Sunday, April 23, 2017

Quote of the day

Writing requires maximum ambition, maximum audacity, and programmatic disobedience.--Elena Ferrante

Friday, April 21, 2017

Black Speculative Arts Movement #BSAMfuturismo2017


I want to give a brief heads-up for an Afrofuturist event at the Bronx Museum of the Arts on Saturday, April 22 (tomorrow!). Aqueduct authors Sheree Renee Thomas, Jennifer Marie Brissett, and Kiini Ibura Salaam will all be participating. For the full schedule of the conference, check out the official website: https://www.evensi.us/black-speculative-arts-movement-bsamfuturismo2017-bronx/194016603.

At 12pm a panel titled 25 YEARS OF AFROFUTURISM & BLACK SPECULATIVE THOUGHT, will feature  Dr Reynaldo Anderson, Mark Dery, and Sheree Renée Thomas, moderated by Tiffany Barber. And after lunch, at 2 pm, Sheree Renee Thomas, Jennifer Brissett, Kiini Salaam, and Ibi Zoboi will present BLUE BLACK MAGIC WOMEN.

 I so wish I could attend. If you have a chance, it sounds like a wonderful--dare I say inspiriting-- way to spend the day.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

"That factory of characters and protagonists"


I'm currently reading Frantumaglia: A Writer's Journey by Elena Ferrante. I'm finding much in it interesting, even as I'm thinking that a few of its pieces hold only mild interest for me. But I know very well that some readers will find the bits I'd happily dispense with the best parts. Obviously a book with a broader variety of pieces will have wider appeal. (I know that my own taste is always far from the mainstream.) In any case, Ferrante's thinking is incisive and thought-provoking, though her orientation to Italian "difference feminism" (as she identifies it) is at an angle to my own feminism. (Which is nothing new for me. As a publisher, I try to pay respect to a wide spectrum of feminisms, some of which with I take serious issue.)

Ferrante's struggles writing consciously political fiction particularly interests me. The 2002 letter titled "Suspension of Disbelief," written to her book editors, who had solicited a short story to be published in an anthology of stories "on conflict of interest" by the publisher's Italian authors. "It depresses me," she says, "that the truth of an abuse of power [the subject of her own story] seems an effect of rhetoric." (97) Ferrante muses on her sense that such stories constitute "a rehtorically complicit nudge given to a public that is already convinced, already in agreement, and whose agreement, beyond a guarantee of success, is also one of the many safeguards against harassment, retaliation, insults, lawsuits, work restrictions, and other common misfortunes that those who express themselves in black and white against the opposing party are exposed to." (91) She writes of posing questions to herself that made her uncomfortable. Then, she says, "to get out of these self-critical convulsions I tried...to write the name of Silvio Berlusconi at the end of the story"--with the idea that doing so could bring the anti-Berloscuoni-ism of her story into the open.

Beware, though, I did not do it to say that a political story, in the current portrait of our civil society, has the duty to emerge from metaphor (literature, good or bad, is always metaphor) but, rather, to indicate that narratives that can state more directly even if through literature, the reasons for our repugnance as citizens are necessary. In other words, blunt questions of the following type should be transformed into novels: Is it true Berlusconi can be a great statesman because he is a great entrepreneur? How did we become convinced that there is a connection between the two things? Was it the great and good works of that grand entrepreneur that convinces us? What are those works? What is the meritorious work that persuaded us of his capacities as a great statesman? Maybe it's his bad television empire, created by his highly prized and highly paid employees? Hence, does one become a great statesman by being the great entrepreneur of a bad television company that has vulgarized all the other television companies and also, out of a crossover attraction, cinema, newspapers, supplements, publicity, the supporting literature, the entire Italy of TV ratings? Is it possible? If the great work of the entrepreneur Berlusconi is what we have before our eyes every evening, how could it happen that half of Italy believed that he really could, as he says, fix the nation? And besides, what Italy does this man want to fix, if he governs alongside someone who would rather dismantle Italy, in the name of a good and very pure geographical area that he has christened Padania?

