Showing posts from April, 2006

The Edgar in the Glass

Huge congratulations to the great and glorious Jeffrey Ford , whose novel The Girl in the Glass last night won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America in the "Best Paperback Original" category. Update 4/29/06: Here's Jeff's account of the awards ceremony.

Dada in Kansas

Via Jed Hartman , I learned that in late December the mayor of Lawrence, Kansas proclaimed "International Dadaism Month" : WHEREAS: Dadaism is an international tendency in art that seeks to change conventional attitudes and practices in aesthetics, society, and morality; and WHEREAS: Dadaism may or may not have come into being in the summer of 1916 at the Cabaret Voltaire at 1 Spiegelgasse in Zürich, Switzerland, with the participation of Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, Emmy Hennings, Marcel and Georges Janco, Jean Arp, and Richard Heulsenbeck; and WHEREAS: The central message of Dada is the realization that reason and anti-reason, sense and nonsense, design and chance, consciousness and unconsciousness, belong together as necessary parts of a whole; and WHEREAS: Dada is a virgin microbe which penetrates with the insistence of air into all those spaces that reason has failed to fill with words and conventions; and WHEREAS: zimzim urallala zimzim urallala zimzim zanzibar zimza

Elsewheres and Otherwhats

Kameron Hurley: "Power Feminism and the Venom Cock" Alan DeNiro: from The Stations The rest of the nominees at the LitBlog Co-op have been announced, including The Girl in the Glass by Jeffrey Ford . The other nominees include Ticknor by Sheila Heti , My Sister's Continent by Gina Frangello , and my own favorite, Here They Come by Yannick Murphy . As for the discussions, Ticknor week has already begun with a bang. Ed Champion has the goods on Jim Crace's next novel Geoff Ryman on Cambodian writers I missed Blog Against Heteronormativity Day . Ron Silliman on Townes van Zandt : "How do you get to be -- at the least -- one of the three best songwriters of a generation (I make room for Dylan & [Dave] Carter both) and never once have an album that sells more than 7,000 copies?" NYT profile of Juan Goytisolo : "Considered by many to be Spain's greatest living writer, Goytisolo is in some ways an anachronistic figure in today's cultural l

A Few Words on Vellum

Hal Duncan's extraordinary first novel, Vellum , arrives in U.S. bookstores today. Vellum was among the best books published in 2005 that I read , and I am curious what U.S. readers will make of it, because it is not an easy book to read, and many people will, I'm sure, complain it is impenetrable, pretentious, self-indulgent, etc. While reading it, there were moments when I was tempted to call it all of those things (yes, even "self-indulgent" !), but each time I was ready to give up on the whole book as gassy claptrap, something snared me again, a detail or a phrase or an image, and before I knew it, I'd read another fifty pages in a kind of hyperattentive dream. Some reviewers have, of course, disliked the book, and that hasn't surprised me at all -- this is the sort of book that causes strong reactions in readers, and it is a book that requires some real effort to read, given its length and complexity. I've not been much annoyed by reviewers who


It's time for some congratulations. First, I just learned from Cheryl Morgan that the speculative poetry symposium I put together with Mike Allen, Alan DeNiro, and Theodora Goss made the shortlist for the British Science Fiction Association Awards in the nonfiction category. I just did the organizing of the article; Mike, Alan, and Dora did all the heavy thinking, and they deserve the accolades. Congratulations also to the rest of the nominees, and especially to Gary K. Wolfe, whose Soundings was the winner. Speaking of Alan DeNiro, his forthcoming collection of stories, Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead , has made the longlist for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award . I got one of the first galleys of the book, and it's truly an extraordinary collection. Having been familiar with Alan's work for a while, I thought I knew what to expect, but reading it all together, the breadth and inventiveness of the stories astounded me far more than I was

Worthy of Trust

Ursula LeGuin on Jose Saramago: Some years ago a reliable friend told me I should read Jose Saramago's Blindness . Faced with pages of run-on sentences and unparagraphed dialogue without quotation marks, I soon quit, snarling about literary affectations. Later I tried again, went further, and quit because I was scared. Blindness is a frightening book. Before I'd let an author of such evident power give me the horrors, he'd have to earn my trust. So I went back to the earlier novels and put myself through a course of Saramago. It's hard not to gallop through prose that uses commas instead of full stops, but once I learned to slow down, the rewards piled up: his sound, sweet humour, his startling imagination, his admirable dogs and lovers, the subtle, honest workings of his mind. Here indeed was a novelist worthy of a reader's trust.

