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Showing posts from July, 2007

A Question

I've been working on finishing up a long review with a deadline of tomorrow, so my brain is a bit fried. The review sparked a question that I have no answer for, though I'm sure it will be easy for somebody out there to respond to.

The question is this: Is there an anthology of science fiction stories about drugs?

The dream book that popped into my mind, and one I'm pretty sure doesn't exist, would be a wide-ranging reprint anthology covering everything from mad scientists with weird serums to 1960s psychedelia to cyberpunk narcotics to ... well, I'm blanking on recent druggy SF stories, but I know there are a few.

Lacking that particular book, though, what is there?

Howard Waldrop Blogs

The world has achieved perfection. HowardWaldrop is blogging at the Small Beer Press site:
You’ll notice there’s a beaver in both ads, the animal more responsible even than the buffalo for the settlement of the US from sea to shining sea. You’ll also notice Lincoln is wearing a stovepipe ("beaver") hat. It’s all surrealistically related.(Waldrop has, actually, entered the blogosphere before. But it's good to have him back.)

Jamestown It Is

It's LitBlog Co-op time again, and this quarter's pick is Jamestown by Matthew Sharpe, a bizarre and wonderfully fun novel that LBC nominator Megan Sullivan sums up well:Set sometime in the future, this book chronicles a group of settlers from Manhattan traveling South in a large bus/tank to establish an outpost in southern Virginia. The book features historical figures like John Smith, Pocahantas and others. Each chapter tells the story from a different character’s perspective. The settlers are led by John Ratliff, whose mother’s boyfriend is the CEO of the Manhattan Company, who are enemies of the Brooklyn Company. The Indians, who speak English (which they try to conceal to the visitors), aren’t technically Indians. They just try to live like them and are “red” because they’re not using strong enough sunscreen. Powhatan leads them with the help of his advisor Sidney Feingold. Pocahantas falls in love with greasy haired communications officer Johnny Rolfe and saves the life …

After the Apocalpyse, Discoveries

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Scott McLemee's Inside Higher Ed column this week tackles a topic I took on myself recently: the culling of books. It caused me to reflect on living with a substantially reduced library, since I am now post-cull, and am actually only living at the moment with a small group of the books I saved, since the majority are still in storage back in New Hampshire.

While I enjoy not feeling quite so entombed by tomes as I used to be, again and again I've wanted to grab a book I know I have, only to discover it's not here. It's a strange sensation, the sensation of seeing something in peripheral vision that disappears when you turn your head, the sensation of seeking ghosts.

Not that having fewer choices of what to read has stopped me from reading too many books at once. As of this moment, I am in the midst of reading Dangerous Space by Kelley Eskridge, Chaucer: His Life, His Works, His World by Donald R. Howard, The Virtu by Sarah Monette, Beyond This Horizon by Robert Heinlei…

Death Kitty

Via Scientific American:
When a cat named Oscar curls up next to an ailing patient at a nursing home in Rhode Island, staffers start calling next of kin. Seems the standoffish kitty gets friendly when he senses the end is near: In the two years since Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence adopted the finicky feline, more than 25 residents in the center's dementia unit died just hours after Oscar showered them with affection, Reuters reports. The New England Journal of Medicine let the cat out of the bag. (NEJM; Reuters)(The longer NEJM story is really quite touching.)

Felsenfeld

I know you all think that now I live in the New York metro area I have friends quoted in every new issue of the New Yorker, but that's not entirely true -- certainly not true enough for me to be blasé about it -- so I was thrilled to read this Talk of the Town piece about the presence of characters named Felsenfeld in novels by a group of writers who hung out together at the MacDowell Colony, including Katherine Min. (Katherine, too, has recently left New Hampshire, and will soon be teaching at UNC Asheville.)

I was also pleased to see that Michael Chabon was quoted in the article. He's quite the up-and-comer now that he's blurbed Best American Fantasy...

Do Androids Dream of Directors' Cuts?

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On December 18, Warner Home Video will release the long-fabled full director's cut of Blade Runner in three different packages: a 2-disc basic edition, a 4-disc edition with all previously-released versions of the film and tons of extras, and a 5-disc edition that includes the original "workprint" version.

