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Showing posts from August, 2007

"Freely Flows the Blood of Those Who Moralize"

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Too much blood?! What planet do Warner Bros. execs come from? (Planet of the Apes, clearly.) The New York Postreports:
Tim Burton has been told to tone down the gore in the screen version of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," starring Johnny Depp. The suits at Warner Bros. "became a tad squeamish when they viewed grisly footage of blood splashing across the set as Depp slits the throats of his customers," London's Daily Mail reports. In another scene that has the studio on edge, a 10-year-old boy feeds human body parts into a meat grinder to make meat pies. The movie, co-starring Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, opens in December.Sweeney Todd is all about the blood -- it's grand guignol operetta! Blood and music, baby!

I'm certainly not the only person curious to see how the various actors handle the singing, particularly Sacha Baron Cohen as Pirelli. In terms of acting, a lot of the casting seems perfect and brilliant, but …

The Day After Barzak Day

It's the day after Barzak Day, and we're still sweeping up all the confetti here at Mumpsimus Central, but I wanted to take a moment to say how much fun it was to see all the support for Chris and his book. I just updated the link post again, most notably with Liz Hand's very positive Village Voice review. Chris has plenty of good news he'll be able to share in the future, too, so keep an eye on him.

Things around here are likely to slow down for a while, because my new job starts tomorrow, and I have no idea what sort of free time I will have. I've got a couple assignments for reviews that I need to get done, reading to do for Best American Fantasy, and one big project I've been promising myself I would devote more time to, so we shall see. But this was a great way to end the summer, and I hope everybody who participated had as much fun as I did. Thanks all.

Barzak Day in the Blogosphere

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Juliet Ulman on Christopher Barzak

Bantam Senior Editor Juliet Ulman acquired Christopher Barzak's One for Sorrow and shepherded it into print.

I really have the wonderful Mumpsimus himself to thank for bringing us together. Matt and I met in person for the first time at the World Fantasy Convention in Madison, Wisconsin, and we were sitting around one night, probably resting from a bout of giggling, talking about short story authors we admired and who I'd been following. I was wishing aloud that some of my favorites had a book in them, and exclaimed in frustration, "Christopher Barzak! Now why hasn't he written a novel!?" To which Matt calmly replied, "But he has." A few minutes later, we'd established that Chris had written a novel, Matt had seen it, and Matt would pass on word that I wanted to take a look. When I got back from the convention, the manuscript was waiting for me.

Reading One for Sorrow for the first time is an experience I will never forget. I couldn't stop myself …

Barzak Day = LCRW Day

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Yes, today is Barzak Day. Obviously. But it is also, and quite appropriately,The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet Day. Yes, that fine and marvelous book is being released on the same day as Mr. Barzak's One for Sorrow.

This is appropriate not just because it's appropriate for two wonderful books to be released on the same day. That is, indeed, a good thing.

But here are some facts to consider:
Mr. Barzak's first published story was "A Mad Tea Party" in LCRW.One for Sorrow evolved from the story "Dead Boy Found", first published in Trampoline, an anthology edited by Kelly Link and published by Small Beer Press.Kelly Link is co-founder of Small Beer Press, which publishes LCRW, which she co-edits, which is how she got to be co-editor of The Best of LCRW. Oh, the tangled web she weaves!Kelly Link blurbed One for Sorrow, calling it, "An uncommonly good book with brains, heart, and bravery to spare. Readers who don't find themselves …

JPK on CB

Hugo and Nebula Award-winning writer James Patrick Kelly was an important mentor for Chris Barzak when the young Mr. B. was just beginning to figure out what it meant to be a writer. I asked Jim to join us in celebrating his protege's success, and here is what he had to say:
I first met and worked with Chris Barzak when he was knee high to an adverb at the Imagination Writers Workshop in Cleveland, Ohio back in the summer of 1997, and I remember sitting out on a sunny patio and telling him that he needed to apply to Clarion and then go on to have a career as a writer. I also have a vague memory of him staring back at me like I was perhaps addled by the heat. The next year we did let him into Clarion and I worked with him again and informed him he was already a writer, just one who hadn't published yet. I'm pretty sure he was starting to believe by then. Over the years I have watched with pride as he has proved me so very right. I have recently derived a formula that c…

Bowes on Barzak

Rick Bowes doesn't have a blog, but he's been a huge supporter of Chris Barzak for years, and so it made no sense for Barzak Day to happen without some words from him.

