29 January 2006

Getting the Links Out

Go away! To:

27 January 2006

Other Identities

I've been writing and rewriting this post, abandoning it again and again, sometimes thinking that I have nothing to say, sometimes thinking what I have to say is entirely self-contradictory, sometimes thinking I'm the wrong person to be trying to say any of it, but there's a chance I'll write a Strange Horizons column from some of this, if I can get to more coherent thoughts, and if I'm going to fall flat on my face I might as well do it here rather than there. So here goes.

A few things keep swirling around in my head, occasionally seeming related, sometimes seeming completely unrelated. They are:First, we have the concept of "the other", particularly the racial other, and the problem of writing beyond our own particular experience. Just about every writer faces this problem, at least if they write anything other than autobiographical monologues, because to some extent or another anything beyond our own brain and body is an other. Some things feel ... well, more other than others.

The others that most writers are willing to write about, often unconsciously, are ones they don't think will cause anybody to question whether the writer knows what she or he is doing. Race and sexual identity, because they are fraught with political and social tension, tend to be others that writers avoid, and partly this is because they think they can, and that nobody will notice or care; indeed, that were they to write about such an other, then there would be controversy and castigation.

Back in 1990, Pulphouse published a collection of stories and poems by James Patrick Kelly called Heroines (part of the Author's Choice Monthly series of chapbooks): four stories told from women's points of view. In the introduction, Jim wrote:
I used to be a regular at the Sycamore Hill Writers' Workshop. Sycamore Hill was a great excuse for professional writers to sit around for a week critiquing fiction and schmoozing. At the 1987 workshop we saw a run of stories about women and men and what they do to each other. I remember six or eight of us were having a late night bull session when the question came up: what do men talk about when they're with other men? What do women talk about only with women? For a while we had some ribald fun with this, until one of the women asked how many of the men in the room had ever written a scene in which two women were alone talking. Embarrassed silence. I knew I had done some (not enough) but I couldn't think of any offhand. The other men were similarly nonplussed. The women, however, had no trouble citing scenes they had written in which men spoke only to men. Leaving aside the literary quality of these efforts (probably high, considering the company), the fact remains that women writers routinely try to recreate all-male conversations, scenes they could not possibly have witnessed. No similar stretch of the imagination is expected of men. ...

As it turns out, three of these stories were published before that night in 1987. Problem was, I had forgotten they were from a woman's point of view. I thought I was the protagonist.
I'm entirely in favor of encouraging writers to include a broad array of characters in their work, and have said before that I wish, for instance, more straight writers would include gay characters in their stories. Every time I've said this, somebody has written to me or posted in their blogs that that is all well and good, but few writers are willing to risk being told they're perpetuating stereotypes or somehow being heterosexist.

I can sympathize with that fear, and it's certainly better than saying gay characters don't exist in your fiction because gay people are such a tiny minority they don't really matter, but we've got to overcome these fears, because they perpetuate themselves. The fewer writers who include minority characters in their fiction, the more "normal" it seems for there to be no minority characters in fiction, and, similarly, the more "weird" it seems for a writer to write about people different from themselves. But only the most narrow fiction is about people who are not different from the writer. And whether our characters are interesting, the situations not stereotypical, has far more to do with skill and talent than it does with identifying with any particular group. Gay people write stupid, stereotypical gay stories all the time. They also often disagree about what is or isn't stereotypical or offensive. There's no formula for success other than the willingness to try to imagine what it feels like to live in a different way from your own.

Which brings us to the last things I listed above. The fake writers who used the sympathy for a particular kind of identity to publish memoirs that sold well and brought a lot of attention to those writers. I'm conflicted about this. Had the writers published their books as fiction and been honest about who they are in reality, I'd probably be celebrating them (I don't know; haven't read anything published under either byline). What these, and similar, incidents show is the bizarre hunger for TRUTH from readers, and how that hunger can be manipulated. The books are not the scandal here, the obsessive culture of celebrity around them is.

I tend to read memoirs as fiction. What do I care if the story is true or not -- I'm not likely to meet the writer, not likely to become part of their life, so the truth or falsity of what they write doesn't matter in the least to me. If the writing is engaging, the story interesting, the characters vivid, the ideas thought-provoking, I'm happy.

