17JAN23 / accessions

You know how it is: you go to town to buy a webcam (because the one in your Thinkpad has, in some impossible-to-diagnose manner, gone for a burton) and the store with the webcam just happens to be two doors down from the local sf/f bookstore and

… ah, well.

The Itäranta because, um, I clearly read something about it that appealed enough for me to add a task in my list saying “buy a copy of this”? The cover is a little off-putting… but spangly bits and deep-pinky-purple colourways just seem to be the standard vibe these days and, yes, that’s much better than some of the more “traditional” alternatives. And besides, it’s what’s inside that counts, innit?

And the DiFilippo because… well, look: one of the most widely-read and almost certainly the meanest book review I ever had published, nearly a decade ago, was of a Paul DiFilippo collection.

I have, over the years, had reason to regret the tone of that piece somewhat. To be clear, I still think my judgement was fair—or at least justifiable on its own terms! But I was not in a great place psychologically at the time, and also a little too in love with my own newly-levelled-up writing chops, and also trying to publicly pick my side in the Genre Blog Wars, and also (truth be told) simultaneously stoked to be asked to review for LARB and greatly frustrated that my first assignment was such a total dog of a book… and so I lit the blue touchpaper and stood too close, and, well, there you go.

(I’ve had a couple of people say they think that’s the best review I’ve ever written; in some ways, I think they are right. But in other ways, it is undeniably mean… and not only does that cheapen the writing, it also weakens the critical position by association.)

But the thing is, I wanted that DiFilippo collection to be good. I had—still have, in fact—a lot of his early stuff, which I’m quite fond of. I’ve re-read the collection. I still think it’s very weak. But I want to give the guy another chance… or perhaps I just want to give myself another chance to be less of an asshole about not liking a book. Maybe those things are the same thing. I dunno. But anyway: space opera!!! Hell knows it’s been a while.

Very pinky-purple nebulae going on in that cover art, now I come to think about it…

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