Breakfast on Pluto

Really, I should have hated it. Breakfast on Pluto treats serious subjects with utter superficiality, it's sometimes silly and sometimes mawkish, it's a jumble of styles, it's ... well, it's everything Michael Atkinson says it is in his review in the Village Voice ("unbraked blarney ... coy picaresque ... displays a longshoreman's fluency with camp culture..."). And I loved it. I haven't had such a purely enjoyable experience of watching a movie in a very long time. It might have been that I was just in the right mood for what Breakfast on Pluto had to offer. But I think there's something more to it. The movie begins with birds (pretty obviously computer generated). Their conversation is subtitled. "Okay," I said to myself, "this is not a dramatic, sensitive exploration of transgendered life." This is not Boys Don't Cry (never mind director Neil Jordan's earlier Crying Game , a film I haven't seen in a de

Best American Fantasy

The word is out, so I thought I'd acknowledge it here: I have agreed to be the series editor for a new series of "best of the year" anthologies from Prime Books, Best American Fantasy , with the guest editors for the first two years being Jeff and Ann VanderMeer. Yes, we realize there are an awful lot of "bests" out there now, and both Jeff and I have even parodied this fact at various points over the last few years, but we did not enter into this venture without a lot of consideration of the pros and cons, because it is going to eat up a lot of time we would have devoted to other things. At the moment, all I want to say is that this will not be an anthology like any other that currently exists, and we believe we'll be filling a rather large gap in the world of contemporary fiction. Time will tell, and the proof will be in the books themselves, so for now we're going to focus our energies on finding the best fantastical, surreal, odd, postmodern, post-

Catching Up with the LBC

Over at the LitBlog Co-op we've announced the Read This! selection for this quarter: Television by Jean-Philippe Toussaint . Each day this week, one other nomination for the Read This! choice will be announced by the nominator.* We've changed some of our procedures for the LBC, having been doing it for about a year now and having had both some successes and some mis-steps. One of the things we discussed a lot was that we wanted readers to have more of an opportunity to seek out and read the books before we discussed them, so from here on out we're going to announce the nominations once we've got them. Hence, an announcement of the summer nominees . We're all beginning to read these right now and will vote on them in the coming months, so you now have a chance to read along and see if you agree with the result of our vote in the summer. Also, we've decided to encourage more people to comment as we discuss the books: The name of everyone who comments at the

Beckett at 100

Today is the day we have been waiting for, even though it is better not to wait, because always what you get is less than what you hoped. 100 years since Samuel Beckett's birth. (Yes yes, they shall all now scream, "Birth was the death of him." ) I once knew a madman who thought the end of the world had come. He was a painter--and engraver. I had a great fondness for him. I used to go and see him, in the asylum. I'd take him by the hand and drag him to the window. Look! There! All that rising corn! And there! Look! The sails of the herring fleet! All that loveliness! (Pause.) He'd snatch away his hand and go back into his corner. Appalled. All he had seen was ashes. ( Endgame ) The thing is, Beckett makes me laugh. That's why I've stuck with him. Yes, there's bleakness and dreariness and the-world-is-awful and all that, but before there is that there is laughter. A sad laughter, yes, but that just makes it more meaningful and complex. Before

Kelly and Beckett

I'm a failure. Yesterday was James Patrick Kelly's birthday, and I failed to note it. What kind of friend am I? You should all give up on me now -- I've known the man for something like 20 years, and I forget his birthday. It's Beckett's fault. I've been so fixated on the countdown to Beckett's 100th birthday that I have ignored my friends, let all the details of my life fall apart, and sequestered myself in a small room to wait for the end of the world. So today we'll mix our daily Beckett link with a Kelly link. (No, not that Kelly Link, much as I like her. And she knows Jim Kelly, too, and probably remembered his birthday. For all I know, she knew Beckett.) Thus: Happy birthday tomorrow to Samuel Beckett -- here's Beckett's late (1988), short prose piece "Stirrings Still" . Happy birthday yesterday to Jim Kelly -- here's "The Propagation of Light in a Vacuum" , one of my favorite of his stories. And just for f

