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Showing posts from August, 2009

It's a Plot!

I don't have time or desire to expose all the errors and bad assumptions in Lev Grossman's essay "Good Novels Don't Have to be Hard", but thankfully I don't have to: Andrew Seal has already shown how wrong Grossman is about so much.

Grossman's essay reminds me of a lot of things I've read in science fiction fanzines and blogs over the years where people want to justify their taste and pleasures against armies of straw people marching through an alternate literary history. But I don't really feel any malice toward SF fans and amateur critics who are passionate about what they spend most of their time reading; that they don't have a nuanced understanding of Modernism is really not a big deal.

That a man who has a degree from Harvard in literature and did work toward a Ph.D. in comparative literature at Yale, has written for Lingua Franca, the Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly, Time Out New York, Salon and the New York Times, and has been Time&#…

Delany in Conversation

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As readers of my introduction to The Jewel-Hinged Jaw know, my fascination with Samuel R. Delany really began when I read an interview with him in Charles Platt's book Dream Makers. I've been an avid reader of Delany interviews ever since, and so when Jeff VanderMeer asked me to do a quick interview with him for the Amazon.com blog Omnivoracious, I was particularly thrilled.

That interview has now been posted.

I want to offer here particular thanks to Kyle Cassidy for allowing us to use his marvelous photograph.

Shortly after I finished putting together a draft of the interview, the mailman brought a copy of a new book, Conversations with Samuel R. Delany edited by Carl Freedman for the wonderful Literary Conversations Series from the University Press of Mississippi. The interviews focus on the recent years, and I'd seen most of them in their original form, but there are a few that were published in fairly out-of-the-way places and a couple that have not been published befo…

Books Received

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The majority of the books I receive from publishers and writers are, unfortunately, not ones that spark my interest. They find homes at local libraries, with more appreciative readers, etc. (unless really desperate for cash, I don't sell books I get for free).

The ones that do, for some reason or another, arouse my curiosity are still more plentiful than I have time for. Consider, for instance, two current piles of books I intend to do more than just glance at the cover and publicity materials for...



And that's just stuff that's arrived in the last few weeks...

Some of these are books I will definitely read -- indeed, one of them, Lev Grossman's The Magicians, I read this past weekend. (Not sure if I'm going to write much about it anywhere, because I had exactly the response M.A. Orthofer had at The Complete Review, and I don't think I have anything to add beyond what he said. But we'll see.) I'm writing a piece for Rain Taxi on WallaceShawn, so will …

Best American Fantasy 3 Contents & Recommended Reading

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I just posted lots of news about the Best American Fantasy series. Now here is what I've waited a long time to be able to share -- very much worth the wait, I think--


Best American Fantasy 3: Real Unreal
Guest Editor Kevin Brockmeier, Series Editor Matthew Cheney

"Safe Passage" by Ramona Ausubel (One Story, Issue 106)

"Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel" by Peter S. Beagle (Strange Roads)

"Cardiology" by Ryan Boudinot (Five Chapters, 2008)

"The Pentecostal Home for Flying Children" by Will Clarke (The Oxford American, Issue 61)

"For a Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing" by Martin Cozza (Pindeldyboz, July 6 2008)

"Daltharee" by Jeffrey Ford (The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

"Is" by Chris Gavaler (New England Review, Volume 39, Number 2)

"The Torturer's Wife" by Thomas Glave (The Kenyon Review, Fall 2008)

"Reader's Guide" by Lisa Goldstein (F&SF, July 200…

Best American Fantasy News

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I'll post the contents and recommended reading from Best American Fantasy 3: Real Unreal soon, but until then, some news:
The Best American Fantasy series has undergone a series of important changes, starting with the publisher. Underland Press has acquired the Best American Fantasy series, and will publish the third volume, "Real Unreal," in January of 2010. BAF4, tentatively titled "Imaginary Borders," will appear in March 2011. BAF3 contains work by, among others, Stephen King, Lisa Goldstein, Peter S. Beagle, and John Kessel, as chosen by guest editor Kevin Brockmeier with assistance from series editor Matthew Cheney. The cover of BAF3 was designed by John Coulthart.

The guest editors for volumes 4 through 6 will be: Minister Faust, Junot Diaz, and Catherynne M. Valente. Each of these critically acclaimed writers will bring excellence and expertise to the position. BAF4 will include work published in 2010, as the series skips a year to accommodate the time n…

Where I Lived and What I Lived For

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I taught for nine years at the New Hampton School, an independent boarding school in central New Hampshire (from which I also graduated as a student). During my first three years, I lived as a dorm parent in the oldest building on campus and one of the oldest in town, Randall Hall. Randall was a legendary building, having been hauled across town at the beginning of the 20th century brick by brick and rebuilt. By the time I lived in it with 30-35 junior and senior boys (mostly hockey players), it was in desperate need of repair.

