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Showing posts from March, 2006

Subscribe to Books!

Interesting news from Soft Skull Press -- they're starting a subscription program. They're starting with a poetry subscription for $50, which is a good savings off the cover price of the books. To follow are subscriptions for Fiction, Pop Culture, Graphic Novels, and Queer Studies (what I want to know is: when can I subscribe to Graphic Queer Pop Fiction?). It's sort of like Book-of-the-Month Club, except it's not, because you know what you're getting for the whole year and it's all from one very good independent publisher. (Soft Skull published, among many other things, Lydia Millet's Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, among my favorites of last year.)

A publisher offering a subscription to its books, or a certain line of its books, is not an entirely new idea -- the history of publishing has various forms of subscriptions for books, and there are contemporary examples such as AK Press's Friends program -- though I do imagine it could add considerable admini…

New Strange Horizons

The latest issue of Strange Horizons has been posted, and it includes new fiction by E.L. Chen, poetry by Bruce Boston, an interview with Karen Traviss by Cheryl Morgan, reviews of various sorts (one per day), and a pretentious, academic, abstract column by me called "Do Matchmakers Dream of Estrogen Sheep?".

Why I Am Still Alive

Once you are not disillusioned, you need to take yourself out back and shoot yourself in the head.

--Jeff VanderMeer's Evil Monkey

Elsewheres

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Some links, most of them stolen from other places, though I can't remember where, other than from Ed this morning:One of my favorite stories the Rat Bastards have published is "The Golden Age of Fire Escapes by John Aegard, now available online.

Now on Myspace.com: The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Pol Pot!

"The exhaustion of the poetic language of the 19th century..."

"The Dreamlife of Rupert Thomson"

5 books from the shelves of Colson Whitehead

Lovecraft cabaret: "'The Call of Cthulhu' and feverish 'The Butcher' suggest Jacques Brel with serious paranoia issues."

Robert Birnbaum interviews Alberto Manguel

A Space of Her Own: Pamela Zoline's "The Heat Death of the Universe" by Mary E. Papke from the forthcoming Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century edited by Justine Larbalestier. Zoline's story is still online at the SciFiction archives.

Alan DeNiro on Cordwainer Smith

Ben…

Laird Hunt on "Nonrealist Fiction"

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Laird Hunt is a novelist, former United Nations press officer, and current faculty member at the University of Denver. His novels include The Impossibly, Indiana, Indiana, and the forthcoming The Exquisite. His work has appeared in Conjunctions, Ploughshares, McSweeney's, and Fence. He has lived in Singapore, Tokyo, London, The Hague, and Paris, where he studied at The Sorbonne. Hunt holds an MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University, as well as a black belt in tae kwon do. He and his wife, the poet Eleni Sikelianos, and daughter, the child Eva Grace Sikelianos Hunt, live in Boulder, Colorado, USA.

What follows is the text of a presentation Laird Hunt gave at the 2006 AWP Conference on the "Nonrealistic Fiction" panel I was on with Jeff VanderMeer, Kelly Link, and Brian Evenson. Thanks to Laird for letting me reprint it here.



At the center of Eric Chevillard's 1990 novel Palafox is an eponymous creature who changes shape almost as quickly as the researchers…

Recent Fiction at Strange Horizons

I realized last year that I don't have a love/hate relationship with the fiction at Strange Horizons so much as a like/indifference relationship with it. A number of stories there last year interested me in some way or another, but only one or two fully captured my imagination and attention (particularly Douglas Lain's "A Coffee Cup/Alien Invasion Story"), while many others were not stories I thought were particularly bad, they just weren't anything I remembered more than five minutes after reading them.

This is a very different relationship from the one I have with magazines like F&SF or (the now defunct) SciFiction, where usually a few stories each year blow me away, and a bunch of others make me wonder what the editor was smoking when they accepted them.

All of which is preamble for what I want to say, which is: After what seemed to me a particularly dull start to the year, Strange Horizons has published a number of good-to-excellent stories in the past few…

Taking Pains

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From On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner:In conversation with a slightly older colleague at the University of California at Chico, where I was teaching at the time, I suggested that the two of us do an anthology of fiction including (as anthologies did not then do and most anthologies do not do now) not only short stories but also other forms -- fables, tales, yarns, sketches, etc. The result was The Forms of Fiction, a book (now long out of print and almost impossible to get a hold of) that provided a close analysis of the narratives we included. A more important result, for me, was that I learned about taking pains. Lennis Dunlap, my collaborator, was and remains one of the most infuriatingly stubborn perfectionists I have ever known. Night after night for two full years we would work for five, six, seven hours on what sometimes added up to three or four sentences. He drove me crazy, and he wasn't so kind to himself, either: often we had to stop because the stress of wor…

Bruce Holland Rogers: Short-Short Stories

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I happened to run into Bruce Holland Rogers briefly at the AWP Conference, which reminded me that I had intended this month to write a bit about his short-short story subscription series, where subscribers can have three stories emailed to them each month for the more than reasonable price of $5/year.

I love the idea of the subscription series, because it's so simple and yet effective, giving readers a regular new dose of fiction of manageable size, and forcing a writer to keep writing, to keep engaging with an audience, to keep playing around and trying stuff out. With a writer of less skill than Rogers, it might grow tedious, but I've been reading the stories for a year now and have enjoyed seeing what sorts of things he'll come up with each time. At their best, the stories are small gems; at their worst, they are rarely less than competent. That's not a bad track record, and it certainly seems worth $5.

