Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Celebrating Nisi Shawl

This year Nisi Shawl was WisCon's Guest of Honor. So in addition to featuring celebrations of Carol Emshwiller, in honor of her 90th birthday, the James Tiptree Jr Award, in honor of its 20th birthday, and the memory of Joanna Russ, to commemorate her recent death, WisCon 35 also celebrated Nisi Shawl.

Nisi read at a Room of One's Own on Thursday evening, from her story “Pataki,” which is one of the pieces Aqueduct published in this year's GoH chapbook, Something More and More*, along with the previously unpublished “Something More,” three essays, and a new interview with Eileen Gunn. I have heard that she read from “Something More” at her GoH reading, which I wasn't able to attend, alas.

I also did not get to attend any of Nisi's panels, except for the one discussing her short story, “The Deep End,” titled “Black Souls in White Clones: Swimming in Shawl's Deep End.” This was a deeply satisfying panel, though it became clear by the end of it that the panelists hadn't discussed everything in it that interested them and their audience. The panelists were Eileen Gunn, Nancy Jane Moore, and Andrea Hairston. Jef A. Smith, who proposed the panel, was unable to attend. Nisi Shawl sat with the panelists, and commented by request. Coffee & Ink, and Lila Futuransky have partial (non-verbatim, summary) transcripts that convey some of the flavor of the discussion. It quickly emerged, during the discussion, that Nisi believed she had written a fairly simple, even transparent story, while every panelist (and several people in the audience) had discovered its sentences saturated with a density of information and allusive possibilities that seem only to expand with every additional reading of the story.

Nisi's Guest of Honor speech, which both began and ended with a beautifully delivered song, offered a brilliant reworking of the traditionally male, individualistic concept of Genius that has been with us since the 18th century. Nisi insisted on going back to the older notion of genius loci-- the spirit (a god or other supernatural entity) attached to a particular place in the world (think volcano or spring). The extraordinary, vivid image she used to illuminate her notion of Genius is that of an extension cord-- one that is infinitely long and has an infinite number of sockets into which others can plug in. Rather than being all about the individual, Genius, for Nisi, involves multitudes and is manifested in multiplicity. Anyone who has been reading my posts and essays over the years will know just how appealing this reconceptualization is to me.

I am eager to read the speech when it's available in print. It went by so quickly, in its moment, that I'm sure I missed many of its fine details and nuances.

*Aqueduct will be making this book available for sale in mid-June.

ETA: Coffee & Ink has also posted panel notes on another panel Nisi Shawl participated in, Yearning from the Threshold: Magic Realism and Diaspora Literature; the panel is moderated by Mary Anne Mohanraj, and panelists include, in addition to Nisi,  Hiromi Goto, Sheree Renée Thomas, and Ibi Aanu Zoboi.

Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the James Tiptree Jr Award

I hear that there are lots of people who, beginning their journeys home from WisCon, now find themselves in stranded travel situations, meaning they're spending hour upon hour in airports, waiting. My sympathies to you all. (This seems to happen more frequently every year, doesn't it?)

At this year's WisCon, the Tiptree Award celebrated its 20th birthday. In addition to holding the wildly popular annual auction conducted by the inimitable Ellen Klages (and this year assisted manfully by Geoff Ryman)and announcing this year's winners and Honor List as is usually done after the Guest of Honor speech(es), the Tiptree Award Motherboard threw a party. (Was it Friday night? I think so, but the days, the nights, at WisCon have rather blurred together in my memory.) The party featured not only the usual alluring refreshments to be found at WisCon parties, but also a splendid cake by Georgie Schnobrich. Matt Austern photographed the cake and graciously sent it to me:

As Pat Murphy noted before introducing Penny Hill, who chaired last year's jury, from the Tiptree Award's inception, WisCon has been key. Pat also announced that the Tiptree Motherboard had been awarded SFRA's 2011 Thomas D. Clareson Award for Distinguished Service. She said that when she and Karen Joy Fowler were making their travel arrangements, Karen had some hesitation about spending the money necessary for them to travel to Poland (where the SFRA held their annual conference this year), only to be reminded that the Tiptree Award is about "World Domination." (Originally through bake sales, granted...)

