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Showing posts from May, 2004

Tarkovsky's Polaroids

The Guardian has a few of the great Russian film director AndreiTarkovsky'sPolaroids up for view. They are part of a new book, which apparently is only available in the UK. The pictures are remarkable not just because they use a medium not often associated with interesting photography, but because they look like they could come from one of Tarkovsky's movies.

By the way, if you haven't read Tarkovsky's Sculpting in Time : Reflections on the Cinema, it's worth at least a glance. Here's a taste:As soon as one begins to cater expressly for the auditorium, then we're talking of the entertainment industry, show business, the masses, or what have you, but certainly not of art which necessarily obeys its own immanent laws of development whether we like it or not (170).

Random Thoughts from a Weekend Away

Though I very much wanted to be at WisCon, I couldn't get out there because I had to be at graduation at the school where I work. After the ceremonies on Saturday I zipped down to Massachusetts and the Paradise City Arts Festival, where my aunt, a brilliant weaver, was exhibiting. There was plenty of extraordinary work at the show (and some real kitsch, too, alas), but I wasn't feeling particularly wealthy, so I only bought a bit of pottery (by Jules Polk -- I'm very partial to soda fired pots).

Heading home today, we stopped at Mass MoCA, a museum I had long wanted to see, because it is built from old mill buildings and warehouses, and specializes in large installations. I liked Ann Hamilton's "Corpus", at least the main room of it: a large open space where pieces of onionskin paper fall from the ceiling to the floor and bullhorn-like speakers rise up and down, projecting the sound of voices intoning words. It was a surprisingly peaceful installation, wi…

Stranger Things Happen in Love

Luke at Monosylabik offers some advice to anyone trying to get their significant other to read speculative fiction, saying that his girlfriend had remained impervious to his SFnal advances until he gave her one particular book:Though she and I have loved many of the same films that can be classified as science fiction, films such as Donnie Darko and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, she has not been overly enthusiastic about any of the speculative fiction books I've urged her to try. Until now. She's now reading Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link and really enjoying it. So there you are spec fic fans -- if you, like me, have struggled for years to get that special someone in your life to read some spec fic, try Kelly Link's Stranger Things Happen. A bit of relationship advice free from The Love Guru.Good advice it is. If you want to preview some of the stories in that fine collection of fiction, here are some that are online:The Specialist's Hat
The Girl Detect…

Auction for Charles L. Grant

Note: The auction has ended.

I've been remiss in not putting up a reminder here about the Ebay auction to help raise money for Charles L. Grant's medical expenses (information at the Horror Writers Association). Follow this link for bidding. There's some phenomenal stuff available, and the prices currently seem quite low to me, considering the cause and the items.

Quote for the Day

I would like to make it clear that the innovative never replaces the engendering paradigm of the old, but only its weary imitations. The paradigm, it will be obvious, was, when it appeared, innovative. What the innovative replaces is the fetish of a stereotyped process, a process so well known by its practitioners, so predictably implemented, that it could not produce anything fresh or new were it to have a hundred years in which to do so. There is, in other words, nothing "wrong" with, say, the Charles Dickens novel, but there is something very wrong with his forms and inventions as they may be revealed in a novel by a contemporary author. And yet this absolute lack of nerve is weirdly seen, by more people than one cares to think about, as "the furtherance of traditional values." How "traditional values" may be furthered by exhausted methodologies remains a mystery. In point of fact, a work presented as a wholly recognizable construct of convention…

The Light Ages and the Reviewers

Upon publication, Ian R. MacLeod's The Light Ages received the kind of reviews writers dream of, garnering hyperbolic praise from some of the most respectable voices within the world of speculative fiction: Michael Moorcock, Brian Aldiss, Gene Wolfe, James P. Blaylock, Jeff VanderMeer, Paul Di Filippo, Tim Powers, and Gardner Dozois -- a group of men of varied tastes and backgrounds.

