Monday, May 15, 2006

Blog spam, ick.

Blog spam, people putting spam links into the comments, in order to spam directly or to move the spam links up higher in google.

Yuck. I went through and deleted a bunch.

Spamming a dead blog, how yikky.

--went through and read some of the old comments, and noticed a few that were either new ones since the blog died, or else ones I'd forgotten. Oddly, the blog software seems to tell what time a comment was made, but not what date.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Science Fiction is Dead (or maybe just this blog)

Well, the blog seems to be dead, or at least in estivation. I think that there was something seductive about discussing fiction anonymously, and the bloggers who decided to unmask suddenly realized, hey, since everybody knows my name, why shouldn't I just post in my own personal blog?

Or something.

As for me, I've been busy with other things. And, to tell the truth, the idea of writing thoughtful, reasoned critiques of stories is a great idea, but whenever I start taking the actual time to do it, a little voice reminds me of all the other things I'm behind deadline on.

So maybe it's not wise to wake it.

In any case, most of what I've been reading recently hasn't been science fiction at all. I could comment on a couple of graphic novels, _The Rabbi's Cat_, a graphic novel by Joann Sfar,
and _One Hundred Demons_ by Lynda Barry
both of which do have sfnal content, but aren't really genre (more sui generis).

But I don't have a lot to say about them, other than that I liked them both, and wish that genre science fiction had a bit more of the raw punch of Barry, or the off-center charm of Sfar.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Comforts of Horror

The cloud cover rolled in this afternoon. I could see thundestorms to the north so heavy there wasn't a horizon. And now it's humid and the swamp cooler might as well be a fan. It's too hot to sleep, so I'm going to post this now instead of tomorrow. In the profoundly mortal words of Prince Rodgers Nelson, forgive me if this goes astray.

Last week, at the recommendation of Suzy Charnas, I picked up a copy of Chirstopher Golden's _The Boys Are Back in Town_. If y'all aren't familiar with Mr. Golden's work, he's done a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer work (including it appears some collaborations with Amber Benson) along with his own original stuff

I read The Boys in about four sittings, which given how more or less nosebleed busy things have been is actually saying something. I wasn't moved or shocked, my world wasn't changed, but it was a decent little story, well told. The horrific parts were indeed icky (morally and graphically), I wasn't sure what the resolution would be until I got there, and the parts that were supposed to be mildly titilating were mildly titilating. Everything Golden promised me, he paid off, and if he didn't promise me that he was going to redefine the horror genre, well good for him.

Looking back, the best description I have of the novel is that is was comfortable. The experience of reading it reminded me of taking a long, warm bath with one of the early Laurel Hamilton books (The Lunatic Cafe or the appropriately named Guilty Pleasures -- pretty much anything before Obsidian Butterfly, where Anita Blake and I finally parted ways.)

I was recently suprised and flattered to discover a story of mine nominated for a horror/dark fantasy award, and it got me thinking about horror. I hadn't intended to write a horror story (and I could actually argue that mine was a happy wish fulfillment story and an amelioration and softening of the real world), but it was dead fucking grim. The Boys Are Back in Town -- like the Anita Blake series -- *isn't* dead grim, though. It's moralistic and predictable and pleasant as worthy of praise as any good comfort food. And I can't even say it isn't horror. It has all the hallmarks, all the genre expectations, and it lives up to them.

I just hadn't understood the idea of a horror cozy before.

When I was younger (17, say), I went through my Harlan Ellison phase. I read everything I could get my hands on by the man, and the more profoundly disturbing it was, the more I liked it. I also watched A Clockwork Orange about a hundred times.

When I hit my mid 20s, I found my tastes had changed. I like Harlan's softer, more humane peices now. I no longer enjoy rape scenes in films. I can't watch Clockwork anymore. And I find I appreciate the occasional comfortable horror story. I don't write them and I don't aspire to, but I find something admirable in them.

Given the success of Laurell Hamilton and her army of imitators (including some dear friends of mine), I suspect the rebirth of the horror genre that we're seeing now if being fueled by that sense of the comfortable and the familiar and the safe. I don't hear about book editors seeking out the kind of cruel, edgy work we saw from early Clive Barker and recent Poppy Z. Brite.