During my third year in Randall, I had become, by default, the dorm head, in charge of everything having to do with the dorm. There are few things in the world I hate more than being an administrator, and so I did what I have always done with such positions: used it to get the heck out! I lived the next six years in an apartment in a house owned by the school.

Despite its historical value, Randall could not ultimately be saved. Structural engineers reported…

Financial Advice for the Day

Someone publishing with One Story could almost certainly place every story with a paying venue, but bad business decisions are pretty much inevitable amongst short story writers as writing short stories is itself a bad business decision.

--Nick Mamatas

Julian Comstock by Robert Charles Wilson

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They say the sky's the limit
But the sky's about to fall
Down come all them record books cradle and all
They say before he bit it
That the boxer felt no pain
But somewhere there's a gamblin' man
With a ticket in the rain...

--The Low Anthem, "Ticket Taker"


I've been intending to read something by Robert Charles Wilson for a while now, especially after Lydia Millet told me she was a fan. I've got a great talent for intending to read things, but my follow-through isn't always great, and so Wilson's new novel, Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America, is the first of his books I've read.

What ultimately got me reading Julian Comstock was Brian Slattery's 3-part interviewwithWilson at Tor.com.  I adore Slattery's work, and trust his judgment, particularly when it comes to novels about the collapse of America as we know it.  I was intrigued, too, that the cover for Wilson's novel echoed the cover of Slattery's Liberatio…

Piles o' Books

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I've run out of bookshelves and have been rearranging some things, which has caused me to create a few big piles of books. I liked them as sculptures, so took some pictures. Then I began wondering what would happen if by some miracle these piles survived a few centuries and were discovered by future archaeologists -- they'd figure, perhaps, they had stumbled upon the hoard of a mad hermit. And would not be entirely incorrect in thinking so...  [click on images to see full size]

District 9

District 9 gave me qualms. And then my qualms got qualms. So now I'm all qualmed up.

Because more than being a well-made action movie, more than being a sometimes clever and often allusive sci-fi summer blockbuster, District 9 is also a South African movie about aliens, a movie with more than a hint of metaphorical intent. Andrew O'Hehir's piece about the film and its director, Neill Blomkamp, is even titled, "Is apartheid acceptable -- for giant bugs?"

My first set of qualms began when I tried to view the movie within the context of South Africa's apartheid history, but it didn't work. The premise isn't about a native ethnic majority that is segregated and oppressed by an ethnic minority of more recent arrival. The premise is about refugees -- and, this being a sci-fi movie, the non-native aliens are really non-native and really aliens.

Thus, the District 9 of the title is a slum full of refugees (obviously, there are some echoes of District 6, but…

Awesome!

Before I could even get around to putting up my annual post about the Strange Horizons fund drive, John and Kristine Scalzi made a wonderful offer of matching donations up to a total of $500. John's announcement rounded up so much interest that in 27 hours the fund drive exceeded its goal of raising $7000 for the month.

As someone who benefits directly from people's donations (yeah yeah, I know, I should be paying them to publish my stuff, but what can I say?) and who reads SH pretty darn faithfully, I'm tremendously grateful for the support shown to the site.

And perhaps we should give Scalzi another Hugo Award -- this time for Best Related Act of Generosity.

Africa and Science Fiction

Twoposts already today, both of them full of negative waves, so here's something positive:

You should read Nnedi Okorafor's guest post at the Nebula Awards blog, "Is Africa Ready for Science Fiction?" Lots of information and great stuff to think about. Since one of my favorite people is a Kenyan who recently completed a science fiction novel, Okorafor's question is one I'm particularly interested in, but even if you aren't as personally invested in its immediate concerns, the essay raises some really interesting issues of culture and communication.

Quote for the Day

Paul Monette, whom some people might call a "sexual pervert" who suffered from "objectively disordered appetites", once wrote,
You'll pardon my French, but it's not so hard to be politically correct. All you have to do is not be an asshole.Some people are really failing at that right now.

Tin House Genre Fiction

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A reader writes to Tin House:
I have read several issues of Tin House, including the most recent. Two vegetarians go on a hunting trip . . . enough said. I feel that I have several pieces that would fit the magazine, however, I am struggling with just one thing. This question is geared not only toward the magazine but the writing workshop as well. Do you accept genre fiction? I was also wondering how I might go about determining whether or not my piece fits into a specific genre and what general fiction is. Thank you in advance.
—Confused in LAAnd Tin House responds.

