Showing posts from July, 2010

Third Bear Carnival: Rachel Swirsky Writes Fanfic!

The ever-marvelous Rachel Swirsky has posted her contribution to the Third Bear Carnival , "A Meta-Fictional Diptych Relating to the Stories 'Appogiatura' and 'Fixing Hanover'" (cross-posted to Alas, a Blog ) , which could be considered, as she notes, fan fiction. Now if only all fan fiction were like this... Rebecca Salt, age fourteen, daughter of divorced middle class Jews from Long Island, was tired of being a Speller. She could still remember how things had felt before she got competitive, when Spelling was still a pleasure, when she had a sort of palpable sense of the l-u-x-u-r-i-a-n-c-e** of words and letters. She'd heard the symmetry between alphabet and language as a kind of ringing d-u-l-c-i-m-e-r, intricate and melodious. Sometimes the joy she took in words felt a-u-t-o-c-h-t-h-o-n-o-u-s, seeming to rise up in her from some ineffable, otherworldly source. Six years into the rote of shuffling flash cards in every free moment, gasping out word

Brian Slattery Joins the Third Bear Carnival

The Third Bear Carniva l continues, and will continue to continue over the next few weeks, I expect. The latest freakshow act contribution comes from Brian Francis Slattery , who offers some thoughts on "The Goat Variations" and "Three Days in a Border Town" over at The New Haven Review . Here's a taste: One of the abiding pleasures of writing books, and being lucky enough to have them published, is the way in which they have led me to discover parts of the literary world I may not have discovered otherwise. Among them is a brand of science fiction and fantasy that’s been given all kinds of labels—my favorite is the New Weird—but basically boils down to books in which many strange and interesting things happen, and in which the writing is really, really good. My running favorite author in this group, which makes him one of my favorite living authors, period, is Jeff VanderMeer, a prolific and vastly talented writer perhaps best known for his books about a f

Sandman Meditations: "Imperfect Hosts"

My second Sandman Meditations column is now live at Gestalt Mash , this one looking at the second story, "Imperfect Hosts", and considering, among other things, the place of speech and thought balloons.

The Sound of Movies

The wonderful online film magazine Reverse Shot has just released an entire issue devoted to sound , with essays on the sound of specific and quite varied films: If one shot can contain an entire film in essence, then can a sound? And if the instantaneous break between two images contains shifts in perception that are the exclusive domain of cinema, then what happens when the aural element is added? Since the late twenties, sound has been as essential an ingredient as the shot or the cut in film’s construction, yet more often than not it isn’t discussed in film criticism, with all elements of mise-en-scène making it take a back seat. I'm very sensitive to sound in general, and whenever I used to direct plays I spent nearly as much time on the sound design as anything else.  For the past eight months or so, I've been working as the sound recordist for an independent film some friends of mine are making, and that's made me even more aware of film sound than I was bef

Wizard's Tower Press and Salon Futura

One of my favorite people in the science fiction community, Cheryl Morgan , is one of the people launching a new publishing company, Wizard's Tower Press .  From their own description of their primary publishing purpose: We concentrate mainly on making out-of-print works available once more as e-books, and helping other small presses exploit the e-book market. We will also publish a small number of limited-print-run anthologies with a view to encouraging diversity in the science fiction and fantasy field.  In addition to that, though, Wizard's Tower will be launching a nonfiction webzine, Salon Futura , which Cheryl will edit.  This is great news, because in my own experience working with her, Cheryl has been a thoughtful, intelligent, and persistent editor, which is an ideal combination of qualities for an editor to possess. Salon Futura needs submissions.  Read their guidelines and submit!   They pay money, and you need that, I know you do!

