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Showing posts from December, 2004

Read and Appreciated 2004

Over at Fantastic Metropolis, some lists of things read and appreciated in 2004 have begun appearing, including lists from Zoran Zivcovic and Paul Witcover and, well, me. More will, I'm sure, be posted in the coming days and weeks.

Happy new year, everyone.

Boobs and Poop: The Road to Wellville

There are some things a person shouldn't admit in public, and a fondness for the movie The Road to Wellville is probably one of them. But these have been sad, depressing days out in the Real World, and so I can't resist spending at least a few (perhaps ill-considered) words on a movie I should not admit having seen numerous times of my own free will.

The Road to Wellville is based on T.C. Boyle's amusing novel of the same name (a book that is rather different from the film in tone and temperament). The story is historical, and surprisingly accurate -- after seeing the movie and reading the novel, I did some research (I think I got Gerald Carson's Cornflake Crusade from the library) and was amazed to see that Boyle and then Alan Parker, the director of the film, had only slightly exaggerated the story of John Harvey Kellogg.

In the movie, Kellogg is played by Anthony Hopkins. It is my favorite role of his, which is probably something else I shouldn't admit in pub…

Susan Sontag

SusanSontaghasdied.

(If you've never read any of Sontag's critical writings, Ed Champion provides some good links to essays, interviews, and miscellanea.)

I've read Against Interpretations and Other Essays numerous times and have kept a copy nearby since the early years of college. First, it taught me that there was a lot I didn't know about the worlds of literature and film, and, indeed, the world itself. Then it provided me with ways of thinking about aesthetic experiences. Ever since, it has offered familiar words along with something different to argue with and against each time. I've never felt compelled to agree with Sontag, but I've always felt compelled to read her, to reread her, to think about what she has to say. There are other writers of essays and criticism that I enjoy more, certainly many whose tastes are closer to mine, but none whose work has so frequently caused me to re-evaluate not only what I value, but how.

One of the things that I ha…

Linkdump

First and most importantly, if you're interested in giving money to support relief organizations in Asia after the earthquake and tsunami, here are some links:Command Post has an updated list of organizations seeking help

Oxfam America's Asian Earthquake Fund (you can find other regions' Oxfam sites from here)

Unicef

Doctors Without Borders

American Red Cross and British Red Cross

Boing Boing is keeping a list of Southeast Asian bloggers who are posting news about the effects of the disaster

They also point to tsunamihelp.blogspot.com, which, Xeni Jardin says, "is shaping up to be something of a central clearinghouse on the aftermath, and relief efforts."It seems odd to switch topics from something so important, but that's the nature of this medium, so here are some links on other subjects:Carl Zimmer's excellent science weblog The Loom links to a detailed look at the science in Michael Crichton's new book by Real Climate, a group weblog put together by ni…

"Stone Animals" by Kelly Link

If Kelly Link isn't the best short story writer in the U.S., then she's the equal of whoever is. I first came to this conclusion a couple of years ago when I read her story "Lull" in Conjunctions: 39, and I am absolutely certain of it now that I have read "Stone Animals" in Conjunctions: 43. (Of course, I've also read her collection Stranger Things Happen, but, much as I admire it, nothing in that book is as breathtaking as the stories she has written since it appeared, particularly the two Conjunctions stories.)

"Stone Animals" both employs and parodies the basic elements of suburban psychological realism, the sort of scaffolding John Cheever and so many other writers hung their words and laundry on: a family buying a house and moving into it, a father commuting to a desultory job in the city, a pregnant wife who is uncertain about her marriage, suspicions and allegations of adultery, existentially anxious children, a controlling boss, str…

Fantastic Fantastic Metropolis

As far as I know, no official announcement has been made, but I'm going to break the news anyway, since I just discovered it: Fantastic Metropolis has molted and is arising with an easy-to-navigate new design (one that's rather bloglike, actually) and new content appearing as fast as Luis Rodrigues, the indefatigable editor-in-chief and webdesigner, can get it posted.

The new content is phenomenal, with lots of things by and about Rikki Ducornet: two works of fiction ("The Neurosis of Containment" and "Wormwood"), a gallery of her art, two essays ("Silling" and "The Deep Zoo"), and an academic essay by M.E. Warlick about images of alchemy in Ducornet's novels and art.

There is also a reprint of Jeffrey Ford's appreciation of Akutagawa Ryunosuke's story "The Hell Shade", which is part of Jeff's "virtual anthology", an ongoing project.

There are many fine things in the archives, too. For instance, Alan …

December IROSF

The latest Internet Review of Science Fiction is now available (and still free!), and includes a review I wrote of the new edition of Michael Moorcock's Wizardry & Wild Romance: A Study of Epic Fantasy, an odd and cantankerous book that, overall, I'm quite fond of.

