Showing posts from June, 2005

Susie Bright Presents: Three Kinds of Asking for It

Below is the first of a series of guest reviews of forthcoming or recent books, this one a collection of erotic novellas reviewed by Torger Vedeler. If you're curious about his own fiction, Torger is the author of Intersect: A Love Story . Susie Bright Presents: Three Kinds of Asking for It Reviewed by Torger Vedeler "Be careful what you wish for." We've all heard these words, have all had them told to us at one time or another. They form the basis of cautionary tales, of warnings, a healthy counterpoint to fantasy stories where there is a happily ever after, a reminder to us all that in the real world few stories end like Cinderella. Fantasies, of course, particularly sexual ones, desire a happy ending, an orgasm, true love. They are based ultimately on the desire to get what you wish for, to have that thing you cannot actually have. And so it is with more than a touch of irony that the three novellas in Susie Bright's erotica collection Three Kinds of Askin

A Perfect Example of Bad Reviewing

One of the problems in the SF field is that, in general, the reviewing is just so bad -- not negative, but cautious, general, fueled by hype, uncritical, and useless as anything other than a statement of, "I liked it," or "I didn't like it". There are certainly exceptions, and the problem is not limited to SF, but it is pervasive.* When the Dark Cabal blog started out, I had hopes that the pseudonymous writers would use their pseudonymity to say things with some force, much as was done with Cheap Truth in the '80s. I'd hoped for some fireworks and bloodsport. Instead, the blog has been incredibly dull, and nothing has yet been said that justifies the writers hiding behind false names. But I am grateful to one of their writers, who has taken up the ferocious name of Safe Light, for providing two paragraphs that are the epitome of reviewing at its worst, in a short post about Richard Bowes's story "There's a Hole in the City" : I fi

A Few Quick Notes

Things are going to slow down here for a little bit, for mundane reasons of everyday life. Soon there will be a bunch of reviews by various guest reviewers, though, and I'll try to post at least a little bit each week myself. And now some things to note: The best short story collection of the year has finally been released: Magic For Beginners by Kelly Link (you can find out more at the Small Beer Press site for it). I've read most of the book now, though haven't yet had a chance to read the title novella. Many of the stories I read when they were first published, but I liked them even more on returning to them, and the new stories are equally wonderful. This is inventive, intelligent, elegant fiction from a writer who truly deserves that over-utilized adjective unique . There are only a handful of short story writers whose work I read with as much pleasure and excitement as Kelly's, and as impressed as I was with her previous collection, I think this one is vast

Gadzooks! Good 'Zines!

I sat down to write a review of a recent 'zine (that is, little little magazine) and decided I didn't like this particular issue as much as some past ones, so I passed on it, but then I went and caught up with some others that had been waiting patiently for attention, and then I started making connections in my head, and began to write those connections down, and now I'm 3,000 words into an article about some of them -- an article that may, once I actually read it, prove to be idiotic and in need of being put out of its misery, so I thought I should point you toward the new issues of 'zines that are most definitely worth your money, because if I wait to do it till I've finished the article ... well, it might never get done, and these fun little publications deserve at least a bit of support: First, Christopher Rowe and Gwenda Bond edit Say... [insert question here] , and the latest (fifth) issue is Say...Have You Heard That One? . They're having a subscription

An Entirely Informal Conversation about Howl's Moving Castle

To do a formal review of Howl's Moving Castle , I would want to see it again, and see the subtitled version rather than the dubbed. But there were a number of images, questions, and moments that stayed with me, and I wanted to work through a few of them, so I asked Geoffrey Goodwin, with whom I watched Howl , if he wouldn't mind doing a completely informal discussion of the movie, and he agreed. (Note: One of the references that recurs in the discussion is to something we talked about while trekking around Cambridge in search of the theatre where Howl was playing: We thought it might be fun to create a new Latest Dark Cabal . I don't remember why we settled on the title we did, but it amused us at the time.) GG: Are we going to do this under our real names or as Dark Cabal II: Babies with Weaponry? MC: Definitely The Latest Latest Dark Cabal: Babies with Weaponry. You said after the movie that you were surprised you cared as much about Howl as you did. Have you thought


