Monday, March 31, 2014

"Obsolescence" with a Capital Zero

One of Vernor Vinge's many books

“The news has been turning into science fiction for a while now. TVs that watch the watcher, growing tiny kidneys, 3D printing, the car of tomorrow, Amazon's fleet of delivery drones – so many news stories now 'sound like science fiction' that the term returns 1,290,000 search results on Google.
    The pace of technological innovation is accelerating so quickly that it's possible to perform this test in reverse. Google an imaginary idea from science fiction and you'll almost certainly find scientists researching the possibility. Warp drive? The Multiverse? A space elevator to the stars? Maybe I can formulate this as Walter's law – 'Any idea described in sci-fi will on a long enough timescale be made real by science.'
     The most radical prediction of science fiction is the technological singularity. As author and mathematician Vernor Vinge put it in his 1993 essay The Coming Technological Singularity, 'Within 30 years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.'"
— Damien Walter, The Guardian
Read more…

Imitation Chandler-Flattery-Slumming... or something

“In 1986 Irish critic Seamus Deane wrote that with the appearance of John Banville’s first few novels, 'It was obvious that an important new writer had arrived, although in what his importance consisted was not clear.' Today, after 24 novels, six plays and five screenplays, it still isn’t clear. After decades of being compared to Nabokov and comparing himself to Henry James, it now seems that the greatest living high-art novelist in the English language has set his sights a bit lower. With The TBlack-Eyed Blonde, Benjamin Black – Mr. Hyde to Banville’s Dr. Jekyll — seems to have completely taken over his personality. Black has now written eight of Banville’s last 10 novels. [...]
     How good is Banville’s impersonation of [Raymond] Chandler?  See for yourself: 'Her hair was blonde and her eyes were black, black and deep as a mountain lake, the lids exquisitely tapered at their outer corners. A blonde with black eyes – that’s not a combination you get very often.'
     Rhythm, cadence, punctuation perfect.
     'Sometimes I think I should lay off cigarettes for good, but if I did that, I’d have no hobbies except chess, and I keep beating myself at chess.'
      Sardonic, not too cynical, just fine.."
— Allen Barra, Salon

Thursday, March 27, 2014

“You just have to walk down Fifth Avenue to see what New York has become — it’s become an outlet mall for rich people.”

“Store window of Gotham Book Mart in New York which was decorated by
Marcel Duchamp in 1945 to promote Andre Breton’s book ‘Arcane 17′.”
From: vedenina

“When Sarah McNally, the owner of McNally Jackson bookstore in Lower Manhattan, set out to open a second location, she went to a neighborhood with a sterling literary reputation, the home turf of writers from Edgar Allan Poe to Nora Ephron: the Upper West Side.
     She was stopped by the skyscraper-high rents.
     'They were unsustainable,' Ms. McNally said. 'Small spaces for $40,000 or more each month. It was so disheartening.'
     Rising rents in Manhattan have forced out many retailers, from pizza joints to flower shops. But the rapidly escalating cost of doing business there is also driving out bookstores, threatening the city’s sense of self as the center of the literary universe, the home of the publishing industry and a place that lures and nurtures authors and avid readers.
     'Sometimes I feel as if I’m working in a field that’s disappearing right under my feet,' said the biographer and historian Robert Caro, who is a lifelong New Yorker.”
— Julia Bosman, The New York Times
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"Jarvis and Dundas—the epicentre of skid row"

“Hugh Garner’s second novel, Waste No Tears, hit drug store and train station spinner racks in July of 1950—then disappeared, never to see print again… until now. This is the latest release from Ricochet Books, a series of vintage noir mysteries edited by Brian Busby.
     The book's introduction, by Amy Lavender Harris, appears below:

Toronto the Good—the straitlaced 'City of Churches' where public drinking was prohibited and playground swings padlocked on Sundays—receives a far darker rendering in Hugh Garner’s Waste No Tears, a novel set in the bars, bedrooms and abortion clinics of Toronto’s skid row district. Pitched as 'The Novel about the Abortion Racket,' Waste No Tears peels back the city’s thin veneer of respectable civility to reveal a far seamier underside—albeit one with its own covert morality.”
— Kerry Clare, 49th Shelf
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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

EWF Short Story Contest – Deadline nearly here!

The submission deadline is fast approaching for the 2014 EWF Short Story Contest – it’s April 4, April 17 a much earlier deadline than our previous writing competitions – so we encourage local writers to follow the advice of Mary Heaton Vorse, who said:
“The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.”

