Showing posts from February, 2010

Music News of the Day

In case you didn't know, Shearwater released a new album yesterday.  This should cause you to jump up and down and scream, "Yes!  Now my life will feel whole and rewarding once again!" It's too early for me to say how I like the new album in comparison with Shearwater's previous work, but it doesn't really matter.  They're a wonderfully consistent band, and I love them for it.  (And by the way, if you haven't heard their Daytrotter Session , you're missing something special -- and free!  The version of "Nobody" they did there is among my favorite recordings of all time, meaning it's up there with Sam Collins's "Lonesome Road Blues" and Yo-Yo Ma's first recordings of the Bach cello suites .) Here's a video for one of the songs from the new album:

Double Feature: Hunger and Endgame

Hunger and Endgame offer two different approaches to representing history with narrative film, and the differences are such that a comparison may be unfair to Endgame , a film of minor accomplishments that quickly fades from memory, while Hunger , whatever you ultimately make of it, contains many scenes that are difficult to forget. The actual events of the two films are only a few years apart: Hunger focuses on the 1981 hunger strikes by prisoners in Northern Ireland, and particularly the death of Bobby Sands; Endgame portrays the secret negotiations in the late 1980s between representatives of the African National Congress (particularly Thabo Mbeki) and the ruling Afrikaners of South Africa. The films work hard to portray the humanity of both sides of their conflicts, as if the filmmakers' greatest fear is to be condemned as biased or propagandistic. Yet their sympathies are so clearly on one side that the effort seems mostly token -- in Hunger (a movie with many virt

Nebula, Nebulae

Dear Nebula Voters, I know what your real purpose is with the nominees for this year's award.  Don't think you can hide your secret, conspiratorial goals from me!  I know what you really want to do is cause me immense angst by putting some of my favorite people up against each other in your various (nefarious!) categories.  You know when it comes to awards I root for the people I know and like before I even consider anything else, because of course the people I know and like are all the greatest writer in the world, but what am I supposed to do when you, for instance, put VanderMeer up against Barzak in the novel category?! I'm safe, at least, with the short story category.  Jim Kelly is the only writer I know well there, so obviously he should win.  Novelette is worse -- Paolo Bacigalupi is the one person whose short stories have caused me to write a long essay , and he's a really nice guy (well, as long as you don't burn lots of hydrocarbons in front of him. 

Black Sunlight Available Again

I was excited to discover that Dambudzo Marechera's bizarre, beautiful, disturbing, and utterly unique book Black Sunlight is now available again in what looks like a handsome edition from Penguin as part of their new African Writers Series.  It's an even wilder book than the novel Marechera is best known for, House of Hunger , and because of that fact it hasn't gotten the same attention, but Black Sunlight deserves as much notice.  If you're curious for a taste of the prose, I've quoted it here on the blog in the past. I discovered that the book is available again when I read Akin Ajayi's commentary at The Guardian's Book Blog, "Penguin's African Writers Series is stuck in the past" (via The Literary Saloon ).  Ajayi makes the case that the five books being released in the U.K. to inaugurate the new series are all at least 15 years old (a sixth book, Karen King-Aribisala's The Hangman's Game , is part of the series in South Afr

Hitchcock & Me

My latest Strange Horizons column, "Revisiting Hitchcock", has been posted.  It's a first stab at what will, I hope, become a longer project eventually, but writing about Hitchcock is tough because he's been so thoroughly written about before that it's hard not to just reiterate what lots of other folks have written.  But his work maintains such a hold on me that I also feel at this point that I can't not write about it, so who knows...

A Fine Argument Against Gay Marriage

" Opponents said the consummation of gay unions can't be spoken of in polite society." How true!   And now an assignment: Find some "polite society" and talk about the details of the, uh, consummation of your hetero union.  Let me know how that works out...

Decade: Some Books

Personally, I think everyone should post a list of the books that delighted or awed them over this past decade, without pretending it’s anything definitive. --Jeff VanderMeer Nobody ever gets over their first camel. --Bryher I love lists and am wary of them.  They are a being that is half parlor game, half manifesto.  And half a few other things, too, including whatever's in the dumpster outside my friend Maury's apartment in Detroit.  (My arithmetic skills are impressive, I know.  And I don't have a friend name Maury.  I'm not sure I even know anybody who lives in Detroit.) The years 2000-2009 were important ones in my life as a reader, though, and I would like to memorialize them with something.  I could spend the next decade making lists of books from the previous decade, but I've probably got better things to do. Instead, here's a list of books that come to mind this morning, Saturday, 13 February 2010, when I think about the previous ten years. I&#

Real Unreal: Best American Fantasy 3 Now Available!

I haven't seen a copy yet, but various online outlets say they're shipping Real Unreal: Best American Fantasy 3 , and Powell's and St. Marks Books report they've got some in stock at this very moment, so now's your chance to get them before they become collector's items and sell for tens of thousands of dollars on the used book market.  Publisher's Weekly and Charles Tan both like it, so you should, too! Or, if you just want to read it and aren't planning on buying a box or two of the book to hoard in preparation for the Last Days, there's always the library .

Looking for a Deal?

