Whither Now My America?

It's been a couple of days since the election, and I've let the disappointments sink in. In a lot of ways, this feels like 2004 all over again and in that I have some hope because things in many ways look brighter than they did during that dark election year. But I have to look around and wonder at the problems that my nation faces and the bizarre and unproductive electoral decisions that my fellow citizens have made in the face of those problems. My fear, and it's a very real one, is that the we have stood on the precipice of empire for too long and now the westward it has plotted its course and in its wake we have been left to drown for a good long while. I think that perhaps the American century has come to a close and what will happen now is that we will begin to settle into a long decline that remakes the face of global politics where the faults of our nation give rise to a new balance in the distribution of resources and global power that will need to account for the resurgence of Europe and new strength in India and China. That is probably a good thing in many ways. It's been clear for a while that the unitary superpower status that the United States held after the collapse of the Soviet bloc was something that was both unsustainable and that was just as bad for us as it was for the world living in our shadow. Where it's troubling is in the diminishment of American surplus and an over all decrease in the abundance that had sustained us for so long. In the end, I worry about what will happen for the weakest among us in the wake of a new austerity that will be imposed from without as much as we seem hell bent on imposing it from within.

Weekend Reading - 10/24/2010

Last month I posted a link to an article by Elif Batuman lambasting writers workshops. Matt Cheney wrote an an excellent critique of that article which puts into perspective some of Elif's odd logic.

Hal Duncan has been writing some of the best literary criticism on the web, especially in terms of genre. Back in August he visited an alternate universe where combat fiction was shunted off into its own fiction of the bookstore, and titles in the genre like Catch-22 strove for respect while more mainstream fair like Samuel Delany's Dalgren became the international classics they deserved to be. Now he writes a corollary where he talks about the problems of talking about genre and mainstream awards and asks whether the people are really so hostile to genre, anyway?

Meanwhile, This Space examines the book whatever happened to Modernism and takes a close look at how the formerly radical principles of Modernism got honed into sheer convention.

On a related note, Jonathan Lethem talks about the history of the novel, and how the once undignified form rose to dominance as a symbol of class status.

Other Stuff

Alan Moore may get a film and spin-off TV series. No, really.

Argentine master Jorge Luis Borges' story "Death and the Compass" was adapted into a movie that's now available online.

Fiction magazine Black Gate has created a book trailer. It's nice to see guys like them, Electric Literature and Weird Tales branching into video to promote their stuff. (Especially considering how many fiction magazines don't do anything in the way of promotion at all.)

As reported, widely elsewhere, for a Ruby on Rails competition, a site was set up that compares ebook prices and availability between Amazon, B&N and iBooks. They tell me that they're also working on incorporating smaller stores, like Fictionwise and Weightless Books.

In ME News

The WOLD NEWTON READING EXTRAVAGANZA in Greenpoint, Brooklyn will return on November 21st with Cat Velente, the return of Brian Francis Slattery and his band, with burlesque and belly-dancing and other madness. New website coming soon, I swear.

Also, I've redesigned my personal website and I think it looks purty.

And finally, FICTION TIME!

The big news in fiction time this month is a new story by Ted Chiang available online, "The Lifecycle of Software Objects". Chiang really is one of the best short fiction writers working today, and he is not prolific, so go, read, enjoy.

Speaking of Alan Moore and Hal Duncan,

Moore has a previously unpublished story available now called "Fossil Angel", and it's Alan Moore and you should go read it.

And Hal Duncan has a new story up on Strange Horizons called "Styx Water and a Sippy Cup" that's getting good marks.

Larry Marder Interviewed at NYCC

An interview with Larry Marder, creator of Beanworld and former CEO of Image Comics, talks about a most peculiar comic book experience, 25 years of anthropomorphic beans and making comics vs. running a comics company.

Larry Marder's Website: http://larrymarder.blogspot.com/

I've been a fan of Beanworld since I first discovered it as a kid, and you will not find a stranger, more giddily wonderful comic.

May be a little light for a couple weeks

Posting may be a little light over the next couple weeks, as I'm busy as hell, even though I have plenty I want to write about. I'll post when I can, as will, I'm sure, JF Quackenbush when he's not busy doing little things like working on his law degree...

Weekday Reading - 9/28/2010

It's been a while and there's been a lot of interesting stuff out there, so let's get started:

If you haven't heard, Jeff VanderMeer is now writing the Science Fiction Chronicle column over at the New York Times. Far superior to the previous tenant.

A fascinating article on genre and Jonathan Lethem about high and low art, genre and genre exploitation.

Charles Bock ably takes about Tao Lin, a writer who's goal in life, it seems, is to figure out how to make fiction MORE boring.

Here's a comic telling of the stormy history of mega-agent Andrew Wylie, who is as hated by the publishing establishment as he is loved by the authors he secures multi-million-dollar advances for. (Apparently, when he poached Philip Roth from his agent at a party, Roth said to him, "Back up the money truck!")

Elif Batuman on why writer's workshops churn out terrible writers. (via Bookavore who sums things up nicely.)

How a Newsday columnist manufactured a bestseller by with two sex scenes per chapter to prove a point.

JA Konrath has stirred up a lot of controversy by dropping regular publishers in favor of self-publishing ebooks and making a boat load of money doing it (just passed the $100,000 mark so far, apparently). He explains his thinking in the form of a parable, which thinking reminds me a lot of Dave Sim's old arguments for self-publishing comics back in the eighties and nineties. Sources tell me that Konrath is really self-publishing because he's so difficult to work with no publisher will have him anymore. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing, but am interested in any illustration of self-publishing success.


It's the HULK vs. the BUDDHA no holds barred!

The Genre Fiction Generator!

And finally...