And if I'm right, how profoundly ironic.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

On the Internet No One Knows You're a Dog

You know The New Yorker cartoon? The dog sitting at the computer, saying to another dog, 'On the internet, no one knows you're a dog.' It's my favorite New Yorker cartoon.

I was enraptured initially by the idea of posting as 'Onyx'. I mean, 'Onyx' is such a dorky, adolescent, internet kind of pseudonym. When I first started posting under pseudonym, I thought it would be a chance to disentangle my comments from my reputation, whatever that might be. And I was startled to find out people thought I was a clueless newbie. (And delighted to be addressed as Mr. Onyx.) I was aware that the traditional use of anonymity is to allow the writer to criticize without fear of reprisal, but as I started writing, I realized that I was no more ready to criticize someone when anonymous than I was when using my name. I know too many people in this field. But I wasn't ready for some of the stuff I did hear. I was startled to hear, for example, that Onyx had 'gone after' Christopher Rowe. (I heard this or read it in a couple of places. Luckily, Christopher did not appear to feel savaged.) More importantly, I just don't feel right posting critique without owning up to it. So I pretty much vowed that I wouldn't say anything as 'Onyx' that I wouldn't say under my own name.

I always suspected that anonymity wouldn't last. Too many people are in the Cabal and conspiracies, even light-hearted ones, don't hold up for long.

But I was naively unaware of how the pseudonyms would becomes such a lightning rod. And it I didn't anticipate sending 'Onyx' emails to people I knew, pretending not to know them, or even weirder, listening to people talk about Onyx while I was there, and they were unaware of who I was. And it never occurred to me (although it is obvious in retrospect) that people would assume we have a united agenda. I knew we didn't have a united agenda. (Of course people assumed we were united. And had an agenda. We're a Cabal for God's sake.) Well, we don't have a united agenda. I have a lot to say about why we should write novels and stories exploring gender. I write novels and stories exploring gender. Although I'm pleased to discuss what's valuable about that. (Okay, not a lot. Literature is not without importance, but it's also not terrifically important. On Maslow's hierarchy of needs it comes way after food, water, security, all that good stuff. But that's another post.) In retrospect, I really should have suspected the result, but I guess I wasn't even remotely prepared for it. I wasn't even sure anyone would find us.

Mostly I had real reservations about posting as 'Onyx'. It seemed dishonest. So much so that I promised myself that I would out myself if someone asked me to or if it even seemed to be obscuring a conversation. So I did (although my unmasking was inevitable considering that immediately afterwards I screwed up sending an email and sent it out under my regular address. That's me, Maureen McHugh,, although I'll get your emails at keymaster, too.) I'm told that my identity is common knowledge in much of the blogosphere.

I am officially throwing off my mask and cape and coming out of the shadows. I'm not going to expose the rest of my fellow cabalists and actually like the idea that they are still cloaked, if only for the sake of the betting pool. (Okay, partly because I can't always remember who is who.) I'm going to keep posting as Onyx, but I'll update my profile to reflect who I am.

But I'm sure glad to come clean.

Thursday, June 30, 2005


The ballot is over on the sidebar -->

Express your opinion! What's the state of SF today?