I just discovered the other day that Tin House Books is offering a set of four of their books for $35.99 via their website as The Tin House Writers' Series .  This is a wonderful deal: The Writer's Notebook: Craft Essays from Tin House ; The Story about the Story , a collection of thirty essays; The World Within , a collection of interviews; and The Journals of Jules Renard , which was the subject of one of my personal favorites among my Strange Horizons columns . I'm planning to use the bundle as an assigned text for a course I'm teaching in the fall, "Writing and the Creative Process" because the content is varied and high quality and the price still allows me to assign another book if need be (I'm thinking of perhaps also using Lynda Barry's What It Is , but I'm still early in the planning process; a sales rep from Norton said he's sending me some things to look at, and he was friendly and knowledgeable, so I want to give those books a fa

"Science Fiction Has Given the Umlaut in Upper High German a Run for Its Money"

The title of this post comes from a very worthwhile audio interview with Samuel R. Delany at The Dragon Page (you'll have to listen to find out what it means!  The interview is about a third of the way into the podcast).  It was the first time I'd publicly heard the release date of Chip's new novel, Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders , which is scheduled to be releaed in November from Alyson Books , where the great Don Weise, who was the editor for Dark Reflections , is now the publisher.  A version of part of the new novel appeared in Black Clock 7 a few years ago, and Chip read some of it aloud at Readercon this past summer.  It tells the story of the relationship of two men, starting in 2007 and continuing for about seventy years into the future. The interview also contains interesting discussions of The Jewel-Hinged Jaw , of why Chip writes what he does, of his work at Temple University, and of the growing acceptance of some forms of genre writing among the c

William Tenn (1920-2010)

Among the great American satirical fictioneers of the last hundred years or so -- and Americans often tend to be satirical fictioneers, even when they're not trying to be, because it's hard to write about the vast, paradoxical, beautiful monstrosity that is America without delving, at least momentarily, into satire; but few writers can sustain a varied career as satirists, and few who do are truly great -- there are two whose works I hold close to my heart: Kurt Vonnegut and William Tenn . The man who wrote under the name "William Tenn" was Philip Klass, and he has died at the age of 89. I had the great honor of shaking Mr. Klass's hand at the 2004 World Science Fiction Convention in Boston, the only WorldCon I have (so far) attended.  He was the Guest of Honor, and I somehow ended up at the Hugo Losers Party, and he was there to hang out with the losers.  He seemed quite happy to be in such company. Shaking his hand was, for me, one of those awkward moment

Bolaño and the Poetic Pose

Ron Silliman on Bolaño's poetry: The pose of Bolaño-the-poet may well be more important – and certainly more powerful – than the fact of the poems themselves, but what might be most useful here is to note the whole notion of Bolaño posing. The unifying – indeed distinguishing – element of these poems, written in a post-Beat free verse that might be closest in English to Lawrence Ferlinghetti or Ray Bremser , is the consistency of the pose: the intellectual as tough guy but one who is, at all moments, hard as nails & deeply sentimental. Think of upper limit Jean-Paul Belmondo in the films of Godard, lower limit Charles Bukowski (not as Mickey Rourke so much as Johnny Depp or, had he lived, Heath Ledger). Imagine Kerouac mixed with Camus.

Help Paul Tremblay Celebrate the Publication of His Second Novel By Buying It From Somewhere Other Than Amazon

Paul Tremblay and I were emailing recently, but I didn't realize until I read his comment on an excellent blog post by John Scalzi that Paul's second novel, No Sleep till Wonderland , is 1.) being published today, and 2.) published by Henry Holt, a subsidiary of Macmillan , which means that for the moment it's not being sold on  (Yes, there are copies available from third-party sellers -- these are probably review copies, and they send no royalties to the writer.) The first day of a novel's publication should be a day of celebration and joy, not a day when the world's largest monopolistic bookseller refuses to sell your book because they're in a spat with another massive corporation. I don't know Paul well, and I haven't read his novels, but I've read his short fiction and met him a few times.  His story "The Two-Headed Girl" is included in Best American Fantasy 3 .  He's a nice guy and a good writer. So here's

Alternatives to Associating with Amazon

Every time Amazon flexes its muscle to reveal just how powerful its monopoly is (cf. the latest brouhaha ), I grow a bit more uncomfortable making all the book title links on this blog ones that go to Amazon and, through their Associates program, send back some spare change to me.  I mean, I know I'm immoral for using Amazon so much, but I've already admitted to being a pox upon the bookselling body in general.  In most of my choices as a consumer, I'm a pox upon the entire world, a blight of bourgeois indifference, a hemmorhoid on the......  Well, you get the idea. But what about you?  Why should Amazon be the only choice you have when following a link to find out more information about a book, and possibly to order a copy for yourself?  Why should I force you to be the same sort of immoral pox-blight-hemmorhoid as I? I've stuck with the Amazon Associates program for, as I said on David Moles's blog , reasons of inertia and of not knowing of another website th

Wallace Shawn at The Quarterly Conversation

I'm happy whenever one of my favorite playwrights, Wallace Shawn, gets some attention.  Andrew Ervin has written an interesting personal essay at The Quarterly Conversation about Shawn and white privilege , his thoughts sparked by Shawn's latest publications, Essays  and Grasses of a Thousand Colors . I wrote about those two books and Shawn's whole career as a writer for the most recent print issue of Rain Taxi .   While you'll have to get your hands on the dead tree magazine itself to read it all (for now), here are three paragraphs from it to whet your appetite...