I first saw the movie in my cousin's apartment in Chicago when I was probably much too young to be watching such things, but what are older relatives for if not to corrupt the minds of children? I watched it again after discovering Philip K. Dick, because for a time the only easily-attainable PKD novel was the movie tie-in version of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and at first it caused me to be angry with the film for having so little to do with the book, but soon enough I thought of them as the very separate entities that they are. I think I saw the first "director's cut" when it was released to theatres in 1992, and I know I later saw it at…

Texts and Contexts

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Susanna Mandel offered a thoughtful column at Strange Horizons this week, "On SF and the Mainstream, or, Rapidly Changing Scenery", writing from the perspective of someone who hasn't had the chance to keep up with a lot of what's been going on in the science fiction/fantasy community over the last five or so years. I sympathized a lot, having started this blog, in fact, as someone in just about exactly that position. (I'm really interested, too, to see what she's going to discuss in her future columns, which she says will be about pre-1800 writings.)

Richard Larson was inspired by the column to ask for some discussion that moves beyond content to probe the differences between SF and other sorts of things:
I would love for someone to be engaging the SF/mainstream literature discussion with the goal of making formal distinctions, of ignoring content completely and trying to figure out how the experience of reading mainstream literature differs from that of read…

BAF Release Date Update

I've gotten some inquiries from people wondering when, exactly, Best American Fantasy will be available. (When we first came up with the idea of the book, we'd hoped for June, but that was a bit optimistic.)

The book is at the printer and should be leaving there sometime during the coming days, heading off to the distributor and then to retailers. (Or something like that.) With a little bit of luck, it will be in stores by the last moments of July or the first week of August.

Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination

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I'm back in New Hampshire for a few days, and yesterday journeyed to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts to see the exhibit "Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination", which I'd first heard of when it was at the Smithsonian, and then read about in the Times, and thought: I have to see that.

Cornell is pretty much my favorite North American artist, which isn't to say I think he's the best (whatever that means), but that it is his work I respond to most viscerally. I spent two hours in the galleries of the exhibit, wandering back and forth between displays, staring, daydreaming, looking at details, imagining Cornell's hands and tools as he assembled his boxes and collages. In one place, there is a display of some items saved from Cornell's workshop, and I was thrilled, because artists' studios particularly fascinate me, housing, as they do, the the mundane choice-making and inexplicable inspirations that combine, through craft and a…

Night Shade Books Sale

The good people at Night Shade Books (and Jeremy Lassen) are having a sale to make room in their warehouse for new arrivals. Here's the deal: 50% off all in-stock and forthcoming books until Sunday, July 29 when you order 4 books or more.

You could, for example, pre-order Paolo Bacigalupi's first collection and John Joseph Adams's anthology of post-apocalyptic stories, then add M. John Harrison's Course of the Heart, John Courtenay Grimwood's 9Tail Fox, Kage Baker's Dark Mondays, Ray Manzarek's Snake Moon, Laird Barron's Imago Sequence, Gwyneth Jones's Bold as Love, Steve Tomasula's In & Oz, Tricia Sullivan's Maul, Douglas Lain's Last Week's Apocalypse, Joel Lane's The Lost District, Conrad Williams's London Revenant, Liz Williams's Snake Agent, Kit Reed's Bronze, Lucius Shepard's Softspoken ... or so many other books. Night Shade is a wonderful publisher, so go crazy and spend the last bits of your ill-gotte…

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

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It begins with a murder and ends with the discovery of the murderer, but that's some of the least interesting material in The Yiddish Policemen's Union, a novel so crammed with vivid, complex moments, situations, and ideas that what most amazed me about it was not that it kept from ever being confusing or convoluted -- it's both things at various times, particularly in the second half -- but that, against all odds, it all usually holds together so well.

It would be easy to see the book as little more than a detective story in an amusingly speculative milieu, a story that hints at greater aspirations but doesn't give life to them, a lark. There were certainly moments when I was reading when I wondered, "Well, is this all there is, then?" but those moments were fleeting, and the effect of the novel in the end was a profound one, though in an odd way. It's a book of implications, a vaudeville act that, looked at from a different angle, offers a glimpse of t…

What I Did Wrong by John Weir

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What I Did Wrong is one of those wonderful books I knew hardly anything about before reading it, one of those books I started reading with the idea that I'd give it ten or twenty pages at most to capture my interest, one of those books I soon arranged my days around, hungry for good blocks of time in which to slowly work my way through its pages, not wanting to miss any sentence, wondering the whole time if the writer could live up to the promise of the beginning. I finished it last night with the rare and invigorating feeling of having read a book that was not only just the right length, not only an impressively crafted novel, but exactly what I'd been hoping to read, even if I hardly knew quite what I wanted when I began.

