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Showing posts from May, 2008

DeNiro and Ulman Join Forces to Conquer the Universe!

Long-time Mumpsimus readers will remember a young man named Alan DeNiro, subject of an interview in 2004, and a young woman named Juliet Ulman, subject of an interview I conducted for Fantasy magazine in 2006. Recent readers will remember that, in 2008, the elves of Mumpsimus Mansion expressed excitement that a young woman named Colleen Lindsay moved from the world of publicity to the world of agenting, and one of her first clients was the above-named Mr. DeNiro.

Well, our plan for world domination is coming together. Super-writer DeNiro has, via the talents of super-agent Lindsay, joined forces with super-editor Ulman! The elves are jumping up and down with joy, expressing great congratulations to Alan for selling his novel Total Oblivion, More or Less to Juliet at Bantam via Colleen.

Numerologists will note that the various important events (interview 1, interview 2, joy for Colleen) occurred in even-numbered years. What do we have planned for 2010? Wait and see, my children, wai…

The Outsider and the Syllabus

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One of the courses I'm teaching at Plymouth State University in the fall is called "The Outsider", and I've been struggling with the syllabus for the past few weeks. There are lots of reasons for this struggle, and as struggles go, it's been a fun and productive one. But every time I think I'm almost done with the syllabus, I decide to make a few changes...

One of the challenges is the breadth of possibilities -- the course is supposed to do a few different things, including introduce first- and second-year students to basics of literary study and critical thinking. It's also supposed to be interdisciplinary (which for this course has traditionally meant a mix of literature and film). And it should have some sort of historical component. But it shouldn't be backbreaking because it is, after all, a general education course for first- and second-year students, many of whom have no desire to become English majors.

Oh, and then there's the fact tha…

"A Map of the Everywhere": The Earrings

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The Interfictions Auction continues (though it is nearing its end) with a pair of earrings by Sarah Evans that are inspired by part of my story "A Map of the Everywhere". Follow the link for more information about bidding, etc. It's been exciting to see how the words and images from stories have led to such an array of creativity from the various artists, and I'm particularly thrilled (and humbled!) that my weird little story has proved inspiring.

Reprise

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I knew almost nothing about the Norwegian film Reprise before going into the theatre, which is a good thing, because if anybody had told me its central characters are a couple of young novelists, one of whom struggles with mental illness, I would have said, "No thanks, I'll wait for the DVD" and I would have missed the best movie I've seen in months.

Before I get into what makes Reprise so good, I have to pause to describe the audience I and my companion were stuck in while watching the film. We arrived at Lincoln Plaza half an hour before the show, got tickets, and then waited in what seemed, even for New York, a pretty long line for an afternoon on a beautiful day. We also seemed to be the youngest people in the line, which also seemed odd, because, as far as we knew, this was more the sort of movie to attract a crowd of hipster Cinema Studies majors than, well, grandparents -- but this is New York, after all, and if there's anywhere in the world where grandpa…

New New Haven Review

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The New Haven Review is a print and online magazine that includes Brian Francis Slattery as an editor. A while back, Brian asked me if I'd review something for the journal's second print issue, and I volunteered to write about Caryl Phillips's Foreigners, which had just been sent my way by the good folks at Knopf. I'd liked some of Phillips's earlier books, so expected to enjoy this one, especially since it began with a story about Samuel Johnson's servant, Frank Barber, a man I'd had an interest in for some time.

Alas, I ended up being quite disappointed with Foreigners, and Brian suggested that instead of just reviewing it, I expand the piece to give an overview of Phillips's other books, or at least a few of them, to dig more deeply into what was so disappointing for me about the new one. So I tried. And that's the thing -- partly a review, partly an overview, partly a pushmi-pullyu -- that is now available both in the print edition and via th…

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Little Brother is the most entertaining instruction manual I have ever read.

Yes, it is a novel, but "novel" just means some sort of extended narrative fiction, and that doesn't give enough of a sense of what the book is up to. This is an unambiguously and unapologetically didactic novel, a novel that not only wants to teach its readers, but wants to inspire them to view the world through a particular lens and to act according to that view. It is a book with a very clear message, but more than just communicating a message, it seeks to give its readers a sense of how to spread the gospel and have fun while doing so.

Doctorow gets away with such open didacticism by pitching the book toward teens. Sympathetic adults will want to give it to kids because it's a pleasurable way to learn about some of the political and social issues likely to be present in their lives, and kids who encounter the book are likely to find it fascinating because of its anti-authoritarian stanc…

New SF Site

The latest issue of the venerable SF Site has been posted, and it contains a review I wrote of Paul McAuley's 1995 novel Fairyland, a book I enjoyed quite a bit. General busy-ness has kept me from writing for SF Site for a while, and it's nice to be back. (Next up for them will probably be a review of Ursula LeGuin's recent YA trilogy, but I doubt I'll have time to get to it for a few months, alas.)

Here's a snippet from the review:
The effort to distinguish between "science fiction" and "fantasy" is a futile and exhausted one, but part of the fun of Fairyland lies in watching Paul McAuley take words common to the vocabulary of high fantasy stories -- "fairy," "fey," "trolls," etc. -- and employ them within the unambiguously science fictional setting of a nanotechnologized future of virtual realities and designer diseases. It’s a simple conceit, but not a jokey one, because the terms lend the novel depth, linking t…

"Gender and Binary Thinking"

I was going to try to excerpt a little bit from my favorite thing on the internet this week -- Cheryl Morgan's wonderfully thought-provoking review-essay "Gender and Binary Thinking" -- but taking a piece from the whole would not do it justice and might risk simplifying some of the arguments. Therefore, I will simply point you toward it and hope you find it as stimulating as I did.

