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Showing posts from 2012

Some Movies

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I haven't had a chance to write about many movies over the past few months, so here are some stray, incomplete thoughts and blazingly subjective opinions on various films, before I completely forget my first impressions...

The Amazing Spider-Man. I've come to the conclusion that I don't much like super-hero movies, and my love of The Amazing Spider-Man, which most people seem to feel at best lukewarm about, is probably because it's not much of a super-hero movie. I didn't care for Sam Raimi's three Spider-Man movies much — indeed, I thought number 2, which some people I know consider the greatest super-hero movie of all time, worked vastly better when played at 1.5 speed, and probably would have been even better played faster, if the voices didn't sound like The Chipmunks. I went into The Amazing Spider-Man with very low expectations, then, and those expectations were exceeded all around. The casting is ultimately the film's greatest strength, because A…

3 New E-Books

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I have contributions in three new e-books that offer all sorts of wonders and joys:

Don't Pay Bad for Bad is a collection of rare and previously unpublished short stories by Amos Tutuola (author of The Palm-Wine Drinkard, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, etc.). The e-book includes an introduction by Tutuola's son Yinka, and an afterword by me in which I try to give some of the context for how Tutuola's writing has been perceived by readers over the years. [Available from Weightless (Epub & Mobi formats), Wizard's Tower (Epub & Mobi), Amazon.]Tainaron: Mail from Another City by Leena Krohn is a nearly-indescribable novella, easily one of my favorite pieces of writing of the last few decades, and so I'm thrilled to have provided an afterword for the e-book. [Available from Weightless (Epub & Mobi formats), Amazon.]The second issue of the lit journal Unstuck includes all sorts of stories, poems, essays, whatzits, etc., including a little story of mine, "…

Warrior Dreams and Gun Control Fantasies

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Yesterday's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was the sixteenthmass shooting in the U.S. in 2012.

Looking back on my post about "Utopia and the Gun Culture" from January 2011, when Jared Loughner killed and wounded various people in Arizona, I find it still represents my feelings generally. A lot of people have died since then, killed by men with guns. I've already updated that post once before, and I could have done so many more times.

Focusing on guns is not enough. Nothing in isolation is. In addition to calls for better gun control, there have been calls for better mental health services. Certainly, we need better mental health policies, and we need to stop using prisons as our de facto mental institutions, but that's at best vaguely relevant here. Plenty of mass killers wouldn't be caught by even the most intrusive psych nets, and potential killers that were would not necessarily find any treatment helpful. Depending on the scope and nuance of the…

New Issue of The Revelator

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The latest issue of The Revelator is now online. Eric Schaller and I put this one together with love and craft. It includes new short stories by Meghan McCarron and Laird Barron, poems by Sonya Taaffe, comix by Chad Woody, a column on music by Brian Francis Slattery, art by Adam Blue, miniatures used in the movie The Whisperer in Darkness, a previously-unpublished interview with H.P. Lovecraft that Nick Mamatas discovered, etc. Once again, we have, we believe, fully embodied our motto: The Truth ... And All.

The easiest way to keep apprised of the always-unpredictable, regularly irregular schedule of The Revelator is via our Facebook page.

Notes After a Viewing of Red Dawn (2012)

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The question is not whether Red Dawn is a good movie. It is a bad movie. As the crazed ghost of Louis Althusser might say, it has always already been a bad movie. The question is: What kind of bad movie is it?

(Aside: The question I have received most frequently when I've told people I went to see Red Dawn was actually: "Does Chris Hemsworth take off his shirt?" The answer, I'm sorry to say, is no. All of the characters remain pretty scrupulously clothed through the film. The movie's rated PG-13, a designation significant to its predecessor, so all it can do is show a lot of carnage, not carnality. May I suggest Google Images?)