When asked about Barzak, here is what Bowes said:
Chris Barzak is a better dancer than any other novelist in the world. And he’s a better novelist than any dancer in the world.And:
Chris Barzak’s car just broke down, which is a sin and a shame. I think it would be lovely if a rich patron who wished to keep his or her identity a secret would buy Chris a new car. Nothing too ostentatious or sporty (because he’ll be driving it in Youngstown, after all).Something Japanese would be good. He likes that.

Barzak Day: A Q&A with Mr. B.

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To start off Barzak Day here at The Mumpsimus, I offer Chris's responses to a questionnaire I created (mostly from other questionnaires, including The Proust Questionnaire, Tom Disch's poem "Questions Your Children are Certain to Ask", a SFWA Fantasy Worldbuilding Questionnaire, a couple of Cosmo quizzes, the book Here Speeching American, and other sources).


To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
Permissiveness. I permit myself to indulge my other faults far too often. Dr. Spock didn't know what he was talking about.

Your favorite virtue?
There are too many! And from which category of virtue? Buddhist? That would be Right Mindfulness - Mental ability to see things for what they are with clear consciousness. Samurai virtues? That would be To manifest great compassion, and act for the sake of Man. Western virtues? Justice. Roman virtues? Veritas, honesty in dealing with others. Christian virtues? Love.

How do the different prohibitions grow
On fenceposts and…

Tomorrow is Barzak Day

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Chris Barzak's first novel, One For Sorrow, is officially released tomorrow, and for that auspicious occasion, I have decided to do something I've not done before -- organize a multi-blog celebration of all things Barzak. I'm calling it Barzak Day in the Blogosphere, which seems to me like a perfectly humble and unassuming title.

The idea is this: various bloggers will write about Chris, about his writing, about the book -- and I will collect and link to as much of it as I know about from here, updating a post with links throughout the day. Also, there will be a couple of guest appearances here by people who have had encounters with Mr. B., and I will present a solemn and deeply meaningful exclusive Q&A with the man himself.

Colleen Lindsay will be offering an interview with Chris as well as, I think, some free copies of the book. I actually owe the whole idea of this to Colleen, because when she announced she was doing an interview on the day of the book's releas…

Kwani? and Binyavanga Get Blogs

Potash just let me know that there are two new blogs worth keeping an eye on.

First, the Kwani? literary magazine and organization now has its own blog (not to be confused with the Kwani? litfest blog). I was thrilled to see that Kwani? 4 has officially been published, and I hope copies find their way to the U.S. soon (the first three are available at various places, and are worth seeking out). I saw a preliminary edition of Kwani? 4 when I was in Kenya in December, and it's a big book rich with fiction, poetry, and nonfiction of all sorts.

Second, Binyavanga Wainaina has a blog. Actually, that should be Binyavanga Wainaina has a blog!!!, because it gives me great joy that one of the most astute writers I know is now going to be (at least occasionally) posting new material online. Binyavanga is presenting not only some of his own writing, but that of writers he knows and admires, including Jackie Lebo and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Horrifying Slapstick

I can’t control or predict how readers will respond to or understand what I’ve written, but I gather that some readers have found the violence in Jamestown quite horrifying, as I often did while writing it, while others have been inclined to read it as slapstick, as I often did while writing it. I think there are many passages in which characters are deeply disturbed by the violence done to and by themselves, while there are many others in which characters respond glibly and blithely to violence they’ve witnessed or perpetrated. Why write (or intend to write) violence that sometimes feels real and sometimes fake and stylized? I think as a way of representing both the experience of violence and the representation of violence: violence as violence and violence as spectacle. To put it another way, I meant to wr…

Sans

Good Times

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Since moving to Hoboken, lots of people have asked, "How are you doing? Are you settled? Are you euphoric? Are you crazy?" I tend to mumble an answer, trying to find a word that sounds simultaneously like yes and no. Even though this particular part of the Earth is one of my favorites, there's nothing easy about pulling up stakes after a decade of pretty stable living.

