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Showing posts from January, 2011

Astounding!

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This is probably my favorite Astounding cover, the last one that magazine published by Alejandro Canedo, apparently titled "Inappropriate". It's the July 1954 issue. Canedo (or Cañedo? Same artist?) had put naked men on the cover of Astounding before -- the September 1947 is ... well, it sure puts some of the old gay pulps to shame...

Happy Birthday to Virginia Woolf

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When one was young, said Peter, one was too much excited to know people. Now that one was old, fifty-two to be precise (Sally was fifty-five, in body, she said, but her heart was like a girl’s of twenty); now that one was mature then, said Peter, one could watch, one could understand, and one did not lose the power of feeling, he said. No, that is true, said Sally. She felt more deeply, more passionately, every year. It increased, he said, alas, perhaps, but one should be glad of it — it went on increasing in his experience.

--Virginia Woolf,
Mrs. Dalloway

Today is Virginia Woolf's 129th birthday. Woolf is one of my touchstone writers, a writer I've been reading for the majority of my life (really, I first tried to read Mrs. Dalloway in middle school -- I didn't get too far, but I found the first pages of the book utterly entrancing, and by the time I read it fully for the first time eight or nine years later, I had those pages nearly memorized). I've read all of Woolf&…

Weird Tales News

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You might have heard that Ann VanderMeer was promoted from fiction editor of (the Hugo Award-winningWeird Tales to editor-in-chief. Ann is smart, brilliantly discriminating, down-to-earth, and practical*, so I've been very curious to see what she would do as editor-in-chief.

Well, now we know. Weird Tales has a revamped website, for one thing. (Writers should note that with that comes a new submission portal -- be sure to read the guidelines before submitting. Payment for fiction has also been raised to 5 cents/word.) And the staff is composed of some great folks in addition to Ann -- the great and glorious Paula Guran is nonfiction editor, the glorious and great Mary Robinette Kowal is art director. Aiding and abetting them are Tessa Kum, Dominik Parisien, and Alan Swirsky as editorial assistants.

I'm tremendously proud to have had a story in Weird Tales, a magazine I've been reading since childhood (astute collectors will find a rather embarrassing letter to the edito…

Are We Living in an Alternate Universe?

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Glenn Beck appropriates ACT UP's Silence = Death.

I went to some ACT UP meetings and protests in the mid-1990s in New York. One of them was a protest against the Pope. People who were braver and more committed than I dropped a banner out of Saks 5th Avenue that read "CONDOMS SAVE LIVES". I was with a group of about 20 folks who were allowed into a special police-created protest area in amidst what felt like a million Catholics waiting for the Pope outside St. Patrick's Cathedral. I remember a woman coming up with her young daughter to the waist-high metal barricades that enclosed us. She threw holy water at us and told her daughter we were vampires.

Perhaps in this new alternate reality, Beck will have Larry Kramer on his show to talk about Ronald Reagan. That would be fun...

20th Century Poetry

A few days ago, Scott Esposito wrote about tackling Louis Zukofsky'sA, which he said was part of an informal list a poet friend had given him in response to a question from Scott: "I want to know more about poetry–what do you recommend?" I and other sufferers of 'satiable curtiosity pleaded in the comments to the post to see the full list, and now Scott has gotten permission to share it.

It's a wonderful list because it's diverse, personal, and would allow any reader to expand her or his reading. It also presumes the reader is experienced and curious; it's not a Poetry 101 list, so there are some obvious names missing (Williams, Pound) to make way for ones the list writer is particularly passionate about. And the selections are mostly of "difficult" poetry more than people like Mary Oliver or Billy Collins.

Of course, the list could be ten or a hundred times as long, but that would be much less helpful.

I'm resisting the temptation to offer…

"The War of the Sexes" and "The Queen Bee"

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Here are links to PDFs of a couple of old science fiction stories that may be of interest to some folks. (Both, as far as I have been able to tell, did not have their copyrights renewed and so are in the public domain; I'll get rid of the links if I discover otherwise.)

"The War of the Sexes" by Edmond Hamilton was first published in the November 1933 issue of Weird Tales and reprinted once, in the version I have a PDF of, in The Avon Science Fiction Reader, no. 1, in 1951. It's a terribly silly story, bad in just about every conceivable way, and pretty hilarious because of it.

"The Queen Bee" by Randall Garrett was published in the December 1958 issue of Astounding and has never been reprinted as far as I can tell. It is not even remotely hilarious. I found it, in fact, quite disturbing to read. It is a revolting story, a representation of a sick male fantasy made "necessary" by circumstances. (I suspect Joanna Russ may have had the story in mind…

Out There

Some things of interest...