IROSF is late coming out because founding editor John Frost suddenly had to resign (personal reasons -- no scandal or anything as far as I know). The editorial in the new issue is optimistic about the future, though. Apparently, money has not yet run out, and lots of people have volunteered their services. I was worried that IROSF would go the way of so many internet ventures, dying before it really lived, but I'm glad to know that's not likely to be the case. I enjoyed working with John, wish him all the best, and look forward to seeing what happens next with the magazine.

Books are Now Trivial Pursuits

The Rake pointed out an article in the Christian Science Monitor about -- are you ready? -- Trivial Pursuit: The Book Lover's Edition. The article also mentions another game that sounds immensely enticing: Booktastic, where "Players move around a board that shows a town made up only of bookstores, reading rooms, and cafes."

By the way, if you're looking for good sources of interesting board games (which the Europeans -- especially Germans -- seem to take far more seriously than Americans), check out Funagain Games. And Board Game Geek is a site filled with treasures, too.

Quote for the Day

To the best of our knowledge, every culture has engaged in some sort of mapping. The question has never been whether to make maps, but what to select for inclusion and how to represent it, given that any map is, as Mark Monmonier says, "but one of an indefinitely large number of maps that might be produced from the same data."

Cartographers must continually confront the fact that there is no such thing as objective presentation. All maps are like the Way Finder in that, in the name of usefulness, they must assume a bias. The first lie of a map -- also the first lie of fiction -- is that it is the truth. And a great deal of a map's, or story's, or poem's authority results from its ability to convince us of its authority. While we expect realistic writing to be accurate when it refers to the world we know, in fiction and poetry, authority has relatively little to do with objective reportage, or simply getting the facts right. [...]

Early in 1942 President Roos…

Fantasy & Modernism

The November issue of The New York Review of Science Fiction contains a frustrating, though thought-provoking, essay by Tom La Farge titled "Collage and Map". The essay attempts to delineate the differences between fantasy fiction and Modernist fiction, and in the issue's editorial, David Hartwell writes, "I hope to finish another essay of my own on sf and Modernism in the relatively near future. I really believe that it is a common strength of the fantasy and sf genres that they are historically in opposition to Modernism in the United States."

I won't deny that SF and Modernism have created different forms of art, nor that each mode has its strengths and weaknesses, nor that proponents of one have seldom been proponents of the other. But the techniques of both Modernism and SF are now such ubiquitous parts of American culture that keeping the two separate, or insisting on the purity of either, seems not only like a lost cause, but a silly one.

To his …

A Merry Miéville ChristmasTM

China Miéville has just published a science fiction Christmas story at The Socialist Review, and it's great fun:I haven't got shares in YuleCo, and I can't afford a one-day end-user licence, so I couldn't have a legal party. I'd briefly considered buying from one of the budget competitors like XmasTym, or a spinoff from a non-specialist like Coca-Crissmas, but the idea of doing it on the cheap was just depressing. I wouldn't have been able to use much of the traditional stuff, and if you can't have all of it, why have any? (XmasTym had the rights to Egg Nog. But Egg Nog's disgusting.) Those other firms keep trying to create their own alternatives to proprietary classics like reindeer and snowmen, but they never take off. I'll never forget Annie's underwhelmed response to the JingleMas Holiday Gecko.

No, like most people, I was going to have a little MidWinter Event, just Annie and me. So long as I was careful to steer clear of licenced products…

Most Neglected Book of the Year: What You Said

At the beginning of the month, I put out a call for people's opinions on the most neglected book of the year. Some people responded in the comments, some emailed me, and some responded on their own blogs. Here's what I've heard about so far -- feel free to add more in the comments to this post.

Kelly Shaw emailed with: "I'd say Peter Straub's In the Night Room. Straub's done some amazing stuff with his last 2 books and, though he gets some respect from the mainstream and publications like Locus, I think he deserves to be uttered in the same breath as the giants of the genre (Wolfe, Hand, Powers, etc .). So, though not obscure, I feel In The Night Room is under appreciated and is probably my favorite book published in '04."

Nick Mamatas suggested The Course of the Heart by M. John Harrison and Compositions for the Young and Old by Paul G. Tremblay.

Mentioned in the comments to the original post were Deadfolk by Charlie Williams, Prisoners of Wa…

Mid-December SF Site

The mid-December issue of SF Site has been posted, and it includes not only my review of Alchemy, but also an interview by Jeff VanderMeer of artist Alan M. Clark and a particularly interesting and thoughtful review by Chris Przybyszewski of the new Fantasy Masterworks (UK) edition of John Gardner's Grendel. (I think Jeff Ford wrote the introduction, though Przybyszewski doesn't mention it. When I wrote about Gardner a few months ago, Jeff emailed me a draft of the introduction, and it was fascinating. Very much worth the price of admission, even if you've already got a copy of the book.)

