shaken & stirred

welcome to my martini glass


monday hangovers

I'm seriously considering a little hiatus, but we'll see. No writing tonight, but supertasty and full of good stuff carrot cake muffins were baked, there was some exercise after which the fist-shaped aliens residing in my middle back area began to dance with red hot iron shoes on. Must have massage this week. Before crippled.


1. This page on how to vanish in American society is full of fascinating stuff and things/ideas maybe of use to writers. Christopher keeps getting disconcerted when I read aloud approvingly such good ideas as destroying all photos of one's self before departure, or at the very least ensuring that old, photocopied photos will be used instead of a recent likeness. (Via MeFi.)

2. WaPo story on the gender divide in young adult reading. Maybe more on this at some point. (Is it me or does the Post do this same story about boy reading every year?)

3. Ms. Keane tempts me ever closer to Louisville with the goods on the InKy reading series anniversary on Feb 11. Fancy dress. Goodie.

4. The anarchy-lovin' Jenny D seconds Sarah Weinman's recommendation -- (I keep hearing the word as Recommend Nation -- remix this in your head to the tune of Rhythm Nation; Ms. Jackson if you're nasty) -- for The James Deans by Reed Farrel Coleman (who has a spiff site), coincidentally on the day my hold notice at the library for it is filled. Goodie times two.

5. Mr. Barzak (also if you're nasty) presses his advantage in Japan and sees Howl's Moving Castle wayyyy before any of us. And he gets to buy merchandise. My jealousy knows no bounds.

6. 500 songs you'll probably like. (Via Maud's latest guestblogger. So hard to keep track. So too lazy to attempt at the moment.)

Night. Night. Night.



Well, I'm not quite going to sleep yet, I'm going to bed to read (reread actually--MT Anderson's wonderful Thirsty), and send out all the mental emanations I can that this week be better than last was. And on. I must also cop to the fact that I've accomplished nothing much this weekend, rather than a webjay playlist and a slow return to feeling more human. That means no email, no phone answering, etc. I'm hoping to really, really, really actually get to that stuff this week. And back to the new book. Etc.

Yesterday was quiet and even though the muscles in my back felt like they were on fire much of the time (for whatever reason), it was nice. Brooklyn Pizza for dinner, DVR'd Battlestar Galactica and Medium after and nice, nice wine from the new wine shop up the street. Back felt less flamey this morning, and it turned out to be a lovely day despite the fact it's bitter cold but snowless. A few friends (musicians, even) came over for a nice brunch of Christopher's from-scratch biscuits, eggs and fruit salad, then we went to a play about Lizzie Borden. Drinks after at the local place with the best pie in town.

Human, I feel. Off to read. And sleep like the dead must. More tomorrow.

If you're bored, go read Miss Borden's inquest testimony. (I just love the fact that the Fall River Police Department bills itself as "Lizzie Borden's Hometown PD." Perfect. Also, Kelly took me there once for research purposes--I should really turn that script into a YA--and we had the best Portuguese ever downtown. Should you ever find yourself rubbernecking the late 1890s, do find this place by sense alone.)

What the header says.


first best effort

So, I made a webjay thingie, too. It was pretty easy, kids. If I can do it, anyone can. Go listen and dance with yourself.

Note: Depending on what player you use, some songs may not show up. I'll try and not do that next time.

Another Note: I didn't realize that I should only have used mp3 files to truly make it cross-platform. Whoops. You should be able to play everything on there now if you use Windows Media Player and about three quarters if you don't. Some is old, some is not.

acknowledged without exploration

The Book Standard apparently launched on the 27th (via Locus Blinks). Looks like much of the content will ultimately be premium, but for the moment is free to peruse. There's an interview with Safran Foer and an article with the disturbing headline "Robert Zemeckis Eyes The Corrections." It's the eyes part that's sort of heebie jeebie, like he's going to date it or something. ("Look at the rack on that book!" Somewhere Jonathan Franzen is hiding under his blanket.)

soundtrack for saturday morning

Jeff sez:

I've been looking for a 'free and legal' and bandwidth-friendly way to share some of the music that I'm currently enjoying. Earlier this week, I found Webjay, an application that allows one to enter the urls of individual songs archived somewhere--usually the band or label website--and compile them into a playlist that can be shared with others. Because I'm someone who demands simplicity, I decided to give it a spin. I'm pleased with the results.

You can listen here.

I am. It's like getting a new mix CD in the mail from a friend.


the man around town

Alan DeNiro launches "The Black Kitten's Fault Entirely," which may ultimately be part of a "novel" but is sure to provide entertaining fiction in blog form. He sorta explains at Ptarmigan.

Check him out, yo.

(Did I mention there's an Old Man Willow drawing up in my office now? Only those of you present for Certain Rap Stylings will get that one.)

Also, Kelly and Gavin sent contributor's copies and a mix CD and other things. Yay!

Kevin Brockmeier's City of Names is at the library. Yay!

It is fucking Friday night. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Yes, I realize a scant two years ago this would have exceeded my exclamatory quota for the year; I mean it.)

You should really read The Seas though, so we can chat. It's dainty and awesome.


blushing hangovers*

Sorry about the silence. You wouldn't believe me if I told you. This week it's mostly not getting my stuff done that's the cause.

1. Matt Cheney called attention to Jim Kelly's On the Net column from Asimov's, the "Breathing the Blogosphere" edition. I am undeniably, furiously, blushingly honored that Shaken & Stirred is included in Jim's list of "forty excellent blogs that explore our little corner of literature"--which includes many, many of my favorites (as you can see to the right).

2. Speaking of Asimov's, a little birdie with a fondness for comic book panel cut-outs on the front of his envelopes sent us Paul Di Filippo's small press column from the March 05 issue (which we purchased tonight and has a lovely cover). He happens to review Say... why aren't we crying? in brief:

Once upon a time, and a very good time it was, there was a zine named Say... which sought to reinvent itself with every issue by adding an interrogative clause to its name. The fourth time it did this trick, it called itself Say... why aren't we crying?, and the results were splendid. Jude-Marie Green traffics in the future of interior decorating, ribofunk-style, in "Til the Wildness Cried Aloud." David Schwartz gives a deadpan yet affecting account of a poor fellow with a lacunae-ridden memory in "The Lethe Man." And E.L. Chen's comic strip "Why Aren't We Crying?" encapsulates this issue's theme in a witty, metafictional manner. That's just for starters, of course. And take my word for it: you'll be shedding tears of regret if you don't subscribe to Say..., the zine of a thousand faces.

3. Ayelet Waldman meets Stephen King when he pays a surprise visit to an 826 class on dark fantasy and horror writing for teens. Awwww.

4. Susan discovers extreme fact-checking laziness while doing research for her disseration. (Maybe the net will ultimately make this kind of thing harder to get away with?)

Today, working in the library, I picked up a book on prominent women philosophers, trying to get a better handle on what Calkins was known for as a philosopher. (I know what she was known for as a psychologist--she developed the paired associates research technique, she smacked down anyone who tried to demonstrate that women's brains were inherently inferior, and she developed a system of psychology centered around a concept of "self" that was later a big influence for Gordon Allport (pioneer of mid-twentieth-century personality psychology. The philosophy's still a mystery to me, though.) In this book, I discovered that Mary Whiton Calkins was one of only three people to ever hold both presidencies--the other two being, apparently, William James and Hugo Munsterberg.

So right there I've got four names (James, Munsterberg, Dewey, and Calkins) and three slots. You know what, though? Both organizations have online listings of their past presidents.

By my count, at least seven people were president of both organizations. George Trumbull Ladd, John Dewey, William James, Walter Pillsbury, Hugo Munsterberg, Carl Seashore, and Mary Whiton Calkins. For all I know, there are more--these are just the ones I picked up on a cursory scan.

5. Good night. More tomorrow. The Seas is wonderful. But not as wonderful as going to Barnes and Noble to pick up Science Fiction: Best of 2004, edited by Karen Haber and Jonathan Strahan and containing a bunch of fabulous stories including Christopher's "The Voluntary State." Go forth and purchase.

*and my name's not even next to Bruce Sterling's.


best. juggling. ever.

Not me ever, for I am the clumsiest girl alive, but Alan points to the Juggling Information Service website over at withboots and inadvertently uncovers something even more awesome than the fact such a group exists:

Aaaand a list of 388 movies in which juggling has appeared! (What other list would include Bachelor Party, Waiting for Guffman and Xanadu?) Shine on, you crazy diamonds.

