Posts tagged: literature
Gibson recently made an appearance at the New York Public Library, and he also did a surprise reading of the first couple pages of his forthcoming science fiction novel The Peripheral. The reading begins about 80 minutes in.
For more Gibson, check out our dossier.
Above: generative cities and architecture by Aranda & Lasch
Futurist Chris Arkenberg outlines a possible scenario for urban planning and architecture:
As complex ecosystems, cities are confronting tremendous pressures to seek optimum efficiency with minimal impact in a resource-constrained world. While architecture, urban planning, and sustainability attempt to address the massive resource requirements and outflow of cities, there are signs that a deeper current of biology is working its way into the urban framework.
Innovations emerging across the disciplines of additive manufacturing, synthetic biology, swarm robotics, and architecture suggest a future scenario when buildings may be designed using libraries of biological templates and constructed with biosynthetic materials able to sense and adapt to their conditions. Construction itself may be handled by bacterial printers and swarms of mechanical assemblers.
This reminds me of the recent sci-fi short story “Crabapple by Lavie Tidhar:
Neighborhoods sprouted around Central Station like weeds. On the outskirts of the old neighborhood, along the Kibbutz Galuyot Road and Siren Road and Sderot Menachem Begin, the old abandoned highways of Tel Aviv, they grew, ringing the immense structure of the spaceport rising high into the sky. Houses sprouted like trees, blooming, adaptoplant weeds feeding on rain and sun, and digging roots into the sandy ground, breaking ancient asphalt. Adaptoplant neighborhoods, seasonal, unstable, sprouting walls and doors and windows, half-open sewers hanging in the air, exposed bamboo pipes, apartments growing over and into each other, growing without order or sense, creating pavements suspended in midair, houses at crazy angles, shacks and huts with half-formed doors, windows like eyes–
In autumn the neighborhoods shed, doors drying, windows shrinking slowly, pipes drooping. Houses fell like leaves to the ground below and the road cleaning machines murmured happily, eating up the shrunken leaves of former residencies. Above ground the tenants of those seasonal buoyant suburbs stepped cautiously, testing the ground with each step taken, to see if it would hold, migrating nervously across the skyline to other, fresher spurts of growth, new adaptoplant blooming delicately, windows opening like fruit–
For more of Arkenberg check out our interview with him. Want to learn to think like he does? Here’s his guest post listing his favorite books on systems thinking.
And for more big, mad ideas about architecture and cities check out:
A while back someone put every issue of OMNI Magazine online for free download in PDF and other formats. Over at the William Gibson forums, Memetic Engineer rounded up all the issues of OMNI that are available for download and have stories by William Gibson in them:
May 1981, features “Johnny Mnemonic.” From the contributors page: “Gibson is a full-time writer living in Vancouver, British Columbia. His work appears in two anthologies, Universe 11 and Shadows 4, both published this year by Doubleday. The issue also features a story by Ray Bradbury and an interview with David Cronenberg.
July 1982 features “Burning Chrome.”
July 1983 features “Red Star, Winter Orbit” by Gibson and Bruce Sterling.
July 1984 features “New Rose Hotel.” (Which was turned into the Gibson movie you never heard about: directed by Abel Ferrara and starring Christopher Walken, Willem Dafoe and Asia Argento)
July 1985 features “Dogfight” by Gibson and Michael Swanwick.
The October 1981 issue features “Hinterlands,” but it’s not available in the OMNI archives.
The text on these scans is readable but blurry. If you just want to read the stories, buy the Burning Chrome collection.
See also: William Gibson dossier
“Selkie Stories Are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar:
I hate selkie stories. They’re always about how you went up to the attic to look for a book, and you found a disgusting old coat and brought it downstairs between finger and thumb and said “What’s this?”, and you never saw your mom again.
I work at a restaurant called Le Pacha. I got the job after my mom left, to help with the bills. On my first night at work I got yelled at twice by the head server, burnt my fingers on a hot dish, spilled lentil-parsley soup all over my apron, and left my keys in the kitchen.
