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Showing posts from January, 2005

Time Considered as a Big Blob of Semi-Precious Stones

The wonderful thing about having only 365 days in each year and thousands of years behind us is that any one day is full of historical surprises, coincidences, echoes, and oddities. Glancing at a site like this sometimes makes me wonder what would happen if we could condense time and make all the events of any one day throughout history actually happen over the same time 24-hour period (well, calendar day, given differences in time zones -- you know what I mean).

So here's today's essentially useless thought experiment: Consider what today might be like if all of the following happened on January 31 of the same year:Guy Fawkes ("The only man to enter Parliament with honest intentions") executed.

US House of Representatives, by a narrow margin, passes 13th Amendment, outlawing slavery

US federal government orders all Native Americans to move to reservations or be declared hostile.

Henrik Ibsen play "Hedda Gabler" premiers, Munich.

Anton Chekhov's "…

Potsherds

Back in November, I introduced an irregular feature to this site, Potsherds, wherein I dig into the archives of other weblogs and pull up things worth preserving, at least for the moment it takes to look at them. Here's another installment:

Theodora Goss on X.J. Kennedy & Dana Gioia's perceptions of good and bad poetry (a subject she had introduced earlier. By the way, Dora writes what may be the most beautiful journal on the web. If she weren't revered for her fiction and poetry, her journal alone would be enough to establish her as a writer of rare grace.)

I don't quite know what the title of this journal is (<$Mozarabkultur$>? Graywyvern?), but I just discovered it whilst bloghopping around. I highly recommend a reading of the archives for a week in April 2003. It's an uncommon commonplace book, a flurry of fragments. It seemed serendipitous to me that the writer should be a fan of David Bunch, since Bunch is one of my obsessions. As is W.S. Gi…

What to Say to the Average Atmospherocepalic Bureaucrat in the Act of Milking a Cranial Harp

"The goats you buy shed a perfume that makes Marxism so terribly clear to me."

From M.D. Benoit I learned of The Surrealist Compliment Generator, and the above was the first result I got.

Later: "Marmots will stick to you in Delaware."

Then there's always the following(which may not work in all browsers):



And, finally, sheep poetry.

Rhysling Award Nominations

I've finally settled on what I will nominate for this year's Rhysling Awards for science fiction/fantasy poetry. (Yes, I know I've said that I don't like the label "SF poetry", but plenty of people do, and the SFPA is a good organization, regardless of whether I happen to believe in their central premise.)

I have decided that this year I will nominate two poems that I loved because of their freewheeling (to put it mildly) play with words. Thus, for short poem, I'm nominating "To My Readers in the Year 2099" by John Latta, from Jacket 25 and "Nets the Si'ze of Souls" by Michael Szewczyk, from Say... Why aren't We Crying?.

Of course, there were other good poems published throughout the year, and selecting only two for particular notice is a silly endeavor, but not as silly as it might seem, because all nominations get into the Rhysling Anthology, a tool used by SFPA members to vote for the award. Last October, I called for mor…

Locus Recommended Reading, Poll, and More!

The Locus Recommended Reading list for books and stories from 2004 is up at the website, as is a form for Locus Poll and Survey, which you should fill out.

Thanks to bribery and blackmail, I have secured an unedited transcript of the interview with Neil Gaiman that appears in the February Locus, and I was surprised to see that the editors cut out a section that goes a long way toward explaining Neil's stance in the cover photo:I've always had an interest in the decathlon, actually, but the only event of it that I've ever excelled at is discus throwing. My record so far is 113 feet, 2 inches, but I still practice a lot, whenever I can. In fact, something people generally don't know is that there is a lost Sandman story, and the whole thing revolves around discus throwing. I wasn't ever able to fit this particular episode into the whole frame of the Sandman, though, so it's still unpublished. I told Dave McKean we should do a children's book about discus …

Clarion East Auction Open

Clarion East, one of the oldest and most prestigious SF-writing workshops, lost their university funding last year, and so they are holding an auction, where you can bid on remarkable items from people like Michael Bishop, Cory Doctorow, Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman, Jeff VanderMeer, Kate Wilhelm, and Connie Willis, among others. The auction only lasts until tomorrow, January 29, at 11.59pm EST.

