Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Joshua B. Lukin (1968-2019)

Last week, Josh Lukin, my dear friend and a member of this blog, died, a little less than one month short of his fifty-first birthday. Josh was an Associate Professor in Temple University's English Department, where besides teaching writing, he was a disability studies scholar and a critic. He edited a book published by Aqueduct Press, It Walks in Beauty: Selected Prose of Chandler Davis, and contributed essays to Daughters of Earth (“Cold War Masculinity in the Early Work of Kate Wilhelm”) and The WisCon Chronicles, Volume 7. He co-edited, with Samuel R. Delany, a special issue of Paradoxa on the Fifties, and was the editor of Invisible Suburbs: Recovering Protest Fiction in the 1950s United States, as well as special issue on Samuel R. Delany for the minnesota review. He wrote numerous articles on the work of Philip K. Dick, Patricia Highsmith, Jim Thompson, and, of course, Chandler Davis, among others.

Josh introduced himself to me, via email, early in the summer of 2001, to solicit a review from me for the special issue of Paradoxa he was co-editing with Chip Delany. When I replied to his email, he immediately wrote back, and that was the beginning of a long, intense email correspondence. He was thirty-two at the time, I was fifty; he was working on his dissertation and preparing for the academic job market, and I was someone who'd been reading and thinking and writing about many of the same things he was into for a bit more than twenty-five years. Over the length of that correspondence, we mined several common areas we were passionate about, often through mutual interrogation, and often reverting to old insights we'd shared when resonant examples presented themselves to one or the other of us months or even years later. Within the first week of that correspondence, he wrote:

In general, I'm interested in f & sf works that (a) defy the "bourgeois myth of free will" tradition that I associate with Heinlein and acknowledge the existence and limits of the body (because, having suffered a chronic illness for 25 years in the U.S.A., I have a very personal vendetta against that myth and those who uphold it) and (b) that can be taught in a Literature and Medicine course (because I'm entering the academic job market in two months and have to present myself as able to teach as many things as possible--and if possible, to present my illness as an asset rather than a sin).       

And of course I recognized at once why he wanted to engage with me, since my own work came at his interests from a different, but highly compatible angle, which his previous references to my work had intimated.

I think anyone who knew him would tell you that while Josh was brilliant and profoundly serious, he was also irrepressibly playful. That playfulness spiced rather than spiked his (or my) seriousness, constantly erupting into his prose (and, in person, into his speech). Early on, he wrote:

[T]o a Canadian scholar who recently said to me, "You laugh about the Bush administration, but it's serious business," I responded, "Of course it's serious business: who laughs about happy events?"

Well, yes. Although I wasn't always fond of his penchant for punning, I shared his need to make "the serious business" funny. ("Making it funny" was one of the few things that ran in both of our familial backgrounds.) I can well imagine it helped him get through the gruesome medical situations he faced in childhood.

We met, face to face, for the first time in Buffalo, on March 22, 2006, where we were both attending the Samuel R. Delany Symposium. He rented a car and picked me up at the airport, all bundled up, wearing a hat with ear flaps. (I had bought a winter coat, of the sort unnecessary for Seattle winters, at a used clothing store: and still found it necessary to dress in layers the next day.) We were both terrified to meet, as any people who have grown close in an online relationship naturally are. The first evening was a bit rocky. But when he picked me up at my hotel the next morning, we became easier with one another. The next night, after having drinks in the bar with Carl Freedman, Steve Shaviro, Chip Delany, and me, Josh broke into song, and Carl joined him. Breaking into song is something Josh did often, which I of course hadn't known from merely email contact. He did this in Madison, too, when attending WisCon with his wife, Ann Keefer. Song--especially Broadway musical songs (but also Dylan and Leonard Cohen et al) was an important part of his life. Josh adored Stephen Sondheim. It got him through the worst of his constant struggle with Crohn's. And he scattered phrases from songs in his emails, and often used them in the subject line.

Finally, I must say this, too: Josh was a writer. Yes, his writing mostly took the form of scholarship. But his prose was always a pleasure to read--even his dissertation, which, in all its elegance, filled me with joy. It bothered him that people generally associate the designation "writer" solely with those who write fiction. But Josh's skill and talent for writing was superb. His prose was a constant reminder to me that every genre of writing, including scholarly genres, ought to be infused with grace and intelligence.

Josh always used to write R.I.P when someone important to us left our world. And so I'll say that now for Josh: R.I.P, beloved friend. (And thanks for all the fish.)

P.S. Please, please feel free to leave anecdotes and remembrances of Josh in a comment.  I and everyone else who loved Josh will treasure them.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The WIsCon Chronicles, Vol. 12: call for submissions

Isabel Schechter and Michi Trota are thrilled to announce that they will be co-editing Volume 12 of the WisCon Chronicles.

We have chosen the theme “Boundaries and Bridges” for this volume of the WisCon Chronicles to reflect how WisCon has often been a place where the exploration of boundaries and bridging of divides in SFF and fandom -- whether personal, cultural, political, or otherwise -- have been at the core of the WisCon experience.

