Weekday Reading - 5/10/2010

The Rumpus runs a book review that turns meta, asking what the novel and the book review should do in today's media saturated culture.

A fascinating look at the work of Guy de Maupassant, a writer who was mega-famous in the 19th century but considerably less well-known today, who was massively prolific and whose work became progressively stranger as he succumbed to syphilitic delirium.

I'm not a big fan of Charles Stross' fiction, but I find his essays consistantly interesting. (One of a number of fiction writers who I think are actually better at non-fiction than fiction.) Here he is talking about the business of ebooks in the context of the rest of the publishing industry.

Tor.com finally reveals fiction submission guidelines. Tor.com didn't make my Fiction Magazines Worth Reading 2010 list only because I don't see them as a fiction magazine; fiction is only one thing among many that they publish. For similar reasons I didn't include Harper's Magazine either, even though I subscribe to it. Tor.com (like Harpers) has consistently fantastic fiction offerings, in no small part because they're willing to pay real money for it. Perhaps next year I'll reframe FMWR to include these two venues.

Matt Cheney reminisces about Barry Lopez, a writer who resinspired him to write and find meaning in the business of fiction writing.

Another person wonders why so few speculative fiction books get translated into English, especially when the number of sf books published in mainland Europe is so huge.

Åsk Wäppling expresses her discomfort with Facebook, outlining a lot of the reasons why I'm glad I deleted my FB account.

In an interview with GalleyCat, J.A. Konrath why he makes more money self-publishing books on Kindle than he does with traditional publishers.

Hal Duncan investigates what genre labels are and what they mean.

Fiction time!

In "Lost in the Funhouse", John Barth constantly interrupts his narrative with commentary about the effectiveness of the writing itself, providing a self-commentary on fiction writing and questioning all the techniques that writers use.

If there was any case for ebook readers, this is it as far as I'm concerned: The Tachypomp and Other Stories by Edward Page Mitchell is an out-of-print, public domain short story collection. Written in the late 1870s/early 1880s, before HG Wells famous works on similar themes, these stories describe the first vehicle that can travel faster-than-light, the first machine that can travel through time, the first instance of a cyborg with a computer brain (inspired by the "calculating machine of Charles Babagge"), the first scientifically-created invisible man, the first story with a teleporter, as well as suspended animation, a tunnel to the center of the Earth and more. All of it is pulled off with humor and a very Poe-esque sense of building mood. It is, in other words, a landmark book, and one that now anyone can download as an HTML file and transform (via Calibre) into ebook-reader friendly formats like ePub or Kindle Mobipocket.

And finally: Brontë Sisters! Activate!

Brown-Kauffman and the opportunity for Democrats to put up or shut up

There's a good article on the Huffington Post on the most crucial element of regulatory reform next to the Cantwell-McCain amendment to reinstate Glass-Steagall.

Simon Johnson probably understands this stuff better than anybody on the planet and I trust him and Elizabeth Warren more than anybody else on this matter.

This matters and it should be a no-brainer. And yet, there are a bunch of wishy washy sellout democrats who might support a Republican fillibuster of the idea, including New York Senator Charles Schumer. Normally I like Chuck Schumer, but a failure of leadership on this issue, frankly, makes everything else he does suspect.

You New Yorkers, you should hit Schumer on this and punish him in the next election if he toes the corporate line to fight against the amendment.

Oil Volcano

I watch these interviews with charter boat captains and shrimp and crab fishermen in the gulf. They're these tough, stoic guys who don't like all the attention they're getting. They're all on the verge of tears, trying to be as fair as possible, but they have this shell-shocked thousand yard stare that's just heartbreaking.

I don't know what else to say about this. A lot of times it's guys like this, fishermen, loggers, roughnecks and so on are opposed to environmental regulation because they're company men and what's good for the company is usually good for them. But now, looking at this, this is the reason why that logic is wrong.

I don't know where environmental politics go after this. The Valdez happened in Alaska and it was largely out of site out of mind. The Salmon and crab fisheries up there were huge but nowhere near the size of fisheries in the gulf. I don't know whether this is the wake up call that folks need to realize that corporations are not their friends, and that capital is something that needs vigilant and constant supervision. This, if the world were just, would kill the neo liberal and conservative friends of capital in the republican and democratic parties. I don't know that it will. I just know that people are suffering and that it could have been prevented. The reason it wasn't is because of greed, and it is the greed of our culture and therefore something in which we are all culpable.

Fiction Magazines Worth Reading: 2010

It's been just over a year since I posted about the fiction magazines I felt were still worth reading, and already two magazines I liked (Farrogo's Wainscot and the not-mentioned-but-should-have-been Lone Star Stories) have gone out of business. Since then, I've also read a lot more widely, discovering new venues. Given that these things may continue to happen, it seemed appropriate enough to turn the list into a yearly outing. There's a glut of completely unreadable fiction magazines out there (with the "literary" magazines tending toward tepid boredom and the genre magazines tending toward uninspired hack-work), and the world sorely needs someone to sort through them and pick out the ones that are actually worth paying attention to.

Lazy Writing Part 1

I am not often one who gets my feminist hackles up, since i think mostly that sort of thing reduces mostly to class differences. One thing I am starting to find truly annoying, though, is the Dumb Bitch Who Doesn't Know What's Good For Her archetype. You know what I'm talking about: something is clipping along in a story things are progressing from Point A to Point C via Point B, when out of the blue because the plot is running too fast the writer figures that he needs to complicate things a bit and add a subplot of some kind and he introduces this character. And god is she annoying. Even though it's mindnumbingly clear to the reader, the writer, and every clued in character in the story what it is that this character should do in the situation they are thrust into, she instead does the exact opposite. Because this activity is in fact insane and is only there to complexify an otherwise extremely linear and predictable story, the writer needs to create a reason for her to do this thing. There are a few stock reasons, all of which generally work in service of some sort of neanderthal view of human nature, but by far the most irritating is the general appeal to hysterical femininity. The audience is in effect being asked to accept that this character is behaving in a completely stupid way contrary to what the protagonist needs her to do because he emotions have short-circuited her ability to think clearly and act sanely.

Don't Cry for Me Arizona

I, like many of my fellow Arizonans, have become increasingly concerned about a serious problem in our state. More and more "people" are struggling with the twin problems of not knowing who they are or where they come from. The problem has grown to such epic proportions that many Arizonans now suspect that even non-Arizonans are suffering from the problem. Things have become so so bad that today when we walk down the street in Tucson, we are forced to wonder: if I asked this person passing me for their name and place of birth, would they be able to provide me with convincing proof that what they said was true?

The answer, all too often, is no.

Naturally, this lack of government issue identification that so many of us are suffering from is a source of serious anxiety for all of our fellow citizens. Certain half-measures have been proposed, of course, such as the current legislation demanding that people carry proof of citizenship and requiring presidential candidates to produce their birth certificates, but these, frankly, do not go far enough to quiet the anxieties of so many hard working Arizonans.

I propose a new approach to the issue that should completely eliminate the anxiety for all those who suffer from it. The solution? A simple motto that all Arizonans can adopt and display with pride: Will Have Identification To Examine, or WHITE for short.

The WHITE project is a simple plan to alleviate the anxiety of Arizonans concerned that other people around them don't have any Identification. Under my plan, all persons in the state with identification would be required to wear a button, t-shirt, or windbreaker at all times displaying the comforting phrase "Don't Worry, Arizona: WHITE person" to inform any and all passers by that they are WHITE and if asked will have identification to examine.