Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Book: A Fictional History of the United States (with big chunks missing) By T Cooper and Adam Mansbach (editors)

I got this book because my friend Paul LaFarge had a piece in it. Plus, playing with history appeals to me. Unfortunately, few of the stories in the book really play with history. They're mostly a series of (a)historical fictions masquerading as metahistory, or critical history.

Paul's stands out as the one real alternate take on the history. He muses on the "discovery" of America. It was possibly the Icelanders, or the Danes, or the Chinese. Or maybe the Libyans.

The other stories in the book vary pretty drastically in tone and quality. Standouts are Alexander Chee's explanation for how many Native Americans were actually descendants of Chinese explorers is one particularly good one, as is Kate Bornstein's tale of Huck Finn as a transvestite prostitute.

Overall, though, neither the critique of history it sets out to be, nor as entertaining as a well-done satire could have been.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book: Reappraisals by Tony Judt

A collection of reviews and essays by someone I've never read before.

Interspersed among biographical sketches of various postwar Jewish intellectuals are a few essays of real interest. His takes on Belgium: that most of its citizens' allegiances are to their subregion (starting at Wallonian/Flandrian and devolving from there) rather than the nation; and Israel: that the Yom Kippur war was the moment at which Israel started down the path of international pariah.

He seems to claim to a hope that Liberals can anchor the left end of the political spectrum without the center shifting drastically rightward seem badly out of date, however.

He does throw down a deliciously nasty assault on Althusser, though.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Book: Muse and Reverie by Charles De Lint

De Lint is possibly my favorite of the "urban fantasy" (meaning fantasy set in contemporary times) authors.

This collection, set in Newford, his main universe, has its moments, but would be a poor entry into his work. De Lint also has the unfortunate tendency to belabor his stories with a moral.

Book: Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente

One of the Hugo nominees I had not read.

The fascinating story of a communicable disease, sort of. People are afflicted (?) with a map of a fragment of a city (known as Palimpsest)in a parallel dimension (or in another world, or something) as a mark on their skin. The map is a sexually-transmitted disease. But everyone has a different fragment of the city. When you fall asleep after having sex with someone with a map, you enter the city in your dreams. But the things that happen to you there (like losing fingers) have an effect in the "real" world.

When you first enter the city, you're grouped with 3 other people. You can only enter the city permanently by finding the other three in the real world.

The way people deal in the everyday world with the effects of the disease is quite interesting. Palimpsest is drawn mostly in fragments (perhaps echoing the marks on the characters' skin).

One rare element is man-on-man sex. Tastefully drawn, to be sure, but much more rare, in general, than its lesbian counterpart (which also appears).

Book: Skin Tight by Carl Hiaasen

Early Hiaasen, with all the stuff that makes him great.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Five dollar friday: Chaos Royale

I like the idea of A Tiny Revolution's Five Dollar Friday. Each Friday, I'll donate $5 to someone creating stuff and giving it away on the internet.

This week's donation: Chaos Royale. A guy, or group, or something who creates really grimy, loud, thrashful dancy-type stuff. It's music from a really scary future. It makes my head explode, in a good way.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Film: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

This movie had some fucked-up stuff going on. And I could have lived without the last 45 seconds. But definitely worth seeing.

Spoilers below:

Funding fun

Some guy at some website proposes spending $5 every friday by giving it to someone who's doing something interesting (or worthwhile) and giving it away for free. Sounds like a great idea. I'll give it a try!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Book: Sound of Water by Sanjay Bahadur

A mining accident in India through the eyes of several different people, none of them much likable.

The author's a former mining bureaucrat, and it shows. 

Saturn's Children by Charles Stross

Humanity's extinct. The solar system's populated by its creations and their descendants. (Robots, in other words)

A great universe. The story's somewhat confusing, but certainly entertaining.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Musicals and sf

Great post by Hal Duncan at Charlie STorss's site about how he wrote a musical. And about how he wrote a screenplay, because, as he says,
the main reason I wrote it is because "gay kid" and "high school movie" don't mix in Hollywood. (I know this for a fact cause if you Google those strings the top hit is a post on my blog -- not an IMDB entry or a proper review, but a post on my fucking blog -- and I know how low my traffic is. But that's another rant.) Every last scrap of sanity in me says that trying to sell such a project is an act of utter folly. But fuck it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Book: Metatropolis edited by John Scalzi

A group of five novellas (novelettes?) set in a shared, post-peak oil world.

This collection was initially released as an audiobook, I think. Not sure it makes a difference, though.

The works explore the future of cities after the end of expanding capitalism. Right down my alley, for sure. What do you do with skyscrapers when the concentration of labor's no longer required?

There's a lot of casting about for alternative economic and physical structures.