The link EWF Short Story Contest 2014 will give you all the details, but in brief, here’s what you need to know:

  • Three categories (Adult 20+, Teen 15-19, Youth 14-under)

  • One entry fee (Adults only, $15)

  • Local writers (Wellington, Waterloo, Dufferin, Grey-Bruce, Halton, Hamilton-Wentworth counties/regions) 

  •  Theme: Home (whatever that means to you – a place? a person? the name of your cat…?)

  • And finally - Prizes! 

Send your submissions to:
EWF Short Story Contest
c/o Elora Arts Council
 Box 3084
 Elora ON N0B 1S0 

... by April 4, 2014.

Need more information?
Feel free to contact the Contest Chair, Jean Mills, at:

Monday, March 24, 2014

“a mixture between David Beckham’s ‘Instinct’ and Ralph Lauren’s Polo Blue"

From: Etsy

“A very interesting study has recently taken place at the University of Liverpool where they got 450 mice and put them near different male and female urine samples. The result? They have found out that there is a certain chemical, or pheromone, found in male mouse urine that determines the preference of them to female mice over time, as in, it attracts them.
     And the Open Source Journal ‘BMC biology’ researchers have named the substance (in what has been called a 'bizarre homage') ’Darcin’ after Mr. Darcy himself, because of his power to draw in the women.
     But what would our Mr. Darcy smell like?”
The Bennet Sisters
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Recidivism is a ten-letter word...

From: Omnilexica

“New rules introduced by the [UK] justice secretary ban anyone sending in books to prisoners. From now on, any man, woman or child in prison will not be able to receive a book from outside. This is part of an increasingly irrational punishment regime orchestrated by Chris Grayling that grabs headlines but restricts education or rehabilitation. The rules governing possessions of [UK] prisoners are arcane and not consistently applied by every prison. These new restrictions relate to a downgrading of the system of rewards and punishments, ostensibly designed to encourage prisoners to comply with prison rules. Yet the ban on receiving books is a blanket decision, so no matter how compliant and well behaved you are, no prisoner will be allowed to receive books from the outside.
     Last November new rules were introduced so that families are no longer permitted to send in small items to prisoners. Children are not allowed to send a homemade birthday card. Prisoners with a particular expertise or interests cannot receive magazines, no matter how innocuous it might be to want to know about bird watching or steam trains.”
— Frances Crook,
Read more…

From Moldy Books to Bit Rot

From: GreatBigCanvas

“As man has progressed from prehistoric times to today, the fact of historic documentation has determined implicitly our sense of history and advancement. Prehistoric times were by definition prior to man's ability to record in any way what went on so that future generations could learn from the experiences and mistakes of the prior generations. Advancement went slowly because what little knowledge was generated was passed on verbally or in ways that obviously did not survive for very long.
     Only with the development of the ability to record facts and thoughts (thought to be best noted by the cuneiform writings of scribes tracking goods in early Mesopotamia if my history teacher's work serves me correctly) did information survive easily from generation to generation.
     What we are talking about is blandly called 'bit rot' in the digital world. This describes the loss of data due to any one of a number of phenomena but is typified by the inability of today's generation of computer systems to read the product of yesterday's and the extension of this to anything digital, including recordings of audio and video.”
— Richard Pitt, The Digital Rag
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“Somewhere in a cobwebby corner of my computer's hard disk are a few manuscripts I wrote 15 years ago on my first PC. The word-processing software I used then was grandly named The Final Word. It was anything but. I've gone through a dozen word processors since then, and nearly as many computers. To keep older documents accessible, I've had to transfer and transform them repeatedly, from one disk to the next and from one file format to another. […]
     One cause for worry among archivists is the impermanence of digital storage media. In this respect civilization has been going downhill ever since Mesopotamia. Paper documents cannot match the longevity of the Sumerians' clay tablets, and magnetic media seem to be even more evanescent than paper. That's disturbing news, and yet I suspect that relatively few disks or tapes have yet died of old age. Long before the disk wears out or succumbs to bit rot, the machine that reads the disk has become a museum piece. So the immediate challenge is not preserving the information but preserving the means to get at it.”
— Brian Hayes, American Scientist
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Monday, March 17, 2014

the peripatetic pencil

Pullman Car interior (from: Virginia Tech ImageBase)

“In an interview last December, novelist Alexander Chee offhandedly said that he wished Amtrak had a residency for writers. Thanks to a Twitter storm of people dreaming that same dream, the program is now a reality. Over the weekend, Amtrak opened up the application for the #AmtrakResidency program (yes, hashtag and all). Each resident will be given a private sleeper car with a desk, bed, and window 'to watch the American countryside roll by for inspiration.' It sounds like a pretty sweet — if endlessly idyllic — way to carve out some writing time. And with Amtrak on board, we have a few more suggestions for companies that should have their own writers’ residencies.”
— Brie Hiramine, Flavorwire
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Cooking Books: “leading author-teachers reveal their advice to students”

Photo: Michael Hale Folded Sky

“[…] Commentators sometimes say that writing can't be taught; that beginning writers either have ‘it,’ in which case they don't need to be taught, or they don't have ‘it,’ in which case money and time is being wasted by the exercise. But writers can perfectly well have native ability, a feel for language, an inventiveness and a keen eye towards the world and still not quite understand how they can do something well, not once, but repeatedly. A good creative writing course will explore underlying principles of good writing – not to impose invented 'rules' on writing, but to introduce ways of thinking about writing that are strong and purposeful. You could teach yourself how to make a chair by taking a lot apart, and experimenting with joists. A furniture-making course might school you in some unsuspected skills, and save you some time.”
— Philip Hensher

“[…] the easier and more effortless something looks, the more thoroughly it is underpinned by technique. The desire to write comes easily; writing itself is technical and hard. I give my students exercises in which a certain object has to feature. I choose the object myself: the more alien it is to their subjective processes the better. The object represents the impingement of reality, and it nearly always has the effect of turning their writing inside out. Over time I've learned which objects work the best: some of the things I've used – a violin, a pair of scissors – have been too easily conscripted into the student's subjective world. Others – a lawnmower, a new pair of shoes – unfailingly make the writing more objective. The narrative has to find a way around it, like water has to flow around an obstacle, and the result is that the whole enterprise is given form.”
— Rachel Rusk
Read more of this Guardian article here…

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

“Does a butcher weep over the beauty of his lamb chops?”

"T. S. Eliot’s manuscript of The Waste Land
with corrections by Ezra Pound."
(from: entregulistanybostan)

“This weekend, as part of the New Zealand festival, The Luminaries author and winner of the Man Booker prize, Eleanor Catton, discussed deletion, deadlines and several other facets of the writer-editor relationship with her British editor Max Porter. If this sounds a little like sitting down with your ex-husband to publicly discuss why he always disliked your sense of humour, then think again; the modern editor is, according to Porter, ‘part proofreader, part therapist, part in-house champion and, increasingly, there to put a marketisation on the written word.’ […]
     With 391,000 books being self-published in the US in 2012 alone, the old 20th-century model of the creative editor is, according to Porter, ‘an endangered species.’ While Porter described his role as ‘like making a pot’ alongside a writer ‘using gentle tweaks and nudges,’ it is nevertheless a ‘highly irritable occupation.’ And a thankless one, judging from Catton's anecdote about sitting next to Germaine Greer at an awards ceremony as Greer leant over and whispered very loudly that, ‘there's no such thing’ as a good editor.
     At its foundation the role of the editor is a blend of meddler and midwife. You're expected to not just pinch, pluck and pull a novel into shape, but, in many cases, make sure the thing is being written at all.”
— Nell Frizzell, The Guardian
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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Baileys Women’s Fiction Prize Longlist Announced

“Donna Tartt, the author of the widely acclaimed novel The Goldfinch, and Eleanor Catton, whose novel The Luminaries has already won the 2013 Man Booker Prize, are among the 20 women nominated for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.
     The award, which honors works written in English by women, was known as the Orange Prize until last year, when the liquor company Bailey’s took over as sponsor.
     Four British writers and seven from the United States made the list, along with writers from Ireland, Canada and Nigeria. The American contingent includes a former winner of the Orange Prize, Suzanne Berne, who was nominated for The Dogs of Littlefield. Anna Quindlen was nominated for Still Life With Bread Crumbs.
     The prize, which comes with an award of 30,000 pounds (a little over $50,000), has been won by Americans for the last five years, a statistic that some British critics and scholars see as a disturbing trend in the international rankings, at least as reflected in literary competitions.”
— William Grimes, ArtsBeat
Read more…