28 January 2009

The Conversation, Part III: In Which I Put Parentheses in Parentheses

My conversation with Eric Rosenfield about science fiction, lit'rature, critics, etc. continues here. The focus has shifted away from critics and toward other things, and includes multiple instances of me inserting parenthetical comments into parenthetical comments, a sure sign that in the next installment, everything will collapse. Or will it? Will our hapless interlocutor die under the weight of his own contradictions and verbiage, or will he, against all odds, find a way to triumph?! Stay tuned!

25 January 2009

Writing Queer Kenya

I'm stealing this call for submissions from Potash, because I think it's a hugely important project. Please spread the word to anybody who might be able to contribute or help out:

Writing Queer Kenya

Editors: Keguro Macharia and Angus Parkinson

We lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals, in a word, queers, have had the distinct un-pleasure of being told we don't exist—in official government statements, historical documents, and contemporary statements. Well, we do.

We want Kenyan stories by Kenya-based and Kenya-born queers. About everything. We want writing about the dailyness of our lives, the good, the bad, the weird, the indifferent. If you have lived it, we want to hear about it. We especially want to reach beyond Nairobi, Mombasa, and other cities to all corners of the country. And we know the rest of Kenya, Africa, and the world wants to hear these stories as well.


We have three distinct formats. Choose what appeals to you.

1. Interviews: Tell us your story. Get in touch with us and we'll arrange an interview. We value your time and your confidentiality. Not sure you want to meet us directly? We have phones and email and all manner of ways to make this happen.
2. Letters to Kenya: Write (or unearth) a 500-1,000-word letter. To whom? Parents, pastors, the government, best friends, former friends, present lovers, former lovers, the person you really want to tune. Get personal, get intimate. Say what you really want to say!
3. Personal narratives: Write (or unearth) a 2,500-3,000-word narrative about the dailyness of being queer. The high points, low points, the endless plateaus, the quick glances, indrawn breaths of desire, domestic thrills, sexual boredom, beginnings and endings. If you write it, we'll consider it.

All submissions should be typed, double-spaced, and submitted electronically to queerkenya AT gmail.com. If you can't type, don't want to, or can't get hold of an email program that functions, get in touch with us. We can help.

How You Can Contribute

1. Get the word out. Convince your friends with hidden manuscripts or stories that must be shared to un-closet them.
2. Send us encouraging emails. We need your good wishes, your fabulously good wishes.
3. Volunteer time! We need all the help we can get.
4. Take ownership. We're editing, sure, but these are our collective stories.

Important Dates

April 30, 2009: Deadline to Receive Submissions
June 30, 2009: Selected Contributors Contacted
Publication: December 2009.

Questions? We're glad to answer. Please contact us at queerkenya AT gmail.com

21 January 2009

The Conversation, Part II: In Which I Write My Epitaph

Because the first part of my conversation with Eric Rosenfield about "science fiction" and "criticism"* didn't cause enough annoyance, controversy, or discussion, part two is now available for your viewing pleasure. And there will be more to come -- I think we totalled about 15,000 words by the end, because neither of us had time to write more succinctly.

It's been strange to watch it being read, first because, as I said before, we didn't decide to make it public until near the end, and also because it's now coming out in installments. I've refrained from commenting anywhere about people's objections or corrections or etc. to it, because later installments address some of the questions and objections.

In this second part, one of the most important sentences from the whole conversation appears: "Terminology always defeats me." I wouldn't mind that for an epitaph.

*quotes necessary now because one of the assumptions not entirely obvious from the conversation is that I, at least, knew I was working from idiosyncratic definitions of all those words. I used "science fiction" to mean all sorts of stuff that gets called science fiction, fantasy, horror, slipstream, etc., and I used a definition of "criticism" that was extremely narrow -- I probably should at least have used the term "theory" or "academic theory" or "academic literary theory within a structuralist/post-structuralist context as interpreted within English-speaking academic institutions over the last 30 or so years, at least as I am limitedly familiar with it all" or somesuch, but, you know, when you're writing quickly you don't want to keep typing long phrases... Some of the discussion later, though, probably wouldn't have been as fruitful if I had been explicit in my assumptions. Indeed, the fruitfulness (or prolixity) of the discussion was a result, I think, of our misreadings of each other, various texts, and, I expect, reality (a word which, as Nabokov said, means nothing without quotes).