Before I discuss some specific stories, I need to admit some p…

Her Only Real Reader

From "Every Secret of a Writer's Soul" by Elizabeth Talent, Threepenny Review #105:The quiet I tend to attribute to [Virginia] Woolf's prose whenever I've been away from it for any length of time really isn't there at all: her work is characteristically brimming, agitated by the busy interestedness of minds (those of her characters) given to incessant noticing, lapsing and gathering momentum like the waves that are one of her favorite images. Quietness lay not in her style, but in my response to it, since with Woolf there was none of the tension arising when my own private voices, the ways I explain reality to myself, dissented from the voice(s) of whatever I was reading. I do not mean that my mind is anything like Woolf's, only that while reading her I could not manage to sustain any awareness of how our minds were different. I was lost, and this was a relief, because I had not been alive enough. As if an old wrong had been set right, I was relieved …

Mythic

Mike Allen has just edited a new anthology of fantasy stories and poems called Mythic, and it is available now. It includes a story of mine (excerpt here), plus work by a wide range of writers including Sonya Taaffe, Joe Haldeman, Vandana Singh, Theodora Goss, Richard Parks, Ian Watson, and plenty of others.

AWP Wrap-up

After the first two days, AWP, like almost any conference or convention, lost some of its wonder, but as the scenery became familiar, I found it easier to settle into a certain kind of calm and not rush around in a mad flurry, terrified of missing some great event or marvelous person.

The panel I was on was at 9am on Saturday morning, an evil and punishing time for those of us who think morning should begin somewhere around noon, and who blithely go on talking to their roommate into the wee hours. Nonetheless, Jeff and I did a good job of making sure we both got up, showered, dressed (he far better than I; not being a prep school teacher, he's not yet sick of neckties), and had a quick breakfast. We even arrived early to the room where the panel was being held. It was a big room, with fluorescent lights that seemed to be particularly energetic that morning.

The audience for the panel was surprisingly large, given the hour. Jeff opened with a nice overview of the potentials and p…

"Nonrealist Fiction"

Some people have asked to read what I presented at the panel on "nonrealist fiction" at the AWP Conference. Here is the text as best I can recreate it from my various notes. It was designed to be part of a conversation, to connect with some of what the other panelists were talking about, and to spur discussion with the audience, so it's not entirely complete on its own, but perhaps it holds some interest. (I'll have another post about AWP up within a day or two.)


We're here to talk about "nonrealist fiction", but I'd like to begin, instead of with the non- of something, with the something itself first. If there is nonrealist fiction, there must then be something called realist fiction. (Of course, I'm skipping over the privileging of "realist" that "nonrealist" allows -- "realist" being the normative core of the word "nonrealist". But so it goes.)

The New England Puritan in me balks at the term "r…

Quote for the Day

These days, some 30 regular homosexual characters are being beamed into your home by the major networks every week.

--CBN News
via NickNobody told me the new TVs were doing this, or I would have gotten one a lot sooner! God bless the media conglomerates! Hallelujah, there is salvation!

A Few (Too Many) Words from Austin

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The AWP Conference has been such a flurry of activity so far that I've not had any time to detail any of it here, but that may be a good thing, because I'm not sure I've got much of anything to say that wouldn't be utterly dull to anyone other than me, because much of what I've been doing is catching up with people I haven't met in person before, or haven't seen in years. Nonetheless, and risking repulsive narcissism and/or utter soporificity, here are some highlights...

Jeff VanderMeer and I had a nice lunch on Thursday with Eric Marin (of Lone Star Stories) and Rick Klaw (author of Geek Confidential). Rick works at Half Price Books, a large and extraordinary place, where, while touring the rare book room, I managed to prevent myself from buying a first British edition of Calder Willingham's first novel, End as a Man for $95, and Jeff managed to hold back and not buy a vintage copy of the proto-Ambergris novel Mushroom Town by Oliver Onions. I did, ho…

Off to Austin

I'm heading off to Austin, Texas in the morning to the AWP Conference, where I'll be on a panel Saturday morning with Brian Evenson, Laird Hunt, Kelly Link, and Jeff VanderMeer (organized and moderated by our friends from Omnidawn press).

I'll also be reading part of a new short story at BookPeople at 7pm on Thursday night, and if you're anywhere near Austin you should go, not because I'm there, but because the other readers are Gavin Grant, Brian Evenson, Kelly Link, Michael Moorcock, and Jeff VanderMeer.

I also just learned that Thom Didato, editor of the wonderful Failbetter.com will be there selling, among other things, Failbetter beer mugs. I haven't seen Thom in a couple years, so I'm psyched to get a chance to catch up with him.

Unless something goes wrong, I should have internet access while in Austin, and will do what I can to post at least a few updates as time permits.

Dave Itzkoff's Inner Child is Not Happy

On a quick first read, I kind of liked Dave Itzkoff's science fiction column in the NY Times. But I kind of like lots of things when I first read them quickly, and when I went back this morning and read it again, I didn't like it much at all.

I knew the column would cause some controversy, and, as Cheryl points out, there's already a letter in Locus. The best response I've seen, though, is Nick Mamatas's.

I wrote up my thoughts on David Marusek's Counting Heads all the way back in December (and also linked to Nick then...hmmm...), and though I had a similar response to reading the book as Itzkoff, I didn't feel the need to blame all contemporary science fiction for this fact.

Some SF is geeky. Some SF is focused on technological change and detailed extrapolation of scientific ideas in a way that may require both careful attention from a reader and interest in that sort of thing. Some SF is not about individual characters or providing much in the way of cha…

Quote for the Day

I understand why you would be irritated at people wanting to see [Octavia Butler] as only representing one thing. I agree with you that that would be just wrong-headed. I can see from the ways in which people have been responding to the news of Octavia's passing that her work and life touched all kinds of people. That's a glorious thing. But I cannot forget the power gradient. So I also want to remember her for the particular ways that her work and life is precious to particular people and groups of people.

--Nalo Hopkinson