What I’ve been doing

I’m busy grading final essays for the semester, doing lots of landscaping work on my yard, and getting ready to write a short story, but when I return there will be lots of photos of kittens, a beautiful garden-like yard, treats sent to me recently from Japan, Japanese food I’ve been making, and a bunch of other cool things. For now, I’m off to complete more tasks, though. Spring has sprung in full, and it is lovely to be outside in it.

Let them entertain you

An excerpt from the first essay in Michael Chabon’s new book of essays, Maps and Legends, which is a gorgeous book. It has three covers of varying sizes and colors, overlapping one another to make a sum that is greater than its three parts. Those people at McSweeneys know how to put together a beautiful looking book. The essays are wonderfully written, literate and entertaining on a number of subjects, but in particular they consider an issue of entertainment in literature, the value of entertainment, what it means, and how it’s become something “serious” people (which I think is a nice way of not naming the sort of reader he’s referring to) look down upon in writing, which could in fact be why so few people seem to be reading these days, if that recent poll is right: 1 in 4 Americans didn’t read a single book last year. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the value of books that entertain as well as those that enlighten. I think books can do both at the same time, and probably should.

Entertainment has a bad name. Serious people learn to mistrust and even to revile it. The word wears spandex, pasties, a leisure suit studded with blinking lights. It gives off a whiff of Coppertone and dripping Creamsicle, the fake-butter miasma of a movie-house lobby, of karaoke and Jägermeister, Jerry Bruckheimer movies, a “Street Fighter” machine grunting solipsistically in a corner of an ice-rink arcade. Entertainment trades in cliché and product placement. It engages regions of the brain far from the centers of discernment, critical thinking, ontological speculation. It skirts the black heart of life and drowns life’s lambency in a halogen glare. Intelligent people must keep a certain distance from its productions. They must handle the things that entertain them with gloves of irony and postmodern tongs. Entertainment, in short, means junk, and too much junk is bad for you — bad for your heart, your arteries, your mind, your soul.

But maybe these intelligent and serious people, my faithful straw men, are wrong. Maybe the reason for the junkiness of so much of what pretends to entertain us is that we have accepted — indeed, we have helped to articulate — such a narrow, debased concept of entertainment. The brain is an organ of entertainment, sensitive at any depth and over a wide spectrum. But we have learned to mistrust and despise our human aptitude for being entertained, and in that sense we get the entertainment we deserve.

You can read the rest of the excerpt by clicking here.

Locus Award Nominees

It’s been brought to my attention that my novel One for Sorrow has made it onto the list of finalists for Best First Novel in the Locus Awards this year (thanks Rick and John!).  Very excited, of course, especially to be named among that list of other first-time novelists.  Congratulations to everyone in all the categories.

Locus Awards Finalists

Voting in this year’s Locus Poll and Survey has closed. Winners will be announced in June at the Locus Awards Ceremony in Seattle, June 21st.

Here are the finalists — the top five ranking items — in each category, listed here alphabetically by title, then by nominee.