Late Note: The movie descriptions are even more unimaginable than I, er, imagined. E.g., for Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy:

Before they can return to America from Egypt, Peter and Freddie find the archaeologist Dr. Zoomer murdered. A medallion leads them to a crypt where a revived mummy provides the terror.

Reported to contain juggling.

I couldn't resist. Here's a few more (plot details snipped):

Annie (1982). At the beginning of the film a girl briefly juggles three cans in the orphanage and falls off her bed. In a circus scene lasting over two minutes there is a juggler doing a three torches in the background, with a few tricks, as well as some torch swinging. He drops. Interesting only because the juggler is Michael Moschen. Two club passers are seen here, and later on tall unicycles. Fred "Garbo" Garver also appears.

Excess Baggage (1928). Silent Comedy. Reported to contain juggling.

Labyrinth (1986). Michael Moschen performed contact juggling for David Bowie by sticking his arms through Bowie's costume and watching on a video monitor. Moschen was credited as a choreographer. The first contact juggling scene occurs 13 minutes into the film. The second scene is about an hour later.

The Lost Boys (1987). There's a brief 3-ball cascade during the opening titles by an unidentified juggler. This is soon followed by some club passing on the boardwalk at the beginning. The most visible juggler is Ken Martin. The other juggler not shown well is Jeff Napier.

I could read these all night.

explain this to me, please.

I'm sure I'll have more to say about the Oscar race at some point, despite having seen very few of the contenders. But I have a question:

What is Before Sunset adapted from?

Did Ethan Hawke write another bad poem? (Because bad poems make great movies; it's a truism.)

I'm at a loss for an easy answer here (and the intarfriend ain't helping). What am I missing?

Also: see Uncle Grambo's profoundly wonderful reaction to Paul Giamatti's snub.


westerfeld's an aurealis

Oh and this very exciting news which I neglected to mention earlier:

Saturday's Aurealis Awards in Brisbane run by Fantastic Queensland (an organisation which fully lives up to its name) was nothing like that. No boredom, no projectile vomiting. Just a very fetching animated alien called Bruce and well-edited, well-conceived short videos introducing each award. They made everyone giggle. The speeches from presenters and winners were short, and either funny or touching, or both. And Scott Westerfeld won, as did Cat Sparks and Sean Williams and Margo Lanagan (whose short story collection, Black Juice, is the best collection I've read in ages), which made it even more fabbie.

Now, see, Justine could have gone for something like, "My husband's kick-ass book totally won the award with the best name in the world: worship!" But she's subtle like that.

Yay, Scott!

Now, you, you looking like you have something to hide?

Go buy it. And the forthcoming sequel.

fluttering by and pointing to something amazing

Sebastião Salgado is numbered among my very favorite photographers, and has been ever since high school when I discovered him by way of Eduardo Galeano. I've loved his work for so long that sometimes I forget about him. It gives me no end of pleasure that he's up for the Best Artwork category on the just announced short list of the British Science Fiction Association's 2004 awards. The nomination is for this photo, Marine Iguana, which is part of the Guardian online exhibit "Genesis" featuring his photographs from Galapagos and Virunga. (Flowing lava! He had to step back after taking the photograph so his shoe wouldn't melt to the rock he was standing on!)

I'm also really pleased that Ms. Link's exceptional "The Faery Handbag" from The Faery Reel anthology (one of the strongest of 2004) is up in the short fiction category.

This week looks to be even crazier than last. We have for-the-night houseguests and I've yet to answer any email (thus making me a LIAR). Soon. For now, I promise a little something every day. How little will just have to depend.


the face of all things grown-up

Johnny Carson has gone into that good night. (Via Jeff.)

When I was a kid Johnny Carson was what being an adult meant to me. In other words: the freedom to not have to go to bed at any set time (not that I ever did, but rarely was I allowed to do whatever I wanted -- mostly I sat up late, late, late and read, read, read). On the weekends, if I begged hard enough, my parents would let me sleep over with my Granny and Papaw Summers, who lived all of a mile from our house. Granny Summers is well known for being a night owl, and still stays up until 1 or 2 every night. On Friday nights, my Papaw would sit up with us and we'd all watch Johnny Carson together. She and I would stay up for David Letterman after he went to bed. On Saturday nights we all stayed up and watched SNL at the same time. Those are good memories.

As a teenager, I had my wisdom teeth removed by an orthodontist named Dr. Goes. They gave me an IV of something really strong to kill the pain. It made me even more talkative than usual. When Dr. Goes remarked that the giant bloody holes in my gums where he'd extracted the teeth, roots swiveled in odd patterns, were closing up by themselves with no need for stitches, I yelled with delight, "That's my mutant healing factor!" He liked that so much he gave me percocet. There was a huge snow storm that trapped us in for the days of my percocet-hazed recovery. My brother and I watched science fiction movies -- Streets of Fire (his choice), Escape from New York (my choice), and Robocop one and two (desperation's control of our local video store). My constant joke was: "I'm Johnny Carson!"

(For those who don't remember, JC had a tabloid fling with percocet years after he'd retired.)

Say... have you heard this one? update

Breaking in here with a quick update on the next Say...

So, we've decided that timing being what it is, we're going to cop to having only produced one issue in 2004 and move the debut of Say... have you heard this one?* to Wiscon over Memorial Day weekend, which is where we typically debut the spring issue. We had several concerns about putting out two issues on top of each other -- mainly fearing that ... have you heard this one? would end up selling fewer copies and finding fewer readers. (We're more worried about the finding fewer readers part, but, frankly, we also like to break even and not lose money on this endeavor.**) We're also working with our fabulous, brilliant, generous web designers to get a Fortress of Words website up and running, which will hopefully help the magazine find even more readers.

Long story short: mea culpa. Subscribers will of course get this issue as soon as it's available. And it'll be beautiful -- the cover is gorgeous.

Some of you may be wondering how this effects Say ... what's the combination? Keep sending us your stories/poems/comics/etc for that issue. We'll be announcing a later end date for the reading period very soon and that issue will come out in late October at World Fantasy Convention (oddly, also in Madison this year).

*That link will take you to the announcement page for the TOC; obviously the publication date has just changed.
**And we just got sold a bajillion dollars worth of dance lessons.

sunday hangovers

We had the excitement of thinking maybe, possibly we'd get more than an inch or so of snow yesterday. Alas, not so. Now, today, it's just bright as the surface of the sun outside and I've wrecked yet another pair of sunglasses by leaving them buried in my bottomless bag. Oh well.

1. You really will want to go read Paul Ford's My Three Favorite Computer Games of 2004. On game # 2: "Will Oldham's Adventure":

Basically you are the musician Will Oldham, also known as Bonnie "Prince" Billy, and someone has stolen your beard, which makes you very, very sad. You have to go on tour and play concerts and talk to different NPCs about getting different parts of your beard back. The concert cut scenes are well-rendered, and the game graphics are top-notch (they use the Unreal engine). The NPCs are really pretty good, and include P.J. Harvey (be REALLY careful when she invites you up to her apartment), and (spoiler alert) Johnny Cash, who has some good advice on finding your beard, and the Renderers. I also liked that, once you go through the game once, you can play it again as a cinematographer, a big ol' bear, or a racing horse, although to be honest game play doesn't differ that much when you play as different characters.

There's going to be a MMORPG version soon, which I can't wait for, because the idea of thousands of Will Oldhams sharing a world together online is pretty amazing.

(Thanks, Richard!)

2. Kameron Hurley writes a funny and insightful entry on shopping in the boy's section and dealing with with snow.

3. Read this editorial at Technology Review and see if you can spot the most offensive paragraph. (Thanks, Christopher.)

4. Ayelet Waldman fears sharks.


this is one way to get atttention for your self-published book

Hide a bunch of (12) precious gems and put the clues on where they are in your book:

"A Treasure's Trove: A Fairy Tale About Real Treasure for Parents and Children of All Ages" is the realization of the author's 25-year-old dream to create a puzzle sandwiched between the pages of a classic, timeless fairy tale. He was inspired by 1979's "Masquerade," for which author Kit Williams hid a necklace made of rare gems and gold that was found in the English countryside three years later.

"I studied fine arts and had a B.S. in math -- I thought I could do this. But for me, one treasure wasn't enough. And the story had to outlast the treasure hunt," Stadther says. "Hopefully, 100 years from now, people will be looking for the 'jewels' in the story."

So far, no one has claimed the real treasure.

Perfect for letterboxing families!

Of course, the cynic in me wonders if he realllly did this or has just pulled off a great hoax marketing effort.*

Someone please alert Nick Cage so he can star in a movie about this.

(Via Clint.)

