Subpopular lips

A few years back, when Christopher Rowe and Gwenda Bond were starting up their question themed zine “Say…” they asked a bunch of writers to respond to the first issue’s question, “Was that a Kiss?” I wrote a story called “Lips” and it was the anchor story for the issue. The story is my homage to Shelley Jackson’s incredible collection The Melancholy of Anatomy, stories told from the point of view of various body parts or systems or products of the body. I have nowhere near the writing ability of Shelley Jackson, but I was so high on that collection when I first read. Soon after the high wore off, I became a little pouty that there had not been a story for lips in the collection, as lips are a favorite body part of mine. So I wrote that story instead. If you missed it in “Say…was that a kiss?” you can read it now on Steven Andrew’s Subpopular.com (best viewed with Firefox instead of IE), a new website documenting the Youngstown arts scene. If you scroll down the page a bit, you’ll see “Lips” is the special feature right now. Check it out. I really like Steven Andrew’s aesthetic sense for website design as well, so click around in there and see what’s to be seen going on all here, twenty-four hours a day seven days a week in the good old Yo of Ohio.

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Interfictions give-away

Small Beer Press is giving away some free copies of the new Interfictions anthology, but the free copies are limited, and here’s the way you get one for free:  reply fast to his post on the Small Beer “Not a Journal” website, review the book online or in print, interview one of the authors in the anthology (I think my schedule is open, ahhh yes, I see it is, I can pencil you in, if this is your chosen manner of acquiring free books), or point Gavin and Kelly at Small Beer Press towards art that you think is interstitial (again, use the comments on their journal for that).

Better yet, go over there yourself and read the post.  The anthology is really beautiful, and there are some incredibly interesting stories in it.  One of the things I love about this anthology is that the editors asked writers to show them what we think of as interstitial fiction, and so really the entire anthology is an opportunity to witness so many variations on the concept of fiction that exists in some way, shape or form in the spaces in between traditional categories of reading protocols and aesthetics.  Not one story is like another, and that is a really good thing for the reader who buys it (or snags one for free). 

A real writer

desk.jpgI have been working at one of those put-it-together-yourself shoddy desks since I moved into my apartment last summer, because it was cheap and I needed to use my money for things that were more essential at the time.  But writer friends sometimes talk about their desks and I’ve always felt like I wasn’t a real writer because my desk totally sucked.  Today I got a really great desk and chair that I’d desk-set.jpgbeen eyeing for the past few months, waiting for it to go clearance (because I am a total bargain shopper of nice quality things).  I have about four times the desktop space now, and on top of that it looks really nice.  I am pleased.  With this desk and chair I can now brag about my desk like a real writer. 

Beginnings and endings

I came across this really good interview with my city’s mayor (click on the February 8th Smart City radio interview under the Broadcasts section), talking about the history of Youngstown and the current situation here, as the community attempts to restructure and revitalize after decades of economic and political disintegration.  It’s a very different story here than what the traditional narrative of American cities tells, but it’s not that unheard of either.  Cities that have suffered disaster, both man-made and natural, are dealing with this same scenario:  Detroit, St. Louis, New Orleans.  Despite the economic condition of a city like Youngstown being so bad, though, right now I’ve never lived anywhere before surrounded by so many creatively stimulate and stimulating people.  It’s a beginning, but that’s better than an end.

Something Awful

Bob Mackey is funny.  He’s a local internet writer who just graduated from Youngstown State University and will be heading off to graduate school this fall.  In this piece, the world of temping and the world of Youngstown buildings that haven’t been kept up meet and marry like an internet version of Kafka.  Call it The Castle Lite.

There is both a satisfying and depressing quality to quitting your job because it’s too boring. It’s satisfying because you live in an age and place where this is possible, and depressing for the same reason. Sure, infants in Bangladesh often get their hands torn off by the giant weaving robots they assist in making Old Navy sweaters, not complaining to anyone for fear they will lose their precious pond water money. But me? YAWWN. *smacks lips* My job is boring. Sitting in a comfortable chair for eight hours a day is more strenuous than the anguish of all Chinese railroad workers combined. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that this hellish existence is similar to Orwell’s 1984, except with a new date indicating the future!

