Archive for the 'hm' Category

Jul 23 2015

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Belated Readercon Recap: Towards a Literature of the Anthropocene

LCRW 33 in my mom's raspberry patch

LCRW 33 in my mom’s raspberry patch

One LCRW theme issue, two Readercon panels and a lot of hallway/bar/dealer’s room conversation (not to mention years of bumping around blindly alone in the dark), have only whetted my appetite for a much broader, sustained conversation about the promise and pitfalls of writing fiction in and about the anthropocene epoch. Don’t get me wrong–the panels were great (see previous post for titles/descriptions) and I even got to moderate one of them. But I confess I am not particularly good at steering discussion, especially not in person, in front of a crowd, with four smarter, more eloquent people all of whom have equally valid and quite distinct perspectives. And there just wasn’t enough time to cover it all. My fellow panelists laid out fascinating ideas, and I got a decent line in here and there, but we barely got into stuff I thought we could have spent a whole panel on, or two, or seven. And I had all these lovely panel notes I didn’t even get to!

One of my hall conversations afterward was with Emily Wagner, program chair, who I asked for more like that next year. “Propose panels,” she said, and I will. But I’m also going to do what I can to get people talking in the meantime.

To that end, I’ve convinced a few of the LCRW 33 contributors to field some questions about how they apply these ideas in their own work. I’ll be posting those interviews here over the next couple weeks, and doing a few interviews myself elsewhere (here’s one with the UK-based Nottingham Writers’ Society).

First, though, I thought I’d recap the Readercon discussion for those who missed it (insofar as I remember it), share some of those notes I haven’t yet managed to get the good out of, and lay out the directions in which I think this conversation needs to go.

  • I opened with a definition of the anthropocene: a new epoch in the history of time in which humans are the dominating influence on the trajectory of life on earth. The concept places us on a level with geological and even astrophysical processes. Part of the point, I think, is to make people realize the scale at which what we do has an impact. There is very little “nature” left in the world that’s the same as it would have been if we hadn’t become what we are: forests, deserts, the ocean floor, as far away from humans as you can get, you can almost always see evidence of our impact. Which presents a fascinating perspective on the way human institutions interact with natural ones. Invasive species, domestication, genetic engineering, breeding, habitat loss, which species thrive, which go extinct, which reach the verge of going extinct and then we rescue. Unintended consequences. Not much of which I managed to say, actually, besides the basic definition. Time constraints, me not wanting to talk too much.
  • Vandana Singh brought up the limitations of the concept of the anthropocene: that it makes humanity seem monolithic rather than complex and incredibly varied. The people most responsible for altering the climate, habitat, animal and human life on this planet are relatively few and immensely privileged. The people who are by far the most impacted are those with the least impact themselves. She mentioned the 18 million Bangladeshis who are already in the process of being displaced by rising waters. Michael J. Daley in the solarpunk panel brought up that William Gibson quote which Readercon’s bylines require be brought up at least once every year:

    “The future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed.”

