review: written in blood
flipsockgrrl @ gmail .com
18 July 2003
It's the people who haunt you. The grieving mother, the dying biologist, the proud father, the farmer who clings to his belief in a better world even as he watches the apocalypse. These people wrestle with responsibilities, passion, ambition and the big questions that confront us all: who am I? What is my place in this world? Am I real? Do I matter? What matters most to me?
Chris Lawson's anthology, "Written In Blood", starts with an interview in which he resists being labelled a scientist (he's a medical doctor as well as a writer). The six short stories that follow are clearly science fiction, dealing with topics like artificial intelligence, genetic engineering and biotechnology.
Similarly, the five essays in "Written In Blood" demonstrate a resolutely rational approach to understanding the physical and intellectual world around us. The essays are what Lawson describes as definitive versions of articles previously published in his weblog, Frankenstein Journal.
Lawson's interests are broad. Recently he's delved into World War I history, and currently he's exploring Byzantium. He applies clear logic to demolishing creationist and AI fallacies, and he understands large chunks of astrophysics, mathematics and other 'hard' sciences.
Science, in Lawson's writing, is not inherently beneficial or dangerous. Lives and worlds are changed not by the science itself but by how it's used and (mis)understood by fallible, passionate, intelligent, ordinary people. Emotional resonances are the heart of "Written In Blood", in both the fiction and the essays.
OK, here comes the obligatory Greg Egan comparison.
Egan is currently regarded as a leading writer of 'hard' science fiction. He's Australian, and several of his works have been set here or in the South Pacific. It's been said that Egan's form of 'hard' science fiction, with its reliance on detailed, sophisticated maths and physics, is written for an audience that hasn't been born yet. It's also been said that Egan's more recent work needs a good editor.
Lawson has a good editor, Bill Congreve, whom Lawson credits with significantly improving the quality of "Written In Blood". (Note to the cognoscenti: "In the study of history, it is important never to confuse William Congreve with either William Congreve or William Congreve." Macinnis, 2003, chapter 4)
Lawson has another advantage over Egan. He pays attention to rhythm, character and concise storytelling. He uses different writing styles to communicate ideas and portray characters, and he rarely stumbles on matters of technique. In short, he's a better writer.
Launching "Written In Blood" in Melbourne this month, Russell Blackford predicted great things from Chris Lawson's writing future. Buy this book. Read it. Bookmark the weblog. Send him an e-mail. Grab the opportunity to watch this promising writer fulfil his potential.
17 Dec: the
sock has flipped
Also on this site:
Without whom (web):
Without whom (also):
Ramona P Lovechild
subscribe, contribute or comment by e-mailing flipsockgrrl @ gmail .com
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence. Site created 30 May 1999. Home page URL http://www.angelfire.com/grrl/flipsock/