Memoirs sell better than fiction. I've heard of numerous writers who have been asked by agents or editors if their novel is autobiographical, and if so, if it can be tweaked to be sold as a memoir. Readers want to believe what they are reading is True, and the suspension of disbelief, the willingness to enter into collaborative imagining -- the basic requirements of fiction -- are seen as somehow difficult or maybe even dirty, escapist, shameful. The fake writers created their hoaxes to sell books, and though we might be tempted to chastise them for being so greedy, plenty of writers these days scheme, grandstand, grovel, and demean themselves to try to get their work noticed. When they exploit sympathy for a minority group, though, something has gone too far -- what is that something, though, and how do we draw a line?

There are things that are true. Oppression and prejudice exist. The sympathy and rights won by some groups are fragile and can easily be injured. I'm angry toward the people who perpetuated the Nasdijj and JT Leroy hoaxes because what they did may create more cynicism toward claims of oppression by actual American Indians and transgendered people. Or maybe not -- maybe these hoaxes will make people want to know more about the real people in the real situations, the way movies about historical events often lead some people to research the actual history of those events. (I'm not holding my breath in anticipation of this.)

Fiction is the place where we get to imagine our way into other lives. It takes honesty: we must admit who we are first, and then move out from ourselves. Unlike elaborate hoax identities constructed to sell books, fiction about others doesn't require writers to lie about who they are; indeed, truth is, paradoxically, one of the goals. Empathy, too, because writers who honestly take the risk of imagining otherness make it less and less risky for more people to do so.

What we need are memoirs that are not fiction and fiction that is not memoir.

24 January 2006

2005: Some of the Goods

Jeff VanderMeer bowed out of writing a best-of-the-year article for Locus Online this year, and he and Mark Kelly schemed to get me to do it in Jeff's stead. I think they both knew me well enough to suspect that I would try to read every book published in English in 2005, and giving me the assignment late in the fall was a form of entertainment for them. I nearly drowned in books -- books sent by publishers, books borrowed from multiple libraries, and even a few books I bought on a whim. I barely slept. My eyes turned into big red sores on the front of my face. When I finally got down to the last three-foot stack of books to look through, I nearly cried, because one three-foot pile didn't seem particularly daunting at that point. I doubt I'll ever be able to do such a thing again, because I doubt I'll ever have an entire month free just for reading again, but though it was utterly exhausting, the whole process was also exhilarating.

And so now I present you with "2005: Some of the Goods". You'll find plenty of surprises there, I expect, as well as a few books I've been championing for a while.

Mine is, thankfully, not the only point of view Locus Online offers. Claude Lalumière also offers his choices, and his include comics, TV shows, movies, etc. Claude and I usually have entirely opposite taste, but we agree about Kelly Link and Howl's Moving Castle, and I suspect I'll enjoy Lisa Tuttle's The Mysteries, but I only got a copy of it recently. And I'd never heard of some of the other things he lists, so am intrigued.

I think there's one other best-of-the-year article that will be posted on the site, too. I'll update this post once it is.

23 January 2006

Where I Am

A few people have sent emails recently wondering if I'm still alive, because I hadn't updated this site in a few days. To calm your souls and ease your minds, I thought I'd let everybody know that yes, indeed, I am still haunting this earth.

Blogging is going to continue to be light for the next few weeks, I expect, because I have returned to work part-time from my sabbatical and am still a full-time graduate student at Dartmouth. Because of some sudden, unexpected staffing changes at the school where I work, I have been promoted to be the Director of Performing Arts, which means I get to oversee all of our theatre, film, music, and dance programs. Exciting, but also daunting, and time-consuming. Once I get some things taken care of, my schedule will be lighter, and I'll have time not only to write, but also to read again, and so things will pick up around here and become, I hope, less sporadic.

In the meantime, I just finished reading Douglas Lain's Last Week's Apocalypse, which I'm reviewing for Strange Horizons (providing they accept what I end up writing), so I won't say much here except that though I have some reservations about the book as a whole, they are reservations that caused me to compare the collection to things by Samuel Beckett and Don DeLillo, which I hope makes them the sort of reservations that cause people to be so intrigued that they go out and buy multiple copies of the book, because there are some real masterpieces in it, and the things that frustrated me about the collection as a whole were things that came from so many of the stories being thought-provoking, immensely well written, innovative, and challenging. (Time to go finish writing that review...)