Links to Soothe a Weary Soul

Laird Hunt has a blog . And it gets its name from a line in a Paul Celan poem, a sign of great taste and intelligence. If you've ever worked at a bookstore, you might have experienced the sometimes painful, sometimes delightful practice of stripping mass market paperbacks of their covers and just sending the cover back to the distributor. And you might have also experienced the returning of trade paperbacks and hardcovers to the distributor whole. And you might have wondered about these things. Now we all need wonder no more, because the Honorable Dr. Justine Larbalestier was willing to ask why? about those publishing practices (and some others), and the Esteemed and Knowledgeable Patrick Nielsen Hayden provided some answers . Also thanks to Dr. L: "How to Fail in Literature" circa 1890. Fred Ramey of Unbridled Books asks : "Why does it seem that the publishing industry can gainfully expect fiction readers to muscle their way through a slough of artlessness t

The Innovative Novel

From an interview with George Saunders : Q: Might you try writing a novel in the future? A: I just did. It's very innovative. It is only 25 pages long.

Farewell to the Fortean Bureau

The final issue of Fortean Bureau has just gone online, and it's a sad farewell from here, because I was quite fond of FB and usually found at least one story and/or poem an issue that was worth not just reading, but writing about (e.g. "Stitching Time" by Stephanie Burgis ). I was also addicted to Nick Mamatas's typically acerbic columns. Speaking of Nick, his final column is a not-for-the-faint-of-heart review of Paraspheres , the large anthology of "nonrealist fiction" or "new wave fabulism" or "whatever" put out by the good people at Omnidawn . Also in this final issue is Jay Lake's story "The Soul Bottles" , originally published in Leviathan 4 (which, once upon a time, I reviewed ). I love the imagination behind "The Soul Bottles", and despite my quibbles with the neatness of its ending, all sorts of images from it have stuck with me since I first read it in Lev 4 , and it has remained one of my two or t

Strange Horizons

First, it's Spring Fund Drive time at Strange Horizons , everybody's favorite nonprofit weekly speculative fiction web magazine. Unlike NPR , they don't stop programming to beg from you, they just offer gentle reminders now and then that they'd like to be able to continue paying their writers. Second, it's Reader's Choice Awards time at Strange Horizons , where members of the unwashed masses have their say, regardless of whether they contributed to past fund drives! And they say nice things! We love the Strange Horizons readers (or at least the ones who voted)! Everybody deserves congratulations, but I'd like to offer special public congrats to Mike Allen, Alan DeNiro, and Theodora Goss, who did all the heavy thinking for the speculative poetry symposium that won first place in the Articles category. Congratulations all around!

Birthday Game

Well, it's the weekend, so it's time for the blog to let its hair down and indulge in some general silliness, namely the "3 events, 2 births, 1 death on your birthday" game that's floating around various LiveJournals and blogs. (I'm indulging in this because I tend to be obsessed with who and what shares my birthday, because there are some amusing things there...) Some of this comes from Wikipedia , but I've added some things from elsewhere: October 17 Events *538 BC: King Cyrus The Great of Persia marches into the city of Babylon, releasing the Jews from almost 70 years of exile and making the first Human Rights Declaration *1859: John Brown , having invaded Harper's Ferry during the night, hangs out and hopes for a national slave rebellion to begin. *1908: Emma Goldman begins a national lecture tour while the country is immersed in presidential campaigning. Lecture topics include "The Political Circus & Its Clowns," "Puritanis

Stanislaw Lem (1921-2006)

