May 29, 2009

The Future Disappoints When It Becomes the Present

Today CNN discovers that the future ain't what it used to be. What they don't seem to have noticed is that no future is what it was used to be, because it was never supposed to be that future in any real, predictive sense. Ask any science fiction writer. The key word in the phrase "science fiction future" is fiction. (Futurists are a different breed of cat, but would still, I think, admit they're doing thought experiments rather than concrete predictions.) But I still want a jetpack, and I want teleportation of things more substantial than photons. Stupid future.

In other news, there have been strange melty circles on the ice of Lake Baikal:

(via io9 and xenophilia)

Bach in FAO Schwartz

I love this much more than I ought to.

May 28, 2009

And Wow He Died As Wow He Lived

Over at the Poetry Foundation, GalleyCat's Jason Boog (with whom I gabbed at NYCC earlier this year) has written a fine article, "And Wow He Died As Wow He Lived," about one of American poetry's most undervalued figures, Kenneth Fearing. Check it out. (Also, check out the Complete Poems, published by the University of Maine's own National Poetry Foundation.)

I'm going to go read some Fearing now. I believe I will start with "1-2-3 was the number he played but today the number came 3-2-1," from which the title of Boog's article was taken.

Bookgasm on Buyout

Bookgasm today has a review of Buyout that begins with the sentence "Alexander Irvine is an absolutely unique voice in speculative fiction." I'd hate to spoil the rest.

In other news, go Wings!

May 27, 2009

In Which I Provide a Good Example for My Son


So, it turns out that maybe we've been exterminating exactly the evidence of life that we've sent all those probes to Mars to find. From the New Scientist:
Even if Mars has never had life, comets and asteroids that have struck the planet should have scattered at least some organic molecules - though not produced by life - over its surface.

Some have suggested that organics were cleansed from the surface by naturally occurring, highly reactive chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide. Then last year, NASA's Phoenix lander, which also failed to detect organics on Mars, stumbled on something in the Martian soil that may have, in effect, been hiding the organics: a class of chemicals called perchlorates.

At low temperatures, perchlorates are relatively harmless. But when heated to hundreds of degrees Celsius they release a lot of oxygen, which tends to cause any nearby combustible material to burn. For that very reason, perchlorates are used in rocket propulsion.

The Phoenix and Viking landers looked for organic molecules by heating soil samples to similarly high temperatures to evaporate them and analyse them in gas form. When Douglas Ming of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and colleagues tried heating organics and perchlorates like this on Earth, the resulting combustion left no trace of organics behind.

Never underestimate the human ability to miss the glaringly obvious. One of the most interesting things about the history of science is the number of discoveries and breakthroughs that arrive decades or centuries later than they might have because the best and brightest couldn't see a solution that (in retrospect, once the problem has been solved) was right in front of them. Why do we figure some things out and not others?

(Note: I'm not saying I would have figured this out any faster than anyone else. But from my armchair perspective, it's fascinating that for 30+ years, it never occurred to anyone that such a reaction among compounds in the Martian soil might be skewing the results...)

Your Daily Irony

Environmental activists charged with littering at a protest over a toxic coal-sludge impoundment in West Virginia.

May 26, 2009

Ooh Ah Cantona

I cannot wait to see this movie "Looking for Eric":

And as a reminder of why a movie with Eric Cantona in it might be so cool, here is a video compilation of some of his greatest goals:

Google Books Buyout Preview

I'm still not sure how I feel about the emergence and current procedures of Google Books, but if you'd like to get a look at an extended chunk of Buyout before you plunk down your hard-earned money, here's the preview. It's almost two-thirds of the book, which initially annoyed me; as I looked through it, though, it seemed that whoever made the decisions about what not to include was fairly respectful about not giving away critical moments. So have a look.

Imaginarium Clip

I want this to be great, but am afeared that it isn't.

May 22, 2009

What My Students Get Up to, Part the Next

In Spring 2008 my Advanced Fiction class did readings of some flash stories and put them online. Why it's taken me a year to link to this, I don't know, but here are those stories. I'm going to do this again this year, I think.