Speaking of reviews, Matt Peckham just said he liked my review in the January issue of Z Magazine, a review of Bread and Roses : Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream by Bruce Watson. I had been meaning to email Z to see if they wanted the review I had submitted, and I was pleased to know that, apparently, they did. It would have been nice to hear it from them, but these things happen. I usually buy Z at a bookstore, so I haven't seen the new issue yet, but I'm happy to appear there, because it's a magazine I've been reading off and on since I was in high school, when, because the politics of the magazine tend to be pretty radical, I hid the issues I had and read them furtively, as if they were pornography. In a few months, the contents of the issue will be available online to nonsubscribers, and I'll link to it then.

In his note to me, Matt let me know that he's revamped mattpeckham.com into TheoryLog, which is devoted primarily to sequential art and theory. (Hey Matt, do you know Derik? Matt, Derik; Derik, Matt.)

Lots of things are happening at the LitBlog Co-op these days. All of the nominees have been named, and this week begins a discussion of one of them, Other Electricities by Ander Monson, a book I liked quite a bit. It's strange and affecting, beautifully written, and full of weather. Three of the nominees this quarter were ones I very much enjoyed reading -- Garner (the actual pick), Other Electricities, and Divided Kingdom by Rupert Thomson. (Since you're curious -- you know you are -- the other two didn't do much for me. I was indifferent to one of them and quite vehemently loathed the other.) In many ways, I thought Divided Kingdom was the best book of the lot, and certainly the one that grabbed and held my imagination the strongest, but I also thought that it has gotten a lot more attention than the other books, so I didn't think, given such strong company, it would have been the best book for us to choose as this quarter's pick. But you'll see it featured prominently on my Best of the Year list for Locus Online when that is posted. (You'll also see Other Electricities noted in passing. It's not really fantasy or science fiction, except in the loosest of loose senses, but it felt odd and evocative enough that I thought it might interest at least a couple readers of SF. The same is true for Garner, actually.)

Finally, the second issue of Fantasy Magazine will include an interview I just did with Theodora Goss, and I'm particularly pleased with it, because Dora's responses to my occasionally annoying questions about the nature and purpose of fantastical writing are thoughtful and complex. I think the second issue will be published fairly soon, so be sure to subscribe if you haven't already. (Here's the table of contents.)

16 January 2006

Elsewhere

Here are some things that are not here:

Moments of Culture

It's relatively rare these days that I get a chance to see world-class performances, but this past week I saw two, both at Dartmouth's Hopkins Center: a new piece by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and a concert by Kronos Quartet.

I've seen Bill T. Jones's company once before, and was intrigued by their mix of dance and theatre as well as contemporary and classical styles of performance. Their new piece, "Blind Date" (well described by Deborah Jowitt in this review), is overtly political, and the first half felt at times shrilly polemical, though beautifully danced and designed. The second half undercut the polemic, though, by adding complexity, by layering through the revised repetition of movements and words and images, and by ending with a cry for hope: what would it look like, Jones and his company seem to be asking, if we didn't smooth over our differences, but rather tried to balance them, preserving individuality without giving up on the idea of community? (The politics that engendered the piece are explored in this profile of Jones.) Some moments in the first half seemed tedious to me, and sometimes frustratingly simple-minded, and during the intermission I must admit I really did hope the second half would be shorter. I don't know if I got my wish, because I didn't notice time during the second half -- all of the roughness of the first half, all the shrillness seemed to be transformed (to be, as an incurable postmodernist might say, complexified), as if it were the raw material necessary for the mixing and matching of the second half.

Certain images remain vivid in my mind, aided by the extraordinary set design: words and pictures and faces projected on floating screens that reconfigured the playing space quickly, silently, fluidly. The movement that has most stuck with me, though, is one of the simplest, a movement utterly familiar to anyone who has been subjected to trust games of one sort of another. One by one, members of the company came on stage and, apparently whenever they felt like it, shouted "Me!" and let themselves fall to the floor. The other dancers on stage then ran to them and tried, usually successfully, to catch them before they hit the floor. Within the context of the entire performance, this game took on rich and varied meanings, and the sight of calm falling amidst chaotic running to save the fallers was mesmerizing.