When Stanislaw Lem died last week, I wanted to note it, but didn't know quite what to say, as of Lem's novels I had only read Solaris , and that so long ago that my memory of it was vague. I thought about gathering up various obituaries, but other sites were doing a pretty good job of that, and I was too busy at the time to roam far and wide searching for more obscure obits. (I should note here, though, that one of the best appreciations I've seen is from Mr. Waggish .) I quickly thought to ask Eric Schaller to write something about Lem, because visiting with Eric recently I'd seen a bunch of Lem books on his shelves. Eric graciously obliged. I do hope eventually to write something about Lem's essay collection Microworlds , a book that strongly influenced my view of SF when I first read it years ago, but I may not be able to do so for a little while. For those of you who don't know him, Eric Schaller is an associate professor of biology at Dartmouth

On Short Story Collections

At the new group blog Talking Squid , Jonathan Strahan posts a thoughtful response to my review of Gregory Frost's Attack of the Jazz Giants and Other Stories , picking up on the final, intentionally provocative, paragraph, wherein I fulminated: Short story collections suffer when they are padded with ancillary materials (forewords, afterwords, story notes) and not-entirely-effective tales, because the energy of the better material gets sapped away and the reader's attention lags. What matters is the fiction, and a collection should be an opportunity for a writer to present, in more permanent form than a magazine offers, his or her best work, not just everything they happen to have gotten published, plus some cheerful hyperbole from pals. Being incapable of sticking to any strong opinion for long, the day after this review was published I received a copy of Jeffrey Ford's new collection, The Empire of Ice Cream , and proceeded to read nothing but the story notes. And to

In a Name

Gwenda Bond just sent me a news item about the Montana state spelling bee, which was won after 41 rounds with the winner correctly spelling the word mumpsimus . Of course, we here at Mumpsimus Central are proud of our educational effect on the world, improving the spelling of readers far and wide.* * Pronunciation is another thing entirely; I have discovered over the past few years that, despite its phoneticity, actually saying the word "mumpsimus" is quite difficult for most people. The Mumpsimus Guide to Proper Living suggests practicing the pronunciation of the word at least five times every morning and then five times before going to bed at night. And, since we're here, the Mumpsimus Lawyer Cabal insists we note that the fact that one of our dearest of dear readers actually contracted the mumps this year has no direct relation to The Mumpsimus. Thank you for your support.

PW does SF

The new issue of Publisher's Weekly has a couple of articles about fantasy and science fiction: "Fantasy Goes Literary" by Gwenda Bond and "Too Geeky for Its Own Good?" by Ron Hogan . (Thanks to Richard Nash for the tip.) Update 4/4/06: Ron Hogan has posted outtakes from his article, with some interesting stuff from Lou Anders, David Hartwell, and others. Also, be sure to check out Colleen Lindsay's great comment about publicity in the comments to this post.

Loving Delany

There are a couple of interesting reports from the recent Samuel R. Delany conference -- L. Timmel Duchamp offers an overview, and Steven Shaviro has some notable things to say as well. I'm immensely jealous of them for having been able to attend! Since I'm working on writing a proposal for my masters thesis on Delany this week (I got a thesis committee together through a good sales pitch, but now need to figure out the substance), I was struck by something Duchamp noted: For many of us the most startling and moving moment of the conference came during the panel discussion on the first day, when Delany said that although he was gratified by the evidence of so much careful, devoted attention to his work, he worried about the dangers posed by its being so motivated by love. Not only did he think such work might be too partial, but he also ruefully noted that intense love of an artist's work could without warning flip into its polar opposite, intense hatred. This very idea

Getting the Links Out

I had lots of April Fools things planned, but ended up spending the day judging the New Hampshire Educational Theatre Guild's State Festival, helping to choose two plays out of thirteen to go on to the New England Drama Festival, and it just wasn't quite the right place for joking around -- "And the winner is X! [Pause.] April Fools!" Locus Online did published their annual April Fools news items, though, with news about space tourist Barry Malzberg , "adult" Star Wars novels , a new publisher for prolific writers , the lies in Jack Williamson's memoir , the SFWA Grandmaster Award , and corporate sponsorship of the World Fantasy Award . Ed Champion posted a bunch of April 1 literary news, some of which even overlaps with certain of the Locus Online pieces -- "Harlan Ellison's Anger Lost" and "Joyce Carol Oates: 'I Will Write No More'" , which should probably not be taken as an indication that Whime Press's hopes