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Friday, August 27, 2010

Excerpt from the upcoming Kunstler novel

Jim Kunstler, author of one of my favorite books The Geography of Nowhere, has posted a chapter from his upcoming novel, The Witch of Hebron. The novel is the sequel to his 2009 novel A World Made By Hand, which describes a post-oil world. While I'm not entirely convinced that Kunstler is a good writer*, he is definitely a passable storyteller and a fascinating thinker. I would definitely take the time to read the chapter, and keep on heading back to his blog every Monday for his weekly blog post from the edge. He's either crazy or he's the John the Baptist of Peak Oil. I haven't decided which yet.

You can read the chapter here.

*Exempla Gratia, there's a lot of unnecessary adjectives and adverbs, the tone and dialogue in the beginning are a little uneven, his descriptions of sex are downright puritanical, and I'm not entirely convinced that a old-school plantation owner type can also be a kitana-wielding ninja all of a sudden. Other than that the chapter is great! I especially liked the ridiculous banter at the end of the chapter between the Head Thief and the Big Man.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Jason Sanford sees the future of Sci-Fi

Jason Sanford, the author of weird, unclassifiable Sci-Fi stories, recently posted on his blog that he thinks the future of science fiction is something he calls Sci-Fi Strange. As with any literary movement it is easy to spot but hard to explain, and Mr. Sanford doesn't do that great a job of explaining, but from reading the examples he linked to* in the post it seems SFS is a genre that blurs the lines between fantasy, realism, and science fiction so thoroughly that it is impossible to tell what genre the work belongs to. Therefore, invent a new one. Sci-Fi Strange's most frequent haunts? Genre magazines like Clarkesworld, Interzone, and Strange Horizons**.

You can read the post here.

And you can read Mr. Sanford's brilliant Sci-Fi Strange piece, "The Ships Like Clouds, Risen By Their Rain" here. I can't even begin to explain this one, but let's just say it takes place on a world in which clouds are replaced by ships and the ships drop organic materials on the people below and slowly bury their houses, so they have to keep building up to avoid being buried alive. So imaginative.

*All of which are amazing. You should definitely take the time to read them all.
**In fact, I have a short story titled "The New Fantasy--FURTHUR!," which could probably be classified as Sci-Fi Strange, that has been rejected by Clarkesworld, and is currently being looked at by Strange Horizons. I didn't know about Interzone, so I'll definitely have to send it to them if SH doesn't want it. It's a good story, so I hope one of them takes it so y'all can read it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Writer Spotlight: xTx

xTx writes beautiful stories. By beautiful I mean she writes stories that stick daggers in your stomach and then draw exquisite paintings in the sand with your blood. She writes stories that are edgy and dangerous and make you feel a little uncomfortable, like you stumbled on your boss and his secretary banging in the utility closet and they didn't see you and you start to walk away, but then something in you keeps you rooted to the spot, and instead you watch. xTx writes stories that feel like memories you never had, or acid trips you're glad you never had, or something you saw on TV while falling asleep. She is not safe for work. She reaches into your subconscious and takes the bad stuff and the good stuff and squishes them together until you're so mixed up that you can't tell whether you're enjoying the heel to your neck, or if she's just told you that you like it. She writes stories like that, and that is why she is one of the best writers around.

I managed to stop the Mad Typer long enough to get some witty and insightful answers to a few of my questions about her evocative and brilliant writing. You can read the interview after the jump.

Ed. Note: At some point this interview became a launching point for a theory about the underground writing scene that I've been kicking around for awhile, that I may or may not regret airing the second I post this. Pardon my indulgence.

Oh yeah, and there's swearing in this interview for those of you who may want to turn back now.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Last Lines

As every author knows the last line of a story/novel/poem can be the most important of the whole piece. It can sum up, or refute everything that came before it. It has the power of all those lines that preceded it and can use that power for good or for ill. Entertainment Weekly recently listed 20 of the best last lines from classic books. The gallery is pretty cool, though I have to admit many of these last lines don't make much sense, and certainly don't hold much power, when presented out of context of the larger work.

You can check out the gallery here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A New Leaf

By Nicholas J. Carter

Ed. Note: This is a response, of sorts, to Franz Kafka's "An Old Leaf." Mr. Carter's story certainly stands on its own, but for a richer understanding of the story, head over to the link and read Kafka's story too.