The Light Ages is a good book, even, at times, a remarkable one. Certainly, it is a better SF novel than 90% of the other SF novels published in 2003, and it probably even deserves an award or two. Nonetheless, it is also a novel with some considerable flaws, and the sort of praise it has received does a disservice to Ian MacLeod and his editors, because MacLeod is a writer of tremendous talent and promise who may be capable of producing a truly great book one day, so long as he doesn't read his reviews. (He has written some truly excellent short fiction.)

First, let me praise the book, because…

VOYA Best SF for Young Adults 2003

The Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) organization has put out a list (PDF) of the "Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror 2003":THE USURPER'S CROWN Sarah Zettel
MISTRESS OF DRAGONS Margaret Weis
THE WHITE DRAGON Laura Resnick
NEW SKIES Patrick Nielsen Hayden
MEMORY Linda Nagata
DARKNESSES L.E. Modesitt
FLIP David Lubar
THE OUTSTRETCHED SHADOW Mercedes Lackey
THE ALCHEMIST'S DOOR Lisa Goldstein
THE WRECK OF THE RIVER STARS Michael Flynn
THE CRYSTAL CITY Orson Scott Card
FIRST MEETINGS Orson Scott Card
SPIRITS IN THE WIRES Charles De Lint

via Untitled Writers' GroupI'm sad to say I've read none of the books on the list, though I have at least read something at one time or another by 90% of the authors. I've been meaning to get a copy of New Skies, but will probably wait for it in paperback. In any case, I applaud Patrick Nielsen Hayden for editing an anthology aimed at younger readers, a group I recently champione…

"Rabbit Test" by Jeffrey Ford

Jeffrey Ford has perfected a form of fiction that could be described as autobiographical fabulism: stories that clearly use elements of his own life, including narrators named "Jeff Ford", but do so to tell an essentially fictional tale. In one of the best of these stories, "Bright Morning", collected in The Fantasy Writer's Assistant, the narrator describes his novels as "fantasy/adventure stories with a modicum of metaphysical whim-wham that some find to be insightful and others have termed 'overcooked navel gazing'", a description that could even more easily apply to this particular strand of Ford's short fiction, though "overcooked" is not a term I would think of for these stories, and if there is navel-gazing, it's a superficial element necessary to the overall effect.

Such a blatantly autobiographical approach is not original to Ford (James Patrick Kelly's 1987 story "Daemon" is just such a story, and oth…

New IROSF

If you haven't been reading The Internet Review of Science Fiction, the new issue (their 5th) is a fine place to start, as it has some thought-provoking articles and the discussions in the forum about the articles are beginning to get quite interesting. Also, IROSF isn't going to stay free for long, so be sure to register now to prevent kicking yourself later.

Fervid Mumpsimus readers (Mumpsimusers?) might remember my post about Jay Lake's fine story "The Redundant Order of the Night", a post which provided some inspiration for Jay's new IROSF article about authorial intention and reader interpretation. He offers his own thoughts and experiences as well as some great comments from a handful of other writers.

If I continue to make writers say, "Huh?" about how I've read their stories, then at the least I hope they all go on to write interesting essays such as this one.

May Ideomancer

The May issue of i d e o m a n c e r is online, with stories by Jay Lake, M. Rickert, Patrick Samphire, and, ummm, ME!

Quote for the Day

Inspired by my post about Angela Carter, Dan Green of The Reading Experiencecreates a paragraph I would happily put on a flag and wave from the top of a tall building:Whenever I hear or read someone urging writers to be "clear," to "communicate," to avoid "trickery," I can only take it as an exhortation to be good. Not to offend official sensibilities or imply that many readers are too timid in their willingness to take risks. In the name of literary decency not to engage in "too much writing." Perhaps in the long run these stylistic gatekeepers can be persuaded that literary form and style have nothing to do with morality, but most of them probably don't really much like literature, anyway, if "literature" is more than just an opportunity to assert your own virtue.

Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary

Simultaneously a film of a ballet and a beautiful homage to silent movies, Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary was originally made for Canadian television by director Guy Maddin and based on a work choreographed by Mark Godden for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet .

I have not seen any of Maddin's other films, though I will certainly seek them out now, because from the evidence here he may be a genius. He saw that the aesthetics of ballet and silent film could work together and enhance each other, and he delved into the original novel with a creative, fruitful, and deconstructive zeal.