Sources of Alchemy

I just got back from chaperoning students on a field trip in Boston for two and a half days, so I haven't been able to fix an oversight from the previous post until now. I praised the little magazine Alchemy, but because there is no online presence for it, I did not have anything to link to. I intended at least to link to some places that sell copies, but was in a hurry, so didn't. Here, then, are two good places from which to purchase copies of Alchemy:Small Beer Press

Clarkesworld BooksI don't know of any non-U.S. sources, but there may be some -- if you know of one, please add it in the comments. And you can always go searching around through Locus's list of bookstores.

(Posts of substance will resume by this weekend, I expect.)

Small Press Roundup -- Now with 100% More Batshit!

By putting off other projects and not responding to email, I have managed to finish reading all of the small press SF/fantasy/whatever magazines in my possession from 2004. Here are some summary judgments:

Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet continues to be my favorite 'zine, but it had worthy competition this year. LCRW has only managed to get out one issue so far this year, because the editors, Gavin Grant and Kelly Link, apparently think they should spend time writing things themselves, publishing and publicizing books with their Small Beer Press, and preparing the fantasy part of next year's Year's Best Fantasy & Horror collection. Where they found time to put out one issue, I don't know, but issue 14 has some marvelous work in it, and no real disasters. The marvel of LCRW is the variety of material presented: everything from weird science fiction to softly odd mainstream stories. The most common sort of tales are offbeat fantasy, though, and these tend …

Linkdump

Because there's nothing new here at the moment, I'm sending you away...

Strange Horizons is surveying their readership. Go tell them you want more stuff that you want. And that you appreciate their efforts. Because you should. (Or not. Because if you're letting me control your life, then ... well ... I have a few other suggestions...)

I don't think I've praised the Censoround blog before, and I should have. In times like ours, a blog about censorship is, sadly, a busy one.

And speaking of censorship, repeat after Teresa Nielsen Hayden: Gerald Allen is stupider than dirt. (Which is insulting to dirt, I know, but work with me here, people!)

Space Art in Children's Books 1883-1974(via Mr. Sun via Maud Newton)

Nalo Hopkinson on Ursula LeGuin's reaction to comments by the director of the TV miniseries of the Earthsea books (scroll down to the 11/13/04 announcement).

Robert Birnbaum interviews Francisco Goldman

At Crooked Timber: John Quiggan on Jonathan Str…

Openings

I've been reading The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories edited by BenMarcus, and it's caused all sorts of conflicting, half-formed, murky thoughts for me. It's an extraordinary book in its range and ecumenical editing (it has been accurately, insightfully reviewed by Kristin Livdahl, Priya Jain, or Laird Hunt).

I tried to write a post about Charles McGrath's review in the NY Times (a review Maud Newton accurately labeled "passive aggressive"), but I failed, because I found myself repeatedly getting tangled in McGrath's incoherence.

What I discovered while writing that failed post, though, was that I wanted to say something about how stories begin. Not their gestation, but their first paragraphs. Here are some first paragraphs from books I have within arm's reach at the moment:Two glass panes with dirt between the little tunnels from cell to cell: when I was a kid I had an ant colony.
(Samuel R. Delany, "The Star Pit")

The lucidity…

Ultra-Limited Edition Guy Davenport

I just received an email from David Eisenman, who has been helping to put together a 100-copy definitive edition of Guy Davenport's novella "Wo es War, Soll Ich Werden". Here's the official announcement: December, 2004. A new Guy Davenport limited edition has been published by The Finial Press.

WO ES WAR, SOLL ICH WERDEN: THE RESTORED ORIGINAL TEXT presents the novella that Davenport has said is "my best shot in fiction" in a text that is 35% longer than the previously-published version.

FOR PHOTOS OF THE BOOK BEING MADE, DETAILS, AND LINK TO THE PUBLISHER, SEE www.guydavenport.comI have praised Davenport in the past, though I have primarily known him for his criticism and have only recently begun to read his fiction. "Wo es War..." is legendary in Davenport circles, and rumors of longer versions have circulated for years.

What I most like about the new limited edition is that the publishers are committed to getting it into the hands of re…

Constraints of Mundanity

This may be risky, but I wonder if it is possible to draw a line connecting two conversations happening at the moment...

Point A is the discussion between Dan Green and Derik Badman about what is or isn't literary constraint.

Point B is the recently-created Mundane SF Blog and the variousconversations the whole concept of a Mundane SF movement has sparked.