Jim Kelly on Blogs

Recently, the subject of James Patrick Kelly as a fiction writer came up here, but I've seldom mentioned Jim's "On the Net" column for Asimov's magazine, mostly because I assumed the majority of my audience would be familiar with it (a rather dumb assumption now that I think about it, because half the folks who come here are not necessarily science fiction readers).

But now, after procrastinating for some time, Jim has decided to write about blogs. I've been trying to come up with something to say about the sentence at the end where my name appears beside Bruce Sterling's, but I can't, even though Jim sent me a preview of the column, so I should have thought of something by now. Nope. Still too astonished.

More on John Gardner

Back in September I rambled on a bit about John Gardner, and now, thanks to a link from Mark Sarvas, I discovered a review by Philip Christman of Martin Amis's new novel, a review that applies some ideas from Gardner's On Moral Fiction to Amis's work. While I didn't agree with the rather broad generalization about the portrayal of sex in fiction that Christman offered at the end of his review, I was still glad to see someone trying to rescue a few ideas from the shaky ship of Gardner's polemic. The thing about On Moral Fiction that's so annoying is not all of Gardner's mudslinging against his contemporaries (that was annoying then, but they lived through it just fine), but rather the fact that he buries some truly interesting and possibly even worthwhile ideas beneath such bombastic rhetoric that it's difficult to take any of it seriously.

Christman, it turns out, is a Gardner devotee, as evidenced by his blog and this article from Paste. He and I ha…

Abyss & Apex January/February 2005

The latest issue of the online magazine Abyss & Apex has been released, and it contains various stories, poems, an editorial, etc.

And though it may make you skeptical of the very fine A&A editors' taste, the new issue includes a story I wrote called "Variables". It's an incredibly fragmentary, possibly confusing, and altogether barmy tale, so if you hate it I won't blame you. It was inspired by time travel cliches, but even though it looks like an SF story, walks like an SF story, and smells like an SF story, it's actually a mainstream story.

Really.

I just think it's fun to sell mainstream stories to SF venues and not tell them until it's too late...

Lambda Literary Awards Finalists

The finalists for the Lambda Literary Awards (to "recognize and honor the best in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender literature") have been announced. There are a lot of different categories, so I won't list them all, but the SF/Fantasy/Horror category finalists are:Firelands by Michael Jensen
Shadow of the Night edited by Greg Herren
The Ordinary by Jim Grimsley
Wizard of Isis by Jean Stewart
With Her Body by Nicola Griffith

Faith in Metaphor

I love to see what happens when people who are not regular readers of science fiction read it, because it brings to light all sorts of things those of us who have been devouring it since we were kids take for granted or assume, and it helps us think differently about what we value. R.J. Nagle at Idiotprogrammer encountered some Stanislaw Lem and didn't much care for it, then listened to some of the free mp3's that James Patrick Kelly has to offer, and discovered he actually liked some of Jim's stuff. His comments are fascinating:The problem with much of sci fi is not with the ludicrousness of some of its speculations, but the failure to grasp emotional significance of situations and the failure to recognize that texts and words can convey the things. At heart the problem of science fiction is that focuses not on self-expression or introspection but on human potential (with all its promises and pitfalls).

Lem is probably not a representative example of sci fi, and in fact…

The Outcast of the Universe

How you evaluate certain types of fiction will depend on assumptions you hold about life. For instance, if you believe human beings are fundamentally understandable, predictable, and subject to whatever you define as "the laws of nature" (apparently all figured out and bereft of mystery), you might agree with Trent Walters that characters in fiction must be "consistent".

If, however, you're more like me, and believe that human personality is nothing more (or less) than a congregation of chemical reactions; and that people have the capacity to be not only unpredictable, but fundamentally unknowable; and that nature still has plenty to prove to us -- then you're likely to compare Trent's concept to cow excrement and find it wanting.