I tend to avoid blog posts about my life and all that, partly because there's not a whole lot of all that to it, but I do want to take this lazy Saturday to chronicle a few things and offer some public thank yous. I start work at a new school this coming week, and before I get all tangled up in that post-summer life, I want to preserve here a few great moments.

I owe thanks for sustenance and company to all sorts of people, including Gordon van Gelder, Liz Gorinsky, Juliet Ulman, and other friends new and old. Including one I'll mention at the end of this post.

Rick Bowes is one of the great pe…

A Golden Age

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At The Valve, John Holbo just posted this cover from the June 1953 issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries:
Yes, indeed -- Ayn Rand and Franz Kafka in one pulp magazine together! But it's better than that. Here's the entire table of contents:
Worms of the Earth by Robert E. Howard
Pendulum by Ray Bradbury and Henry Hasse
Bernie Goes to Hell by Arthur Dekker Savage
Find the Happy Children by Benjamin Ferris
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Haunted Hostel by Emma L'Hommedieu Frost
Dirge (Aztec) by Louis M. Hobbs
Anthem by Ayn RandYes, Robert E. Howard, Ray Bradbury, Ayn Rand, and Franz Kafka all in one issue! (All reprints -- I would love to know what went through Mary Gnaedinger's mind as she put it together...) As noted at The Valve, this was the final issue of FFM, "after which the magazine evidently died of confusion."

This is apparently a particularly rare issue -- the least expensive copy I could find on the internet is going for $61, and it usually sells …

Happy Birthday Señor Borges

Sacco & Vanzetti

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executed August 23, 1927

It's a day after the death of Grace Paley, who lived a great life, and who I was certain would live forever.

I'm sure Paley would be happy we have such respect for her, but I suspect she'd want us to think less about her death than about the eightieth anniversary of the deaths of Sacco&Vanzetti. Alright then. I'm still too stunned at the idea of a world without Grace Paley to offer any coherent thoughts on her or her work, but I can fire up some Woody Guthrie and reflect on the executed men.

The Sacco & Vanzetti case was, after all, a lightning rod for controversy and passion in the 1920s, eventually gaining attention from around the world. It inspired writers and artists and contributed to many people's radicalization, at least for a little while.

Here's what Time, in a curious journalistic prose-poem, said afterward:
Editor Waldo Cook of the much-venerated Springfield, (Mass.) Republican, was among those who called on Governor …

Jamestown Week Begins

This is the beginning of Jamestown week at the LBC, with much fun and excitement promised. I'm putting together at least one post about the book, but for now will offer some links of related, or even unrelated, interest:
An interview with Matthew Sharpe at Failbetter.comA reading by Matthew Sharpe at NPRA Q&A with Sharpe at New York magazine
A TimeOut New York article about Sharpe and JamestownMore Sharpe & Jamestown links from Scott Esposito
John Clute's review: "It is in this treating of its characters as soft-shoe, and of the world(s) they do their numbers on as an extremely slippery stage, that Jamestown seems so 21st-century, so surprisingly capable of making the reader feel that it has been told from some point far beyond the events remembered and anticipated between its opening and its closing curtain."Ed Park's review: "On any given page, Sharpe can swing contagious exuberance ('How unpleasant and interesting it is to be alive!') and ap…

More Bests

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Three new best-of-the-year anthology series have been created, and as a series editor of one such thing, I feel obliged to alert you to others.

