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I don't think Ties of Silver was an unqualified success. If nothing else, it was really educational.

For me, part of the problem might have been the pace and timbre of the reading. I understand why the growly voice and the measured, deliberate reading. I found it difficult to listen to on my car speakers though. (It was easier when I switched to headphones after I'd finished my commute.) The pace didn't draw me in, especially since the first half hour or so is structured exactly as I'd expected the story to be. (I should point out that the reading is actually quite good, just not for me. I think I'd have enjoyed the story more had I read it. However, I might have skimmed until the good part.)

The story, however, does hit the heights of awesome in its back half. Those who find the first half compelling enough to stick with it will be amply rewarded. This makes me think that it's never too late to hit the heights of awesome... as long as you can pull the readers with you until then.

In any case, lots of gritty, well-defined atmosphere. The story is mostly by the numbers but exceptionally well done. If I had to quibble, romanticization of the ghetto generally sits with me the wrong way and this story isn't an exception. Given a choice of whether to be ghettoized or not, there's a real cost to voluntary ghettoization. The story recognizes this by listing the benefits of not being ghettoized, but that feels dry and abstract.

The story ends pretty much the way it had to end for everything to pay off. I just wish it hadn't stacked the deck.
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My story, "Thirty Seconds From Now" is now up on the Boston Review website. (The magazine doesn't have the greatest newsstand circulation. Seeing my story on the web is actually more exciting than getting my author copy of the magazine.)
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It started off as a quick reply to [ profile] krylyr's post Bullshit and Blasephemy, so go read that first if you need context. However, my reply got longer than I expected, so I'm posting it here:

"The Parable of the Shower" was awesome. Based on the title and the first few sentences, my immediate thought was, "There's no way she can pull this off," but she does. Not only does she maintain the language but she also keeps it funny throughout the story. She explores the implications of that opening situation without ever flinching or shying away. The issues she confronts turns what might otherwise have been a style exercise into a moving story that's also really funny.

As for Card, well, now I know not to read "Hamlet's Father."(Rain Taxi's review) He has a right to express, by now, his really well known views. I have a right to express mine. That he wrote a story with a cardboard gay villain is still shocking but it's not surprising. What surprised me was his "this is fault of all of those calling me out on my homophobia" response. I get sad when people start calling out bingo card spaces.

About what happened to Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown, I have absolutely no doubt that by the time I manage any sort of success in the field, either de-gaying or whitewashing will have happened to me too. I've already decided that whoever says that is an editor, publisher, or agent I didn't want to work with anyway. (Yes, I totally get that editors, publishers and agents can make these sorts of decisions without personally being racists or homophobes themselves.)

Actually, something like it may have already happened to me at least once. My same sex marriage allegory once got a personal rejection that ended with something like "We really enjoyed this, but it's too controversial for our magazine." It's a story about a town fighting off the monsters that carry winter. *sigh* And a completely insignificant example: One of the first crits I received from Critters was from someone who did the "I'm not a homophobe, but..." thing and de-gayed my story. (It's amazing how much damage bad copyediting can wreak.) I've received a lot of useless crits from Critters but that was the most useless.

On the plus side, we now have agents rushing to blog and update their web pages to make clear that they absolutely welcome a diversity of characters in fiction. Public disapproval of de-gaying is always a good sign.

(ETA: originally I'd written "same sex marriage parable," but I meant "same sex marriage allegory." I've replaced the word above.)
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My contributor copy of Boston Review just showed up in the mail. They took my story last September, so it's been a wait...

On one hand, the editors told me it would be in this issue. They gave the story a lovely edit at the beginning of July. Getting a copy of the magazine with my story in it isn't exactly a surprise. It's still a shock though.
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I must be the only person in the world immune to the charms of The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu. The podcasters at Galactic Suburbia loved it, for example. He's written a bunch of stories I love and deserves every bit of success coming to him and then some. This story, though, doesn't do it for me.

Lots of people find the story heart-breaking. I do too, but I feel manipulated. Yes, all stories manipulate but they also effect the illusion of portraying things just as they happened. The illusion didn't work for me here.