Much has happened since our ancestors drove their herds from the motherland, and perhaps every successive generation is to blame for the changes that have occurred in our absence. We were so late in returning! The strangulation of the proud-backed forests and comely hills we never thought possible. And why should we have? The other lands through which we have driven our horses, our sheep and our cattle have always been clear and full of beautiful grass for them to graze upon. Had we come back to this land a century ago, even a decade ago, we would surely have found the area clean and lush.

Now we are trapped. The squatters that occupy the motherland have left scarcely any room for us. I have no space to work and insufficient tools for my trade. Our smiths sharpen and repair what instruments we have, but even when we do this for sixteen hours a day our swords just become duller and our spades even more broken. It seems impossible, but they do indeed break more every day. One would think that after a certain point they would be as broken as they could possibly be. It is as if our labor simply drains into the ground.

The squatters have crowded their houses—those giant, inhospitable stone squares—so close together that each sits like a brick in a great wall, and the only room left in the settlement is an empty square with an icy-cold fountain in the heart of the town. Strangely, only a few thin alleys branch from it, and these confusing paths invariably only circulate back to the square. Those rat-like squatters can find their way around this warren easily, it appears, but it is impossible for us to leave.

We can’t comprehend how we even arrived here: one moment we were on the green hills and this place was a grey speck on the horizon, and next we were tangled in its paths. Nobody knows how anyone could make sense of this place. Frequently, we see new faces appearing and disappearing in the alleys. I get chills when I think of how many squatters there must be. It’s as if new men and women are grown daily, rising up whole and complete from the earth itself. There must be more and more of them every day but it is impossible to tell; they wear their homes like snail’s shells. Usually, only a few venture out at a time.

There is one exception to this: they emerge from their homes each morning and quietly and industriously clean away the vegetable plots we have arranged and fertilized. These people can’t be reasoned with or spoken to. The noises they make—these must only be noises, for they are far too sibilant and suspicious to be a language—are angry ones. Their wide eyes go full white in their faces until they resemble fried eggs. At first we attempted to communicate by doing the same, thinking that this was part of their language, but the squatters only become angrier and angrier until, fearing for our safety, (even a mouse must fight if it has nowhere to go) we would swing our horse-whips around to frighten them off.

If only they could understand that we are willing to share the land. More than willing to share, eager even, but that they are also expected to share. They cower when we enter their homes even though we only take food—which we must because we cannot plant anything, and have already had to slaughter all of our meat animals—and we always say please and thank you, even though they don’t understand, but the politeness is what counts. They are invited to browse our tents for anything they need, of course, or they would be if only we had something to give, and anyway we probably have nothing they want. We hate to borrow. First and foremost we do not want to appear as beggars, but we also don’t like their food. The people here are ravenous meat eaters. There is little grain and few plants; they snatch these morsels away to stuff into their animals until they are so fat that you might think they would explode. And so even our horses must be fed meat, while their horses are so fat that they are useless for any sort of labor.

A fat butcher occupies every second building. The other day, one of these butchers sent us an ox to slaughter rather than doing the work himself. He must have expected we would take it anyway. We must ask that he never do this again. How were we to butcher the animal when our camp is cleared away each morning, when we have no wood for fires, no way make or repair our tools, no room to work? We watched as several of our hunters tried anyway, hewing the beast apart with swords so notched that they resembled saws. The ox fought back with the most awful braying and crying, and the little squatters hid behind their walls, terrified of the sound, so none of them witnessed the ox kick three of our men to the ground and subsequently trample them before falling over from its wounds. Beast and man lay together in a heap, the former covered in ragged marks that resembled animal bites.

Beyond the gates of their leader’s home many more soldiers are appearing now; their coats are red and speckled with gold, their shoulders are squared, the crests of their hats a heavy, mournful blue. Each soldier carries a spear that breathes fire, and the spearpoints are sharp as dragon’s teeth, like those an ancient hero sowed into warriors. And yet they are afraid of us! Of us! The least of their men is dressed like the best of ours, in leather and fur that shame our leaders. Our shaman, our head warrior, our chief all mope in their huts; none of them willing to leave. We are told to go on with our work, as if we even could, for we aren’t up to the task on this hard ground and with the constant interruptions from these rodent people. We have no wish to stay but we cannot go because they have deprived us of the means to feed ourselves. And even if they had not done so, this labyrinth in which they live eternally confuses us: we ride away only to find ourselves riding backwards into the path opposite the one from which we left. Without leadership, our salvation is left in the hands of herders, milkers and sheep shearers. We aren’t capable of fighting, nor would anyone suggest we ever were. We are trapped in the city square, squatting on our useless hands while the least efforts of the least of these people have proved the ruin of us.