The roster:

Andrew Maxcy - Neck Romantic
Jesse Priest - Asymmetry
Isaac Forbes - Untitled
Kara Cox - To Leap
Mariah Cunningham - Go
Sarah Doucette - Untitled
Ryan Woodward - Untitled
Amanda Johnston - The Reluctance to Sleep
Rachel Holden - Saturday Night
Alyssa Franzosa - Saving the World From Johnnies
Patrick Stanton - Untitled
Paul Goodman - Untitled
Elizabeth Burleson - Walk the Line
Tim Lounder - We Are The Last To Die For Our Mistakes
Ben Goodridge - The Man
Brian Chick - Brain Dead
Eric Carlsen - Untitled
Rick Gower - Untitled

SiDEBAR Interview with Tomm Coker

You've seen his art in Daredevil Noir. Now listen to this cool podcast in which Tomm talks about all kinds of other stuff he's done.

May 20, 2009

io9 on Buyout, Plus Bonus Conjunctions and Harper's

Gawker World Domination Media's SF outpost, the always-interesting io9, takes a look at Buyout and likes what it sees:
For all the drama and high-concept, Buyout is a remarkably understated and thoughtful novel. The story is rife with dark humor but Irvine reserves the sharpest of his satiric barbs for the voice of "Walt Dangerfield", self-appointed Gonzo Journalist/Greek Chorus, whose daily podcasts introduce each chapter and serve as exposition for the world of 2040 at large. At first glance, the cover art reminded me of Richard K. Morgan's very cool Market Forces (I know, I know, don't judge a book...) But you won't find cartoony evil corporations or blockbuster action here. Nor is the technology portrayed much flashier than what we see around us now. Martin wrestles with ethical dilemmas and social issues, not gun-festooned cyborgs. Buyout lacks many of the obvious trappings of a genre novel, but it does what any well-written Science Fiction book should. It makes you think; about life and death, ethics and society, justice and loyalty — and about the cynic and the idealist, and how sometimes they can be the same person. (read the rest)

A couple of other interesting things. The new Conjunctions is called "Betwixt the Between," and follows up on that august journal's "New Wave Fabulists" issue from a few years back. It's advertised as "[p]ostfantasy fictions that begin with the premise that the unfamiliar or liminal really constitutes a solid ground on which to walk." The lineup looks terrific. I can't wait to read it. Plus it ought to give Hal Duncan something else to think about during his extended cogitations about the differences between various genres and modes of narrative.

The current Harper's also dips into literate genre work, with a feature called "My Great Depression: Ten Dispatches from the Near Future." The (eleven) writers of these ten dispatches are Kevin Baker, Thomas de Zengotita, Ruben Bolling, Jamaica Kincaid, Colson Whitehead, Simon Critchley and Tom McCarthy, David Rees, Sherman Alexie, Ben Marcus, and Ben Katchor.

The Guardian on Mystery Hill

Eric Brown thinks you should read it: "Everything about this novella is delightful: its breezy telling, the touching relationship between Ken and Fara, the deadpan humour, the casually fatalistic denouement. Wonderful."

You can check out a sample (and, of course, order the book) at the PS Publishing web site.


This NYT piece reminded me of a takeout place called Jerusalem in Denver, right by DU. We used to eat there all the time, and once a fellow grad student who shall remain nameless bet another grad student (a poet named Gautam Verma) that he couldn't coat his tongue in Sriracha. Gautam did, about a quarter of an inch deep, laughing the whole time...and then this other student who shall remain nameless welshed on the bet. Anyway, go eat at Jerusalem and slather whatever you have with Sriracha.

My favorite bit in the whole article is this: "With the purchase of a nearby warehouse, the company has begun storing its peppers where Wham-O once manufactured those icons of pop culture, Frisbees and Hula-Hoops."

And Gautam, hey, if you're out there drop me a line.

(Yesterday the NYT had this cool piece on eclipse chasers.)