It starts off wonderfully. The main character and the relationship with his mother is spot on, especially once he goes to school and the rest of society intrudes on the world they'd created. I really enjoyed that section. How the main character turns on his mother is devastating. From there though, the story stretches out in time and loses me bit by bit. For me, the mother ceases to be a character and becomes a prop calculated to invoke pathos. A real missed opportunity.

I have to confess: I didn't listen to the entire podcast, although I read the story in F&SF. (Actually, I read it several times hoping that I'd change my mind and start liking it from beginning to end.) I stopped listening to the podcast at the tone-deaf rendition of the Mandarin dialogue. Sorry, folks. This is a pet peeve of mine. It's probably derived from memories of people making incoherent noises and calling it "Chinese."

Obviously, Podcastle didn't do anything like that. Still, why is it ok to mispronounce some words, but not others? (Yes, the mispronunciations are not intentional. They just didn't think about it. That's my point.)

Anyway, I wanted to like the story much more than I actually did. Most people, I suspect, will like the story more than me. So absolutely go listen to it and have a great time.
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Almost forgot, speaking of being accosted by strangers...

The managing editor at Boston Review emailed me his edit of "30 Seconds from Now." This, at least, I'd been warned about. A co-editor had emailed me earlier this week to tell me that they've scheduled my story for publication.

I agree with most of his edits. In addition, there are like three additional words I want to fix. The file is all set to email back, but I want to go over it one more time first. If all goes well, my story will be in the Sept/Oct. issue of Boston Review.

ETA: links to Boston Review
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Last Sunday:

I'm at the supermarket. They don't leave much space between the steam tables and I'm blocking this guy. I step out of the way and apologize. He respond with, "Hey, I know you! I see you all the time at [Gym I Work Out At]."

I suppose this could have led to a friendly conversation. What I actually did was say, "Ok" and go to the other side of the supermarket. In my defense, I was heading there anyway.

In retrospect, I wonder if he'd tagged me as "the bald headed Chinese guy." I hope not. It'd be pretty awful if he told every bald headed Chinese guy that he saw him all the time at that gym.


I get a phone call from a Nice Man who identifies himself as calling from a local Prestigious Opera Company. As it turns out, it's a good thing he does this. After we exchange ritual greetings, he asked me how I enjoyed A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Prestigious Opera Company's most recent production. If he hadn't identified himself, the conversation would have felt seriously stalker-y.

Anyway, instead of "do I have a stalker?" what goes through my mind is "why is he calling me out of the blue and engaging me in friendly, if pointless, conversation?" Maybe someone asking me for my opinion in a warm, friendly voice freaks me out. I have no idea. For whatever reason, my immediate reaction is to say, "Umm.. I'm not ready to donate to [Prestigious Opera Company] right now. Thank you and have a nice day." [This, BTW, is not a lie. I would seriously consider donating to them someday, but jeez, I've only ever attended the one production. Give me a little time to build up loyalty first.]

Just before I hit the disconnect button on my cellphone, I hear, "Whoa! You've cut straight to the chase!" At least I was right.


I'm working from home. Someone knocks at my door. Dread fills me. Last time I worked from home, it was a man trying to convert me to his religion. This time, it's a woman. She's not holding any religious materials. She's not holding anything at all. This worries me more than if I saw, say, a Bible or a clipboard with notes about some political cause. We exchange ritual greetings. She asks me how I am. Of course, I say I'm fine and I reciprocate by asking her how she is. She responds, "Good, but I'd feel even better if you'd adopt me and take me out for some liquid sunshine." WTF? [Note: I totally reserve the right to use that line as dialogue in some story I write.]

I blurt, "That's too freaky for me. Have a good day" then close the door. (Yes, I apparently wish people a good day even when I'm blurting whatever is on the top of my mind. That occurred to me right after I shut the door.) She leaves, or at least I assume she's left. It's been a few hours and I've been busy working.

I do wish I'd held it together a little better so that I could find out why she said that. People don't go door-to-door propositioning other people, do they? (That would be an extremely sad way of trying to get a date.)
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Two podcasts this time. As Below, So Above"(podcast) by Ferrett Steinmetz and Eliot Wrote by Nancy Kress. The former was originally published by Beneath Ceaseless Skies and podcast by PodCastle. The latter is published by Lightspeed.