  • We talked about climate change and its impacts, about the viability of various technological solutions/mitigations including nuclear power, solar, batteries, desalination plants. Gwendolyn Clare brought up geoengineering: ejecting coolant chemicals or particulates into the atmosphere to dim the sunlight/mitigate greenhouse effect. To me, that’s a terrifying prospect, useful only as a threat, “Here’s what we might have to resort to if you people can’t get it together and stop using fossil fuels,” but Gwendolyn seemed to consider it a viable option. I would have loved to ask her more about that but did not manage to corner her in the halls.
  • We talked about the dominant narratives of climate change, the propaganda and PR, how wrong and blindered they are and why. It’s hard to change those narratives because the institutions that support them (corporations, governments) are so huge and we rely on them for so much. The cruise ship metaphor came up: the world is too big and has too much momentum to turn or stop on a dime. A change in trajectory takes time. The implication being that we’re pretty much doomed to slam into that iceberg and take to the lifeboats.
  • We talked about science fiction’s strong tendencies to dystopianism and escapism and how those tendencies can gloss past the real problems we’re facing rather than encourage practical thinking. Michael J. Daley, in both the anthropocene and solarpunk panels, brought up the problem of presenting utopian visions of society in fiction, the fact that utopia doesn’t necessarily include a conflict that can drive a story. In neither panel did we get too deep into the ways around that problem, but I think it was Max Gladstone who said that a setting is just a setting, the conflict and the story comes from the people you place in that setting.
  • We talked about reader expectations. People who’ve been brought up on a steady diet of the dominant narrative expect more of it, and it’s a very delicate, limiting thing trying to address those expectations while also providing counter-narrative. Vandana Singh talked about teaching climate change to kids, how she found she needed not just to provide information but to address the emotional impact of that information at the same time. Finding out that humanity is destroying the world isn’t an easy thing. It was Max Gladstone again who tried to bring this back around to story and character–but I don’t think he quite got the chance to make the connection that right there in those emotional consequences is a way to tell a compelling story.
  • We talked (a little in both panels, but much more in the solarpunk panel) about progressivism in the history of SF and previous forward- (and backward-) looking movements in the genre, particularly cyberpunk and steampunk. This was surprising and enlightening for me: in my preparations I spent some time thinking about classic SF and how it almost incidentally influenced the trajectory of technology: not spaceships or flying cars, but ipads and cellphones. Star Trek was a naive form of social SF: a black female officer on the bridge of the Enterprise. Cyberpunk, though, was way more prescient; it was depicting a future nearer to hand and actively pushing forward technological concepts as well as social structures that had already been demonstrated in their infancy. Whereas steampunk seems to represent the opposite tendencies: the real world is increasingly shitty, technology’s advancement has outpaced our capacity to adapt to it socially, so let’s escape back to a simpler time and postulate this vast, utterly impractical escapist utopia. Advocates of the nascent solarpunk movement want something that combines the utopian aesthetics of the latter with the practical forward-thinking of the former. I went into that second panel with some healthy skepticism, but listening to them talk about it, it started to sound like a pretty solid idea. Though I wish they’d decided to call it something else–the word “solar” is too limiting. Ecopunk.


  • Towards the end of the anthropocene panel, I slipped in part of an idea I had. Earlier, talking about the value of the anthropocene as a concept, Vandana Singh brought up the question of what separates us from animals and how the answer keeps slipping the more we learn. First it was tools, but now we know all kinds of animals use tools. Then we thought it was language, but birds and apes and even insects maybe have language. I suggested the concept of narrative. There’s some debate as to when the anthropocene epoch began: the ’70s? the industrial revolution? But as far as it applies to narrative, I feel like there’s a strong argument the anthropocene began with the dawn of the dreamtime, the origin of metaphor: let’s say 40,000 years ago. It began when humans first started to ask themselves that perhaps most arrogant of questions: what separates us from everything else?

By any measure it was all very left-leaning, progressive discussion. Not once, thank Pan, was it suggested on either panel that global warming wasn’t real or caused by human beings. I believe communism was even mentioned without anyone in the audience getting up and leaving. From Readercon, I would have expected no less. And yet for me it didn’t go far enough. No surprise, I guess. I am a radical when it comes to this stuff. Not a revolutionary–I’m too meek and polite for that, unfortunately–but the new world order I’d create if you made me dictator…let’s just say I fear the average Readercon liberal SF fan would be plotting my assassination.

At the top of the list of things we failed to address fully are science fiction’s blind spots. Let’s be honest, despite or perhaps as a prerequisite of genre’s recent, much-boohooed explosion into mainstream culture (I was relieved, when reviewing the Readercon program, that they left off the “Did Fandom Lose By Winning” panel this year), science fiction and genre on the whole remain the purview of the white, affluent and privileged, and the thing about the white, affluent and privileged is that there’s nothing forcing them to look at the world from outside of their own experience. In my opinion genre itself ought to be doing that, but to some extent, as with the dominant narrative and global warming, there’s a positive feedback loop. You grow up in a bubble of privilege, that’s what you know to write about, that’s what your fans get to read about.

Vandana Singh touched upon this in the anthropocene panel, and I think would have gotten further into it if we’d let her. Later, in the hall outside the dealer’s room, I was telling her my line from the LCRW 33 editor’s note about how great and eye-opening it was to see all those diverse viewpoints in the submission pile, and she said (again I paraphrase), “This is what people don’t seem to understand about We Need Diverse Fiction–it’s not just about fairness or letting everyone have an equal chance, it’s about exposing people to different viewpoints.” Shall I pull out the inbred royalty metaphor? Ages ago, an innovative thinker came up with the ideas for spaceships and FTL drives, and everybody liked it so much that they kept doing it long, long after it ceased to be an innovative or even inspiring idea. The field needs new, different voices with new, different ideas, or the bloodline will thin until every novel comes out anemic.

