Showing posts from August, 2013

Now on Letterboxd

I've been playing around with Letterboxd, a sort of Goodreads-for-movies. I've put in a bunch of ratings and added some reviews, both from here and from an occasional film diary I've kept for the last couple years.

I expect I'll continue using it to keep track of what I've seen, and will probably continue to post short reviews there as time and desire allow. If you want to stand aghast at my bad taste, this will give you lots of opportunities.

Zulu by Caryl Férey

This review originally appeared in the print edition of Rain Taxiin the fall of 2010. I didn't realize until I read this post at Africa is a Country that the book was being made into a film starring Forrest Whitaker and Orlando Bloom. I wrote as restrained and fair a review as I could; I hated the book. But since the movie is coming out, perhaps this review is of interest.

ZULU Caryl Férey
Europa Editions ($15)
French writer Caryl Férey's Zulu isn't likely to win any awards from the South African Department of Tourism, for though the novel is as full as a guidebook with information about the country's history and culture, the story it tells is a relentlessly brutal one, and the South Africa that emerges from the narrative is a place of chaotic violence, rampant drug traffic, densely-populated slums rife with doom and disease, and corruption bursting from every level of society.
The novel is a police procedural portraying an investigation into murders that have a connection…

Ten Years

One decade ago today, I sat down and started writing blog posts here.

This is the room I wrote in:

That room no longer exists, and not just because it doesn't have all my books and papers everywhere. The house was renovated (for the first time in decades) after I left, with the area that had been my apartment pretty well gutted.

The computer I began the blog with was an iMac G3. A year later, I got the laptop that's visible in those photos.

I've been working up to this anniversary moment by writing posts about each of the years in the decade. Here they are for easy reference, along with the primary topics of the posts:
2012 [beginning to look back]2011 [some thoughts on canonical nationalism]2010 [the turn to film writing]2009 [month by month]2008 [thoughts on teaching & syllabi]2007 [the bad year]2006 [a Mumpsimus taxonomy]2005 [some old posts worth saving]2004 [Annus Mirabilis, or, Why I Owe A Lot to Neil Gaiman]2003 [the beginning] What I haven't yet said is wha…

A Decade of Archives 10: 2003

This is the tenth in a series of posts leading up to this blog's tenth anniversary today, August 18. In each post, I look back on one year, sometimes specifically and sometimes generally. All the posts can be found here.

Well, here we are. The beginning.

I started the blog after reading something in an emailed newsletter from my internet provider about Blogger. It sounded interesting, and I was curious to learn about HTML, which you needed to know the basics of to be able to format anything, so I took some of the last few days of summer vacation and played around.

I'd recently begun reading science fiction and fantasy again after a relatively long absence. The New Wave Fabulists issue of Conjunctions brought me back, showing that some interesting stuff had happened since I'd stopped reading SF with any regularity in the mid-'90s. I got interested in the writers associated with the New Weird, and, especially, the contentious discussions that surrounded it for a while. K…

A Decade of Archives 9: 2004

This is the ninth in a series of posts leading up to this blog's tenth anniversary on August 18. In each post, I look back on one year, sometimes specifically and sometimes generally. All the posts can be found here.

2004 was the first full year of The Mumpsimus. It was also the year with the largest number of posts: 319. (These days, I'm able to get out about 100 or so in a year.) And it was the year when a relatively large number of people began to notice what was going on here. That initial attention is what made me think this was not, perhaps, just a useless lark. A lark, yes, and largely useless, yes, but maybe not completely so...

The year began with a post about returning: I hadn't paid a lot of attention to the site at the end of 2003, having written one post in December and none in November. The first paragraph of that post indicates that I was still thinking of this as a site about, primarily if not exclusively, science fiction. The reason for my absence, I said,…

Against Silence

"I understand that the games will likely go on—as do most people calling for a boycott—but I don't think our outrage is useless, or unproductive. At the very least, it has brought worldwide attention to the treatment of LGBT people in Russia. Putin may not change his position on the issue, and the discrimination will certainly continue, but the gays in Russia will know they are not alone. This alone is justification enough, because there is one thing that is almost always more useless than outrage: silence."