My companion and I found Red Dawn to be an entertaining bad movie. I feel no shame in admitting that the film entertained me; I'm against, in principal, the concept of "guilty pleasures" and am not much interested in shaming anybody for what are superficial, even autonomic, joys. (That doesn't mean we can't examine o…

Anna Karenina

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Rex Reed pointed to perhaps the best criticism of the new adaptation of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, written by Tom Stoppard and directed by Joe Wright, a criticism that is over 100 years old. On 18 September 1905, James Joyce wrote to his brother Stanislaus about Tolstoy: "He is never dull, never stupid, never tired, never pedantic, never theatrical." Wright's film of Anna Karenina is often dull, often stupid, sometimes tired, sometimes pedantic, and literally theatrical.

I have a fundamental problem with any adaptation of Tolstoy's novel. If someone (e.g., William Faulkner, F.R. Leavis) were to tell me that Anna Karenina is the greatest novel ever written, I would not disagree. Not having read all of the novels ever written, I'm not in a position to rank them, but I've certainly never read a better novel than Anna Karenina (and I've read War & Peace, — but for all its glories and wonders, it falls apart at the end, so Anna has a point up on it ther…

Locus 20th & 21st Centuries Poll

Locus this month has been conducting a poll to find out the "best" science fiction and fantasy novels and short fiction of the 20th and 21st centuries. Though I first suggested on Twitter that I would be filling it all in with Raymond Carver stories, I gave in today at the last minute and instead filled in the poll with some choices other than Carver stories (though I was tempted to put "Why Don't You Dance?" on there, since it has a certain fantasy feel to it, at least to me).

I'll post my choices after the jump here.

Learning to Read, Still

Joanna Scott on William Faulkner:
Writing that flirts with incoherence can just as readily flounder as writing characterized by simplicity and composure. There is no reliable formula for originality, and strategies that are distinguished as innovative in their first incarnation can quickly become stale in the hands of lesser artists. It’s all too easy to conflate dense prose or jumbled narrative structures with literary ambition. But in this age of trending and blogging, with paragraphs growing shorter and the spaces between them growing larger, it’s also easy to dismiss the kind of fiction that might not yield readily, docilely, to our first attempt to comprehend it. This is the worry that [C.E.] Morgan and [John Jeremiah] Sullivan express; they know how quickly readers—and writers—will turn away from fiction that dares to cast itself as difficult. Sullivan admits that he has done the same. And when, in The New York Times, a contemporary writer derides Ulysses as “a professor’s book,…

A Year of the Weird Fiction Review

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Behold!

The Weird Fiction Review website has existed for a year now. During that time, it has published work from around the world, including such wondrous things as a new translation of Bruno Schulz's "The Sanatorium at the Sign of the Hour Glass", Olympe Bhêly-Quénum's "The Night Watchman", and Finnish writer Leena Likitalo's first story in English, "Watcher". And tons of other things, including my own "Stories in the Key of Strange: A Collage of Encounters". The website has become a hugely valuable resource, and it just keeps getting better, more varied, more surprising, more impressive. If you haven't spent time with it, you're missing a treasure trove.

Words to Live By

Usually the comment spam that comes in here is pretty boring. But this was too oddly lovely not to save:
VIBRATION AND SOUND ARE TWO MOST IMPORTANT PARAMETERS FOR MONITORING THE MACHINE HEALTH. REGULAR LOGGING OF THESE TWO PARAMETERS PROVIDES EARLY WARNING OF BREAKDOWN

A Momentary Miscellany

I still don't have time to write a substantive post about much of anything, but there are a bunch of things I'd like to note before I forget them, so here's a rather fragmentary and scattered post about things mostly unrelated to each other...

I've been doing quite a bit of writing, but none of it is stuff that's currently for online venues. (For instance, I wrote an introduction to an upcoming art book from Hideaki Miyamura, about which I'm sure I will say much more later, once it's available.) Also, I sold a story to Steve Berman for an upcoming anthology of queer Poe stories, which is very exciting for me because I've hardly written any fiction in the last 2 years, and whenever I finally get around to writing a story, I always wonder, "Do I still remember how?" Apparently, yes. I'm also thrilled because I've had a chance to read a couple other stories that will be in the book and they're really excellent — honestly, even if you&…

My Students Have a Blog...

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For the Advanced Prose Workshop class that I'm teaching at Plymouth State University this term, I had the students create and manage a blog. They've been playing with it for a little while now, testing out templates and figuring out how to post different types of things.