In Arizona

I just got back from eight days in Arizona, visiting friends and family, taking a reprieve from the snow. It turned out to be a good time to be away -- various friends from New Hampshire emailed and texted me photos of thermometers reading temperatures well below zero (-14, -19 Fahrenheit). I returned to somewhat better temperatures (getting into the 20s during the day) and a lot of new snow that needed to be shoveled.

Here are links to a couple of Picasa photo albums of places we went that were particularly photogenic, at least to me. The first is from the art installation by Dale Chihuly at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. The second is from a visit to the Cosanti Originals workshop (established by Paolo Saleri, who still lives there), where lots of ceramic bells and tiles are made.

Chihuly in Arizona


My favorite photo of the trip, though, is one I took of a friend of mine's son jumping into a pool in Tucson:

And, finally, the view from my bedroom window at home:

14 January 2009

A Conversation on Criticism, Science Fiction, and Other Stuff

Eric Rosenfield was exploring the world of critical writing about science fiction, and he emailed me some questions and ideas, and I responded, and then he responded, and somewhere along the line he asked if he could post the conversation on his site, Wet Asphalt. I was scared at first, since I'd just been irresponsibly throwing ideas around without really polishing them in the way I would even for a blog post, but I didn't say anything truly scandalous, so said okay.

Part 1 of the conversation has now been posted.

It feels very strange to have such naked yakking out there for the world to see, and I hope people will forgive my contradictions, misrepresentations of other people's ideas, generalities, unsupported opinions, ignorances, insults, etc. Perhaps somewhere in it all, there's something useful. Until the last one or two emails, it really was just us throwing ideas around.

01 January 2009


In honor of the new year, let me point you toward some free things that have been giving me much enjoyment over the past week.

First, Will Oldham (aka Bonnie "Prince" Billy)! This week, The New Yorker has a profile of this great American singer-songwriter. If you want to sample some of his music, you can get four legal, free downloads at Daytrotter. (His version of "Goodbye Dear Old Stepstone" is gorgeous. To hear Bascom Lamar Lunsford's version, go to this marvelous page of free mp3s of recordings from the '20s and '30s.) My first exposure to Oldham was through his acting -- his performance as the child preacher Danny in one of my favorite movies, Matewan. Much later, I heard he was a musician. I was skeptical -- actors who become musicians, bah! But one day Meghan McCarron and I were driving from Brooklyn to New Hampshire, and she gave me control of her iPod, and I discovered she had the Superwolf album that Oldham did with Matt Sweeney. I loved it. I bought a copy. Suddenly I no longer thought of Tom Waits as writing the saddest and most beautiful songs in the world. For a taste of that album, check out the music video of "I Gave You".

The other free item this week is a real wonder -- a screenwriting software called Celtx that is, as far as I can tell so far, at least the equal of Final Draft, with what I find to be a more useful interface (similar in some ways to Scrivener, in fact). I'm working on a little screenplay project with a friend, but hadn't done any screenwriting in a couple years, and my copy of Final Draft was owned by my previous employer, so I couldn't re-activate it, and even if I could afford a copy of my own, which I can't right now, I'd never been happy enough with it that I would have felt comfortable spending the money. After writing 40 pages in Word, I was frustrated enough that I decided to see if there was any simple, cheap solution -- I would have been happy with anything that made formatting simpler than Word does. Celtx does much, much more than that. Hooray for open source projects! If Celtx had been priced like Scrivener (which is underpriced for what it does), I would have bought it in a second after trying it, but it really is free. Development of it seems to have continued pretty quickly, too, so I expect some of the various features people are suggesting will be added. It's designed to be not just a screenwriting program, but a pre-production organizer, and I bet some of its tools would be useful to people writing novels or working on projects of various sorts. It's really an extraordinary program.