Showing posts from July, 2009

A Sign

My friends Rick and Beth Elkin are currently traveling from their home in New Mexico up to New Hampshire here to display their excellent wares at the 76th Annual League of NH Craftsmen's Fair . To amuse themselves on the trip, they're taking pictures of particularly interesting sights and sites and sending them my way. The above is my favorite photo so far.

Zen Pulp: The World of Michael Mann

Matt Zoller Seitz, one of my favorite film critics, has created a 5-part video series about one of my favorite film directors, Michael Mann. A few of the episodes are stronger than others, but they're all insightful, and give an excellent sense of what makes Mann special: Zen Pulp, Pt. 1: Vice Precedent: Michael Mann's existential TV drama Zen Pulp, Pt 2 : Lifetime subscriptions: Michael Mann's honor-bound individualists Zen Pulp, Pt 3 : I’m looking at you, Miss: The women of Mann Zen Pulp, Pt. 4 : Do you see?: Michael Mann's reflections, doubles, and doppelgängers Zen Pulp, Pt 5 : Crime Story : Michael Mann's influential pre-Miranda police procedural The best episodes are the middle ones, and part 4, which focuses on Manhunter , is the best of them all. Video essays are a particularly fine way to explore film, because the evidence for an argument can be shown, specific scenes and even frames can be analyzed, and illuminating visual juxtapositions and comparisons

Apollo 11: A View from 1969

Forty years ago, my parents went on their honeymoon to Germany and watched the Apollo 11 moon landing in a pension there.  They told me the story a bunch of times of how the pension owners woke them up around 1am to come down and watch the landing on a little TV.  It was a magic moment. Earlier this week, making my way through the archeological dig that is the attic in the house I inherited from my father, I found, buried under three layers of other things, a trunk of Apollo 11 memorabilia -- newspapers, magazines, etc.  The most wondrous was a copy of the July 24, 1969 Needham Times .  My parents were both from Needham, Massachusetts, and my maternal grandfather, Kenneth W. Webb, was the publisher and editor of the Times for many years. I've never had the chance to read many of my grandfather's writings, because not many seem to have been preserved.  He retired when I was quite young, and he died when I was eleven.  Until I found this copy of the Times , I'd only e


I'm a big fan of the great work done by Archipelago Books , one of the few publishers in the U.S. specializing in literature in translation.  I first discovered them around the time I read Büchner's Lenz in the beautiful edition they released a few years back.  Since then, they've released a bunch of marvelous books that might otherwise be unavailable to English-language readers (while I'm making recommendations, Mandarins is a magnificent collection of stories.  Oh, and any fan of weird fiction should take a look at Palafox .  And you can't go wrong with Breyten Breytenbach .  And-- Well, take your pick ...) Archipelago recently sent out an email saying that the current economic environment has hit them pretty hard.  All of their basic sources of funding -- book sales, grants, donations -- have suddenly been reduced, causing Archipelago to have to scramble to stay alive. Basically, they need some help to get through this.  If you don't want to just send

Some Notes on Burger's Daughter

I've admired many of Nadine Gordimer's short stories ( "Loot" especially) and once even taught her novel My Son's Story to a class of rather perplexed Advanced Placement Literature students. But nothing, nothing, nothing of hers has affected me as deeply as Burger's Daughter , which I just finished reading, after savoring it for two months. Savoring , yes. It's been a long time since I last deliberately slowed my reading of a book so that it would remain new in my life for as long as possible. Usually, even with books I deeply enjoy, I work hard to get to the end and absorb it all so that I can move on. Once every two or three years, though -- seldom more frequently -- I encounter a book that, were a particularly mischievous demon to come by and condemn me to read said book for the rest of eternity, I would say, "Well, I guess that's not so bad." Burger's Daughter is such a book. While reading, I could not imagine that any other

An mp3 of the Everywhere

I've been meaning for a while to record a reading of my story "A Map of the Everywhere", first published in Interfictions , because when I've done a reading of the story, the response has often been somewhat different from the response to the text on the page -- many people have told me they hadn't realized the story was humorous until I read it aloud. Here, then, is an mp3 of me reading the story. It's not particularly high quality -- the microphone I have is one step up from something in a Cracker Jack box. I'm also a better reader with an audience. And there are some glitches in the first minute or two. But for what it's worth, here is "A Map of the Everywhere". Here's a direct link to the file.