Make sure to read the whole thing.  The last page has a wonderfully funny dialogue.  I wish I could just think Bob is making this stuff up, but unfortunately there are also pictures linked (again in the last page) and also I have temped in years past and come across many of these same creatures he describes.

From a previous notebook

journalI’ve had several “journals” online and one that was short-lived but managed to capture in the two months I used it an interesting turning point in my life (at least looking back on it retrospectively) was the one I kept at Journalscape.  On a whim, looking back through that small pile of posts tonight, I came across an entry I wrote about taking part in an online interview with A.S. Byatt that was open to the public to ask her questions at the time.  Something she said in her interview that I find provocative and interesting now is this:

American editors speak of some imaginary person, The American Reader, who will not understand things. I have formed the view that they are speaking of somebody who would never buy books anyway. America is full of readers of all different sorts who love books in many different ways, and I keep meeting them. And I think editors should look after them, and make less effort to please people who don’t actually like books. 

I think there’s truth in this, but I don’t think it’s just America.  I know of books that don’t get printed in England because the editors don’t think the readers in England will be interested enough in this subject or that subject, or whether or not the writer is English, etc.  But I do think the comment is in a spirit of truth essentially. I sometimes think corporate capitalism manifests itself in different ways depending on the industry, and in the publishing industry I think it tends to make up a largely arbitrary template of “what sells” then creates a sort of totalitarian fiction that this is the “only thing that sells” and sets many editors and publishers on a sort of search for the Holy Grail of that template, which leads to a sort of tunnel vision that excludes a lot of books with amazing potential that don’t fit the template at all, mostly because they would require a completely different sort of approach to marketing, and this is probably considered “inefficient”. 

But these are my intuitive thoughts on this subject and could be completely wrong. 

Talk about something coming back to haunt

Reading this story from the New York Times about the woman who resigned from her dean of admissions post at M.I.T. after it was leaked by someone she never received a Bachelor’s Degree oh, about thirty years ago, which is required for her job, and which she seemed to have lied about having years ago, made me think it’s a realist novel concerning the gray area of situations like this one waiting to happen, trying to tackle workplace ethics in relation to someone who seems to have also done a whole lot of good, if those quoted can be assumed to be valid.

My daemon

I think WordPress won’t allow me to embed the visual results for my Golden Compass daemon quiz results for some reason, so instead, you can find my results here, if you like these sorts of things. Actually, the site will ask you to rate the results of my quiz, and if people perceive me differently than how I answered, my daemon can change into a different one, just like the daemons in the series can as a child grows up, before their final character is molded. So rate it. I’d love to see if my own ideas of myself are different from how I’m perceived. Call my kooky, but I’m going to head over to Gwenda’s place right now and see if my idea of her will change her daemon.  I guess it’s one of those wild and crazy nights in Youngstown. It’s a really beautifully designed quiz and website for the movie coming out this December. I’m excited to see it. Yay for fantasy movies!

Advice we should take now, too

Gwyneth Jones is so smart:

Much of the science-fiction establishment hated the cyberpunks. Science fiction was supposed to be about progress, and how advances in technology will inevitably create a better world. But they were right, and the truth they told is highly relevant to this new century of sci-fi come true. If a child is told at the age of five that he has the cognitive scan of a delinquent, there’s a very strong chance that he’ll fulfil that prediction, especially if he continues to be singled out. Our gadgets are just like our children. They have the potential to be marvellous, to surpass all expectations. But children (and robots) don’t grow up intelligent, affectionate, helpful and good-willed all by themselves. They need to be nurtured. The technology, however fantastic, is neutral. It’s up to us to decide whether that dazzling new robot brain powers a caring hand, or a speedy fist highly accurate at throwing grenades.