The film ends up, then, not as a PBS-style 3-camera representation of a performance, but rather as a fully reimagined work of art in its own right. While it pays tribute to silent films of the past -- everything from Nosferatu to The Passion of Joan of Arc -- it is far more than a simple tribute, but is, rather, a film that uses the conventions of silent movies to create a beautiful and entertaining…

Sakharov's Predictions

Moscow News has a short article looking at some predictions Russian Nobel Peace Prize-winner Andrei Sakharov made thirty years ago. Considering that he essentially predicted the Internet, I'll take Sakharov over Nostradamus any day.

The judgment at the end of the article is sobering, though:Some of Sakharov’s ideas seem far-fetched and others realistic and yet others started out and then progressed in a direction he did not at all anticipate; this is the way with all predictions. The only problem is the contrast between the vision and the reality. George Orwell’s 1984 painted a bleak picture of the world that came out somewhat true; yet it was a huge relief when 1984 came and went and the hole humans had been digging themselves into wasn’t anywhere as bad. Sakharov’s predictions inspire sadness -- unlike Orwell, he had obviously thought of humans too well.(Actually, I have to quibble a bit with that judgment -- Orwell was not "predicting" anything for the actual year 19…

All Hail the Slush God

John Joseph Adams, the editorial assistant at F&SF (among other jobs), has just started a blog called THE SLUSH GOD Speaketh... Accept and praise him.

via Weirdwriter

Destruction and Imagination

Peter Conrad writes in The Observer about apocalyptic films such as The Day After Tomorrow and the entertainment value of destroying a city:These fables cater to some dissident craving deep in our minds. Cities are meant to be civic, communal places, yet -- looking at Piranesi's panoramas of ruined Rome, or Bill Brandt's photographs of a lunar London during the blitz -- we take a perverse pleasure in imagining them emptied. Is this because we wish our obnoxious fellow citizens dead, or because we know that the city will outlive us? The metropolis is a teeming, populous graveyard; life in it encourages a postmortem vision. ... The accumulation of stories means that nowadays, wherever you go in New York, you seem to be moving through the traces of a catastrophe that has already happened in fiction and may well recur in fact.Such films are, perversely, the realization of Bakunin's (in)famous statement that "The passion for destruction is a creative passion, too!" B…

Nostradamus Predicts the Future of Literature

Because it seemed like a good idea at the time, I asked the Nostradamus Quatrain Generator a simple question: "What is the future of literature?"

The answer:A great king captured by the hands of a young man
Will be found in the temple of the Vestals
Beaucaire Arles will retain the hostages
Nimes, Toulouse perish in water, the market to collapseNot being the world's best interpreter of Old Nost, I asked another question: "Huh?"

The answer:Garden of the world near the new city
Over the walls to throw ashes, lime chalk and dust
To prepare for a journey torments the first offspring
When the dead will come out of their gravesI began to feel a bit, well, frustrated with my intellectual capabilities -- capabilities the Lovecraft Engine labelled "the rigid, anthropoid yammer".

Finally, I put the first quatrain into a translator, and all was made clear:The Future of Literature
as predicted by Nostradamus
and translated by an algorithm

A nincompoop king capt…

SF in China

Searching for something else, I came upon a site called Living in China which referenced the most interesting weblog I've discovered in a while: Chinese Science Fiction and Fantasy.

There are many things I know nothing about, and one of them is Chinese literature. Thus, I was fascinated to read the entries on the blog, as well as articles they linked to, including "Science Fiction, Globalization, and the People's Republic of China " by Lavie Tidhar, originally published by Foundation and reprinted online by Concatenation.

A couple of quick searches didn't turn up much in English about Chinese SF, but there are some basic overviews at Unsafe and China.org.cn.

Finding stories translated from Chinese is particularly difficult, but there are a few at Mirage. There is one anthology of Chinese SF in English that I know of.