Readercon 20

I was only able to be at Readercon for parts of Friday and Saturday this year, so I missed many good events and didn't get to spend much time with all sorts of people I would have liked to have spent time with, but what I did get to do and see was great, probably the best overall experience I've had at the one science fiction convention I try not to miss each year. I arrived on Friday in time for the Interfictions reading -- twelve of us reading very small bits of our stories in less than an hour, which was a lively good time. There was even room for questions afterward! People had great fun with the format, and it provided a vivid picture of what the anthologies are trying to achieve -- a great diversity of structures and approaches to fiction united by a shared sense of play. The next event I attended was a panel on people of color in science fiction and fantasy, a panel moderated by David Anthony Durham, with panelists Cecilia Tan, Anil Menon, Tempest Bradford, and Eilee

G.I. Joe

Of course, most of my reading time is spent in my wood-panelled library, smoking my Meerschaum pipe and contemplating the imbrication of hegemonic discourses. Over the past two days, however, I decided to set aside some light reading I was doing (Wittgenstein's Tractatus , which I tend to think of as the Goodnight Moon of philosophical texts) and instead plunge into two books someone at Del Rey had sent to me: G.I. Joe: Above & Beyond and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra , both written by one Max Allan Collins . The two novels are media tie-ins -- the second is a novelization of the screenplay for the upcoming film of the same title, and the first is a prequel to that. I haven't read too many media tie-ins (the only other that comes to mind is the novelization of Batman , which I read when I was about 13), but I am open to new experiences, and the fact that these two are about G.I. Joe sealed the deal. Before I inhabited a wood-panelled library and smoked a Meerschaum and


It's the 20th year of Readercon , and I'll be there on Friday afternoon and most of Saturday. I'll be on a panel Saturday afternoon titled "Academic Attention: Good, Bad, or Ugly?", a topic that premiered at Readercon 1. My fellow panelists are Dennis Danvers, Samuel Delany, David Hartwell, Fred Lerner, and Veronica Schanoes. I'll also be at the Interfictions reading on Friday afternoon. Otherwise, I'm keeping my schedule open so I can go see panels and such things at a whim, or just hang out in the bookstore or bar. It will be fun to catch up with old friends and meet some new folks, too, I hope. I'm not a big convention person, but Readercon is one I always hate to miss.

The Edge of Heaven

The Edge of Heaven [ Auf der anderen Seite -- literally, "On the Other Side"] won the screenplay award at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and was Germany's entry for the Oscars in 2007*. Some critics have faulted the film for being an obvious and schematic allegory of Turkish-German relations and, more specifically, of Turkey's application to become a full member of the European Union, but while this interpretation does seem at least partially valid to me, I also think it obscures many of the mitigating elements that provide thematic and cinematic complexity to the schema and are, themselves, the real achievements of the movie. The Edge of Heaven is an example of what David Bordwell calls network narratives : The central formal principle is that several protagonists are given more or less the same weight as they participate in intertwining plotlines. Usually these lines affect one another to some degree. The characters might be strangers, slight acquaintances, f

"Mimetic Fiction"

While reading (and enjoying) a recent review at Strange Horizons , I became obsessed with a single word: mimetic . Writing about Vandana Singh's story "Thirst", Dan Hartland says, "Indeed, 'Thirst' is a largely mimetic piece, which opens itself to the fantastic only towards its close..." and then at the end of the paragraph finishes by saying, "two planes often opposed to each other in fiction co-exist and co-mingle, rendering metaphor, allegory and mimesis one". He calls another of Singh's stories "essentially a mimetic story about the search for truth". There's a minor tradition within the science fiction community of using mimetic and mimesis to mean the opposite of the fantastic . The oldest such uses that I could find (with a quick and profoundly less than exhaustive search) date to the early 1970s, and the casual employment of the term in those contexts makes me suspect that it has a longer history within the SF wor