It's this credulity not of citizens but of the audience that I find narratively interesting. If I were capable of writing about our Berlusconian Italy not through allegories, parables, and satires, I would like to find a plot and characters that could represent the mythology within which the symbol of Berlusconi is dangerously encysted. I say symbol because the man will disappear, his personal troubles and those of his management have their power, one way or another the political struggle will remove him from the scene, but his ascent as supreme leader within democratic institutions, the construction of his figure as a democratically elected economic-political-television duce, will remain a perfectible, repeatable model.(90-91)
Obviously, this articulation of "a dangerously encysted" symbol strikes me powerfully at this moment of US history. Clownish and perilously simple-minded as I found Dubya and his venal, villainous minions, I could not imagine him as a powerful symbol encysted with a toxic mythology spawned by the vilest desires and most self-serving, privileged ignorance that has dogged US culture and values for all the US's history. Ferrante, confronting Berlusconi, puts her finger on why our current Megalomaniac-in-Chief, regardless of which minions he chooses to keep around him, is different.

Here's more from Ferrante:
Berlusconi, for me, is the most garish expression (for now) of the traditional illusionism of politicians, of their capacity to pretend, even within the democratic institutions of which they should be the willing servants, that they are benevolent divinities on some Olympus from which they govern the fates of wretched mortals. That illusionism...unfortunately for us has been definitively welded, thanks to a bold proprietary relationship, to the fictions of what is today the most powerful means of mass communication: television, that factory of characters and protagonists, as the media call them, justly adopting the terminology of products of the imagination. And the characters, the protagonists of social-television mythology, are experienced by the audience just as characters are in novels, by suspending disbelief, accepting, that is, an agreement on the basis of which you are wiling to take as true everything you are told. (91)


She notes that this suspension of disbelief has transformed "citizens into an audience," and that it is "for now the most unprincipled exponent of the reduction of democracy to imaginary participation in an imaginary game." (92) In our personal shorthand, Tom and I have long referred to political news reports and shows as "gossip." For a brief moment after the election I actually hoped that confronted with a new set of outrages that prodded commentators to declare they wouldn't "normalize" the new regime that the news media would decide to focus on the complex consequences and implications of the Republican-controlled government's decrees and actions rather than on the melodramas of the invented "characters and protagonists" (as Ferrnate calls them) of the game as imagined by the US's dominant political culture. At almost 100 days in, the reality of the policies being rammed through without discussion (much less serious consideration) has apparently become too boring for the news media to bother with. Politics as soap opera and political reportage as gossip* is back with a vengeance. If I never read another article about which minions are in favor and which are out of favor, it will be too soon.
_______________________
*And of course, United Airlines' thuggish assault on a seated, nonviolent passenger resulting in the passenger's concussion, broken nose, and loss of two teeth has also been turned into a tidbit of gossip, rather than a broad demand for regulation of an industry that routinely abuses its customers with impunity in a variety of once unimaginable ways. If every news story must necessarily be reduced to a carefully framed drama with characters and protagonists set apart from the complexities of the large systems within which most people must negotiate, if, that is to say, everything must always be cast in mythological terms (which render hard facts both irrelevant and contestable), we're on our way to species extinction. Amitav Ghosh's The Great Derangement notes that the refusal to construct or attend to narratives that don't valorize instrumental individualism make it almost impossible to talk about global warming in any useful or meaningful way. And global warming is only one of the serious challenges besetting us.   