It may be that the two ways of thinking cannot communicate with each other. That, to my mind, proves the second way of thinking to be closer to truth than the first (but, of course, I'm biased).

Or it may be that Trent si…

Updates

I'm not dead yet. Thanks for asking. Just busy. (My apologies for the silence to the two of you who suffer addiction to my longer rambles.)

First, some news. Yes, it's true that I will be writing a monthly column for Strange Horizons, the first of which will be published in early February (assuming Susan and the rest of the SH gang like what I just sent for a first piece).

I just finished an interview with Holly Phillips, author of the fine short story collection In the Palace of Repose, which is a great book to give to friends who say they don't like "all that sci-fi and hobbits stuff". Have them read Holly's stories "The Other Grace" and "Summer Ice" to start -- evocative, enigmatic work that should appeal to both die-hard readers of fantasy fiction and people who like their fiction a little bit more on the lit'ry end of things.

I have read almost nothing for the past week other than things for work and the first 200 pages of On…

Mid-January SF Site

The latest SF Site has been posted, and it includes my review of the recent anthology of experimental fiction, Leviathan 4, plus plenty of other good (or better) things, including a conversation with Robert Freeman Wexler by Jeff VanderMeer and an excerpt from Wexler's novel Circus of the Grand Design. Steven H. Silver pays tribute to a long list of people who died in 2004, Trent Walters takes a look at Arkham House Books: A Collector's Guide, and Chris Przybyszewski remembers a book no-one has ever heard of called Fahrenheit 451. And lots more.

Appreciations of d.g.k. goldberg

In the previous post, I noted Nick Mamatas's remembrance of writer d.g.k. goldberg, who recently died of cancer. I've since found a few more tributes, all LiveJournals:Laura Anne Gilman

Mehitobel Wilson

Seth Lindberg (includes links to stories online)Those were all found via this LJ friends list, on the main page of which, proprietor Brett Alexander Savory linked to a post of mine from last year about goldberg's fine story "Melungeon Moon".

Here's a short interview with goldberg from a few years ago.

Her two novels are Skating on the Edge and Doomed to Repeat It.

Apparently, goldberg put together a short story collection for a publisher, but it never got published. That's a shame, and I hope that the possibility still exists for the book to be published, because it is one that I, and I'm sure plenty of other people, would like to read.

It Came from the Linkdump

It's Friday. It's been a long week. (Well, I teach classes on Saturdays, so it's not quite over yet.) I have a couple of writing projects due elsewhere very, very soon, so for the moment must leave you with nothing but directions to more interesting and/or important places than here, in no particular order or genus or species:Nick Mamatas remembers writer d.g.k. goldberg, who died recently of cancer.

Ron Silliman on "the changing status of literary magazines in the age of post-mechanical reproduction"

An article on "Feral Cities". (via Futurismic)

A graduate student in linguistics takes a look at Jack Vance's The Languages of Pao.

RealClimate.org considers whether the term "global warming" is imprecise.

Virtual Dali(via Plep)

"How we went about testing these questions and what we found may astound you. Our planned two-week investigation into the psychology of prison life had to be ended prematurely after only six days because of what t…

The Isle

I blame Lucius Shepard. A passing reference he made in a review of Korean movies caused me to rent and watch The Isle, a film that affected me more viscerally than almost any other I can remember (Boys Don't Cry and In the Bedroom had similarly powerful effects on me, but for different reasons.)

No, it's not all Lucius Shepard's fault. I should have read some other reviewers. I might have learned that the film is famous for causing viewers to run out of the theatre -- not because it's a bad movie (it's not), but because it's just so hard to watch. There are even stories of people vomiting because of a couple of scenes.

Roger Ebert gets it just about right with the opening paragraph of his review:
The audiences at Sundance are hardened and sophisticated, but when the South Korean film "The Isle" played there in 2001, there were gasps and walk-outs. People covered their eyes, peeked out, and slammed their palms back again. I report that because I w…

A China Mieville Mini-Seminar at Crooked Timber

Some of the members of the group blog Crooked Timber have put together a "mini-seminar" about China Mieville's recent novel Iron Council, with short essays by various people and a comprehensive response from China. I got to participate, but rather than link directly to my essay, I'll link to the introduction (which has links to each post) because that's by far the best place to start. There's also a PDF of the entire discussion.

