January 27th, 2016
December 10th, 2015
November 24th, 2015
November 21st, 2015
We need to send all the idiot hate-heads who are too stupid to understand that being a refugee means you need refuge and being a civilized nation means you offer it to them, to live on the giant floating trash island in the ocean. Or to live with their violent, gun-loving religious extremist friends of all ilks...somewhere that's not where the rest of us are trying to live.
Big business doesn't appreciate the things that matter to me--art, creativity, compassion, kindness. I don't appreciate the things that are important to big business--massive executive salaries, power to pillage resources and make war, the bottom line--but big business keeps trying to colonize the world--my world--to its agenda. Fuck you big business.
*** and then, as a reminder to self, and because it can't be posted too often, really:
“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.” - Kurt Vonnegut.
A recent cat selfie:
Sunny with a chance of cat
If I had a buumper sticker on my car, it would be this: Literacy. Compassion. Cats.
October 30th, 2015
First night, Chinese ghosts:
A Chinese Ghost Story and A Chinese Ghost Story II
Two of my favorite films with creepy things in them--ghosts, tree demons with epic, hungry tongues, reanimated corpses, empty, corrupt shells of government officials and religious figures actually animated by devils--are A Chinese Ghost Story and A Chinese Ghost Story II. When I first saw A Chinese Ghost Story at the Dobie back in 1990, it was a revelation to me (even with its chop suey subtitles) in terms of having the lush supernatural creepy stuff that's the coolest thing about horror (to me) in conjunction with actual story, humor, wonder, and characters who don't all die in the end. A combination I'd been pining after, it seems.
Second night, space:
Alien and Aliens
Alien was the first horror movie I ever voluntarily lined up to see (on opening night in Philadelphia); I was 15 (yes, children, I am old). A friend had dragged me to see Jaws a few years earlier, and I never forgave her. So not my thing. But space! If it was going to be in space, I was in.
And for the first time, I got the appeal of horror movies--that total engagement, edge of the seat screaming thrill. Your attention on the edge with your body, totally in the moment, riding the roller coaster. Exhilarating catharsis. I discovered that a)I love horror in space, and b)if the cat survives, I'm okay with everyone else but the final girl dying. Plus, all those good things--a carefully built narrative and a well-built world peopled with real-feeling characters you can care about. Spaceship! (I'd been loving on spaceships since kidhood.) Very alien alien monster.
Where Alien is a horror movie in space, Aliens is really an adventure movie with horror elements--in space. One of my favorite recipes. Extraterrestrial planets (another thing I've been loving on since kidhood) and terraforming and cranky unfinished ecosystem, intrepid band of interesting/engageable characters--and not everyone dies! Win! Of the two, Aliens is actually the one I've viewed more often. I'm sure it's the source--even though I haven't watched it in a long while--of a recent dream in which I learned that when Sigourney Weaver is driving, you can park the car wherever the fuck you want.
Third night, those prints don’t go together:
Teeth and The Frighteners
These two movies don't really go together. Teeth is a biting, dark (also hilarious) indie tale of mutation and the evolution of vagina dentata as a survival response--which really, when you think about it, makes some sense. I really like the mordant intelligence of the movie.
The Frighteners is just fun. Peter Jackson directs Michael J. Fox and a cast of supporting goofballs; the story has a shadowed, sorrowful heart but wears an impish coat of dread whimsy. Plus, I love The Mutton Birds rendition of "Don't Fear the Reaper."
Fourth night, del Toro:
The Orphanage and Pan's Labyrinth
These are both Spanish language films, the first 'presented by' Guillermo del Toro, the second written and directed by him.
I like The Orphanage because it's dark, creepy, set by the sea and partakes of the Gothic with some good scary stuff, but has compassion--albeit a somewhat twisted compassion--at its heart.
Pan's Labyrinth is, for me, a wonderful dark (dark) fairy tale--as fairy tales properly were. I love the narrative's eye for detail and that so much of it is in the little girl's POV. I love that she's a reader, and faces her monsters--both worldly and otherworldly--with tenacious resilience. It doesn't matter if the otherworldly is real or imagined--the dread figures of the fantastical underworld and the brutal would-be father figure above are equally chilling. I like this movie because it's ambiguous but utterly satisfying just the same. It pricks your sense of wonder with a sharp, terrible claw.
Fifth night, zombie laughs:
Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland
Not sure there's much to say about these. Over-the-top black comedy silliness and fun. Shaun of the Dead is happily British and awesomely funny. Zombieland is mucho Norte Americano and lots of fun. Both movies are funny and dark with zombie violence, but with gooey hearts of sweet caramel. Sort of.
