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Showing posts from May, 2012

Spring Classes Postmortem

The spring term is done, grades are in, and so here is my regular, quick post looking back on how the courses went, an epilogue to the January post looking at the courses just before they began.


Blogging the Caine Prize 2012: "Love on Trial"

This is my third post for the great 2012 Caine Prize blogathon. (See my first post for some details.) 

My initial response to "Love on Trial" by Stanley Kenani (PDF) was: This is a terrible story. Preachy, obvious, awkward, tedious.

But then I thought about a letter I wrote to one of my college teachers back in the '90s, when people still wrote letters.

Herzog's Gatsby

You might have seen the trailer for Baz Luhrman's upcoming adaptation of The Great Gatsby.

I liked it, since I don't much care for the novel and I think Luhrman's stylistic excess probably matches the prose of the book pretty well. Also, Leonardo DiCaprio's greatest talent (?) is his general aura of blankness and vapidity, which fits the character.

But it did seem to me the trailer was missing something. What could it be? I wondered. And then, like a bolt of ecstatic truth straight out of the abyss of the past, it hit me! Werner Herzog!

Because everything is better with Herzog.

And so I present to the world, "Herzog's Gatsby":

Libidinal Estrangement

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From a rich, insightful, and fascinating review by Roger Bellin of Samuel Delany's Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders:
It is certainly possible to find worthwhile the effort it takes to attempt the broadening of one's libidinal sympathies — the way a psychologically realistic novel can demand our sympathy with someone else's life and thoughts, this one demands our sympathy with his sexual desires. If science fiction, in Darko Suvin's definition, is the genre of "cognitive estrangement," then the pornographic first half of TVNS is a work of libidinal estrangement: the novel's alienating effect bears on its reader's desires, not his rational mind. [...]

Rather than just cataloguing its protagonists' sex acts, TVNS gradually becomes a psychologically complicated novel about what they've learned from them — a reflection, through a host of little narrated daily incidents, on the ethical lessons that a life of joyous perversion has taught Er…

Blogging the Caine Prize 2012: "Urban Zoning"

This is my second post for the great 2012 Caine Prize blogathon. (See my first post for some details.) I'm coming a little late to Billy Kahora's story "Urban Zoning" (PDF) because it was finals week at one school where I teach and the last week of classes at another, so I haven't had much spare time, and then when I did finally start writing this it kept growing, and I disagreed with myself frequently, and I couldn't make anything cohere, and finally I gave up and just tried to salvage some of the maelstrom of questions and doubts that plagued me as I wrote. There are some thorough and excellent posts about this story up now, so I highly recommend following some of the links to them, which this week I will put first rather than last, because really if you do want to know about the story, you should read those...

Other writers' posts about "Urban Zoning" by Billy Kahora:
Black Balloon
Stephen Derwent Partington
The Reading Life
Backslash Scott
Ikhide
L…

Game, Life, Class

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By now, you've probably seen John Scalzi's post "Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is" (and perhaps John's amusing commentary on deleted comments and follow-up post in response to some responses).

My post here is simply to point you toward three responses among the many, many, many that the post has drawn. Excerpts are here merely to entice you to read more, not to suggest that they are the only things you need to read from these excellent writers.

First, Nick Mamatas:
...when class is fully integrated into an understanding of the difficulty setting of the Game of Life, I think the arguments get much clearer.

The question: "I'm a poor white guy; should I fight against systems of privilege?"

The answer: "Because you'll benefit from it. The more equal things are, the better off you are."

For rich white guys who ask the same question, well, they're clearly on the other side, so they don't need an answer. Ne…

A Last Lexia

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For various reasons, I've decided it's a good time to end my Strange Horizons column, Lexias. It began (untitled) on 7 February 2005, which means I've been writing it for more than seven years. I'm proud of the work that is there, and I don't want to dilute it or just keep repeating myself, so I've decided to switch things up a bit and move on to other projects (including occasional reviews for Strange Horizons; in fact, I was just trying to finish a new one when I checked to see if the column had been posted yet).

Looking back through the archives to see if I could find any special inspiration for a final column, something to return to or something to reiterate, I found various sentences and ideas I wished I could draw more attention to. And then the concept for the final column hit me — basically, to do what I did with my Weird Fiction Review collage, "Stories in the Key of Strange", but this time to pull material only from past columns, and to try…

"Genres Do Not Exist"

From a New Inquiry Q&A with Eileen Myles:
What ‘bad’ genres did you grow up readingscience fiction, fairy tales, romance, etc.or read as an adult?

I resist the question entirely. I don’t think quotes ['...'] dispense with the idea of putting writing into good and bad genres. Let me say and I probably mean this in the most manifesto-ing way that genres don’t exist. They don’t exist at all. They serve the needs of marketing, of academic specialization, even as modes of work, but in terms of meaning or content or associative formations they are like traffic lights—not so interesting and most adamantly not what we are doing today. Genres for me are just a way in which we are controlled, protected I suppose but I’m not a writer to be protected at all. I love science fiction, have all my life and it’s where I met Kafka. Angela Carter is swimming around in there too. Science fiction propelled me into poetry and writing in general and if I think of the children’s books…

Zero de Doom

Here's a new video essay I created, mixing elements of Jean Vigo's Zero de Conduit (1933) with Gregg Araki's The Doom Generation (1995), plus some words from Robin Wood and an anonymous reviewer of Vigo.

Please note that the theatrical version of Doom Generation was rated R for "strong vicious violence, graphic sexuality, pervasive strong language and some drug use", and I used the unrated version, so if you have a weak stomach for graphic representations of violence, are aghast at the sight of naked bodies, and/or don't like the English language at its most crude and vulgar, you really, really, really shouldn't watch this.



Blogging the Caine Prize 2012: "Bombay's Republic"

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This is my first post in this year's Caine Prize for African Writing blogathon, organized by the ever-awesome Aaron Bady (Zunguzungu). Our participant numbers have grown exponentially this year, which is very exciting. If you don't remember from last year, the basic idea is that a bunch of us bloggery people write weekly posts about each of the short stories nominated for the Caine Prize, so helpfully provided in PDF form to anyone who wants to read them at the Caine Prize website. We will do our best to keep our posts updated with links to each others' posts, creating a giant hyperlinked conversation. The virtues of this are many — none of us feels obliged to be comprehensive about the stories, there's the potential for extremely different viewpoints to be offered, and, no matter what, a bunch of people are writing and reading about African short fiction. I'll post the links so far at the end of this post, and keep it updated as more appear over the next few days.…

Updated Fiction Page

A quick site note: I've neglected to update the Fiction page on the blog here for some time, so I just did so. It now contains not just links to stories originally published online, but information about all the fiction I can remember publishing over the last 10 years or so.

A couple old links were dead, and I found two stories completely available via Google Books ("The Lake" and "In Exile"), which made me very happy, because those are two of my personal favorites (which is to hint that reader reaction to them has been decidedly ... mixed...), and I had thought they were inaccessible and obscure. But no! (Well, their content may be inaccessible and obscure — or, as some have maintained, pretentious, arrogant, presumptuous, artsyfartsy, and — or maybe that was somebody describing my cats...) You can even still buy the whole zine or book in which they appeared, which you should, indeed, do, because you are a supporter of small presses! (Though you should really …