First, Lawrence Schimel -- author of (among other things) the poetry collection Fairy Tales for Writers and editor of (among other things) The Future Is Queer -- alerted me a little while ago to a project he's associated with:
BEST GAY POETRY edited by Lawrence Schimel
and
BEST LESBIAN POETRY edited by Linda Alvarez

For the 2008 editions of this exciting new series celebrating the best in gay/lesbian poetry, A Midsummer Night's Press invites submissions of poems published during 2007.

More information available via this link.And just a few minutes ago I learned of a new series being started by Dan Wickett and his pals at Dzanc Books:
The Best of the Web anthology will be the first comprehensive print anthology to represent the vast array of contemporary online literature on an annual basis, bringing the world of web journals to a greater audi…

Collaged, Reclaimed, Altered, Eroded, Revised, Invigorated

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Via Giornale Nuovo, I just discovered the work of Brian Dettmer, an Atlanta-based artist. Dettmer specializes in the transformation of old objects, many of them books (dictionaries, medical and scientific texts, histories), which he meticulously digs into and carves up. In some of his most recent work, he has even cored the books to create an extraordinary effect -- they look to me like blocks of wood in which worlds of words and little pictures have ripened, entangled, and exploded.

Dettmer doesn't just create new worlds with old books; he also transforms other objects -- for instance, building a lovely rosebush from old videocassettes, or creating what looks like a rotted animal carcass from cassette tapes. In 2003, he moved from manipulating objects to manipulating sound, sculpting "ReAddress" from George W. Bush's 2002 State of the Union Address: "A few minute minutes of recorded sound became hundreds of separate audio files that become recontextualized wh…

Four Years

Four years ago, I posted the first entry on this blog, a simple dictionary definition of the title. The next day, I said what I thought the whole thing was about. Then I posted a review of my friend Jim Kelly's story "Mother".

I had no idea what I was doing, in every sense of that phrase.

What most amazes me is how much has changed in four years. I feel like a grizzled old man, because way back then we didn't have all these fancy-shmancy interfaces -- we had to learn some HTML code! (I can just imagine what those of you who've been doing this for 10 years or more think of us whippersnappers...) Litblogs were few and far between. Not many people were blogging about science fiction in particular, which is what I started with, though soon I ended up throwing in whatever I happened to be reading or thinking about.

According to Blogger, there are 936 posts here so far (with this being the 937th). The wordcount must be in the hundreds of thousands. The archives ar…

GID and Transgender Links

Regarding my "Born to Choose" post, a friend gently suggested the whole discussion gets more complex, thorny, and controversial if you include discussion of transgender issues. This is very true, and though I had considered adding something about the controversy over Gender Identity Disorder (GID), my knowledge of that subject is superficial, and I figured I was going out on enough of a limb already that I probably shouldn't risk inadvertently simplifying a subject so vital to people's lives and livelihoods.

My friend made the useful distinction (which she says may have come from Julia Serano) between de-pathologization of transgenderism and de-medicalization of it, with the former being desirable and the latter not so much, given how much distress trans people can be in before they can get support or therapy, or before they are able to transition.

Though I can't offer an informed opinion on this topic, what I can do is provide some links to discussions of GID by …

Rupert Thomson in NYC

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Tomorrow night, August 17, Maud Newton will be interviewing Rupert Thomson at the McNally Robinson bookstore in Manhattan at 7pm. I'm going to try to be there, but don't let that stop you from attending.

Thomson wrote one of my favorite novels of recent years, Divided Kingdom, many scenes of which still remain remarkably vivid in my mind. I also had great melancholic fun with it when it was a LitBlog Co-op nominee. (I haven't read any of Thomson's other books yet, but I will, I will...)

