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The ten thousand things and the one true only.

by Kip Manley

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of the luck of Fourierism.

The sexual acts that Delany describes also involve, and create, forms of affiliation between people. These affiliations are grounded in bodily pleasures, in the pleasures of sharing, and in the multiple ways that people can find mutually enabling forms of contact. It’s a vision of both bodily desire, and human sympathy or being-together, that seems to me in an odd way more reminiscent of the utopian socialist Charles Fourier than it is of Freud. Each person’s particular twists of desire are what enlivens him or her, without having to be “accounted for,” or matched to any norms—so that they are entirely singular and autonomous to but also with the open, outward-looking potentiality of creating affinities with other people who have similar and/or complementary desires (someone who likes to drink piss meets someone who likes to piss in other people’s mouths; and in turn they meet someone else who likes to watch this…). With all these singularities of desire, nobody is ever drearily “the same” as anybody else; but also, with the widening circles of these singularities, everyone is likely to find at least some other people with whom to share at least something that moves, excites, or arouses them. It is in the midst of such continual fluctuating action that Eric and Shit, and also some of the other couples or threesomes (or more-than-threesomes) that we meet in the course of the novel must negotiate, both their primary emotional relationships with one another, and their sexual-emotional engagements, of various longer or shorter durations, with other people as well.

Steven Shaviro

—posted 5 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of living later.

But seen from the future it anticipates, sci-fi will inevitably appear as primitive myth. For like all myth, it hangs back from thinking the totality of what it projects – which is to say, total transcendence in the here and now (whose reality will, for the first time ever, make myth itself a thing of the past).

The unthinkable reality of that transcendence is violence. The only way transcendence can remain transcendence once it becomes real (free of myth) is by incorporating within itself a capacity for violent destruction without limit (which for the theological era was equivalent to absolute evil) considered as no more than a dimension of the everyday. The “human” condition of possibility for this is the ability of human subjects to live on, beyond physical destruction. But its implications for human subjectivity remain unexplored. Though the sci-fi hero is always already dead, living later, essentially a late being seen from our present standpoint, sci-fi narratives are spoken by and to a subject for whom that mode of existence remains totally unthinkable.

In sci-fi the violence of transcendence is deflected so that the world and only the world (which includes the bodily reality of the individuals who inhabit it) is exposed to transcendence as violence. Sci-fi is thus essentially nihilistic. It frees the reality of transcendence from the demonization by theology, but merely invites us to contemplate it in the form of endless technological apocalypse.

Michael Holland

—posted 13 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of eros.

The feminine phantasm can then take entire possession of the pneumatic system of the lover, producing—unless desire finds its natural outlet—somatic disturbances of a quite vexing sort. Called ishq, this syndrom of love is described by Avicenna, whose Liber canonis was the manual of medicine in use in the early Christian Middle Ages. But previously, Constantine the African had spoken of it in his translation of the Liber regius of ‘Ali ibn al-‘Abbas al-Majusi, called Haly Abbas. After Constantine, the semiology of the pathological Eros is described by Arnaldus of Villanova and by Vincent of Beauvais, who classify it among the varieties of melancholia.

The name of the syndrome is amor hereos or, Latinized, heroycus, as its etymology is still in doubt: it might be derived from the Greek erōs, corrupted herōs (love), or directly from herōs (hero), for heroes represented, according to ancient tradition, evil ærial influences, similar to devils.

Ioan Petru Culianu

—posted 21 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of putting it together.

Koenig is then asked about decisions she made with Serial’s decidedly unpatented voice. Co-producer Julie Snyder levels with her after an unsatisfying cut:

Edit after edit after edit… “It’s not working… It’s not good. I need to know what you—Sarah Koenig—make of all this. Otherwise I don’t care. I don’t know why you’re telling me all this… You need to make me care.” I was quite uncomfortable with that initially, but then I realized… That’s the thing that’s going to make you listen to the stuff I think is important.

If that sounds a lot like “Keep your eye on the ball,” you’re not wrong. But rest assured that our culture-making class hadn’t even thought of the ball much less kept an eye on it. (See: testaments to their confidence approximately everywhere you look.) Koenig’s discomforted by the idea that making someone else care is indistinguishable from selling it to them. To name just a few of the principled stands against Caring What Anyone Else Thinks: morning pages and the art-therapy discipline; The Compulsive’s Way—simply not being able to stop; “Dance Like Nobody’s Watching,” or art as vocation (“I have gained a space of my own, a space that is free, where I feel active and present.” —Elena Ferrante, not on Twitter). This has to do with one’s basic orientation as an author: Is art a means to cultivate or to reach? And if you must insist on writing, I have to ask—just how acutely do you feel the need to be borne witness to? Because a singular question harries stories at every turn, echoing the unminced words at the Serial editing bay: What is any of this for? Inevitably, the answer occurs somewhat too late: Making someone else care is the highest commandment of structure.

M.C. Mah

—posted 137 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of the creep.

—posted 145 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of the perfectly real.

