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Progressive Fiction

April 3rd, 2015

(what is it good for? pissing people off
making pissed off people feel better)

I have an idea for a journal of environmental justice fiction. Will I follow through with it? Time will tell, wiser heads will tell against it. Tentative title, Reckoning: a word that means variously figuring out where one is, charting a course ahead, and settling accounts for decisions made in getting here. Also a Grateful Dead reference.

When I awoke, the Dire Wolf
Six hundred pounds of sin
Was grinning at my window
All I said was “come on in”

Environmental justice? It’s where social justice and climate/environmental activism intersect. Indigenous peoples comprise only 6% of the world’s population and contribute basically not at all to climate change but suffer its effects in absurd disproportion; they also do an absurd disproportion of the work to try to stop it. Among industrialized peoples, meanwhile, access to natural resources tends to be a privilege of the rich, polarizing the demographics of climate activism over the long term–another devastating effect of institutional oppression. I grew up hiking, camping, traveling to national parks; I love nature and want to protect it. I grew up with limited access to people of other cultures and backgrounds; I had trouble understanding everything that meant, and I have to work at it constantly.

Indigenous protesters at Iximche on the eve of 13 Baktun
Indigenous protesters at Iximche on the eve of 13 Baktun

More and more, environmental justice seems to me the best way to come at climate activism, because it’s about people. People are part of nature, it’s meaningless without them, people will make or break it.

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   Environmentalism, Monumental Metaphor, Reading, Science Fiction | 10 Comments »

LCRW 33 Submissions Open

March 1st, 2015

I hereby declare submissions for my special guest-edited issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet officially open, now through 11:59 PM on Tuesday, March 31st.

Submission Guidelines are as follows:

  1. Read an issue of LCRW. Any issue.
  2. Pay attention to the world around you.
  3. Write a story (not to exceed 10,000 words), a poem (not to exceed 2000 lines), an essay (not to exceed 10,000 words) or a comic (black and white only please) addressing humanity’s relationship with nature.
  4. Format it in standard manuscript format (unless it’s a comic), save it as an RTF or Word DOC (JPEG if it’s a comic), and send it to me as an email attachment at lcrw33submissions@gmail.com.

Response time will be less than two months. Payment will be on publication, $25 per story, essay or comic, $5 per poem. No reprints, please.

The issue will be out in July 2015.

If there’s anything I haven’t covered, please ask questions in the comments.

Thank you!

   LCRW 33 | 1 Comment »

In the Deep Snow

February 12th, 2015

In the deep snow, deer can sink in past their bellies. So rather than walking, sometimes it’s easier for them to get around by a series of leaps. After more snow falls and fills in the marks of the deer’s hooves, the tracks of these leaps–impressions of the deer’s body stretching through the woods in a line–look almost exactly like the footprints of an enormous, snow-shoed man running across the frozen landscape with a twelve-foot stride.

Then, in places where the snow hasn’t drifted quite so deep, the deer switch back to walking, and it looks like the enormous, snow-shoed man has shapeshifted into deer form.

Wendigo?

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

   Winter | No Comments »

Hav of the Myrmidons

February 9th, 2015

I did what Tolstoy did, and jumped out of the train when it stopped in the evening at the old frontier.

When I first read Last Letters from Hav ten years ago, its sequel, Hav of the Myrmidons, had already come out, but I had no idea because I was reading the original edition with the badass expressionist cover from 1985.

hav006

I loved it for the setting, for the incredibly complex worldbuilding, for the conceit of a fantastic city disguised as a real one. Hav itself was the product of thousands of years of real history; Last Letters from Hav was the product of decades Morris spent traveling and writing about real places, real people. And my god, the prose.

At the time I was desperate to find examples of a literary tradition that didn’t conform to “the rules”; I knew that was the kind of fiction I wanted to write, but hadn’t a clue yet what I’d gotten myself into. Last Letters from Hav was everything I’d been looking for: a novel drenched in character and setting, profound in a way I could appreciate but failed to fully grasp, all hanging on the barest implication of plot, an unspoken question to which the text forms only a part of an answer, the balance of which the reader only slowly becomes able to discern by the shape of the holes.