SF is quite popular in China -- Science Fiction World has an immense readership -- and it would be interesting to see if the Internet could be use…

Learning from Angela Carter

The Guardian has published an appreciation of Angela Carter by Ali Smith, all of which is quite worth reading, but I was particularly struck by this passage:Pick up any novel by a woman in the early or mid-60s, any good-selling typical book of the time, anything, by the new young novelist everyone was talking about, Margaret Drabble, or the much more baroque Beryl Bainbridge or, say, Up the Junction (1963) by Nell Dunn, which opens on a typical 60s room:

"We stand, the three of us, me, Sylvie and Rube, pressed up against the saloon door, brown ales clutched in our hands. Rube, neck stiff so as not to shake down her beehive, stares sultrily round the packed pub. Sylvie eyes the boy hunched over the mike and shifts her gaze down to her breasts snug in her new pink jumper".

Or the eponymous L-Shaped Room (1960) by Lynne Reid Banks, which opened the door on 60s realism like this:

"There wasn't much to be said for the place, really, but it had a roof over it and a …

Secret Life by Jeff VanderMeer

Mass media should be gut shot and left out in the desert to die, he decided, looking again at the page proofs on his desk.

"Experiment #25"
by Jeff VanderMeerA diverse menagerie of squid, mushrooms, Incan emperors, virulent vines, seers, murderers, and metaphysical fictioneers, Secret Life will be arriving on bookstore shelves any week now, a treasure chest thumped down amidst mass-market baubles.

If you have read City of Saints and Madmen and Veniss Underground, you already know Jeff VanderMeer is a magnificent writer, one capable of constructing beautiful sentences and unleashing them in structures where they dazzle like fireworks during an acid trip. What you may not have known is that he is capable of writing an affecting story (in dialect) about the blues, that he writes magic realism as if he were born in Peru, that historian John Julius Norwich has been as much of an influence on his penchant for footnoting as Borges (though Norwich doesn't have a bookstore named …

John Leonard on PKD

The latest (June) issue of Harper's Magazine arrived in the mail today, and I was thrilled to discover that my favorite living book reviewer, John Leonard, discusses a new edition of a book about Philip K. Dick, I Am Alive and You Are Dead by Emmanuel Carrere. The entire review is very much worth reading, but here's a little taste:"What [Dick] asks of culture, psychoanalysis, and even religion," Carrere tells us, "was not that they educate him but that they hand over the password that would permit him to escape from the cave wherein we are shown not the real world but only its shadows."

This, alas, describes an entire generational subculture not confined to the sixties, a bunch of addled nomads who agreed with Lily Tomlin that reality was just "a collective hunch," who assumed with R.D. Laing that madness was a proof of grace, and who thus deserved Harlan Ellison's disdain: "Took drugs. Saw God. B[ig] F[ucking] D[eal]." When they…

Fundraiser to Help Charles L. Grant

Nick Mamatas sent me the following press release, which deserves your attention:FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 13, 2004

Contact Information:
Horror Writers Association
Nicholas Kaufmann,
Trustee
nkaufmann@nyc.rr.com
www.horror.org

AUTHORS RALLY TO HELP ONE OF THEIR OWN

The Horror Writers Association holds auction to benefit stricken author


NEW YORK, MAY 13. The Horror Writers Association (HWA) is holding a benefit auction for legendary author and editor Charles L. Grant, who has been hospitalized indefinitely with severe cardio-pulmonary disease and emphysema. Mr. Grant, whose body of work spans five decades, faces a tremendous burden on his health and substantial health-related expenses.

In response to this dire situation, the HWA called for contributions to a benefit auction for Mr. Grant. Although HWA is not a charitable organization and contributions could not be considered charitable donations, this didn’t stop a flood of concerned writers, editors and publishers from contributing to thi…

SF for Kids

Alan Lattimore reports that on a recent visit to a local school's Scholastic Book Fair, he found no titles that were actual science fiction under any traditional definition of the term. Plenty of fantasy, some horror, some thrillers ... but no science fiction.

Elsewhere I've read of some attempts to create new lines of science fiction books for the YA market, but I don't remember where I saw them and I'm too lazy to go searching at the moment. There have been some excellent non-Harry Potter fantasies published over the past ten years, but science fiction seems to have nearly disappeared.

