Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pol Pot's Beautiful Daughter (fantasy)

Geoff Ryman is a first class storyteller, as we saw when he brought Jayarvarman VII to life in his 2006 novel, The King's Last Song. Now, in his latest piece of magical fantasy writing, a complete short story called Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter, he's been nominated for a prestigious Hugo Award, given annually for the best science fiction and fantasy story. It first appeared in the Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine last November. Past Hugo winners include Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke.

Here's a brief review of the short story by Janice Clark:
Pol Pot's Beautiful Daughter (Fantasy) by Geoff Ryman takes a look at the life of a hypothetical heir to Pol Pot’s hypothetical fortune. A “poor little rich girl” with unlimited credit and no friends, Sith avoids reading and thinking, amusing herself with recreational shopping. She has only faint, repressed memories of living with her father in the jungle, memories which fill her with horror at the thought of anything that isn’t completely modern, civilized, and sanitized. She lives in isolated luxury, travels in a chauffeured limousine, and never goes anywhere but to an expensive, high-rise shopping center.Two things change her empty life forever. First, she falls in love with Dara, a young cell phone salesman. The other is that she is haunted by the ghosts of her father’s victims. These are modern ghosts who speak through cell phones and other electronic gadgets, and whose photographs are spewed out by printers and copying machines (even with the power turned off).
“There is no forgiveness in Cambodia. But there are continual miracles of compassion and acceptance.” Her love for Dara has opened Sith’s heart. She continues to grow as she goes through the motions of honoring the dead who have no families left to mourn for them. What began as appeasement becomes true caring as her formerly narrow life unfolds like a blossom. Acknowledge the past, says Ryman. Honor the memory of those who died, but move on to the future. Take off your blinders, and accept the world as it is.

In an interview in June 2006 with Carolyn Hill for the Chronicles Network, Geoff Ryman gave this amusing answer to the question; What's your writing process?
"I stare at a wall in despair. Sometimes it's for years. Suddenly I get inspiration. I write the first chapter in blinding inspiration. Then I sit and wait in despair. IF something magic happens and the idea suddenly clicks I write the first draft as a sketch in a haring great hurry warts and all. I have first draft! I read it. I sit and stare at the wall in despair. Gradually ideas for new and better scenes or stories flow in. I start to revise. I think I can do it in three drafts. It takes 8. By the 8th draft I know it doesn't work. I sit and stare at the wall in despair and consider giving up writing. I grind out the revisions, reading the text aloud and polishing, polishing. If the text suddenly reads well, I'm getting there. If after all that revision, it still doesn't click, it means there is a plot problem. There is always a major plot problem. I re-imagine at least a third of the novel or simply cut 30,000 words. I sit in despair."

  • Read about Geoff Ryman's 2006 novel, set in ancient & modern Cambodia, The King's Last Song here.

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