* It's the puppy toy in the picture. Creepy. (Also, possibly the home of a Joan Wilder's destiny.

saturday morning hangovers

Happy weekend to you. A few little things:

1. Matt Cheney takes on the idea of rules in fiction, with very interesting results.

But people do fall apart. People do things that they don't, themselves, understand, and that 20 years of therapy may only been able to give them superficial stories for. People are unpredictable, bizarre, wanton, extreme, contradictory, and utterly messy. (Shoot a railroad spike through their frontal lobe and their personality will change entirely.)

Sometimes we think we understand things, but that's only because we tell ourselves stories. How often have you done something that seems odd, and said, "I did that because ________." But you know the blank is really blank, despite all the stories you fill it with. The stories are helpful, and they may illuminate a portion of the truth, but a core of mystery remains. It is exactly this mystery that makes much of the best fiction interesting, because the mystery prevents readers from reducing the characters to simple, unambiguous interpretations.

2. Little Toy Robot links to the first half of Michael Chabon's review of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes in the New York Review of Books.

3. Okay, so I'm stupid and got interneted trying to get a free minimac. However, this does seem to be a legitimate offer, it's just that in addition to signing up for one low or no cost "sponsor offer" you have to not only refer ten people, but they have to complete a sponsor offer too. THEN you get a minimac. If ten of you want to do this and help me feel less stupid, go to this link and this link only and do the deed. (Haven't you always wanted a subscription to USA Today so you can see that pretty map on the back every morning and dream of going somewhere orange? Or wanted a free trial for your very own fax number?) I want a minimac! But dance lessons are pretty great too and we already have those. (And hey, I saw this at large-hearted boy, though I in no way hold it against him.)

4. I forgot to relate this, which was a pretty funny thing that happened at our writing group. The group was considering the extremely rough first two and a half chapters of the new book I'm writing. In this section, I describe a news reporter on the island where the book is set. One member of the group pauses in his crit and says, "The reporter -- Blue Doe -- she's the girl from Fox, isn't she? I read that passage to my wife and said, 'Honey, who is this?' and she immediately got it too!" So, yes, I stole our scary, scary local anchorperson from the 10 o'clock news, who looks like she's been attacked by a botox-filled pufferfish. (Blue Doe is just what one of the characters calls her; it's not a picture book.) And someone got it. It made me very happy.

5. Have a good day.


It is a MISTAKE, MISTAKE, MISTAKE to think that doing 20 minutes on the bike when you're under the weather will make you feel better. More like pedaling with bricks instead of feet. I tell you this so you won't make the same mistake.



So, here's thing, if you've emailed me in the last month or so and gotten no response whatsoever (which puts you in the vast majority of people who've emailed me) please do not out me on your website Wenclas/sub-Jughead style, for I will be catching up on ALL email over the weekend. Promise. Even though my throat hurts and is scratchy, I promise.

A few hangovers:

1. Coffee and Ink watches Point Pleasant so you don't have to... and she doesn't even have The Great Hatred of Marti Noxon (it's explained in the post). (But then, I never hated MN as much as others.) I didn't even realize PP was a Marti Noxon show, or I'd probably have tried to catch it. I currently have an episode of The Medium sitting on the DVR awaiting a verdict.

2. Bookforum reviews the new Steve Erickson and, of course, finds it brill. Via The Rake. I only discovered Erickson a few years ago and immediately read everything I could get my hands on. If you've yet to read him, great pleasures await you. Start anywhere. Odd, beautiful books.

3. This one's for Kelly. I happened on a whole thread of Zombie Contigency Plans.

4. I started Pauline Fisk's Midnight Blue the other night, because I couldn't decide what to read. It's a YA that I picked up at the big BWI book sale a few months ago, just based on its lovely cover and history of awards. Wonderful. And the perfect book to be reading on the edge of snow. (Excerpt here.)

5. Visit the kingdom of the seahorse. It's nice there.

6. This is frightening. And I don't mean a little frightening. I may have night terrors now.

letter to the editor no. 7 (on paying the help)

This gem comes from The Times Literary Supplement's overall rather droll letters to the editor:

Skivvy at £20pa
Sir, – In his letter about Dirk Bogarde’s birth notice (January 14), Ron Haggart informs us that vacancies for women domestic staff were advertised “at the usual rate of £25 to £35 per month”. Derisory though such rates may appear to us, to unemployed cooks and maids in 1921 they would have seemed unattainable riches. The rates of £25 and £35 are surely annual?

I do not believe in any event that pay was expressed in terms of monthly rates then or now in Britain. This is a Continental custom; here pay was and is expressed in hourly, weekly, yearly, or piece rates. Pay at £400pa in 1921 would have satisfied the manager of a small bank branch or a middle executive civil servant. Pooter’s grandson, having worked his way up to £350pa, would reckon he had arrived and be placing an ad in The Times for a skivvy at £20pa and, within a few years, dreaming of buying a car.

183 Banstead Road, Carshalton, Surrey.

letter to the editor no. ?

So, I haven't done the Friday letters to the editor thing since, well, since I said I was going to and posted a few. Here's two from the Anchorage Daily News:

Kids, parents are getting fed up with local school lunch menus

My son in eighth grade asked me, "Dad, since when do a slice of pizza and cookie make a complete meal?"

A quick glance at the Anchorage School District lunch menu reveals similar choices. The menu selections at Chugiak High School are no better: poor a la carte menu balanced by the fast food Subway restaurant.

As a recent member of this community, I am demanding a wider selection and more nutritious lunch menus for my children. I am urging other parents and concerned citizens to hold ASD officials accountable.

As a recent military transplant from Mississippi, I am glad that the rigorous academics here are benefitting my children. Sadly, I am equally disheartened with the poor quality of school lunches here, especially when compared to Mississippi, a state notorious for its poverty.

My son implored me to do something, so I am writing this letter.

I humored my son with a quip that maybe Sen. Ted Stevens appropriated a few million dollars in the federal budget for improving the ASD lunch menu!

In light of recent emphasis on revising the federal food pyramid and problems of childhood obesity, ASD officials need to improve the quality of lunches sold in our district schools.

Poor nutrition cannot lead to superior performance!

---- Saket Ambasht

Eagle River


Actually, Scripture reveals Jesus did warn of hell on numerous occasions

I would like to respond to Chris Luth ("The corruption of Jesus' message by some churches, Jan. 11"). He, along with Clyde Baxley, Dec. 23 said, "True biblical Christianity isn't about threatening people with hell." Evidently, they have not read the Bible.

Jesus Christ is quoted in Matthew 5:29-30: "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell." (New King James.)

Sounds to me like Jesus Christ, the founder of "true Christianity," is warning people about hell.

The word "hell" is used at least 22 times in the New Testament. Jesus talked more about hell than he did about heaven. Any church that does not teach about hell is not following the teachings of Jesus Christ (true Christianity). Jesus was not popular for talking about hell. In fact, he was crucified. Should we, who warn people about hell like Jesus did, expect to be treated any differently?

---- Jerry Prevo



the only reason people like king wenclas are funny

is because they give other people the reason to do things like this. I would excerpt, but you really should go read the whole thing.

(All day I've been thinking that Jughead is totally going to show up and beat King's ass. I do not know why.)

p.s. Carrie points out that this is maybe because of Jughead's crown. That's part of it, but it's also because I've started thinking of KW as some sort of lesser Jughead. A pretender to Jughead's throne as the not nearly impressive enough King of Queen Archie's Heart.

p.p.s. Anyone with any doubts about Maud Newton's character need look no further than (well, fucking, her site!) how her friends leap to her defense in the face of Sub-Jughead's attacks.

you know the best inadvertently funny curses

Mr. McLaren uncovers The Alternative Dictionaries. What's that, you ask? Why, friend, it's slang, profanities, insults and vulgarisms from all the world.

Sez Chris:

So, if you ever needed to know how that in Hungarian the colloquial form of ‘go to hell’ translates literally as ‘I send you to Death’s penis‘, or what the literal translation of the Gaelic expression equivalent to ‘go for it’ is, or that in Polish you can refer to sickness in general (not just syphilis, as in many other European languages) by the word for ‘French’, you know where to go.

So, to you I say:

Serr da veg, ha lak da reor da breg! (Shut your mouth and let your arse talk!)

Also, there is apparently a LOT of mother fucking going on in the world.

(BTW, Justine, there's not a single entry for Australian English. A crime!)

(Actually, they need contributions for all sorts of languages, so if you know how to say fuck your mother in something besides English, please do your part for world communication.)

bracket fever!

