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Showing posts from March, 2007

A Little List

Lists always grab my attention. They are potential stories, full of possibilities between their items. I love to move the pieces around in my imagination and see what sorts of sounds and shapes they produce. Restrictions on lists particularly appeal to me -- what constraints do they have to meet? How creatively do they meet them? Personal lists are fun, too, in what they reveal about the list-maker. (Many fine writers -- Thomas Disch and Gilbert Sorrentino come immediately to mind -- have used lists to great effect in their work, efficiently and amusingly revealing much about characters and situations, attitudes and moments.)

By clicking through various webpages without reading very carefully, I somehow ended up at this collection of lists of what short stories writers would include in an introductory level course on "the short story". From the lists, I started evaluating not only which writers I would like to take a class with, but which writers' lists made me cur…

BAF: The Contents

It gives me great pleasure to be able to announce the contents for the first edition of Best American Fantasy. Head on over to the BAF blog to see. (We'll also be posting excerpts from Ann & Jeff's introduction in a few days.)

BAF represents a tremendous amount of work by a lot of different people, especially Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, who have been tireless readers and organizers. Advance review copies will be going out in a week or two, and the book is currently available for pre-order from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Hog Wrangler

I am at the moment looking for a new job, because I've been at my current one for long enough, and so it is possible, even likely, that I will be saying goodbye to my beloved New Hampshire. Stories like this one make me all the more reluctant to go, because where else will I find a state where the former governor -- a man who was once the Chief of Staff to the great and powerful President George H.W. Bush; a man who co-hosted that fine contribution to American culture known as "Crossfire" -- accepts and celebrates his latest official title: Hog Reeve of Hampton Falls.

BAF: The Preface

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We'll be posting the table of contents for Best American Fantasy in the next few days, and in preparation for that I've put my preface up on the blog. Next week, we'll also be posting the version of Ann & Jeff's introduction that Jeff read at the AWP Conference.

The Genizah at the House of Shepher by Tamar Yellin

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Jeff VanderMeer has reported that Tamar Yellin is the first recipient of the $100,000 Jewish Book Council Award for her first novel, The Genizah at the House Of Shepher. This is excellent news, indeed, and I thought I would take the opportunity to reprint here a review of the book that I wrote for the Summer 2005 print edition of Rain Taxi:


Now that we live in an age when all codes decipher to Da Vinci, it is difficult to approach a novel like The Genizah at the House of Shepher on its own terms, because here we have a story of religious scholars and lost Bibles and intrigues of mysticism, the bare plot of which might suggest the author was gunning for bestseller lists and Hollywood. But Tamar Yellin's first novel is not a thriller, nor will it appeal to anyone looking for grand conspiracy theories. It is, instead, a family memoir wrought in fiction, a contemplation of history and fate, a mishmash amalgam of memories and myths.

"Genizah" is the Yiddish word for a place …

Thanks to SciFi.com

I just discovered that The Mumpsimus (that is, here) is SciFi.com's Site of the Week this week. Wow -- with all the great SF sites out there, I'm thrilled and humbled to have this one chosen. Thanks to A.M. Dellamonica for the kind words. Now I've got to try to write some posts to live up to them!

The Delany Piles

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Yesterday I delivered a rough draft of my master's thesis about Samuel Delany to the professors reading it for comment, and in my excitement at having a draft done I decided to pile most of the books I've been using for research on my couch and take a picture of them before returning some of them to the library and friends I borrowed them from:Together like that they don't feel as immense and encompassing as they did when I had them scattered all around me as I wrote...

As it exists right now, the thesis is about Delany's novels from The Jewels of Aptor through Dhalgren, plus some substantial bits about his early critical essays. I ended up emphasizing the importance of the pornographic novels Equinox and Hogg more than I thought I would when I began, but Equinox seemed to me a pivotal novel separating the pre- and post-Nova books, and Hogg I decided to compare to Dhalgren, because the two books were written almost simultaneously and share some elements; more important…

"Finding rhymes is hard for diseases"

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Tom Waits:
This project that they’re doing in England…I don’t know if it’s ever going to happen, but they said, "pick a disease" and they had this long list of these terrible diseases, and they want you to write a song about this disease, then they’re going to put it all on a record. It’s just gotten out of hand. I didn’t want to get involved. I just said, "No, I can’t pick a disease." Scurvy is a disease. Finding rhymes is hard for diseases. Scurvy. What rhymes with scurvy? "She had scurvy, but she was so curvy…" That’s not going to fly. Sounds like he needs Dr. Lambshead.

Kwani? Fiction Online

In writing the previous post about Sunday Salon, I realized I hadn't checked the Kwani? website for a while, and lo and behold -- they've got fiction from Kwani? 4 online! Not only that, but among the stories are "The Obituary Man" by Muthoni Garland and "The Other Side of Knowing" by Dayo Forster, both of whom will be reading on Sunday night at the Salon.

Sunday Readings in Nairobi and New York

The good people of New York's Sunday Salon are branching out, and this week will offer readings not only in Brooklyn, but also Nairobi (and next week, as usual, in Chicago). (Alas, I can't make it to any of them, but maybe some of you out there can...)

The line-up for Sunday night in Nairobi includes Dayo Forster, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Muthoni Garland and Stanley Gazemba. (Bios here. The only one whose work I know is Muthoni's, because for a few days she was part of our workshop when I was at the SLS/Kwani? LitFest conference. In fact, I think she was the person who first told me to read Going Down River Road...)

And the line-up in Brooklyn includes Kate Hunter, Mitch Levenberg, Shelley Marlow, Jeffrey Renard Allen, and musical guest Eric McEntee. (Bios here.)