Friday, April 14, 2017

The 2017 Philip K. Dick Award


The 2017 Philip K. Dick Award ceremony was held tonight at Norwescon 40; Gordon Van Gelder presided. Congratulations to Claudia Casper, whose novel The Mercy Journals (published by the excellent Arsenal Pulp Press) was given the award, and also to Susan diRende, whose novella Unpronounceable (published as a volume in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series) was given a Special Citation. (The photo show Claudia and Susan holding the framed award and special citation respectively). The judges for this year's award were Michael Armstrong, Brenda Cough, meg Elison, Lee Konstantinou, and Ben Winters. The other nominees were Kristy Aceveo with Consider (published by Jolly Fish Press), who was present, Matt Hill with Graft (published by Angry Robot Books), who was also present, Eleanor Arnason with Hwarhath Stories: Transgressive Tales by Aliens (published by Aqueduct), and Yoss with Super Extra Grande (published by Restless Books). The authors attending each read for five minutes from their books. (Excerpts of Hwarhath Stories and Yoss were read by members of the Northwest Science Fiction Society.)

It's probably needless to say that I was quite pleased to see two of Aqueduct's books so honored.

Susan, by the way, read from Ch. 2 ("Alien Sex") in Rose's inimitable voice.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

THE SFWA SCIENCE FICTION BUNDLE



Cst Rambo has curated a SFWA-focused Story Bundle offering e-bundles that include Nancy Jane Moore's The Weave, which is an Aqueduct Press title. Here's Cat Rambo speaking:
The SFWA Science Fiction Bundle - Curated by Cat Rambo
I am so pleased to present the first ever SFWA-focused StoryBundle. The idea for it has been hovering in my head for a several years but it was only last year that we finally had the contacts and volunteer structure to actually enact it. Last year I asked SFWA members to send in their science fiction and fantasy works for consideration in the bundles, and the enthusiastic response to that call let me assemble this awesome bundle as well as a second one, this time with a fantasy focus, for later this year. Midway through this year, we'll open up the call for applications for the 2018 bundles.
If you're curious about other SFWA offerings, sign up for our quarterly newsletter, which features new and backlist releases from our members in the area of fiction, games, and other offerings.
One reason I've pushed this StoryBundle along is because it's a program that works well for our small press and independently published members, whose market agility allows them to make full use of the bundle. The membership voted to accept these new members in 2015 and one of the challenges was making sure SFWA served their needs. They've added immense enthusiasm and knowledge to our hive mind, and it's great to have a way that helps them promote their work while also supporting the organization's Givers Fund, which gives grants each year to encourage and promote fantasy and science fiction writing, including organizations such as the the African Speculative Fiction Society, Alpha Workshop, Clarion and Clarion West, and Launchpad.
If you're unfamiliar with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, it's over 50 years old, and has a membership of professional writers and publishing professionals from around the globe. It administers the Nebula Awards each year. If you're in the Pittsburgh area, stop by the mass autographing session on the evening of May 19, which will feature (literally) dozens of authors, including many authors on this year's ballot and SFWA's latest Grand Master, Jane Yolen. Check out the SFWA website at sfwa.org for information on genre writing, the field, and other services. – Cat Rambo
The initial titles in the SFWA Science Fiction Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:
  • Saiensu Fikushon 2016 by TOBI Hirotaka, Toh Enjoe and Taiyo Fujii
  • Borrowed Tides by Paul Levinson
  • The Weave by Nancy Jane Moore
  • Truck Stop Earth by Michael A. Armstrong
  • Children of Arkadia by M. Darusha Wehm
  • Beyond the Gates by Catherine Wells
If you pay more than the bonus price of just $15, you get all six of the regular titles, plus SIX more!
  • Unidentified Funny Objects by Alex Shvartsman
  • Factoring Humanity by Robert J. Sawyer
  • Strangers Among Us by Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law
  • Tech Heaven by Linda Nagata
  • The Burning Eye by John F. Carr
  • The Leaves of October by Don Sakers
This bundle is available only for a limited time via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books!
It's also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.
Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.
  • Get quality reads: We've chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
  • Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth. If you can only spare a little, that's fine! You'll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there's nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America!
  • Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you'll get the bonus books!
StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.
For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook.