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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 making faces.

When I spent a decade, like, shouting into a grave of eight asleep people in a black box theater where no one saw the plays, it was easier to fail or take risks. And now, where there’s almost like a score being kept, it feels a little scarier. And I feel like the things I love about being creative, and face-making—that can kind of shut down in my brain when I realize, “Oh, this is for a product.” For some reason, thinking in weird imagery and metaphors, it’s like a little cat toy for my brain to be like, “Think about oak trees and spaghetti!” Don’t think about magazines.

Betty Gilpin

—posted 83 days ago


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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of embellishment.

Q: Are any of the tricks you pull off devised by yourself, or are they part of a continuum?

A: Both. It’s a cumulative art. You learn basic techniques, and then you embellish. Sometimes you invent a plot that’s original. Sometimes it’s the patter. Sometimes it’s the secret equipment or sleight that’s original. The more you know and the better grounded you are in the basic techniques, the more you’ll be able to branch out.

Ricky Jay

—posted 91 days ago


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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of what’s required.

Michael Swanwick once talked about how, when he was writing The Iron Dragon’s Daughter, he found that one difference between fantasy and science fiction was that fantasy was often normative, and science fiction was often transcendent. (Forgive Michael, if I’ve mangled that.) Another way to say this is to say that the purpose of the quest, besides collecting enough plot coupons to get to the end of the book, is to right a tremendous wrong and bring order back into the world or kingdom. Sometimes, as it is in Tolkien, the order is a less glorious order—maybe you’ve got men in charge instead of elves with all the reduction in aesthetics that implies—you know, instead of palaces among the trees we’ve got Elvis paintings on black velvet.

In science fiction the point is often to shatter the existing order, to transcend it. People evolve and become something better, cooler, Slan. Or the AI is released into the system at large to evolve and change, thereby changing the world as we know it, as in Neuromancer. Dune does that, in a Christ-figure sort of way, with Paul Maud’Dib clearing the way for his son, the giant worm, who transcends human.

This is kind of dangerous ground, getting deep into the parlor game of what is the difference between SF and fantasy, but I thought it was really cool so I felt compelled to talk about it. You can start getting into sticky stuff. I think, under this rubric, Star Wars is space fantasy because it is overthrowing the emperor to re-establish the republic and the old order of the Jedi Knights.

But something required for the genre or genres, whether to reestablish order or transcend it, is the hero who changes everything.

Maureen F. McHugh

—posted 99 days ago


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Books!

It pleases me to announce revised editions of volumes one and two, and the first edition of volume three, are now available through Ingram to booksellers and libraries in most of the corners of the globe.

But what, you might ask, if one is not, oneself, a bookseller, or a library?

Bookshop.org IndieBound.org

Enter the American Booksellers Association, with IndieBound and Bookshop.org. —Bookshop is just the sort of dead-simple online bookstore you might already be familiar with, but: 10% of the list price of every book sold is placed in a pot that’s divvied every six months among ABA bookstores. —IndieBound allows you with a smidge more effort to funnel your purchase(s) directly through the local brick-and-mortar of your choice, to their benefit.

And at prices pretty much guaranteed to be less than those of a certain riverine monopolopsony.

Trilogy.

—posted 108 days ago


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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of what it’s about.

To tell a story on screen, you create a physical world that serves your purpose. But in Un Chien Andalou, the physical world is thicker, more resistant, more alive (and more dead). Instead of smoothly setting off the characters’ desires and fears, it becomes an opaque field of desire and terror in itself. The events that can happen in such a world are full of passion, comedy, horror; it’s just that they never get resolved and tidied up by narrative explanations. There are people in the film, but it is not “about” them—it is about us, our reactions, our disgust and perversity.

Jonathan Jones

—posted 159 days ago


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Updates; outlines.

The entire text thus far (vols. 1 through 3) has been (lightly) edited, correcting some infelicities such as erratically capitalized Graces and a stray “hell” or two, lodged in the wrong mouth; the edited text has been poured into ebook shapes and published, and flowed into newly redesigned paperback templates in the new layout software, and tweaked and kerned to de-widow and un-orphan, mostly, and it’s mostly in shape, mostly. Still fiddling and tweaking. But! That means the PDF ebook of vol. 3 is almost done, and the edited and redesigned PDF ebooks of vols. 1 and 2, and we’re just about ready to take the next step in un-Amazoning and printing some paperbacks through a much more reputable or at least less monopsonically destructive company.

