Monthly Archives: July 2010

My Literary Immortality

Michael Swanwick wrote a story about me. Srsly, dude. Or at least, he wrote a story with a character named Dennis Ginoza. I suspect it has something to do with my reading his novel The Iron Dragon’s Daughter while fiddling with some magnetic coils I found behind the UW’s Particle Physics lab. Could also be because I sent  some cash to Clarion West‘s Writeathon, but I’m pretty sure it was those coils.

Smoker of Cheap Cigars
by Michael Swanwick
This is Dennis Ginoza: wheelchair user, collector of typewriters, smoker of cheap cigars. If he were a city, he’d be Chicago and Carl Sandberg would write a poem about him, throwing in hog butcher for the world, stacker of wheat, and player with railroads just for good measure. Perhaps in some larger cosmic sense, that’s how and why it ahappened. Some people warp the reality about them; they’re strangeness magnets.

Ginoza could go them one better, however. He had a flatulent bulldog named Leo. That pushed him into new realms of oddity. As the sign on his desk said: THE STRANGENESS STOPS HERE.

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A Counterfeit Paradise

from io9:

The dystopian novel that’s turning China upside down

Chan Koon-Chung’s novel Shengshi Zhongguo 2013 (which roughly translates to “The Gilded Age: China 2013″) has gone from being a marginalized, underground text — which couldn’t even get published in Mainland China — to becoming a major sensation among China’s intellectuals. And according to an essay in China Beat by Professor Zhansui Yu, Shengshi Zongguo 2013 “has changed the way that Chinese define political fiction,” and its success is due to the fact that it exposes “the shocking darkness behind [China's] dazzling economic miracle.”

And earlier this month in The Guardian:

Workers in China grasp the power of the strike

There was no chanting, no speeches, no violence. When the workers got tired, they sat down and chatted for a few minutes. Then they got up and carried on walking until the end of the shift, marked their time cards and went home.

Industrial action does not get much lower key than this, nor does it get much more significant. The Denso strike was reported across the world because it took place on the frontline between global labour and global capital: workers in the workshop of the world had downed tools – and won.

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A Playlist by Anthony Doerr

First started reading Doerr earlier this year, really good stuff.

from Paper Cuts blog (NYT):

Living With Music: A Playlist by Anthony Doerr

Supposedly some writers work in rowdy coffee shops or compose whole novels to Megadeth but when I write, I wear a pair of chainsaw operator’s earmuffs. Every morning, I clamp those things around my head, the world sheds its noise, both literal and figurative, and a level of concentration comes over me that I’m hard-pressed to reproduce in other parts of my life.

Sometimes I’ve got the muffs on for six or seven-hour stints, and when I take them off I feel as if I’ve been yanked suddenly to the surface from the bottom of a well. Then it’s a bunch of e-mail or a bike ride in the hills, but when I get home? When dinner is done, and bills loom and the kids are hurling Legos across the carpet? Then it’s Music Time.

Review of his new book, Memory Wall:

The Nonpersistence of … What’s That Remembering Thing Called Again? By JANET MASLIN

A single overarching preoccupation connects the six brooding stories in Anthony Doerr’s “Memory Wall.” It is Mr. Doerr’s relentless fascination with memory and with the way memories are destroyed, eroded, drowned, faded or eaten away. “How can it be such a frail, perishable thing?” he asks about memory in the title story. He finds an assortment of somber ways to answer that question again and again.

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Best MFA Programs

Think they forgot one.

from The Huffington Post:

This week, check out our list of some of the best MFA writing programs in the country, inspired in part by this helpful 2007 article in The Atlantic. What do you think? Are these programs worth it, or are MFA programs a thing of the past?

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Surplus Population

Back in my undergrad days at The Evergreen State College, I had a professor who introduced me to the concept of “surplus population”. He believed that global trends in robotics, globalism, and post-industrial capitalism would render many American workers obsolete. “What is there to do when there is nothing left to do?” he would often ask his students. It was an idea that deeply concerned him but that I couldn’t really grasp at the time.

In this era of permanent unemployment, I think I understand the concept much better. There are some hopeful counter-trends, but the pessimism at the end of this article is hard to argue against.

via Salon:

Are the American people obsolete?

Offshoring and immigration, then, are severing the link between the fate of most Americans and the fate of the American rich. A member of the elite can make money from factories in China that sell to consumers in India, while relying entirely or almost entirely on immigrant servants at one of several homes around the country. With a foreign workforce for the corporations policed by brutal autocracies and non-voting immigrant servants in the U.S., the only thing missing is a non-voting immigrant mercenary army, whose legions can be deployed in foreign wars without creating grieving parents, widows and children who vote in American elections.

If the American rich increasingly do not depend for their wealth on American workers and American consumers or for their safety on American soldiers or police officers, then it is hardly surprising that so many of them should be so hostile to paying taxes to support the infrastructure and the social programs that help the majority of the American people. The rich don’t need the rest anymore.

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“experience is algorithmically incompressible.”

I got a chance to talk with Ted Chiang at this year’s NORWESCON. A cool guy and an extremely good writer (his short story “Hell is the Absence of God” remains a story I return to again and again), his new novella, The Lifecycle of Software Objects, will be available soon from Subterranean Press and a reprint of his short story collection, Stories of Your Life and Others, is also due to be released by Small Beer Press.

via io9:

Ted Chiang redefines how everybody will write about artificial intelligence

Chiang’s longest work to date is pure idea crack. Writing a longer work doesn’t make the award-winning short-story writer spread out his legendary inventiveness and gift for challenging the reader — if anything, he goes into overdrive. The Life Cycle of Software Objects keeps surprising you. Not just in the sense that you think the story’s going one direction, and then it suddenly veers in a new, totally logical, direction. But also in the sense that the story isn’t really about what you think it’s about. New ideas, new ways of looking at the conundrum of artificial intelligence, keep coming up, although they feel as though they’re organic to the story and the characters.