Celebrating Carol Emshwiller

A sign of just how overloaded at WisCon I was: I left behind a pair of jeans and several tee-shirts in a drawer of my hotel room (and now find myself, in Minneapolis, with few dress options). I just discovered this a few minutes ago, and am somewhat appalled. I've never done such a thing before. (I also lost my nanopod somewhere on the road between Minneapolis and Madison, last Thursday afternoon.) Mind you, I was the kind of kid who could lose mittens attached by clips to her coat sleeves. But really, I had gotten a lot better as an adult...

I'm anticipating a lot of posts in the wake of WisCon from other members of this blog. I myself have a slew of things I want to mention, some of them a few days old. I'll probably put them up a piecemeal. The first I want to mention is that it's Carol Emshwiller week at Strange Horizons. The timing of this, for me, is really lovely. WisCon featured a panel and a set of readings celebrating Carol's work (see the previous post, for Josh's photos of them); I had the pleasure of participating in the panel, as well as a breakfast with the other panelists-- Carol herself, Eileen Gunn, Karen Joy Fowler, and Pat Murphy--which primed the pump of our discussion, rather than rehearsing it. And as we've done for the last few years, Carol, Andrea Hairston, and I sat together at the Sign-Out, chatting and laughing and loving it all.

What you will find at Strange Horizons this week:

"Perfectly Herself: A discussion of the work of Carol Emshwiller" by Ursula K. Le Guin, Helen Merrick, Pat Murphy, and Gary K. Wolfe

"The Emshwillerians" by Karen Joy Fowler

"Introduction to 'After All'" by Gavin Grant

"After All" by Carol Emshwiller

L. Timmel Duchamp: The Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiller, Vol. 1

Paul Kincaid: Carmen Dog by Carol Emshwiller

Maureen Kincaid Speller: Ledoyt and Leaping Man Hill

Taxonomy of a Wiscon Photo Album II

Photos of Neat Hotel Lobby Signs:

Photos Containing Eleanor Arnason:

Photos with Even More Party Hats:

Photo 1: what places are represented at WisCon. Photo 2: an accessibility "sign." Photo 3: with Ann Keefer and an AccessCraft sign. Photo 4: with Carolyn Ives Gilman and . . . and . . . y'know, that guy? Photos 5 and 7: at the Aqueduct Press table, old friends Timmi Duchamp, Josh Lukin, Kath Wilham. Photo 6: Ann explains how things are at Temple University with Kath looking on.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Taxonomy of a Wiscon Photo Album I

Photos Containing Andrea Hairston:

Photos of Carol Emshwiller Celebrations:

Photo Taken of Mike and Rachel Swirsky:

Photo 1: with Nisi Shawl and Diane Williams. Photo 3: with Victor Raymond and, I believe, K. Tempest Bradford. Photo 4: with Pat Murphy, Eileen Gunn, Karen Joy In Our Cause Fowler, and L. Timmel Duchamp. Photo 5: with Richard Butner, Eileen, Karen, and Pat. Photo 6: with Timmi and Pat.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What democracy doesn't look like

Nothing, but nothing about Republican rule can surprise me anymore. This is the latest:

In a stunningly heartless move, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) put strings on emergency relief for the victims of the killer Joplin tornado, saying that other government services would have to be cut to offset aid spending. Yesterday afternoon, the House Appropriations Committee passed an amendment by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) to add $1 billion in funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster relief fund, offset by cutting $1.5 billion from the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program at the Department of Energy.
Though of course, because of the "This Is What Democracy Looks Like" panel I'll be moderating on Saturday, my attention is a bit more focused on Scott Walker's horror show at the moment. I recently saw this:
May 18, 2011--The Wisconsin bill stripping public workers of their collective bargaining rights garnered such huge opposition that another radical measure signed into law at the same time got less attention than it deserves. The Wisconsin Omnibus Tort Reform Act places huge "burdens on individuals who would sue businesses, which almost always enjoy a financial advantage," writes Lou Dubose in The Washington Spectator.
One of the most drastic reforms puts state records of abuse or neglect in nursing homes off limits to attorneys representing individuals suing nursing homes.

Wausau lawyer Christine Bremer Muggli [explained] that state investigations of abuse in nursing homes often begin with reports filed by aides who takes care of residents: "An aide who takes care of grandma returns from vacation and finds that grandma hasn't been rolled over for two days, or hasn't been changed for days, or has bruises on her."