The Morning News has announced The First Annual TMN Tournament of Books, complete with brackets. Members of TMN, the literary bloggerati and other fellow travelers picked the 16 books in contention and will judge the final winners*. But we should all play at home.

Books were chosen as follows:

We limited the selections to novels, and also to the “you-know-it-when-you-see-it” genre known as literary fiction. The top seeds went to books that were much hyped before or after publication. Second and third seeds were given mainly to books that were common to many of the end-of-the-year best lists we surveyed—ones we had also enjoyed, or been told we’d enjoy. The remaining selections (nearly half) were awarded to novels that our writers and editors felt passionate about. Obviously more than 16 books met these criteria, so we rather arbitrarily selected books that we thought would most appeal to TMN readers.

Despite that first sentence, I see three books that I'd count as SF in the running -- Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Cloud Atlas and The Plot Against America. But that's you say tomato, I say genre.

Get on your marks and start your penciling in and erasing now...

(Spotted at The Alley that Tingles.)

*or something like this

who has half a drink? on black thursday?

Apparently, those of us who like to imbibe a little bit every day will suffer less of what is somewhat euphemistically called "brain fade." This is important news, because if you plan -- as I do -- to be one of those sharp-as-hell-on-wheels old women, you need every guarantee against "brain fade" you can get.

The study of more than 12,000 elderly women found that those who consumed light to moderate amounts of alcohol daily had about a 20 percent lower risk of experiencing problems with their mental abilities later in life.

"Low levels of alcohol appear to have cognitive benefits," said Francine Grodstein of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, senior author on the study, published in today's New England Journal of Medicine. "Women who consistently were drinking about one-half to one drink per day had both less cognitive impairment as well as less decline in their cognitive function compared to women who didn't drink at all," Grodstein said.

You know what? I have my own scientific theory that really all these studies are concluding that you should have a couple, maybe even three or ten drinks every few days, and that then you'd live forever... but that the Scientific Establishment has decided to say "low levels" so no one will accuse them of just wanting to get a girl sozzled. Obviously, some courageous scientist needs to blow the lid off this one.

Someone get Margaret Atwood on the phone.

(Thanks, Robin!)

the land of film screeners

Jacob Sager Weinstein has a lengthy post worth checking out on the latest and decidedly un-greatest ways that studios are trying to prevent piracy of DVD screeners (complete with still photos from his screener of The Life Aquatic). He starts out by agreeing that piracy is bad and talking about the importance of having screeners to begin with:

Still, awards show campaigns can involve printing up thousands of DVD copies of a film that's still in the theaters, and then mailing them out to complete strangers. I can't blame the studios for taking a few reasonable precautions. But when those precautions begin to make it hard for an awards show voter to view and appreciate the film--which is, after all, the point of sending out those DVDs in the first place--I begin to doubt the intelligence of the people choosing those precautions. And because those people are charged with preserving my livelihood against pirates, doubting their intelligence makes me very, very nervous.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Before I do anything else, I need to underline just how vital these DVD mailing campaigns are to studios who hope to snag award nominations. As I mentioned in a previous post, the studios host free screenings through London, but here are some 4000 voting BAFTA members, and your average London screening room holds maybe 100 people, tops. Add to that the fact that any screening invariably conflicts with several other screenings, and it becomes clear that letting a voter watch a film at home, on his own time, is vital to getting your film widely seen.

Then he goes on to talk about how this has all gone way too far to be sensible and is actually hurting some films' chances of being up for awards. Now, awards are just awards and no one is dying here, but it's nice when worthy sorts get recognized for their work and when overlooked movies get some extra attention.

All I'm saying is, the only bootlegs I've ever bought (in a Mexican flea market) were just a travesty of bad quality (although there's something to be said about the kitsch factor for the back of the theater Spanish dub of Return of the King) and half of them were Oscar screeners. Oh well. The really sad thing was that we eventually had to throw them away, rather than sticking them into packages to friends and such because I was afraid the FBI would come get us should they ever touch postage.

she is a robot.

Tod Goldberg breaks the news that Atwood's fans might actually prefer a robot signature, relating his own wonderfully painful anecdote of a brush with her mighty pen:

“I wrote my thesis on you,” I say. “Would you be willing to sign it?”

“I suppose,” she says. “What did you write about?”

“Yes, I, uh, compared Handmaid’s Tale to Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time.”

“What did you conclude?” she asks.

“Well,” I say, and then ramble on for several incoherent moments about my findings, including several thoughts and interpretations that my teacher underlined in the text as “brilliant” and a few more that the teacher had indicated were “astonishing” and which indicated I had a keen sense of what both texts truly meant to the world at large. I conclude with a stunner, direct from the text itself, followed by the summation of, “It is a dream that seems grounded in the most basic human needs, isn’t it? It’s a shame we will probably never get there.”

Ms. Atwood signs my thesis, hands it back to me and says, “Your conclusions are completely wrong.”

Meanwhile in the comments to the earlier post where I pointed to Wendy McClure's reaction to Atwood's invention, Ted Chiang makes an excellent point:

Handy how Margaret Atwood gets credited with this invention, even though she's not doing any of the work of turning the idea into a working device. If only all inventors had it that easy.

I'm now picturing Atwood in a very large basement laboratory, lashing scientists with a whip.


makes with the wisdom

Janni Simner does, on writing and rules:

I think the fear is: if I don't follow the rule that writer over there uses, am I not a real writer?

We are all, of course, afraid we're not real writers. (Especially while we're, say, composing rants for our weblogs instead of, well, writing. But again I digress.)

There's no "you can't do this," in writing, though there's always "you did this badly" or "this doesn't seem to be working for this story" or "you did this and I'm not interested in your tale because of it." There's even "This story because it sucks large rocks through a straw."

But there's no "this story doesn't work because you relied on pathetic fallacies" or "this story doesn't work because you didn't follow 17 and a half point plot structure" or "this story doesn't work because you failed to read the latest book on how to properly build a bestselling career."

There are no rules. And anyone who finds this a terrifying thought--who wants to be told what to do and how to do it, who isn't comfortable at least some of the time feeling their way through--is possibly going to find writing an uncomfortable thing to pursue.

This was so, so what I needed to read today, Ms. Simner.

And if you do it badly, you just keep going until you get it right.


"This death was almost a suicide, a suicide prepared for a long time."

That quote belongs to Charles Baudelaire, referring to the death of Edgar Allan Poe. Pete Lit reminded me that today is Poe's birthday.

Since the endings of dark and doomed writers are far more interesting than their beginnings, I offer you a couple of paragraphs from near the end of Kenneth Silverman's excellent biography Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance:

It was Election Day for members of Congress, and like other local watering holes the tavern served as a polling place. Poe seemed to Walker "rather worse for the wear" and "in great distress." Apparently flooded with drink, he may also have been ill from exposure. Winds and soaking rains the day before had sent Baltimoreans prematurely hunting up overcoats and seeking charcoal fires for warmth--"a real breeder of suicides," one newspaper called the weather, "and a genuine precursor of Old Winter." Poe managed to tell Walker that he knew Joseph Evans Snodgrass, the Baltimore editor and physician with whom he had often corresponded while living in Philadelphia. As it happened, Walker had worked as a typesetter for Snodgrass's Saturday Visitor. He sent Snodgrass a dire note, warning that Poe needed "immediate assistance."

A page or so follows in which Poe is taken to the hospital and various people he knew are fetched, while he becomes sicker and more delusional.

Then Poe seemed to doze, and Moran left him briefly. On returning he found Poe violently delirious, resisting the efforts of two nurses to keep him in bed. From Moran's description, Poe seems to have raved a full day or more, through Saturday evening, October 6, when he began repeatedly calling out someone's name. It may have been that of a Baltimore family named Reynolds or, more likely, the name of his uncle-in-law Henry Herring. Moran later said that he sent for the Herring family, but that only one of the Herring's two daughters came to the hospital. Poe continued deliriously calling the name until three o'clock on Sunday morning. Then his condition changed. Feeble from his exertions he seemed to rest a short time and then, Moran reported, "quietly moving his head he said 'Lord help my poor Soul' and expired!"

When I was in high school, we were fed a faulty version of Poe's death, in which he drowned in a pool of his own vomit in the gutter. This was likely to ensure we didn't drink too much should we grow up and become Tortured Writers.

same old song, but not dance

The first rule of dance club is...

(Still alive, so don't worry. Do not seek the dwarf.)

