October 2nd, 2007


[books] The Secret History of Moscow

Finished reading squirrel_monkey's The Secret History of Moscow Amazon ] last night. It's a very strange book, in all the right ways. She draws on the traditions of Russian folklore twinned with Russian history, creating tropes and characters which are unfamiliar to most American readers.

There's a certain arch consciousness of this within the text, as when one of the few non-Russian characters says:

"What sort of culture invents a spirit whose only purpose is to throw onions and shriek at night? It's just stupid."

The response:

A blood-curdling shriek answered him from somewhere behind the pipes.

"Oh shut up," he said. "Bloody banshee wannabe."

The cries sputtered and stopped in an uncertain whine.

A strange combination of humor and fatalism runs through the text. I lived in the Eastern Bloc during the deep days of the Cold War — squirrel_monkey's descriptions of modern Moscow ring very true to me. (As a Russian emigré, she should know.)

Something that impresses me a great deal about this book is a completely extra-textual fact about the author. English is not squirrel_monkey's cradle language. Much like Joseph Conrad, she learned it as an adult. I cannot fathom moving to another country, another culture, adopting their language, then acheiving sufficient fluency to write lyrical fiction in my new tongue. That she has done so, and created a fascinating journey through the id of one of the world's greatest and most tragic cities, is noteworthy indeed. Go read it.
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[links] Link salad for a day when I am very run down

A little piece of Colorado which looks very weird from the air — It's hard to see on the Google maps satellite/aerial photos, but that north-south structure (which holds the lake) looks remarkably artificial. It's far too large scale to be anything but a subduction fold or some such geological artifact, but it was quite striking on overflight this morning.

Bush struggles to stay relevant in climate debate — Gooollllleeee, Sergeant Carter. Who'd a thunk it? That anyone would have the nerve to not take the Bush administration seriously on global warming? Obviously the U.N. needs some of the Liberty University graduate neo-con political officer goodness overseeing them, just like NASA and the rest of the U.S. Federal science apparatus, which knows better than to embarrass the flathead-in-chief. Next he'll be mentioning evolution as a good idea.

Inside a meerkat mob

I have a story up in Helix #6, which has just gone live

School Guards Break Child's Arm And Arrest Her For Dropping Cake — More high school hell. (Thanks to danjite.)

Unusual propellor-driven vehicles — (Thanks to danjite.)

Bicycle lawnmowing — (Thanks to danjite.)

True grit — (Thanks to lt260, who reminds us that we all need to live in hominy.)

[process] Editing the wild anthology

A week or so ago I promised a post on the anthology editing process. Here goes a cut at it. As with all writing-related posts, your mileage may vary. In this case, assume I'm editing a commercial anthology on a pro-rate budget. This means I'm taking things like marketing impact into consideration, which is not always the case with editing projects.

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That's it in a nutshell. Bismarckian sausage. Acquisitions editing, whether you're talking about novels, periodicals, or anthologies, is a creative process just as much as writing. There's a lot of intrusions from the marketing side, the production side, and so forth, but there's also a lot of judgment calls involved. That's where the editor's art lies.

Is it arbitrary and capricious? Certainly. I've said many times before, publishing is a meritocracy, but it's not a just meritocracy.

Are there other models than what I described above? Certainly as well. I am confident some of their practitioners will speak up here.

Comments? Thoughts? Follow-up questions? Things I should amplify (or retract)?

[personal] Czech's in the mail

Today's post office haul included a prepublished manuscript seeking my support (it looks very cool, btw, more once I've read it), an audiobook, a bunch of miscellaneous items from Tor and from the Day Job, and a check from my agent for the Czech rights to Trial of Flowers Powell's | Amazon ].

(Sadly, I have a feeling Trial is doomed to be the most underrated of my books. On the other hand, they'll be checking it out in Prague next year...)

I'm off to a book signing in Eugene later. Also recovering from the Dallas trip, which laid me lower than might reasonably have been expected.

[links] Link side salad, afternoon edition

Seymour Hersh on the administration's shifting rationales for war with Iran — Whatever happened to consistency? It's only flip flopping when liberals change their minds? At least the goal is the same! Bomb Iran! (Remember candidate Bush saying we needed tax cuts because the economy was doing so well? Then President Bush saying we needed tax cuts to boost the ailing economy? One could write an encyclopedia about conservative flip flops on invading Iraq and the casus belli for the current war.)

Blackwater contractor wrote government report on incident — So, having outsourced our diplomatic security to Blackwater, the Bush administration tries outsourcing the investigation into a major incident on Blackwater's part to...Blackwater.

:: admires conservative fetish for privatization ::

Some really cool top 10 lists — I kind of like Top 10 Useless Limbs (and Other Vestigial Organs). (Thanks to lt260.)

The Top of Liberty — Is it just me, or does her hair-do somewhat resemble her brain?

Wet Weather Helped Human Africa Exodus

[culture] Heard on NPR today

Fresh Air was discussing the show Pushing Daisies. The interviewer asked the show's creator how a show with a premise of a man whose touch raises the dead managed to be "intelligent and witty instead of sci fi strange."

Coz, you know, sci fi certainly isn't intelligent and witty.