On Geoff Ryman

Mon 3 Jun 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Posted by: Gavin

Here’s another post I meant to put up at some earlier point. Like, you know, when this fabby book was coming out. But, hey, it’s a fab book so this can go up any time:

Written for Readercon in 2011:

Publishing Geoff Ryman’s books—and reprinting his backlist—has been a fantastic experience, in most senses of the word. But first I should mention: Geoff Ryman is a busy guy which makes his email signature line actually worth reading: there’s always a new project or collaboration or a project he thinks is worth pushing. 

And pushing is what he’s good at. In his writing, he’s pushed across every boundary he’s ever come across from his very first stories right up to the present day, and, with luck, he’ll continue to do so for many more years. There are many of his stories where the reaction I’ve had has been, “No, please don’t go there! Don’t . . . oops.” Which is generally followed by “Wow.” There were readers who could not stand the thought of “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter,” but once a writer has an idea like that how could he resist writing the story? Forty-nine percent of the readership of “Omnisexual” probably winced along with me when something burst. And let’s not talk about “Birth Days.” Or, rather, let’s. It’s so uncomfortable, but so optimistic; so light to begin with, so huge by the end.

The way he pushes out beyond the comfort zone with his omnivorous gaze for the uncomfortable and telling detail makes for fascinating reading. Two of his recent stories, “The Film-makers of Mars” (first published on Tor.com) and “K is for Kosovo (or, Massimo’s Career)” (first published in Paradise Tales) capture something of the breadth of his writing. The former is a slow burn instant science fiction classic that by the impossible and inevitable end has the audience in the bleacher seats standing up and cheering for more. The latter is an intense, hard-hitting realistic story of a series of post-war interviews with a Kosovar family that could have been background for a piece right out of the New York Times. The story is not at all fantasy or science fiction, but it is pure Ryman: an uncomfortable story aired out with respect for all concerned, a very human weariness at the things we do to one another, and just a touch of humor.

We’re lucky to have someone who isn’t afraid to write such stories who also happens to be a great storyteller and I’m looking forward to reading many more of Geoff’s stories and novels with their unique mix of nitty-gritty human moments and mind-blowing ideas.