Friday, June 03, 2005

Needless Anxieties, or, Sweating the Small Synchronicities

Christopher-not-Chris Rowe read a story at WisCon which had a character called Miss Charlie. I recently finished a story titled "Grandma Charlie and the Wolves." Am I in trouble with Christopher (or Gwenda)?

Alan Deniro's new weblog is called Goblin Mercantile Exchange. My newly-agented novel is titled Goblin Market. Will I have to pay Alan royalties?

David Moles's recent story "Planet of the Amazon Women" postulates a world on which all the menfolk (and men-cows, men-squirrels, and all them other technical words I can't be bothered to look up) have died out. I'm developing a story in which a genetic plague has wiped out male humans. If I write it, will I become David's intellectual property?

These are the things which keep me up at night. (OK, not really. But it's all a bit odd.)

Pre-Cognitive Post-War Art Movements, or, the Transgressive Nature of Hot Pink

Alan started it with his post about the British Vorticist movement of the early 20th Century and their wonderfully titled journal, BLAST. My favorite quote from one of the manifestoes:

We only want Tragedy if it can clench its side-muscles like hands on its belly, and bring to the surface a laugh like a bomb.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Blasting the cherry blossoms . . .

You've read--at least I hope you've read--Theodora Goss's seminal Infernokrusher poem. Now, prepare yourself for haikus from three of the premier literary talents of our time:

shônetsu ni
kemono torakku
haru kibaku

(In scorching heat,
beast trucks.
Springtime explodes.)

- David Moles

Still water's mirror,
Rippled by a landing crane.
And my flamethrower.

- Scott Westerfeld

Write Dr not Ms
Or exploded in pieces
You'll be Mr S

- Justine Larbalestier

I'm pretty sure that last one is a threat.

Updated to add that anyone who wishes to contribute their own IK haiku should do so in the comments. But remember; bad haiku makes Godzilla cry. Or at least upsets him. It's hard to tell for sure about the tears, what with all the stomping and the fire-breathing.

Making the World Safe for Our Children, One Suppression at a Time

The helpful folks over at Human Events Online ("The National Conservative Weekly") have kindly provided a list of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries. I suppose we've always known that books like The Kinsey Report (#4) and The Feminine Mystique (#5) were inflammatory texts comparable to, say, Mein Kampf, but it's nice of "a panel of 15 conservative scholars and public policy leaders" to say so definitively. And don't think that miscreants like John Stuart Mill, Charles Darwin, Michel Foucault, Margaret Mead, Ralph Nader and Simone de Beauvoir haven't been put on notice; they all made the list of "honorable" mentions.

Consider yourselves thought-policed warned.


What does it say about me, that when I see a headline like "Singer Harvey 'crushed under car'" and I find out it's not Polly Jean, my only sincere emotion is relief?

Get better soon, Brian Harvey. Whoever you are.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Belatedly, an Enticement

To purchase The Dogtown Review, that is:

Art by Keith Demanche, titled "Rust Never Sleeps." The scan is a little bit grainy, but you get the idea. More information to come.

Not a Crony

. . . but I think it's worth pointing out that the Infernokrusher discussion is still going on, with such folks as Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Bruce Sterling weighing in.

The Hanging (Updated) (And Again) (One Last Time)

For Ted:

Back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, elephants were all the rage in circuses and zoos. Barnum wasn't the first, but he certainly enlarged the trend; Jumbo was one of his greatest publicity coups, and kept making money for the showman even after his death.

A tragic side note to the captivity of elephants was that, whether due to mistreatment or to temperamental changes caused by their breeding cycles, these elephants (mostly the bulls) occassionally struck out at humans, be they handlers or simply onlookers. Often there was a public outcry following such incidents, and the showmen bowed to public pressure to destroy the animals. However, being showmen, they often staged these as public executions and charged admission.

Most of the elephants were either shot or electrocuted. On one occasion, though, in Erwin, Tennessee, an elephant was lynched. Mary, a performer with Sparks World Famous Shows, killed her handler, a man named Red Eldridge; whether she did it because he was abusive, out of boredom, or out of discomfort from abscessed teeth is unclear. What is clear is that it was done publicly, with a crowd of local witnesses; and Charlie Sparks knew that he would never be allowed to perform locally with a killer elephant in his troupe. Mary had to be put to death.

Guns were tried, but had no effect; electrocution may or may not have been attempted as well. Finally, Mary was hung from a derrick car in the local trainyard. Actually, she was hung twice; the first chain snapped under her weight. Finally she died, and was buried in the train yards.

For more, including a possibly-fake photo of the hanging, check out this article.

Update: Jason Erik Lundberg points out that Jeff Vandermeer wrote a story about this incident called "Mahout." Thanks, Jason!

