Please tell me what I'm missing about Midnight's Children

So, I tried reading Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie, and I have to say I think it's quite badly written. I feel a little self-conscious saying that because it's such a highly lauded book, I worry I'm making myself look like an idiot. This is, after all, the book that won the "Booker of Bookers".

But here's an example sentence: "A few seconds later, my father broke his big toe; but his accident was a mere trifle when set beside what had befallen me in that benighted moment, because thanks to the occult tyrannies of those blandly saluting clocks I had been mysteriously handcuffed to history, my destinies indissolubly chained to those of my country."

I think Bulwer-Lytton or any number of purple pulp writers would be right at home in that nest of adjectives and adverbs. I mean, I get that it's a magical realist book about India in the 20th century and that's interesting and not something we've seen a lot of (especially when this book was written), but the Booker? And then the Booker of Bookers? Somebody please tell me what am I missing.

Miami's Homegrown Mythology

The Miami NewTimes published a fascinating article about a mythology that has sprung up among homeless children in Miami, in which the problems of the malnourished and often abused children has been transformed into a cosmic battle between good and evil. The children describe "Bloody Mary", a demonic woman who cries blood; if you see her, you are sure to die soon. She is fought by an angelic woman called the Blue Lady, who watches out for children and tries to protect them.

The article was published 16 years ago, and a follow up on the NewTimes explores how a link on Reddit turned the article into a phenomenon long after its publish date. Before the Internet, interesting articles came and went all the time, disappearing into landfills to be forgotten. The Internet, however, shows that any bit of text can live forever.

Even when the SF Ghetto tries to get it right, it totally gets it wrong

So there's a new old thing going on in the SF Ghetto now. And this time it's stumbled into mainstream public discourse via the usual organs of the incoherent left, primarily the previously linked Guardian, and then this story from the equally histrionic Nation.

For those of you unfamiliar with the trope, every time this particular conversation comes up it goes something like this:

1. Some Idiot who cares about the SF Ghetto notices that a subculture largely created by and maintained by socially inept straight white men seems to overly cater to the fantasies and wishes of socially inept straight white men.

2. Said Idiot sets out to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT and stages some sort of event or crisis or program designed to probe the question of why an insular group of people with low levels of empathy and a general lack of ability to self reflect seem to primarily create and read stories about characters that look and act a lot like they do.

3. Other Idiots, looking at what said Idiot is doing, and being members of an insular group that's generally pretty poor at self-reflection, rush to jump on board with said Idiot's program because hey, this is NEW, nobody has EVER pointed this out before.

4. Genre critics who are invested in the academic language of identity politics then flock to the program and there is a great deal of sturm und drang, inevitably Tor gets involved and the whole thing is a huge deal.

5. Everybody forgets about it and goes back to talking about how the Lord of the Rings was the "BEST THING EVAR! w000t!" because they don't really give a shit about any of this stuff, they just go through the motions because they know they're supposed to.

6. Wash, rinse, repeat.


So you've probably noticed that posting here as been rather infrequent. Most of my writing-time these days is devoted to fiction which is finally beginning to get published. JF Quackenbush seems to be busy with his new career in professional sophistry.

However, I've decided to take some of the smaller things I've been dropping into my Tumblr and LiveJournal and put them here instead, hopefully at a rate of at least one a week. The HelloRun post from earlier is an example of this style. Will there ever be long form articles again here? Sure. But when, I can't say. Stay tuned and keep your feed readers peeled.

Also, I've replaced the long broken search box with a Google custom search, so you can actually search the site again. Hurrah!


There's a great game called HelloRun that you can go play right now. It's entirely in HTML5, which is impressive enough, meaning your web browser is all that's running the game's code, with no 3rd-party plug-ins like Flash to help it along. Considering that web browsers were originally invented to display text, links and maybe some images, that's kind of amazing. But I'm also interested in how it's able to evoke a mood, a tone, a feeling, in absence of any plot at all, with nothing more than some nice graphics and a song. Okay, there's a little nominal plot; a desire (keep moving without crashing into walls) and obstacles (walls). But that's pretty negligible considering how easily the game grips you and compels you forward. And there's no characters to speak of, unless you count yourself.