The Lengths of Nolan

Some friends and I went to see Inception this afternoon because we had some time to kill and we were all curious about it. For a summer blockbuster, it's not bad at all. But. Of course, you knew there would be a "but". For a summer blockbuster, it's not bad at all , is the faintest of praise. It's not like the competition is exactly a pantheon of cinematic glory. My feelings about the film are similar to those of Dennis Cozzalio, who wrote a long, thoughtful post that relieves those of us who agree with him from having to say a whole lot more. He says, "It’s not a dreamer’s movie, it’s a clockmaker’s movie," and that sums it up well for me. I didn't strain as much to keep up with the background and plot as he did, but I suspect that's just because I'm very familiar with science fiction exposition. (I think Abigail Nussbaum also has a lot of insight into the movie, particularly from the SF angle.) The puzzle aspects of the fi

Sandman Meditations

Jay Tomio has started a new website, mostly (but not only) devoted to comics, called Gestalt Mash , and he very kindly asked me to be a regular contributor. When he first asked, I thought he must have me confused with somebody else, because though I have some good friends who are comics experts, I'm only an occasional reader of them myself. The only comic I read regularly as a kid was G.I. Joe , and I didn't read my first graphic novel until I was well into my 20's. Jay asked if I'd write about Neil Gaiman's Sandman series , writing a short essay for every issue. I told him, with a bit of embarrassment, that I've never read Sandman ; indeed, I only know Neil Gaiman's work in prose (and like some of it quite a bit ). Jay said that would be the fun -- plenty of comics afficionados have written about Sandman ... but what happens when somebody who doesn't know much about comics does? Well, the first of my "Sandman Meditations" has now

Third Bear Carnival: "The Third Bear"

by Eric Schaller [This post is part of  an on-going series  of explorations through, investigations with, and inspirations from  Jeff VanderMeer's  new short story collection,  The Third Bear .]

The White Ribbon

The film ends in the head of the viewer, not on the screen. --Michael Haneke Perhaps because I'd recently read L. Timmel Duchamp's interesting and thorough review of the new Library of America edition of Shirley Jackson's major works, Michael Haneke's Palm d'Or-winning film The White Ribbon (Das Weisse Band) , felt like a movie inspired by a Shirley Jackson story. It is, however, very much a Michael Haneke film, though a bit of a departure from the movies he's most famous for. We still have the focus on suffering, violence, and guilt; the tone and affect is still analytical, cold, distant; mysteries remain unsolved, their solutions unimportant to an overall scheme in which what matters is not so much the mystery, but the effect of the mystery -- and yet there is a tenderness to some of these scenes that has been rare in much of Haneke's other work. Part of that comes from the large cast of characters: it would be very odd to portray an entire v

Drink Tank Hugo Special

Chris Garcia of the fanzine Drink Tank asked me if he could reprint my blog post on Julian Comstock in a Hugo issue, and after taking a look at some of the hundreds of back-issues, I happily said sure thing.  I'm woefully ignorant of most fanzines, but enjoyed what I read at Drink Tank , and the Hugo Special that's just been put up as a PDF is really a great read.  It's full of opinionated and not at all orthodox pieces about the Hugo Awards in general and this year's slate in particular. At Readercon last week, I was talking with John Kessel and Brett Cox about generational differences in the science fiction world, and the fact that many young writers got into SF through movies and books of the '80s and '90s rather than classics from the " Golden Age" eras.  John said, "But you seem to know some of that work," and I said I'm a weirdo because most of the SF I read in my early, most impressionable years came from a college library th

Third Bear Carnival: "Shark God vs. Octopus God"

by Eric Schaller [This post is part of  an on-going series  of explorations through, investigations with, and inspirations from  Jeff VanderMeer's  new short story collection,  The Third Bear .]

Third Bear Carnival: "The Quickening"

[This post is part of an on-going series of explorations through, investigations with, and inspirations from Jeff VanderMeer's new short story collection, The Third Bear .] "The Quickening" is the one story original to The Third Bear, and it's a story that fascinates me because it is entirely composed of ambiguities.  I like ambiguities in fiction -- they respect the reader by assuming an intelligent audience that wants to be an active participant in the meaning and import of the tale.  (Speaking of awareness of the audience, I should note that this post will probably make most sense to people who have read the story.  Yet another reason for you to get the book!)