The aide files a report, which by law is submitted to a state agency that follows up with an investigation. With the passage of the tort-reform bill, Wisconsin becomes the first state in the nation to deny attorneys access to state records that document abuse of their clients.

"The reports are now inadmissible as evidence," Bremer Muggli said.

Jeffrey Pitman sues nursing homes on behalf of residents who have suffered injury or neglect. He said he cannot recall a case in which he did not rely on an incident report. "Every one of my cases, I get the incident report and it has vital information not found anywhere else in a patient's medical record," Pitman said.

Restricting access to nursing home reports--opposed by AARP, the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Association, Disability Rights Wisconsin and a long list of advocacy groups--is a carve-out for an industry on the cusp of explosive growth, as baby boomers move into assisted living residences.

Incident reports have also been placed beyond the reach of the Wisconsin Department of Justice, which conducts criminal investigations and prosecutions of nursing homes and assisted living centers.

"This is payback time," Bremer Muggli said. "The governor is settling the score with trial lawyers who didn't support him. And he's taking care of his donors, the for-profit nursing home operators, especially the big ones like Kindred." (Kindred Healthcare is a Fortune 500 company that operates almost 700 health-care facilities across the United States.)*

And Mary Bottari's report on Walker's legislative moves to take the vote away from young people, old people, and African Americans from voting in the upcoming recall elections and--nifty concomitant--end public financing of elections at the same time:

The legislation would allow a narrow list of IDs for voting,  including drivers licenses and state issued ID cards. According to a 2005 UW-Milwaukee study, about 177,000 Wisconsinites aged 65 and older do not have state-issued IDs. Statewide, the percent of Wisconsin residents with a valid drivers license is 80 percent for males and 81 percent for females. For African-Americans, only 45 percent of males and 51 percent of females have a valid drivers license.

The bill makes it particularly burdensome for college students to vote, a group who overwhelmingly supported Obama in 2008. Student IDs have to be issued from an accredited public or private college, include a student's signature and have a two-year expiration date. The 182,000 thousand students in the UW system and 300,000 in state technical colleges currently do not meet this requirement.

Many analysts think the bill was implemented in a rush in order to have an impact on the Wisconsin Senate recall elections scheduled for July 12th. “Many voters will understandably be confused and will think that they cannot vote in the recall elections without the photo voter ID -- which is likely the intent of the bill's proponents,” says [Jay] Heck [of Wisconsin Common Cause].

Another Wisconsin Tradition Destroyed

Wisconsin has provided some degree of public financing for campaigns since 1977. The idea was to foster a debate over ideas, not a race for the money. As a consequence, many candidates were able to run that otherwise would never have been able to and candidates of both political parties regularly took public financing. This year, a little-known candidate named Joanne Kloppenburg was able to run for Supreme Court because of a public finance system for judicial races implemented two years ago. Kloppenburg came from behind to almost knock off a ten-year incumbent conservative Supreme Court Justice.

Perhaps this is exactly the type of democracy that the WI GOP is worried about. The money raided from the public financing system -- $1.8 million -- is insufficient to pay for the Voter ID bill, which is anticipated to cost $6 million over the next two years.

To Heck the tragedy is the destruction of another important Wisconsin tradition. “We were one of the first states in the nation to provide public financing for campaigns. We were held up as a model for the nation, passing public financing, open meetings laws, open records laws and the establishment of a state elections board and state ethics board after the Watergate scandal.”

“What the Walker administration has done in just four months, has been to unravel decades of good government and progressive reform designed to inspire citizen confidence in state government. The whole post-Watergate reform effort has been swept away in just a few months. It’s astonishing,” says Heck.
Welcome to administered reality, folks. This is what democracy doesn't look like.

Aqueduct Is En Route to WisCon!

In case you had any doubts-- perhaps because I haven't been able to scrape together the time to post about it before now-- Aqueduct Press is indeed coming to WisCon this year. We'll be arriving tomorrow. Kath is driving in from Seattle, hauling many boxes of books. She was caught in the terrible rain in Montana, though, and because a seventy-mile stretch of I-90 was closed due to flooding, has been forced to detour north, to I-94, which will make reaching Madison in good time a bit more challenging. I'm in Minneapolis right now (where I've discovered there is a street named "18 1/2 St," the first numbered street name I've ever encountered with a fraction in its name) and will be driving to Madison tomorrow with Tom. (The only books we're hauling is a carton of Never at Home, which we had shipped directly from Thomson-Shore, our printer in Michigan, so that they'd be sure to reach us in time for WisCon.)

