Showing posts from May, 2007


Best American Fantasy is the first book I've been completely involved in creating, and it's a book that's been very close to my heart, because I think Ann and Jeff chose a wonderfully diverse group of stories, and the three of us worked very hard to find those stories. Even though we'd love the book no matter what anybody else thought of it, and we know there will inevitably be people who don't much care for the selection, it's thrilling to see the work appreciated -- for instance, with this Publisher's Weekly starred review : Best American Fantasy Edited by Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer. Prime ( ), $14.95 paper (460p) ISBN 978-0-8095-6280-0 In a genre where yearly “best of” volumes often repeat one another, the first in Prime’s new annual fantasy anthology series is a breath of eclectic and delightfully innovative fresh air. While the VanderMeers have included such fantasy veterans as Kelly Link and Elizabeth Hand, most of the

Friday Giveaways

Update: And now it's all gone! Thanks to everybody who responded -- there were more responses than I had stuff. I'm sure there will be more in the future, though. In the first of what may become a continuing series, I've got stuff to give away! The Stuff: Acacia by David Anthony Durham (Advance Reading Copy) Boomsday by Christopher Buckley Breakfast with the Ones You Love by Elliot Fintushel Dark Mondays by Kage Baker (ARC) The Music of Razors by Cameron Rogers (ARC) The New York Review of Science Fiction issue #224, which includes a glossary by Michael Swanwick for Greer Gilman's Moonwise , a memoir of editing Galaxy by John J. Pierce, etc. How to Get the Stuff: Send an email saying which of the stuff you want, ranked in order of priority (in case you can't have your first choice). Include your name and mailing address. Each of the stuffs will go to whoever 1.) asks for it first and 2.) includes their name and address. I will alert you by email if

Zanzibar by Giles Foden

I first learned of Giles Foden's novel Zanzibar (a fictional recreation of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings ) from an article in In These Times , where the book's inability to find a U.S. publisher was blamed on its subject matter: U.S. publishers, however, were less than enthusiastic to take on a novel with a graphic depiction of a terrorist bombing and criticism of U.S. security and foreign policy. To this day, American readers can only find Zanzibar overseas or online. Knopf-Vintage Books, which published Foden’s two previous novels in the United States, hasn’t touched Zanzibar yet, though it is still reportedly considering it. For more than a year, Foden has been approaching several other publishers as well. As Foden explains it, one of them told him that "they just weren’t ready for this as entertainment yet." (In terms of how publishers value novels, that comment may say it all.) "It’s not a question of censorship," continues Foden, who also works as

And Now the News

Pardon a moment of personal news, but I have mentioned here that I was looking for a new job, and so I thought I would announce that I found one. I will be teaching in Paramus, New Jersey for the '07/08 school year (and hopefully beyond). I'm going to start looking for apartments immediately, probably in Hoboken or Jersey City or somewhere around there, and then will begin moving as soon as I can. All of this will have some implications for The Mumpsimus, both in the short and long term. In the short term, expect some book give-aways and maybe even book sales (I really don't want to move thousands of books to NJ). Also, if you're a publisher or author, please don't send me anything until I have a new address (I'll send out one of those charming mass emails once I have said address). Blogging is likely to be typically erratic. In the long term, this change should mean a lot more varied writing here. First, because I'm moving to a job that will, once

Double Transformation

Reginald Shepherd : The poem performs a double transformation: translating feelings (in the sense of physical sensations) into feelings (in the sense of interior phenomena), and also vice versa (thought-feelings become sense-feelings, including the words themselves as sensory experiences). It turns conceptions and emotions into analogues of sensuous experience (by turning thoughts into images) and simultaneously turns both thoughts and images into, if not the intangible, then the not-quite-tangible: that is, into words, which can function as a shared medium precisely because they are not specific to individual sensations, while at the same time they are sources of sensation.

Details of Representation

The question (problem? issue?) of how Third World countries get represented in First World fiction is one that has interested me for some time, mostly because I'm hyper-aware and perhaps hyper-sensitive to my own status as a First World reader.* My ideas about such representations have run quite a gamut over the years, and continue to shift and change almost daily. Today, my thoughts returned again and again to Will Ludwigsen's story "Faraji" in the April/May Weird Tales . I read the story mostly because Paolo Bacigalupi had some good things to say about it , and I like Paolo and respect his intelligence. Also, I like the efforts of various people at Weird Tales to bring the magazine into the 21st century. So I was all primed to enjoy the story. But I couldn't. There are good things about it, certainly, and I could see why it had been bought and published -- the pacing is deft, there's a very clear narrative voice, and the setting is exotic. The sett

Passarola Rising by Azhar Abidi

a review by Craig L. Gidney With the recent battles surrounding evolution, and the insidious influence of the religious right on public policy, Azhar Abidi’s debut novel, Passarola Rising is a timely (and timeless) fable. It is a philosophical romance, a distant cousin of Voltaire’s and Calvino’s work with a whimsical nod to St. Exupery. Like Voltaire—who appears in the novel—Abidi critiques the forces of organized religion and anti-intellectualism through fantasy and satire. Like Calvino and St. Exupery, Abidi has created a tall tale about flight that’s porous and full of air. The philosophy (and the physics) are decidedly featherweight, but it is an immensely enjoyable read. Abidi takes the seeds of a true story, and embellishes it with a Baron Munchausen-like glee. In the sixteenth century, Brazilian-born priest Bartolomeu Lourenco moved to Lisbon, Portugal, where he began to work on a flying machine, called the Passarola , which means "large bird"