We opened it up to the world today.

I'm pretty much letting them do what they want with it, hoping that having a real audience for their work will be both educational and encouraging. With that in mind, I encourage you to take a glance and leave a comment, particularly if something they've written especially interests you. For many of these students, this is the first audience they've ever had beyond friends, family, and teachers.

They're really just getting started with posting, but there should be a steady stream of material over the next few weeks.

(And as I've warned before, my own blogging here is likely to be light through December.)

Starboard Wine at Strange Horizons

Strange Horizons has just posted a review by T.S. Miller of the new edition of Samuel Delany's Starboard Wine, for which I wrote an introduction. It's a generally thoughtful and well-informed review; inevitably, I have quibbles with it, but they aren't important — what's important is that, as Miller notes, the book is now available to a wider audience than ever before.

The Mystery of Werner Herzog

Over at Press Play, there's a new video essay by Nelson Carvajal accompanied by a new text essay by me, all about Werner Herzog, under the general title "The Mystery of Werner Herzog".

Midnight's Children

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A group of friends and I saw Midnight's Children in its New England premiere as part of the Telluride at Dartmouth program at Dartmouth College. (I saw a bunch of the films last year, but don't have time this year and, in any case, am not as enthusiastic about the selection as I was last year.)

The group of us had very different reactions to the movie, with some people extremely enthusiastic about it. For me, it was unfulfilling, and seems a perfect illustration of two general rules: 1.) novelists should not adapt their own books for the screen; 2.) Great books don't make great movies.

A surprising amount of the plot of Salman Rushdie's original novel is retained in the film, and this seemed to me the heart of its problem. A novel of 500+ pages has the room to let its incidents spread out and breathe; a 148-minute film can only include the majority of those incidents if it spends very little time on any of them. And that's what happens. The movie zips along, but i…

A Miscellanea of Catching Up and Checking In

Crickets have taken over The Mumpsimus recently, mostly because I've been working on some projects and have started the new school year.

This will be a fragmentary post trying to capture a few things that seem to me worth capturing before too much more time passes and I enter senescence.

After a hiatus due to some technical reconfigurations at Boomtron, The Sandman Mediations have now resumed with a few thoughts on the first part of The Wake. I'll finish up The Wake in the coming weeks, then continue with Endless Nights, after which I plan to stop.

I made one last video essay before classes started up again, this one on Clint Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales. I'm hoping to make another on Eastwood's Gran Torino soon, but not sure when I'll be able to steal the time.


Painter with a Movie Camera: A Tribute to Tony Scott

I suppose that comparing the late Tony Scott to Dziga Vertov will seem ridiculous to many (most!) people, as will proclaiming Domino a masterwork. So be it. Here's a tribute to Tony Scott in which I do both of those things:

Painter with a Movie Camera: A Tribute to Tony Scott from Matthew Cheney on Vimeo.

And here are the tributes I mention in the video:
Manohla Dargis, "A Director Who Excelled in Excess"
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, "Smearing the Senses: Tony Scott, Action Painter"

"How to Play with Dolls"

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This little story was originally published in Weird Tales 352, Nov/Dec. 2008, edited by Ann VanderMeer.



How to Play with Dolls
by Matthew Cheney

Jenny's father spent a year making a dollhouse for her, a three-storey mansion with four gables and six chimneys and secret passageways and a dumbwaiter and a tiny television that, thanks to a microchip, actually worked.  He gave it to her on her seventh birthday.  Jenny thanked him and kissed him and told him she had always wanted an asylum for her dolls.

Though he wanted her to make the house into a pleasant place for tea parties and soirees, Jenny's father stayed silent as he watched his daughter restrain her dolls with straightjackets fashioned from toilet paper.  He kept his silence as she built prison bars with toothpicks and secured every door with duck tape.  But as she placed the dolls into their cells and set a group of them to stare at the television, he could not observe quietly any longer, and so he went to his workshop an…

On Weird Tales

It was a sad day when Ann VanderMeer and the rest of the staff at Weird Taleswere fired when the magazine was bought by people who wanted to change the direction away from the great innovations Ann et al. had brought to it and instead return the magazine to publishing, apparently, Lovecraft pastiches. Apparently, Ann and creative director Stephen Segal winning a Hugo for their work wasn't good enough. The new owners wanted, they said, to return the magazine to its roots.