This year you'll find Aqueduct authors and editors galore at WisCon: Eleanor Arnason, Suzy McKee Charnas, L. Timmel Duchamp, Karen Joy Fowler, Carolyn Ives Gilman, Theodora Goss, Eileen Gunn, Andrea Hairston, Lesley Hall, Liz Henry, Gwyneth Jones, Ellen Klages, Claire Light, Kristin Livdahl, Josh Lukin, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Nancy Jane Moore, Debbie Notkin, Nnedi Okorafor, Geoff Ryman, Anne Sheldon, Nisi Shawl, Rachel Swirsky, Sheree Renee Thomas, and Cynthia Ward. Nisi Shawl, of course, is the Guest of Honor, so you'll be seeing a lot of her.

In past years I've tried to list all the programming Aqueduct's authors have been scheduled for, but I just couldn't manage to do that this year. I will mention, however, readings being given by Aqueduct authors, as well as other programming that I'm involved in. Nisi Shawl will be reading at Room of One's Own on Thursday evening, and Saturday afternoon at 2:30 in Wisconsin. (Right after a panel in that room that I'll be moderating.) Carolyn Ives Gilman, Eileen Gunn, Claire Light, Mary Anne Mohanraj, and Nancy Jane Moore will be reading Sunday morning at Michelangelo's ("Blood and Chocolate: We read it and eat!). Andrea Hairston and Sheree Renee Thomas will be reading with Beyon'Dusa: Wild Wimmin Rehearsing the Impossible in Conference Room 2 on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. And immediately after Beyon'Dusa, The Aqueductistas--Eleanor Arnason, Timmi Duchamp, Ellen Klages, Kristin Livdahl, and Anne Sheldon-- will be reading in that same room. I'll be moderating "This Is What Democracy Looks Like: The Wisconsin Protests" in Wisconsin at 1 p.m. on Saturday and participating in "The Self-Reflective Revolutionary," a panel which includes Josh Lukin, at 2:30 on Saturday in Conference Room 5, and another panel at 4 p.m., with Eileen Gunn, "Happy Ninetieth Birthday Carol Emshwiller!"-- which is supposedly in Senate A, but not on the schedule. (WTF?) Another panel seems to be scheduled at the same time in the same place... Hmmm... Guess I need to look into that.

Anyway, I may be a bit stressed this year, but I'm really looking forward to seeing all my friends and acquaintances attending. WisCon may have become a bit hectic for me in the last few years, but I love it as much as I ever have.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Twenty-Five Commemorations of Joanna Russ

. . . just to have the best in one place.

Matt Cheney's is the one that comes closest to expressing my own feelings. Here's what he wrote on the subject just before and after that fine obit.

wordweaverlynn on being saved by Russ.

Cramer on being Russ's student.

Christopher Priest at The Guardian, doing a better job than

Margalit Fox's NYT piece.

Annalee Newitz's appreciation.

The Nielsen Haydens commemorate, reminisce, and find an old photo.

Professor Burt, because he's writing for the Beacon Press site, has to emphasize The Female Man; but he has things to say about the importance of Russ's other work.

Rose Fox is at a loss for words, but manages to come up with a few moving ones nonetheless.

What Arthur Hlavaty is grateful for.

Metafilter has a good entry and a good discussion thread.

Michael Swanwick on the effect of her presence in the SF field.

Nic Clarke on "her eloquent anger."

Liz Henry on why How to Suppress Women's Writing rocked her world.

John H. Stevens on the standards, tools, and possibilities Russ's work opened his eyes to.

Stephen B of Bad Reputation explains the power of Russ's work and then muses on transphobia in The Female Man; Cheryl Morgan and her commenters also think about that issue.

If you are unmoved by Timmi Duchamp's memorial, check to see whether there is something wrong with you.

Laughingrat recalls a HtSWW moment in the library.

The ever-provocative Paul Kincaid thinks about what we need to see addressed further in Russ criticism.

Debbie Notkin on first looking into The Female Man.

