(Graph should update itself until end of November.)
(Graph should update itself until end of November.)
One of the first topics that caught my attention back when I started out choosing between sociology and political science was terrorism. I read a lot of the writings of the early anarchists and was fascinated by the conscious, explicit manipulation of mainstream culture through the application of tiny acts of terror. For the anarchists, the purpose of terror is to trigger an over reaction that makes the oppressive apparatus of the state visible to the majority. Thus, one idiot with explosives in his shoes leads to everyone having to take their shoes off in American airports for the next five decades. Does this measure really make us safer? It certainly doesn't make us feel safer. On the contrary, it makes everyone feel more nervous. So, score huge one for the terrorists. What the coverage of terrorists seems to miss, is the changes the media is advocating for are the changes the terrorist set out to trigger. Politicians like to say they don't negotiate with terrorists; but what they don't say is they cave completely and do exactly what the terrorist scripted for the politicians.
Or, if one tends towards the cynical, one could argue that (small c) conservative policy-makers have wanted to beef up security and cut down on democratic traditions for a long time, and simply use these incidents to forward their own agendas. Naomi Klien's "The Shock Doctrine: Disaster Capitalism" outlines a number of case studies. Attempts to use this incident to forward a conservative agenda must be vigorously resisted. Up until this week, there have been two political assassinations in all of Canadian history. If we count the two Canadian soldiers killed this week in that category, that brings the total to 4 in 200 years. I don't think that requires us to change to an American-style defensive posture just yet. And, I would like to note that the police / security response on Parliament Hill today was exemplary. If that is the best the terrorists can do, we have nothing to worry about. Our guys won handily.
Another thing that bugs me about the coverage of the Parliament Hill /Quebec shootings is the recriminations over why our security establishment hadn't discovered and stopped the plot ahead of time. Really? Short of hiring only telepaths for the job, how the hell were they supposed to have stopped it ahead of time? Short of arresting everyone who ever read an IS Facebook post or attended a Mosque? (Assuming these were IS supporters...early days yet on the full story). Two soldiers are killed, and I hear reporters calling for the allocation of massive resources to security establishment to allow them 24/7 monitoring of minorities so that they can, in the words of one reporter, "preemptively arrest" individuals the police think might someday do something. Head::Desk. Yeah, let's constantly monitor everyone everywhere to prevent the future deaths of another couple of soldiers in uniform...but no one seems very interested in dealing with domestic violence that kills at least one Canadian woman every week. Or the even less well recognized problem of domestic violence against men. You want to monitor assholes, then start with the statistically significant problem of domestic violence, or missing aboriginal women, or elder abuse, or whatever, not the vanishingly small problem of domestic terrorism. A Canadian soldier is twice as likely to be hit by lightening then killed by a terrorist attack in Canada.
Legendary author William Gibson, who was inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association Hall of Fame (along with Spider and Jeanne Robinson; Spider is second from right in first photo) and me, showing off my Aurora Award.
Another highlight of the Aurora Awards ceremony (presented this year at V-Con 39 in Vancouver) was when Al Harlow (Lead singer for Prism) presented the Aurora Award for Music, which went to Chris Hadfield for his performance of Space Oddity — in, you know, space. Thought getting Al Harlow as presenter was pretty cool.
Also glad to see Frank Johnson (in tux in middle of first photo) receive recognition for his trophy design and 23 years of making them for the Association. I often felt that the trophy's unique design significantly added to how seriously people take these awards —makes it really worth getting one.
The other 26 chapters in the collection are filled with tips on how to write by successful authors from across a variety of genres and communities. Together, they provide a pretty realistic portrayal of the challenges / obstacles aspiring writers face. This collection is aimed at writers starting after retirement, but most of the advice would be applicable to everyone.
Sept 11 is the launch of the anthology, They Have To Take You In, in which my story, "The Missing Elephant" appears. The anthology is edited by Ursula Pflug and is a fund raiser for the Dana Fund:
I'm quite pleased with it, but it's hard to be objective and I was outside my usual genre. I had my usual editor go through it before submitting to the anthology and made the requisite changes, but my editor wondered how credible it was...but of course, it is pure autobiography. Life really is stranger than fiction. The number of times in a month I'll say, "I'd put that in my novel, but who would believe it?" in reference to this or that incident with colleagues or family...or in this case, my own stupidity. Hardly credit the incident in question myself...but absolutely accurate, save for the changed names. But presumably Ursula liked it, since she took it for the anthology, and she is a pretty fabulous writer/editor, so I'll take that as sufficient validation.