Anonymity and Pseudonymity

To my surprise, people have been discussing the Dark Cabal in blogs here and there, and the discussion is mostly about-- anonymity.
People seem to be mostly against it.
I'd rather discuss fiction, but since far too many of the discussions here end up with people commenting on anonymity, if I put it in a separate topic, at least we will have a rightful place for the discussion.
My thinking on the subject has very much evolved. The anonymous thing did seem sort of silly to me, at first. My initial thought was, what the hell, I'll go along, but I didn't really make much of an attempt to conceal my identity.
Now that the cabal is in motion, I am seeing that there are practical advantages to anonymity. I think that maybe the secret masters of the cabal really did have some clue.
Onyx posted, right up at the beginning, one motive: Onyx doesn't want to be sent books with the hope (by the sender) that the book might be talked up (or-- worse-- that the sender might be fishing for a Nebula recommendation).
Well, we all have reasons-- probably, we all have different reasons. That one doesn't ring my chimes.
I'm just about the opposite: I love books, and getting free books in the mail sounds like Christmas to me. Great, bring 'em on, send me more!
(but, chances are something like one in a million that I'd end up writing about it here, or rec it for a Nebula. My "To read" stack right now is about nine feet high, and my reading tastes are peculiar.)
I've noticed other advantages, though, to being pseudonymous. It does give some amount of unexpected freedom. Primarily, I am realizing that in normal life I self-censor a lot. Yes, that's right, I worry what people think about me. Yeah, I'm sure you're so high-minded, you never worry about what people think. Sure. So call me a coward.
Pseudonymously, I don't have to worry about what a friend might think if I write something less than glowing about his/her work. And editors, as well. Editors do read, and if I decide to dis a particular publication, or an editor's tastes, or publisher, well, under my own name I'd think twice about that. I might be trying to sell to that editor next month, and I'd probably think better of it, even if they deserve it.
Conversely, I don't have to worry that people are going to think I'm trying to suck up if I write a glowing review about a work, or about an editor.
As a psudonymous persona, I don't have to worry about expressing a controversial opinion. I don't have to worry that if people going to think I'm a Philistine if I criticize a writer who seems to be regarded as a god in the field (but whose fiction I find unreadable). I can express controversial political opinions, if I want, and not worry that people will think me a Neanderthal, nor weak-livered liberal scum. I can even express opinions that might get me fired at work, if that's what I happen to be thinking.
Overall, I have a lot of more freedom to write what I'm thinking, and not worry what other people are going to think of me.

Been Peek posted in his blog Livejournal posted a comment from the film director Paul Schrader when a member from the audience asked him why he didn't critique film any more. His reply: " You can't be a filmmaker and a critic at the same time. To fulfill either task, you have to be in the position where you're not worried about upsetting anyone.
So, those were my reasons for continuing to post pseudonymously. Maybe next week I'll think differently, and you won't see me around. Maybe you'll start seeing my real name (Kurt Vonnegut) posting here, and people will say, "what ever happened to that guy Johnny Dark, used to post here?"
If those reasons don't make sense, well, here's an alternate reason for anonymity.
We're setting up a cabal; a secret society, and if we're going to have a secret cabal, let's do it right, damn it! What kind of self-respecting secret society would it be if everybody knew who we are-- not a very secret one, now, is it? If we're going to have a cabal, masks and portentous names are de rigueur.
So there.
So, I'll say, fuck 'em if they can't take a joke. This is a spot where we came together to discuss fiction pseudonymously. If pseudonymity bothers people, they should have gone somewhere else, like here or here or here

I've been using the words anonymous and pseudonymous without a whole lot of distinction so far. As a final note, let me advocate for pseudonymity over anonymity. In some of the threads here, people have been taking advantage of the ability to post anonymously, with some degree of resulting confusion: one person made a reply directed at somebody who was posting as "anonymous," which was responded to by a different person who was posting as "anonymous," and both were somewhat confused with yet another person posting as "anonymous" -- purely for the sake of following the discussion, there's an advantage in using the "other" option to post-- you don't need to use your real name, but it's helpful if you do use a name.

P.S. My real name is not really Kurt Vonnegut. (It's John Updike.)
P.P.S. OK, it's really not John Updike either.

More Reading

A couple of stories from Strange Horizons .

Happily Ever Awhile by Ruth Nestvold. Nice, well written (and don’t I just hate those comments that start out “nice, well written, but…”) But…I felt like I’d read it before. It’s an “after the fairy tale,” when Ella (of Cinder fame) discovers that married life isn’t quite as blissful as it was made out to be. It doesn’t have a tragic ending, but rather kind of a quiet ending of domestic acceptance. Still…Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” covered this ground. And I feel like I’ve been reading this kind of story for ages.

Pursued by a Bear by Hannah Wolf Bowen is wonderful for its sensory detail: “…the furnace of her breath and the chalkboard scrape of tooth on bone.” *shiver* It’s the story of Joss, who has survived a bear attack, and who turns out to be the last man to be attacked by a wild bear. This is a future where the “wild” has been taken out of the wilderness in order to make it safe—no more wild bears, moose, etc. “Pursued by a Bear” is a lovely, bittersweet portrait. But it isn’t a story, I think. No arc, no build up, no moment of "ah-hah!" That I expect those things may make me terribly conventional. But when those things are missing, I end up thinking, "Hm, how nice," and nothing more.

By chance, as I’m writing this there’s a report on the radio about the investigation into the mauling of Roy Horn (of Siegfried and Roy) by a tiger.