Genre Transcending

Last year I wrote an article about the difficulties the science fiction and fantasy world has with the term "genre", a word that, as Ursula LeGuin once said, only the French could love.

Recently, Sarah Weinman wrote about the cliche so many reviewers fall on, that a particular piece of writing (mystery novels, in this case) "transcends genre". It's a magnificent post, and some good discussion follows it in the comments.

On the same subject, Gwenda Bond quoted Samuel R. Delany: "To use such rhetoric -- the rhetoric of transcending the genre -- about the SF novelist is just a way of announcing you don't think most SF is very good, so that any SF that is good must be something more than SF."

Tingle Alley pointed to some words from Laura Lippman, arguing against gentrification of crime fiction:Crime fiction has its share of jerry-built and dilapidated stock, but the genre is sturdy, its possibilities endless. Come on in, but don't think you'l…

The Newish Kinda Weird

Recently, I've been thinking a bit about a book for which I am not the ideal reader, a book that I found neither painful to read nor, on the whole, the sort of thing I would recommend to friends. I thought about letting it pass by me without a mention, because that seems to be a merciful and fair way to deal with books that don't fall to one pole or another on the axis of enthusiasm. It's also a first novel, and I think such endeavors deserve as much acknowledgement and praise as is reasonable.

But.

While I read Steve Cash's The Meq, I couldn't help thinking about its possible and intended audience. Much more than the book itself, the audience interested me. I hoped the book would find an audience to appreciate it, but I couldn't figure out what that audience might be. And, for once, I'm not willing to put the audience for fantasy novels fully at blame.

First, some information. The Meq is coming home to America, having first been published in the U.K. …

O Generous Researchers and Collectors of the World, Hear Me Now!

If you have any idea about how I can get copies of the following two stories by David R. Bunch, please email me:"A Little at All Times", Perihelion Science Fiction, Summer 1969
"The Joke", Fantastic, August 1971I've checked all the online sources I could think of (Ebay, various dealers, etc.), but that doesn't mean I haven't missed something.

Quick Warning

Jason Erik Lundberg warns that there are only about 60 copies of his anthology Scattered, Covered, Smothered left of the 200 in the first printing.

I have just begun reading the book. You will want a copy. It costs $9.99 (in cheap American dollars). Weird stories about food. And weird poems about food. And recipes for foodish items. And a beautiful, amusing cover.

The anthology contains work by writers who are also bloggers -- Barth Anderson, Christopher Rowe, Heather Shaw, and -- a recent entry to the blogosphere -- the great (in more ways than can be defined) Rhys Hughes. (And others. If I gave you a complete list, it might satiate your curiosity, and then you wouldn't go look at the website, and then you might not buy the book, and then you would be filled with deep regret for the rest of the year, and perhaps even the rest of your life. See: I'm helping you. I have your best interests at heart. Go now.)

(But please don't buy every copy. I need a few for C…

Nominations

Various awards are now open to nominations:

storySouth's Million Writers Award for Fiction: "Stories of more than 1000 words, published online during the 2004 calendar year, may be nominated by writers, readers, or editors of an online publication. Nominations are due by Febuary 1, 2005."

Rhysling Award: Speculative poetry, nominated by members of the Science Fiction Poetry Association (to which you can become a member for less than $20!)

The Nebula Preliminary Ballot has been released. Members of the SFWA can vote.

Hugo Award nomination ballots are available now. Supporting or attending members of Noreascon 4 or Interaction (the upcoming Worldcon) are eligible to nominate. You have until the end of January to become a supporting or attending member of Interaction if you aren't currently eligible to vote.

SF Site Reader's Choice Awards wins my award for best introduction (by Neil Walsh):In December 2003, the Canadian Prime Minister retired and Canadians got st…