Being somewhat satisfied with "The Missing Elephant" I tried a second CanLit story, though with a slight SF edge to it. I am really happy with that one, but it is still doing the rounds of Canlit mags.... Hard to tell if the rejections are because it's not up to standard, or if even a trace of SF is a hard sell to CanLit markets. I'll try it with SF markets next time it comes back, when the question will be whether SF markets will accept anything that Canlit.... Eventually, I'll put everything into a collection of my short fiction, but I would prefer to have the validation of previous publication before I include anything in it.
I keep trying to get my kids interested in the movies I liked, and they always ask, "Is it old?" And I'll say, "No no, fairly recent." And they'll ask, "Is it in colour?" and I'll say, "Yes! It's in Colour! Geeze! I'm not that old" and then I'll look it up and it will have been filmed in the 80s, which my kids confuse with the 1800s... "Really Dad? That old?! Then, no." Because a lot of older movies do not hold up for this generation.
Tried to recommend Neuromancer to Tigana this week, and she asked "How old?" and I had to think...
"It's a very influential book," I said, stalling. "You know, half the stuff on the Internet was named after what Gibson predicted in that book. The nerds who read that book were the same nerds that went out and built what he had described!"
And Tigana looked at me and said, "Neuromancer was before the Internet? That old? Were there dinosaurs?"
Hard to believe it's 30 years old. I remember Gibson doing readings from chapters in progress at conventions two to three years before that even. Great book. Still a great book, though feels more contemporary than predictive these days.
(Same with Karl Schroeder's Lady of Mazes which came out before Facebook and other social media. Fabulously brilliant predictive SF, but it only came out in 2005 and everything in those first couple of chapters is just, you know, how things are....)
Guardian article on the 30th anniversary of publication of Nueromancer.
My family came up to Calgary to pick me up from When Words Collide Convention, and I had arranged with Mike Plested to meet Tigana. Mike graciously dedicated his second Mik Murdoch novel The Power Within (which was launched that weekend) to Tigana. Tigana, of course, had no idea he had done that until he presented her with a signed copy in the lobby of the Carriage House Inn at the end of WWC. She was kind of impressed! The dedication reads:
Of course, he then enlisted Tigana's promise to read his fantasy novel and pressure me to publish that too....
When we were in London this summer, Mary arranged for me to go to Paris for lunch at the Eiffel Tower. Partly, it was the absurdity of going to another country and back for lunch, but mostly I had wanted to take the Chunnel. Ever since I can remember, I grew up reading about how they were going to push a tunnel under the English channel someday, but it was widely dismissed as scifi. I have crossed the channel several times by ship and hovercraft, but the Chunnel has always been on my bucket list as part of the future I had been promised in the 1950s. So, here it is, a reality, so had to take it. The Eurostar was well organized, very fast, and goes through a lot of (ear-pooping) tunnels before it gets to THE tunnel, so in someways a bit anticlimactic because it's, you know, just another tunnel, albeit slightly longer than the others. Still, you know, kind of cool that this SF future was real and I was actually doing it. Commuters all around me taking it for granted. So cool.
Halfway through the tunnel, the large black businessman squeezed into the seat next to me suddenly closed his computer and turned to me, and said, "We're under the ocean now, you know! Do you realize just how crazy that is! I mean, when you really think about it, how cool is that!"
And I said, "I know! It's the future!"
And we just sat there appreciating our mutual sense of wonder at it all, and then he opened his computer again and started typing and I went back to reading. But I loved that shared moment, and that at least some commuters still got it!
I'm still like that on airplanes sometimes too....
Also pleased to see Susan MacGregor's The Tattooed Witch, a book I acquired and edited for Five Rivers Publishing, nominated for Best Novel! (Other novel nominees are Robert Sawyer, Gay Kay, Julie Czerneda and Chadwick Ginther, so one hell of an impressive crowd).