Well, Lovecraft was a thoroughgoing racist, and apparently those were the roots editor/publisher Marvin Kaye had in mind, although in his mind it's actually "non-racist". Sure, keep telling yourself that. [Update: Weird Tales has taken Marvin Kaye's post down from their website, so the link there doesn't work. However, there's a Google cache. I'm happy the publisher has apologized, but I'm not a fan of memory holes.]
For a better chronicle of the awful, see Nora Jemison's post…

Legitimate

Here's an important post from Atlantic senior editor Garance Franke-Ruta regarding Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin's repugnant comments about pregnancy rarely occurring from "legitimate rape" (just typing those words makes my hands shake).

Franke-Ruta makes the important point that Akin is not an outlier in the world of anti-abortion zealots. His ideas are connected to those that seek to distinguish between "forcible rape" and something else. Such dangerous delusions are central to so many of the misogynistic and ignorant tenets of the anti-abortion movement and to the sorts of ideologies that seek to downplay the frequency of sexual assault and defund the institutions that attempt to address sexual violence:
Arguments like his have cropped up again and again on the right over the past quarter century and the idea that trauma is a form of birth control continues to be promulgated by anti-abortion forces that seek to outlaw all abortions, even in …

"The trap of data, numbers, statistics, and charts"

Maria Konnikova, from "Humanities aren’t a science. Stop treating them like one" at Scientific American'sLiterally Psyched blog: Every softer discipline these days seems to feel inadequate unless it becomes harder, more quantifiable, more scientific, more precise. That, it seems, would confer some sort of missing legitimacy in our computerized, digitized, number-happy world. But does it really? Or is it actually undermining the very heart of each discipline that falls into the trap of data, numbers, statistics, and charts? Because here’s the truth: most of these disciplines aren’t quantifiable, scientific, or precise. They are messy and complicated. And when you try to straighten out the tangle, you may find that you lose far more than you gain. It’s one of the things that irked me about political science and that irks me about psychology—the reliance, insistence, even, on increasingly fancy statistics and data sets to prove any given point, whether it lends itself to tha…

An Accidental Nonfiction Writer

In the author's note to his new collection of essays, Magic Hours, Tom Bissell calls himself "an accidental nonfiction writer", and then says:
When I first started writing for magazines, I imagined that I would use nonfiction writing as a way to fund my fiction writing. This did not go exactly as planned. Insofar as I am known as anything today, it is as a nonfiction writer. Earlier in my career, I was neurotic enough to let this bother me. When I started out as a writer, I regarded fiction — novels, especially — as the supreme achievement of the human imagination. While I still hold fiction in very high regard, and continue to write it, I no longer believe in genre chauvinism. Life is difficult enough.

Fall Classes

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I've just about finished drafting syllabi for my fall classes, and so it's time once again for my semi-annual post about how I'm planning the coursework.

I'll be teaching three classes at the university, two for the English department and one for the department of Communication & Media Studies. The English classes are "Advanced Prose Workshop" and a general education intro to lit class, "The Outsider". The Com/Media class is "Media as Popular Culture". I've taught The Outsider a bunch of time, Media as Pop Cult once before, and have never taught Advanced Prose Workshop, which I'm doing only because our writer-in-residence is in Ireland this term.

Was Worldcat Designed By People Who Actually Use Libraries?

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Update: Attention has been paid! Please see the comments for a nice response from a WorldCat representative. We now have an answer to the title question: Yes.

My beloved university library has now switched over from an in-house computerized catalogue to using WorldCat. There are definite advantages to this, and some neat things WorldCat can do.

But for all its many useful features, I wonder: Does anybody at WorldCat actually use libraries?