In the intervening years, I would discover Borges, Bulgakov, Calvino, Kelly Link, Angélica Gorodischer, Miguel Ángel Asturias and countless others unto reading bliss. Hav was a stepping stone on my way to all that. But because it was among the first stones, on first read, there were entire populations of subtexts that went right over my head. For example, it was only on second read–blasphemy of blasphemies–that I realized Last Letters from Hav may well be the purest exemplar of that chimera I raved about to such excess back around 2009, the Borgesian novel. Hav is a city built atop a labyrinth; Last Letters from Hav is the labyrinth the traversal of which provides our only means of comprehending that city. The only means, that is, until we find Hav of the Myrmidons.

Ten years later, I finally went out and got the omnibus edition titled Hav, the one with the cover featuring the almost photographic image of the burning House of the Chinese Master. I’d waited this long, and approached it now only with trepidation, because of the dread which accompanies my approach to all sequels: will it stand up to the original, or will its lesser joys only tarnish the memory of its predecessor? Was it written because the author really had something further to say, or because she’d caved under market pressures? I think of Harper Lee.

But even if the sequel’s terrible, I rationalized, it’ll give me an excuse to reread the original, and to give away my old copy and start someone else on this journey.

hav003

The sequel is by no means terrible. It is, heartbreakingly, a different book entirely, which of course is what all sequels must be. And yet, as it cruelly crosses out question after exquisite question left me by Last Letters, as it perfunctorily, exhaustively, mercilessly answers, and in answering destroys, each beautiful, hitherto unfathomable mystery of the old Hav, raising sterilized, Disnified corporate monuments from their ruins, it also raises new questions–darker questions, not so beautiful maybe but just as complex, more honest, more true to the world of which both the old Hav and its distorted modern reflection are themselves reflections, and therefore all the more pressing.

In fact, as I write this I’m realizing that Hav of the Myrmidons is an incredibly apt metaphor for that very process of engaging with sequels I described above, as it is for the process of aging, of losing the idealism of youth, gaining new perspective, nostalgia for that youth but also the recognition that it served its purpose and is irretrievably gone. Hav of the Myrmidons depicts a more cynical, more coldly practical, more efficient city, and the labyrinth that city describes leads to questions we would be irresponsible not to face.

If you’re like me, if you loved Last Letters from Hav and have hesitated, for fear of shattering the mirage it created, to seek out its sequel, let me encourage you to do so. It’s worth reading. In fact, I might even call it essential.

Novels arise out of the shortcomings of history.

–Novalis

   Monumental Metaphor, Reading, Travel | No Comments »

ConFusion Schedule

January 9th, 2015

Here’s my panel schedule for ConFusion 2015.

Researching the Imaginary Saturday 11AM, Dearborn
Sarah Gibbons, Jen Talley, Michael DeLuca, Brigid Collins, Courtney Allison Moulton
How do we research things that don’t exist? Librarians and writers share their tips and tricks.

Storytelling Beyond the Novel Saturday 12PM, Rotunda
Tom Doyle, Michael DeLuca, Christine Purcell, James Frederick Leach, Bradley P. Beaulieu
Looking beyond the three-act structured novel, beyond standard English, and beyond the U.S., what are other forms and traditions of storytelling? How do they get adapted, incorporated, and added to the canon?

Beer, Brewing and Books Saturday 8PM, Rotunda
Steve Drew, Michael J. DeLuca, Scott H. Andrews, James Frederik Leach, Douglas Hulick
Beer in fiction. You read it. You want to drink it. Let’s talk about fictional brews, real brews, and why no one in science fiction/fantasy drinks Bud Light.

Rustbelt Dystopias Sunday 2PM, Southfield
Michael J. DeLuca, Christine Purcell, M.H. Mead, Cherie Priest
Dystopian novels seem to like our beloved rustbelt cities as settings. Perhaps it’s easier to imagine a future dystopia in Detroit than it is in San Diego, sure. The fall of the rustbelt industries may also be useful as a warning… this, too, could happen to you…

   News | No Comments »

I Guest Edit an LCRW

January 2nd, 2015

Not without butterflies, I have agreed to guest-edit a bonus issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.

not this one

not this one

There will be a submission window: the month of March 2015. Submissions will be by email: (lcrw33submissions (at) gmail.com). Payment and terms will be as-normal for LCRW. There will be a theme: humanity’s relationship with the earth. I hope we can squeeze some optimism in there, a little practicality. Aesthetic and tone will otherwise cleave as closely to that of a regular LCRW issue as I know how to make them. There will be short fiction, there will be poetry, there will nonfiction. If I’m very lucky there may be black and white artwork or even a comic. When you’re done reading, maybe you’ll be able to bury it, add water and grow perennial vegetables. Or a magic beanstalk. Who knows.