I didn’t realize at first I’d forgotten my keys. I stood in the parking lot, breathing slowly and letting the oil-smell lift away from my hair, and when all the other cars had started up and driven away I put my hand in my jacket pocket. Then I knew.
I ran back to the restaurant and banged on the door. Of course no one came. I smelled cigarette smoke an instant before I heard the voice.
I turned, and Mona was standing there, smoke rising white from between her fingers.
“I left my keys inside,” I said.
One of my old Key 23 colleagues, Tait McKenzie Johnson, is editing a new literary journal and seeking submissions:
The Rapid Eye is a new literary and arts dream journal offering writers, artists, and other dreamers the freedom to create and share high quality fiction and art drawing on dreams and other states of non-rational consciousness.
We are currently in the process of getting the first issue of our magazine off the ground. If you’ve ever had a wild and compelling dream that you’ve been dying to share with the world, please consider submitting to The Rapid Eye.
For more information on dream fictions and art, check out this blog post: Why dream fictions? Why a literary and arts dream journal?
Check back soon for more updates, including a series of essays on the role of dreams in fiction. And in the mean time please follow us @rapideyemag.
It’s the end of the year, which is a good time to reflect on what my favorite bits of media were for the year. I figure this list can also double as a guide for any last minute gifts.
I’m sure there’s stuff I’m forgetting in each category, so I may update this again later. Feel free to recommend stuff I might’ve missed!
This was a big year for artist/writer Brandon Graham. Three of his releases were favorites of mine this year:
Prophet, a book written by Graham with a rotating cast of artists.
Escalator a collection of short stories written and drawn by Graham. I think this is actually my favorite of the three.
Besides all the Graham stuff, I really liked Casanova Volume 3: Avaritia by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba.
I haven’t finished Hawkeye – Volume 1: My Life As A Weapon by Fraction and David Aja yet, but I’m enjoying it so far.
Also, I haven’t read Glory Volume 1: The Once and Future Destroyer by Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell yet, but I’m looking forward to it.
I don’t buy very many single issues, but here are some that I bought and liked:
COPRA # 1 by Michel Fiffe. This was a pleasant surprise. I hadn’t heard of Fiffe before I saw it promoted by Floating World Comics. It reminds me a bit of Graham’s Prophet in that it’s an indie artists’ take on super hero comics of the past. I haven’t read the second issue yet but plan to pick it up soon. There’s a preview of issue 1 here and issue 2 here.
The Secret History of DB Cooper # 1. Really dug the first issue, still waiting for the trade paperback.
Monoloake: Ghosts. Minimal techno with a hint of dubstep.
Filistine: Loot. I’m not sure how to explain this one — a fusion of lots of different styles of electronic music from all over the world.
The Swans: The Seer. New album from an old school no wave band.
Tweaker: Call the Time Eternity. Long awaited third solo album from Trent Reznor’s former right-hand man.
I didn’t see many movies this year, and I liked even fewer. Here are the ones I liked:
Cabin in the Woods. Technically I guess this came out in 2011, but I think most of us saw it this year.
I haven’t seen The Master yet but want to.
I didn’t read many new books this year, but I did read and like:
The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption by Clay A. Johnson
The Rise of Siri by Shlok Vaidya. Science fiction that reads more like design fiction — this is all about the ideas, not the characters. Already a little dated since Apple has announced that it’s bringing some of its manufacturing back to the U.S.