I have been consistently impressed by the story quality over at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Here's a story called "Throwing Stones" by Mishell Baker that takes place in an odd fantasy world and grapples with gender questions in a way that reminds me of the best of Le Guin. Good stuff.

Subterranean gives us "Return" by Peter Beagle which, typically for Beagle, is a reliably fun and well-written tale that gives you basically everything you might want in a fantasy adventure story.

Until next time!



Justs a reminder that tonight is the WOLD NEWTON READING EXTRAVAGANZA at WORD bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn at 6:30.

Charles Yu, Brian Francis Slattery, Jonathan Berger, Ed Champion and Eric Rosenfield, on one stage. One of them may even make it out alive!

Zeitgeist Contretemps: The Weltanschauungen of the Now

Consider: Around five thousand babies will be born before you finish reading this.
At current rates:
Of those babies, something like 750 will die before the age of five.
Children in poor countries are more than 20 times more likely to die before the age of five than children in wealthy countries, which means the vast majority of those 750 children will be born in poverty.
Of the 4250 or so that make it to their fifth birthday, another tenth will die before they are adults, again disproportionately in the poorest countries.
Of the 3800 or so that remain, 80% will live in poverty where poverty is defined as living on less than ten dollars a day.
Most will die before the age of sixty and a significant percentage will die before the age of forty.
Of the 750 who remain, they are the heirs to something on the order of 3/4s of the worlds wealth.
Of those 750, 75 will grow up to control half of the wealth of that group.
Of those 75, 7 will grow up to control a third of the wealth of the richest 75.
These disparities have been steadily increasing over the past 100 years.
Numbers of children who die before the age of 5 have decreased significantly.
Mortality rates for teenagers and young adults have not seen a similar decline.
The World Health Organization tracks infant mortality as the chance of death before the age five.
These two facts make me think of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.
There are nearly seven billion people living on the planet as of 2010.
This is almost double the population of the earth in 1970.
By the end of the next decade, the population of the earth will be more than triple the population in 1960.
It is 4 AM in the morning, somewhere in North America.
I have steady electricity, central air conditioning, and clean running water.
As a firmly middle class earner, my lifestyle is fairly modest for most Americans, probably about as close to the median for single college educated men as you can get.

Dear America: A List of Things You Do That Piss Me Off


Fuck your McMansions and your second and third mortgages.
Fuck your wage slavery.
Fuck your increasing consumer debt loads.
Fuck your jingoistic revisionist history.
Fuck your ghettoized immigrant neighborhoods.
Fuck all you middle class junkies.
Fuck all you blue blooded lay about millionaires.
Fuck all you rednecks with your GEDs and cro-magnon ideas.
Fuck the corporate rulers and their brand name identities.
Fuck the empty promises of health and prosperity.
Fuck plastic surgeons getting rich off of vanity.
Fuck your six pack abs and your tribal tattoos.
Fuck your cheap sex worn like fashion accessories.
Fuck your middle management jargon and your economic waste.
Fuck your nuclear families and your relationship status.
Fuck your parents and grandparents who made this mess.
Fuck you for not cleaning up after them.
Fuck your children because they won't clean up after you.
Fuck the Machiavellian politicians you elect out of fear.
Fuck Hollywood and New York and the creative elite driving the landfill of culture.
Fuck you for buying what they're selling.
Fuck your television and your laptop and your ipod and your cell phone.
Fuck your gym membership and your organic whole foods grocery store.
Fuck your faddish obsessions with overpaid celebrity assholes.
Fuck your corporate Lawyers and for profit hostpitals.
Fuck your incompetent inability to stop using gasoline
Fuck your sociopathic children decked out in the latest brand names.
Fuck all the hippies and their fashionable consumerist rebellions.
Fuck all the hipsters for being narrow minded sheep.
Fuck the boneheads in the military for being tools of the empire.
Fuck all the rest of us for watching them die on TV.
Fuck the chickenhawks in congress with their boners for new weapons.
Fuck the insurance company yes men who get rich by betting on fear.
Fuck people in pickup trucks with American flag bumper stickers.
Fuck pro-life activists for their ignorant fascism.

The Growing Anti-Muslim Mainstream

Home sick tonight, so you all get a clip from Rachel Maddow, talking about the mainstreaming of bigoted, anti-Muslim sentiment among the right:

Update to Word Processing on iPad: New Documents 2 Go

An update to my previous post about my frustrations in trying to use the iPad as a writing tool:
Documents 2 Go has just updated their app. The arrow keys now work on external keyboards, which was one of the key features that had made the previous version unusable, and made me prefer Apple Pages. Docs2Go now has at least 3 killer features over Pages: word count, pinch to zoom in on text, which reflows to fit the screen without changing the font, and, most importantly, DropBox integration, which allow me to store my documents remotely and have them synchronize automatically with my computer.

However, there is at least one major flaw still that makes working with D2G far too annoying for regular use. When you start a new paragraph and hit "tab", instead of putting in a tab space it indents the whole paragraph. However, normal tab spaces work in the middle of sentences, which means in order to have a tab space at the beginning of your paragraph you have to type a character, hit tab, then go back and delete the character. Which is absurd.

Other features that are standard on computer word processors that are still missing from D2G:
Command-b/i/u for bold/italics/underline (you currently still have to poke the buttons for these things with your finger)
Command-s for save (thats a big frustration; I've become very used to habitually hitting command-s to save my work)

Also, to sync Dropbox on D2G you have to back out to the containing folder and then it prompts you to sync. On a computer, DropBox syncs the files automatically every time you save without you having to think about it (as long as you're connected to the Internet), which is much better.

Finally, I'd really like to see D2G support the OpenOffice open document (ODT) file format, but that may be a pipe dream.

To sum: D2G is much better, is in fact almost there, but still not software to make me give away my Netbook.