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Showing posts from February, 2006

Octavia Butler (1947-2006)

Octavia Butler was one of those writers about whom I was forever thinking, "I should read more of her work." I've read a lot of the short stories, but none of the novels yet. Therefore, I will let others speak about her [updated 3/1/06]:Steven Barnes
Chris Barzak
Being Free
Tobias Buckell
Ed Champion and again, with links
Marcia Davis
Cory Doctorow
Foma
Gavin Grant
Imp of the Perverse
The Mad Professah Lectures
PopPolitics.com
Ben Rosenbaum
Scribblingwoman
Karina Sumner-Smith
Scott Westerfeld
A criticism of the NY Times obituary

If Mushrooms Could Sing...

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Jeff VanderMeer has uncovered a sound from the city of Ambergris and is inviting comments.

I've been doing my own investigations into sounds coming from underneath Ambergris (or maybe just less used chambers of my fevered mind), and after long hours spent sifting through the ruins of the Borges Bookstore, I have come upon a particularly curious piece of apocrypha, said by some to be a folk song of the mushroom-like gray cap people, and by others to be a fraud committed by a particularly untalented and violently defrocked Truffidian priest:The Sounds of The Silence*

Hello gray caps, my old friends
I’ve come to live with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its spores while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of The Silence.

In restless dreams I walked alone
Beneath these streets of cobblestone
My stomach churned with aching cramps
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the green of
A glowing light
That…

Miscellany

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Technical problems have been resolved, and life continues on at its normal frenetic pace. Even with the computer back and running, things are likely to be quiet around here for the next two weeks, because I'm finishing up a particularly busy term at Dartmouth. (The good news: it looks like I now have a thesis committee and will be beginning a thesis on Samuel Delany this summer. More on that as it develops.)

From March 8-12 I'll be at the AWP Conference in Austin, Texas. I'm on a panel put together by the good people of Omnidawn about "Nonrealist Fiction", and am quite humbled to be in the company of panelists Kelly Link, Jeff VanderMeer, Brian Evenson, and Laird Hunt. There are also plans for a reading by all of us, plus the great Gavin Grant, at Bookpeople in Austin on Thursday, March 9 at 7pm (subject to change, I expect).

And now for some more or less random stuff:The, uh, charmingly named Bloggasm has relaunched after some technical difficulties. How do …

Technical Difficulties

Posting will be sparse for the next week, because my computer's harddrive is dead. It will be replaced soon, but until it is my internet access is unpredictable. I have an external hard drive, so not too much was lost, other than a couple pages of a story I was working on and about three days of emails. (So if I haven't responded to something you sent, please bear with me and feel free to write again...)

If you're hungry for more odd, annoying, and/or contradictory thoughts from me, though, Strange Horizons has now posted my review of Doug Lain's Last Week's Apocalypse.

A Melancholic View of the Divided Kingdom

I mentioned in a previous post that during Divided Kingdom week at the LBC, I would be offering the view from the "Green Quarter" of the kingdom, where the melancholics are housed, and so I have.

If you accuse me of having had fun while writing it, I shall take great umbrage at such aspersions till my bitter end.

(If you want to know which kingdom you would be relocated to, take the quiz.)

More Maria

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My conversation with Maria Dahvana Headley was fairly popular, and so I thought y'all might like to know that Maria has fused with her computer and is scattered all through cyberspace at the moment.

This week she's a guest blogger at Powell's Books. She's also set up a blog at Amazon.com and has resurrected her old Myspace thingy. And there's still the Year of Yes book tie-in site.

When a writer starts appearing all over the Internet like this, you know that they're just procrastinating work on the next book. (Or maybe that their publisher's publicity department has suddenly discovered that blogs are cheaper than book tours.)

The New World

I, too, thought The New World suffered because of its length, but unlike the various reviewers who thought it was too long, I felt like most of the problems came from it being far too short for all that director-writer Terrence Malick tried to do with it.

The people sitting behind me, who were sighing and groaning and whispering to each other ("This is the worst movie!") clearly didn't agree that the majority of the scenes felt attenuated and that some moments seemed to have been edited with a dull axe. Most of this is clearly part of Malick's style, and is similar to what he has done with his past three films (Badlands, Days of Heaven, and The Thin Red Line), but some may also be the result of hasty editing -- originally, the movie was released in a 146-minute version for consideration for the Oscars; it was then re-edited to a 135-minute version for general release (and a 3-hour version has been rumored for the DVD). I simply wanted more, particularly of the momen…

Quote for the Day

...(And my new Reader will come to me empty-

handed, with a countenance that roses, lavenders, and cakes.

And my new Reader will be only mildly disappointed.



My new Reader can wait, can wait, can wait.) Light-

minded, snow-blind, nervous, Reader, Reader, troubled, Reader,

what’d ye lack? Importunate, unfortunate, Reader:



You are cold. You are sick. You are silly.