Of course, graphics and music are exactly the things prose fiction doesn't have at its disposal. But it's interesting to think about how things like style, tone and description can evoke emotion and be compelling all on their own.

Much like this wonderful little game.

The Texas Chainsaw Legacy: An American Love Affair with "True" Crime

This article was originally published on Donner, Party of One and is reprinted with permission

In 1974, Tobe Hooper terrified audiences with an all-too-real work of fiction. Almost 30 years later, audiences still want to believe it really happened.

It is an unfortunate fact of modern movie marketing that "based on a true story" has become the brightest badge a film can wear. It is as if, in an ironic twist, Godard's rebellious dictum "cinema is truth 24 times a second" has been taken so literally by mainstream audiences that they are now desperate to believe that anything on the silver screen could represent reality. Even the success of high-octane escapism can spike dramatically if it claims to be "based on true events", regardless of whether the alleged events are known to the public in any specific terms. The history of this seduction is too vast to encapsulate here, but examples are so plentiful that one can seemingly always be found within temporal spitting distance. Bryan Bertino advertised his 2008 home invasion horror The Strangers as “inspired by true events”, but rather than referring to a specific situation it seems to simply refer to the fact that people really do invade one another's homes; 2012's The Possession, a jewish iteration of The Exorcist, claims to base it self on a true story, though it is actually based on a museum curator's account of his spooky professional experience rather than a supernatural assault on an innocent family; the 2009 sci-fi thriller The Fourth Kind insists on its veracity with an opening oath sworn by lead actress Milla Jovovich that the film is a mix of Unsolved Mysteries-style reenactments and REAL FOOTAGE of the REAL ALIEN ABDUCTEES. Why anyone would choose to construct a movie in this way is anybody's guess, and The Fourth Kind is hardly a portrait of success, but the fact remains: filmmakers have some reason to believe that basing a film on a "true story" will put butts in seats. Why is it that we might value verite more than pure fantasy? Is it conditional? That is: not all audiences might reject an almost 100% synthetic entertainment juggernaut like AVATAR in favor of a difficult and compelling Henry Lee Lucas biopic, but that said, are there particular cinematic situations in which we prefer to believe that we are being presented with the truth? If so, why?

A lot has been made of the real-life inspiration for Tobe Hooper's trailblazing 1974 horror classic THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. To be totally fair, several powerful movies claim as their muse the murderous rural grave robber Ed Gein's untoppably outrageous ten year crime spree in the perfectly-named small town of Plainfield, Wisconsin. Though he committed his last murder in 1957, Gein's fabulously perverse criminal career continued to seduce cinematic luminaries from the debut of Psycho to the release of Silence of the Lambs (to say nothing of the endless catalog of great and terrible exploitative biopics and Nth generation ripoffs thereof). The effete momma-worshipping bumpkin was himself an artist, creating furniture and corpse couture from the fruits of his boneyard harvests and his plus-sized female murder victims, selected for Gein's most famous project: a skin suit resembling his late mother. Ed Gein's body count did not rise above three, but the depravity of his crimes remains unequaled by more prolific serial murderers, and moreover, the almost fantastical nature of his activities remains irresistible to filmmakers of all stripes. Witness in particular: the seven movies (so far) that make up the undying franchise of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Three Reasons Jenny Agutter Should Be The Next Dr. Who

I'll make no bones about it, I didn't care for Matt Smith and once Karen Gillan was no longer around upping the pretty factor, the last season of Dr. Who got old fast. I was already getting tired of River Song by the end of the fifth season and the decision to focus so heavily on her in the sixth and seventh seasons bored me to tears. The fact of the matter is that the Doctor has historically been largely asexual. While the chemistry between David Tennant and Billie Piper was undeniable and made for an interesting change as The Doctor and Rose played through their love story, in the course of Doctor Who Mythology it only really works as an aberration rather than the new normal. Frankly I would like to see a return to a Doctor who remembers that he is an alien and is as emotionally detached as a 900 year old time traveling super genius who is a misfit in his own society should be. Something modeled more on Tom Baker on Jon Pertwee's doctors than the soap opera leading men we've been getting instead.

To that end I think it's high time for a shake up in the casting. The next doctor needs to be older, less lonely, less angsty, more patrician, more eccentric, scarier, and female. In short I think the actor to take on the role next is Jenny Agutter.