Book of the Night is a late night group discussion at Åcon of a book that we think is worth talking about and has not been noticed as much as it possibly should have been.
Kate Wilhelm: Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang
Kate Wilhelm (1928–2018) was an influential SF writer not only through her own work but also because she helped to found the Clarion Writers Workshop in the late sixties, and has thus as a teacher influenced generations of writers. She was the Guest of Honor at Worldcon in 1980 and has won three Nebula awards for her short fiction, a Hugo for the best novel (Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang in 1977) and a Hugo for best related work (Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop in 2006).
Wilhelm’s best work is short in form, she preferred short stories and especially novellas to novels, and even her novels are usually quite compact. In addition to SF, she also wrote mysteries. Much of her work defies strict genre categorization and straddles the invisible line between genre and mainstream.
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang is her most famous SF novel, a multi-generation, post-apocalyptic story of a family group in the Appalachians surviving the fall of civilization and universal infertility by cloning.
Our book of the Night is a concise, well-written story with a number of themes and influences. It is clearly a child of its times, but its concerns are still relevant today. Taking a look at how the book tackles themes such as environmentalism and science, individualism and collectivism, creativity and desire becomes even more interesting while gazing back through the text to the time it was written.