"As Below, So Above" does something that annoys the hell out of me when done poorly but done beautifully here: the portrayal of humans and human actions from a non-human point of view. It's so easy to leave a residue of "Get it? Get it? Understand what's really happening? Isn't this all exceptionally clever?" in the writing. i.e., even it's not about the humans, it's still all about the humans. That doesn't happen here because Ferrett inhabits the point of view of the giant squids so naturally that I'm caught in their wants and desires. The central story of the squids' contest with faith is actually the central story. It's not some pile of text to be decode to find the "real" story involving the humans. The byplay with the humans is simply backdrop. Well worth listening to on so many levels. (Also, great reading by Norm Sherman.)

"Eliot Wrote" is likewise impressive (and coincidentally, it also deals with faith). She's nailed Eliot as the too smart for his age kid who is utterly convinced he knows the answers but no one will listen too. (And even though we are within his point of view, we see that he doesn't really know the answers.) The story points out his frustration in ways that are all to true to life. If the "strict rationalist who finally breaks down and yearns for faith" story is tired, it's at least exceptionally well told.

What I enjoyed the most about this story is its careful construction. Everything fits together precisely, but never in ways that make me feel like the author's hand is shoving things along. In very little space, the story develops detailed characters that make lasting impressions. I especially love the running use of the idea of metaphor that unifies the story. (In a sense, the story makes extended use of metaphor as an extended metaphor.) Given the arc of the story, the ending is inevitable, but it's mollified by the youth of the protagonist and that the story does not come to a neat ending.

So, yay, two stories that I mostly love.
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The Architect of Heaven(podcast) is one of those stories that I inevitably damn with faint praise. (Sorry, I enjoyed listening to it, but I can't love it.) It's definitely worth listening to or reading, but it hits at least one pet peeve that arguably may be more the fault of society rather than the author or story.

This may be spoilerific. If you care about that sort of thing, either stop reading now, or experience the story then come back.

The story is certainly well written. It held my interest despite me pretty much always knowing how the story would proceed. The flip between the first and second wave of colonists is a nice touch (but not played as a surprise since the story basically tells you in the first paragraph). The story sets up its premise, not to mention several fleshed out worlds with both precision and economy. It may be an oft-told tale, but it's a tale told exceptionally well.

(Quibbles: One and a half mispronounced names distracted me during the podcast. "Diaspora" is accented on the second syllable, not first and third. "Chen" is pinyin, not Wade-Giles because his last name is "Xiang." In that case, a more accurate pronunciation, rendered in English phonetics, would be "tsen". Kate basically changed his name to "Qian." To be fair, this didn't bother me until I looked up the text part way through listening to the podcast.

Since that's still a plausible name, it didn't bother me as much as "Diaspora" or that everyone with a non-Anglo name speaks with a non-American accent. Valikova self-identifies as Russian, complete with ineluctable sadness, but nothing says that Chen Xiang couldn't be American. That would have been one less accent to assay. Of course, Chen Xiang is the technical genius with apparently no life. As we all know, that is the lot of secondary characters of Chinese descent. Sometimes, that's the lot of primary characters of Chinese descent too. I suppose I should just be happy to see a future where people of Chinese descent exist, but I digress...)

As much as I think it's well written and as much as I enjoyed listening to it, I'm really tired of this story, especially told in a way that doesn't challenge its assumptions. We don't have a shortage of stories where a gay man (although not explicitly tagged as such) in unrequited love with a straight man, sacrifices himself so that the straight man can be with the love of his life. As is traditional in these sorts of stories, the straight man has no idea this is happening (and thus is free of guilt) and the woman who is the object of his love is barely in the story and doesn't get to speak for herself about whether she even wants to be with him. (I mean, really, she went into hibernation to travel to another star system to get away from him. That may be, as they say, A Sign.)

(I feel I need to point out here that I only hold this opinion because of the lack of balance in published stories overall. i.e., we don't ever see the story where, for example, the straight man sacrifices himself so that gay man can be with the man he loves. Relatively speaking, we rarely see the story where the gay man gets the happy ending. Within a more diverse field of stories, yet another story where the gay man sacrifices himself for the good of heteronormative society would be just another possibility as opposed to the only one. That's what I mean by "arguably may be the fault of society rather than the author or story.")