Updated Once More: Gwenda Bond further points out the Glen David Gold story from McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales entitled "The Tears of Squonk, and What Happened Thereafter" (excerpted here), which deals with the same event. I should have known this, since I own the volume, but I believe this was one of the stories inside which I gave up on shortly after starting it . . . now, of course, I have to read it. Thank you, Gwenda!

Yet Another Update: Having now read both stories, I have to confess that I don't think either captures the pathos of this event. The Vandermeer is interestingly told--I quickly forgot about the second person telling and read it as if it were first, which is sort of interesting in itself--but added little to the reality. The Gold, I felt, worked too hard to set the entire incident (fictionalized as it was) into a rational mystery-story form; the "did-she-or-did-he" at the end seemed rather beside the point. What's the point? Something about not keeping elephants in captivity, I suspect, but then preaching makes for bad fiction. Thanks, though, for the pointers.

Richard Butner points to the sad tale of Topsy the elephant, the first criminal to be Westinghoused. It's in Wikipedia so you know it's true.

And Barb Gilly, she of the amazing purse-and-wallet line, calls attention to an impending special on aggro elephants to be aired on the National Geographic Channel this Sunday. Sadly, we have no cable and thus will miss it (and do they still call it aired when it's on cable? Probably it should be injected, or inserted, or . . . OK, aired it is). Anyone who cares to report on it will receive my undying gratitude and a faux literary movement in their name. Once you've been Boing-Boinged it's really all downhill from there, isn't it?

(It's nice to have such helpful friends. Of course, there's always the chance that this is an experiment to determine how many times I will update a post . . .)

Being a Chronicle of Plaus-Fab Wisconsin, "The World's Leading Gynarchist Plausible-Fable Assembly"*

Assembly reports are often problematic; those who were in attendance often read such reports only to see if they are mentioned, and those who were not are seeking the sort of gossip and low talk which no self-respecting chronicler would call attention to in a public forum. There is also the problem of full and accurate recall of the events, which I cannot claim to have. Having said this, I shall nonetheless attempt to recount some highlights:

Thursday afternoon Ms. H.W.B. collected me in her gasoline-powered chariot, and we rode north. I spent the majority of the ride regaling her with tales of Loxodonta Africana and Elephas maximus, which I trust she found endlessly fascinating, as it was my primary topic of conversation all weekend long. "Yes, yes. Your amusing anecdote has put me in mind of a trivial bit of information which I recently learned about elephants. I will now bore you with it share it with you."

Despite the preponderance of chariots fleeing the City of Wind, we reached the Town of Madness just in time for the readings of Ms. J. and Ms. McK. I was introduced to the acerbic Priestess of Chance, and afterwards we dined Chez Meisner, discussing all manner of delightful happenings and entertainments. The tabular contents of the new volume Twenty Epics were made known to your humble chronicler, who squandered few chances over the next few days to mention his own inclusion to cornered captivated listeners. Later, as the evening was drawing towards a close and there was some thought of retiring, Mr. B.R. arrived, and talk turned to the exciting work being done in such Infernokrusher works as Thrown Down a Well Still Burning and Burning Hammer Review. Mr. M., Mr. C, Ms. G., the aforementioned Mr. B.R. and I had an amusing discussion about this which lasted nearly until the hour of thunder.

Next day, an expedition was made to the local zoological gardens, which we found pleasant and distressing in equal parts, and notably lacking in beasts of the pachyderm persuasion. (Pär, you were indeed correct on that point!) Then we dined and found our rooms at the inn. I shared quarters with Misters H., L., and O. After some greetings we made our way to the Chamber of Merchants, where I asked Ms. L. and Mr. G. if they would be good enough to make room for the most recent issue of The Dogtown Review. They graciously agreed, and in return I spent some time hawking their delightful wares, which gathered themselves lovingly into the arms of the freshly arrived Assemblers. During this time Ms. C.M. also appeared, caustic wit in tow. I also made the acquaintance of Lady B. and her brother, a stalwart with a first name I approve of--sadly, they were only able to attend the Assembly for a day and thus I was unable to converse much with either. Later, Colonel R. arrived bearing a bundling of that wondrous publication Say . . ., and shortly thereafter Ms. B., Mr. B. (no relation), and Ms. G. appeared and a passel of us trundled off to dine, joined by Editrix G. and her wonderful companion Mr. W.

It is at this point that my memory of events becomes less clear. A celebration was given by Mr. G. and Ms. L. for their wonderful venture Small Beer Press. Malted beverages were served, and I must admit that I partook of them at perhaps a rather faster rate than necessary. I conversed with many persons, including most of the aforementioned, as well as a long and humorous discussion on editing and names with Rbtd. A. I also made the acquaintance of Ignitrix McM. herself, who has a delightful laugh and a wit to match.