Aqueductistas Nancy Jane Moore and Sue Lange explain how the caliber of Russ's prose makes all the difference.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Andrea Hairston Reads & Signs Thursday at the University Bookstore in Seattle

Just a reminder for all of you who live in the Seattle metropolitan area: Andrea Hairston and Pan Morigan will be performing and signing tomorrow night at the University Bookstore at 7 p.m. I've no doubt it will be a dynamic occasion.  I will be there myself, and probably a gaggle of other writers whose work you're likely familiar with as well. So please come out for the event.

The University Bookstore is located at 4326 University Way NE. It provides free parking with even a modest purchase in the parking lot behind the store.

2010 Galyactic Spectrum Awards

Brit Mandelo has posted the 2010 Gaylactic Spectrum Awards over at Tor.com:

Best Novel Winner: The Steel Remains - Richard Morgan (Del Rey)

Best Novel Short-List:
  • Ash - Malinda Lo (Little, Brown)
  • By the Mountain Bound - Elizabeth Bear (Tor)
  • Centuries Ago and Very Fast - Rebecca Ore (Aqueduct Press)
  • The Enchantment Emporium - Tanya Huff (DAW)
  • Naamah’s Kiss - Jacqueline Carey (Grand Central)
  • Palimpsest - Catherynne Valente (Bantam Spectra)
  • The Red Tree - Caitlin Kiernan (Roc)
  • Seven for a Secret - Elizabeth Bear (Subterranean Press)
  • Strange Fortune - Josh Lanyon (Blind Eye)

Best Short Fiction Winner(s):

“The Behold of the Eye” by Hal Duncan, from Lone Star Stories. Reprinted in Wilde Stories 2009 (edited by Steve Berman).
“The Rocky Side of the Sky” by Melissa Scott, from Periphery: Erotic Lesbian Futures (edited by Lynne Jamneck).

Best Short Fiction Short-List:
  • “Angels Alone” by Carolyn Ives Gilman in Periphery: Erotic Lesbian Futures
  • “Behind the Curtain” by Joel Lane in Dark Horizons, Issue 22, reprinted in Wilde Stories 2009
  • “The Bloomsbury Nudes” by Jameson Currier in Unspeakable Horror: From the Shadows of the Closet (edited by Vince Liaguno and Chad Helder), reprinted in Wilde Stories 2009
  • “City of the Dead” by Kate Welsh in Haunted Hearths and Sapphic Shades: Lesbian Ghost Stories (edited by Catherine Lundoff)
  • “Firooz and his Brother” by Alex Jeffers in the May 2008 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction, reprinted in Wilde Stories 2009
  • “Here Lies the Last Lesbian Rental in East Vancouver” by Amber Dawn in Fist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer Desire (edited by Amber Dawn)
  • “I’m Your Violence” by Lee Thomas in Unspeakable Horror: From the Shadows of the Closet
  • “In Circles” by Aurelia T. Evans in Fist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer Desire
  • “In the Night Street Baths” by Chaz Brenchley in Lace and Blade (edited by Deborah J. Ross)
  • “One Horse Town” by Melissa Scott in Haunted Hearths and Sapphic Shades: Lesbian Ghost Stories
  • “Parts” by Kal Cobalt in Wired Hard 4 (Edited by Lauren Burka and Cecilia Tan)
  • “Remember” by Astrid Amara in Tangle (edited by Nicole Kimberling)
  • “The Succession Knoorikios Khnum” by Zachary Jernigan in Wired Hard 4
  • “Waiting Tables and Time” by Lyn McConchie in Haunted Hearths and Sapphic Shades: Lesbian Ghost Stories

Best Other Works:
  • Were the World Mine, a film by Tom Gustafson.
  • Haunted Hearths and Sapphic Shades: Lesbian Ghost Stories (edited by Catherine Lundoff)
  • Periphery: Erotic Lesbian Futures (edited by Lynne Jamneck)
  • Unspeakable Horror: From the Shadows of the Closet (edited by Vince Liaguno and Chad Helder)
  • Wilde Stories 2009 (edited by Steve Berman)

I see a couple of Aqueductistas on the short lists.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pre-Con Call: ideas, proposals, suggestions?

Alexis Lothian, who will be publishing the sixth volume of the WisCon Chronicles, has issued this pre-con call for proposals and suggestions at a Dreamwidth page she's dedicated to the volume:

I will be editing this year’s volume of The WisCon Chronicles, to be published as usual by Aqueduct Press. You can see previous years’ here: Volume One, Volume Two, Volume Three, Volume Four, and Volume Five will be coming out at WisCon 35.