Money Shot by Christa Faust

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I confess: I like the idea of noir novels more than I tend to like noir novels themselves. (Noir movies I often enjoy watching, but there are few I've found very memorable, for whatever reason.) In fact, I don't much like mystery novels of any sort, though I've read a lot of them in a desperate attempt to like them more. I've tried at least one novel by all the classic mystery writers I know of, and the only such writer I've managed to read more than one book by with any pleasure is Patricia Highsmith. I've tried contemporary mysteries by a bunch of different writers, but hardly any of them have remained in my memory. I don't know all the reasons for my inability to really embrace mystery and crime novels -- strange, I think, given my interest in the psychology and sociology of violence -- but I think most of it comes from my general indifference to plot. I like books that have some sort of narrative, certainly, but I don't generally care for books…

Muxtape

Via Meghan I discovered Muxtape, which allows users to create "mix tapes" of up to 12 songs (and yes, I know it got Boing Boinged all the way back in March, but I read Meghan more frequently and carefully than I read Boing Boing...) The simplicity of the format intrigued me, so I decided to give it a shot.

Here, then, is what I created: distantstar.muxtape.com. (The RSS feed is here.) These are 12 songs I tend to listen to when driving to and from work these days -- hence, these are songs that I find in some way or another keep me from going completely and totally nuts while trying to get through the rush-hour awfulness in the miles around the Lincoln Tunnel. What that fact and these songs say about me ... I do not care to speculate.

I'll be changing the mix whenever I have a chance. I was a compulsive maker of actual mix tapes, and this seems like a good outlet for some of that old enthusiasm. Keep your eyes (ears) out -- I expect it will get a bit weird...

Readercon

Barring a catastrophe, I'm going to be at Readercon this summer, partly because I haven't been to a science fiction convention in a while, and especially because James Patrick Kelly and Jonathan Lethem are the guests of honor. (I'm going to book a hotel room soon ... if anybody's looking for a roommate, let me know.)

An essay I wrote about Jim Kelly will be appearing in the souvenir book, since Jim and I go way, way back. I'm able to write with authority about his years as a miner in New Hampshire's granite quarries, his conversion to a strange form of neo-paganism predicated on the worship of lawn ornaments, his ill-fated campaign for the governorship (he lost to his more liberal opponent, Mel Thomson), and his years as a writer for the Union Leader's editorial page. I also share my memories of acting in one of Jim's least successful plays, On Godot Pond, which was a somewhat uneven mix of Beckett and down-home Yankee humor.

"Hard-Working White People"

Driving home from work today, I heard Hillary Clinton on the radio. I hear lots of people on the radio, when I choose to listen, though much of the time these days I just throw in a CD, because whenever news of the U.S. election comes on, I lose a bit more respect for humanity. Or at least for Americans. And I know I shouldn't blame us for the awfulness of our politicians. I mean,yes, we haven't risen up and created the anarcho-communist utopia I dream of now and then, but it's not like I'm out there doing anything to help it along, either, so I haven't got any right to blame everybody else.

But even as awful as they are, I expect politicians sometimes to at least try to pretend they're not the amoral, arrogant, asinine, avaricious -- and I'm still at the beginning of the alphabet here -- monsters that we all know them to be.

Or maybe it's just that I never expected Hillary Clinton, for all her dreadfulness, to be courting the David Duke vote.

But the…

On the Recent Decline in Productivity at the Mumpsimus Factory

The silence around here has been caused by my having to get a gazillion things done before moving back to New Hampshire (while also still teaching -- the last day of work for me is June 25). What I've discovered this year is that continually being overwhelmed and stressed out has a negative effect on my writing productivity -- imagine that! It's not that I'm lacking time so much as lacking the ability to focus. It often feels like I've been crowded out of my brain. Even just writing more than a few emails a day has felt difficult.

A year ago, I taught 3 classes, was head of a department, did all the various extra things required in boarding school work, searched for a new job, wrote the thesis for my master's degree, helped edit the first Best American Fantasy, wrote various reviews and essays and columns, still kept up with blogging, and felt guilty and miserable for not writing more fiction (I finished only a couple stories, maybe one of which was worth submi…

Stuff!

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Ellen Kushner and Tempest Bradford both let me know that not only is the Interstitial Arts Foundation holding an auction of jewelry based on stories from Interfictions, but one of the pieces of jewelry is, in fact, based on my story "A Map of the Everywhere": "A Map of the Everywhere -- Boxcar Diner" by Sarah Evans.


I've tried to write something eloquent and thoughtful about how pleased I am anyone would find inspiration in something I'd written ... but basically all I want to say is: Wow! That's so cool!

In other cool news, Mumpsimus fave Chris Barzak has been nominated for the NewNowNext Awards from Logo, which is, apparently, a TV station (I don't have a TV). Chris is nominated in the "Brink of Fame: Author" category, which apparently means he's on the verge of becoming a contestant on a Bravo show. Or something. I don't know. But what I do know is you can go vote for him! Don't let Barzak Day in the Blogosphere have bee…