Today's bonus, the zombie apocalypse, Teddy bear style: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61RJGQcG_
Final night, from Sweden to Heian era Japan:
Let the Right One In and Onmyoji
When I saw Let the Right One In with friends we had a lot of discussion as to whether it was really a horror movie (of course many of the movies in my ideal fest here have not technically been horror movies--but it's my ideal fest for the spooky time, not a horror film fest). I think it is, by the definition that what's implicit by the end of the movie is quite a horrible, chilling prospect. The Swedish are very good at well-constructed narrative, pacing, and matter-of-fact-dread coupled with everyday life and haunting beauty. Many people have praised Let the Right One In and it deserves the praise.
Onmyoji is a Japanese movie that tells the story of a court Onmyoji--which translates as the 'Yin Yang Master,' an occult master and fortune teller--in the Heian period, who safeguards the kingdom in a time when the land is plagued by evil forces. It's a costume epic full of the supernatural, sorcery, demons, ghosts, heroes, servant gods, metamorphic creatures, political intrigue, and betrayal. In short, awesome.
Thanks for coming to the fest. Please put your liquor bottles in the recycling and your popcorn tubs and candy wrappers in the trash. And leave a tip for the help.
October 15th, 2015
I'm the baby in the background. Brother and sister look wet, so we were probably playing with the hose.
Sister with dog, brother and I without.
Mom in green poncho carrying fall leaf. I don't think that's my brother behind us. Thanks to photographic degradation, it looks like a small phantom of the opera. We are alarmed.
October 2nd, 2015
A bit about our detective, Rusk: Ayatta had been clever and thorough, and so Rusk occupied a unique position among the farragoes of Acheron city, neither the property of a deviser nor an abandoned artifact without rights. In the two years since Ayatta’s death, the controversy over Rusk’s situation had faded; the oddity of a farrago with the unprecedented privilege afforded by Ayatta’s wealth was now just a part of the city’s character. To some he was a symbol of hope, to others the exception that proved the rule.
October 1st, 2015
And, Philadelphia, 1983 (one of the ugliest decades, style-wise, for my money), dad, sister (making a face, sorry, sis), sister-in-law, and brother; I was taking the picture.
September 22nd, 2015
On Paul Klee and his illness - During 1940, the year Klee died of heart failure from severe scleroderma at the age of 60, he created 366 works of art. Seventy-three years later, his art continues to inspire admirers, influencing not only visual artists, but also contemporary musicians all over the world, with its vibrant sense of rhythm, movement, imagination, and emotion.
I do love his art:
Reading about this is...comforting? Interesting? Something. Part of trying to come to terms with some stuff, I guess.
Things are physically challenging right now; my eyes, fingers, lungs, digestive system, and musculo-skeleture system are all adversely, and variously painfully, affected by the scleroderma. I'm tired most of the time and it's hard keeping up with dayjob, writing, the devoir of life, and self care enough to keep functional--and I still want and need to have something left over for doing fun things, spending time with friends.
I wonder about the next twenty years, and there is a lot of fear and denial and 'I just want to curl up in a ball and cry,' along with frustration--I still have a lot of writing I need and want to do, places I want to experience, people I want to spend time with. I still love and want to live my life and create art and beauty in the world.
A friend who also has serious autoimmune disease challenges talked about how people often say, "You look great, much improved," or words to that effect--and they're so hopeful that this is really the case. A lot of the time it's not; autoimmune diseases don't always show, and one makes efforts to be presentable, to appear well. And you don't want to say, um, nope, sorry--it's so disappointing and awkward.
I find myself thinking, gee, this writing career thing that I've been at for several decades better take off soon, I don't know how much more time I really have. Which is always the case, actually, for all of us, but hammered home on a daily basis by my tiring and unhappy body.
Here's Paul Klee with his wife and a cat.
August 13th, 2015
Portrait by my father, who would have been 88 tomorrow.
August 8th, 2015
Go this way to see the cover --> https://www.flickr.com/photos/29144
July 22nd, 2015
Fr1600D Welcome to ArmadilloCon
Fri 4:00 PM-5:00 PM Ballroom D
Bobo, Burton, Juday*, Reisman
Fr2100E Classic Feminist SF
Fri 9:00 PM-10:00 PM Ballroom E
Johnson, Juday, Latner, Reed, Reisman*, Sarath
Sat Noon-12:30 PM Southpark B
- I will read from a forthcoming story called "The Demon of Russet Street," and luminous bit of flash that is supposed to be out in an Australian antho soonish
Sa2100E What Writers' Workshops Have Done for Me
Sat 9:00 PM-10:00 PM Ballroom E
Brust, Leicht, Melton, Reisman*, Thomas, Wagner
Sun 11:00 AM-Noon Dealers' Room
Marmell, Reisman, Rountree
- I will bring a couple of my last few copies of The Z Radiant for purchase at a low price
July 21st, 2015
One of the criticisms leveled at the show Sense8 is that the pacing is slow and there are episodes where nothing happens to move the plot forward. What does happen in those episodes, however, is character development.