Every editor chooses a theme for the book. This year’s Chronicles has a working title of “Futures of Feminism and Fandom.” I chose this partly in order to acknowledge the way that upheavals surrounding the WisCon 35 Guest of Honor (1) highlighted some conflicts and contradictions in how WisCon's feminism has been defined (and led to the con's mission being crystallized in the new Statement of Principles) and (2) demonstrated the ways fannish and activist community comes together (with online activity replacing the centrality of books and face to face gatherings for many––one reason why I’m not waiting until after the con itself to suggest people think about chronicling it).

But those events should overshadow neither the con itself (I am sure they won’t!) nor its Chronicles. After all, definitions of feminism and fandom at WisCon are always in flux. In recent years, the limitations of a feminism focused purely on gender has become ever more evident and intersectionality has moved front and center. At the same time, many of the fans that come together at WisCon are joined by a shared love not only of literary science fiction but also increasingly of media and of transformative works. And the meaning of a face-to-face con is being changed by the way fannishness increasingly assumes we live on the internet. How do all these changes affect one another and affect what WisCon means to all of us? There is always a danger, when rushing toward a new and shiny future, of leaving behind what was valuable about the past. If feminism, fandom, and WisCon are changing, what parts of our history is it most vital to hold on to?

I will be inviting lots of people to contribute at WisCon; this post is my encouragement for you to think about whether you might have something to contribute before the con begins. I’m keen to hear your ideas for reflections on the history and future of feminism, science fiction, and fandom: personal, historical, theoretical, fictional. I am also, of course, looking for accounts of panels and other events at WisCon 35. If you know you’re planning to attend a particular panel, whether or not you’re on it, and you’d like to write a report for the volume, drop me a line. I’m also interested in reflections that may not connect directly to a panel at WisCon but that may emerge from WisCon-related discussions and events in fandom; after all, the con remains significant to many people in many places for many reasons, even for those who have never attended. If WisCon’s virtual presence is important to you and you have something to say about it, I’m interested in your contribution too.

I am particularly keen to have people write about the following things:

- the ways class, disability, and other elements like religion and location intersect with gender, sexuality and race.
- forms of fannishness, on and offline. There have been panels about internet drama and social change, about how to be wrong online and about how to engage in debate; let’s have some reflection and analysis of that.
- non-western forms of media and fandom. I’m thinking particularly of anime and manga, about which there has been a good deal of discussion at WisCon, but submissions on other forms would be very welcome.
- transformative fanworks. WisCon’s vid party is in its second year and fan fiction panels are well established; what has that meant for you?

Finally, one of feminism and science fiction’s great writers and thinkers, Joanna Russ, passed away this year. Her work included early and deep engagement with intersectionality and some of the earliest printed discussions of transformative fanworks, and she was also willing to acknowledge when her earlier definitions of feminist politics had been proven wrong. This WisCon Chronicles should honor her memory, and I’d like to gather some reflections and memories about what she meant to fans.

Of course, the Chronicles can’t really be planned before the con; I look forward to all the events and discussions and ideas I can’t possibly anticipate.

If you'd like to propose a contribution, share an idea, or make a suggestion, please leave a comment here, send me a message, or email wischronicles@gmail.com.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sometimes the Only True Cure Is a Song

Ambling Along the Aqueduct readers will have noticed that Professor Hairston's recent posts, concerning the life of her delightful Redwood and Wildfire, often mention the new album by her partner, Pan Morigan. I thought it worth mentioning that the album in question is Teh Awesome.
A cellist shames the mind of war
With songs that mend what rage devours
A dreamer sails ten thousand seas . . .
As Pan notes, it's hard to find words for the genre she has synthesized out of her multifarious influences. The album comprises nine original songs, sung by Pan in collaboration with such virtuoso musicians as guitarist Ben Butler and bassist Richard Hammond [ETA: Pan also plays Appalachian dulcimer, hunter's harp, octave mandolin, flute, violin, viola, percussion, accordion, and guitars on various tracks]. The lyrics are unremittingly evocative, erotic, corporeal, philosophical, spiritual, and political.
I don't want to sing about love
Lend a forked and crooked tongue
To that old chant about how we're all one . . .
In the time it takes me
To sing this "love" thing
Another kid soldier learns
How easy it is to die
After I'd popped the album into our old Toyota's cd player on a rainy Philadelphia morning, my awestruck partner said, "Who is this? At first I thought it was Audra McDonald." Which is not a bad comparison for describing the quality of the vocals; but McDonald's albums of show tunes tend not to combine Celtic, jazz, Latin, and various Middle Eastern musical styles in quite that way. I don't think any one selection from the album could be characterized as "representative," but here's a sample:

There's a bunch of ways to buy a copy of the album: I used cdbaby. I urge readers to stop settling for lesser music and give Wild Blue a listen.
And the wind will hold you
And the moon will rock you
And the night will know you

Friday, May 13, 2011

Red and Wild on the road! (#2)

What good are the arts to poor folks?

For April Fool’s Day, Pan Morigan and I were at Winston Salem State University (WSSU), an historically black college in North Carolina.

We flew out of Massachusetts just ahead of a wintry nor’easter that threatened 6-12 inches of snow and we landed in warm southern hospitality. What a treat it was to be guests of the Provost, Brenda Allen, an old friend and colleague, and be hosted by Professor Michael Brookshaw, a long time science fiction fan and Belinda Tate, director of the Diggs Gallery, who gave us the private tour through the astonishing history of the town. At the performance/reading of Redwood and Wildfire, Pan sang out her “Simple Song” and the crowd was like an amen corner, carried away by Pan’s soaring notes.

On arrival, Pan and I were gifted with large canvas bags of goodies and the warm embraces of curious strangers. We stepped into classrooms, auditoriums, and galleries filled with bright-eyed students, dedicated teachers, and committed administrators. I’m not exaggerating. A lot was at stake for everybody. The spirit of the place was exhilarating!

I gave a paper, “Prophetic Artists: Octavia Butler and African Americans writing speculative literature,” to a lively audience of students, faculty, and community members. All were eager to hear about science fiction. Indeed as people came up to me after the talk, many came out as long-time but secret science fiction fans. They admitted to a decades old spec fiction passion and were relieved, no, THRILLED to hear that they weren’t the only geeks of color or the only upstanding academics with a serious jones for alien encounters and magical portals. It was amazing to watch these shy fans go public with their avid interest (obsession) with Science Fiction and Fantasy! I gave them a juicy list of novels to go out and buy. Everybody was happy to discover writers of color (in addition to Octavia Butler) who were putting out spec fiction books right this minute. I sold an entire box of books and Pan says she saw young women hugging them to their hearts.

But a question did hang in the air: “What good is Science Fiction to Black folks?”

Octavia Butler often got asked this as she struck out into the unknown and defined herself as a Black Feminist Science Fiction writer. This is a question many of us still get. It’s a systemic question woven into our current cultural reality. What good is SF to poor people! What good is SF to people of color? Vandana Singh spoke about this as she received the Parallax Prize at the Carl Brandon Award ceremony in January, 2011.

We refuse to be consigned to any ghetto of the mind, of the imagination.

At WSSU, one faculty member, excited by the marvelous achievements of Butler and the other writers I mentioned, challenged me and not just with what good is SF & F to black folks, poor folks, people of color, women, but what good are any of the arts to us? We know that singing and dancing and making stuff up is entertaining, but…what the heck would I say to parents who thought their child should not spend precious student hours (and hard earned money) on reading Octavia Butler or studying painting or acting, or writing spec fiction? How is trekking around the fantasy landscape or the sci-fi universe going to get us anywhere? Liberal Arts and specifically literature, theatre, and visual arts are luxuries for the elite, entertainment…How will make-believe pay the rent, put food on the table, secure our place in the world?

Several hundred eyes were on me, people who longed to make art, who hoped to express themselves, who felt anxious about their desires and hopes for time to do and experience more art. Many in the audience didn’t dare give in to artistic impulses. Many hungered for more than what was expected of their “low status group.” They chafed at the utilitarian mindset of industrial education that readied them for “survival jobs,” but not necessarily to invent the world they wanted to live in. They were pleading with me to have an answer to the class-bound, anti-art sensibility that runs through the core values of our society. Certainly they could be consumers of entertainment, but crafters of reality? What could I say?

Of course, they already had the answer. They had a passion for what art does, for what artists do, for the necessity of creative endeavors to their humanity. They just wanted fierce words for what was clear and strong in their hearts; they wanted an academic, logical argument for what was already known.