If you liked my recent column on Sexing the Body, evolutionary psychology, gender, etc., then you should really keep your eyes on the ongoing series of posts about sex science at the essential (though not essentialist) Echidne of the Snakes. Over the holidays, she read three books on the topic -- one I mentioned in my column, and have also praised before, Pink Brain, Blue Brain; but also two I haven't yet seen, Delusions of Gender and Brainstorm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences by Rebecca M. Jordan-Young. At the very least, read Echidne's first post of seven short conclusions reached after finishing the books. Great, great stuff.

And if you're curious to know more about this stuff, and Pink Brain, Blue Brain in particular, here's a lecture by its author, Lisa Eliot.

I was hoping Aaron Bady would respond to the New York Times article "In Sudan, a Colonial Curse Comes Up for a Vote", and lo and behold, my wishes came true:…

Sexing the Body

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My latest Strange Horizons column has been posted. It's about one of my favorite books of nonfiction, Ann Fausto-Sterling's Sexing the Body.

I first tried to write it as a straightforward appreciation, but for reasons that will become obvious from the column, I couldn't do that right now. So I broke the voices in my head into two configurations, X and Y, and had them talk to each other -- they're neither and both "me", and that proved to be just the distancing effect I needed.

Here's a sample:

X:Anyway, what I was saying was that I wanted to talk about Sexing the Body, which was one of those books that, when I first encountered it, completely changed my way of viewing the world. Y: No it didn't. X: What? Y: I was there. You first read it for a graduate course on sexuality and science where a chapter was in the course packet. You sought out the book for a paper you wrote about Eugen Steinach, one of the crazier of the crazy bunch of early endocrinologists.…

Utopia and the Gun Culture

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It's not Bob Dylan's best by any means, but for quite a while I've had a fondness for his little-known early folk song, "Let Me Die in My Footsteps", which I first heard in a recording by Happy Traum (with Dylan in background) from the Best of Broadside album, a marvelous collection that I gave to my mother as a Christmas present ten years ago.

When I first heard the song, this verse is one that quickly stuck in my mind, and is one that has a habit of floating through my mind's ear with some regularity:
If I had rubies and riches and crowns
I’d buy the whole world and change things around
I’d throw all the guns and the tanks in the sea
For they are mistakes of a past historyIt was a constant earwig this weekend after I learned of the massacre in Arizona.

Elif Shafak: The Politics of Fiction

Via various Facebook folks -- this is a talk well worth watching:

Today's Idea

Rummaging through some old poems
for ideas -- surely I must have had some
once? Some people have an idea a day,
others millions, still others are condemned
to spend their life inside an idea, like a
bubble chamber. And these are probably
the suspicious ones. Anyway, in poems
are no ideas. No ideas in things, either--
her name is Wichita.

--John Ashbery,
from "And the Stars Were Shining"

A Few Lists, Mostly of Films

The new year is a time of many lists. I have a love/hate relationship with lists; here are a few ones I have recently loved more than hated:

Reverse Shot's List of Best Films of 2010
A lot of "best of the year" lists of movies are terribly similar, and this year they seemed especially so. I like such lists mostly as ways to discover film I haven't heard of, and though by the time I got to Reverse Shot's list, I knew about most of the titles on it, I found the selection refreshingly different from most. (My basic criterion for whether I trusted a critic's listmaking this year was if they included Inception on their list or not. If it was there, I didn't think they'd either seen enough movies or developed enough judgment; if it was absent, I was willing to take a look at what they had to say.) Reverse Shot's list of the 11 films they most hated this year is amusing, but not nearly as valuable as their list of bests.

New Deal Sally: 2010 Top Ten
This m…

Spring Classes

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Some readers seem interested in my (Machiavellian) thought process when creating classes, so here is another in an occasional series about what I'll be teaching in the upcoming term.

First off, I owe thanks to all the folks who offered ideas and experiences when I asked for opinions about gender and science fiction. Your responses not only helped me clarify my goals, but also helped at least one other teacher who, it turns out, is proposing a similar class at his university.

The Gender & SF class looks like it will have about 10 students, a few of whom I've had before and who were among the best students I've taught, so, naturally, I'm excited. Selecting the final list of books was painful because as I plotted things out day by day, there just wasn't enough time to do all I'd thought I should even minimally do. I'm compensating for this a little bit by having the students each read a book of their own (I may do this in pairs, maybe singles -- I'm go…