Open letter to K.J. Parker:
Parker, are you male or female? Are you human or alien? Does anyone really care? I surely don’t!
K.J. Parker, you son/daughter of a gun! I’ve been following your career since the beginning, and I still know nothing more of you than your fiction reveals. Though I know that fictional self-revelation can be considerable, I also know that it’s frequently misinterpreted by those of us who like to indulge in what I like to call “Close Reading”. If I were to invite you for a cup of tea or a beer, I’d expect to meet a very disgruntled, sarcastic and savvy aesthete, prone to odd-word connections, with a taste not only for world-building, but also for the creation of real-world characters. Sometimes there’s a misstep, and I get quite mad at you (vide “Sharps”).
When you are in top form you’re quite unsurpassed in the SF landscape of today (in a recent review, I’ve just mentioned you as one of the most interesting new SF writers coming out of the woodwork in the last two decades. But maybe after that cup of tea or beer, I‘d have met someone else. Probably.
You have the ability to get into my reading brain and extract the stuff of extremely private thoughts.
Your ability to give us a glimpse of Basso’s internal processes is also quite masterly. Gene Wolfe’s stream-of-consciousness comes to mind (eg, in the “Book of the New Sun”, Hethor the sailor, who speaks in stream-of-consciousness babble). In less capable hands this could have proved infuriatingly impenetrable, but your control of inner voice is utterly assured.
Your prose style gets once again top marks. Kudos to you as a wordsmith. What made you chose the reports of Basso’s logistical battles instead of the reports from the front in the war? It was quite clever of you to understand that was where the entire novel was anchored.
Those not familiar with your style are quite unlikely and understandably to be happy with the novel’s ending. No worries there. We get what we get. We have to get into your narrative flow, which is quite appealing.
The only “flaw” in this novel (if I can call it that) was that I wanted to know the reasons for Basso's sister's hatred of him, but unfortunately you thought they should be under-explored. Hence I don't have any POV chapters from her. Nasty of you.
To sum-up this uncalled-for elegy, I don’t a give a shit, to put it nicely, about who you are. What you’re is one hell of a Writer. Just keep writing the way you have until now (even with some missteps along the way), and don’t sell yourself to the “other side”, SF-wise...
SF with this depth of intelligence is a rarity.
I’m sure you created a new form of SF.
Note to the general reader: “Academic Exercises”, K.J. Parker’s first anthology came out in July 2014 (it’s on my TBR Pile; I’m saving it for the end of the year… I always like to end every year on a high note). If you think Parker in the long form is superb, just read her short form. It’ll blow your mind wide open. When Parker is in top form, she/he is something to behold. Her/His prose style is dense, her/his imagery genuinely sound and often unique. Read her/him (every time I write about K.J. Parker it all gets very confusing; the use of the indirect and direct personal pronouns is an absolute chore!).
NB: SF = Speculative Fiction