Another related blind spot is SF’s tendency to resort to technological solutions. When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Yes, development of cheaper, more efficient solar technology and next-generation battery storage and etc will doubtless help curb global warming, and we should absolutely get the hell off fossil fuels. But there are non-technological solutions already available and in use by enormous swathes of the human population of the earth–it’s just that those people don’t happen to own cars or ipads or rely on fast food for their sustenance or feel the need to water their driveways and feed their lawns better than they feed their kids. On the anthropocene panel, Gwendolyn Clare pointed out the very real threat of food shortages posed by climate change. For every degree that we warm the planet, we lose 6% of our global yield of wheat. One solution would be to let the corporations that brought us Roundup-ready corn engineer a more heat-tolerant wheat, thereby subordinating farmers even further to that corporation’s draconian intellectual property litigation. Another would be to adapt away from corporate monoculture and turn to the thousands of varieties of wheat and other grains humans have developed through conventional means over the past 9,000 years of agriculture. I’m afraid that because that’s not a technological solution, it falls squarely into the blind spot. Michael J. Daley brought up the myth of the mad scientist, the lone inventor who singlehandedly saves the world with his brilliant scientific advance. And yes, that archetype certainly speaks to SF’s penchant for the heroic. But it strikes me as rather narrow.

Something the wonderful Emily Houk said to me as the solarpunk panel was getting out: “I was wondering why nobody talked about using plants as technology.” And she’s right. Plants are a freaking amazing technology developed by mad scientist earth over billions of years. Why cast that aside? Because it doesn’t prop up the dying myth of the hero? It’s so simple: as long as there are enough plants on earth to balance out the CO2 generated by everything else, the climate stays stable. But it can also be incredibly complex. The earth’s enormous biodiversity, which we are winnowing down by the minute, includes granular solutions to a host of problems we haven’t even considered. Just one example I learned about the other day: the osage orange tree, a springy, resilient hardwood that makes giant ugly fruits like rock-hard, bitter oranges. Before European colonization its range was restricted to a small area of northeast Texas and its wood was prized by Native Americans for use in bows. In 1934, FDR’s Great Plains Shelterbelt project planted 220 million trees stretching 18,000 miles as windbreaks to combat the erosion that caused the Dust Bowl. Now they’re everywhere.

I know it’s not fiction’s responsibility to come up with these ideas or to encourage people to think differently. You’ll hear that repeatedly from some of the LCRW contributors whose interviews I’ve got lined up for the next few weeks. But there’s also nothing stopping us. There’s no reason fiction can’t be a source of inspiration for change that will make the world a better place. And if we can, why wouldn’t we want to?

In another way, this is an answer to the question of how to get readers excited, how to make them care, how to inspire them to think for themselves about these issues. For the most part I think both panels spent more time talking about the ways that didn’t work and couldn’t be done than how it could. But inspiring, surprising ideas are one of the things that got us into genre in the first place. The sense of wonder: there’ve been plenty of Readercon panels on that too over the years. Yes, the chance to see for the first time the surface of Pluto is indeed mindblowingly cool and amazing, and SF has the capacity to approximate that on the page. But I’d argue it can be just as if not more inspiring to discover a real-world solution to a real-world problem tossed away as an aside in a book about the human heart in conflict with itself.

Which of course is the other way to get readers excited, the same way you get them excited about any story, by writing brilliant, strong characters and putting them in impossible situations and showing us how they react. And here’s another way that diverse perspectives in fiction can help us. To a lot of us in the privileged affluent white first world, global warming is still an abstract problem, something that may be coming a few decades in the future. But to tons and tons of people in the world now, more every day, global warming is a real threat, a source of anger and grief and devastation, a source of real conflict, the stuff epic drama is made of. I want to see that in fiction, to teach those of us sitting here sipping lemonade in our hammocks what that feels like. I think that’s what the solarpunk advocates want too. Though I still wish they’d change the name.

To come: LCRW 33 contributor interview #1: Giselle Leeb!

Update: Hey, you didn’t even have to read my recap, because both panels are online. Though I’m glad you did anyway. Here, I made a playlist:

And hey, if you happen to be one of those people whose opinions I have horribly mangled and misused in the above, I would love to be corrected. Really.