Paging down through the last week or two's worth of posts, I see a pattern emerging -- a pattern that must be very boring to watch. Today is too busy to do anything about that, but I've noticed and I vow to do better and actually make that post in response to OGIC's thoughts on demonstrative reading. (After all, I should be qualified, as possibly the only anarchy-minded high school cheerleader who ever got disciplined for reading Salman Rushdie on the sidelines while sitting out in full uniform "being sick." I was sick a LARGE amount of the time that year, only just when I was supposed to hold pom poms. Or go to first period.) (It was Midnight's Children, if you must know.)

A few hangovers in the meantime:

1. So, Nebula preliminary ballots are out there and this year lucky SFWA members can vote online too (both must be received by Feb. 11). Make sure you vote in the novelette category (whistling innocently).

2. Mr. Barzak (whose already voted his preliminary conscience) posts about the things he does and doesn't like about Japan and lots of other interesting stuff. Check him out. And if you know any good doctors in or around Toyko, drop him a line. They're obviously enacting a nefarious plot to cripple the United States' greatest hope to best them in Olypmic Karaoke.

3. Carrie reveals that Curtis Sittenfeld is not one of her ex-boyfriends.

4. Holly Black returns from ALA and recommends Boy Proof by Celia Castellucci.

That's it for now. Have a less gray day.


noted with much amusement

Wendy McClure at Pound (who has been having one helluva boot camp and could probably kick your ass by now) sez something very funny in her latest post:

Speaking of readings, did you see how Margaret Atwood went and invented this thing that signs books from a remote location? No, really: Margaret Atwood totally invented a robot arm that signs books. That's just surreal. Wouldn't it be great if writers just did that stuff all the time? Like if David Foster Wallace just came up with some crazy precision laser beam that can render legible footnotes in microscopic -15pt type, or Tom Wolfe devised an electromagnetic wand to detect irony in sex scenes? Personally I would improve on the book-signing invention by solving the women-writers-can't-get-male-groupies problem at the same time. That's right--I would build a Book-Touring Femmebot, with Realdoll parts and NPR personality. Among its many features it would adminster a stun-gun-like shock to anyone who says something like, "So your book, it's really just chick lit, right?" or "Why aren't you on Oprah?"
I think this is a fabulous idea, though it'd also be kind of fun if Margaret Atwood accidentally turned herself into a robot.


up from the scullery

Whoops. I completely underestimated the amount of time cleaning the place, doing laundry and five tons worth of dishes would take. And so: no email, no nice entry. Maybe tomorrow. Now we go to see The Boss again.

India Times, why you make us all so sad? This is very distressing. Little interweb angel, come fix it please.

Meanwhile, I just started Samantha Hunt's The Seas. And the Golden Globes were too dull to sit through (I gave up at 9:30, figuring if something actually worth seeing happened I could use the DVR to watch it later.) I'd think it was just me, getting too lame to stay up for them, but I'm pretty sure the GG was the lame thing. And hey, pre-show camera asshole, what's with the tight shots? I only watch this part for the dresses. Sigh.

Dream a little dream in honor of the day.

three monday things

1. Justine Larbalestier has revamped her site, adding goodies like a Magic or Madness section and a Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction section (you'll want to check out the letters page). Hell, you'll want to go read it all.

2. These shirts are funny.

3. Bill Gates: Teen Beat Sex God. (Via Boing Boing.)

A real post later. Promise.


it's snowing

Originally uploaded by gwenda.
You know how much I love that. This is our street, moments after the discovery of actual weather happening was made.


run don't walk

Please get thee to your local movie theater and see A Very Long Engagement. (And then read the book, if you haven't already.) Just shot to the top of my best movies of the year list. Christopher and I just spent all dinner dissecting it.


Go see for yourself.

More on this at some point in the future.

keep your brand outta my fiction*

Ed has a fantastic and absolutely spot on post about one of my least favorite things in writing: product placement, brand names, etc. (Some of you are nodding into your coffee, I bet, having gotten notes on this from me in the past.) He uses Tricia Sullivan's Maul as a jumping off point. I haven't read it, but have heard good things. (Here's a link to a Guardian review by kick-ass hard science fiction writer Justina Robson, whose book Natural History is out now and her first to be pubbed in America. Read it.)

Last year there was a lengthy thread in response to one of Carrie's posts that became partly about the use of brands in fiction, when it works and when it doesn't and the danger of dating your prose**.

Like anything, there are times when it works and is appropriate and times when it rips me from the story. Mostly, I find it to be a lazy sort of shorthand, particularly for character and setting. I think maybe the reason it's jarring is that consumer culture is so present in the rest of life that I resent its intrusion into fiction. I want to at least preserve the illusion that whatever I'm reading is tapping into levels below that shiny surface.

Again, this isn't to say it can't work. I don't find if nearly as upsetting when a name or discussion of a film or book is inserted, as a rule, but spare me from details on toothpaste brand or what kind of white wine it is. In general, I can do a more resonant job of filling in my own details there based on more generic (or specific in their own way) identifiers.

Some books*** -- many of them science fiction -- need to take on consumer culture and all it entails, including brands. Whenever I bitch about this, Christopher points out that William Gibson has done it with great success. But I, now at this moment, mostly prefer made up brands if they are necessary to the story. Real ones have all sorts of baggage and perhaps that's the problem -- the associations the reader brings are from life experience and so heavy that they intrude on our unfolding experience of the narrative. They feel easy and manipulative. A lesson in how one word (one capped, TMed word) can color, shade, tilt a story off kilter for a reader. Writer beware.

*Overstating, of course...

**As in temporal, not smoochy, smoochy.

***Recommendation along these lines: MT Anderson's Feed and Scott Westerfeld's So Yesterday

worm "Carry Me Ohio" Sun Kil Moon

UPDATE: There's an interesting discussion going on in the comments. Join in.


golden years (hahaha)

Which David Bowie are you?

(Via Berlin Bowie Jeff.)

NOTE: The image is not showing up for whatever reason and I'm too lazy to fix it. I am Ziggy Stardust Bowie and I come from outerspace and have no time for such things.


breaking: midget shortage kneecaps dr who

I'm not making this up. Really, there's a news story*:

Filming of the new Doctor Who series has been hit by a shortage of midget actors.

Bosses wanted them to play tiny blue aliens - but most have been snapped up for the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie and to play Gringotts Bank staff in the new Harry Potter film.

Dr Who executive producer Russell T Davies said: "It's very difficult to employ persons of restricted growth when, as our producer Phil Collinson says, `Bloody Gringotts and the Chocolate Factory are filming at the same time'."

Insiders on the BBC1 sci-fi drama admit it has proved a headache during shooting of the 13-part series, due to be wrapped up next month.

One said: "The two big movies have snapped up the talent. It's been hard to find who we want."

(Thanks, Mr. Rowe!)

Semi-related: Ms. FWK sent along a self-explanatory link the other day to

*Well, news storyish. It may call itself a news story, etc.

the sad truth

When the girl is getting her stuff done, she is very, very dull the rest of the time. I really have nothing of interest that I feel like tapping tapping about here. Finished proofing two stories for a friend last night and now they're winging their way somewhere. Started reading a manuscript for another friend and am enjoying it so much I can only begin to look forward to lots of other people having read it eventually so we can all talk about it. Oh yeah, and have been breaking the quota. Tap tapping. The new book is going well. Or at least, it feels like it is.

It's odd, structure is one of the things I feel most comfortable with. Structure, pacing, plot. And this book is doing all sorts of fun little things, wiggling in odd directions, and so far, I'm letting it. Anyway, it's going. Which is nicer than when it stops dead.

Stray quotations:

"When the last dime is gone, I'll sit on the curb outside with a pencil and a ten-cent notebook, and start the whole thing over again." -- Preston Sturges

"I prefer the errors of enthusiasm to the indifference of wisdom." -- Anatole France

"There's almost never been a movie made that couldn't benefit from its ending being a tentative affirmation. Because what else is there, really? Anything more than that feels too pat. If it's less than that, it feels unsatisfying." -- Ted Tally

"It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass." -- Eudora Welty

(quotes courtesy of procastinatory time sink Wordplayer)

Oh, and I've started liking Case Histories. Knew I would.

(Also, the Blackwell list: what was Britney wearing?)


visit the conversastion

The cinetrix announces The Conversation, a roundtable in which FIVE* film bloggers will dissect the year in film just in time for awards season (and without all that Slate hilarious nastiness, I'm betting) They are:

So who's this we? It's far from royal. We're rank amateurs, and proud of it. There's no obligation to see schlock, no j-school-imposed notions of objectivity, and no guilt if we haven't seen an acclaimed film, either.

David Hudson is the film blogger Doc Ock: No film link on the Internerd is beyond his reach. He covers the world at Daily GreenCine. Based in Berlin, David promises he will tell us who the Hollywood Foreign Press think they are and why we should care. For starters.