The speculative premise of the show is that a natural biological development of species, human included, is to be linked deeply to other members of our species. Given that premise, it seems to me that an argument can be made here for character development as plot. Getting to know these characters as they get to know each other—and through each other, more deeply know themselves—is the plot. Whatever action takes place around it, that is the essential motive force and structuring principle of the plot movement.
The mechanism of language use, wherein all these characters speak English, but are in actuality—in the un-sensate–filtered reality of this world—speaking their own languages brings us, the viewers, into this connection, underlining the idea that “getting to know you” is the main plot arc. The viewer becomes, essentially, the ninth member of the group, because we understand all these people—whatever language they might be speaking.
Delving into memories, connection, being in each other’s bodies and having access to feelings, skills, experiences—that is the plot arc of the whole first season. The business with Whispers and BPO are an outer exoskeleton of plot device that allow for the more adrenaline-fueled (and fantastic!) sequences of this progression to complete connection.
All of the sensates’ conversations with each other are as much a part of the plot motion as their rescues of one another. They are trading skills, knowledge, and understanding in both the ruminative conversations and the action sequences—all of these scenes are about them changing each other, causing actions they might not otherwise have taken. In the case of this story, character and relationship development is part of the story’s movement forward to the place where they cohabitate one another as a group mind with individual selves and lives.
It’s empathy as plot.
The only really null scenes, in terms of plot, are those in which the sensates engage in intellectual discussions with characters outside of their cluster, conversations about evolution, chromosomes, biology, art—like the conversation over a meal with Amanita’s mother, or some of Jonas’s conversations with Will. These scenes are philosophy as exposition and their function seems to be to build a scientific explanation for the rise of the speculative biological development that defines the Sense8 cluster phenomenon. I don’t mind them, but I’m not sure those scenes are necessary.
I’ve read a few reviews of the show that start out by hedging about how, yes, it’s about emotion and empathy, with an attitude of apology or slight disdain. It’s too bad that fiction and culture at large shy so hard from what’s at the heart of Sense8. As if it’s slightly shameful and un-intellectual to be caught cherishing such notions of connection. For me, the show’s use of empathy as plot is pretty brilliant and truly joyous.
May 25th, 2015
My brother wrote a thoughtful obituary. Things I've been remembering: he taught me to make eggs scrambled with peppers and onions when I was around 10; he loved photography and the quality of light. Quite a few of the older pictures I've posted were ones he took. As my brother's obituary mentions, he loved poetry and language. He was, for a good portion of his life, very well read. I'm sure his love of language is in part responsible for my own.
When I was small, he called me pookie and sometimes carried me on his shoulders. One summer in Maine, on Long Lake in Naples, when I was four or five, I remember asking him what made the diamonds on the water when the sun was coming up. He gave me the scientific explanation.
He took me to two plays in Philadelphia that I remember well, Fiddler on the Roof and Stop the World, I Want to Get Off. He loved movies and I have very early memories of seeing movies, too. When he and my mother were in the process of getting divorced, when I was six and half or seven, they for some reason thought it was a good idea to take me to see The Andromeda Strain. Then we went for pie. I haven't much liked virus stories since. Intellectual, liberal east coast Jews, my parents.
He also loved eating out and took us to both Chinese and Japanese restuarants in downtown Philadelphia when I was small (my siblings are six and seven years older), in the late 1960s. I remember these experiences, little visual details of them, vividly. Memory being what it is, who knows, but I still appreciate these bits and pictures of experience.
My Dad was never too thrilled with what I wrote; the refrain, which I know quite a few others have heard from a father, concerned when I was going to write something serious, i.e., literary realism. He did once compliment my writing by saying I would have made a good lawyer (his own profession, which was not really the thing he had wanted to do, but the thing he was required and expected to do as a son of an immigrant father and second generation immigrant (I think) mother.)
His own mother, for whom I was named, died when he was 16, of leukemia. He once told me that life was suffering; in retrospect, he was perhaps being darkly humorous, but I was a teenager and it made me very sad for him. There were a couple of years when I lived alone with my Dad, between his second and third marriages. I always felt like we were two people who didn't understand how, and couldn't manage, to have the relationship we were supposed to have, some sort of father-daughter thing that eluded us, that we were both too damaged to engage properly. We were like strangers, trying, always trying.
But I loved him, and I know he loved me, and he honestly tried, and did as many good things for me and my sister and brother as he could.
Here he is in 2007, in Buffalo.
And a couple from a trip my brother, sister, and I took him on, to Philadelphia, to visit our old house and Fairmount Park, the places of my childhood.