On any given day, the pantheon of French Girls includes Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, Françoise Hardy, Jane Birkin, her daughters Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon, and former Vogue Paris editor Carine Roitfeld. Coco Chanel, immortalized not so much as a young woman but as an elegant matriarch, retires nearby. They’re distinct both as fully realized people and as types—Bardot is fiery, Deneuve icy, Birkin carefree, Roitfeld edgy—but all are regularly brought in as evidence of the French Girl’s actuality.

Who is she? She’s intellectual, cool, and a bit of a romantic, but she doesn’t give her approval easily or smile too much. She might run around in black-tipped Chanel slingbacks, or barefoot if she’s on vacation. She has a signature perfume. She eats cheese without abandon and nurses a single glass of wine all night because she’s a master of reasonable indulgences. She’s almost always white, hetero, and thin, and you can only conjure her by willfully ignoring the many French women whose daily routines do not involve bicycling along the Seine in mini skirts with baguettes tucked under their arms.

But the French Girl’s influence is tangible. She makes money for big American drugstore chains, department stores, independent brands, book publishers, magazines, and digital media companies. She definitely has something to do with the fact that rosé, sales of which outpaced the rest of the wine market last year, has become so popular in the US.

The obsession has become a business, and in that sense, the French Girl is perfectly real.

Eliza Brooke

—posted 152 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of translation.

This novel Dee Goong An is offered here in a complete translation. Possibly it would have had a wider appeal if it had been entirely re-written in a form more familiar to our readers. Then, however, much of the genuine Chinese atmosphere of the original would have disappeared, and in the end both the Chinese author, and the Western reader would have been the losers. Some parts may be less interesting to the Western reader than others, but I am confident that also in this literal translation the novel will be found more satisfactory than the palpable nonsense that is foisted on the long-suffering public by some writers of faked “Chinese” stories, which describe a China and a Chinese people that exist nowhere except in their fertile imaginations.

Robert Van Gulik

—posted 161 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of the sermon on
the way things ought to be.

Fantasy presents the world as it should be. But “should be” does not mean that the realms of fantasy are Lands of Cockaigne where roasted chickens fly into mouths effortlessly opened. Sometimes heartbreaking, but never hopeless, the fantasy world as it “should be” is one in which good is ultimately stronger than evil, where courage, justice, love, and mercy actually function. Thus, it may often appear quite different from our own. In the long run, perhaps not. Fantasy does not promise Utopia. But if we listen carefully, it may tell us what we someday may be capable of achieving.

Lloyd Alexander

—posted 168 days ago

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I am altering the deal.

Just in time for September, I’ve overhauled the rewards for the Patreon that supports City of Roses!


(Mumblety-mumble decades out of school, and I still think of September as the beginning of the year.)

—Patreon has been invaluable in supporting the work I’ve been doing on volume three, easily covering the printing costs of the ’zines, and supplementing (or even covering) a grocery run in those not-nearly-so-occasional-as-I’d-like tight months. I can safely say that without my Patreon patrons, this wouldn’t be here now:

8 of 11.

Eight issues done, three to go, and a great deal of thanks to my patrons.

But! I need more! (And my valiant patrons need a bit of a break.) —The production of volume three looms, and will require quite a lot of work, not all of it mine, and a chunk of money to complete. So: I’ve simplified and streamlined the City of Roses Patreon reward tiers, in the hopes of enticing you (yes, you) to join my One Dollar Party.

$1 a month.

A pledge of $1 a month gives you access to the behind-the-scenes blog: at least one post a month, offering sneak peeks at upcoming installments, scenes cut for space or time or change of focus, the (very) occasional anguished musing, and cover candidates (like this one, which I’ve made public.)

$2 a month.

A pledge of $2 a month gets you an ebook of each installment as it’s finished, (at least) a month before it appears here, for free—and you’ll also get ebooks of the collections as they’re completed. (Ebooks delivered in EPUB, MOBI, and PDF formats.)

$4 a month.

And a pledge of $4 a month will get you paper copies of each installment, hand-stuffed in envelopes with handwritten notes by Your Author—and also paper copies of each collection, as they’re completed.

And finally, there’s the Key to the City:

$20 a month.

—but there’s only six of those left.

So! Take a moment. Give it some thought. Join if you’re able. Spread the word. And thanks, again.


—posted 202 days ago

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of police.

Imagine, a few decades after the big changes, say, in the 2090s, when ordinary people have access to nanotech (the way today every fourth or fifth homeless guy wears a Walkman with sound quality that would have blasted a 1950s “Hi-Fi” enthusiast right out of his rumpus room). Suppose you could carry in a toothpaste tube the nanotech stuff to build a pretty decent one or two room house out of whatever junk happened to be lying around. And suppose that, after you were finished with it, the stuff went back into the toothpaste tube of its own accord so that you could use it again. Press, squeeze, and you’re a little less homeless—at least for the night. As ever, though, I imagine the police will still come by early in the morning with toothpaste tubes of their own, full of foam specially programmed to disassemble the hastily constructed shelters back into junk; and the again-homeless will be told to move on.

Samuel R. Delany

—posted 227 days ago

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