Novelist Tom McCarthy on writers’ relationship to the haunting sounds of technology:
The telephone, it turns out, owes its invention to more than simply hearing-aid experiments. Alexander Bell, who grew up playing with mechanical speech devices (his father ran a school for deaf children), lost a brother in adolescence. As a result of this, he made a pact with his remaining brother: if a second one of them should die, the survivor would try to invent a device capable of receiving transmissions from beyond the grave – if such transmissions turned out to exist. Then the second brother did die; and Alexander, of course, invented the telephone. He probably would have invented it anyway, and in fact remained a sceptic and a rationalist throughout his life – but only because his brothers never called: the desire was there, wired right into the handset, which makes the phone itself a haunted apparatus. […]
The pinnacle of literary modernism, its most sophisticated and extreme achievement, is Joyce’s final novel, Finnegans Wake, published 17 years after Ulysses as the world stood on the brink of a new orgy of technology and death. Impossible to summarise in a sentence, the Wake has been variously interpreted as the babble running through a dreamer’s head, a disquisition on the history of the world, ditto that of literature, a prophetic set of runes for our age, and a scatological tract so obscene that it had to be written in code to escape the censorship that had befallen Joyce’s previous novel. But whichever way you read it, two things are certain: first, that (as the word “Wake” would suggest) it’s a Book of the Dead, dotted with tombs and rites of mourning; and second, that the technological media people it at every level – telephones and gramophones, films and television and, above all, radio. We have “loftly marconimasts from Clifden” beaming “open tireless secrets … to Nova Scotia’s listing sisterwands”; we have a “contact bridge of … sixty radiolumin lines … where GPO is zentrum” (the post office was the site of Radio Eireann); we have “that lionroar in the air again, the zoohoohoom of Felin make Call”; we even have disembodied voices shouting to each other to “get off my air!” According to the Joyce scholar and poet Jane Lewty, co-editor of Broadcasting Modernism, “the Wake can best be understood as a long radio-séance, with the hero tuning into voices of the dead via a radio set at his bedside, or, perhaps, inside his head.” Perhaps, she concedes when I push the point with her, the “hero” might even be the radio set itself.
In her series Psychopomp, author Amanda Sledz takes a literary approach to writing about urban shamanism, magical thinking, tarot, telepathy and other themes usually reserved for the fantasy genre. The series follows four characters: Meena, a woman who has experienced a break with reality; her parents, Frank and Esther; and Lola, a teenager who is becoming a shaman whether she wants to or not.
The first book in the series, Psychopomp Volume One: Cracked Plate, explores mental illness, empathy, our differing experiences of place, immigration and cultural identity, and the way our experience of family shapes our identity — without resorting to the cliches of genre fiction or descending into boring academic prose.
Amanda was raised in Cleveland and now lives in Portland, OR. She is self-publishing Psychopomp, but her work has appeared eFiction Horror and various small literary magazines. You can also check out some of Amanda’s works in progress on her site.
I recently caught-up with her to talk about Psychopomp, self-publishing and more.
Klint Finley: I understand you wrote a first draft of the first book in college — can you walk us through how the book evolved?
Amanda Sledz: I started working on it during my last semester of graduate school. I’d finished the entirety of an MFA in nonfiction writing, and thought I’d try my hand at fiction before escaping the clutches of academentia. There were a lot of subjects that I wrote about in my master’s thesis that were perceived as being unbelievable, because magical thinking as a means of interacting with hardship was described as a natural way of operating. The tone of the thesis (which was a memoir) became very self-conscious, with the over-awareness of the audience that’s required for decent nonfiction writing. I found myself longing to write something uncorked that still utilized the same themes.
I finished the first draft, which consisted of a shorter version of each section, very quickly. The editing and perfecting and development of repetition took a long, long time.
I abandoned it after wrangling it and getting sections of it published in small literary magazines. Then just over a year ago I was cleaning off my hard drive and thought doing nothing with it would be a waste.
And, in a way, as Grant Morrison might say I had myself locked in a hypersigil. I’m fairly certain my writing career would be permanently stalled if I didn’t let it escape.
A chapter from the novel Psychopomp Volume One: Cracked Plate
Lola, get out of bed.
It’s time to measure your standards.
The Official SAT Guide For Absolutely Everyone was pocked with portraits of thumbs-up enthusiastic sweater-decked white people. Endorsements from Ivy League colleges in bold-faced type offered assurances that somewhere in the page flipping Lola’s brain would flush electric. SCORE BIG TODAY! It demanded with caps lock ferocity. The antagonism of the fiery font left her terrified to perform otherwise.
Lola decided to ignore the taunts of the front cover adorned with individuals unfamiliar to her, and turned to the back cover to hunt for the token black or Asian or multi-racial friend positioned on the manicured lawn beside people in Polo shirts, laughing about their collective conquer of the universe. There. Perfect teeth, hand jammed into the pocket of pants likely called trousers, navy blue sweater knotted at his muscular shoulders, charmed and chuckling alongside the descendents of his former masters.
