—posted 11 days ago
What, for example, of those who flogged refreshments to the crowds, who put up the seating or cleared up the mess at the end of the day? What of the spectators who found the sun too hot or the rain too wet, who could hardly see the wonderful extravaganza that others applauded, or who found themselves mixed up in the outbreaks of violence that could be prompted by the spectacle?
—posted 18 days ago
Suffice it to say that what distresses one about the Heinlein argument in general, when it is presented in narrative form, is that it so frequently takes the form of a gentlemanly assertion: “Just suppose the situation around X (war, race, what-have-you) were P, Q, and R; now under those conditions, wouldn’t behavior Y be logical and justified?”—where behavior Y just happens to be an extreme version of the most conservative, if not fascistic, program. Our argument is never with the truth value of Heinlein’s syllogism: Yes, if P, Q, and R were the case, then behavior Y would be pragmatically justifiable. Our argument is rather with the premises: Since P, Q, and R are not the situation of the present world, why continually pick fictional situations, bolstered by science-fictional distortions, to justify behavior that is patently inappropriate for the real world?
—posted 32 days ago
Portland is a place where rich ones run away to settle down and grow flowers and shrubbery to hide them from the massacres they’ve caused.
—posted 39 days ago
And then out in the hall there’s Greer Gilman, and here’s me, stammering at the sheer impossibility of taking up that one time, too many years ago, when on a whim I pulled an unassuming yellow mass-market paperback from the shelf of a Harvard Square bookshop and opened it up and there on the first page fell into those, those sentences, those goddamn words, that voice; the cadences which tug at my fingers even now, ringing and echoing will I or no in whatever I try to write myself—how—how do I, how do I take that, all that, and fit it somehow all into a flatly simple “Gosh, I, I really like your stuff.”
(—There was quite a bit more in that vein. So: not such a loss?) —Anyway. In and amongst the starstruck knee-knocking (I gave a copy of Dicebox to Samuel Delany! I pestered Ellen Kushner for a photograph! I told Paul Park how much I like Starbridge!), the old friends-rendezvousing (Emily Care and Epidiah drove down for lunch! I completely failed to recognize Vinnie!) and new friends-making (David Shaw made me a drink! Sofia Samatar made me stammer! Natalie Luhrs didn’t glue my hand to my beard! Daniel José Older thinks I look like Kevin Kline!), the Friday doldrums (I made a complete fool of myself in re: storyability! I was suddenly convinced my impostor syndrome wasn’t nearly as overwhelming as anyone else’s!) and the Saturday redounds (the cheeky Butts in Literature panel! the impromptu dance party!), the book-securing (American Shore! Starboard Wine! the Ben Jonson chapbooks!) and panel-attending (Theater and the Interrupted Ritual! Plot Without Conflict! a showing of The Polymath! The Gothic in 19th Century Science Fiction! Variations on the Theme of Unreliable Narrators! the aforementioned Butts!), I went and—gave a reading? did a reading? read?
I stood before a small (but select) crowd and read, aloud, words I had written: a first, for me. —That introductory party scene, and also the scene where the Axehandle confronts Mr. Lier—or was it vice-versa?—because one should always give some time to the antagonists, but mostly because my favorite magic tricks are the ones where the magician tells you exactly how they’re doing what they do even as they pull it off before your very eyes. (But perhaps I’ve said too much.) —It went well, well enough; thanks especially to Carrie Bernstein, Joshua A.C. Newman, Sofia Samatar, Felix Gilman, and Emily Wagner—small, as I said, but select.
—The Monday morning after—after helping tear down and pack up with the unflappable Stefan Krzywicki and the inimitable Jess Nevins and then cart across what felt like half this half of Massachusetts, and believe me when I tell you we will none of us hear that saying about the monkeys and the circus the same way ever again, and then there was a good eight hours of blissful oblivion in a basement room walled with more board games than I think I’ve ever seen in one place (and I, you should understand, have seen quite a few)—after that, on Monday morning, I sat down to breakfast with Emily Wagner. —I haven’t mentioned Emily much yet, have I.
“You know,” she said, as she forked up a bite from a blueberry pancake that was more blueberry than pancake. “This is all Amal’s fault.”
—Amal El-Mohtar, honey-poet, critic of note, harpist and fencer, who’d challenged me to a duel, who’d boomed out my name when she learned I’d arrived, who’d pushed me out into the hall to meet Greer Gilman when I stammered something about those words, that voice. —“How do you figure?” I said, sipping some coffee.
“She wrote the poem,” said Emily. “In the Bordertown collection that you reviewed, and you liked it, and I said that I liked that, on Twitter, so you followed me, and I followed you, and here we are.”
