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Showing posts from September, 2005

MirrorMask: The Contest

The winner of the first part of this contest, which was to create it, is Niko. [So Niko, email me your mailing address and tell me which prize you want.] All of the entries were good, though there weren't many of them. I decided to go with the idea of writing something, because posting photos can be a pain. (But if anybody does feel like promoting the movie and taking a photo of themselves doing that promotion, I'm sure the publicity people would be appreciative, and I might be able to hook you up with a prize of some sort. No promises, but I'll do what I can.)

Here's the contest: Write an Onion-style headline involving MirrorMask. (Note that The Onion this week has an interview with Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean.)

Guidelines: Be amusing. The only entries that will be considered are ones that are entered into the comments to this post. The winner will get first choice of whatever prizes are left over once Niko chooses hers, second place gets next choice, etc., unti…

Linkdump

Beyond lies not just the wub, but the following:Over at the LBC, there are a few things I haven't yet had a chance to link to: the third and fourth nominations, and the first installment of a discussion about the Read This! choice, The Angel of Forgetfulness.

"Cities of the Future"(via Worldchanging) (Remember, kids, that in a city of the future it is hard to concentrate.)

The Republic of Dreams.

Free New Books. Free dreams. Free medical journals. Free.

Celebrity Death Match: Slavoj Zizek vs. Harry Turtledove

People vs. persons

The shortest sentence of the year

Lou Anders has put up quite a few interesting posts over the past couple of weeks. Be sure not to miss the one on Beyond Cyberpunk.

Beyond punk. Beyond Vegetarianism. Beyond.

Contesting MirrorMask

There are many things I'm not good at, and one of them is coming up with contests. But the good people promoting the new Dave McKean/Neil Gaiman film MirrorMask have offered me some items associated with the film to give away however I want. Thus, I need a fun Mirrormask-themed contest. I don't usually do promo things, but I have a very selfish reason for doing this: MirrorMask is not likely to make it to anywhere where I'll have a chance to see it unless it becomes really popular, and because I love Dave McKean's artwork I want to see it on a big screen, not just the little screen I'll watch it on when the DVD comes out. So anything that might help cause people to go see the movie and get it into more theatres is okay by me.

So here's the deal: In the next two days, the person who comes up with what I think is the cleverest and most interesting contest to use to give the items away will get first pick of them. Please post your ideas in the comments for this…

Idiot Wind

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David Greenberg's essay in Slate about "'60s nostalgia" in the new Martin Scorsese documentary on Bob Dylan (showing on PBS and the BBC, and available on DVD) seems to me to be the sort of thing somebody writes who feels a need to be contrarian, but doesn't really have anything good to be contrary about, and so misses the point entirely.

This is not to suggest that the U.S. is not steeped in nostalgia for the '60s. But Greenberg's awareness of this tendency makes him see it everywhere, and so he utterly misperceives the film, which looks at the years when Bob Dylan was first the adored icon of the folk song armies and then the hated apostate. Because Greenberg wants everybody to grind his axe, he misses what is so marvelous about Nowhere at Home: the film spends most of its 200+ minutes on five years in Dylan's life. This focus gives the film a depth that most biographical movies don't have, and helps it avoid the trap so many fall into of tryin…

Thoreaus for the Day

It is an agreeable surprise to find in the midst of a swamp so large and edible a fruit as an apple.

(21 September 1852)


The poet must keep himself unstained and aloof. Let him perambulate the bounds of imagination's provinces, the realms of faery, and not the insignificant boundaries of towns. The excursions of the imagination are so boundless, the limits of towns are so petty.

(20 September 1851)

--Henry David Thoreau

Genius

Jonathan Lethem has won a MacArthur Fellowship, generally known as the "genius award". He's not the first person to win who has published in science fiction magazines (Octavia Butler won in 1995), but it's certainly a rare event, and quite an honor. It's also a lot of money: as the press release says, "$500,000 -- out of the blue -- no strings attached".

I'm glad Lethem was chosen, and certainly am excited for him, but this choice continues the unfortunate trend of the MacArthur award often going to writers who have already found a lot of success. Imagine, for instance, how much it would have changed Lethem's life to get this award not right now, when his books sell well, but ten (or even five) years ago, when the $500,000 would have done exactly what it is supposed to do: free the recipient from financial considerations that limit their ability to experiment. The Whiting Foundation does this relatively well, and the MacArthur could become mo…

Blog Like a Pirate

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Shiver me timbers, I nearly forgot that today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day! (And, oddly enough, I reread Treasure Island this weekend. Hadn't read it since I was about 8, and enjoyed it much more now than I did then, when I thought the book was a sluggish version of the movie.)