The Sci-Fi Ticket

"Hell Broke Luce"

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Tom Waits has made a beautiful, surrealist video for the song "Hell Broke Luce" from his Bad as Me album. It's one of my favorite of his songs, a coruscating view of war and soldiering. Play it loud. (Note: Some strong language.)


Readercon Update: Making Amends

The Great Readercon Harassment Debacle of 2012 has resolved with a statement from the Convention Committee that is an excellent example of how to apologize for mistakes and, more importantly, how to make amends.

When I read the statement, I'd just gotten the new album by Franz Nicolay, Do the Struggle, and a line from the chorus of the magnificent first song seemed oddly appropriate: "The hearts of Boston have a hurricane to answer for."

The hurricane's dying down. The rubble is getting cleaned up. The hearts are strong.

There are lots of things in the statement to pay attention to — ideas that will, I hope, serve as a model for other events in the future, not just Readercon. I was especially pleased to see this among the actions the committee has committed to: "Working with the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center to train concom members and volunteers in swift, appropriate reactions to observed or reported harassment."

Such actions move Readercon from having pa…

Two Lists

At other places around the internet, there is listing going on. I can't resist a good list. Though neither of these two listing events is one I was invited to join, both made me think, "What would I put on such a list?" (Lists are fiercely contagious.)

Kick Unstuck!

I don't generally publicize Kickstarter projects, etc., here, because it would be easy to get overwhelmed, but here's one I've got multiple personal interests in: Unstuck: New Literature of the Fantastic and Surreal.

Unstuck is a new(ish) annual(ish) journal out of Texas. Their first issue included fiction by Aimee Bender, Matthew Derby, Amelia Gray, J. Robert Lennon, Meghan McCarron, Rachel Swirsky, Leslie What, and others who are just too fabulous to name.

Their upcoming (at the end of the year) second issue will include work by Other People You Know, plus me (a very short story about Victrolas and turtles that I read last year at Readercon). The rewards for funding the project are pretty great.

Also, one of the editors is Meghan McCarron, someone whose life I nearly ruined once by hiring her to teach at a boarding school in New Hampshire. She's beginning to forgive me. She'll forgive me more if you fund this project. (But don't use that as an excuse not to s…

Utopia and Guns, Again

My post from last year on "Utopia and the Gun Culture" has gotten some attention in the wake of the horrifying shootings in Aurora, Colorado.

Most of what I have to say about guns, I said there. Here, I'll mainly link to a few recent writngs of interest and add a bit of comment at the end.

First, if you're curious to know more about the labyrinthine federal and state laws regarding firearms, the ATF has guides to federal (PDF) and state laws. (For a general overview, there's Wikipedia: federal, state.)

Here's a perfect example of useless utopian thinking: "A Land Without Guns: How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths". Such articles are a waste of time.

For more on the deep issues and why utopian thinking is a waste of time, see Timothy Burke's post "Don't Bring Policy to a Culture Fight".

For a good exploration/demonstration of the difficulties of drawing any useful conclusions from statistics about guns, crime, and viol…

An Unenforced Policy Is Worse Than None

Note: Updates below.

Here's the Readercon harassment policy in writing:
Readercon has always had a zero-tolerance harassment policy.

Harassment of any kind — including physical assault, battery, deliberate intimidation, stalking, or unwelcome physical attentions — will not be tolerated at Readercon and will result in permanent suspension of membership.

As always, Readercon reserves the right to strip membership at its discretion.Here's the Readercon harassment policy in practice:
Earlier today I was contacted by a Readercon representative, who let me know that by decision of the Board, my harasser has been suspended from Readercon.

For two years.

I was not given the reasoning behind the decision; the board’s deliberations, I was told, were confidential.

I was assured the board had taken everything into account – my report, my eyewitnesses, others who had come forward with information they declined to detail. They asked me if I felt they had taken my complaint seriously. They h…

Show and Tell

From an excellent collection of writing advice offered by the great Colson Whitehead:
Most people say, “Show, don’t tell,” but I stand by Show and Tell, because when writers put their work out into the world, they’re like kids bringing their broken unicorns and chewed-up teddy bears into class in the sad hope that someone else will love them as much as they do. “And what do you have for us today, Marcy?” “A penetrating psychological study of a young med student who receives disturbing news from a former lover.” “How marvelous! Timmy, what are you holding there?” “It’s a Calvinoesque romp through an unnamed metropolis much like New York, narrated by an armadillo.” “Such imagination!” Show and Tell, followed by a good nap.