Oh, fuck this.
Lola’s attention shifted to the book’s contents, for the secrets her public school education denied her. Lola turned pages and let her finger find her fate, and she pressed down and the turning stopped and she opened one eye to spy her finger’s verbal-section divination. The word was davenport.
Lola said it aloud this time as she returned the book to the library shelf. She decided to take her chances on the outskirts of Ivy League Utopia; the tucked away temples of non-aristocratic orphans and otherwise-inclined refugees from academentia, born far away from the privileged promises of ivory gates and teeth.
In other words, Lola figured she’d think about state schools.
She thought of her Granny, with a face that seemed locked at exactly ancient, every picture revealing the same blacker-than-black skin and well-worn roads of wrinkles traveling forever north. Her smile was the fierce grin of a black woman who didn’t take any shit. One day she asked Lola: “Alright, girl. What do you want? Not the little want, but the big one. Tell me girl. Tell me!”
Lola didn’t really want green pastures and gothic buildings and well-groomed friends who strum guitars and laugh about obscure philosophical references and the people who don’t get them. She didn’t want to surround herself with individuals who seemingly skip over adolescence in favor of immediate adulthood and ambitions to obtain millionaire status prior to legal drinking age – or for that matter, anyone who observed material prosperity in and of itself as the ultimate objective, as the dividing line between success and failure, making it and just waiting for death.
Not what you don’t want, girl. What do you want?
She wanted unexpected physical arrangements reflecting all the colors of her original 64 pack of crayons, and backpacks loaded with buttons like bumper stickers, declaring allegiances and outrage for a cacophony of causes and crimes, faces fixed with the gaze to melt the uninitiated. People who read by compulsion not requirement, who coax forward portraits spun from naked elation, each scene framed by stark experience. She wanted friends who wouldn’t perceive visiting her house as missionary work, friends who doubled as muses and observed the uncharted nuances of others with appreciate eyes, friends who laughed too loud and got pulled over too often and had the habit of getting things done anyway.
Girl, you’re just coloring the circle around you. What do you want?
That is what Lola wanted.
Ms. Clark, the guidance counselor, was not interested in what Lola wanted. She wore a daily safari-type uniform of khaki pants and khaki shirt to match her khaki hair, and a wristwatch with a plain black strap that squeezed her wrist like a tourniquet. The calendar tacked to a bulletin board directly behind her head offered a generic nature scene, was one month and two years behind, and revealed nothing about her daily activities. Every pencil in the jammed pencil holder on her desk was nibbled right down to the graphite. She was held in place by a protective triangle of empty paper coffee cups that left her whole office smelling of sour syrup.
Ms. Clark sat Lola down and told her in measured tones that not wanting the prestige and pedigree of the Ivy League was all fine and good, but there was no choice when it came to this test and being tested. None. She drew a zero in the air for emphasis, and her glasses slid a notch down her nose. Ms. Clark assured Lola that an excellent score would increase her chances of getting into college, (“Any college”) and so long as Lola remembered to study something that doesn’t interest her, there might even be employment afterwards.
“These grades, they just won’t work. This is just not good enough. You need to focus and get your act together so that you’re ready for a Real College Experience,” Ms. Clark emphasized, pressing a finger into a stack of papers. Lola’s confusion about the mediocrity of a 4.0 grade point average followed the tip of Ms. Clark’s finger right to the name typed on the side of the manila folder.
It wasn’t Lola’s.
Lola realized exactly then that she didn’t consider Ms. Clark to be a woman who reeked of life expertise. She seemed more like a woman who wanted to disappear.
Still: Detroit was a broken town where unemployed factory workers and overworked guidance counselors occupied porches, nursing cool glasses of little to hope for. It was a place where her mother sat similarly, sipping her own glass.
Lola squinted to look beyond the glare of Ms. Clark’s glasses to spy the crow pecking time along her eyes. She was a woman rarely asked how she was doing, and whom Lola wanted to hug. To Ms. Clark’s surprise, she did.
Then Lola signed up and arrived 30 minutes early with two #2 pencils sharpened to perfect points.