New is the new black, so here are some news, although a lot of them were found by other people, so they may not be news to all yous: The new Ratbastards Website is now alive and biting. Go there and order the new chapbook. I'm not going to review this one, since I'm in it, so all I can do now is exhort you to spend the piddling little amount it costs and get yourself a great collection of stories by writers who are extraordinarily smart and talented. I was included because the editors were terrified I'd write another review, but the other stories are very much worth the time and money, and you can use the pages mine's on to take notes about why the other stories are good (because they are). Not that the Ratbastards publishing good stories is anything new. Even if they do occasionally slip sometimes and include weird drivel by me. Me writing weird drivel is nothing new. The new issue of Strange Horizons has a new columnist, Christina Socorro Yovovich . And new f

Fragmentary Thoughts Rescued from a Weekend of Culture

I spent the past weekend in the Boston area, and so had a chance for more cultural activities than I usually do. First was an alumni event for the school I work at: a trip to see the Boston Pops orchestra perform a salute to Stephen Sondheim , who celebrated his 75th birthday in March. Despite having spent an awful lot of time in theatres, I'm not a big fan of musicals, but Sondheim's work is an exception, and the performance at Symphony Hall was magnificent, because the songs were performed by Broadway veterans Marin Mazzie, Greg Edelman, and Faith Prince as well as five younger performers from the Tanglewood Music Center (two were excellent, one was good, two were pretty awful). The choice of material was particularly strong -- I've got a bunch of CDs of Sondheim retrospectives, most of which have one or two good performances, but are, as a whole, forgettable because they try to cover Sondheim's entire career and end up being stretched too thin to be coherent. T

Reviewers Wanted

My apartment is now officially overrun with books, and I need to get rid of a bunch of books gracious publishers have sent. Below are ones I'm certain I'm not going to get to, so if anything appeals to you on the list, and you'd like to read it and write a guest review for The Mumpsimus, send me an email , and I'll let you know if the book is still available. Here's the list, with Amazon links so you can find out more if you're curious: The God Particle by Richard Parks Three Kinds of Asking for It edited by Susie Bright Six Bad Things by Charlie Huston The Breaking Point: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and the Murder of Jose Robles by Stephen Koch Running from the Deity by Alan Dean Foster (uncorrected proof) Settling Accounts: Drive to the East by Harry Turtledove (uncorrected proof) The Greenstone Grail by Amanda Hemingway Breath and Bones by Susann Cokal A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews The Rivers of War by Eric Flint (uncorrected proof) If any of

"There's a Hole in the City" by Richard Bowes

I tried hard to dislike Richard Bowes's story "There's a Hole in the City" . Because it somehow seems crass to write fiction about September 11, 2001, to use real tragedy to evoke a reader's sympathy for imagined characters. Because it's so easy to become maudlin and sentimental about tragedies, to invoke God and Hallmark, to trivialize. Because a short story just shouldn't try to encompass all that. Because we risk losing real emotion through knee-jerk responses. Because. But the story gripped me with more force than anything I've read in months. The matter-of-fact, journalistic tone helps make the emotions of the story truthful rather than overblown. The details of life in the altered landscape of downtown Manhattan are convincing, and I found the story particularly haunting because I was a student at NYU for three years and lived and worked in the area Bowes describes, though by 2001 I was in New Hampshire. The story is complex, even enig

A Footnote to an Echo

Waggish is writing a series of posts about concepts of genre and quality, thinking out loud about a distinction between exceptional and exemplary genres: So, we have two rough categories for placing tight genre product: first, exemplary genres, where the best work represents the ideal summation of what all the genre product aims at, and second, exceptional genres, where the best work stands out because of its departure from the genre's standards. the exemplary case, the best work does not emerge from particular talents but across the board, while in the exceptional case, it is the peculiarities of individual creators that give the best work its shape and form. Indeed, it's the issues of shape and form themselves that seem to determine whether genres can succeed on their own merits, or whether they require the intervention of a particular individual to bring their own idiosyncrasies to mediocre requirements. These ideas grew out of posts on, first, film comedies of the

Kafka: The Blog

Thanks to Pseudopodium , I've learned that Kafka's diaries are now becoming a blog (and you can choose to read either in English or German). This is not the first time a classic diary has been converted to the weblog format (there's the The Diary of Samuel Pepys , for one), but how exciting it is to have Kafka complete with an RSS feed! In honor of Kafka's new blog, here are some links: The 1910 diary in a different translation At the excellent Spurious blog: Thoughts on writing and contentedness , sparked by a 1914 entry, and Suffering and Literature , which includes reference to some of the diaries Some Kafka stories in English translation The Modern Word's Kafka site , including a page on Kafka's nonfiction Franz Kafka and Libertarian Socialism Vladimir Nabokov's lecture on "The Metamorphosis" Kafka at Camp: The Lost Diaries

Mid-June SF Site

The latest SF Site has been posted, and includes a review I wrote of the Gollancz re-issue of Geoff Ryman's novel Was . (Reading it over, I discovered that, once again, I employed my favorite Latinate word, quotidian , a word that seems to appear every time I write about realism.)