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Jun 29 2015

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Readercon 2015 Schedule

Filed under hm,LCRW 33,News

Friday July 11

12:00 PM    F    Writing in the Anthropocene: SF and the Challenge of Climate Change. Gwendolyn Clare, Michael J. Daley, Michael J. Deluca (leader), Max Gladstone, Vandana Singh. Science fiction and fantasy have often dealt with fictional apocalyptic scenarios, but what about the real-world scenario unfolding right now? Climate change, or climate disruption, is the most challenging problem faced by humankind, and some have called it a problem of the imagination, as much as economics and environment. In the wake of the latest scientific reports on what is happening and what might be in store for us, we’ll examine how imaginative fiction conveys the reality, the immediacy, and the alternative scenarios of the climate problem.

4:00 PM    EM    LCRW. Christopher Brown, Michael J. Deluca, Eric Gregory, Deborah McCutchen, Alena McNamara. Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet Group Reading

6:00 PM    ENL    Solarpunk and Eco-Futurism. Michael J. Daley, Michael J. Deluca, Jeff Hecht, Rob Kilhefer, Romie Stott (leader). In August 2014, Miss Olivia Louise wrote a Tumblr post proposing the creation of a new subgenre: solarpunk. Solarpunk, sometimes called eco-futurism, would be set in a semi-utopian future visually influenced by Art Nouveau and Hayao Miyazaki, and built according to principles of new urbanism and environmental sustainability—an “earthy” handmade version of futuretech, in opposition to the slick, white, spacebound surfaces of 1980s futurism. Solarpunk blogs have since proliferated, as Tumblr users like SunAndSilicon create and aggregate concept art and brainstorm solarpunk’s technological and societal shifts, enthusiastically building a shared-world fandom with no single owner or defining central text. For some, building solarpunk is an escapist fantasy. Meanwhile, in San Francisco there have been meatspace conventions to develop some kind of manifesto, with the hope of eventually moving realworld society in a solarpunk direction. What, if any, are the precursors to this kind of grassroots genre creation? Is it an inevitable outgrowth of fan-funded niche publishing through crowdfunding? Is solarpunk’s locavore pro-tech optimism in the face of climate change a distinctly Millenial backlash to Gen-X dystopias? And can the inevitable contradictions of a crowdsourced utopia survive the rigors of critical reading?

Saturday July 12

10:00 AM    ENV    Reading: Michael J. Deluca. Michael J. Deluca. Michael J. Deluca reads A short story, 2900 words, forthcoming in Mythic Delirium.

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Jun 25 2015

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LCRW 33 Contents


It is done! And I am very happy.


Carmen Maria Machado, “I Bury Myself”
Alena McNamara, “Starling Road”
Giselle Leeb, “Ape Songs”
Michelle Vider, “For Me, Seek the Sun”
Deborah Walker, “Medea”
D. K. McCutchen, “Jellyfish Dreaming”
Sofia Samatar, “Request for an Extension on the Clarity”
M. E. Garber, “Putting Down Roots”
Eric Gregory, “The March Wind”


Christopher Brown, “Winter in the Feral City”
Nicole Kimberling, “Cook Like a Hobo”


Leslie Wightman, “The Sanctity of Nature”
Ingrid Steblea, “Another Afternoon in the Garden”
Kelda Crich, “Child Without Summer”
Peter Jay Shippy, “Singing Beach”


Kevin Huizenga
Dmitry Borshch
Steve Logan

What a mind-altering thing this has been for me. You know how, in this modern age, you look at social media and you only see what you want to see, from people you agree with, or at the most, you see stuff people you agree with are making fun of or eviscerating? Because that’s how the algorithms are designed to work, they’re these feedback loops trying as hard as they can to keep you coming back. Or maybe you look at TV, but your preferred stations and talking heads are doing basically the same thing, they’re narrowing down, they’re telling you what they want you to hear and only that. And of course, because everybody’s competing with everybody else for that privilege and for your attention, they simplify, dumb down, hyperbolize. And okay, maybe you go out into the world and interact with actual people, but disagreeing over drinks or a game of croquet just isn’t polite conversation, you don’t want to hear it from them any more than they want to hear it from you. Life as a process of polarization. It’s the virgin forest and the oil refinery and nothing in between.

Well, reading submissions for this issue has been the opposite of all that. It’s been open and organic and worldview-shakingly diverse, and it has been a balm. I feel like I’m seeing this thing, us and the world, in so much more relief and nuance than I ever was before.

