Some much-needed appreciation for Doris Lessing, the Nobel-winning science fiction author

Doris Lessing is one of my favorite authors of all time, and I've raved about her work before. So it's exciting to see people in the science fiction world paying attention to the Nobel Prize-winning SF author.

First of all, over at Biology in Science Fiction, Peggy Kolm links to Lessing's 1988 interview with the Paris Review, and pulls out some great gems about science fiction writing.

At one point, Lessing disavows any claim to predicting the future or being a prophet, and then busts out with this great definition of what good writing actually does:

I like to think that if someone's read a book of mine, they've had-I don't know what-the literary equivalent of a shower. Something that would start them thinking in a slightly different way perhaps. That's what I think writers are for. This is what our function is. We spend all our time thinking about how things work, why things happen, which means that we are more sensitive to what's going on.

Even though Lessing's not sure that she's scientific enough to be called a science fiction writer, I think that "spending all our time thinking about how things work [and] why things happen" probably qualifies you. She also talks about how thrilled she was to be invited to speak at a science fiction convention, and how much she loves Stanislaw Lem.

By coincidence, around the same time, Locus posted their review of Lessing's five-book science fiction epic, the Canopus in Argos series. Writes Graham Sleight:

Her main SF work – the novels listed here – were written between 1979 and 1983, and together form a sequence called Canopus in Argos. If nothing else, they display a full knowledge with the possibilities of the genre, including very visible influences from people like Clarke, Stapledon, and Le Guin. ... [These books are] all told smoothly and skilfully, with a keen sense of pacing; despite the formalities of the found documents, the authors' intensity of feeling often burns through. When we say, as we often do inside our community, that SF is a literature of ideas, these are the kind of books we should be pointing to.

Sleight's whole review is well worth reading, especially if you've heard of the Canopus series and have never quite understood what it's about. And yay for more people discovering the wonder of Doris Lessing, whose Golden Notebook (although not really SF) is one of the best books I've ever read.