Born to Choose

While I was away, I lost some hours of my life by watching CNN, something I don't normally do, because I don't have a TV (not because I'm a TV-hater, though I do think TV news gets more awful every time I watch it, but because I would never get anything done if I had a TV -- I find it completely addictive, regardless of quality). There was a story in rotation about the HRC/Logo forum where the various Democrats in the presidential primary were invited to talk about same-sex marriage and occasional other topics. The CNN report made it seem that candidate Bill Richardson was a troglodyte for his response to a question posed by Melissa Etheridge: "Do you think homosexuality is a choice or is it biological?" Richardson responded, "It's a choice, it's, it's..." and then there was back and forth and eventually Richardson's campaign issued a statement and Barney Frank testified to Richardson's record.

I found the whole thing cringe-induci…

Stuff, with a Side of Nonsense

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I've just returned from a bit of travelling, and having not had much internet time during my travels, I probably owe you an email. In fact, if you've tried to contact me at all for the past couple months, I probably owe you an email. Please forgive me. I hope to get caught up with all correspondence and correspondents sometime before the heat death of the universe.

Some odds and ends...
I inadvertently left a big box of Asimov's magazines back in New Hampshire, so I'm not sure how well my project of meditating on the archives will work out, as I've only got various scattered issues with me now, and don't expect to be able to get the others until sometime this fall, which is probably not causing anybody any great angst, but still...While I was away, a new issue of Strange Horizons was posted, including a new column of mine and the news that the 2007 Fund Drive has been extended. (Please don't hold the continued publication of my columns against them.) Als…

"The Faithful Companion at Forty" by Karen Joy Fowler

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I recently told someone that every thought I've ever had about science fiction and fantasy could probably in some way or another be blamed on Gardner Dozois'sbest of the year collection for 1985. Then I thought for a moment and said I'd have to add a few issues of Analog and Asimov's from the late 1980s as well, particularly the April 1986 and July 1987 issues of the latter, both of which were edited by Gardner Dozois.

Since it is the 30th anniversary of Asimov's this year, I thought I would delve into some back issues during the coming weeks to highlight certain stories and authors, to copy out some fun quotes, to indulge in nostalgia, to compare and contrast. No other magazine of any type has so influenced my taste, for better or worse, and I want to both admit to and examine some of that influence.

First, the story that most perplexed me when I began reading science fiction, Karen Joy Fowler's "The Faithful Companion at Forty". This tale appeared …

Spaceman Blues Day

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Some of the most fun I've recently had when reading a book was when I read Brian Slattery's debut novel, Spaceman Blues. And then some of the most fun I've recently had reviewing a book was when I wrote a review of Spaceman Blues.

The only disappointment in writing the review was knowing that readers would have to wait a while for the day when Spaceman Blues would be generally available (at least in the U.S.).

Well, that day has now come. Today is the official release day. It may still take a few days for every bookstore and library to have a copy, but you should pester them. Tell them you want your Spaceman Blues. Make demands. Be aggressive. Be the customer everybody hates. Get the book. I can't promise you'll love it as much as I do (my taste is a little odd, after all), but I'm betting most readers who like off-kilter stories will find it a worthwhile read.

(I keep updating this post. Sorry to people whose RSS readers have multiple copies of it.)

I alm…

Miscellaneous Stuffage and Stuffing

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Some random notes, observations, and links:
First, welcome to readers who are reading this blog via the Asimov's and Analog magazine websites, where we have been chosen as a blog of the month. (And no, we don't make it a habit of referring to ourselves in the first-person plural, except when we're being particularly ironic or feeling immensely self-important, but sometimes it slips out.) I'm particularly happy that this site was chosen this month, because it's the month Best American Fantasy hits the stores, and the book contains a story first published in Analog, Geoffrey Landis's marvelous robot fairy tale "Lazy Taekos". And as for Asimov's, well, unfortunately there aren't any Asimov's stories in the book, but I've been reading the magazine since the late 1980s, and hope to do some things here in honor of its current 30th anniversary, including write about at least a few of the stories included in the fine anniversary anthology Sh…