Full Circle

Alan DeNiro : And so it comes back to emotion, and in a weird way I feel a bit like I've come full circle since when I was 15 and writing poems and stories as a tonic to alleviate my misery. The emotional responses that I write about are part of the world, and part of my engagement with it. This isn't a move toward easy therapeutic confessionalism, but rather to be unafraid to use my self as material, halfway between the public ambulatory life and the private sphere of my own thoughts. To see my imperfections and faults as, perhaps, codes themselves that can at one point be reinterpreted on the page as hope.

Glorious Eccentrics by Mary Ann Caws

For the past couple of months, I've been dipping into Glorious Eccentrics: Modernist Women Painting and Writing , a delightful and enlightening book that offers essays on a variety of women who lived their lives according to their own senses of propriety and integrity. The essays are partly biographical, partly analytical, but the book makes no attempt to present comprehensive studies of these women -- instead, it is a celebration and reclamation of particular people in particular moments. Some of the women here are receiving attention they have long deserved, while at least one, Dora Carrington , is likely to be familiar to many general readers, at least via the movie in which Emma Thompson portrayed her. The other women in the book may be familiar to specialists or devotees in some fields: Claude Cahun (about whom I've written here before ), Paula Modersohn-Becker , Emily Carr , Dorothy Bussy , Suzanne Valadon , and Judith Gautier . Caws's tone is often light, but

A Quotation Mark Question

I've noticed recently that many of my students use single quotation marks to indicate irony. For instance, they'll write: He had such 'beautiful' hair I couldn't help but say, "Hey, Joe, is your barber a sadist?" I wonder if this is a development from email or IM or something, because it's easier to put single quotes around a bit of text than to italicize it. It's an interesting differentiation, too, because traditionally (in U.S. usage) double quotes have been able to indicate either a quotation or irony ( scare quotes ), which can be annoying, of course, but it seems to be a generally accepted usage. I actually kind of like the newer usage; there's a certain cleanliness to it. What do people in countries where single quotes are the norm do? Does the phenomenon I'm describing even exist outside the U.S.? Does it exist outside my classroom? (Actually, I've seen one blogger do it, so I'm pretty sure it does.) Is this is usag

Curse of the Zombie's Prey

From the New York Times : “28 Weeks Later” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Rabid zombies feast on living flesh, which causes their potential victims to utter an occasional obscenity.


A few links: It's Alan DeNiro Week at the LBC! The Long List for the Frank O'Connor Award for short story collections has been announced. Also announced: The List of Notable Stories for the Million Writers Award for best online fiction. I desperately need to revise and update the sidebar links on this site; with luck, I'll do so soon. When I do, I'll definitely add a bunch of blogs that are new to me, including my most recent discovery: Biology in Science Fiction .

Delany: The Polymath and Dark Reflections

On Thursday night, I went to see The Polymath, or The Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman at the TriBeCa Film Festival, and this weekend I finished reading Delany's new novel, Dark Reflections , and though I feel like both require more sustained viewing/reading before I want to commit to any deep and probing thoughts about them, here are some notes... The Polymath was both exciting and disappointing, in some ways inevitably so, because I have spent the past year studying Delany's work intensely and intensively. Thus, there was excitement because various moments of the film gave me images of things I had previously only imagined -- Delany's family, his book-encrusted apartment, etc. -- and disappointment because, of course, no film can contain the depth of information one gets from reading a writer's works. The Polymath worked best for me when it did what only its own particular medium can do -- in this case, present a particular person in particular

Oh Pure and Radiant Heart by Lydia Millet

Niall Harrison has posted links to reviews of the novels shortlisted for the Clarke Award this year, and I looked at it and thought, "Didn't I review Oh Pure and Radiant Heart somewhere other than in the best-of-the-year article for Locus Online ?" And then I realized that, indeed, I had, but that the review was not available online, having been published in the print edition of Locus . Here, then, for the sake of completism (or something) is that review: Lydia Millet builds her fourth novel from a simple extrapolation: What would happen if J. Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, and Leo Szilard, three of the designers and developers of the atomic bomb, were to find themselves transported from 1945 to the beginning of the twenty-first century? Millet fully explores this premise while balancing humor and horror, fantasy and reality, history and imagination in a book that is compulsively readable, but also thought-provoking and even disturbing. While the central plo

A Story

I missed International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day , alas, and so the following is not, technically part of that celebration. What it is, though, is a story I just don't know what to do with, and so I am offering it here for anybody who might be in desperate need of something to read. It is the only piece of fiction I have written deliberately aimed at what is often called the YA market -- teenagers, basically. I wrote it a couple years ago for an anthology someone I knew was putting together of "outsider" stories for teens. She ended up rejecting it because, she said, it didn't fit with the rest of what she had. That might have just been a nice way of saying she didn't like it. Nonetheless, I'm fond of much of the story, and a couple friends who have read it have told me to keep sending it out places, but I really don't know of a place where it would feel at home, and I don't have much confidence in it as anything much more than an experimen