Something More

In a quick post the other day, I mentioned the Dark Cabal and a particular criticism made about "the new generation" of writers in the SF field: that they should push themselves toward "something more" (beyond what the original post calls "literary-lite"). The more I think about it, the more I disagree with the particulars, while also finding it an interesting criticism. (I've commented in the past on most of the publications mentioned -- if you're curious: here , here , here .) First off, everybody should remember that the writers discussed have been publishing for a pretty short amount of time. It's a rare writer whose earliest stories are the best, though they often give a glimpse of things to come. Nick Mamatas has written at least a couple of stories that are more significant and substantial than the one praised, and other writers such as Barth Anderson, Chris Barzak, and Alan DeNiro (to pick three Ratbastards from the beginning of

Miyazaki Linkdump

I'm looking forward to seeing Howl's Moving Castle more than any other movie this year, and will, I hope, get down to Boston within the next week or two to do so, but until then, here are some links about the great Hayao Miyazaki: The Miyazaki Web : A great place to start, and a phenomenal resource. Part 1 and Part 2 of James Schellenberg's overview of Miyazaki's films for Strange Horizons (with Part 3 still to come) Cynthia Ward's 2003 overview of Miyazaki for Locus Online Wikipedia's Miyazaki entry The Internet Movie Database's Miyazaki page A March 2003 Metafilter post about Miyazaki, with lots of links Anime News Network's Miyazaki page A January 2002 interview with Miyazaki at Midnight Eye Cindy Lynn Speer's overview of Neil Gaiman's film work includes some information about Neil's work on the English dub of Princess Mononoke An interview with Neil Gaiman about Miyazaki at The Critical Eye Steve Alpert, director of

Threats and Cabals

Doug Lain recently reported that Night Shade Books publisher Jeremy Lassen got a visit from the Secret Service because of some photos he'd put on the web. Now Jeremy has told the story himself, and it's terrifying. There's been discussion at Doug's site (e.g. this post ) and elsewhere of whether it's justified for the Secret Service to investigate anything perceived as a threat to the President, no matter how remote or ridiculous that "threat" may seem. After all, isn't it their job description? Reading Jeremy's post put any temptation to buy into that argument to rest for me. In less threatening news, there's now a real Dark Cabal , one devoted to discussing science fiction and fantasy. It's a group blog by anonymous writers, writers who appear to be professionals within the SF field. I expect some people will be upset by the anonymity, but I think, at least for a little while, it will be a good thing, because the writers here seem


If you read nothing else online today, be sure to read Nick Mamatas's post on Bookshare, copyright, blindness, obligation vs. charity, etc. I thought about quoting some of it, particularly the remarks of Eric Flint, but that might mean you wouldn't click through to read the whole thing. Go now.

The Indoctrination

We're concerned about the effort to capture youth through indoctrination into the homosexual lifestyle. --Matthew D. Staver, Liberty Counsel, quoted in the New York Times East of San Francisco the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut. When I went into the hills and vales to survey for the new reservoir they told me the place was evil. They told me this in Orange County, a community where the health classes have always taught only abstinence, and so I thought it was just the age-old wisdom of my overprotective ancestors. I was no longer a young and rebellious man, but had maintained certain tendencies toward, I hesitate to say it now, liberalism, and I discounted the wisdom of the ages. As I approached the hills, I felt gnawing at my vitals a dark terror that I had felt only once before, in early November 2004, when for a moment I had lost faith in our Supreme Commander, and thought that the forces of darkness would prevent him from reta

Online "Music Lessons"

One of my favorite stories from last year, and a finalist for the Fountain Award , is now online for a limited time: "Music Lessons" by Douglas Lain . The melding of form and content is thoughtful and unusual, and I find the story to be haunting.

