Horselover Fat's Journal|
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|Friday, January 14th, 2011|
|Friday, December 3rd, 2010|
|Sale (and Two Reprints!)
Korea's been fun. (Also crazy-busy, but definitely fun.) And I should update this journal more. Meanwhile, though:
I just sold my short story "After October" to GigaNotoSaurus
, where it should go live on June 1st......
....and to Podcastle, where it'll be "reprinted" shortly thereafter! That one-two punch makes me just ridiculously happy.
And, speaking of Podcastle, my story Smokestacks Like the Arms of Gods
, which was published there in March, has been reprinted in the very first issue of Jenny
, the brand spankin' new magazine of the student literary society that Christopher Barzak advises at Youngstown State.
(The name comes from the nickname of the Jeannette Blast Furnace, referred to that way in, for example, the Boss' song "Youngstown," which I listened to many times while writing the story. That connection is one of many that makes me particularly happy to have made it into this particular magazine.)
I won't say anything much about what "After October" is about, except to note that this guy.....
....makes an appearance.
|Sunday, September 12th, 2010|
|Korea Weeks 2 & 3
At this point, I've taught the first day of all four classes, and in some cases a couple of sessions each. In Analytic Philosophy, in the first week, I talked a bit about Russell's Paradox in a 'preview of coming attractions' sort of way, then in the second week, I referred to Frege's Basic Law V and explained what it was, and then got a round of appreciative laughter from the students...because it obviously led to Russell's Paradox. That might not seem to be a big deal--and in an American class, it certainly wouldn't be--but, in context, the implication is staggeringly good: They understood! They followed the lecture!
Korean students by and large seem to be way too shy to raise their hand in class--which is a big problem for me, since in the States, my classes are 90% discussion based, and now I have to switch to 100% lecture-based--so in classes like Analytic Philosophy (which is for Juniors), they just sit there in postures of attentive concentration, then after class I usually go out for lunch with a few of them and we talk about things that have nothing to do with Philosophy. In my Western Classics class (which is for Freshmen), they jostle around in their seats like bored high school students. (In that class, I'm dangerously close to feeling like I'm just lecturing to the two English-speaking foreign students and the one Korean professor who's been sitting in. I hate that, but unless I can figure out a way to get them to talk, I'm not sure what to do about it.) Analytic Philosophy is a lot more fun to teach than Western Classics (Phil of Art is somewhere in between), but one way or the other, it's never easy to tell how much of the lecture any of them are following. So, actual laughter about Russell & Frege? Laughter that implies that they remembered last week's lecture as well? Awesome.
The rock music class had a bumpy start--I wanted to show them Almost Famous
, but the video wouldn't load up in time--but, interestingly enough, it's way better than the three philosophy classes in terms of people being willing to talk in class. Maybe, for whatever reason, Sociology majors learn more English than Philosophy majors here? In any case, on the first day, I actually managed to get them to go around and talk about themselves a bit, which is something I've been totally unsuccessful in coaxing students to do in the other classes.
Last weekend, there was some kind of opening ceremony for the Philosophy Department, with all the professors and tons of students in attendance in a big lecture hall kind of room. It was all in Korean--I was asked to give a little speech about myself (as the New White Professor, this happens a lot)--and one of the Korean profs translated it for me. The biggest "we're not in Kansas any more" moment came when some of the Koreans started elaborately bowing in front of a little plastic pig set up on the table, and putting money in its mouth. The only explanation I got from the Korean professor sitting next to me about what was going on was that "this is Korean custom" and "the money is for soju for later." So...uh....who knows.
Sadly, in these last three weeks in The Mysterious Orient, I've only been able to set aside time to write on two days, but I'm hoping that that'll change as I settle into things here. I still have to whip my MFA thesis into shape--although that's almost entirely a matter of revising old stories rather than fresh writing--and I have all kinds of new stuff simmering. I'd been making some headway on the long-dormant screenplay before I left, and I really want to get back to that soon. So, maybe, I should stop writing this and go back to that.
Random Cultural Observation of the Week:
Koreans have some strange ideas about pizza toppings.
|Tuesday, August 31st, 2010|
|Bertrand Russell: Portrait Of The Philosopher As A Young Man
One of the classes I'm teaching in Korea this semester is called "Analytic Philosophy", and one of the textbooks I'm assigning is Bertrand Russell's book "My Philosophical Development."
In Chapter 3, "First Efforts," Russell records his first youthful doubts about conventional ideas.
"I began thinking about philosophical questions at the age of fifteen. From then until I went to Cambridge, three years later, my thinking was solitary and completely amateurish, since I read no philosophical books, before I read Mill's Logic
in the last months before going to Trinity... I minded my theological doubts, not only because I had found comfort in religion, but also because I felt that these doubts, if I revealed them, would cause pain and bring ridicule, and I therefore became isolated and solitary. Just before and just after my sixteenth birthday, I wrote down my beliefs and un-beliefs, using Greek letters and phonetic spelling for purposes of concealment."
To which I have to say, uh, really?
The Greek letters thing is a nice, vivid, picturesque image, but you have to wonder if someone as smart as Russell obviously was, even at the age of 16, would have thought that this method would actually fool anyone in his household.
To review some relevant facts:
Russell's grandfather had been the Prime Minister in the 1840s and again in the 1860s. The family had been raised to peerage with the rise of the Tudor dynasty....i.e. a few centuries before Young Master Russell turned 16. It's safe to say that every male in the Russell clan since time immemorial would have received a good classical education. It doesn't seem like much of a stretch to say that they would have all been sufficiently used to reading Greek that any of them would have been able to tell that they were reading English words transliterated into the Greek alphabet if they'd just glanced at the page for long enough to read a sentence while shuffling around papers looking for a misplaced cup of tea.
(And that's just the boys. I also wonder if, in a family as progressive as the Rusells--keep in mind that Russell's godfather was John Stuart Mill--the education of the girls might have been considerably better than average as well.)
All of which makes me wonder: was young Bertie really particularly concerned about concealment, or did he just enjoy the romantic gesture of making a big elaborate show of concealment?
Moving on to the actual contents of the journal--which Russell faithfully reproduces in full in My Philosophical Development
, while making embarrassed noises about the confused, undeveloped nature of a lot of the ideas therein--we find a lot of skepticism about traditional Christian dogmas, but Russell doesn't go quite so far at this point as to doubt the existence of God per se. When it comes to morality, we see a lot of the the sharp polemical humor you get in his later writings. For example, in one passage, he talks about his Presbyterian grandmother's view that, instead of using reason to tell right from wrong, one should follow the 'inner voice' of conscience, then a few paragraphs down he casually refers to "this inner voice, this God-given conscience which made Bloody Mary burn the Protestants..."
Everywhere, he protests in a fairly hyperbolic way about his dedication to rationality, e.g. "April 29. In all things, I have made the vow to follow reason, not the instincts inherited partly from my ancestors and gained gradually by selection and partly due to my education. How absurd it would be to follow these in the questions of right and wrong."
Keep that passage in mind while we go back and take a closer look at the bit about his grandmother:
"My rule of life which I guide my conduct by, and a departure from which I consider as a sin, is to act in the manner which I believe to be most likely to produce the greatest happiness considering both the intensity of the happiness and the number of people made happy. I know that my grandmother considers this an impractical rule of life and says that, since you can never know the thing which will produce the greatest happiness, you do much better in following the inner voice. The conscience, however, can easily be seen to depend mostly upon education (as, for example, common Irishmen do not consider lying wrong) which fact alone seems to be quite sufficient to disprove the divine nature of conscience."
Some thoughts about this:
(1) He considers his ideas about this subject to be shocking enough to go in his secret journal of forbidden thoughts, but he had at least one argument about it with grandma?
(2) The racism here is pretty awesome. It seems like a safe guess that the young English aristocrat writing this journal had never actually met a 'common Irishman', nor quite likely had he ever met anyone who had ever met one, so you have to wonder where exactly he got his information about The Irish And Their Propensity To Lie.
(3) He claims to have read no philosophy books at this time, and maybe he hadn't, but somehow or another he seems to have absorbed the utilitarian ideas of qualifications--"the greatest happiness considering both the intensity of the happiness and the number of people made happy."
(4) However that may have come about, it's awfully interesting
that Russell's steadfast dedication to his sacred vow to follow reason alone in determining the difference between right and wrong, sweeping aside all the mental clutter derived from his ancestors and his education, led him to replicate, in a meticulously exact fashion, the precise moral opinions of his godfather, John Stuart Mill, and Mill's godfather, Jeremy Bentham.
|Saturday, August 28th, 2010|
|Korea Week 1
After a 13-hour flight from Detroit, I got into Seoul late last week. I crashed at eclexys
's place my first night, then took the train to Ulsan the next day. I start teaching on September 1st. Meanwhile, I've managed to get registered with the local immigration authorities (I have a shiny new Alien Registration Card), set up a local bank account, get a cell phone, and to do a bit of lesson-planning. The classes I'm teaching this fall are:
*A Freshman-level class on Aristotle,
*A Junior-level class called "Analytic Philosophy",
*A Senior-level class called "Philosophy of Art", &
*A Senior-level class on Led Zeppelin and the sociology of rock music
(Yes, one of these classes is not like the others. The required teaching load for my job here is 9 hrs/week. There was some concern that I'd be under that if one of my classes ended up getting canceled for low enrollment--hence the 4 classes rather than 3--and if that doesn't happen, I'll get overtime pay for the extra class, so the arrangement's fine with me. How it is that the fourth class they found for me was a sociology class rather than a philosophy one is slightly mysterious to me, but I love the fact that they let me steer the course content in this direction.)
Random Cultural Observation Of The Week:
There are a really impressive number of Dunkin Donuts locations in this country.
|Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010|
|Tuesday, July 6th, 2010|
|Korea-Bound, and Other Stuff
Here's the stuff that's happened since the last time I posted here:
(1) I turned 30. So, uh, that happened.
(2) I graduated from my doctoral program. Wore a cap and gown and everything.
(3) My Israeli alternate history story Dark Coffee, Bright Light and the Paradoxes of Omnipotence
as a 2009 Notable Story for the storySouth Million Writers' Award. Not a short list, but it made me happy.
(4) The same story was accepted for Prime Books' upcoming anthology People Of The Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy
(5) I got a full-time job as a philosophy professor for next year. Just a one-year renewable non-tenure-track thing, but it definitely beats unemployment.
(6) It's at the University of Ulsan, so, yeah, this means that I'll be moving to South Korea sometime in the next couple months. That's pretty weird.
|Tuesday, March 30th, 2010|
|Story Up At Podcastle Today
My story Smokestacks Like The Arms Of Gods
is up at Podcastle
today. I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, but I'm really excited about sitting down to do that this afternoon.
I was really happy about this sale for a whole variety of reasons, from the fact that it's the first full-length original story Podcastle has ever bought to the fact that I'm in extremely good company among the sorts of writers that Podcastle normally publishes to the rather more mundane fact that, when I ran out of money at the end of January, the paycheck for the story came in just in time, so my groceries and bar tabs were entirely paid by Podcastle for a week.
So yeah, time to go find a place to sit down and listen to the damn thing!
|Haven't Updated In A While
So, let's see...
The weekend before this last one I went to ICFA. Roomed with nihilistic-kid
, grabbed breakfast at Denny's with Jim Kelly, met various interesting people, and listened to some papers. A good time was had by all.
Since getting back, I've been grading papers, watching "The Wire" on DVD, teaching, writing, hanging out, getting caught up on some MFA stuff, and reading "Less Than Zero" by Bret Easton Ellis. So far, this is my favorite paragraph of the book:
"The psychiatrist I see during the four weeks I’m back is young and has a beard and drives a 450 SL and has a house in Malibu. I’ll sit in his office in Westwood with the shades drawn and my sunglasses on, smoking a cigarette, sometimes cloves, just to irritate him, sometimes crying. Sometimes I’ll yell at him and he’ll yell back. I tell him that I have these bizarre sexual fantasies and his interest will increase noticeably. I’ll start to laugh for no reason and then feel sick. I lie to him sometimes. He’ll tell me about his mistress and the repairs being done on his house in Tahoe and I’ll shut my eyes and light another cigarette, gritting my teeth. Sometimes I just get up and leave."
|Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010|
|Thursday, March 11th, 2010|
Since I mentioned this
here before, I should probably say that the event itself
went fine. I passed, and am now officially entitled to obnoxiously correct people who call me "Mr. Burgis."
|Monday, March 1st, 2010|
The Rough Draft Of My Dissertation Is Finished And Sent Off To Everyone On My Committee: October
The External Reader Signs On, And My Defense Is Scheduled: January
The Paperwork Is Filled Out And Signed By Everyone, And A Room Is Reserved For The Defense: Last Friday
The Final Draft Is Finished And Sent Off To Everyone On My Committee: Ten Minutes Ago
Actual Day and Time of My Defense: Next Monday At 3 PM
|Thursday, February 18th, 2010|
|Terrorism: A Guide For The Perplexed
This afternoon, I was fucking around online, procrastinating before diving into another round of dissertation edits, and nihilistic-kid
IM'd me with a link to this
diatribe.* I read through it, and made fun of it a bit--my favorite line is the one about how, if the fact that he has to sign his confusing tax forms isn't "the measure of a totalitarian regime, nothing is"--before finally asking Nick where he found it. "I read the news," he said, so I did a quick google search....and...wow.
The best part about this is the various assurances from federal officials that "it wasn't terrorism-related." Obviously, given that we have a case of a guy who flew a plane into a building to kill a bunch of people in order to express his political opposition to the American government, it would be easy to get confused and start to wonder if it was terrorism. Here's the key piece of information that should dispel that mistaken impression:
Dude was white.
Kind of like how the murder of Dr. Tiller (a politically-motivated act of violence against one civilian, with the intention of terrorizing a bunch of other civilians) wasn't
terrorism, but an Army psychiatrist going on a shooting spree against a bunch of his (uniformed, combatant) co-workers at Ft. Hood was
terrorism. I mean, c'mon, dude's name was Major Hassan
. Case closed.
Anyway, needless to say, I'm holding my breath waiting for lots and lots of tea party spokesmen to appear on tv to apologize profusely for spending the last year whipping up hysterical frenzy about taxes and the need to water the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
Any day now...
*The website he showed me was one that started at the beginning of the rant, without providing the context that's on top of the link I provided here.
|Tuesday, February 9th, 2010|
|Thought Of The Day
"I'd rather be a writer than a human being."
|Friday, January 1st, 2010|
|The Shortest Short Story I've Ever Sold...
....just went up on Thaumatrope.* Here it is
Yesterday afternoon, I got the acceptance and the request for my paypal information so they could pay me, which, I have to say, was a nice-ass note to end the year on, writing-wise. The story went up today, as their very first tweet of 2010, which was not an un-nice-ass note to start the new year on.
...and, on that note, it's time to go downstairs, shower, make some coffee, and stare bleary-eyed at 2010 for a while.
*Thaumatrope is a twitterzine, so all of the stories they publish is 140 characters or less. They do, technically, pay the pro-rate, although, obviously, you'd have to sell an awful lot of twitter fiction before you could use the proceeds to pay for a bar tab on South Beach.
|Monday, December 21st, 2009|
|A Bit Of Family History
My great-grandfather Morris was a fairly highly-placed early leader of the UAW. I think the name he was born with was "Moshe Blumenfeld," but that had been changed to "Morris Field" by the time he was doing the union stuff.
I have exactly one (vague and fuzzy) memory of meeting the guy, when I was a little kid. As I recall, I talked to him about soccer and he sardonically called me a "hotshot."
Anyway, I've been thinking about the early UAW stuff a lot more lately, for a lot of reasons--most recently selling
my story "Smokestacks Like The Arms Of Gods," which is about labor struggles in a fantasy world, to Podcastle--and I just did a google book search for "Morris Field + UAW." What I got was mostly a bunch of references to factional struggles at union board meetings and whatnot--in terms of the layout of early 1930s UAW politics, great-grandpa was apparently associated with something called the "Progressive Caucus," which was battling it out with something called the "Unity Caucus"--and two more interesting items:
(1) In a book called "Organizing the Unemployed: Community and Union Activists in the Industrial Heartland," a reproduction of a flyer advertising a rally at Baby Creek Park in 1938, where a list of speakers would be talking about "HUNGER-MISERY-POLICE BRUTALITY." The "nationally prominent speakers" included Homer Martin (the President of the UAW at the time), Walter Reuther (listed only as a UAW Executive Board Member) and Morris Field (National Educational Director of the UAW).
"The workers of Detroit and Dearborn must rally at this meeting to protest the brutality and discrimination against labor by the employers and their agents. EVERYBODY OUT ! ! !"
(2) In a book called "Black Detroit And The Rise Of The UAW," a description of conflicts during World War II related to the upgrading of some black workers to higher-prestige work having to do with manufacturing tanks for the war effort. (One company official unhappy about the agreement to transfer blacks and whites on an equal seniority basis is quoted as saying that "metal polishing is a white man's job.") At a lot of places, on both the company and union ends, there's a lot of bickering and uncertainty about how to handle the outbursts of racist anger and disruption that tended to accompany these transfers, in some cases leading to the black workers being sent back to their old jobs. Here, by contrast, is what happens when the issue comes to Dodge Truck:
"On June 2, when a small group of 26 blacks arrived at their new job, a walkout of 350 whites forced a plant shutdown, and 3,000 workers were sent home. Once again the local's official proved impotent, and only firmness by R.J. Thomas...forced a reluctant acquiescence. Thomas at once sent in Morris Field, assistant director of UAW's Chrysler Division, who bluntly announced that 'the local will have to accept the Negroes.' With Chrysler likewise standing resolute...production resumed within several hours."
|Monday, December 14th, 2009|
I just found out that my short story "Smokestacks Like The Arms Of Gods"* has been accepted over at PodCastle
This is makes me very happy for a lot of reasons, not least of which is that PodCastle prefers reprints to original fiction and, according to the acceptance letter, "Smokestacks..." is the very first full-length original story they've published. (They have published some original flash fiction before, like Tim Pratt's excellent Incubus
.) In fact, I'd been feeling a bit silly for even bothering to submit it there, since I read this
post over at the Vandermeer blog by PodCastle editor Rachel Swirsky:
"I could tell you lots of things about slush. I could tell you, for instance, that if you are submitting an unsold story to a reprint market and your name isn’t Tim Pratt or Greg Van Eekhout, you are not going to sell that story to me. Why? Because you’re competing with stories printed in the best magazines, chosen by the best editors in the business... Could there be an exception? Sure. There are exceptions to everything. But so far, I haven’t found one to this rule."
Note that this seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to say. I didn't think that there was anything wrong with the underlying reasoning, nor did I share the views of those who thought
that it amounted to "pulling up the ladder" to keep out new writers or any such nonsense. It just made me feel slightly sheepish about my submission, and correspondingly all the more surprised and happy when I woke up to see the acceptance.
...and, hey, every morning should start with the news that you've just made $100 in your sleep.
*....and yes, that's a title that reveals something about my deep love for the music of the Boss, although the content of the story--which is kind of a re-mix of the Flint sit-down strike and a lot of other things in a steampunky fantasy world setting--contains no love for bosses. Current Mood: ecstatic
|Tuesday, December 1st, 2009|
|Tuesday, November 17th, 2009|
Just for the hell of it, since everyone else is doing it.
If you're a SFWA member, and you feel like nominating any of this stuff, I'm pretty sure that all three of these are eligible...Dark Coffee, Bright Light and the Paradoxes of Ominpotence(Chomskyan politics, coffee, symbolic logic and shit getting blown up...what more could you ask for?)
First published in Atomjack, in October 2009.The True Meaning Of K-Day(Uplifting Thanksgiving fun for the whole family!)
First published on November 27th, 2008, in Diet Soap. This fact strikes me as decisive proof that Doug Lain and M.K. Hobson hate America.Sing, Goddess, Sing Me To The Stars(Support our troops bravely fighting against the Bumpies, and, if you know what's good for you, support their entirely voluntary alliance with the Spiders!)
First published in the glorious but now-defunct little zine with teeth, Flytrap. I've made a free online version of the story available here
. You can read a review here
|Thursday, October 29th, 2009|
|A Thought About Listening To Stories
When I was a kid, my Dad read to me before I went to bed at night, and I loved it. ("The Lord Of The Rings" and "Captains Courageous" both stand out in my mind when I think back that.) My big sister read to me a lot too, and I loved that, like, I'd-feed-the-rabbit-when-it-was-her-turn-i
n-exchange-for-her-reading-to-me loved it. When I was away at summer camp, I lived the cliche of sitting around a fire listening to people tell ghost stories a few times, and I was always really into it.
As an adult, when I go WisCon, the single activity that I enjoy the most is going to readings. (As weird and arrogant as this probably sounds, I've kinda stopped going to panels that I'm not on.) When I'm at my MFA residencies in Maine, I always skip the 'Stonecoast Follies' talent show in favor of sitting around couches and drinking with friends, but I love the open mic. I never miss one, even ones I'm not planning to participate in.
During my first week of Clarion, Paul Park would read aloud stories that he thought illustrated whatever point of technique he wanted to get across that day, and I loved that. In fact, a couple of the ones he read, Tony Daniel's "A Dry Quiet War" and Lethem's "Five Fucks," are still things I'd list among my all-time favorite short stories.
...and, while I read short stories in all kinds of different mediums these days (on computer screens--or, OK, in printouts--from Strange Horizons, in print in "best of the year" anthologies and in zines like Lady Churchill's, etc.), to be honest, at this point a clear majority of the stories that I consume outside of workshop settings are things that I listen to in podcast form, on Escape Pod or StarShipSofa or Podcastle or Diet Soap or Psuedopod. The podcast format works for me, and if you walk as much as I do (having a car that seems likely to break down at any minute is a contributing factor here), the iPod is a great delivery system for short fiction. On long solo car trips, I've always liked audiobooks as a delivery system for longer fiction.
One thing that's interesting to me, however, is that this makes me very different from some people that I know. In fact, a few people who I respect a lot have expressed to me over the years an intense dislike of having fiction read to them in pretty much any context. It's a format they naturally rebel against, have trouble paying attention to, just viscerally don't like. For these people, fiction belongs on the page, and that's the only form they enjoy consuming it in. In fact, given the trend here--which
people tend to express this attitude--part of me wonders if this is just the universal prejudice of the extremely intelligent, something naturally strong-minded people pick up as they grow up and exercise their natural independence, and it says something bad about me that I've never had any trace of that dislike.
But...I don't know...as a matter of personal preference, I like fiction just as much regardless of the delivery format--reading it on a page, hearing it being read out loud, mashing it up into a fine powder and snorting it through a straw, whatever--and, while the traditional visual system has its own unique pleasures, at least to me, the audio system does too. And, after all, the audio system is the really "traditional" one. The story-telling format I experienced when I was a kid listening to ghost stories around the camp fire pre-dates the story-telling format I experience when I got to Barnes & Noble and pick up a copy of Asimov's by...well...the vast majority of human history.
Again, the way you experience fiction when you read it--direct, unmediated by the thousand subtleties of someone else's interpretation that are embodied in a reader's choice of tone and pace, which words they emphasize and so on, the silence as you read making the whole experience far more mental and inward--has its unique pleasures. If there are any illiterate people out there who still manage to enjoy fiction by obsessively listening to podcasts and audiobooks, they're missing out on something. I wouldn't want to deny that. But I think that, conversely, people who are only capable of enjoying fiction in the Johnny-come-lately format that is the written word, and can't touch the simpler, older and more basic pleasure of closing their eyes and letting a story come alive for them through a good voice telling it well...
Well, they're missing something too.