Aaron Out of Focus and Filmbrain are like a blogging buddy-movie duo--think Grodin and DeNiro--who've been working their disagreement shtick from the get-go. But even when they seem on the verge of coming to blows [two words: Vincent Gallo], neither one ever mistakes name-calling for criticism.

'Liz Penn writes on film and culture for the High Sign' may be the understatement of the century. She's got a thousand words for each picture.

And me? Well, I'm the cinetrix, and I enjoy being a girl.

*And they do math!

standard midweek apologia

I've got less than zero to offer here this morning. (Except yesterday's word count: 636 and 564(?). Go team.) It's raining AGAIN. Sixty degrees, but raining. Such is my life's soundtrack.

In lieu of nothing, however, I offer you a random paragraph from the novelization of the movie W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings (if you wonder how I came to be in possession of such an artifact, read this). If I were you, I'd imagine it read in the dulcet tones of a young Burt Reynolds:

"This beats any damn thing I ever saw!" raged Wayne. "Not only do we get drug up here to get made fools out of in some little ole amatoor night" -- the others watched him silently as he stormed up and down in the cluttered alley behind Rosie's -- "not only don't we get paid anything, but we're out money on this trip!"


tuesday hangovers

Legs, hurt. Weights make hurt legs. Ow.

A light day:

1. Issue #15 of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet (or LCRW, as the world fondly knows it) is available. Go pay yer 5 bucks, but really, pay 20 and subscribe! Features scads of fine fiction, a film column by Will Smith of Trunk Stories fame and a new installment of Dear Aunt Gwenda. (It's always fun to see what one's bio is, when one decides not to provide one's own.)

2. J-Fly shares some words of rain, because apparently LA is being hit with soul-crushing amounts of the stuff as well. I sympathize.

3. Mr. McLaren sings "Getting to know you, getting to know all about you!" for 99 questions worth (and 99 questions borrowed from Jonathan Carroll at that).

4. Carnival photos, via J-Walk. Carnivals.

5. Jonathan Strahan raves about Carol Emshwiller's forthcoming young adult novel Mr Boots. (The Amazon link was the only one I could find where you can pre-order. Available everywhere in July.) Can't wait.

6. Fantasy author and funny guy David Coe did a radio interview on a show called The Dragon Page and you can listen: Visit DragonPage-dot-com and hit the link to "Cover to Cover 148" at the top righthand column of the page. It's worth it not only for David's answers but for the typical radio guy type of q's.


searching for the right words

As I'm sure you've seen elsewhere, Newsday's Laurie Muchnik debuted a new column over the weekend in which she'll try and consider more books and reader-focused litnews, more candidly. The column is fittingly called "Finding the Next Book" and she talks about how she decides which book to read next. I imagine every reader does this in much the same way(s) but with major personal differences. There's never any shortage of what to read, we could all agree on that, but then why do I so often find myself searching? Because the right book at the right time is what I want as a reader and that is not always easy to find.

One of my non-resolution resolves is to actually track what I read this year. I'm using Ayelet Waldman's booklog as a template, a simple list with the book title and author and a sentence or two of reaction. (I may or may not stick this up online at some point in the future.) I imagine this will teach me more than I currently know about how I choose the books I actually end up reading. I'm also going to note short stories read in magazines or journals so long as that remains feasible to keep up with.

Many, many of the people linked to the right have influenced my reading choices -- or at least potential choices -- in the past year or two. Often I'll take books out of the library on blog recommendations or the recommendations of other writers. I take out way more books than I actually read, but I've certainly read many things I might not have otherwise just from examining the book, testing the first page, etc. I also have very generous friends and we're all pretty knowledgeable about where our tastes overlap, so we send each other books and swap recs (or the flipside, swap "avoids"). Then there's the danger of having too many writers as friends -- just trying to keep up with their books and stories isn't easy... although I must admit that I feel extremely lucky that it's a pleasurable enterprise, as I'm blessed with across-the-board fantastic writers as friends. (I'll just stay over in the corner pecking out my YAs for now, thanks.) I rarely turn to books that are already shelved, which is why I keep the mammoth stacks around of books I actually intend to read, only eventually giving up and shelving them.

Sometimes a sure thing turns out not to be. I think maybe I shouldn't be reading Kate Atkinson's Case Histories right now. But I've heard such good things, I'm continuing on. It's not that I don't appreciate the lovely writing or enjoy the story, but more that I'm not engaging with it in the way I want to. Yet. Maybe I'm just not far enough in. The last book this happened with was The Egyptologist (which I eventually gave up on, not making it to the much-raved-about ending that was supposed to justify the whole thing). I'm still hopeful the light will click on and I'll stay up too late to read the next chapter.

So, just quickly, the books on the log so far and how I chose them (not all of them are actually completed yet, but it's early in this project and so I've ambitiously included them anyway). You'll notice I've redacted the titles of the research books; this is because that would give away a big chunk of what I'm working on at the moment and I'm not really ready to talk about it yet. Here goes:

1. Case Histories – Kate Atkinson: Mostly chose this just from buzz, reviews and mentions on blogs, coming at a time when I've resolved to read more crime fiction. Also, one of the few books I've actually bought lately... well, I steered Christopher to it for one of my Christmas gifts. Same difference. The writing actually reminds me of my favorite writer in the world's -- Karen Joy Fowler's -- in the wonderful deadpan details and lines full of sly humor. (Maybe that's why I'm not engaging, because it reminds me of Karen and yet is NOT by Karen!)

2.Unnamed Research Book One - This particular book is the text of an old play which plays a small but key role in and also influenced the telling of the history around the major event in the book I'm working on. I had to interlibrary loan it.

3. “From Above,” Robert Reed – Feb. F & SF: This was a short story and I chose it because the F&SF was nearby and it was by Robert Reed.

4. Unnamed Research Book Two: Another research book. The only book I could find that dealt with the modern geography of the place I'm writing about.

5. Firebirds – edited by Sharyn November: I've been meaning to read this for ages and am only now getting around to it. Kelly and Gavin said in the introduction to YBFH that this was the standout fantasy anthology of 2003. I think they were right.

6. All in the Dances – Terry Teachout: Well, obvs, I should have read this one already too. Only complaint: brief life is too brief! I keep trying to read sloowwwer to stretch it out. I'm going to make C read this one too, as he also loves ballet. I chose this one because Terry wrote it, yes, but also it's exactly the kind of ballet book I wanted to read. Accessible but rich.

7. The Girl Who Married a Lion (and other tales from Africa) – Alexander McCall Smith: This one I chose based on a review in -- I believe -- Entertainment Weekly, raving, and then I saw it at the library and so, poof! Reading it. Lovely little book. Also too brief.

8. The Rarest of the Rare: Stories Behind the Treasures at the Harvard Museum of Natural History: Another steered Christmas present, although this one I shamefully bought for myself under the guise of giving it to Christopher. The packaging sold me. Completely an impulse buy, but one that plays into my love of photographs and stories behind museum collections and curiosities.

And that's really it for now. I'm too lazy to link, so google, you lazy bastards, if you need to know more about any of the titles above!

I'd be interested in how you choose books, if anyone wants to respond (either here or on their own site or via email).

I know you're not really lazy bastards.

(Also: 562 words later! And 543 on the other side of the office!)

first lines

So, Coffee and Ink has one of those m-word things where you make an entry from the first line of the first blog entry of each month of 2004. Here goes (and just to note that the Jan-May entries were all over at the Journalscape site):

Happy New Year, everybody... If you haven't mosied over to Karen Joy Fowler's home page in awhile, now's a good time to do so. In case you missed the big, mushy mess of an Oscar running commentary thing I attempted last night, it's there. It only seems appropriate to tell you what happened with my ebay purchase of the supposed VHS tape of W.W. AND THE DIXIE DANCE KINGS, off Terry's recommendation. It's another month already. We made it, drowsing along through sunshine and wind farms having their best day ever -- at least until we hit the state line and immediately went from rainbows to ominous black skies. The fan who dressed like a devil was one of the first things that made me look up from reading my book on the couch near the clapping, exclaiming Mr. Rowe as he yelled at what, at the time, I usually responded to (ironically) as, "Oh my god, they're peddling! They're peddling harder!" The WP reviews the new Alejandro Escovedo tribute album, giving it extraordinarily high marks. The ever alert and always entertaining David Moles alerted me from the road about Combustible Celluloid's wonderful, wide-ranging interview with screenwriter (now also a director) Hampton Fancher, in which he talks extensively about Blade Runner. Does anybody else think this choice Bushism from the debate would make a stellar bumper sticker? Old Hag's new site is up and it's BEYOOTIFUL, in a way that again makes me feel both lame about the inadequate stylings of this site and greener than green with jealousy. There's a new edition of Sylvia Plath's Ariel out, a complete one, just as she left it with no missing poems, replacements or reordering.