Forgive me, kind Reader, forgive me, I had not intended to step this quickly this far

back. Reader, we had a quiet wedding: he&I theparson



&theclerk. Would I could, stead-fast, gracilefacile Reader! Last,

good Reader, tarry with me, jessa-mine Reader. Dar-

(jee)ling, bide! Bide, Reader, tired, and stay, stay, stray Reader,



true. R.: I had been secretly hoping this would turn into a love

poem.
Disconsolate. Illiterate. Reader,

I have cleared this space for you, for you, for you.



--Olena Kalytiak Davis
"Sweet Reader, Flanneled and Tulled"

All the Links that are My Life

The latest Strange Horizons is full of stuff, including a story by Haddyr Copley-Woods (whose "Gramercy Park" in the second Ratbastards chapbook I loved, loved, loved), a poem by Tim Jones, art by Gil Formosa, reviews, a column by someone whose name shall not be uttered in these here parts, and the beginning of a new series of articles by Greg Beatty, who will be writing analyses of all of the winners of the Rhysling Award. A marvelous idea, because Greg's a good reader (and a good poet) and because it lets SH reprint a lot of the winning poems. (Be sure to read Andrew Joron's.)

It's also time for the Reader's Choice Awards, so go vote. I realized, looking at the list of all that was published by SH in 2005, that I had read at least part of almost all of the fiction and poems published, but I'd forgotten how many at least passably interesting articles and reviews were published this year. Thanks to the all-volunteer staff of Strange Horizons for tryi…

"Scorpions" by Chris Fox

After writing all night, I awoke
to find scorpions in the shoes of my sentences.
So I went barefoot.

Later, the scorpions became
words, almost--
phonetic with exoskeleton,
grasping and pinching,
stinging at the world with interrogatives.

Later still, scorpions and shoes became
sentences about scorpions, shoes
and sentences.

It's hard to write with pincers,
hard to type
with shoes on the feet of my hands,
hard to love you the way I do
when you keep mistaking the shape of my body in profile
for a rhetorical question
and I desperately need
your answer.


originally published in Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet No. 16, reprinted with permission of the author

Rhysling Award Nominations

Last year, being a dutiful member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, I emailed my nominations for the annual Rhysling Award, and even got permission from one of the writers to reprint his poem here. Time went by, and I received the annual anthology of nominees, and neither of mine were included. I gently asked my friend Mike Allen, president of the SFPA, if I was considered too radical to be a nominator, since I've said a few times I don't believe in the basic concept of "science fiction poetry", but, being an inveterate postmodernist, this doesn't mean I don't support the efforts of the SFPA to bring attention to good poems. Mike assured me that what had happened was that my nomination had simply gotten lost, and the nominating process has been tweaked a bit to try to ensure that this doesn't happen again.

Thus, I have now returned to nominating. In the short poem category, I am nominating Chris Fox's poem "Scorpions" from Lady C…

How to Write Dialogue?

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A friend beginning to write fiction asked me how to write effective dialogue. I think I said some platitude or another, something like, "Listen to people," and then changed the subject. Then Jed Hartman wrote up some observations of dialogue, and I got to thinking about it again.

The question has stuck with me because it's so difficult to give any good advice about it, and difficult even to argue about it. For instance, Jed really liked the dialogue in The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl, while I did not. Who's right? Both and neither. Certainly there are times when dialogue is obviously clunky or too expository, etc., but once a writer has moved past a beginner's mistakes, dialogue becomes entirely a matter of "ear" -- the writer's and the reader's. (For some good basic lessons on dialogue, check out Robert Sawyer's advice, Holly Lisle's points and excercises, and this list of pitfalls and exercises.)

To move beyond the most basic…

The Commonplace of Every Thought

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Here are some words by other people I've been mulling, collecting, disputing, worshipping, or generally gerunding recently:We love a sentence only partially because of what it means, but even more for the manner and intensity through which it makes its meaning vivid.
--Samuel R. Delany, "Emblems of Talent", About Writing


I think that what I blame books for, in general, is that they are not free. One can see it in the writing: they are fabricated, organized, regulated; one could say they conform. A function of the revision that the writer often wants to impose on himself. At that moment, the writer becomes his own cop. By being concerned with good form, in other words the most banal form, the clearest and most inoffensive. There are still dead generations that produce prim books. Even young people: charming books, without extension, without darkness. Without silence. In other words, without a true author. Books for daytime, for whiling away the hours, for traveling…

Unread

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Because much as I try, I can't squeeze 72 hours into a 24-hour day, I have many books waiting to be read, books with alluring covers and titles and authors, books that sit in piles, where they whine and purr and gurgle late at night, urging me to pay attention to them, their every page accusing me of neglect and indifference. It's not that I want to neglect them. It's not that I want them to feel spurned and abused. Perhaps I should mention them here -- perhaps that will convince them to be patient...

Here, then, are a few of the books I'm looking forward to reading in the coming weeks and months:Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell: Tobias gave me an advance copy of this at the World Fantasy Convention, and I have been looking forward to reading it for a variety of reasons; it is at the top of the pile, and its screams and screeches for attention late at night scare my cat.

Silver Screen by Justina Robson: I got a review copy of this from SF Site, but haven't yet got…

Happy 124th, Mr. Joyce

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

--James Joyce
"The Dead"
(written 1907)