—Eric Sasson

A Decade of Archives 8: 2005

This is the eighth in a series of posts leading up to this blog's tenth anniversary on August 18. In each post, I look back on one year, sometimes specifically and sometimes generally. All the posts can be found here.

2005 was a big year around these here parts, as the blog was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. I went to the World Fantasy Convention and wrote up a report of that experience here. It was an exciting time.

From my perspective now, though, 2005 doesn't seem like all that great a year for actual blog posts,. There are lot of them — 2005 is second only to 2004 in the number of individual posts — but most of them are quick links, bits of news, etc. The stuff that I now will just throw on Twitter, or ignore altogether.

This is reassuring, actually, because I often look back on the number of posts in 2005 and 2004 with fondness and even a certain awe — how did I ever write so much? (My life was no less busy and crazy back then; indeed, it was busier and crazier.) I …

Whither the Gay Blockbuster?

The next stage will depend on the willingness of queer publics to be both accepting and demanding, for the biggest impediment to the creation of culture is not the imagination of the creator but the receptivity of an audience. Once, a public hungry for change did its part to bring the [New Queer Cinema] to life. In the decades since, queer audiences have too often retreated into a comfort zone of familiar faces and cozy narratives. The 2010-2012 seasons give me hope that change is afoot, and the harsh economic conditions of our times, the extremity of politics, and the disparity of wealth have created an audience eager to be challenged, and to change. I think it's time for queer publics to broaden their vision once again, not shut it down for legal status, gender definition, or genre formula. The creativity of queer communities ensures that anything happening right now is "just a stage" and that, far from returning to earlier iterations as the phrase used to suggest, in…

A Decade of Archives 7: 2006

This is the seventh in a series of posts leading up to this blog's tenth anniversary on August 18. In each post, I look back on one year, sometimes specifically and sometimes generally. All the posts can be found here.

K: There are times when I'd really love to live in your world.
M: It's full of existential crises, but not a lot of headaches.
K: I've already got the existential crises, so it might be a nice change.
M: There's a reason the first album that ever made a strong impression on me was Stop Making Sense.
K: So that's your aesthetic credo?
M: No, I don't have a credo. It's just something I thought of and so I said it. It's probably not even true.

—"A Conversation After Miami Vice"
2006 seems to me an ideal year of The Mumpsimus, not because all of the posts are high quality (they aren't!) but because the diversity of posts covers just about everything I think of as Mumpsimusian. In other years, the balance has been in one parti…

Watching the Dark: Zero Dark Thirty

Some notes for the above video essay:

My viewing of Zero Dark Thirty and my ideas about it were and are influenced by ideas I first encountered in writings by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, Glenn Kenny, Steven Shaviro, and Nicholas Rombes. Their interpretations are not mine, and they should not be blamed for my failures, but I certainly owe them gratitude for whatever insights I have benefited from.

I worked on this video over a period of months, trying simply to gather a few of the motifs and visual patterns in the film (monitors, windows, surfaces, light/dark). It evolved to be something more impressionistic than that, but that was the initial concept.

A Decade of Archives 6: 2007

This is the sixth in a series of posts leading up to this blog's tenth anniversary on August 18. In each post, I look back on one year, sometimes specifically and sometimes generally. All the posts can be found here.
2007 began with an outtake from an interview I did with Juliet Ulman of Bantam Books and ended with a rather mysterious announcement on December 24 that I would need to take a break from blogging for a while. The reason for the hiatus was something I discussed in the previous post: my father's death. I last talked with him on my cell phone as I was walking home after seeing Tim Burton's movie of Sweeney Todd, a review of which was the last substantive post I wrote that year; the next afternoon, I got the call from the New Hampshire State Police. The only thing I managed to write between the announcement of my absence and then my later return was a column for Strange Horizons that adds some context to it all, "Of Muses and Ghosts".

One of the reasons …

A Decade of Archives 5: 2008

This is the fifth in a series of posts leading up to this blog's tenth anniversary on August 18. In each post, I look back on one year, sometimes specifically and sometimes generally. All the posts can be found here.

Posting in 2008 began late because in December 2007, my father died, leaving me not only with the emotional and psychological challenge of a dead parent, but also with the challenge of now being the heir to a house, property, and gun shop 300+ miles away from where I was then living. By the end of the year, I had quit my job, moved back to New Hampshire, gained a Federal Firearms License to sell off the inventory, and started work as an adjunct professor at Plymouth State University in the English Department and the Women's Studies Program. The year ended with a post noting that George W. Bush had done a wonderful thing for New Hampshire, making our sole contribution to the U.S. Presidency, Franklin Pierce, look better.