I don’t know if it’ll feel the same for all of you who read it; you’re not vested in it in quite the same way; you’re not seeing yourself in it like I am. Seeing myself in the work of 250 or so writers, poets and artists, picking out the best of those, the ones that touch and cut at me and break me open. And then reading them all again, being forced by practicality and circumstance to pick out even fewer, then fewer still. And then arranging those in order, not unlike the way one arranges the scenes in a story, for all these other people to take in. What a thing.

Maybe it won’t be the same for you when you read it. But I hope it will. Because we all need that.

The issue will be out in print and ebook form in time for Readercon, at which there will with any luck be a small group reading from those contributors who happen to be in town. Later there will be a podcast episode. More about all that later. In the meantime, why not subscribe to Lady Churchill’s, get your copy and some delicious chocolate in the bargain.

A happy if belated solstice to you all.

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Aug 13 2014

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Gene Wolfe

Filed under #angry,Environmentalism,hm

All of us from that time grew up with the feeling that you shouldn’t waste anything: you don’t waste rags, because rags can be useful.

–Gene Wolfe on the Depression, from this excellent interview shared with me by Justin Howe, reader of everything. Not a new sentiment–my grandparents were living evidence of this–but a universal one. Perennial. I can only hope the kids of the next generation grow up with this inscribed on their hearts/souls/skulls. Those of the current one certainly didn’t. Lately it seems chances are high it’s going to kill us.

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Jul 15 2014

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Review: Sherwood Nation, Benjamin Parzybok

Preorder <i>Sherwood Nation</i> from Small Beer Press

In a Pacific Northwest beset by hourly more plausible, climate change induced desertification, the city of Portland struggles under strict water and power rationing, while the government and the rich glut themselves on hoarded resources. A plucky group of rebels arises to oppose them in the name of the people, annexing the poor Northeast neighborhood to create a tiny utopian state within city limits. Idealism, triumph, smashed idealism and tragedy ensue, along with a healthy share of the soulstring-resonatingly surreal.

“…You’d need a mask and a horse, obviously.”

“Mm, spurs.”

An eerie clop clop clop sounded through the open window and they looked at each other in amazement.

“A horse!” she said. “You’re a conjurer!”

But instead it was a big moose that stumbled along the dusty street, its skin tight over its ribs. Its head jerked left and right in anxious, almost animatronic movements.

“Oh no,” Renee said, “I fucking hate this. Josh saw a bear two days ago—I told you?”

They watched it continue down the street until a shot rang out. The moose’s body jerked and sidestepped strangely and then there was another shot.

“That’s a whole shit ton of extra food rations if they can store it,” Zach said as they watched men close in on it. “God knows how they’ll store it.” The moose stumbled again on a third shot but continued on.

“They’ve got to get a straight shot in.”

“I can’t watch,” Renee said. She climbed back in bed and spoke to Zach’s shirtless back as he watched the moose fall and the hunters try to drag the animal to the side of the road. “Hunters in the streets.”

“Dying of thirst has got to be worse,” Zach said.

Benjamin Parzybok’s Sherwood Nation is the sort of SF novel I’ve been waiting for someone to write, wishing I could write: a near-future utopian political adventure romp thought experiment. By page 50 I was crying and cheering. These are not common reactions for me when reading fiction; I wish they were. Now I’m waiting for someone to write the next one, while I struggle to do the same. Here’s hoping it be you.

It’s not nostalgic–no laser blasters, no spaceships with batwings and 50s car fins. It’s not escapist. No, okay, it’s escapist–dare I say all fiction is–but it escapes to something rather than from it? It’s not grimdark, where the escapism comes from reveling in hopelessness, forcing you to roll in hopelessness like a bully mashing your face in the mud so when you look up at the real world it briefly–falsely–looks less shitty. It’s realistic, it’s honest. It’s fun. It’s as fun as Parzybok’s first novel, Couch, which is saying a lot, and somehow it manages to be almost as silly even while realistic, sympathetic, human characters are making horrible decisions and getting killed. It’s full of heroic characters I can actually believe in, I can almost believe myself and the people I love capable of being like, in the right circumstances, under great pressure. And it puts those plausible heroes in a setting enough like our own that the hard solutions they find just might apply to the real world. And that is something we need. Something I don’t see SF or literary mainstream fiction or anything in between providing.

Parzybok manages to make it feel effortless, spontaneous and painstakingly well thought out at the same time.