Now, I happen to like Tin House very much. We've reprinted stories from the magazine in each volume of Best American Fantasy. Their "Fantastic Women" issue was awesome. Their current anniversary issue is also awesome. Just about all of their issues are awesome.

But the response to Concerned in LA is not awesome. It's disappointing.

I spend too much time, perhaps, defending writers, editors, and publisher…

Hopefully...

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I woke up this morning and thought, "I really need good ammunition against people who say that 'hopefully' can't be used to mean 'I hope'," because that's the sort of thing I tend to wake up thinking (yes, my paranoias are often about being mugged by style goons). I fired up my ol' computer machine and plugged into the intertubes and went immediately to Language Log, where I got a concise explanation of what I needed:
Speaker-oriented (or "stance") adverbial hopefully has been taking abuse pretty steadily for 30 or more years (see MWDEU). Linguists are mostly just baffled by this disparagement; see the discussion in the American Heritage Book of English Usage, where it's noted that "hopefully seems to have taken on a life of its own as a shibboleth." But the word fits right into long-standing patterns of the language -- cf. frankly in "Frankly, this soup stinks" and surprisingly in "Surprisingly, this sou…

Mumpsimus Gmail Address Active Again

I mentioned a few months ago that I'd taken the [mumpsimus at gmail] address off the site for a bit while I weeded it of spam sent through from some old addresses that were forwarding to it.  The problem has been fixed and I've weeded through everything as best I could.  The delay was much longer than I intended or expected it would be, but I've added the address back to the "About" section of the sidebar and should now be able to keep up with new messages sent to it.  (Note: If you happened to send a message to it in the last six months or so and haven't yet gotten a reply, but would like one, please send your message again.)  My apologies to anybody who felt ignored!

Hooray for Hugos!

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I'll admit it: I have a sentimental love of the Hugo Awards. The Hugo Winners anthologies edited by Isaac Asimov were essential to forming my early view of what science fiction is and can be (Asimov's introductions to the stories were as important as the stories themselves, painting a portrait of a community of readers and writers that I deeply wished I could join). The Hugo Winners volumes 1-5 sit proudly on my living room bookshelves -- below shelves of Chekhov and Kafka, above a shelf of Virgina Woolf and a shelf of Shakespeare.

I didn't have a problem with Adam Roberts's recent call for the Hugos to get "better", because in amidst the shouts of "elitist!" and "nuh uh!" it led to some good conversation. Criticism of the Hugos is an important tradition. Soon after I discovered the Hugo Winners anthologies in a library, I discovered in a used bookstore two anthologies edited by Richard Lupoff: WhatIf? volumes one and two. Subtitled &qu…

NH Theatre Events

Posting here has been light because at the moment I'm in rehearsals for The Winter's Tale in Sandwich, New Hampshire. It's the realization of a lifelong dream -- I am getting to play the King of Bohemia! (Otherwise known as Polixenes, but I insist everyone refer to me as the King of Bohemia. I rule over many cafés and have my own line of designer liberal guilt.) For anyone who happens to be nearby, the show runs August 11-16 at the outdoor stage of the Sandwich Fairgrounds at 2pm, rain or shine.

Also, I haven't yet had a chance to write about my experience as a participant in the first of the Write On Golden Pond playwrighting/screenwriting workshops offered by Whitebridge Farm Productions here in central NH. I've known workshop leader Ernest Thompson (winner of one of them Oscar thingies for writing an obscure indie flick called On Golden Pond) for longer than either of us would care to admit, and for five or six years I participated in an informal playwright…

Mindblowing!

For certain reasons, I've been musing on some of the science fiction stories that, over the years, at one time or another, I might have classified as "mindblowing". Just a little personal list, one made very quickly...

"The Lost Kafoozalum" by Pauline Ashwell
"Blood Child" by Octavia E. Butler
"Fool to Believe" by Pat Cadigan
"Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang
"Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones" by Samuel R. Delany
"The Start of the End of It All" by Carol Emshwiller
"The Faithful Companion at Forty" by Karen Joy Fowler
"Midnight News" by Lisa Goldstein
"The Violet's Embryos" by Angélica Gorodischer
"Out of All Them Bright Stars" by Nancy Kress
"The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin
"Tiny Tango" by Judith Moffett
"No Woman Born" by C.L. Moore
"Rachel in Love" by Pat Murphy
"A Scarab in the City of Time&…