In honor of today, you can read this entire site as translated into PirateSpeak thanks to the Pirate Translator. Or you can walk another site of your choice off the plank! Arrrrggh!

Here be some guides to treasure:Pirates and Privateers: The History of Maritime Piracy. A treasure island i' the Internetted seas!
A timeline o' pirate history
The Project Gutenberg online edition of Rafael Sabatini's fine novel Captain Blood. Ahoy! There's also this version.
Cap'n Blood was also made into a fine movie starrin' the blackguard Errol Flynn.
The Pirates o' Penzance
Lest you think 'twas only men out there on the high seas, we must remind ye there was also women pirates. Ay…

Over There

Nothing to see here. Keep moving. If you need a destination:The new SF Site has been posted, with plenty of interesting things. It also includes my review of Rick Bowes's new book, From the Files of the Time Rangers.

On Friday The Rake revealed his nominee for the LitBlog Co-op this quarter, by a writer who was once nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award. Today, I revealed mine.

Some of you may not know that Jeff VanderMeer has a dungeon in his house. He uses it to interrogate Australians.

I haven't noted recently enough that Chris Barzak continues to write thoughtful and lovely posts about adjusting to life in Japan.

Kameron Hurley just linked to a couple of news items that are ... well, I don't have an adequate adjective, so I'll just give you the links: A study showing that there are similarities between women and men and a study in which women and men are different in what they tell researchers they do with people of their own sex. Don't forget, though, that

Oh Pure and Radiant Heart by Lydia Millet

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Describing Lydia Millet's new novel, Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, is quite a challenge, and since I just finished reading it moments ago, I'm tempted to do all sorts of bad reviewerly things like compare it to various other writers ("It's Matt Ruff meets Pynchon in a bar with Sven Lindqvist and--") or use empty words like brilliant and stunning and tour de force. (Except I've got a few reservations about the last third or so. Minor ones.)

I do plan on writing at length about it, but it's a meaty book and deserves some careful thought. For now, let me just say that it's the story of what happens when J. Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Szilard, and Enrico Fermi are suddenly and inexplicably transported from July 16, 1945 to the beginning of the twenty-first century (without their old selves being wiped out -- they are, for instance, able to read biographies of themselves and discover what they did after 1945). It begins as a kind of domestic comedy-drama revol…

Autumn Pick from the LitBlog Co-op

We have now announced the autumn Read This selection for the LitBlog Co-op, and will begin various sorts of posts about it and the four other nominees over the next weeks and months.

I became a member of the group too late to vote last time, so was sort of on the sidelines, but this time around I was not just a voter, but also a nominator, and the book I nominated will be revealed on Monday. I'm not at all averse to the book that was selected, though -- it was, in fact, my second choice, behind my own book.

The LBC is still new, and we're still figuring out ways to make it interesting and worthwhile, so we've changed a lot of what we're doing this round from last round. We're working on scheduling lots of special posts about the selected book, with, we hope, discussions with the author, editor, agent, publicist, and anybody else who is willing to join in, and we're also going to devote a week of discussion to each of the nominated books, which is something I…

Give Me Some Melody!

In the Stephen Sondheim musical Merrily We Roll Along, there's a song toward the end in which a trio of young composers and lyricists try to get an agent for the show they've written. The agent is underwhelmed by their experimentation, their breaking away from the norms of what is expected in a Broadway musical:Why can't you throw 'em a crumb?
What's wrong with letting them tap their toes a bit?
I'll let you know when Stravinsky has a hit--
Give me some melody!Well, Hal Duncan, who is no stranger to gardes that are at least moderately avant, has now written lyrics to a song that most certainly needs to be given a melody:There's tall men and short men,
And average height.
There's fat men and skinny,
There's black and there's white.
There's red, brown and yellow,
Broad-shouldered and slight.
And all in this garden of earthly deliiiiight...It gets fabulously raunchier from there.

Slow Man by J.M. Coetzee

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I had been awaiting J.M. Coetzee's new novel, Slow Man, with both excitement and dread. It is his first novel to be published since he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003 (his previous book, Elizabeth Costello, came out just before the announcement, if I remember correctly), and oftentimes the books that Nobel winners publish after they have been enlaureated are, well, feeble.