May 22nd, 2015
May 7th, 2015
April 9th, 2015
Me, as a young science fiction and fantasy lover. Or, portrait of the speculative fiction writer as a kid.
I've been a science fiction and fantasy fan since I was a toddler soaking in Star Trek, the original series, and believing tribbles were real at four years old. As most avid readers do, I sought out what I wanted and it was, by and large from a very young age, speculative stories (with a leavening of mystery), that hodge podge, cephaloid-armed armageddon of work that spills out messily from under the science ficton, fantasy, horror, and literary, umbrella(s). I loved language, I loved wonder, I loved possibility, and I loved a well told story--page turner married to a drunken spirit of poetry was and is my ideal.
I also loved and sought out movies and television shows with any whiff of the skiff about them. But while I was a 'fan' in that sense of the word, I had no notion of fandom and did not actually encounter it until I went to Clarion West--after grad school, writing fellowships, and a masters in creative writing (a degree of questionable use). Here were people, finally, who loved a lot of the things I'd spent my life thus far loving. I was more formally introduced to fandom as a phenomenon when I went to my first convention after Clarion West.
It was an odd experience, not entirely enjoyable at all, those first few conventions. It was all so familiar, but I was kind of an outsider, because most of these people knew one another and had for years. Being suddenly an outsider with respect to the enthusiasms and loves that had, for much of life, constituted my safest, happiest place, was disorienting.
And the thing is, with respect to my reading and other media loves and enthusiams, I have pretty much always gone my own way. Awards are cool; they can be helpful in clueing one in to good stuff one may not have otherwise known about. Often, however and also, award lists have left me kind of scratching my head, because I check out the work and it's, nope, not for me. That said, as a SFWA member, I have nominated for the Nebulas, and voted, and have, in general, been glad to see more works I find interesting and worthwhile on the lists in the last handfuls of years. I can almost never afford to go to World Con and so have only participated in the Hugos twice.
I wish...well; I feel bad for everyone in fandom, because there are a lot of lovely people of good will and their award has been hijacked by asshats. (if you have no clue what I'm talking about and you care at all, just search on Hugo award and you'll find it)
The only award I ever really dreamed of getting is the Mythopoeic, because the writers I most love seem to get that one. But my parameters and measures of the thing called a writing career, of success, expectations, and awards, have been much squished and squashed by life and its viscissitudes. (The SNL lowered expectations ditty plays in my mind.) I will have a dayjob until I retire (or get disability, given current health stuff), so a lot of the concerns of writers who have to make a living off their books are not ones I feel like taking on board. Since the big SFF awards only seldom seem to love what I love and strive for, they have never loomed with great relevance. Yes, like any writer, I wish my work was more recognized, taken up, published and enjoyed, and awards are one way to support that. But I would, ultimately, rather keep writing what I most want to write, eke out my little career, and enjoy my little byways and side roads away from the madding crowd.
I keep thinking, for perhaps obvious reasons, of Katherine Dunn, who I was lucky to have as one of my Clarion teachers, reading from a work in process at the weekly Clarion reading series. The scene she read was one of the most powerful, gripping, depth charge in the mind creating bits of a novel I have ever heard. I have wanted to read the book from which she was reading many times since then (and this was 20 years ago, now) and it has never yet appeared. I remember commiserating about it with Lucius Shepard a couple years later.
We're here, and then we go. I would rather think about that amazing passage, work on my own twisty stories, celebrate, wherever I find them, beauty, kindness, and wonder wrestled from pain, loss, and ugliness--would rather do that than give any internal real estate to the asshats.
April 3rd, 2015
My enthusiasm for these movies generally surprises my friends when they come upon it.
Between these hubs of human life, there was only sea and the web of float tracks on an endless beading of amber bladder bubbles, stretching in all directions. The sectors—they had names, but I generally couldn’t remember one from another—were strung like gaudy baubles on the lace ribbon of tracks around the world. Except where there was no sea at all, just dust and the empty; they say there’s towns there, too, and nomad bands, but it’s just what they say.
-- from "The Chambered Eye" in Rayguns Over Texas
Come hear me read from this story, E. J. Fischer read from his recent Asimovs cover novella, "The New Mother," and Janalyn Guo read from her work tomorrow, Saturday April 4, 7-8pm, A Speculative Evening at Malvern Books, 613 West 29th Street.
Here's a flyer!
March 25th, 2015
Coming up next week, Saturday, April 4, A Speculative Evening of readings at Malvern Books, with Eugene Fischer reading from his cover story in the current Asimov's, "The New Mother;" Janalyn Guo reading from her work, which she calls "little markers in time and space;" and me, reading...something good, I promise. 7-8 pm, at
And, today's post from Terri Windling, which is a little bit of perfect, Among the Pines.