What's interesting about the podcast is that the ostensible dominant narrative goes unremarked upon. Kate notes the how the final scene reveals who the narrator has been all along, but doesn't follow through to explicate what the story then must really be about. Maybe she thought it was too obvious to mention. It's definitely possible. Carter (our crypto-gay guy absurdly loyal to Trent) sacrifices in rather blatant ways that Valikova (our sad Russian) keeps pointing out is doomed. It's not like no one can figure out what's happening (except our self-centered straight man who must remain free from guilt of his best friend's sacrifice).

OTOH, Kate's closing comments hammer the notion that the story consists of the straight narrative. I.e., the story of the guy who would do and does anything to be with the woman she loves. The gay narrative that of the guy who sacrifices everything he is for the man he loves, who will get no reward for his actions goes unremarked upon. Given the reveal of point-of-view at the end, the gay narrative is theoretically the dominant narrative of the flashback sections. Certainly, that's how I felt as I was listening to it. (i.e., even before the final scene made it explicit.) Still, it goes unmentioned in her closing comments. Perhaps it was unnoticed.

And yet it's incredibly well written. If you aren't tired yet of the story where The Other self-sacrifices for the benefit for the norm, this is a good example--I mean that in the best sense--to read and listen to. Like I said, damn with faint praise.
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"Shannon's Law" by Cory Doctorow is a preview of the soon-to-be published Welcome to Bordertown, the first Bordertown anthology in who knows how many years. I've been looking forward to this anthology from the moment I heard about it a year ago or so. So, of course, I clicked play on this podcast with fond memories, tense anticipation, and high expectations.

The result? I can best explain by analogy. Some years back, there was a TV show called Whose Line Is It Anyway? featuring a bunch of comedians played short-form improv games. One of the games was called "Song Stylings." The audience would suggest and object and a style then one of the comedians would sing a song about that object in that style. e.g., a song about a blender in the style of Stephen Sondheim, or a song about an ironing board in the style of reggae (which inevitably leads to lyrics about how the singer can't stand the board up because it "be jammin'.") The show used skilled improvisers so the results were always funny and on-style, but more or less what you'd expect.

For me, "Shannon's Law" is what happens when you command, "Give me a story in the style of Cory Doctorow set in Bordertown that name checks Claude Shannon and references the Shannon-Hartley Theorem." i.e., given the knowns of "Cory Doctorow" and the title "Shannon's Law", the story was more or less what I expected.

If you like Cory's work, you'll like this story. If you'd rather hack your limbs off with a rusty axe than read Doctorow, this is not a story that will change your mind about him. If you, like me, find his work decent but occasionally problematic, this story will just reinforce your existing biases about his work.

The idea is an intrinsically good one. Bordertown is an area where neither magic or technology work consistently. That makes Shannon's Law especially relevant, or at least the nature of Bordertown ought to magnify its effects. If anything, though, I wished "Shannon's Law" had dealt more meaningfully with Shannon's Law. (Otherwise, the title is just a cute, but meaningless, pun.)

Anyway, the situation and main character are vintage Doctorow. The main character, of course, is a smart, tech savvy guy who uses sarcasm to distance himself from others, and does not subject his own ideas to the same intense scrutiny that he subjects everyone else's to. Thus, he spends a lot of his thoughts underlining the uselessness of magic, but he sees the technology as reliable. e.g., he grouses about a ladder that has been magicked so that the rungs are extra grippy. True to Borderland, some rungs are downright sticky while other rungs are near impossible to hold onto. He decides that later he'll solve this problem with some good old-fashioned tape. Because, of course, the rather advanced adhesives on the backside of the tape is sure to stick the rung. It seems to me that for some rungs, the tape will slip because the adhesive will fail.

Yes, this is kind of a trivial example that has nothing to do with the spine of the story. It does crystalize, though, the world view of the main character, Shannon Claude (*bonk* *bonk* get it?). He is so utterly dismissive of magic that one wonders why he ran away to Bordertown in the first place.