The first element that stuck out to me was the novel's narrative voice, and at first I wasn't sure I liked it. Here are the first few paragraphs:
But I don't want to talk about the dead guy.

It's Sunday, Memorial Day weekend, the year 2000, a…

The Music of Razors by Cameron Rogers

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a guest review by Craig L. Gidney

Angels, fallen and otherwise, are making a bit of a resurrection in fiction. One can look to such treatments of the angelic mythos as Storm Constantine’s Grigori trilogy, which imagines the Nephelim as sexy outsiders, or The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox, where the fallen angel was a melancholic muse to the eponymous vintner. Fallen angels are a way to explore the mystical and mythic underpinnings of religion. The angels in these books are not evil in the traditional, villainous sense. Rather, they are tragic iconoclasts who challenge the heavenly status quo. Cameron Rogers’ novel The Music of Razors adds to the new wave angelic canon that includes Hal Duncan, Philip Pullman, as well as Knox and Constantine.

The Music of Razors is a contemporary gothic fantasy with historic and mythological back stories. The brief prologue sets the stage. A fallen angel murders another angel, then creates magical instruments with its bones:
Fr…

Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand

My review of Elizabeth Hand's novel Generation Loss is now up at Strange Horizons.

It's fund-drive time at Strange Horizons, by the way. SH is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and the staff are not paid -- the money is used to cover the costs of the site and to pay contributors.

Also, if you want an easy way to keep up with the posted-four-times-a-week reviews, there are two feeds available: an Atom feed and an RSS 2.0 feed. (Be the first person on your block to know about such things as last week's exploration of John Crowley's Aegypt series!) Just plug one of 'em into a feed reader, and away you go.

New Address

As I've mentioned probably too many times now, I am moving. In fact, I have moved. This has caused me to gain not only a new physical address, but a new email address, one that will replace the old ocsub@earthlink.net address, which is likely to exist only for a few more weeks. Here, for anyone curious, and all the spammers in the world, are my new contact infos:

themumpsimus@gmail.com

and

P.O. Box 3038
Hoboken, NJ 07030

I'll receive all mail sent to my New Hampshire P.O. box until August 1, at which point I'll only receive mail that qualifies for forwarding.

And, as a couple of the role models from my childhood used to say, we thank you for your support.

From the Annals of Analog

I was sorting through some old issues of Analog magazine that had been collecting dust in my apartment, and in looking through the book reviews, came across a few passages that amused me, as much for where and when they appeared, and who wrote them, as for what they say.

September 1966 issue, from a review by P. Schuyler Miller of Judith Merril's 10th Annual Edition: The Year's Best S-F:
How to characterize all this? Judith Merril does it herself, of course, in her summation: this is the book that shows how "the distinction between the specialty writer and the writer-in-general has almost vanished." SF (science fiction plus fantasy plus all the borderlines, in the Merril application) may at last be approaching the point which mystery fiction reached long ago, when any good writer may try his hand at it without condescension, when many do, and when the protectiveness of cult-membership is no longer needed. Even non-initiates can enjoy; even the nonordained can preach…

Returning to Reflect

After I posted the rant about "the literary establishment", I was away from the internet for a few days, and then I returned to discover it had garnered quite a bit of comments, not just here, but elsewhere. Some of the comments, disagreements, agreements, and discussion interested me quite a bit, and I thank everyone who contributed. (Most people kept a more thoughtful and civil tone than I did in the post, which I'm also grateful for.)

I've spent some time thinking about why it is that I responded so vehemently to the article in NYRSF. A lot of discussion ended up focusing on The Road, but it wasn't really the statements about The Road that sparked my ire -- mostly, I think it was that Sanford's article hit multiple areas of sensitivity for me all at once. What I realized when reading all the commentary about what I and others had said was that there are a number of topics related to the perception of science fiction/fantasy outside of the active communi…