Free Leiber

The Library of America has just posted a Fritz Leiber story, "Try and Change the Past", online. If you've never read any Leiber, now's as good a time as any to start.

The Man Who Had No Idea: Getting Into SF

I saw an article at World Literature Today's website called "Fun with Your New Head: Getting into SF", and thought, "Hey, this'll be great — they probably have a good list of science fiction from around the world and resources for people to find out more about world SF. I love it when that happens!"

Sadly, no.

Writer Michael A. Morrison instead says reading William Gibson's first two novels is hard, so here are a bunch of critical studies of SF that you should read. This is perverse.

And it is not helpful. Do not listen to this article, or at least any of it before the final paragraph where The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction is mentioned. That's a perfectly good introduction, though weak on work from the last 10 years.

What a failure for a magazine called World Literature Today! SF is not just stuff published 30 years ago and then written about by academics. Really, it's not. I promise. And I say that as somebody who writes about SF, some…

Readercon 23

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Last week's Readercon was among the best of the many I have attended, for me at least. Inevitably, there wasn't enough time for anything — time to see friends, time to go to all the various panels I had hoped to go to, time to mine the book dealers' wares... Nonetheless, it was a tremendous pleasure to see so many friends and acquaintances again, as well as to be immersed in such a vibrant community of people who love to talk about books.

I've been on the Programming Committee for Readercon for the past two years now, which changes my experience a little bit, because I find myself paying closer attention than I did before to how the panels end up working in reality (after we on the committee have puzzled over their possibilities for a few months) and to how people on the panels and in the audiences respond to them. (Note: We're actively trying to expand the invitation list to Readercon. If you have any names to suggest [including yourself], please see here for mor…

Nonfiction and Science Fiction

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There's a fun Mind Meld feature at SF Signal on "Non-Fiction Books About Science Fiction That Should Be In Every Fan’s Library", with responses from an eclectic group of writers, scholars, reviewers, etc. Well worth a glance. My own prejudices and inclinations align enough with many of the respondents that their lists include a lot of books I've spent a lot of time with, as well as others I'm unfamiliar with, which is always fun. One of the good things the Mind Meld editors do a lot is create agonizingly broad questions that can elicit hugely varied responses depending on how people interpret them; that's part of the fun of the feature. In this case, Gary Wolfe nails it: "I think this question depends on what you mean by 'fan.' Not all fans set out to be students of SF; some just want to enjoy the stuff and have no more interest in finding out about it than in finding out where their sausage comes from. Still fewer aspire to be scholars of the f…

Guest Post — Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan

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One day I happened to overhear a student talking about Star Wars novels, and I told him that Del Rey Books has sent me some over the years, and that usually I donate them to libraries, since I rarely read series fiction or media tie-in novels (rarely, but not never; heck, I used Jeff VanderMeer's Predator novel in a class once). I asked him if he'd like the ones that were currently sitting in a pile somewhere in my house, and he said sure. I had recently done a big library donation, so didn't have much more than a few advanced copies, but I brought them in anyway. When I gave them to him, at first I thought he was disappointed that they were ARCs without finished artwork, but it turned out his silence and immobility were the behaviors of a die-hard fan in bliss, as I had given him a novel that was hugely anticipated and not due to be released for at least another month.

It was then that I hit upon an idea: Here was a thoughtful, articulate, well-read student who was also a …

Re: Your Stephen King Problem

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Dear Dwight Allen:

Thank you for letting me know about your Stephen King problem (henceforth, SKP). Many people let these problems go, thinking they're not particularly important or, ultimately, relevant to anyone other than themselves, but  the science shows that letting these problems linger encourages them to fester, and once they fester they can then lead to all sorts of complications and an endless array of other problems (most commonly, J.K. Rowling problems and J.R.R. Tolkien problems, which themselves can lead to entire textbooks of other problems.) Such suffering becomes an infinite sprawl of frustration, guilt, pain, and, often, anti-social behavior and anal warts.