Of course, Shannon has wired Bordertown up to the Internet via a variety of technology. Cory dutifully mentions "spell boxes" as part of the infrastructure. Setting up a reliable network with some guarantee of service out of explicitly flaky parts engages directly with Shannon's Law. So, of course, the story isn't about that. The network is weirdly reliable. I'd have expected him to have deploy multiple technologies to cover the same links. i.e., use redundancy to cover the inherent unreliability of technology in the area. If the story made any reference to that, I missed it. The impression I got was that the network was a hodge-podge of different technologies in different areas (with a dutiful reference to "spell boxes").

No, the story is about trying to send a bit through Faerie and back. That aspect of the story chock full of the sort of infodump that you love if you're a Doctorow fan and you skip if you're a Doctorow fan who's already taken at least his fair share of Computer Engineering classes. (That's how I got through Little Brother.) As such, I suspect I'd have enjoyed the story more on paper since you can't really skip the infodumps when you listen to the podcast. (For the record, I liked Little Brother.)

(Oh, and there is a Relationship in the story so that we never lose track of the characters as feeling, sentient beings.)

I always get the impression that Cory has a much more optimistic view of engineering than I do. His networks never have problems. With his engineering projects, the challenge is mostly figuring out what to do, with a slight dash of actually making it work out as planned. (i.e., the consequence may not be what his characters expect, but the actual doing seems to go well.) That's the impression I got here too. (Like I said, this story reinforces my existing biases. YMMV.)

As such, I can't decide whether the ending is clever or a cop-out. Frankly, unless he wanted to fundamentally chance the nature of the shared world, it had to end as it did. That necessity doesn't make the ending satisfying though. For me, the story flinches in that Shannon never comes to evaluate himself with the rigor he evaluates everyone else.

Like I said, the story is vintage Doctorow. It doesn't do much good to complain or to triumph that Cory Doctorow writes like Cory Doctorow. I enjoyed it, I guess, but I bet this will not be my favorite story in the anthology.

I'm still looking forward to Welcome to Bordertown. The story is definitely worth a listen and it does give a flavor of what Bordertown is like. I hope it entices everyone to buy a copy of the anthology.
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On the way to work, I heard a story on NPR's Morning Edition: Zoot Shooters Bring Gangster Style To The Gun Range. It's a lighthearted human interest story about practical shooting. (i.e., shooting matches based on scenarios a shooter must work through as opposed more conventional target matches.) The twist here is that everyone is replication a certain '30s Chicago aesthetic.

Now, this isn't a "OMG, guns are serious business. How *dare* they make light of deadly weapons" post. AFAICT, they take great care to make their competition as safe as possible. As long as they know what they're doing and aren't engaged in anything illegal, I don't see anything wrong enjoying target shooting. Have at it.

The reason I'm blogging this, however, are these two sentence in the report:
"The Tommy gun is often called a Chicago Typewriter — when shot at the paper human-form targets, it sounds just like an old manual typewriter. There are brown paper targets for the bad guys and white ones for the innocents or hostages — hit one of those, and it's a 5-second penalty."

Yes, the goal of the competition is to shoot all the brown people while avoiding all the white people. No, there are no subconscious racial overtones here. None whatsoever. *headdesk*

My point is *not* "OMGOMGOMG, they're racistracistracist." That lacks a certain nuance that we need here. My point is that it never occurred to them that not only are they training their competitors to shoot at human form targets based solely on color, but they have picked a target color that has unfortunate resonances relative to the rest of the world. (Yes, consciously, they can tell the difference between a human form and a human being, but the targets are human form in the first place for a reason, right?)
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At the Futurebook blog, Agent Orange's bright idea to kill ebook piracy is essentially SFWA's infamous and repudiated Shades of Gray project. That is, publishers seed the internet with corrupt versions of ebooks. Never mind that if a non-corrupt version isn't already available, people would quickly generate one. Never mind that based on feedback, people would quickly figure out which versions are corrupt and which versions aren't. In the worse case scenario, people won't care and all those people will read the corrupt version thinking that it's the real thing. Maybe they'll just complain about typos and rather than getting the message that they should buy ebooks, they'll just think less of ebooks as a whole, or think less of that publisher if they put in a note admitting to corrupting the text. A publisher making consumers less interested in their books is not a winning strategy no matter how you spin it.