A few days later, I returned (with my intrepid companion Njihia Mbitiru, who is not only a fellow Dartmouth grad student, but also an alumnus of the Clarion workshop) to the Hop to see the Kronos Quartet play one of the best concerts I've ever seen. (I should contextualize that statement: I rarely go to concerts anymore, because when listening to music I am far too sensitive to other noises, and so the sound of people coughing or shuffling their feet or whispering to each other can make the entire experience excruciating. So I don't see many concerts.) I have listened to albums by Kronos for at least a decade now, and through them have discovered many types of music I might never have discovered otherwise. I don't always like what Kronos plays, but I admire their virtuosity, their versatility, their adventurousness.

On Saturday night, the program was typically diverse. It began with pieces from their new album of songs from Rahul Dev Burman's Bollywood movies, then moved on to a Charles Mingus piece, "Myself When I am Real", then to three pieces from the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack, and then, to finish the first half of the program, the world premiere of Dan Visconti's "Love Bleeds Radiant", this year's Under 30 Project commission. The program continued after an intermission with "Quartet No. 5" by Peteris Vasks and "Triple Quartet" by Steve Reich, and after a standing ovation Kronos returned for an encore, a gorgeous piece they recently premiered, the title and composer of which I do not know (except that I think the composer was Swedish).

The Requiem for a Dream suite was the highlight of the concert for me, because I find the entire composition (by Clint Mansell) extraordinarily moving, and watching it being performed only made it more powerful, because the four members of Kronos (including Jeffrey Zeigler on cello, a new addition in place of Joan Jeanrenaud) combine intensity and precision in their performances, making them mesmerizing to listen to, as always, but also fascinating to watch, because the music seems to radiate not such much from their instruments as their entire bodies.

"Love Bleeds Radiant" deserves far more than one listen to be appreciated. It's a difficult piece to enjoy at first, because it is often sharp, strident, and seemingly discordant. But lyrical passages pass between the more chaotic movements, and there is an energy to the piece that is almost exhausting to listen to. Dan Visconti kept a blog of his time working with Kronos, and I have only begun to mine its riches -- this post alone, about the composing process and composer's "voices" and a bunch of other things -- is a treasure trove of ideas and information.

I had not heard Kronos's previous recordings of works by Peteris Vasks before hearing "Quartet No. 5", but I will seek them out now, because it was a lovely and strange piece, one that first seemed to lull the audience, then jolt them, then return to lull, then jolt again. Steve Reich's "Triple Quartet" was also new to me, and though I've heard plenty of Reich's work in the past, I've seldom found it particularly engaging. "Triple Quartet" is a fine piece, though -- it is relentless, strong, and, I expect, a real workout for the performers.

13 January 2006

Brokeback Mountain

I saw Brokeback Mountain a couple of days ago, because it finally made it to New Hampshire (although only a few theatres), but I didn't want to write about it immediately, because though I thought it was excellent for a bunch of different reasons, I didn't entirely trust my reaction. Did I only like it for predictable political and social reasons? Did I only like it because I was in the mood for a tragic story of repressed love (but then, when am I not in the mood for a tragic story of repressed love)? Did the fact that a couple of my closest friends are moving to Montana this week have anything to do with my enjoyment of the film? Or that Heath Ledger mumbled exactly like at least three people I've known? Et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseam.

Oddly, I found myself comparing Brokeback Mountain to Munich, which I saw the week before. The comparison began because both films were at the top of a lot of mainstream reviewers' lists of the best movies of 2005 (though less so the alternative reviewers), and I couldn't quite figure out how anybody would put Munich above Brokeback Mountain, because though neither film is perfect, Munich is, despite an opening sequence of brilliance, a mess, while Brokeback Mountain could have been far more of a disaster than it is. I continued to think about the films together, because each tries to challenge its audiences to think about the world beyond the film -- each is, to some extent or another, a Statement as well as a movie. Munich is a bundle of forced moments, stereotyped characters, and spy-movie cliches, along with some subtle acting and a few really excellent scenes (whoever hired Tony Kushner to work on the script deserves accolades, because some of the dialogue is magnificent. I just hope he's not the one who came up with the inexcusable, ridiculous, tasteless, grotesque idea of juxtaposing an angst-ridden sex scene with the executions of the athletes on the airfield, as if everyone's sins could be atoned for with a good orgasm). There are Hollywooded coincidences and questionable scenes in Brokeback Mountain, too, but not with the frequency of such scenes in Munich, and the worst of Brokeback Mountain isn't remotely as bad as the worst of Munich.