Hmmm... ending the year on Plath seems a bit inauspicious, doesn't it? Must take more care with first lines and first days and first everythings in future.

smell of tea, crack of dawn

Didn't get to email this weekend, really, or much of anything else (except a bit of research). And since I have to turn in Wednesday night, some writing's got to happen on the new book and some reading's got to happen for someone else. All by way of saying, there may not be a whole lot here for the next day or two. (Did see The Incredibles and yes, heart Edna Mode muchly.)

And C and I are both aiming to do at least 500 words a day on our books for the foreseeable future--likely taking off weekends--so look for word counts.

Now, Monday hangovers:

1. BookLust has posted two installments on her top reads of 2004 and added a couple of books to my TBR pile in the process. She also mentioned Josephine Tey, in talking about Case Histories (which I'm in the middle of), and that will get you points with me any day.

2. Sarah Weinman points to the Mississippi Review's guest-edited "high pulp" issue. Can't wait.

*****3. Breaking! Moorish Girl's Laila Lalami has sold her first short story collection The Things That Death Will Buy (fab title) to Algonquin Books. Yay and congratulations! (Via TEV.)*****

4. Jacob at Yankee Fog shares his thoughts on being a BAFTA (and WGA) voter, complete with overwhelming schwag photo.

And that's it for now.


another excuse and query

I'm again absolutely buried, so nothing more, possibly until Monday. (Visit the folks to the right, of course.)

Also, there's a movie I want to add to our Netflix queue, but I've forgotten the title and most relevant details. I seem to remember reading a review of it either on Locus or in F & SF last year. It's a science fiction movie, but it's told in three(?) different strands or stories, thematically related, and is possibly Japanese. Does this ring a bell with anyone? Much appreciated if it does.

Have a nice weekend and try not to unintentionally smash anything.



Shaken & Stirred is taking a mental health day, if you hadn't noticed.

I'm happy to report that I'm cavity-free, but even that news couldn't quite shake off the out of sorts feeling I had... so I took the only sane course of action: impromptu massage. After which I have no desire whatsoever to play on the machine.

Happy sigh.

If only it would stop being cold and rainy. Oh well, back to dancing around to The Fawns.

Back tomorrow.

UPDATE: One little addition, really a question for the ladies. At the dentist, I read this terrible article about the Women Who Worship Bobbi Brown (nothing against Bobbi Brown, but whah-huh?). One of the sidebar "Bobbi's Rules" was to never line just the lower portion of your eye with liner (top and bottom or just top). Now, I live in the South, so I've SEEN some pretty fucked up make-up -- raccoon eyes, wooden doll blush circles, liner a very different color than lipstick -- but I have never, never, ever seen anyone with only the bottom of their eyes lined. Who in the hell does this that it is Rule level? I fear the Bobbi Brown Women, that they need to be TOLD such things. Have I just not seen this?


being underground

I am the Nile!
Which Extremity of the World Are You?
From the towering colossi at Rum and Monkey.


At 4145 miles from your furthest extremity to the Mediterranean Sea, you outdo the Amazon to become the world's longest river. The piranhas hate you.

Beneath you lies an underground river with six times your volume. You kept this remarkably quiet for several thousand years. In fact, you're full of mystery; your source wasn't discovered until 1862. You're also full of water. And crocodiles. And nuclear pharaoh machines that run on light and can see through time.

(This is a really good one, even if you hate silly quizzes. It has a Derrida reference!)

Off to writing group, where it's the Nebula prenominee's turn up on the block.

(Via Janni Simner, who we'll have a great new story by in the next issue of Say...)

hangovers, midweek edition

I'm still behind on email. Apologies.

1. Mostly, I suggest you dive headlong into the many fascinating answers to the Edge's 2005 World Question: what do you believe in that you can't prove? That's what I did. (Note to budding Mundane SF writers: your entire career could be included in these answers.)

2. The Mumpsimus mulls over recent deaths, including yesterday's of Lexington's own Guy Davenport. He has many relevant Davenport links. I'll add only this personal remembrance by a former student from today's local paper, which includes some great personal anecdotes (and headsmacking ones):

Much later, as I was completing my bachelor's degree, I decided to try graduate school. I hoped to study creative writing. I asked Davenport whether he might write me a letter of recommendation to a certain second-tier university in another state. "I will," he said. "But wouldn't you rather go to, say, Johns Hopkins?"

"What? Sure. But Johns Hopkins would never consider someone like me."

The English department at Johns Hopkins University was home to one of the country's oldest, most highly selective and prestigious creative writing programs.

"The chairman there owes me a favor," Davenport said.

Within days, I received a personal letter from that chairman, awarding me a coveted slot in Johns Hopkins' Writing Seminars. Such was Davenport's clout.

The local obit yields the info that he donated his body to the UK Medical Center. For more on what happens when you donate your body to science or medicine, read Mary Roach's Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.

3. I want this T-shirt. (Via Boing Boing.)

4. Christopher's explains the Nebula prenomination system for beginners. Congratulations to the other preliminees.

5. The Best of Pixies album is the best gym music evAR.

6. Tim Pratt divulges the Annual Tropism Awards for 04.

7. The Gray Lady, she do know oatmeal.


yes, yes: house pictures

buffy stake
Originally uploaded by gwenda.
Here's just one of the many fabulous house pictures I've put up to please some people (I'm looking at you, Richard) and to learn how to use Flickr. Still learning, but you can see the rest here.

hangovers, tuesday edition (updated)

If you've sent me an email in the last day or so and gotten no response, mea culpa. I'm buried and will try and respond tonight.

A few things, quickly:

1. Little Toy Robot points out that Justina Robson's Natural History is out in the U.S. this month. Read her. Immediately.

2. Maccers visits an Ashram and makes it sound like a very, very funny (from a Bette Midler-sized distance) incarnation of hell.

3. Coffee and Ink's favorite books of the year, full of excellent and diverse selections.

4. Write letters to your characters (via Peacock Harpy). I think mine would be pretty standard.

Dear Character X,

I'm really, really sorry for the things that are about to happen to you.

Love, G.

5. Laura Lippman on the idea of transcending genre(via everyone's favorite Tingle). I'll point to Samuel Delany's thoughts from Black Clock, which I typed in here awhile back. Also, check out what Sarah has to say.

6. Will Eisner is dead. The rest of us are poorer. (Via all over the place.)

7. Wow-worthy photo of TBR shelves (via Scott Esposito).(Although, there's a bunch of people who would argue on Red Mars not being an outstanding book!) I'm definitely getting a flickr account.

8. Mr. McLaren goes bookshopping. I love reading about other people's bookshopping expeditions.

That is all. Go about your various businesses.

UPDATED: Had to go search out a link for the best news of the day: Mr. Rowe's "The Voluntary State" is on the preliminary Nebula ballot for Best Novelette. Yay!


read a book: Geoff Ryman's Air (or Have Not Have)

You know what Air’s like maybe, a little bit, already. It’s something like television, the internet and email. It’s inside your head, but also outside. It opens up your inner space and shares it with the rest of the world. That’s what Air is like.

Geoff Ryman said in an interview by Kit Reed at Infinity Plus, “The tech kept changing under me.” There was no digital TV when he started writing the book, and many similar things to what happen in the book happened in reality during the writing. I mention this, because I had a similar though entirely different experience while reading the book (which I'll get to later).

Air (or Have Not Have) is a book about technology, sure, but like all the best science fiction, it’s actually about humanity. This book has drilled itself down to the level of one central character – Mae, full name Chung Mae, the fashion expert of the small village of Kizuldah in a fictional country that borrows enough from existing countries (Turkey and China seem to be heavy influences) that it seems immediately, perfectly real. What’s a fashion expert? The first page of the book tells us:

Mae lived in the last village in the world to go online. After that, everyone else went on Air.

Mae was the village’s fashion expert. She advised on makeup, sold cosmetics, and provided good dresses. Every farmer’s wife needed at least one good dress.

Mae would sketch what was being worn in the capital. She would always add a special touch: a lime-green scarf with sequins; or a lacy ruffle with colorful embroidery. A good dress was for display. “We are a happier people and we can wear these gay colors,” Mae would advise.