Every office at WSSU was alive with the generosity and inspiration of people fired up, on an educational, intellectual, creative quest. Pan and I fit right in with the passionate folks getting ready for whatever may come. Provost Brenda Allen had everybody trying to figure out, not just how to handle what was coming, but how to make the future we wanted! All I had to do was point that out.

“Hold up a smart phone—did you have it two years ago? Education has to be about something other than job training. Specific skill sets go obsolete in a hot second. Creative, critical minds, innovative citizens of the future, that’s the magic of education that we have to be practicing. To quote Octavia Butler:

All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
Is Change.

Is Change.

(Parable of the Sower, Octavia E. Butler)

We live in a science fictional world, right now. We need artistic insight to help us solve problems we can’t even imagine yet. We need artistic discipline and craft to write the story we would make of our lives. We need the arts to invent a reality that will sustain and challenge us. Catastrophes loom—turning this ship around requires mighty and ingenious effort. Indeed, to motivate and manifest the changes necessary for our future, we need the passion that art fills us with.”

Lost Posts and Comments

Yesterday Blogger disappeared the two most recent posts on this blog and the comments to those posts.Unlike with my website, I don't keep a mirror copy of this blog  on my hard drive. I can't get the comments back, but I have a plan for recapturing the posts themselves. We'll see.

A little reminder, for those who love the idea of "cloud" technology, of what the costs of that are likely to be.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The 2011 Locus Awards finalists

I'm amused at myself. Looking over the ballot for the 2011 Locus Awards, I first thought, There's much to be pleased about on this ballot; it includes quite a few excellent pieces of writing and not all of it by white males. No one will be surprised to hear I was particularly pleased to see Rachel Swirsky's "The Lady Who Plucked..." and Karen Joy Fowler "Booth's Ghost." But then I saw, to my surprise, that Aqueduct again has a book on the ballot, and my interest became, shall we say, personal. (Or should the correct word be professional?) Congratulations, then, to everyone who contributed to 80)! Memories & Reflections on Ursula K. Le Guin--- and of course to its editors, Karen Joy Fowler and Debbie Notkin! I note that we share the category with, among others, Mark Rich's magnum opus on Korbluth and a book of Octavia E. Butler interviews. 

Here's the complete list of nominees:

The Locus Science Fiction Foundation has announced the top five finalists in each category of the 2011 Locus Awards.
Winners will be announced during the Science Fiction Awards Weekend in Seattle WA, June 24-26, 2011. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Induction will also take place that weekend, inducting Harlan Ellison, Gardner Dozois, Moebius, and Vincent Di Fate. Tickets are still available here.

Science Fiction Novel
Fantasy Novel
First Novel
Young Adult Book
  • Bone and Jewel Creatures, Elizabeth Bear (Subterranean)
  • The Lifecycle of Software Objects, Ted Chiang (Subterranean)
  • “The Mystery Knight”’, George R.R. Martin (Warriors)
  • “Troika”, Alastair Reynolds (Godlike Machines)
  • “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window’”, Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Summer ’10)
  • “The Fool Jobs”, Joe Abercrombie (Swords & Dark Magic)
  • “The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains”, Neil Gaiman (Stories)
  • “The Mad Scientist’s Daughter”, Theodora Goss (Strange Horizons 1/18-1/25/10)
  • “Plus or Minus”, James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s 12/10)
  • “Marya and the Pirate”, Geoffrey A. Landis (Asimov’s 1/10)
Short Story
  • “Booth’s Ghost”, Karen Joy Fowler (What I Didn’t See and Other Stories)
  • “The Thing About Cassandra”, Neil Gaiman (Songs of Love and Death)
  • “Names for Water”, Kij Johnson (Asimov’s 10-11/10)
  • “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Space/Time”, Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld 8/10)
  • “The Things”, Peter Watts (Clarkesworld 1/10)
  • Analog
  • Asimov’s
  • F&SF
  • Subterranean
  • Tor.com
  • Baen
  • Night Shade Books
  • Orbit
  • Subterranean Press
  • Tor
  • Ellen Datlow
  • Gardner Dozois
  • Gordon Van Gelder
  • David G. Hartwell
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Bob Eggleton
  • Donato Giancola
  • John Picacio
  • Shaun Tan
  • Michael Whelan
Art Books