Then I just need to redesign the website, or at the very least update it with the edited text…

And! But! Also! Whither vol. 4, you might well ask. What is up with Betty Martin. —Right now, I feel like that bit in Marquee Moon when Tom Verlaine’s guitar is about to go soaring off from Fred Smith’s bedrock bass and the crashing surf of Billy Ficca’s drums and Richard Lloyd’s relentless lighthouse of a riff, climbing in what I’m told is a mixolydian mode until the whole thing somehow doesn’t break apart but crashes all together into whatever itself is, and the thing about that is you don’t just have to have the soaring to make it do what it does, but also the bedrock and the surf and the lighthouse, so that the crash when it comes (and it will come) doesn’t end up breaking the whole dam’ thing apart. —So I’ve been trying my hand at outlining.

I’ve done it before: you may well have seen this image, on a scrap of paper much softened with age:

The outline.

First scribbled down maybe fifteen years ago, now; a suggestion of a roadmap, a guess as to a possible route through the first two volumes. —But we’re further along, now; there’s more moving parts, and I hacked my way through vol. 3 without any idea where I was going, except a question, and its (second) answer. A guess, a suggestion, a scribble is no longer enough. Behold: my stab at a Levitz Paradigm:

Outline.

Well, anyway. It’s a start.

—posted 230 days ago


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(Originally posted on the Patreon.)

Things to keep in mind:
The secret of making mistakes.

I make so many mistakes when I play—it’s just that people don’t pick up on them. There are any number of ways to get from one place to another on the neck of the guitar that I don’t know about.

Tom Verlaine

—posted 244 days ago


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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of heroism.

The ancient poetries of Europe—Greek, Saxon, Welsh, Irish, Norse, and German—have lately been studied together as common examples of heroic poetry, and certainly no reader can help being struck by the fact that all these poetries have chiefly to do with the prowesses of men of strength and courage, whom the poets believed to have lived in a more or less distant past when human powers were greater, and whom they called by a special term which we translate as “hero.” It is wrong, however, to go on and suppose that heroic poetry (in this sense of the term) is due to any law in the growth of literature. The poetry is heroic only because it is created by people who are living in a certain way and so have a certain outlook on life, and our understanding of the heroic will come only as we learn what that way of living is, and grasp that outlook. We find, for example, that cattle-lifting is a common theme in the ancient European poetries, but it is found there because of no law of poetry, but because these peoples happened to live in a way which led them to the stealing of cattle on the one hand and to the practice of poetry on the other. It may seem far-fetched to say that any one has gone so far as to suppose a law of poetry which makes cattle-lifting a common theme at a certain stage in the growth of poetry, and which results in reaving, but still that is implied by those who study the heroic element in early poetry as primarily a literary problem. Its proper study is even more anthropological and historical, and what Doughty tells us about cattle-lifting among the Bedouins is more enlightening, if we are reading Nestor’s tale of a cattle raid into Elis, than is the mere knowledge that the theme occurs elsewhere in ancient poetry.

Milman Parry

—posted 260 days ago


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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of compellence.

One can thus see the many formidable challenges facing a coercer. Precision of thought and language can matter greatly in compellence, while a degree of vagueness occasionally can be useful for deterrence. A nuanced understanding of the needs, fears, capabilities, interests, and will of the target state is essential. But the coercer must possess self-knowledge as well, including an understanding of the importance of the stake involved, and the likely commitment to it—by policymakers and by the domestic population—over time. And the coercer must be able to articulate the demand in ways the target state can comprehend and comply with. To understand all this is to understand the deeper meaning of Carl von Clausewitz’s insistence on the linkage between war and politics, and the need to recognize the relationship between the stake and the scale of effort required to achieve it. It is also to understand, beyond a superficial level, the meaning of Sun Tzu’s insistence on knowing one’s self, and knowing one’s enemy.

One should note here, too, that democracies engaging in coercion will face a challenge inherent in the structure of their system of governance: Communication is complicated by multiple power centers—built by design to check one another—and myriad interest groups. Indeed, bureaucratic (and organizational) models of decision-making are at the center of many scholars’ critiques of US foreign policy, and deterrence in general.

Tami Davis Biddle

—posted 274 days ago


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Springing toward Summer.

Now that we know what happen(s)ed in March and April in the City of Roses, it might maybe be time to start figuring out what will having been happened in May and June?

—or Betty Martin.

Contents may settle during shipping; void where prohibited by law; also available in Spanish. —There’s work yet to do: the ebook’s out, sure, but the paperback’s got a ways yet to go—paperbacks, actually, since I’ve got to final the final edits and reflow and redo the lot, and I’m still dithering over whether to stay with 5.06 × 7.81, or goose it up to 6 × 9. But that’s all background, busywork, gears to grind while the rest of the cognition engine’s whirring away at what happens next. —I have a structure (see above), but that just tells me where to look, and when. I’m not yet sure just what we’ll see. (Meanwhile.)

—posted 284 days ago


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