Third Bear Carnival

  In honor of the publication of Jeff VanderMeer's new short story collection, The Third Bear , I've asked a group of writers to read a couple of stories each and create some sort of response over the next few weeks. Some of those responses will be analyses of the story, others will be personal essays, at least one will be a work of visual art, and, who knows, some folks might be inspired to create stories of their own, or poems, or movies, or stained glass windows. I've given them no limits or guidelines other than it has to be something they can either post to their own blog or I can post for them here. I will keep updating this post with links to each entry in what I'm calling the Third Bear Carnival. If you happen to have a copy of the book, or even just of some of the stories in the book, feel free to create something of your own and link to it in the comments to this post (I'll add relevant links to the main set whenever I have the chance). Many of t

Readercon Reflections

Readercon 21 was, for me, exciting and stimulating, though this year in particular it felt like I only had a few minutes to talk with everybody I wanted to talk with.  I think part of this is a result of my now living in New Hampshire rather than New Jersey, so I just don't see a lot of folks from the writing, publishing, and reading worlds much anymore. Before I get into some thoughts on some panels and discussions, some pictures: Ellen Datlow's and Tempest Bradford's .  Tempest asked everybody to make a sad face for her, not because Readercon was a sad con (just the opposite!), but because it's fun to have people make sad faces.  The iconic picture from the weekend for me, though, is Ellen's photo of Liz Hand's back .  I covet Liz's shirt. And now for some only vaguely coherent thoughts on some of the panels...

Readercon Book Haul

I'm just back from Readercon and too tired to write up all the various fun that was had -- some great panels, lots of wonderful conversations with more folks than I can possibly remember to mention, not nearly enough time with even more folks than I could ever mention, etc.  Paolo Bacigalupi was so horrified that I had not yet read (or even procured a copy of!) his new novel Ship Breaker that he challenged me to Jell-o wrestle him to the death.  (I like his work so much that I swallowed my pride and declined to wrestle him, because, of course, being the monster of human strength that I am, I would crush him within seconds, and he, being dead, would no longer be able to write.)  Later, a young fan named Junot Diaz and I talked for a while.  He seems like a smart kid, likely to accomplish something one day -- keep your eyes on him. A more comprehensive Readercon post will appear soon, but for now, here are some of the items I came home with, either from the dealers' room, f

Birthday Bear

Today is Jeff VanderMeer's 24th birthday .  Coincidentally, his new collection of stories, The Third Bear , is being released this month, so it's the best of all possible worlds: you can make him happy by buying yourself a present!  Everybody wins! I'll have more to say about The Third Bear next week (Yoda says, "Read it, you should!"). Mostly I just wanted to post this picture of Jeff in the wild: When I advocated that he use this as his author photo from now on, he whacked me on the head with his tail.


This weekend is the one science fiction convention I attend regularly, Readercon, and I'm on a couple panels: Friday 11:00 AM, Salon F: Panel Interstitial Then, Genre Now. Matthew Cheney, John Clute, Michael Dirda, Peter Dube, Theodora Goss (L). Although new genres may seem to be created out of whole cloth, they are of course stitched together from existing literary and cultural elements. Today we call fiction which falls between or combines currently defined genres or subgenres "interstitial literature." Can we therefore read Mary Shelly's _Frankenstein_ or Edgar Allan Poe's detective fiction as interstitial at the time of their creation, even though they now read like pure genre exemplars? What other innovations in literary genre can be fruitfully regarded as originally interstitial? Saturday 3:00 PM, Salon F: Panel The Secret History of _The Secret History of Science Fiction_. Matthew Cheney, Kathryn Cramer, Alexander Jablokov, John Kessel, Ja

Cultural Appropriation

Hal Duncan's latest "Notes from New Sodom" column had me shouting, "Yes!  Yes!" at the morning air as I read it -- one of those wonderful moments when somebody puts into words ideas that I've felt in my own brain only as pre-verbal tadpoles swimming through mud. The topic of the column is the phrase "cultural appropriation" as applied to works of fiction, and Hal uses the TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender and the recent movie derived from it to launch into a learned, thoughtful, and vulgarity-filled argument against the phrase. I've never been comfortable with the idea of "cultural appropriation" applied to fiction, or anything, really, because of the way those words turn culture into property and force any discussion of representation into a discussion of ownership.  Instead, it should be a discussion of power.  Power not only of one group over another, but also the power that stories wield.  Words and narratives matter, th

Who Fears Death Review Now Online

Rain Taxi has now posted my review of Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death on their website.