Slow Man is not feeble, and it is likely to find mildly passionate admirers and fiercely passionate detractors -- in fact, among reviewers, it already has done so, as shown by the roundup of reviews at The Complete Review. Coetzee has often been controversial, and even his best novels -- which I would say are Waiting for the Barbarians, Life and Times of Michael K, and Disgrace -- have been seen by some readers as awkward, excessively abstract, schematic, racist, sexist, too political, not political enough, etc. Slow Man will not win over anyone who has disliked Coetzee's work previously, and it…

World Fantasy Convention

I'm sending my registration for the World Fantasy Convention out today, so I will be attending, in case anyone was still wondering. If anybody needs a room, email me to let me know, as I have one at the Doubletree reserved and would be quite happy to be able to split the cost...

The rumors that I am both moderator for and the only participant in a panel on self-indulgence are entirely false.

"Anyway" by M. Rickert

M. Rickert's "Cold Fires", published last year, was a story that astounded me with its complex structure, its imagery, and its enigmas. It's dangerous, though, to hope for a writer to repeat their previous success, because repetition usually leads to dilution; and yet it's difficult not to compare other work to the touchstone and find it lacking.

Thus, when I read the two Rickert stories Fantasy & Science Fiction published this year, "The Harrowing" and "A Very Little Madness Goes a Long Way" (in the April and August issues, respectively), I knew they were well written, intelligent, strange, and even lovely ... but no matter how I thought about them, no matter how much I tried to appreciate them for what they were on their own, with their own purposes and pleasures, they just weren't "Cold Fires".

Now comes the third Rickert story of the year, this one published at SciFiction, "Anyway", and I'm beginning to be …

The End of Sontag & Kael: Lost in Space

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Strange Horizons has posted my column about Susan Sontag, Pauline Kael, and Craig Seligman's book about them, so I can now stop trying to find blog-sized bits of their wisdom (or idiocy) to present to you as the weblog equivalent of the sort of extras you might find on one of those DVDs in the remainders-of-the-remainders bin at the back of the store.

I'm sure there will be plenty of Strange Horizons readers who now think the magazine has pushed the limits of genre-boundaries as far as possible, now that I'm writing columns that have apparently nothing to do with science fiction or fantasy. (Blame me, not the editors. They told me I could write about whatever I felt like.) Perhaps, then, it's appropriate to end with some amusing, insightful, odd, incomplete, generalized, perplexing, and provocative comments they made about science fiction:

Pauline Kael on Close Encounters of the Third Kind (collected in When the Lights Go Down and For Keeps):There are, of course, limi…

The Fourth Circle by Zoran Zivkovic

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Below is the latest in a continuing series of guest reviews. Our reviewer this time out is E. Sedia, whose novel According To Crow was released by Five Star Books in May. Her short fiction has appeared in Analog, Fortean Bureau, and Lenox Avenue, and other venues.

Zoran Zivkovic'sThe Fourth Circle has been much praised as an intelligent and complex work; for the most part, I found this description accurate. The book is huge in its scope, bouncing across different worlds and epochs. It combines science, religion, and breathtaking imagery into a wonderful read.

In this novel, several storylines are loosely woven together -- all deal with "closing the Circle", or establishing contact between several different worlds. Main storylines take place in widely divergent times and settings: first, there is Rama (a computer program with a surprisingly shrill and female personality) and Sri (her creator and a Buddhist scientist.) The two of them move to an abandoned Buddhist temple …

A Fine Morning for a Linkdump

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I've got a bunch of things to post over the next few days and weeks (at least one guest review, a discussion of Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys, a review of J.M. Coetzee's Slow Man, maybe some thoughts on M. Rickert's "Anyways", a bit more Sontag & Kael, etc.)

But at the moment I just need to clean out the ol' bookmarks of links I've saved, so here they are:John Holbo calls the opening of M. John Harrison's The Course of the Heart "Wittgensteinian". (Which reminds me that last night I had one of those dreams where I was much smarter than I am, and was explaining the differences between Wittgenstein's early writings and late writings to somebody. I suppose a person shouldn't admit in public that he had a dream about explaining Wittgenstein...)

The Christian Science Monitor notices bookblogs, but can't bear to utter the word Bookslut.