“Yes, that is true,” her customer might reply, enranced that fashion expressed their happy culture. “In the photographs, the Japanese women all look so solemn.”

“So full of themselves,” said Mae, and lowered her head and scowled, and she and her customer would laugh, feeling as sophisticated as anyone in the world.

It’s hard to stop quoting, because the translucent prose just draws you forward, on, into the book. I picked up Air off Christopher’s night table, intrigued by the beautiful cover and didn’t put it down for a week. I think you can see from that excerpt one of the things that makes this book stand apart - especially if, like me, you don’t read much of what could be called true science fiction – is that it’s a book about a fashion expert, about a dirt poor woman in a dirt poor village in a third world country, which isn’t usually among the primary concerns of books about technology and its impact on culture. It’s a thorny issue, the interface of global technology with third world countries and yet, this book takes these concerns on flawlessly by keeping its viewfinder off us and on Mae.

The book follows Mae on a visit to town, where she and her companions from the village learn of the coming Test. Since I hate plot synopses, I’ll steal here from Publisher’s Weekly’s glowing review:

One day, the citizens of Kizuldah and the rest of the world are subjected to the testing of Air, a highly experimental communications system that uses quantum technology to implant an equivalent of the Internet in everyone's mind. During the brief test, Mae is accidentally trapped in the system, her mind meshed with that of a dying woman. Left half insane, she now has the ability to see through the quantum realm into both the past and the future. Mae soon sets out on a desperate quest to prepare her village for the impending, potentially disastrous establishment of the Air network.

The only thing I’d quibble with here is the questioning of Mae’s sanity – yes, she has a literal split personality after The Test, but she actually seems to grow saner and saner. Because she is the only one who truly seems to understand Air and its potential though, she’s viewed by others as disintegrated into madness or a close cousin of it. And in fact, her life does begin to disintegrate in many ways after she can access Air – she has an affair with her next door neighbor, is caught by her husband and becomes the village’s fallen woman; she is betrayed by several of her friends; she begins to dress differently and befriends one of the wildest, most rundown teenagers in the village, Sezen; she’s taken essentially prisoner of a large, corrupt company in the capital at a citizen’s forum and drugged and studied; she has a strange pregnancy in her stomach no one can explain or convince her to abort; and she begins to prophesy a great flood. Oh, and yes, she can glimpse the future.

But Mae also experiences much good, as she becomes more and more driven – she is given a purpose by The Test, and that purpose is to keep Air from destroying Kizuldah, its people and its traditions. Her ever-changing relationships with the other women in the village run deep throughout the book offering a steadyness even as men come into and out of the narrative, to try and assist Mae or to try and control her.

Ryman’s telling of Mae’s journey is seamless and he never falters in his portrayal of her. She is one of the most convincing – and fascinating - characters I’ve ever encountered.

There’s a particularly wonderful sequence in the second half of the book where a drugged Mae escapes from the corporate compound with the help of a dog named Ling who has been engineered to be smarter than any dog should.

There was a fence. It was high and made of crisscrossed metal, and was crowned all along the top with barbed wire.

Mae was dim and detached. She felt her root into Air. It was easier to do on drugs, for she was as calm as if she were in Air.

“This is all a joke,” she said, and suddenly smiled.

It was true. The world was a joke. It was a story, twisted by gravity out of nothing. It was an accidental by-product of Air, of the eternity where Air was.

She could feel this eternity. She could take the story into her hands. She could feel the metal fence. The fence was mere fiction.

So she tore it.

Reaching into Air, Mae seized reality, as she herself has been seized, and very simply, very easily, Mae’s mind ripped the metal of the fence apart. She giggled at how funny it was that everyone should take the fence so seriously. She tore the mesh like a strip of cloth.

“This season,” she said, “Air-aware young ladies will wear the fences they have torn down as a sign of their strength.”

The torn edges of the fence danced, as if in wind.

“Sing,” she told the fence, and started to chuckle. “Why not?”

And the snapped, sharp edges of the torn wire began to tinkle, just as lunch had done. Anything was possible.

Wind blew the dust, the fence danced and sang, and Mae stepped out, into the desert, followed by a talking dog.

The last section of the book has Mae convinced that a flood is coming, a flood like the one old Mrs. Tung, the other personality trapped in her, witnessed nearly wipe out the village in her girlhood. The village is below a mountain and there have been great snows above but unseasonably warm air below. Mae attempts to protect the villagers by convincing them to buy insurance from her estranged brother, by getting a weather monitoring device sent from the corporation that once held her prisoner, and by warning many villagers on New Year’s Eve to be ready to go to high ground at the sound of the flood coming: “Mrs. Tung says, when it comes, it sounds merry. The water laughs, the rocks applaud.”

Some choose to listen, and others do not. But the flood does come in a truly overwhelming climax. This is the portion of the book where reality intruded on my reading experience; however, instead of the technology having changed, it was nature that had asserted itself.

I was finishing up the novel just after the tsunami and so it’s hard for me to say if this nearly final section of the book is as gripping and heart-wrenching as it struck me. But I suspect it is. There was a catharsis in reading it with the images of rushing water and people fleeing for safety already in the front of my mind. The characters in the novel were people I felt as if I knew by then and so watching some escape, mourning the loss of others, it wasn't hard to conflate the death and survial of so many strangers halfway around the world with the familiar people of Kizuldah.

The book would doubtless unfold itself differently for you, just as all great books do. But Air is waiting to take you on some kind of journey. I’ll see you at the finish.

hangovers, monday ed.

My last holiday away from work today, which is a little sad, and so I'll be trying to do all the productive things I was going to use the supposedly slowed down holidays for. Ahem. Right now, first cup of English tea, crunchy facon and Calexico in the background. Some links:

1. Sarah Weinman points to the Philadelphia City Paper's annual story contest. The story must be in one of three genres: Mystery/Thriller/Crime, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror, Romance/Bodice Ripper. The story must be set in the City of Philadelphia. No exceptions. No suburbs. The story must be 2,500-3,500 words. No more than one per entrant. Michael Swanwick will judge SF entries. Prizes will be awarded in each category. So, get cracking (pulling out those trunk stories OR writing new ones). Winners pubbed in the paper, runners up online.

(Switching out Calexico for local faves Apples in Stereo.)

2. Don't forget to read Christopher's latest journal entry and heckle him to post more frequently. When George does it, Christopher just pretends not to speak dog.

3. Literary agent Barry Goldblatt posts his thoughts on getting an agent and whether writers must have one. He specializes in children's fiction. OK, first some cold, hard facts. As you may or may not know, it is much, much harder to get an agent than it is to get published. I'm not just referring to self-publishing or small press publishing either. It's a simple matter of numbers. There are far fewer agents than there are acquiring editors, and many of the good, well-established agents of course already have large client lists, and so take on very few (if any) new clients each year. Next, be aware that getting an agent does not guarantee getting published. So, you can put in a lot of effort, find a great agent who loves your work...and still not convince an editor. That's just the way it is sometimes.

4. Great quote from William James (via William Gibson): "I am done with great things and big plans, great institutions and big success. I am for those tiny, invisible loving human forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, which, if given time, will rend the hardest monuments of pride."

5. TEV (who is back too! The blogosphere really is stable!) hosts a marvelous guest essay by Daniel A. Olivas on cuento de fantasma. A partial definition from the essay, which you really should read all of: In his foreward to the anthology, Johnson observes that the fantasma has its roots with the magical realists such as Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel García Máquez and Julio Cortázar. But there was something else happening with the modern stories included in his anthology: a belief that the supernatural is a part of reality, not separate from it. Further, he saw issues of race and class addressed under cover of spirits, el Diablo and ancient gods. Very interesting stuff, and James Sallis gets a namecheck.

6. The 100 most popular baby names of 2004 list is up (via Jennifer Weiner), at least 5 minutes of fun and headshaking.

7. Matt Cheney posts his list of stories he liked in 2004. Many of my own favorite stories from 2004 are on it, but I actually think SciFiction had one of its strongest years ever. Aside from Mr. Rowe's "The Voluntary State" (obvs. my favorite story of the year), I'd direct you to: "House of the Future" by Richard Butner, "Zora and the Zombie" by Andy Duncan (a fantastic story about Zora Neale Hurston's encounter with a zombie, and if you ever get the chance to hear Andy read this story, take it!), "The Baum Plan for Financial Independence" by controversial rabble-rouser John Kessel, "Gliders Though They Be" by Carol Emshwiller and "Super 8" by Terry Bisson, to name a just a few SciFiction stories I thought extremely strong.

That's it for now. Possibly back later with that promised Air review.