To assess your treatment needs, let's analyze some of your history and symptoms.

False Teeth and the Foreign Office

Terry Eagleton, from a review of the 50th anniversary edition of Erich Auerbach's Mimesis:
To describe something as realist is to acknowledge that it is not the real thing. We call false teeth realistic, but not the Foreign Office. If a representation were to be wholly at one with what it depicts, it would cease to be a representation. A poet who managed to make his or her words ‘become’ the fruit they describe would be a greengrocer. No representation, one might say, without separation. Words are certainly as real as pineapples, but this is precisely the reason they cannot be pineapples. The most they can do is create what Henry James called the ‘air of reality’ of pineapples. In this sense, all realist art is a kind of con trick – a fact that is most obvious when the artist includes details that are redundant to the narrative (the precise tint and curve of a moustache, let us say) simply to signal: ‘This is realism.’ In such art, no waistcoat is colourless, no way of…

A Train Between Worlds: The Darjeeling Limited

I wrote up a draft of what was going to be a blog post about Wes Anderson's 2007 movie The Darjeeling Limited, but then decided it might be fun to turn it into a video essay instead. And so "A Train Between Worlds: The Darjeeling Limited" was born. Because the narration was originally going to be a blog post, the video is a bit text-heavy — it clearly didn't need to be a video per se, but I think it's more enjoyable in that form, especially because I could include various songs from the film's soundtrack (many of which were taken from other movies' soundtracks). For reference, the entire narration is available on the video's Vimeo page, and I'll paste it below the cut here.

The Darjeeling Limited has been one of Anderson's least popular and least critically lauded movies, but up until this year's Moonrise Kingdom, I thought it was his most accomplished and satisfying. I like all his movies a lot, but my taste is weird — where most people s…

"Bombay's Republic" Wins the Caine Prize

According to the Caine Prize on Twitter, the winner of this year's award is Rotimi Babatunde for "Bombay's Republic".

You can read the story as a PDF via the Prize website. It was the first of this year's nominees that I wrote about as part of the Caine Prize Blogathon, and my post also has links to other bloggers' (quite varied) takes on the story. It was certainly among the top of the stories for me, though I'm glad I didn't have to make the choice, as this year's group of nominees was generally impressive overall. Congratulations to everyone involved!

Readercon 23 Schedule

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I will be at Readercon 23 in a few weeks. It's the one convention I attend every year, and I'm especially excited about this year because the panels are especially interesting, the guest list is awesome, and one of the guests of honor is Peter Straub, whose work I am in awe of and who is among the most delightful people to hear on panels or in interviews or readings or, really, anywhere. (Honestly, if Peter Straub were a train conductor, I'd follow him from car to car. He'd get freaked out and call the police, and I'd get arrested for being a weirdo, but it would be so worth it!) Also, we get to celebrate 50 years of Samuel Delany's work. And we give out the Shirley Jackson Awards!

Before posting my schedule, I wanted to note the Readercon Book Club selections for this year. These are panel discussions of specific books, a "classic" and a recent work of fiction and nonfiction each. This year's are:




"The Stains" by Robert Aickman

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Today is Robert Aickman's 98th birthday, and in honor of that, here are some thoughts on my favorite Aickman story, "The Stains". I've been meaning to write about Aickman's work, and this story in particular, for a long time, but I have found it difficult to muster the courage to write about works that are so mysterious, so ineffable, so richly strange and deeply affecting. I think it is no coincidence that I have had the same struggle with the work of Franz Kafka, who is absolutely central to my reading life, and yet I have never written at much length about him at all. Aickman is not as great a writer as Kafka, but that's no insult; Aickman's talent and vision were narrower, his oeuvre less ragged. Nonetheless, there is an affinity of effect (and affect), partly, I suspect, because both writers were masters of writing from repressed obsessions, and both found unique, personal forms of fiction with which to encase those obsessions.

"The Stains"