In the Asimov's forum discussion, Jack Skillingstead makes a parenthetical remark that begins to chart a course between points A and B: "Not a bad idea in terms of a story telling net (if you try to play without a net the game gets sloppy; other nets: viewpoint/ wordcount/ beginnings-middles-etc.)"

Robert Frost once suggested that writing free verse poetry is like playing tennis without a net (wouldn't that be racquetball?), and many writers create nets for themselves of some sort or another, a way to limit the infinity of possibilities that a blank page suggests. Constraints are, obviously, one way of strin…

Notable Moments of December 7

Some of my favorite people were born on December 7: Tom Waits, Noam Chomsky, my mother...

In addition to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, some other things happened on this day in history. Willa Cather and Leigh Brackett were born; Thomas Nast, Rube Goldberg, Thornton Wilder, and Robert Graves died. In 1872, according to a correspondent to the Birmingham Morning News, people saw "something like a haycock hurtling through the air. Like a meteor it was accompanied by fire and a dense smoke and made a noise like a railway train. 'It was sometimes high in the air and sometimes near the ground.' The effect was tornado-like: trees and walls were knocked down. It's a late day now to try to verify this story, but a list is given of persons whose property was injured. We are told that this thing then disappeared 'all at once.'" In 1900, Scientific American reported that a "fountain of light [was] observed to play upon the planet Mars for 70 minutes."…

Most Neglected Book of the Year

All sorts of best of the year lists have been appearing recently, and Jonathan Strahan has been thinking about a few of them. He poses a good question:Given that I've just embarked on helping to compile Locus's annual recommended reading issue, I'm curious what blog readers think of such things. Are they worthwhile? Are they anything more than fun?Personally, I like seeing all the lists, but purely out of interest in what people hold onto after a year of reading. If they are worthwhile for me, they're worthwhile in pointing out books I might have neglected otherwise.

Therefore, why don't we encourage more "most unjustly neglected books of the year" lists? I've read more stories than books this year, so my own opinion is nearly useless, though if forced to choose, I'd say the book I read this year that deserves more attention than it has gotten so far is probably The Labyrinth by Cathrynne M. Valente, although it has gotten some good word-of-mou…

ParkeHarrison

Image
Since discovering their work in Orion Magazine a year or so ago, I have noticed the photographs of Robert and Shana ParkeHarrisonhere, there, and everywhere. Many of the photographs seem oddly just right, revealing a world between the lines of our own, a shadowy place that is part past and part future, and yet oddly immediate. There's a fine mix of whimsy and gravitas, too, as if the world were falling apart and would only hold together if everyone laughed a little harder.

There is a book of the ParkeHarrisons' work, The Architect's Brother, that I have not seen, but I expect it would make a fine gift if you're looking for something to give someone with a taste for dreams and nightmares. Currently, the ParkeHarrisons' photographs can be seen in Massachusetts at the DeCordova Museum, and the Boston Globe has decided it's worthy of an article. The Providence Phoenix also has written about the ParkeHarrisons, and there's an interesting review of the show at…

December Ideomancer

Ideomancer, which used to be monthly, appears quarterly these days, but the fiction is still quite strong and the design pleasing. The best piece in the new issue by far is Chris Barzak's Vanishing Point, a reprint originally published in a "speculative literature" issue of the Canadian journal Descant. The ending of the story doesn't quite work for me (it's a little too pat, a little too easy), but everything leading up to it I found mesmerizing and emotionally affecting. Parts are humorous and absurd, though overall the story is quite sad. It does what good fantasy so often does: it finds concrete correlations for abstract emotional states.

Anyone who reads weblogs (yes, you!) will also want to read Too Many Yesterdays, Not Enough Tomorrows by N.K. Jemisin, a story that is better than its title, mixing speculations on quantum physics with the alienation of the internetted to create a truly unique apocalyptic purgatory.

There's also a strangely Arthurian…

A Quarter Million Fanzines

If you have a few thousand dollars to spare, you should consider bidding on over 250,000 science fiction fanzines for sale on eBay between now and December 8. Somebody should get a library or institution of some sort to bid on these -- this sounds like a unique and valuable collection.

(via Boing Boing)

Mid-December SF Site

The latest SF Site has been posted, with various interviews and reviews, including my own review of Neal Barrett, Jr.'s Prince of Christler-Coke. (Update 12/3: Rick Whitten-Klaw let me know that The Prince of Christler-Coke began as a short story, and that story just happens to be posted at Revolution SF. I much, much prefer the book as a short story. Thanks, Rick!)

I was also glad to see a new piece by Trent Walters, an introduction to anime. I've seen about half of the films he discusses, and agree with him almost completely (although I'd say I like Princess Mononoke equally to Spirited Away, not more than, and also have watched Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky numerous times with great enjoyment. But flying cities always make me happy for some reason.)