Dan Hartland has posted a review of Rocket Science, the anthology edited by Ian Sales, and he has commented on my story “Pathfinders”. [I’ve always loved Elvis Costello’s version of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” – please hum along as you read this post.]
For instance, Martin McGrath’s “Pathfinders” returns us again to Mars, and again to an international team of scientists. As in “A Biosphere Ends,” a catastrophe leads to intense political fallings-out: “The Russians hugged one wall, the Americans the other. The Europeans sat at the table. No one spoke” (p. 101). Meanwhile, China is elsewhere, seeking to outdo the rest of the world. There’s something in McGrath’s admittedly tense and well-turned tale, however, which speaks to a weird lack of inclusivity in Rocket Science: not only is China’s emergence as a power in the space game routinely depicted as something to be feared, but space travel is still largely seen as the province of square-jawed men. McGrath attempts to allow space for queer voices—his main character, Chen, is conducting a homosexual affair with one of the Americans—but even this takes place in light of the fact that “Brad was married with children and neither of them had ever pretended that the relationship had a life beyond the mission” (p. 93). Needless to say, things do not end well for the lovers. There is a real clumsiness about McGrath’s efforts which are very much embedded in a broader set of assumptions evinced at almost every stage of Rocket Science, from its characters to its roster of writers, only five out of twenty-two of whom, for example, are women.
Never respond to reviews. That’s the rule isn’t it? Never respond to reviews. This is particularly difficult when the reviewer seems to miss the point of your story, even at the most basic level: in this case “Pathfinders” is not set on Mars, it is set on Earth – Antarctica, to be precise (to be fair, there is some deliberate misdirection in the early part of the story and Hartland isn’t the only reader whose missed the switch – so it must be partly my fault). More fundamentally, though, it is frustrating when the reviewer assigns attitudes or views to you or your story that are the opposite to those you hoped to get across.
So, sod the rule. I’m going to respond to the review. Or, at least, I want to reflect on it a bit. Continue reading