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Showing posts from October, 2011

About (Experimental) Writing

...having the entire intellectual armamentarium of rhetorical devices at your beck and call is far preferable to having to limit yourself to tradititional narrative tropes, when writing about truly important matters. To me, that's just simple logic. —Samuel R. Delany
(see also, here)

Film Textbooks, Take 2

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On the last day of 2009, I wrote a post about choosing a textbook for the Introduction to Film class that I was then designing. I'll be teaching that course again next term, along with another film class: Outlaws, Delinquents, and "Deviants" in Film and Society. Book orders were due at the beginning of this week, so I've been looking through film textbooks a lot over the last couple of months, and especially the last two weeks.

A Contribution to Schaller-VanderMeer Studies

After my own previous contribution to the burgeoning academic field of VanderMeer Studies, I am happy to christen yet another field: Schaller-VanderMeer Studies, a discipline inaugurated in ivy-covered halls with the Illustrating VanderMeer exhibit. True (Schaller-)VanderMeer Studies scholars do not limit themselves to the study of half a VanderMeer, however, and so I am happy to present here a monograph by Eric Schaller about the woman who was described by Xaver Daffed as "the better half of VanderMeer" (325).

This monograph was originally published in the Fogcon program book, March 2011.



ANN VANDERMEER by Eric Schaller


Something was happening back there at the tail end of the last millennium. And I’m not talking about The Gulf War, McDonald’s opening a franchise in Moscow, the cloning of Dolly the sheep, the Spice Girls, or even Bill Clinton demonstrating new uses for a cigar. Although all these probably figure in there somewhere. What I am talking about are THE SILVER WEB (1…

A Contribution to VanderMeer Studies

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My previous post about The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction noted that it is in beta-text mode and so quite obviously incomplete. Among the lacks are entries on either Jeff or Ann VanderMeer. I am not a contributor to the encyclopedia nor am I in any way affiliated with it, but I do have a great interest in all things VanderMeer.

Earlier this year, I wrote a biography of Jeff for Fogcon, where he and Ann were honored guests. (Eric Schaller wrote the biography of Ann, which I hope he will allow me to reprint here, but he's not returning my calls or email at the moment, probably because I suggested that for Halloween he should dress his dog as a character from Twilight.)

I hope the information provided below will prove useful to the encyclopedists and any future scholars. My only goal in life is to be helpful. Jeff VanderMeer will, I expect, deny the accuracy of some of it, but I believe such denials only confirm the truths I am here able to provide to the world...



THE HOEGBOTTON GUI…

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (3rd edition) is now in beta-text mode online for free, and even in this obviously incomplete form it's remarkable and fascinating. At Readercon this summer, in answer to the question of what works of SF criticism have been as influential as some of the seminal works of the 1970s and early '80s, I proposed the second edition of The Encyclopedia, a book that was not merely a collection of facts, but an argument about how to categorize the world and our imaginings of it. As such, it reduced even someone as taxonomy-averse as I to awe, and the influence of a lot of its idiosyncratic terms and templates on how people write about SF is undeniable.

I haven't had a chance to read a lot of the new material in the online 3rd edition, and have really only spent time with the Delany entry and the entry on Feminism. The Delany entry is basically the old entry plus some apparently quick updating -- its coverage of material by and about Delany after t…

Silly (Awards) Season

I'm a juror for the Shirley Jackson Awards this year, so perhaps I'm more sensitive than normal to pundits carping about award results, but something about awards brings out people's desire to complain, and they don't usually come out looking very good by doing so.

The ones people always complain about get complaints again this year -- the Nobel and the National Book Awards. The two articles I've seen linked to most frequently are Tim Parks on the Nobel and Laura Miller on the National Book Awards.

The Parks piece isn't terrible, but I'd agree with M.A. Orthofer at The Literary Saloon that it's "somewhat careless". (Parks has written a bit more thoughtfully about the Nobel in his essay "The Nobel Individual".) I certainly agree that the Nobel is inevitably in a tough position because it's supposed to be so international and definitive, and people give it almost mystical reverence, but its track record really isn't that bad. S…

Telluride at Dartmouth: Le Havre

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This post is the last in my chronicle of attending the Telluride at Dartmouth program at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. Days 1 & 2 (A Dangerous Method and Albert Nobbs) can be found here, Day 3 (We Need to Talk About Kevin) can be found here, and Day 4 (In Darkness)can be found here.

The final film of the six shown in the Telluride at Dartmouth program was Le Havre, written and directed by Aki Kaurismäki. (As I expected, I wasn't able to get over to Hanover for The Kid with the Bike, alas.) It was a good choice for a concluding film because the program had been, overall, rather bleak -- enjoyable, powerful, illuminating, but seldom uplifting. Le Havre is a fairy tale and a feel-good movie, one that tackles terrifying and complex subjects whimsically and is so determined to finish on a good note that everybody's ending is a happy one. It's naive to the point of being Panglossian, but so darn nice about it that it seems churlish to complain. It's a tremendously enj…

Strange Horizons Fund Drive

It's the final week of the Strange Horizons Fund Drive, and there are lots of fun prizes that have been donated by the various folks who support SH. But you shouldn't donate just to get a prize. You should donate because that's what keeps SH going, and has kept it going for 10 years now, long enough to make it venerable. Their staff is all volunteer, but they pay their writers good rates (think of it as the opposite of the Huffington Post that way).

Here's some useful info:


Where does my money go?Strange Horizons is staffed entirely by volunteers, so everything you donate goes towards the running of the magazine. At the moment, our costs break down something like this: Your $5 donation will cover our administrative overhead costs for one weekYour $20 donation pays for one poem or one reviewYour $50 donation pays for one articleYour $100 donation allows us to sponsor a convention eventYour $250 donation is the average amount we pay for a new storyYour $400 donation pays…

An Autobiography in Books

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Ray Russell of Tartarus Press has just put a lovely short film up on YouTube, a sort of autobiography via his book collection. Anyone who has ever felt the passions of bibliomania will find the film irresistible, and the shots of some of the rare books, especially by Arthur Machen and Sylvia Townsend Warner, are sensuous and gloriously bibliopornographic.


Telluride at Dartmouth: In Darkness

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This post continues to chronicle my attendance at the Telluride at Dartmouth program at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. Days 1 & 2 (A Dangerous Method and Albert Nobbs) can be found here, Day 3 (We Need to Talk About Kevin) can be found here.


I resisted In Darkness because it is a Holocaust film, and that is just about my least favorite movie genre. Nonetheless, it is a genre I'm deeply familiar with, and was the subject of the first serious film book I ever read, the original edition of Annette Insdorf's Indelible Shadows, which I discovered on my father's bookshelves when I was in high school. Soon after, I saw Schindler's List and found it deeply moving in a very adolescent way (on my part, at least, and maybe on Spielberg's). Later, I realized that Schindler's List had created a sort of emotional smugness in me -- it had made me feel good about feeling all the appropriate emotions. Spielberg is one of the greatest manipulators of emotion that the cinem…