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Showing posts from February, 2012

The 54th Academy Awards

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The only Oscars ceremony that had a specific effect on my life happened thirty years ago, when I was six years old. It was the 54th Academy Awards, and On Golden Pond was our local hero, having mostly been filmed about ten miles away from my house. Everybody I knew seemed to have at least a little connection to it somehow, or claimed to. At six years old, I didn't really understand what any of it meant, but I knew how much the adults seemed to care, and how special the moment seemed to them. The movie immediately became an indelible part of my life.

If that had been it, I'd look back on the 1982 Oscar ceremony with the sort of gauzy nostalgia that fills the movie. But Ernest Thompson won an Oscar that night for adapting his play into a screenplay, and I've known Ernest now for an amount of years neither of us will admit to, and worked with him on numerous local projects. We have really different aesthetics, and I love that — he's been at times the ideal teacher, edito…

The Artist

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I went to see The Artist yesterday, and since a friend this morning asked me some questions about it, I thought I'd take a moment here to record a few thoughts, and, more importantly, link to people who have more interesting things to say about it than I do.

It's a nice little movie.

I really have trouble coming up with more than that. Its clear frontrunner status in many categories going into the Oscars is a bit baffling, but not inexplicable. I can think of three major reasons it's such awards bait, and I'm sure there are more: 1.) it's different enough from other movies released last year to stand out from the crowd, but not different enough to alienate any crowd; 2.) if you know things about movies and you like movies, it makes you feel good for being you; 3.) Harvey Weinstein is distributing it, and Harvey Weinstein is one of the most successful people in the history of the motion picture industry at getting awards attention for his movies.

Also, it's a h…

An Argument Against Hate Crimes Legislation

A frustratingly superficial article at The New Inquiry includes a link to a powerfully compelling letter from the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, arguing against added hate crimes provisions in New York's proposed Gender Employment Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA). The letter also includes a very useful collection of links to reference material on hate crimes.

The entire letter is worth reading, but here's an excerpt to convince you to click over there:
As a nation, we lock up more people per capita than any other country in the world; one in one hundred adults are behind bars in the U.S. Our penalties are harsher and sentences longer than they are anywhere else on the planet, and hate crime laws with sentencing enhancements make them harsher and longer. By supporting longer periods of incarceration and putting a more threatening weapon in the state’s hands, this kind of legislation places an enormous amount of faith in our deeply flawed, transphobic, and racist criminal legal system…

Choice

Keguro:
Those who “choose to be gay” offer the disturbing possibility that attachments and affiliations can be chosen outside of state-sanctioned norms. That there are ways of living not envisioned in school textbooks. That how we choose to live matters just as much, if not more, than how we are supposed to live.

To choose what one “likes” over one’s “duty.”

"Stories in the Key of Strange"

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A not-strictly-new new piece of mine has just been posted at Weird Fiction Review, "Stories in the Key of Strange: A Collage of Encounters".

It's not-strictly-new because the collage is built from excerpts from things I've written over the past few years: blog posts, interviews, book reviews, Strange Horizons columns, stray essays. When the good folks at WFR asked me to contribute, I was up to my neck in grading student papers, etc., and though I wanted to contribute, I didn't have a spare brain cell to spend on something new. I thought putting together a collage would be an interesting exercise and easier than writing a new piece. It was definitely the former, but not the latter — I forgot how much I've written over the years... (Plenty of it is best left forgotten.)

Trying to organize it all in some vaguely coherent and resonant way was a fun challenge, although I'm too close to it all to know if it's at all effective. At the very least, it provide…

First Six Issues of Amazing Stories Now Online

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If you've ever wanted to encounter one of the primary origins of science fiction as we know it (for better or worse), now is your chance: the wonderful Pulp Magazines Project has put the first six issues (April-December 1926) of Amazing Stories online.

If you don't know why Amazing Stories is important to the history of science fiction, Wikipedia has a fairly good entry on it and The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction also offers an overview. (And if you want to delve deeply into it, check out Mike Ashley and Robert A.W. Lowndes's Gernsback Days, Ashley's Time Machines, and Gary Westfahl's The Mechanics of Wonder and Hugo Gernsback and the Century of Science Fiction.)

Finely Aged Novelists

With every passing year, I get more interested in creative people who have done their most significant work late in life. I like late bloomers. They give me hope for humanity in some ways, because their stories are stories where the climax doesn't come in the first chapter.

Thus, I was interested in Rick Gekoski's post at The Guardian titled, "When novelists reach the end of their stories", which I hoped would explode the myth that novels are best left to the young.

Alas, it is youth-worshipping claptrap, built on a vastly incomplete set of examples used to prove an imaginary rule.

Luckily, though, the Guardian readers are not buying into the premise, and the comments section is full of great examples that disprove Gekoski's supposed rule, that question his basic premise, and that highlight the narrowness of his example set. Commenters have listed writers who have done great work throughout their careers, writers who have had long apprentice periods before doing …

American Empire, Writing

At The Kenyon Review website, Hilary Plum has been doing some excellent blogging about questions of empire, writing, canonicity, etc. I left a comment on one post that was mostly just me giving a short version of my canonical nationalism schtick, not because I thought the post was bad, but because the article Plum used as a basis for her thoughts annoyed me. (I wish I had made my gratitude for her own thinking clearer, but I was in a hurry, and it's internet, so...)

Most recently, she wrote a post titled "Writing American Empire" that collects a nice range of ideas about U.S. novelists and the lands the U.S. has been occupying, invading, bombing, etc. recently. Trying to summarize the different points of view would likely distort them, so I'll just exhort you to head over to the KR blog to see what it's all about. If you've ever felt either excited or queasy about the phrase "cultural appropriation", this is a discussion you should read.

Nairobi Heat by Mukoma wa Ngugi

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I read Mukoma wa Ngugi'sNairobi Heat (part of Melville House's International Crime series) a few weeks ago, but haven't had the time to write much about it, so what I say here is likely to be more general than it would have been before. Though I think the novel has some significant flaws, those flaws are mitigated, for me at least, by a number of real strengths, and in the weeks since finishing it, moments from the novel have scratched through my thoughts and memory. For that reason, I think it's a book well worth reading.

First, to get unpleasantness out of the way, here's what I see as the novel's flaws: Events often feel like they exist for the sake of the plot's convenience and not for any reason organic to the narrative; some moments that should evoke an emotional connection from readers are not set up in a dramatic way that would allow such emotion to come to the surface and are instead sped through (a particular fault in the romantic relationship th…