Speaking of Bookslut, Geoffrey Goodwin's hanging out over there with an interview with Susann…

Prose in Poetry

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I am a relatively naive reader of poetry, and I doubt I would enjoy any if I weren't. The dogmas, ideologies, spats, quarrels, and manifestos don't much interest me, because my taste, such as it is (instinct might be a better word) seems incapable of tying itself to any school or movement, or even a range of them, and any explanation I might offer for being interested or not interested in a particular poem or poet is likely to be unenlightening and flatfooted. Since I don't write poetry criticism, this is not a problem. It allows me, though, to appreciate people who write poetry criticism that is engaging, clear, and thoughtful.

Another confession: I have for a while thought that, in general, I dislike the poetry in Poetry magazine. I wouldn't have said I hated it -- rarely had I found a poem in Poetry that stirred me to such a passionate response. When I was in high school, and even college, I thought Poetry was where the "good poems" were supposed to be…

If I Could Blog to the Aliens...

This may be old news to all of you, but there's a service that beams blogs to outer space.

If any of you reading this are an alien, I hope you were designed by a scientist and are not one of the aliens that voted for Bush.

Kael's Books at Hampshire College

The Boston Globe reports:Anyone interested in the books in Pauline Kael's life, or at least the ones about film, can inspect the contents of a sizable alcove on the second floor of Hampshire College's Johnson Library Center. Shelved there are the roughly 3,000 books and periodicals that made up Kael's professional library.

The Pauline Kael Collection, which opened last September, is no mahogany-paneled famous author shrine. It's a well-lit, no-nonsense space surrounded on three sides by metal shelves and furnished in what might best be called Open Stack Nondescript: two small tables, a couple of sofas, a few chairs.At the college's website, you can see pictures of the collection, which does indeed look nondescript.

One of the amazing things about the collection -- which has books that are filled with Kael's marginalia -- is that it circulates:The sale was made with the understanding that Kael's books would form ''a working special collection," Lo…

Today's Sontag

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Finding self-contained quotes from Sontag and Kael that won't completely distort their ideas has been more of a challenge than I expected it to be, but challenges can be fun, so here's a pretty much self-contained paragraph from an interview with Sontag:To reproach artists for having an insufficiently radical relation to the world has to be a complaint about art as such. And to reproach art is, in more than one way, like reproaching consciousness itself for being a burden. For consciousness can be conscious of itself, as Hegelians quaintly say, only through its sense of the past. And art is the most general condition of the Past in the present. To become past is, in one version, to become art. (The arts that most literally illustrate this mutation are architecture and photography.) The pathos that all works of art reek of comes from their historicity. From the way they are overtaken by physical decay and stylistic obsolescence. And from whatever is mysterious, partly (…

Mieville, Metaphor, and Mood; or, The Plot to Plot

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Via the new and final third installment of an interview with China Mieville at Long Sunday, we learn that China is doing some political blogging (mostly about the hurricane) over at Lenin's Tomb. Here's a link to what is, as I write, the most recent post.

The third part of the interview at Long Sunday is worth attention, too. (Links to Part 1 and Part 2.) I've just begun reading China's new story collection, Looking for Jake, and reading the first few stories, which I hadn't encountered before, I began to think that what he uses the short story form for is the exploration of how mood and metaphor can work together, and that a basic plot is there only as a way to keep the reader reading when not more interested by other things. Thus, I was heartened to see him confirm this idea in the interview (because I'm generally paranoid that I'm reading things entirely wrong, and therefore Missing the Point ... which would be a good alternative title for this blog, …

A Weekend Dose of Sontag & Kael

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Continuing the not-quite-random quoting from the works of Susan Sontag and Pauline Kael, here are some words for the weekend, since I am heading out of town and won't be posting anything more until Monday.

First, Sontag, in an early essay:Ours is indeed an age of extremity. For we live under continual threat of two equally fearful, but seemingly opposed destinies: unremitting banality and inconceivable terror. It is fantasy, served out in large rations by the popular arts, which allows most people to cope with these twin specters. For one job that fantasy can do is to lift us out of the unbearably humdrum and to distract us from terrors -- real or anticipated -- by an escape into exotic, dangerous situations which have last-minute happy endings. But another of the things that fantasy can do is to normalize what is psychologically unbearable, thereby inuring us to it. In one case, fantasy beautifies the world. In the other, it neutralizes it.