The monitor said good morning and didn’t mean it, and Lola took a booklet and a scantron worksheet and her seat. In three turns of the page the test placed Lola in a train heading west at 80 miles per hour while a rival train traveled east at 60, and the 20 mph face-off ended with mutual shrugging and one train saying, Go ahead while the other countered, Nah, after you. Then they met grills and shouted: BORED! and then they laughed and agreed to sit and wait it out until the scenery and story got a bit more interesting.
Lola whispered, “Where the hell are you two going?” and the first train huffed, and the other rolled his passenger car.
Then both started arguing about the logic of weighing mind-meat with a test that neglects the metric system, while never daring the test-taker to join the debate about whether the USA has snubbed it for nationalism purposes, or because the powers that be just thought the majority of chaw-chewing ‘mericans would be threatened by a challenge to their measuring sticks.
“There is no circle to mark for that!” Lola hissed at the trains, and the monitor shushed her and another student looked up, doe-eyed hopeful that six hours of circle-slog boredom would be interrupted by some soul violently ejected for the ruler-whack sin of cheating.
Then the end of the pencil blinked alive and said: Shaman, what are you circling?
Lola squeezed the pencil to see if it would say ouch. It didn’t.
So she asked her newly minted totem or guide or holy guardian angel or higher self: “What did you say?”
And the scantron worksheet, eager to chime in on this pivotal conversation, said: Shaman. What are you circling?
Having had it up to here, Lola spat, “I’m trying to take a test!”
Pencil sighed. This is the test.
Through it all, the other pencil was silent.
Lola felt a twinge, a familiar tweak of her cheek and so she got up to leave. The monitor barely looked up when she returned her booklet and threw the scantron in the trash. Lola thought about Detroit, how the bodies of her Irish and African ancestors were stacked like concrete blocks, their curved backs reinforcing the steel of this city. She waved when she felt them watching her, and sometimes they returned the favor, but mostly they just watched her retreat.
Lola, are you listening?
Your brother needs you.
Lola stopped in the bathroom to collect herself and wipe the diagramed sentences from her eyes. She inhaled a puff from the useless inhaler with a propellant that had supposedly been altered for environmental reasons, and frowned at its failure to open her asthmatic airways. A second inhale further confused the formula as her lungs expanded with stagnant lavatory fumes and the remnants of someone’s aerosol hairspray. Still, she had to linger just a bit longer because sometimes she knows and that time, she knew: her phone would ring any second.
Lola met her own eyes in the mirror and shipped thoughts to the something that lies beyond the first layer of screen: I know you’re there. I can feel you coming. Then her cell phone sang the lost notes of rotary phones and Lola kept exchanging information pools with whatever set of eyes resides on the other side, and she didn’t break the eye-lock when she held the electronic device to her face and said, “Hello?”
First she heard laughter, and then shut up yawl, and then the laughter was louder and she was on speakerphone so she didn’t say anything. She waited. Finally a voice barked: “Yo, your brother’s whacked out over at Jimmy’s house. Come collect his ass.”
Laughter, shrill and ripe all over again.
“Alright then,” she said, hanging up before their sickness infected her trance. She twisted at a few stray strands of reddish-brown hair escaping her thick braid and returned phone to pocket. Lola connected the dots of her freckles with invisible lines, wondering if dots could be beautiful. If she connected them to the north they looked like a sparrow; to the west, a pair of hummingbirds. She checked her back pocket for the pencil as the gap between her two front teeth winked her awake and away. Pea had the same gap. She called it the door their souls snuck through, the one that also swung the other way to facilitate their escape. She wondered if anything else could sneak in.
Pea preferred to call it evidence they were missing something .
Pea. Her brother. Right.
Published October 2012 by One Eye Two Crows Press
Copyright 2012 by Amanda Sledz
Edan Lepucki posits that literary fiction is indeed genre fiction and lists its attributes:
1. The Long Title
3. Scene, Exposition, Scene, Flashback, Scene, Cue Epiphany
4. A Dog barks, someone eats a watermelon, a car drives away.
5. The plate drops!
Full Story: Literary Fiction is a Genre: A List