Based on the rest of his blog, I don't think he's seriously proposing anyone try Shades of Gray again. (e.g., he has a blog post called "Fighting piracy is the dumbest thing you can do.") However, he does think that this idea would work. That and the fact that he makes no reference to Shades of Gray makes me think he hasn't done his research. If he doesn't know what he's talking about, why should I listen to him?
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My ComCast service has been flaky for a while now. Ok, flaky is relative. In my case, it means I'll lose service without warning for a few minutes at a time. This happens not every day, but it feels like it. Every once in a rare while, like right now, service will go away for far longer than several minutes at a time. Let's put it this way: AT&T gives me a more reliable connection to the internet.

(Obviously, I'm not updating my LJ via ComCast broadband service right now...)

Anyway, today is apparently the last straw because I've signed up for FiOS service. My upstairs neighbors are already on FiOS and they don't find it flaky so I hope I won't either. Also, as it turns out, FiOS is slightly cheaper (although it comes with a 1 year commitment).

I realize that not having broadband access at home is very much a First World Problem(tm). However, last time I lost access for long time, it really wasn't that big a deal. I called ComCast who ended up replacing the cable going from the house to the pole outside. That actually gave me reliable service for a little while. This time, I have more data in the cloud and so not having broadband access on my computer is actually kind of troublesome. (The data in the cloud is mostly backups, but I don't want to be without my backups.) And, I don't want to make calling ComCast to replace the cable a regular thing.

The big surprise for me is I ordered today and the installation date they offered me was this Friday. I hadn't expected it to be so soon. They've already set up much of the infrastructure thanks to my upstairs neighbors. That has to help. Also, they really want people to sign up. (In that case though, why make me block off the whole day waiting for the installation tech to show up? Also, 4 hour installation. Yikes...)
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Wow. Ancient conspiracies, secret agents and an epic fight all wrapped up in the dawn of the Age of Machines. Everyone is going to call it steampunk. (And in fact, Dave Thompson in the outro does just that.) That either shows how steampunk has stretched out beyond its usual haunts (if you like steampunk), or how the term is so over-applied that it's useless (if you dislike steampunk).

The story is on the long side for Podcastle, but the time flies by. It makes a good argument for the idea that genre stories need to be somewhat longer than their non-genre cousins. In this case, the story is a novelette rather than the short story you might expect given the amount of action. It spends part of that extra space wisely on natural opportunities of exposition so that we have a clue as to what's happening. It does this compellingly and justifies the length.

I feel silly dinging Daniel Abraham on anything. The story is beautifully written and, on the whole, satisfying. I do have two quibbles though. These aren't really Things To Be Fixed That Would Make the Story Better. They're just things that irked me.

One, I realize that in a good story we should be able to find the ending in the opening. In this case though, the opening completely telegraphs the ending. The notion it expresses, at this point, is a bit trite and related to what actually happens in the story proper by the thinnest of threats. It reads like an attempt to give the story a heft and gravitas that it hasn't earned. The unearned weight actually bothers me more than the triteness. For me, the story might have been more effective without the opening quotation and the closing summation. Either way though, the effect is still a bit '50s SF B-movie. i.e., "The end... or is it?" (Then again, sometimes, that's exactly the right ending.)

Two, it's hard not to think the only reason to hit how attractive Rachel is repeatedly in the story is to underline that these two guys who live with each other, work together and risk their lives together are not gay. They can't be guy because one of them finds the only woman in the story attractive and hints at this constantly. Now, it's extremely well done in part because she's valued for what she knows, what she does, and her spirit as well as for her looks. For me, he's mostly avoided the trap of objectification. But seriously, one could strike those lines out and not miss them. The worst thing that happens in that case is some readers might think Balfour and Meriwether are an item. In the grand scheme of things, is that so awful? (For the record, I personally would not have even without the hinting.)

To be fair, that they aren't an item isn't so awful either. However, it's as if several times in each section of the story, including while they are in the midst of the epic combat against the Big Bad, Daniel Abraham reminded you how much one of our main characters likes scones. That's nice, but what's the point?