Brokeback Mountain could have been ridiculous. It could have been sappy and so earnest as to ooze good intentions all over the audience. It is, instead, remarkably restrained in tone. The only thing not repressed in the film is the landscape, which is vast and almost pornographic in its loveliness. The open world of the mountains and forests contrasts well with the closed, closeted, claustrophobic interiors. (The production design of Brokeback Mountain is particularly fine, with the decades passing in small changes of decor, though the furnishings remain cloying and even ghastly, regardless of the decade, regardless of the characters' income bracket. The only beauty is in the mountains, the place of freedom and contentment.)

When I first heard that Brokeback Mountain was being directed by a straight director from a script by straight writers and starring straight actors, I had a kneejerk moment of annoyance -- what could such a gaggle of heteros really know about the basic situation of these characters? It was a stupid, fleeting thought, but it nagged at me nonetheless. Good artists can imagine their way into all sorts of experiences beyond their own, and I've long thought gender and sexuality shouldn't limit artists of real worth. Indeed, I wish more straight writers would write about gay characters, at the very least because most of the straight writers I know have some gay friends or acquaintances, and yet the world in their fiction is entirely, and even obsessively, heterosexual.

What I didn't realize before seeing it, and perhaps should have, is that many of Brokeback Mountain's strengths may derive from the effort of heterosexuals to imagine their way into the situation they sought to dramatize. I'm not entirely comfortable with this idea, because after all the job of writers and actors and directors is to imagine things well. I find it frustrating whenever straight actors are praised for their "courage" and "bravery" for taking on gay roles, as if it isn't the point of their job to behave realistically in imaginary circumstances, or as if actors don't ever have to be in romantic scenes with people they don't feel the least bit romantic toward, and might, indeed, in reality even loathe; or as if gay actors don't give convincing portrayals of straight people all the time. And yet there are pragmatic reasons why for these particular roles, it made good sense to cast straight actors. Film shoots are short, and they have to be efficient. From a director's point of view, it's useful to have actors plays these roles who do not have any experience being romantic with other men, because the characters are struggling against their own desires, against the strangeness of the situation for them, against their own views of what is acceptable and appropriate. Brokeback Mountain is less a "gay movie" than it is a movie about people in a vehemently heterosexual culture, a culture of clear gender roles and traditional masculine/feminine values, where the fate of any love that strays beyond those rigid borders is tragic. The film may benefit, then, from the imaginative efforts of people who have the option of taking that culture and those values for granted. Which is not to say that other sorts of people couldn't have done just as well, but that Brokeback Mountain is a fine example of artists using their own knowledge and experience of the world to think beyond that knowledge and experience, to use the tension that naturally comes from such thinking and acting to great effect.

There are, of course, people who don't like Brokeback Mountain, and they're not all homophobes, by any means. Some people don't like it because it isn't subversive enough, because the characters don't fight against their culture and show how the queer masses can rise beyond oppression, because it fortifies the idea that homosexuality is tragic, because there are lots of stories of queer people that don't get this sort of attention, because it's just another Hollywood love story. These criticisms deserve to be listened to, but I think they're misguided.

Maybe such criticisms are not misguided if you live in a place where two men can hold hands in public without being attacked. Maybe they're not misguided if you're the sort of person who has lots of gay friends and your gay friends have good jobs and good lives and lots of disposable income, the sorts of gay people who subscribe to Out and pay close attention to the fashion articles. But when you live in a place like rural New Hampshire, where even your most open-minded friends are still amazed that gay people can care as much about each other as straight people, and where you can drive into a Dunkin Donuts parking lot and see a truck with a bumpersticker reading "AIDS kills fags", and where you're nervous just going to see a movie like Brokeback Mountain because you hesitated to tell a few acquaintances what movie you were driving 50 miles to see, and you know somebody in the audience is going to groan or make some remark when the two men kiss ... well, then this is a movie you tend to be grateful for, and amazed that it's better than you ever dared hope it would be. I wish I could thank everyone who worked on this film, because even though, yes, some of the audience was audibly uncomfortable with the first intimate scene, by the second half of the film the audience was utterly silent. The man behind me who, as the lights went down, said to his wife, "I'm really very nervous about this, I'm not sure about this, I don't know, but the reviews have been so good, and, well..." said to her afterward, "The reviews were right," and he sounded both moved and relieved. That simple moment gave me more hope, joy, and even comfort than I would have gotten from a more confrontational, less traditional film. Someone who had seemingly never thought about how painful, how destructive it is to have the way you love branded as disgusting, repulsive, unnatural, to have the person you love seen as an abomination -- now he had glimpsed that. A less tragic story might have made us all feel better about our ability to be accepting of each other, but it wouldn't have communicated why such acceptance is important with the same force and clarity. The sensitivity, commitment, and skill of the filmmakers created a work of art that opened a space for everyone in that theatre to think about how they live their lives, the choices they make, the sacrifices, the prejudices. It opened a space for at least a moment of communication between ways of living that do not often get a chance to truly communicate, and to feel their way away from destruction.