Lady Churchill’s Roseate Weathervane, we’ll call it. Maybe. Further details to follow (or, feel encouraged to ask questions below). In the meantime, take a few months and try to come up with something, won’t you?

Need inspiration? Try one of these: Grist, Next Nature, Modern Farmer, Low Tech Magazine, Engine Summer, Swamplandia!, Changes in the Land, Sherwood Nation, Men of Maize, The Farmer’s Almanac, Silent Spring, Max D. Standley, Earth A New Wild, etc, etc, more tk.

   LCRW 33 | 27 Comments »

De Quincey

December 28th, 2014

Homer is, I think, rightly reputed to have known the virtues of opium.

–Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium Eater

Finally the moment has arrived for me to appreciate De Quincey. I’ve waited years, I’ve namedropped him in stories, I’ve wondered what it was Borges saw in him. But I stayed away until now, when a narrative about the pathologies of addiction carries lessons I’m actually ready to taken in. Serendipity. Fate. The grinding of the great wheels.

De Quincey is a windbag. The book is blissfully short and would be shorter if not for caveats, preambles and convoluted ex-chronological asides. And I’m reading the 1821 original, not the 1856 revision where from even further illusionarily objective remove he added yet more windbaggery. Still, I now completely understand Borges’s fascination. Because De Quincey’s mind–thanks in no small part, no doubt, to the opiates–is a labyrinth.

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   Dreams, Hedonism, Monumental Metaphor, Reading | No Comments »

Nemophilist

December 15th, 2014

ne•moph•i•list
n. One who is fond of forests or forest scenery; a haunter of the woods.

   Quotes | 2 Comments »

Mushrooms 2014

October 13th, 2014

It was getting a little echoey in here, so here’s some pictures of wild mushrooms I ate this summer–yes, only the ones I actually ate. Otherwise we’d be here all night.

Chanterelle

July: Chanterelle, Cantharellus cibarius. My reliable, abundant, delicious mainstay. I ate it on pizza, in lasagna, in omelette, and I still have some left in the freezer.

IMG_1092

August: Chicken aka sulphur shelf mushroom, Laetiporus sulphureus. On sandwiches and in stew. Does not really taste like chicken. More like a firm, slightly crumbly mushroom.

IMG_1096

August: Honey mushroom, Armillarea mellea. I ate these raw, actually, which you are strictly not supposed to do. I was fine, but don’t go letting that be a lesson to you.

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September: Painted suillius, Suillius pictus. An old favorite, abundant in season back in Massachusetts, few and far between here in Michigan. This made me happy. I sauteed it with olive oil, balsamic, swiss chard, garlic, jalapeño and the below.

IMG_1274

September: Pear-shaped puffball, Lycoperdon pyriforme. New for me, found on a very old, dead oak positively overrun with fungi. Really tasty sauteed with the above. When very young, as these were, they have a heavenly soft marshmallowy inner texture just like the giant puffball, but with outer skin much less tough.

Maybe I’ll get a few more under my belt if global warming obliges and October remains warm and wet.

   Fungi | No Comments »

Gene Wolfe

August 13th, 2014

All of us from that time grew up with the feeling that you shouldn’t waste anything: you don’t waste rags, because rags can be useful.

–Gene Wolfe on the Depression, from this excellent interview shared with me by Justin Howe, reader of everything. Not a new sentiment–my grandparents were living evidence of this–but a universal one. Perennial. I can only hope the kids of the next generation grow up with this inscribed on their hearts/souls/skulls. Those of the current one certainly didn’t. Lately it seems chances are high it’s going to kill us.

   Angry, Environmentalism, HM | No Comments »