I returned to my quarters in the wee hours, and woke in the late morn feeling rather unwell. A prescription of tea, fresh air and walking eventually revived me. I was drafted by Mr. G. and Ms. L. to read some stories for the sadly absent Mr. M.R.; it was well-received, which I attribute to the source material. I encountered more worthies, such as the luminous Ms. McN., the Rbtds. K.L. and A.D. (whose collection of plausible fabulism is going to be published by the fine folks at Small Beer), and Mr. VanE.. That evening I dined with my new advocate, Ms. C., who is an enthusiastic and charming soul; I look forward very much to working with her. Because of dinner we missed the Tiptree auction, I'm afraid, but since I have been of late only barely solvent it was, I think, for the best. I did attend and enjoy a reading by Women on the Edge including the aforementioned Ms. G., verbal martial artist Editrix M., the modest Ms. C-W, and the resilient Ms. McH.

Then there were more parties--the Rbtds. give a raucous annual event with singers of varying abilities performing with a portable orchestra, and this year held plenty of wonders both good and bad. Among the good was a group performance in tribute to the absent Mr. C.B., and Editrix G.'s rendition of "I've Never Been to Me." I deliberated about performing myself, but as I had a reading to come later in the evening I chose to save my voice and my dignity for sacrifice later.

Our midnight reading--I read with those worthies Mr. L., Mr. H., and Mr. O.--was well attended considering the hour, and went well. I read a new piece entitled "The Whisper, the Wire, and the Worm" which seemed to go over moderately well. All four of us agreed that we felt our own pieces had been the weakest, so thus armed with our modesty we went back to the gatherings. I had the opportunity to chat with Mr. P. as well as several of the above. There was hallway singing, there was gossip, and when the management of the inn decided the Rbtd. gathering must end, the keg was collected and brought down to our quarters. Several persons followed the alcohol, and a good time was had by all, but the party was cut short after the establishment's constabulary was contacted and asked that all unregistered guests be expelled. Thus, regretfully, we retired just short of dawn.

Sunday, a day of rest, began with tea and brunch, marred only by the too-early departure of that worthy Mr. H. The afternoon was spent first at a reading from Mr. P, Ms. S, Mr. VanE and Ms. R, which was quite enjoyable all around. Then there was the rather serious matter of a duel between Mr. M. and Ms. B.; myself and Ms. M served as seconds to the respective principals; in the end, the duel had a rather surprising outcome. Following this I attended the Adequate Plausible Fabulism reading performed by Colonel R., Rbtd. D., Mr. B., and the surprising Ms. McL. Very good, all around. Following the reading many of us adjourned to the Strange Horizons Tea Party, wherein Editrix G. followed her performance of the previous evening with a masterful speech about SH and its workings. Following that I had to run to a panel, but managed to meet Mr. H., a very interesting fellow who said kind things about one of my tales. After the panel a group of us trotted out to dine, including Ms. M.S., Mr. T. and family, Mr. and Mrs. N., and Ms. H.M.M. and family. Afterwards there was a dessert banquet with a long and silly line. I had already bought my ticket, so I attended (the carrot cake was delicious) and listened to the interminable short announcements (Editrix M. and I coped with alcohol) and the speeches by Ms. J. and Ms. McK. Determined to make one final reading, I listened to and enjoyed tales from Ms. B., Mr. W., Dr. L. and Ms. W. (no relation). Very enjoyable, but afterwards I found that I had the energy only for returning to my quarters and falling into a deep sleep.

Finally, Monday, which I spent primarily in the Chamber of Merchants, conversing with the usual suspects as well as others I have as yet failed to mention, such as Mr. G.. Then there was leave-taking to be done, sadly. I felt rather reluctant to leave, as these Assemblies are among the few occassions when I feel almost entirely at home with myself, free to be passionate about the things I am passionate about, if there is any sense in that. There is a childish desire in me to have all my friends live near me, on the same street; of course, if it were so I would likely get no sleep and even less writing done.

Finally, on the chariot journey home I was determined to stay awake, only to find myself passing in and out of consciousness. I had a short dream in which I was perplexed by the question of whether one of the granddaughters spoke French as her sister and grandmother did, and another which required my verbal participation. Ms. H.W.B. was very amused by this, and helped bear my spoils to my abode. Once she had taken her leave I fell on the sofa, exhausted, and slept until it was time to leave for work.

I regret that I barely had a chance to exchange more than a few words with Editor H. or Ms. M., that I did not manage to attend more readings, that I felt as though there were so many people I didn't give enough attention to. Next year, as they say, at the Thirtieth Plaus-Fab Wisconsin.

*With apologies to Ben Rosenbaum