It was a relatively thin year for The Mumpsi…

"How Far to Englishman's Bay"

My story "How Far to Englishman's Bay" is now available at Nightmare Magazine for reading, or you could listen to it read by Paul Boehmer on the podcast. There's also an interview with me by Erika Holt about the story, though if you don't like to know any plot elements before reading, you should save the interview for after you've finished the story, because I blithely give away a few surprises.

I thought the above image, based partially on one from a 1909 Harper's Weekly story called "The Queer Folk of the Maine Coast" (which would be a perfect subtitle for "How Far to Englishman's Bay") more or less fit the story, so I put it together during a moment when procrastinating from something more important, and so, well, here it is.

A Decade of Archives 4: 2009

This is the fourth in a series of posts leading up to this blog's tenth anniversary on August 18. In each post, I look back on one year, sometimes specifically and sometimes generally. All the posts can be found here.

2009 began with an unremarkable post pointing to a couple of free items on the internets and ended with a post on introductory film textbooks (December 2009 began the shift toward more frequent film posts that I discussed in the 2010 commemoration). Looking back on it, 2009 seems like a year with some good specific posts, but overall I don't think of it as a banner year for the blog in any way. I've been struggling with coming up with much to say about it, in fact, so instead of trying to tie everything together artificially, I'm just going to offer a few thoughts on some of my favorite posts from the year.

First, not really a post here (though I mentioned it): an interview with me that Charles Tan did in February 2009. This gives a sense of some of what …

Cuffs, bars, guns, and Shakespeare

Malcolm Harris on Shakespeare in prison. The whole essay is excellent, but I was especially taken with two paragraphs, one from Brecht and one from Harris.

Shakespeare pushes the great individuals out of their human relationships (family, state) out onto the heath, into complete isolation, where he must pretend to be great in his decline … Future times will call this kind of drama a drama for cannibals and they’ll say that the human being was eaten as Richard III, with pleasure at the beginning and with pity at the end, but he was always eaten up. Harris:
If the carceral system is the country’s fundamental fact, then its fundamental logic is that of cuffs, bars, and guns. No readings or performances are going to change that, but they can change the way we see it from the outside. Without a story about 2,266,800 bad choices, America is just a country that keeps its underclasses in cages. Shakespeare’s drama for cannibals lends a sense of noble inevitability to a prison system t…

Spring Breakers and All

Spring Breakers is a passion play and a fairy tale, a cynical scream across the shallows, a whitesploitation flick, a trip, a send-up, a gonzo splash of earnestness enacted as amorality, a post-ironic irony of indulgence, an anthem to the twilight's eternal gleaming. It's a more faithful modern adaptation of The Great Gatsby than Baz Luhrman could have ever dreamed, and dream is the operative word here, one that floats through the incantatory voiceovers repeatedly, a word that can't help dredging up that tired, tattered, beloved phrase of nationalistic mythography: The American Dream.

And that's what's at the heart of this movie: the desires that rule our great nation: money, drugs, sex, guns. (What so proudly we hail.)

It made me think of William Carlos Williams and "To Elsie", from Spring and All. The pure products of America. Go crazy.

Nightmare Magazine issue 11

The August 2013 issue of Nightmare Magazine contains my story "How Far to Englishman's Bay", which is all about why people from New Hampshire should be careful when they travel to Maine.

The story will be available online for free next week, but why wait when you can have it for $2.99 and also get stories by Jennifer Giesbrecht, Robert McKammon, and Clive Barker, plus part 2 of a great interview with Joe Hill. There's also an "Author Spotlight" interview with each writer, including one conducted with me by Erika Holt, who asked some fun questions.

I'm especially pleased to be in an issue with an interview with Joe Hill, because years and years and years ago, back when I was young and easy under the apple boughs, I interviewed Joe about his short story collection 20th Century Ghosts, at that time only available from PS Publishing in the UK. Back then, he was just a mysterious short story writer who seemed to have popped up out of nowhere, and I interviewed…