Jul 27, 2007

RIP Weekly World News

This makes me sad, in the same way that I get sad because America's proud tradition of hucksterism is increasingly subsumed within politics and televangelism. (Where have you gone, PT Barnum? Getting ripped off by the spinny-dart-machine guy at Coney Island just isn't the same.)

The last WWN I bought offered the untold story of brave American GI's facing down vampires in Afghanistan. Now we will never hear the horrific followup, as one of them ("It's just a scratch, Sarge; he never got me") brings the worst vampire cooties of the Caucasus back to these very shores...

Edit: And here's a New York Times followup, mostly talking about Ed Anger. I'm really going to miss Ed Anger.

Jul 25, 2007

Another Story Online

I don't know why I didn't notice this before, but the first story I ever published, "Rossetti Song," is online at the Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet web site, which also features terrific fiction from Kelly Link, Christopher Rowe, Carol Emshwiller, Ray Vukcevich...the list goes on. Also some cool nonfiction pieces. You can't go wrong.

Jul 23, 2007

Books Vs. Trees

So books are made from trees, and there are those who think that book readers need to make environmental amends for reading. Along comes Eco-Libris, a well-meaning outfit that will take your money and put it towards planting trees. Here's my question, though. Eco-Libris helps to fund tree-planting efforts in developing nations. Do American publishers get their pulpwood from developing nations, or does it come from domestic forests? If the pulpwood is coming from right here in the U.S., then the efforts of Eco-Libris don't actually do anything to offset the publishing industry's use of wood.

Which is not to say that reforestation efforts in the developing world aren't laudable, but (if American publishers do in fact use American trees) it's not quite accurate to say that a check sent to Eco-Libris will balance out the environmental cost of your books.

A quibble for a cantankerous evening...

Jul 14, 2007

Did Anyone Ever Know?

Over at Bookslut, Paul Kincaid has an interesting column about award processes (he either was or still is administrator of the Arthur C. Clarke award), and he takes the time to ask the question, "Does Anyone Even Know What Science Fiction Is Anymore?" A sample:

...we have lost our sense of what science fiction is. The genre is notoriously hard to define and most of us, whether we admit it or not, probably fall back on some form of Damon Knight’s ostensive definition: we know it when we see it. But now it’s not so easy to see. Look at the science fiction shelves in most bookshops and they contain a preponderance of fantasy, while a lot of what most of us would consider science fiction has migrated onto the general fiction shelves. Mind you, it’s easy to understand why this is happening when writers like China MiĆ©ville deliberately blur the line between SF and fantasy, when others like Jon Courtenay Grimwood blur the line between SF and crime, when fantasy authors like J.K. Rowling win the top SF award, and when an increasing number of supposedly mainstream writers use SF devices as if they are an unexceptional part of their literary arsenal.

I taught a graduate seminar in SF this past spring, and one of the things that I and my students wrestled with was the problem of defining SF. Me, I don't think the enterprise is worth the energy that's been devoted to it, but it sure provokes illuminating discussions when you get ten smart people (I'm talking about my students) in a room and kick-start a discussion in which they all end up coming up with exceptions to everyone else's definitions. It was a good class. In the end, I think that SF has always been plastic enough that while there's a lot of stuff that you can point to and say, "That's SF," there is no single workable definition. Which is as it should be.

Another interesting tidbit from the bookish corners of the internet is this Guardian list (courtesy of Sebastian Beaumont) of 10 great books about psychological journeys. Three cheers for the inclusion of Jeff Noon's Vurt, which is a terrific book. So is his Automated Alice.

Jul 10, 2007

Who Knew?

So I'm glancing through a copy of Best American Mystery Stories 2005, edited by the most distinguished Joyce Carol Oates, and my thumb kind of slips as I'm riffling through the pages...and there, listed in the back matter, where anthologies of this kind list the stuff the editor liked a lot but didn't decide to include, is my story "Peter Skilling," from Salon.com (where it was retitled "Retroactive Anti-Terror") and F&SF (where the Esteemed Editor left the title alone). Apparently it was one of the "other distinguished stories" of that year. Neat.

Perspicacious reader, that Joyce Carol Oates.

Catching Up

Summer comes, and I go outside, and the bloggery suffers. Here's a grab-bag of what's been going on...

I ran across this review of Logorrhea from a newspaper in Baton Rouge, and thought I'd excerpt the bit about my story:

Alex Irvine's "Semaphore," is more of a conventional story with hints at the supernatural. In Irvine's tale, a Jewish boy in New Jersey whose brother is killed in World War II takes up spelling to deal with his loss. "At breakfast I started spelling words out loud. My sisters got into it. They collected newspapers and hit me with whatever they could find, and then it turned into a game they played among themselves. Each of them focused on words that began with the same letter as their first names: Miriam, Eva, Ruth, Deborah. After a month of this, I was convinced that I knew every word in the language that began with those four letters. Mnemonic, elegiac, rotisserie, diverticulitis. Malevolent, esoterica, rubicon, demesne."

The boy suffers visitations from his brother's ghost who gives him cryptic messages that the boy can't unravel until he has a sudden epiphany that is as good as any you're likely to find in a short story. Even in a book with stories made of words and about words, Irvine's story stands out. This is a story that a logophile — a lover of words — will cherish.

A couple of short story sales to note, both in the UK (they'll be my first magazine appearances there): "Black Lagoon," a noirish Detroit story to Crimewave, and "Shad's Mess," a comic SF novelette to Postscripts.

There's new Supernatural-related interview up here.

Also, things are brewing again on the Marvel front...