May 19, 2009

Barrelhouse, Smartish Pace, Pree, Baseball!

The Baltimore Barrelhouse/Smartish Pace hoedown was a blast. Thanks to Dan, Dave (even though he didn't show up), Stefan, and the rest of those responsible. All of the readers were terrific (maybe even me), and the bands were cool, too. If you're not listening to Pree already, give them a try. We bought their disc.

On the way down, we stopped at Camden Yards, where the Orioles went down to the Rays 8-6 and I continued my futile struggle to create good sports photography with a digital camera at a distance of 100 yards. Here's one shot of Carlos Pena doubling to right. Yes, that is the ball streaking out of the frame.

Then it was off to DC where among other things we checked out the National Botanical Gardens...

...and the Library of Congress. What a palace.

Then back to Baltimore, where L lounged around at the light-rail stops...

...we observed a giant aluminum hermaphrodite...

...and the aforementioned hoedown took place at Cyclops, a former Family Dollar store now in the process of being turned into a cool bookstore/coffeehouse/place where literary hoedowns occur. If you haven't been there, go; Andy is a cool guy and the enterprise is deserving of your enthusiastic support.

Roomba Art

More at the Flickr Roomba Art Pool.

May 12, 2009

Jack Spicer Event in NYC on Friday

I've been a Spicer fan since Ken Norris introduced me to his stuff in a grad class. I re-read the Black Sparrow edition of his poems every so often, and I stole him from history to use as an important character in my novel One King, One Soldier. Now Spicer's biographer Kevin Killian has done a much-expanded edition of his work called My Vocabulary Did This to Me, and on Friday various literary luminaries (including Samuel Delany, my UMO colleague Jennifer Moxley, and Killian himself) will celebrate its release at St. Mark's Church, 131 E. 10th Street. Wish I could go.

(You are, of course, only permitted to attend this event if you can't get to Baltimore for the Barrelhouse/Smartish Pace launch extravaganza, which is where I will be, which is why I can't go to this cool Spicer event.)

Broken Frontier Interview

Over at the recently updated and now-extra-spiffy Broken Frontier, Kris Bather and I talk about Daredevil Noir, Buyout, and some other stuff.

May 8, 2009

Robin Blaser, 1925-2009

In some ways my favorite of the San Francisco Renaissance poets. The initial word of his death comes from Charles Bernstein's blog. Here's one of his poems, which I hope Coach House Books (formerly Coach House Press, publisher of Blaser's The Holy Forest) won't begrudge me reproducing on the occasion:


everything is alive

free of the dead,
what can be thought
seems to be yours in this world
where it all coheres
free to spend some powers,
but the universe is absent
from all your plans

take the ghost stirring
in an animal each
flower, a piece of light
scattering love's mystery
asleep in metal alive
the coherence takes power
over you

in the blind wall, you fear
the blindness which sees you
even to matter, put to
true and false uses,
a word is tied

often, a secret god exists
in the darkness
and like an eye born
with the lids closed,
a real ghost comes to be
under the surface of the stones

May 7, 2009

Save Wardenclyffe

It is an article of faith around here that the earthly works of loony geniuses should be preserved. One such monument, Nikolai Tesla's Wardenclyffe, is in danger of becoming yet another casualty of the financial meltdown. This NYT article has the whole story, and the image reproduced below (part of this slide show, which is worth a look). Read it, and then write someone a letter or something.

May 6, 2009

Off to Maine While You Buy DD Noir and Buyout

After lunch with Chris Schluep, during which schemes were hatched, and the first half of Man U's blowout over Arsenal...wait. Check out the free kick by C. Ronaldo in the highlights:

...and a meeting at Marvel during which one project got the go-ahead and others were pondered, I'm heading back up to Maine today. The rain is apparently coming with me. But! It's New Comics Day, and Daredevil Noir #2 is out! Go get it!

Also, it's clear to me that if you like DD Noir, you'd like Buyout, and you should pick it up too.

Me, I'm going to have to wait to get comics until tomorrow. Dammit.