*Ted Chiang, Me, and a Steampunk Photobomber

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What, No Powell’s?

from The Huffington Post:

We have found the most amazing bookstores in the world– the places that would make any reader shut their laptop, put aside their Kindle, and go out to buy a book. From New York to Portugal to China, we’ve picked the most inspiring.

* EDIT – Page seems to be down, maybe they’re adding Powell’s to the gallery.

Come on, HuffPo– think you forgot one.

Powell’s City of Books is a book lover’s paradise, the largest used and new bookstore in the world. Located in downtown Portland, Oregon, and occupying an entire city block, the City stocks more than a million new and used books. Nine color coded rooms house over 3,500 different sections, offering something for every interest, including an incredible selection of out-of-print and hard-to-find titles.

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Pointer # 4 – Caketrain

* Online lit mags are publishing some of the most intriguing writing available today. Every Monday, I post a pointer to a site that offers fiction and/or poetry either as free content or as samples from subscriber issues.

If you’re submitting to literary magazines, you probably already know about Caketrain. Besides publishing an excellent magazine for only $8 (shipping included), they’ve made Issue #3 and Issue #4 available to read in full online or as a free .pdf download.

from Duotrope:

Caketrain is a literary journal and press based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Our interest is in bringing readers the very best in contemporary creative writing, full stop.

*Full disclosure– I’ve submitted a short story to Caketrain and am looking forward to my rejection letter. – DYG

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The Impact of Technology on Reading

News of Andrew Wylie’s deal with really brought home to me how much of a shift reading in general, and publishing specifically, are undergoing with the rise of new technologies. Five articles that appeared over the weekend address that shift in different and interesting ways.

The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Morning Miracle: Inside the Washington Post, A Great Newspaper Fights for Its Life
By Dave Kindred

The ongoing revolution in how news and information are delivered in the digital era provides the backdrop for Kindred’s highly readable account of the Post’s journalistic triumphs and business travails over the last four years.

The Guardian:

Might Ryu Murakami’s switch to the iPad signal the beginning of the end for traditional publishers?

Earlier this month, in a manoeuvre I predict will soon be seen as a watershed, the admired contemporary Japanese writer Ryu Murakami announced that he was publishing his new book, A Singing Whale, in partnership with Apple, as an iPad download, turning his back on his regular Japanese publisher, Kodansha. The book will also include video content set to music composed by Oscar-winning Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Kicking back with a good e-reader
They’re portable and give you access to thousands of titles, but which is the best for beach days? Or should you just go old school?

On Monday,, the online merchant that also developed the Kindle e-book, said that over the past three months, it had sold 143 digital books for every 100 hardcovers and that the gap had widened in the past month to 180 digital sales for each 100 in paper. Forrester Research, a technology tracking firm in Cambridge, expects that as many as 10 million e-reader devices will be sold in the nation this year.

TriQuarterly Online:

Flipboard points to the future of reading

If you have an iPad, you should install Flipboard right now. If you don’t, bear with me because I’m going to attempt to make a point about reading online in general, whether you have an iPad or not.

As you see from the video, Flipboard is an app that aggregates content from the links your friends on Twitter and Facebook are sharing, plus packages of pre-selected topics like books, technology, politics, etc. It then assembles these pages into a beautiful magazine-like format that takes advantage of the iPad form factor perfectly. I can already tell that once some of the rough edges are smoothed out, this will be my app of first choice for reading content from the web.

* I’ve downloaded Flipboard twice for my iPad– first time it choked when I tried to set it up, second time it asked for my email to put me on a “wait” list to create my account. Yeah, umm.. fuck that. This app has potential but was released way, way too early.

And finally from The Guardian:

Technology fetishism is skin deep
Our shallow obsession with gadgets disguises a conservatism where real change takes place at numbingly slow speed

A milestone has been reached, a Rubicon crossed. With the news, announced on the Guardian’s front page on Wednesday, that ebook sales on Amazon have outstripped hardbacks for the first time, I have decided no longer to pay attention to hi-tech company marketing memos. That means that next time Mark Zuckerman converts another half billion users to Facebook, Jeff Bezos converts another half million words to Kindle ebook format, or Steve Jobs farts to the left – or will it be to the right this time? – I won’t be reading.

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China Miéville in NYT

This guy is the real deal, the most imaginative writer I’ve come across. If you haven’t read his stuff, you’re missing out on some of the best writing being done today, genre or otherwise.

via the New York Times:

Making Squid the Meat of a Story

If your idea of a science fiction writer is a scrawny guy with computer-glow pallor who’s a little too interested in whether warp speed is a realistic rate of travel, China Miéville is not that person.

Tall and buff, he has a shaved head, a row of earrings curving sharply around the edge of his left ear, a Ph.D. in international relations from the London School of Economics and a mind that skips easily from “Jane Eyre” to welfare reform to the joys of bicycling around London. He is also a serious Socialist who ran for Parliament in 2001. The Evening Standard called him “the sexiest man in British politics.”

Mr. Miéville’s novels — seven so far — have been showered with prizes; three have won the Arthur C. Clarke award, given annually to the best science fiction novel published in Britain. And his growing fan base has come to include reviewers outside the sci-fi establishment.

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