Even though I would like to see more genre bending, I've come to realize that I really don't want genre bending that destroys the "pure" forms of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. This is less a logical thought than a nostalgic one: When I was first getting interested in reading, the things that excited me were pure genre books. I started with horror, discover…

Chekhov Lives!

Though he seems to have lost a transliterated H over the years, Anton Chekhov recently gave a reading at the Union Square Barnes & Noble in New York.After I finished my first short story, the crowed applauded.  I then told the following anecdote:

"Under Communists in Russia I could not talk to my friends like I am talking to you, my friends.  KGB was everywhere.  If you went to restaurant to eat and talk the waiter was probably KGB.  If you went to library to talk, then librarian went, 'Shhhhh...'[holding two fingers in front of my lips].  And, if librarian did not say to shush, she [I cupped my hand around my ear as if to hear a whisper] was listening because she was KGB.  The only safe place to walk and talk was the one place nobody was listening or watching…the graveyard."

I then began to read "In the Graveyard". It seems to me this could be a way to increase appreciation of various writers who deserve more attention. Perhaps we could start having …

Calling All Poets!

Speaking of Alan DeNiro (which I seem to be doing a lot recently), he's editing "a one-shot chapbook, a mini-anthology, of speculative poetry and poetry informed by science fiction, with an emphasis on work from experimental and innovative practices." Check out the submission guidelines.

A New Look

Regular readers are shocked, I'm sure. The design of this blog has entered the 21st century. (Well, sort of.)

Blogger has finally gotten around to updating their system, and it's got some new bells and whistles, as well as templates. I like it, at least for the moment.

The one bad thing, though it's not too too bad. Comments are now a natural part of the Blogger environment, so I don't have to outsource. This is a good thing, except that it means all old comments have been deleted. My profoundest apologies. This should be the last time I lose comments.

I'm sure there are still some bugs in the design, as it is quite early in the morning as I finish this up. Eventually I'll even get around to updating the links in the sidebar....

Update: I've returned the Squawkbox comments, as Blogger's system is too rudimentary (in functionality, not installation) and not particularly flexible. I've also fixed some of the text settings, which should make i…

"Tetrarchs" by Alan DeNiro

Just as I was trying to figure out why I thought Michael Bergstein's "The Reincarnate" in the latest issue of Conjunctions didn't quite work, despite many good elements, I read "Tetrarchs" at Strange Horizons, in which Alan DeNiro does much of what Bergstein seemed to be trying to do, and plenty more.

Since Bergstein's story is not online, it is probably unfair of me to comment about it at length, at least for the moment. I recommend getting Conjunctions: 41 not only so you can read Bergstein's story, but also for numerous other pieces. (In fact, Alan DeNiro himself recently wrote to me about the first story in the journal, by Steve Erikson, which is science fictional, but I haven't had a chance yet to read it.) Bergstein writes a clever, though hardly original, story about reincarnation, in which a man continues to realize he is someone else, and that someone else is someone else, and someone else just might be everyone else. The story is t…

SF Cliches

Here's an idea for a contest: Write a story using every cliche listed at The Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Cliches.

That would actually make a fun anthology: various stories which employ the hoariest old SF cliches for fun and profit. It would be easy enough to write parodies; the harder, and more worthwhile, challenge would be to write stories of depth, stories that weren't just jokes.

Bouncing Back

Thank you to everyone who sent notes wondering what became of me. Things are mostly well, though horrendously busy. I haven't had much chance over the past two weeks to read anything, and have only momentarily fired up my computer. Now that I have begun to catch up on e-mail and blogs and e-zines and all the other wonderful candy of cyber-reality, I'm a bit overwhelmed.

But I feel like returning by comparing myself to Neil Gaiman. True, I am not a brilliant writer of comics, novels, and short stories (a form Gaiman is a master of and yet seems to get less credit for than his other work); I have not written the English adaptation of one of Miyazaki's films (Princess Mononoke); and I am not British.

However, Neil Gaiman and I are both fans of Stephen Sondheim, the composer and lyricist of the single most brilliant body of writing for musical theatre, including Company, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Follies, Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George