Showing posts from July, 2012

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 exc

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 gun

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

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 ab

Readercon 23

  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 f

Nonfiction and Science Fiction

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 th

Guest Post — Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan

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 wa

Re: Your Stephen King Problem

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

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 m

"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!