In Praise of Long Sentences

I've just begun reading Lucius Shepard's short novel Viator , and even though I'm only 35 pages in, it has already worked its way close to my heart by being constructed primarily (so far) of long, luxurious sentences, sentences that bloom with modifiers and clauses and details, sentences that are seldom awkward, because even though Shepard's prose has often been impressive since he first came to prominence in the early 1980s, his skill with language is now so polished and apparently effortless that sentences that feel remarkable on a first reading become even more astonishing when experienced a second or third time, and the cumulative effect of such stylistic high-wire acts being repeated page after page is to create a richness and density that many stories don't have at twice (or more) the length. Of course you'd like an example. Here, then, is the first paragraph of the book: Wilander had grown accustomed to his cabin aboard Viator . Small and unadorned

The New Old

At the time I wrote my current Strange Horizons column , the whole InfernoKrusher movement was still formulating itself. Between the time of writing and the time of publication, they have succeeded in krushing the basic premise of the column -- that there haven't been any new SF movements this year. Oh well. At least the movements I propose in the column are serious. Or you can just skip the column and read all the other fun things in the current issue .

The Dreaded Book Meme

I thought I might escape this one, but Amrit at Writing Cave tagged me, so here we go... The Number of Books I Own If I could do that kind of math, I wouldn't be an English teacher. 3,000 maybe? 4,000? A lot. Too many. I haven't done a major culling for a while. It wasn't until very recently that I could afford to buy many new books, but for many years I suffered a kind of disease where I thought if a book were at a library sale or used bookstore or had been remaindered, then it would DIE if I didn't save it. Much as I feel a bit weighted down by them all, I love looking at them, paging through them, and even reading them now and then. They're a kind of fragmented autobiography. Just within sight at the moment are a copy of The Jungle from my high school American history class, The Clown by Heinrich Boll from a college class in German culture, a Spanish dictionary that was my constant companion in Nicaragua and Mexico, and various Best American Short Stor


In response to the Notes Toward an Infernokrusher Manifesto , Alan DeNiro has, quite rightly, invoked the Vorticist movement and Wyndham Lewis's journal Blast . We shouldn't forget that there was a Blast! before [update: actually, shortly after] Lewis's Blast -- one edited from 1916-1917 by Alexander Berkman , complete with its own manifesto : Too long have we been patient under the work of brutality and degradation. Too long have we conformed to the Dominant, with an ineffective fist hidden in our pocket. Too long have we vented our depth of misery by endless discussion of the distant future. Too long have we been exhausting our efforts and energy by splitting hairs with each other. It's time to act. The time is NOW. The breath of discontent is heavy upon this wide land. It permeates mill and mine, feild and factory. Blind rebellion stalks upon highway and byway. To fire it with the spark of Hope. To kindle it with the light of Vision. And turn pale discontent int

Bookmark Now

I started reading Bookmark Now , a collection of essays edited by Kevin Smokler , during a meeting this week, because it was the only book I had with me and the meeting was tedious. I ended up reading the whole thing over the course of a couple of days, even when I was just sitting at home and could have read something else. The subtitle of Bookmark Now is "Writing in Unreaderly Times", which is a far more pessimistic view than most of the essays in the book offer. What it really is is a collection of pieces by writers, most of them in the twenties or thirties, about being a writer or a reader. Some of the essays are fluff, and some of the writers seem to think that publishing a book or a story or a blog entry has given them The Right To Be Profund, but for the most part these are engaging, diverse perspectives and stories. I particularly liked Kelley Eskridge and Nicola Griffith's reflections on living and writing together, Paul Collins's chronicle of spending

Failbetter Five Years Later

The current issue of is the seventeeth and celebrates the online magazine's fifth year of publication. There are stories by Steve Almond, Jim Shepard, Greg Ames, and Matthew Derby, poetry by Terrance Hayes, Jonah Winter, Amy Holman, Mary Donnelly, Lee Upton, John Rybicki, paintings by Doug Malone, an interview with Sam Lipsyte, and a retrospective editorial by Thom Didato, who co-founded the magazine with David McLendon. The magazine has come a long way since the first issue , but the quality has been high since the beginning. I met Thom at a writer's conference during the summer of 2000, and at the time thought online fiction was junk (not that I'd read much), and assumed that such a magazine was destined to be the last refuge of the most desperate. Then I read an issue, and, though it didn't blow my head off or anything, the quality was higher than I would have expected. And any magazine that takes its name from a Beckett quote has a warm spot in m