09 January 2006

2046

Love is all a matter of timing. It's no good meeting the right person too soon or too late. If I'd lived in another time or place, my story might have had a very different ending.

--Mr. Chow
2046
Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love was a beautifully filmed, admirably restrained study of two people left behind when their spouses have an affair, two people who discover a possible, and powerful, love between themselves, and deliberately turn away from it. The simple narrative and the care with which it unfolded were impressive, but also difficult to embrace emotionally, because the photography and the soundtrack provided more actual passion than the performances, which was a central part of the tragedy, of course -- two people who should have loved each other, but were unable to do so, stuck in a world of gorgeous colors and lush, romantic music playing over the ubiquitous radios.

2046 is a sequel to In the Mood for Love, though it stands alone just fine, because it picks up with the life of Mr. Chow three years after he asked Mrs. Chan to leave with him for Singapore, and she did not -- it is, essentially, the story of his new life, his life after love.

Where In the Mood for Love was restrained, 2046 is less so -- it is a longer, more baroque movie, one with many more characters and settings and stories. One of the most noticeable differences is the presence of sex: In the Mood for Love was about its characters' refusal to indulge in sex, because they thought they would then be better than their philandering spouses, despite all the gossip that rises up around them anyway. The touch of a hand became a powerful gesture. 2046 has numerous sex scenes, and Mr. Chow has become a king of one-night stands. He has also become cold and cruel; much as we want to like him, particularly if we remember the kind and gentle man he was in the first film, our sympathies are directed more toward the women in the film, the women he lets love him, then walks away from, as if pathologically determined to repeat the loss he suffered, but this time to reserve for himself the role of the lover who refuses, the one who makes the decision, the one in control. Again and again characters in 2046 ask, "Will you leave with me?" Again and again, the answer is the same.

The title of 2046 comes from a few things. It is the number of the hotel room where, in In the Mood for Love, Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chun would meet to work on the martial-arts novel they were writing. It is the number of another hotel room in 2046, one that has multiple women who live in it, all of them doomed. It is the title of a novel Mr. Chow writes about a future world where people go to a "room number 2046" in search of lost memories, a room where, it is said, nothing ever changes. It is also one year before Hong Kong loses the guarantee of the Basic Law.

Everything about 2046 is remarkable, but I was particularly impressed by Ziyi Zhang's performance -- every moment she has on screen is masterful, every glance and gesture, so often simple and small and still, yet conveying an immense range of emotion and experience. Tony Leung's performance as Mr. Chow is just as good as his earlier performance in In the Mood for Love, but he is in many ways even more of a blank than he was before -- so hollowed out that we know him more through the empty hole he represents in comparison to the richness of the other characterizations than through any action of his own.

Another film would try to answer more questions, would try to show more of what had happened in the years between the two films to turn Mr. Chow into the person he becomes in 2046, but Wong is a director who respects the intelligence of his audience. We get it. We feel it. We know what's going on, even if, much of the time, we don't know exactly why. By the end, any why's left hanging in the air are not important; any attentive viewer will have pieced together the important moments. The colors tell us, the scenes that echo scenes from the earlier film, the music, the repetitions, all of which create a sensual environment where the audience can feel its way toward understanding.