So that's the second year in a row that one of the books for which I was editor has made it to the Aurora ballot. (Mik Murdoch: Boy Superhero was nominated last year in the Young Adult Novel category, but lost out to YA giant, Charles DeLint.)
And although not one of the books I edited, I was also pleased to see another Five Rivers book on the Young Adult Novel short list: David Ladroute's Out of Time. And Susan Forest, another Five Rivers' author, is nominated for short story category. So four nominations in four categories for Five Rivers. Not a bad year at all (and that's only the SF line!)
Saw a copy of the newly released Hyperbole and a Half book in the airport bookstore and immediately bought it even though it weighs the same as a brick (and I don't mean the red brick bricks, but one of those giant fancy patio bricks you use to hold up your bookshelves before you are well off enough to buy real bookcases) and would be an enormous pain to carry around, not only on the plane, but for the rest of our vacation. I thought, "this would be a fun read on the plane" and better than working on the paper that was due the instant I got back from our trip, so I impulsively bought it.
I did not, however, get to actually read it on the plane. I stupidly carried it out in plain sight (well, I had the backpack and carryon in my hands already, along with my passport and boarding pass, so what else could I have done in the fourteen seconds between buying the book and rushing to the gate?) where anyone could see it. And Tigana, my 15 year old, said "What's that?" And I probably could have said, "It's a dissertation I have to read for next Monday", and everything would have been fine, probably, but instead I stupidly said, "It's a book by this guy with a great website" (which incidentally shows I wasn't really paying attention because it is by a woman and—turns out those drawings are autobiographical drawings of a woman, not an alien unicorn) and Tigana said, "Okay, I'll read that on the plane instead of The Glass Menagerie, which sounds like a perfectly reasonable decision for a high school kid to make while on vacation. Except, you know, it meant I didn't get to read it on the plane which had kind of been the point.
Two flaws here: first, planes are small confined spaces where people are crowded in very closely together and if one starts laughing hysterically, and banging one's head against the window in the window seat, other people are inclined to turn around to stare and/or glare at you. We were surrounded by babies and toddlers, but nobody was glaring at them, because everyone, including the babies and toddlers, was too distracted by the teenager who apparently suffered from intermittent fits that would cause her to bash around uncontrollably in her seat. Second, Tigana's little sister sits beside Tigana on planes and you cannot tell a ten-year old, "It's nothing, go back to your Archie comic" repeatedly when what you are reading is causing you act like a crazy person. So eventually Tigana had to read portions of Hyperbole and a Half to Kasia which is not entirely a good idea, role-model-wise, when several of these stories are in fact autobiographical explorations of the author's childhood. And the stories of adulthood are definitely not always appropriate for 10 year olds. Probably not 15 year olds, or anyone, really, but Tigana read Kasia the stories about the dogs, which is fine, except that they describe two of our own dogs perfectly.
Anyway, it's that kind of a book. The backcover testimonial for the book is from the author of Let's Pretend This Never Happened which is on my to-be-read list but I haven't actually got around to reading yet, but which the rest of my family found very funny, only now they agree thatHyperbole and a Half is way funnier. Falling-out-of-seat-even-though-you-are-still-wearing-the-seatbelt funny.
Except for the chapter on Depression, which Mary read and said it didn't seem even remotely funny to her, but which struck her as the best, most profoundly accurate depiction of depression she has ever come across in print. And which she told Tigana to keep handy for whenever one of her friends was suffering depression so that Tigana could understand what they were going through. I have to say that I also found that chapter really helpful in understanding what it is like to be depressed, though I did, you know, laugh a lot. [The other book I usually recommend to people trying to understand what it is like for their depressed significant other is Alicia Hendley's A Subtle Thing which provides a lot of insight but is, um, well, really depressing to read. (Probably why Alicia's other book, Type which is a brilliant YA about a society that sorts kids by their Myer-Briggs results, sells way better....)]
So stop whatever you're doing and buy Hyperbole and a Half right now. If you don't love it, I will personally refund your money.
Okay, that last bit was a lie. I maybe got carried away there. Actually, if you don't find it funny, I will just respect you less as a friend. But pretty sure you will like it, that's what I'm saying.