17 June 2009

Miscellanea

I didn't intend to disappear from this blog for quite as long as I did, but I got busy with work on the manuscript of Best American Fantasy 3 (the contents of which we'll finally be able to announce next week!) and I've been teaching an online course for Plymouth State University, an interesting experience, since I've never taught classes entirely online before (nor am I all that sure it's a way I like teaching, but that's another story...)

I probably owe you an email.*

Readercon is coming up -- July 9-12. I'll be there Friday afternoon and most of Saturday. The great and glorious Liz Hand and Greer Gilman are guests of honor. The other guests ain't too shabby neither. Except for that Cheney guy. He's a putz.

Some things I've noticed out on the internets:
  • Hal Duncan wrote a little post at his blog about ethics, reviewing, criticism, etc. A few people commented. Hal wrote another little post responding in particular to comments by Abigail Nussbaum and me. Then another related post on "The Absence of the Abject". And then two posts on "The Assumption of Authority" (one, two). They're wonderfully provocative and wide-ranging essays, but as the whole is now over 20,000 words long, I haven't been able to keep up with it. But I shall return to it over the course of the summer...
  • Jeff VanderMeer has been working for what sounds to me like one of the coolest teen camps in the world, Shared Worlds, and as part of that asked a bunch of writers and other creative-type people, "What’s your pick for the top real-life fantasy or science fiction city?"
  • I accompanied Eric Schaller and family to a magnificent concert by David Byrne a few weeks ago. Byrne's earnest dorkiness has been a balm to my soul since I was a kid. He's been on The Colbert Report a couple of times in support of his tour -- here, performing one of my favorite of his new songs, "Life is Long", and here performing "One Fine Day" (in which everybody seems a bit tired). The Colbert studio isn't quite Radio City Music Hall, but still...
  • Tor.com has, in less than a year, become one of the best science fiction sites, and they've now launched a store that includes "special picks" from their great array of bloggers. (And, interestingly, though the site is allied with Tor Books, it's striven to be, as they say, "publisher agnostic", so it's not just about Tor's books.)
  • Speaking of major SF sites, I enjoyed Charlie Jane Anders's post at io9 titled "4 Authors We Wish Would Return to Science Fiction" because it includes new comments from each of the four writers discussed: Mary Doria Russell, Nicola Griffith, Karen Joy Fowler, and Samuel R. Delany.
  • I really loved Jeff Ford's post on the books he survived in primary and secondary school English classes.
  • I seem to have written yet another Strange Horizons column.
Meanwhile, I've been reading a bunch of books I haven't written about. Some just for fun -- I went on a bit of an alternative history kick, reading C.C. Finlay's The Patriot Witch (available as an authorized PDF download here) and L. Sprague de Camp's Lest Darkness Fall. The Patriot Witch attracted me because I've read some of Charlie Finlay's short stories and enjoyed them, and the book is set during the American Revolution, a time period about which I will read almost anything. The fantasy elements seemed a bit bland to me, but the scenes of the battles of Lexington and Concord were well done, reminding me of Howard Fast's April Morning, a book that, along with Johnny Tremain, was a favorite of mine when I was young. I'll probably read the next book in the "Traitor to the Crown" series because now I'm curious to see if the fantasy element develops in less familiar ways.

Lest Darkness Fall is, as many people through the decades have said, great fun, a kind of Connectic Yankee for readers who want their protagonists to be endlessly resourceful, optimistic, and lucky.

Somewhere in there, I also fit in Jack Vance's Emphyrio, an engaging example of a certain sort of classic ethnographic science fiction, something halfway between Lloyd Biggle and Ursula Le Guin.

I did a bunch of that fun, light reading because on the side I've been delving deeply into various books about British and American colonialism and imperialism for a story I keep telling myself I'm going to write: a steampunk alternate history about a mad scientist, a U.S. and British fight over Nicaragua at the beginning of the 20th century, and the atrocities it all leads to. Among the various books I've been dipping into for my researches are Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction by John Rieder, The Tools of Empire: Technology and European Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century by Daniel Headrick, The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900 by David Edgerton, Confronting the American Dream: Nicaragua under U.S. Imperial Rule by Michel Gobat, The Eclipse of Great Britain: The United States and British Imperial Decline, 1895-1956 by Anne Orde, The Sleep of Reason: Fantasy and Reality from the Victorian Age to the First World War by Derek Jarrett, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest by Anne McClintock, as well as such books of their time as Winston Churchill's My African Journey (pointed out to me by Njihia Mbitiru, who's been a big help in goading me on to write this story that I keep talking about) and The Ethiopian: A Narrative of the Society of Human Leopards. Also a couple of books I've been familiar with for a while, Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire by David Anderson and Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya by Caroline Elkins.

Clearly, I don't want to write a story -- I want to write an annotated bibliography!

Now, though, it's time to stop procrastinating and get back to work...


*Speaking of email, I've severely neglected the email address once associated with this blog (themumpsimus at gmail) because it became massively overloaded with spam (partly because I had redirected some ancient addresses at it) and sometime at the beginning of this year I made a resolution to clean it out, find real messages I'd missed, etc. I removed the link to it from this site so that people wouldn't inadvertently use it, but I expected to get it back up and working within a week. Then I kind of kept procrastinating. Every time I thought about it I suffered trauma. Now cleaning out and organizing the inbox is such a Herculean task that I may just give up and start over with a new, clean address. I don't know. I will fight through my anxieties and figure it out soon, though.

3 comments:

  1. a steampunk alternate history about a U.S. and British fight over Nicaragua at the beginning of the 20th century, a mad scientistic, and the atrocities it all leads to.

    I'd read that.

    ReplyDelete
  2. How's Imperial Leather? It's been on my Amazon wish list for about ten years, but people keep not getting it for me.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Imperial Leather was on my Amazon list for a long time, too, because when I first learned about it I wasn't near a library that had a copy. But this weekend I stumbled upon it at the university library and grabbed it. Haven't had a chance to read more than the intro yet, but the intro's good!

    ReplyDelete