The fantasy in science fiction film…

Five Years of Strange Horizons

Jed Hartman notes that yesterday was the fifth birthday of Strange Horizons. Certainly, I may be somewhat biased, being a columnist for them, but I was a Strange Horizons fan long before they asked me to join the crew. Five years of putting out a weekly magazine -- no easy task. All of the staff are volunteers, but the writers are paid, and this has helped the magazine maintain a level of quality and consistency that is impressive. The diversity of the stories, poems, articles, and essays is impressive, and there's rarely an issue that doesn't have at least something of interest. They get criticized sometimes because the magazine can be difficult to label, because much of the fiction they publish plays around with the borders and outlines of expectations, and because the editors have an interest in various styles and forms of writing. I think this is a strength, even though it means that inevitably we end up disappointed or even annoyed by some stories, some essays, some…

PEN Literary Awards

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Mark Sarvas reports that the PEN 2005 Literary Awards include the award for Children's Literature to Gifts by Ursula LeGuin. The judges said: "Gifts is a novel of startling grace and mythological complexity, and it manages to be both hopeful and truthful about genetic destiny and personal will."

The winning screenplay was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Charlie Kaufman. Clearly given out of pity for it not winning a Hugo.

Kael Quote for the Day

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Those, like [Andrew] Sarris, who ask for objective standards seem to want a theory of criticism which makes the critic unnecessary. And he is expendable if categories replace experience; a critic with a single theory is like a gardener who uses a lawn mower on everything that grows. Their desire for a theory that will solve all the riddles of creativity is in itself perhaps an indication of their narrowness and confusion; they're like those puzzled, lost people who inevitably approach one after a lecture and ask, "But what is your basis for judging a movie?" When one answers that new films are judged in terms of how they extend our experience and give us pleasure, and that our ways of judging how they do this are drawn not only from older films but from other works of art, and theories of art, that new films are generally related to what is going on in the other arts, that as wide a background as possible in literature, painting, music, philosophy, political thought, …

Sontag Quote for the Day

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To initiate the quoting of Sontag and Kael, here's something I sent to Jeff VanderMeer after he alerted me to this discussion of "whether the critical approach and the interpretation which criticism necessitated means that the naievety is lost" in SF and fantasy. It's not exactly about the same thing, but it's interesting nonetheless:"Meaning" partially or totally converted into "use" is the secret behind the widespread strategy of literalness, a major development of the aesthetics of silence. A variant on this: hidden literality, exemplified by such different writers as Kafka and Beckett. The narratives of Kafka and Beckett seem puzzling because they appear to invite the reader to ascribe high-powered symbolic and allegorical meanings to them and, at the same time, repel such ascriptions. Yet, when the narrative is examined, it discloses no more than what it literally means. The power of their language derives precisely from the fact tha…

Kael & Sontag, Sontag & Kael

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I noted earlier that I was reading Craig Seligman's excellent book Sontag & Kael: Opposites Attract Me, about critics Susan Sontag and Pauline Kael, and that I was thinking of writing my next Strange Horizons column about those two writers and Seligman's book. I followed through on that idea, and completed a draft of the column yesterday, but while I was writing I realized that what I really wanted to do most, after spending a week reading almost nothing but their work, was quote Kael and Sontag a lot, and that the column didn't allow me the space to do so. Therefore, between now and the time the column is posted, I'll be putting various short excerpts from each writer's work up here for you to enjoy or be infuriated by.

Before I do that, here are some links to various online things by and about the two writers that I found while doing research for the column:The first chapter of Sontag & Kael

Wikipedia articles on Sontag and Kael

Essays by Sontag: "Fas…

Return of the Blog

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Despite what some people think ([cough] Mike Allen [cough]), I did not spend my time away from here just sitting in the yard and drinking gin & tonics. But I got a bunch of things done that needed it, and am now ready to roll with whatever rolls around here. First, some catch-up...

I don't need to tell you about the hurricane, or to suggest donations are humane. Mike Morrow has suggested that LitBloggers give their book-buying money for the month to the relief effort; since my book-buying budget is now not more than $20/month (income having changed rather drastically recently), I sent more than that to the Red Cross and Noah's Wish. The blogosphere has had plenty of information of all sorts. I've been paying particular attention to About Last Night, Making Light, Ed Champion, and Boing Boing. Kathryn Cramer has had some interesting posts, as has Crooked Timber. David Moles is paying attention to the politics. The best single post I've read is Cherie Priest&#…