  Information about it, though,
is available if one wants to look in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction,
which I expect is available on-line.  But then, *Astounding* did publish
one story by Lovecraft, I think, and *Weird Tales* certainly did, and
perhaps Atwood assumes that the Great Old Ones are space-travelling squids?
I wouldn't want to hazard a guess about whether she names only pulps that
were actually in print at the date she mentions, and she certainly seems to
think they were all the same, which wouldn't half have peeved Gernsbeck.

In any case, I don't think there are any space-travelling squid of any
importance in anything published by Baen or Campbell, in Heinlein, Asimov,
Clarke, Herbert, Kuttner, Bradbury, Blish, Sturgeon, Brunner, Simak, de
Camp, Russell, Bester, Aldiss, Harrison, Silverberg, Pohl. Anderson, Dick,
Ballard (RIP), Dickson, leGuin, Leiber, or even "Doc" Smith.  One of them
may have snuck some squid past me when I wasn't looking, of course.
Evidently those squid didn't manage to tiptoe past Atwood.

Can a squid tiptoe?


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