The Accidental Time Machine, Joe Haldeman (Ace)
Brasyl, Ian McDonald (Pyr)
Halting State, Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit UK)
Spook Country, William Gibson (Putnam; Viking UK)
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Michael Chabon (HarperCollins)
Endless Things, John Crowley (Small Beer Press; Overlook)
Making Money, Terry Pratchett (Doubleday UK; HarperCollins)
Pirate Freedom, Gene Wolfe (Tor)
Territory, Emma Bull (Tor)
Ysabel, Guy Gavriel Kay (Viking Canada; Roc)
Extras, Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse; Simon & Schuster UK)
The H-Bomb Girl, Stephen Baxter (Faber & Faber)
Magic’s Child, Justine Larbalestier (Razorbill)
Powers, Ursula K. Le Guin (Harcourt; Gollancz)
Un Lun Dun, China Miéville (Ballantine Del Rey; Macmillan UK)
City of Bones, Cassandra Clare (Simon & Schuster/McElderry)
Flora Segunda, Ysabeau S. Wilce (Harcourt)
Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill (Morrow; Gollancz)
The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss (DAW; Gollancz)
One for Sorrow, Christopher Barzak (Bantam Spectra)
“After the Siege”, Cory Doctorow (The Infinite Matrix Jan 2007)
“All Seated on the Ground”, Connie Willis (Asimov’s Dec 2007)
“Memorare”, Gene Wolfe (F&SF Apr 2007)
“Muse of Fire”, Dan Simmons (The New Space Opera)
“Stars Seen through Stone”, Lucius Shepard (F&SF Jul 2007)
“Dark Integers”, Greg Egan (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2007)
“The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate”, Ted Chiang (F&SF Sep 2007)
“Trunk and Disorderly”, Charles Stross (Asimov’s Jan 2007)
“We Never Talk About My Brother”, Peter S. Beagle (Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show Jun 2007)
“The Witch’s Headstone”, Neil Gaiman (Wizards)
“The Last and Only, or, Mr. Moscowitz Becomes French”, Peter S. Beagle (Eclipse One)
“Last Contact”, Stephen Baxter (The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction)
“A Small Room in Koboldtown”, Michael Swanwick (Asimov’s Apr/May 2007)
“Tideline”, Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s Apr/May 2007)
“Who’s Afraid of Wolf 359?”, Ken MacLeod (The New Space Opera)
The Dog Said Bow-Wow, Michael Swanwick (Tachyon)
The Jack Vance Treasury, Jack Vance (Subterranean)
Overclocked, Cory Doctorow (Thunder’s Mouth)
Things Will Never Be the Same, Howard Waldrop (Old Earth)
The Winds of Marble Arch and Other Stories, Connie Willis (Subterranean)
The Best of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant, eds. (Ballantine Del Rey)
The Coyote Road, Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, eds. (Viking)
The New Space Opera, Gardner Dozois & Jonathan Strahan, eds. (Eos)
The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror 2007: Twentieth Annual Collection, Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant, ed. (St. Martin’s)
The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fourth Annual Collection, Gardner Dozois, ed. (St. Martin’s)
Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction, Jeff Prucher, ed. (Oxford University Press)
Breakfast in the Ruins, Barry N. Malzberg (Baen)
The Country You Have Never Seen, Joanna Russ (Liverpool University Press)
Gateways to Forever: The Story of the Science-Fiction Magazines from 1970 to 1980, Mike Ashley (Liverpool University Press)
Shadows of the New Sun: Wolfe on Writing/Writers on Wolfe, Peter Wright (Liverpool University Press)
The Arrival, Shaun Tan (Lothian 2006; Scholastic)
Dreamscape: The Best of Imaginary Realism, Claus Brusen & Marcel Salome, eds. (SalBru)
Emshwiller: Infinity x Two, Luis Ortiz, ed. (Nonstop Press)
Mervyn Peake: The Man and His Art, compiled by Sebastian Peake & Alison Eldred, edited by G. Peter Winnington (Peter Owen)
Spectrum 14: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, Cathy Fenner & Arnie Fenner, eds. (Underwood)
Ellen Datlow
Gardner Dozois
David G. Hartwell
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Gordon Van Gelder
Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet
Bantam Spectra
Night Shade Books
Subterranean Press
Stephan Martiniere
John Picacio
Shaun Tan
Charles Vess
Michael Whelan

A peek at the Stage

I’m always writing about The Stage when we have one here in Ytown, about once a month, under the wild and wonky lead and people-exciting power of my friend Brooke, and my friend Karen always loves the posters and publicity images Steven Andrew is making for the Stage, but here are some lovely photos from our latest show, taken by local photographer Jaci Clark. I think they capture the spirit of the Stage and what it is we’re, in part, doing there: opening up a place and a space for the people of this area to share whatever it is they do with others, be it art, dance, song, story, poetry, comedy, monologues, skits, movies and, well, in these particular photos, how one girl transforms herself into a drag queen over the course of the evening. Quite a feat, and quite a transformation. Ah, Brookey, always going where no one else will go.

Here’s a pic of me, watching from the sidelines. Go see the rest as well as the cool slide show at Jaci’s place by clicking here.


Via my friend Meghan, David Giffels sounds like a guy who is as crazy about Akron as I am about Youngstown. He bought a nearly condemned house a little over a decade ago and has been restoring it with his wife ever since, and even wrote a book about it. Can’t wait to read it. Here’s a bit from the NYT article about it:

He is deeply committed to his hometown, in a really sincere and responsible way and “I do feel that way, especially as a newspaper columnist,” Mr. Giffels says. “I love Akron, I love Akron. The Goodyear tire company is headquartered here; it’s a place where a man would get up in the morning in Goodyear Heights, get in his car with Goodyear tires, drive down Goodyear Boulevard past the Goodyear Middle School, with the Goodyear blimp overheard. There is something about that that is like it was written for an animated feature, which I love. It’s so quintessentially weird in the most endearing way possible.”

A broken-down, deserted house also figures in “It’s A Wonderful Life,” you might remember.

You can read the rest by clicking here.

And also, here’s a great interview with him:

What’s wrong with Northeast Ohio? Why can’t we seem to catch up to the changing world?
A lot of it is old-school mindset that even young people who grow up here have, including me. There are all these echoes that you pick up when you grow up here, and you begin to believe certain stereotypes about yourself; and I’ve said many times that we have an inferiority complex. I look at it and it’s basically an insult to myself. I’m sure I could have made a life somewhere else, so have I settled for second rate? And that’s not true. I have a 4-minute commute, I have a house I could never afford in other markets, and I have things that I would struggle to get in other places. Plus, our thrift stores here rule.