We are interested to learn what boundaries you want to examine, redefine, create, or destroy. Why are some boundaries more acceptable than others? When are boundaries necessary, and when do they need to be torn down? How does our understanding of boundaries influence our ability to build bridges with others, or even within our own psyches? When is it time to build a bridge or burn it? And how does this all play out within SFF and fandom?

Here is a sample of topics we are hoping to see tackled:

● Was there a panel at this year’s WisCon that led to a new recognition of how boundaries function (or don’t function) in SFF?
● How has WisCon shaped/changed your understanding of boundaries among fandoms around gender/race/age/ability and other identities?
● Did a work of SFF encourage you to bridge parts of your identity you previously saw as isolated?
● How do we explore boundaries and bridges between genres (scifi, fantasy, horror, etc)?
● How do different formats of storytelling (written word, graphic novels/comics, film, TV, podcasting, fanfic) create/transcend boundaries and offer opportunities to build bridges?
● How is respecting boundaries a part of responsible storytelling?

We welcome nonfiction delving into these and other topics specifically through the lens of identity and the intersections thereof.

Submitters are encouraged to submit pieces such as personal essays, panel reports, critical essays, and other forms of creative nonfiction. If you have an idea for topics or essay formats that haven’t been mentioned in these guidelines but you feel would be a fit for the scope of the anthology, please feel free to query us. First-time writers, POC writers, and other writers of marginalized backgrounds are especially encouraged to submit; please don’t self-reject, instead allow the editors to do their job by submitting your work and ideas!

We will consider pieces with a word count of 500-4000, but are willing to consider submissions outside these lengths if the piece warrants it. Send queries and submissions to wcc.vol12@gmail.com with “Submission” or “Query” in the subject line. Please send submissions in .DOC, .DOCX, or .RFT formats. Queries are due by September 1, 2019 and submissions are due by October 1, 2019.

Authors will be paid a nominal fee of $25 for accepted pieces, and will receive a hard copy of the anthology.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Kate Boyes's Trapped in the R.A.W.

I'm pleased to announce the release of Kate Boyes's debut novel, Trapped in the R.A.W., which Aqueduct is publishing in both print and e-book editions. You can purchase it now at http://www.aqueductpress.com/books/978-1-61976-159-9.php.

A young woman working alone in a small special collections library is trapped in the building when invaders overrun her town. She barricades the doors, peeks through a window, and watches in horror as people are murdered outside. The invaders wear uniforms that cover them completely, making it impossible for her to see their faces. However, she realizes at once that they do not intend to subjugate the population. They intend to annihilate it.

Trapped in the R.A.W. is a journal of the young woman’s solitary struggle to protect the books while keeping herself fed, hydrated, warm, and sane.

 Read a sample from the book

Advance Praise

“Kate Boyes’s Trapped in the R.A.W. is a very fresh take on the alien invasion theme. Tracing the story of a young archivist caught up in a terrifying and mysterious assault on her small town campus, the book is simultaneously a first-hand account of survival, a post-apocalyptic memoir, a narrative of first contact, and an ode to libraries. Human, humane, and often darkly humorous, this is one of the most charming dystopian novels I have read in a very long time.

“Trying to sit out an alien invasion in a library…for the discerning SF reader it just doesn’t get better than that.”  —Jackie Hatton, author of Flesh & Wires
“Everything in this book is unexpected: the invasion, the invaders, and especially the hero, an ordinary young woman who deals with the unspeakable in simple ways that prove quite extraordinary. She is on her own and terrified, with no special powers or super technology, and yet she manages to reason and act. At a time when superhero exploits take up so much storytelling space, it is delightful to read a tale in which people take care of themselves.” —Nancy Jane Moore, author of The Weave




 The novel demonstrates an impressively assured voice, an ingenious, casebook-like structure in which the journal of the title is supplemented by several ‘‘appendices’’ written years later, and an equally creative use of illustrative material, drawn mostly from 19th-century books and the illustrations of Walter Crane....[T]he effect is unarguably moving, as we watch Kaylee transformed from a desperate and lonely figure into a kind of librarian legend, whose story only becomes richer as we piece it together from these later documents. –Gary K. Wolfe, Locus July 2019

Boyes’s metafictional SF debut convincingly depicts the tenacity of the human spirit in the face of uncertainty. Kaylee is a special collections librarian who’s trapped in the university’s rare books library when aliens invade Earth. She records her thoughts on the pages of old library books, musing about the deteriorating state of the world while making a desperate bid for survival. Even though the invaders destroy her home and those she loves, Kaylee wishes to learn more about them, and forges a relationship with a male of the invading species while attempting to rationalize their destruction of humankind. With her new ally by her side, Kaylee plans her escape from the library, leaving her journal behind. Some 30 years after the invasion, the journal is picked up by a human expeditionary force, and the missing pieces of Kaylee’s story begin to fall into place. Kaylee is undeniably charming; Boyes suffuses her diaries with both humor and weight. Boyes’s attention to detail carries the tale forward, drawing the reader into Kaylee’s journey of survival and discovery. —Publishers Weekly May 2019