It’s not perfect. Sometimes Sherwood Nation gets caught up in its own myth and falls into wish-fulfillment. But it’s not often. As often, we’re shown the kind of horrors a Fox News pessimist might imagine of a dictatorial/socialist utopia. And as in every other post-apocalypse setting I can think of, there’s handwaving. The question of where the water comes from, the long view of a droughted state, fades away for most of the book. But the focus is on the social and political aspects of revolution, people getting caught up in ideas, people resorting to each other in ways they don’t, can’t, in other than extraordinary circumstances. All Parzybok’s really clever ideas for surviving water shortage and living with power shortage on a citywide scale may be considered to take the place of SF wow-factor trappings in a more traditional postapocalyptic novel–I think of Bacigalupi’s spring guns and engineered elephants. They’re cool, they fit the setting, they inspire–and in so doing set the stage for the radical choices that drive the plot–they’re not the story. But unlike in Windup Girl, really unlike in anybody else’s SF I can think of, Parzybok’s wow-factor trappings are actually practicable, now, to actual beneficial result for the individual and the potential future of humanity. And for me, at least, and for us climate geeks who are the likely target audience, that plausibility does absolutely nothing to reduce the wow-factor itself.

I confess I love everything Parzybok has ever written. I know he’s not for everybody. But I’d argue Sherwood Nation is also the most accessible thing he’s written. So…if you’re anything like me…give it a try, won’t you?

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Jun 15 2014

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Towards a Borgesian Mythos

I want there to be a Borgesian Mythos like there’s a Lovecraftian Mythos. Instead of, even. Lovecraft is worn out. Like Poe. You don’t even need me to enumerate the reasons, you know them. Whereas Borges is still and will I hope forevermore remain the shit. Mirrors, labyrinths, alephs, books, libraries, tigers, dreams, dreamtigers, roses, compass roses and every other easily encapsulated form of the infinite. Knives, swords, hronir, secret cults, the color yellow. Leibniz, Ramón Llull, Schopenhauer, De Quincey, Martín Fierro, Borges (both the fictional Borges and the real one). The Thousand and One Nights. The Quixote.

I said this to some people and they told me I should edit an anthology. That’s too much work. Also, it threatens to undermine the very purpose I’m trying to achieve. What happens when you edit a themed anthology? One of two things. First: it goes away. The original short fiction anthology as self-defeating prophecy. Once was enough, everybody stops caring about the idea and goes on with their tentacle porn. Second: everybody falls in love with it. Fifteen more of the same anthology come out, one from every micropress, until we’re all sick of it the way I’m sick of shoggoths and being asked to redeem that unsavory sociopath whose head is the World Fantasy Award.

(Can I get a bronze Borges head? Maybe I’ll commission one.)

So here’s this blog post instead.

Why isn’t there a Borgesian Mythos? There is–lurking just around the next corner in the library stacks, unassuming, impeccably researched, subtle, wry, brilliant, obscure.Christopher Brown did it hilariously in Strange Horizons. Umberto Eco, Roberto Bolaño and Mark Danielewski all perpetrate patently Borgesian fictions. One step further away one finds Jedediah Berry, Stephen Millhauser, Carlos Ruiz Zafon. One step closer, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Manuel Peyrou.


And me, yes, I do it. I’ve been trying to write Borgesian fiction for years. Not until lately have I (depending how stringently you’d like to define the term) succeeded. “The Immodest Demiurge Ezra Buckley” appears this week in Phobos Magazine. It’s a story based on a few lines from the postscript to “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” I’ll let you go look up. Panel notes where I came up with the idea are here. The title is modeled on a couple of his early “histories”, “The Cruel Redeemer Lazarus Morell” in particular. See also “Other Palimpsests” in Bibliotheca Fantastica, maybe my first attempt at Borgesianness, which went through quite a lot of iterations over years before I finally wandered across an enervated, obsessive academic POV ready to lose himself in an aleph-text, a page that is all pages.


The trouble with proposing a Borgesian Mythos–or of admitting you’ve contributed to one–is now you’ve talked about it. It’s not a secret cult anymore. Point it out and it ceases to be a fictional imposition on consensus reality, a comparative-cultural hronr like all those Borges fanboys in their yellow suits, and instead reverts to a fandom, the usual kind we all have to pick apart until it’s no fun anymore.

So forget what I just said. Forget all of it. This isn’t the blog you’re looking for.

Instead, just read this interview with Borges from 1966. He’s magic! Is there anything he hasn’t read? He’s like a santa claus of literature. Read the whole thing and tell me you don’t want to read about that guy for another couple thousand pages across all forms and genres.



You have said that a writer should never be judged by his ideas.


No, I don’t think ideas are important.


Well, then, what should he be judged by?


He should be judged by the enjoyment he gives and by the emotions one gets. As to ideas, after all it is not very important whether a writer has some political opinion or other because a work will come through despite them, as in the case of Kipling’s Kim. Suppose you consider the idea of the empire of the English—well, in Kim I think the characters one really is fond of are not the English, but many of the Indians, the Mussulmans. I think they’re nicer people. And that’s because he thought them—No! No! Not because he thought them nicer—because he felt them nicer.

Lovecraft never said no such thing, let me tell you.

The defense rests.

Jorge Luis BORGES, Galleria Nazionale, Palermo, 1984

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Feb 11 2014

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At Boskone This Weekend

I’m at at Boskone, one of the long-running Boston-area F/SF conventions, this weekend. (Weather permitting!).

I’m on three panels, one dealing with a subject that I love–stories told through documents–and two others dealing with online magazines or podcasting:

  • Great Podcasts and Where to Find Them (Sat 3pm): Panelists discuss some of their favorite podcasts, sites, and stories. (One of my favs being BCS 100: Boat in Shadows, Crossing” by Tori Truslow.)
  • From Pixels to Print: The Challenges of Running a Magazine (Sat 4PM): Funding, staffing, and managing your organization, and then printing (or enpixeling), distributing, and publicizing your precious products.

I also have a reading Friday at 9:00 pm, where I will probably read some of my Clark Ashton Smith pastiche.

Other than that, I’ll be wandering the halls with plenty of BCS flyers and postcards, in the bar, or trawling the party floor.  Feel free to say hello!

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Oct 08 2013

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At Capclave This Weekend

I’m at Capclave, my local D.C.-area F/SF con (where reading is not extinct!), this weekend.

I’m on four panels, all dealing with online magazines or podcasting or secondary-world fantasy:

  • Friday 7:00 pm: New Media, New Markets, New Business Models (a review of notable genre ezines, their forms and business models)
  • Saturday 2:00 pm: World’s Shortest Epics (epic fantasy in short fiction; what makes it work and who’s doing it)
  • Saturday 3:00 pm: Hearing Voices? (a survey of podcasts)
  • Saturday 5:00 pm: The Evolution of Fantasy (modern fantasy trends and tastes)

I also have a reading Friday at 8:00 pm, where I may read something forthcoming in BCS or some of my own fiction. Drop by and find out!

Other than that, I’ll be wandering the halls with plenty of BCS flyers and anthology-cover postcards, in the bar, or trawling the party floor.  Feel free to say hello!

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Aug 27 2013

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At WorldCon This Weekend

This weekend I’ll be at WorldCon this weekend, in San Antonio, Texas. (Right near The Alamo, apparently.)

I’m not on any panels, although I highly recommend the State of Sword & Sorcery: New Trends one Friday at 4PM. It features BCS authors and novelists Saladin Ahmed and Chris Willrich and Pyr Books editor/BCS fan Lou Anders. That sounds like an awesome topic, a lot like the S&S panel I moderated at World Fantasy 2010, and I’m bummed that I won’t be at the con yet by then.

But I will be out and about Saturday and Sunday. Saturday night, I’m planning to hit this bar-hosted author event that will include BCS authors Cat Rambo, Brad Beaulieu, Ann Leckie, and Saladin Ahmed.

Sunday night I’ll be at the Hugo Awards banquet, where BCS has the honor of being a nominee for Best Semiprozine. (The ceremony apparently will be streamed live at In case you want to see me in a suit and tie.)

I will have a stack of BCS flyers and some brand new postcards of the forthcoming Best of BCS Year Four anthology. If you see me wandering the cavernous convention center or the party floor of the hotel late in the small hours, feel free to say hello!

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Aug 16 2013

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“Excision” at Podcastle!

My story “Excision,” from Ann VanderMeer’s first issue of Weird Tales, is now out as an audio podcast from the good folks at Podcastle. Read by well-known podcaster Jen Rhodes. Thank you!

Their content rating for it says “Rated R: Contains Surgery”. How can a story with that label fail to entertain!

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