Predicting Morons

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Ben Bova thinks more people should read science fiction because it's good at predicting things, and as an example of this he gives C.M. Kornbluth's 1951 story "The Marching Morons".

While I do think more people should read science fiction, it's not because of its predictive powers. Rather, SF at its best offers a kind of literature that is different from others, that presents a different way of thinking about language and life (yes, I've been reading a lot of Delany recently). Its "predictions" are less about the future than about the present, about how we live and why, about what it means to exist in an environment saturated with and determined by technology, about -- well, all sorts of things. But prediction's just about the least of it.

Kornbluth was a satirist, and his sort of satire goes back at least as far as Jonathan Swift, who also wrote about worlds where idiots of one sort or another had taken control of everything. (Isn't that …

Hav by Jan Morris

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Strange Horizons has now posted my review of Hav by Jan Morris (not currently available in the U.S., but the U.K. edition is available for a relatively good price and free worldwide shipping via The Book Depository).

I wasn't sure about Hav when I first started reading it, but once I began to figure out what Morris was up to, it became fascinating, and I read and reread parts of it many times. It often felt like reading Leena Krohn's Tainaron, although Hav is less overtly fantastical than Tainaron.

There are some interesting bits about the original Hav book, Last Letters From Hav (now incorporated, with "Hav of the Myrmidons" into Hav), at this postcolonialism site.

Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

a guest review by Craig Laurance Gidney

It was less like building a house than like colonizing an island, this freakish, lovely and marvelous atoll that rose from gray wasteland of St. Brendan’s High School like some extravagant Atlantis we’d willed into being. All of our previous alliances and identities were tossed aside—jock, freak, egghead, cheerlead and anonymous. (pg. 76) Back in the early 80s, when I was fourteen, I was in a production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. While I did not get the part I wanted (Ariel), I remember the days leading up to the 3 day engagement as halcyon. The time spent preparing for the play is one of those perfect bubbles of euphoria that we all strive to recreate. That brief moment in time was key to crystallization of my identity. Joining a stage production is like entering a rarified world, where everyone agrees to create an alternate reality out of a spellbook -- a script. (And Shakespeare is surely the greatest of those enchanter…

Phillips Wins NBCC Award for Tiptree Bio

What phenomenal news: Julie Phillips's biography of James Tiptree/Alice Sheldon has won the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography!

Awards frustrate me for lots of different reasons, but this news just made my day.

Tideland

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I'm a die-hard Terry Gilliam fan, so would have seen Tideland at the first opportunity no matter what, but even if I weren't a Terry Gilliam fan, how could I not be intrigued by the reviews it got -- "You watch the film feeling abused and exploited", "ugly visuals and even more unpleasant behavior", "easily the worst production Gilliam has ever been involved in", "has the effect of a prolonged shriek", "virtually unwatchable", "borderline unwatchable", "unwatchable", "squirmingly unwatchable", "one of the most stunning mistakes of the first decade of the 21st century", "It might be said that [Gilliam's] imagination knows no boundaries; it might be good if he found some."

Even though I have a certain perverse pleasure whenever I can disagree with just about everybody, I still went into Tideland with pretty low expectations, because ... well, I'd seen The Brothers Grimm. B…

On Being Interstitial

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There is a now a blog associated with Interfictions, an anthology in which I have a story. The anthology is the first from the Interstitial Arts Foundation, and I'm looking forward quite a lot to reading it, because I really don't know what "interstitial fiction" looks like.

Niall Harrison has pronounced himself an interstitial skeptic, and there's been interesting discussion in the comments to the post.

Here's what I submitted when asked for an introduction to my story that would explain how it is interstitial:
Today the only labels I like for what I write are Wishes and Exorcisms. Sometimes the two labels overlap, like searchlights finding each other in a dark sky.

A few months before he died in 1904, Anton Chekhov wrote to his wife, an actress in Moscow. He was forty-four years old, living in Yalta, and in the last stages of tuberculosis, a disease he had suffered from for almost half his life, a disease that had claimed his brother, Nikolai, in 1889. He…

Elsewheres

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Because I've been using Google Reader to create the Fresh Links list on the sidebar here, I haven't done a post of links for a long time. But it's lively out in the internets these days, so herewith some new things interspersed with some things I've put up on Fresh Links within the last few weeks...
This past weekend it felt like most of my favorite people were at the AWP conference, and there has been attendantblogging. I wasn't able to go because I had to administer and grade a bunch of final exams, alas. Last year in Austin was a great time, and I loved the chaos and craziness of 5,000 lit'ry folks all scrambling around with each other. Next year is in NYC, and I certainly hope to be there.
I've mentioned the playwright Christopher Shinn here before -- we were at NYU together for a couple years, and he's doggedly stuck to playwrighting long after many of us have abandoned it. His new play, Dying City, is currently running at Lincoln Center and jus…

BAF: Recommended Reading

While we're not able to release the table of contents for Best American Fantasy quite yet, we are happy to launch the BAF blog today with our list of 25 recommended stories that for one reason or another are not included in the book itself, though each story was seriously discussed for possible inclusion, and we spent almost as much time determining the recommended list as we did the final contents of the anthology.

We'll be using the BAF blog for occasional updates, and, once we get closer to the June publication date of the book, I hope we'll be able to offer some fun extras. In the meantime, congratulations to all of the authors and publishers of stories on the recommended list. If we learned anything by putting the book together this year, it's that there is an extraordinary amount of excellent fiction out there -- far more than could fit in one anthology -- and it comes in a tremendous variety of forms and styles.