And I looked around the here where we were, this train station refitted as a steampunk diner—excuse me, this diner decorated in an æsthetic of “Neo-Victorian Whimsy” (plus rivets), forty-five minutes or so north, by car, from Harvard Square, twenty-three years away from that unassuming yellow paperback, still on my shelves, an eighth of a day ahead of where I live now, across the country, a distance I’d be flying back later that day, a distance I’d covered the Thursday before, at the invitation of Readercon, at the urging of this person sitting across the table from me, this old friend I’d just met this weekend, this new friend I’ve known for years, as words, on a screen, who did an enormous amount of work to help pull all this together, the panels, the books, the readings, the butts, the dancing, the writers, the readers, and me and my knocking knees; who insisted I stay in their basement when I needed an extra night and was willing to drive through a Boston rush hour to get me where I needed to be—
I bought her breakfast. It was the least I could do.
—posted 50 days ago
The role of “stuff” in fantasy fiction remains vitally important to fantastical stories and potentially serves to discipline fantasy readers into valuing certain cultural artifacts over others. Wikipedia has a page dedicated to a sizable—and incomplete—list of fictional swords with names. Certain artifacts are imbued with symbolic qualities (eg. King Arthur’s Excalibur and Holy Grail) and some magic systems are reliant upon material things (eg. wands in Harry Potter). Though economic systems within fantasy literature are usually underdeveloped or neglected by authors, artifacts remain fetishized, used both as a way of adding authenticity to the secondary world (the presence of swords signals to readers that they are situated within a particular genre and provides a pathway for authors to play with certain tropes), and developing the protagonist’s identity. But from where does this economic model originate and how, if at all, does this conceptualization of stuff impact present-day nerd consumerism? Because while the role of economic exchange is left ambiguous in much fantasy literature, the centrality of stuff like wands, crystal balls, amulets, and named swords is not.
—posted 105 days ago
This principle, it seems to me, is the ceaseless action of secluding oneself. Imagination about travel corresponds in Verne to an exploration of closure, and the compatibility between Verne and childhood does not stem from a banal mystique of adventure, but on the contrary from a common delight in the finite, which one also finds in children’s passion for huts and tents: to enclose oneself and to settle, such is the existential dream of childhood and of Verne. The archetype of this dream is this almost perfect novel: L’Ile mystérieuse, in which the manchild re-invents the world, fills it, closes it, shuts himself up in it, and crowns this encyclopædic effort with the bourgeois posture of appropriation: slippers, pipe and fireside, while outside the storm, that is, the infinite, rages in vain.
—posted 110 days ago
If you, Dear Reader, are not yourself intimately acquainted with the geography of the City of Roses, and find yourself occasionally wondering which went where when, yr. correspondent might direct you to a map of sorts, that easily fits most hands.
—posted 139 days ago
- Marfisa, once the Axe, had finally broken with her brother, the Axehandle;
- Luys, the Mason, had been sent by his occasional lover the Duke to find Jo;
- now, the two of them have met under the tree in Pioneer Square (where they’d fought a duel just weeks before).
- (Luys had been wearing a mysterious mask at the time, the mask worn by the swordsman Vincent Erne, when he’d been Huntsman to the Court.)
- —The Duke then went on to challenge the Axehandle and the Guisarme, Banker to the Court;
- That done, he went in a snit to sit the Throne, and only his (mostly) ex Jessie to witness his apotheosis.
- His other ex, Orlando, the Mooncalfe, had won the keeping of the Bride by defeating Jo in a duel;
- the Mooncalfe then went on to murther the Shootist and the Gammer, all to take away the Bride he’d already won;
- but Ysabel, terrified she might be broken, appalled she might not be, fled from the Mooncalfe…
- …only to meet a lugubrious, grey-faced man, who hailed her as the Queen.
- (Jo, meanwhile, who’d found the Huntsman’s mask, went on to trade a briefcase full of porn for a gun,
- (and Messrs. Keightlinger and Charlock went somewhere—else?—and brought back something—else?)
- Then, it started to snow.
- Marfisa, Luys, and Orlando have asked their questions of the witch, Miss Cheney;
- Ysabel, having run from the Mooncalfe, runs to Messrs. Charlock and Keightlinger, and their employer, Mr. Leir;
- Jo finally figures out what it was Miss Cheney had told her, and goes to see Becker, the right one, second;
- and she fires the gun she bought, even as Mr. Charlock—Mr. Leir?—looses what he’d found;
- and Ysabel, Bride of the King Come Back, Queen of the Court of Roses, is suddenly gone from a rather different world—
That’s, I guess, where we were.
Beginning Monday: City of Roses no. 21, “Gallowglas.”
—posted 157 days ago
The magic in any particular story will do what it will do, regardless of what it ought to do. Sometimes I like a magic that brings order and redistributes resources in almost exactly the same way money does, and sometimes I like a chaotic magic that’s reminiscent of another effect of money… (If we’re going to look at power dynamics within fiction at least let’s keep an eye on all sources of power!) So it all depends.
—posted 197 days ago