Some reviewers have complained that 2046 is a lesser movie than In the Mood for Love because it is messier, bigger, more confusing, more ragged. To me it's the difference between the spareness of Racine's plays against the sprawl of Shakespeare's, not a matter of one being better than the other, but of two different approaches toward representing the world. The films work beautifully together, but just as I'll take Shakespeare over Racine any day, I enjoyed the openness of 2046 even more than I enjoyed the austere structure of In the Mood for Love. I'm glad we have both, but 2046 is the one I expect I will watch again and again.

The Winning Resolution of Rangergirl

I'm pleased to announce that Judge Tim Pratt has decided the winner of the New Year's Resolution Contest is the following entry by Maggie:
I resolve to take a Rangergirl tour. I'll start with a visit to Cafe Pergelosi and end with a visit to South Dakota where I will visit Wounded Knee and do my part to bring the White Buffalo Maiden back. And then I'll write up my experiences, sell it and ride on the coattails of Tim Pratt's success.
(Judge Tim is, we discover, somewhat susceptible to flattery.) Maggie will receive a free copy of The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl.

Judge Tim wanted to give an honorable mention to Geoffrey, who provided a fine double bind, but I reminded him of one of the Mumpsimus Laws: if we mention something, it loses whatever honor it had in the first place.

Thanks to everybody for participating, and thanks to Tim for dropping by to render some justice on this here frontier.

07 January 2006

Odds and Ends

Sorry for the silence around here recently -- some very sudden things came up at work, and though I'm officially on sabbatical, too much was going to affect work next year for me to avoid participating. That coupled with the start of a new term at Dartmouth and a couple deadlines for pretty comprehensive articles about 2005's books and stories (for Locus Online and Vector -- the first will be published within the coming weeks, the second one I don't know the scheduled date for, but it's a much juicier article and filled with things to argue with) didn't give me any time to do much more than send the occasional email. Then I even fell behind in email, so if you haven't heard from me this week and expected to, I apologize.

It's looking like I'm going to be busier than I expected over the coming weeks and perhaps even months, so blogging may be a bit spotty, but I doubt I'll disappear completely (though I do know how).

Jeff VanderMeer's been putting a bunch of good things up on his blog recently. There's Ann VanderMeer's favorite music of 2005 (she knows her music), great news about one of my favorite editors (plus a killer photo), an endorsement of Delany's About Writing (which I told him to read, ha ha!), and one thing that deserves some extended comment...

Jeff writes a fine chronicle of the couple of days he and Ann spent up here in the frozen north with Eric Schaller, Paulette Werger, me, some hedgehogs, a turtle, and some drunk locals. (And despite what Jeff says, we were not the drunk locals. Most of us were quite restrained in our consumption of intoxicating beverages, especially in comparison to the people around us. Oh, and that stuff in the wine glass I'm holding is Belgian beer. The apparently self-satisfied expression on my face comes from my holding my breath while waiting for Jeff to take the picture, because for some reason it took longer than I expected.)

While Jeff details his relations with Eric and Paulette's hedgehogs and turtle, he does not tell the most extraordinary story -- we had to bail him out of jail after he got arrested storming a meercat farm. He let all the meercats go, trying to save them from being turned into fur coats. People don't know about Jeff's staunch advocacy of animal rights. (Just try eating a steak in front of him!) In fact, he was considering having Leviathan 5: Don't Smoke the Bunnies! be published by PETA. Ask him about it.

In other news, Strange Horizons released their first issue of 2006, and it includes a new column I wrote in an attempt to make sure Jay Lake develops an ego. I've been worried about him.

Here are a few old links I collected in my rare forays through the internets over the past weeks:

03 January 2006

Resolutions for a Rangergirl

Tim Pratt's first novel, The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl, has been well received by such disparate entities as Charles de Lint and Douglas Lain. I have, through my connections with various international espionage organizations, acquired an extra copy. I would like to give this copy away, and so I have convinced Tim to be the judge for a new contest.

The New Year's Resolution Contest
In the comments section to this post, leave an interesting, imaginative, and/or bizarre new year's resolution. The most interesting, imaginative, and/or bizarre resolution, in the judgment of Tim Pratt, will win its creator a copy of The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl. (Please be sure to leave your email address in the comment, unless you know I already know how to get in touch with you.)

This contest will end on Sunday, January 8 at 8pm Eastern Standard Time, when judging will commence. The decisions of the judge are entirely subjective and binding. You are not required to believe either in the new year or the concept of resolutions to play.