Like I said, they're quibbles. If I were an editor, I doubt they'd stop me from buying the story. Still, it makes me want to write the story where we have extraneous asides to establish that a character must be gay just to see what the reaction would be.
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Some Firefly fans are starting up Firefly Between the Lines, "an unofficial, fan audio drama where Serenity flies again..." They're currently auditioning for a cast.

Now, I'm not morally opposed to people podcasting a prequel to the TV show. That could be really entertaining. My problem is that I looked at the audition sides for the various characters. The English lines for each character are specific and relevant. The Chinese lines are identical for each character. Moreover, there is no translation so chances are good that most auditioners won't have a clue what they're saying. As you know Bob, the best way to imbue a line with meaning and intention is to intone words as if they were a set of random syllables. (Worse yet, they use a rather unusual romanization. Googling those phrases will likely not find an acceptable translation.)

[I can hear the response now: "Don't you have something better to get angry about?" This question makes the rather weird assumption that people can be angry or concerned about only one thing at a time, or ever. I can be concerned about this and a whole bunch of other things at once. So, yes, I do have better things to get angry about but that doesn't mean I can't be angry about this too.]

The way they're conducting auditions doesn't bode well for how Chinese will be used in their fan audio drama. While the TV show didn't cover itself in glory, much of the post-hoc fan rationalizations for the use of Chinese unintentionally perpetuate stereotypes and prejudices that one hopes would have died by the 26th century. e.g., from The Firefly and Serenity Database: "Over time, folks figured out what they are and started replacing different parts of speech with whichever language that related their thoughts the best. A doctor in the 26th century wouldn't hope to explain chi flow in English, for instance, any more than a control station would give docking instructions in Chinese." Do I really need to unpack why this is problematic?

Then again, given the sheer lack of Chinese people on the show, maybe it's not the stereotypes and prejudices that have died out by the 26th century, but the Chinese people as a whole, except for that one guy in the Fruitie-Oatie Bar commercial. (Yes, there's a post-hoc fan rationalization for the lack of Chinese people too. Saying that the crew, as a matter of dramatic interest, just happened to have never visited any place where there were Chinese people is not exactly non-insulting.)


Anyway, just in case anyone is going to audition: The two Chinese phrases they're asking you to say, in order, mean: "You're not up to snuff, you bastard." and "Mind your own business!" I would post a pronunciation guide, but I'm not seeing the point.

Of course, there's a post-hoc fan rationalization for the poor pronunciation. I admit, this one actually makes some sense: linguistic drift. Why should we expect Chinese of the 26th century to sound anything like the Chinese of today. Now that I think about it, that would explain why they mispronounce all the English words too. Oh wait...

[I should point out that, on balance, I liked Firefly a lot. That doesn't mean it doesn't also fail for me in some ways. How sad though that as fans make the show their own, they will continue to fail in the same ways. I'm left thinking that either they didn't consider these issues, which would make me sad, or they did consider these issues, which would make me sadder.]
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Around thirty years ago, I saw a sketch comedy show where every once in a while Bonnie Franklin would be alone on camera, the spotlight hitting her just so, and she'd say something to God. They were these short cutaways between the sketches proper. One time, she told God that it was time for them to "go steady." This is to say that the premise of Corinthians is at least decades old. Sam Schreiber runs with it though. He doesn't flinch and comes up with a short story that is both funny and thoughtful as it conflates two ostensibly different sorts of intimate relationships.

[Note: There's a huge difference from a 30 second blackout joke and a full-fledged short story. I'm obviously not charging anyone of copying anything. The conceit has been around forever, but that's not important. What's important is that Sam Schreiber has written terrific story around that conceit.]

The story's structured beautifully. The opening line sets up the gambit. The rest of the story follows through, going stage by stage through the aftermath of a break-up. The protagonist is a theology scholar so that the story can underscore the unique nature of the relation. He finds apt analogies every step of the way. It's one of those stories where you can take it apart and understand exactly what ever word is doing, but it never feels rote.

Tatiana Gomberg has given it perhaps the best of all possible readings. Second person narrative might have been really annoying heard (rather than read), but she inhabits the narrator so entertainingly that the story flies by.

Incidentally, this also strikes me as one of those stories would be considered literary when published in a literary venue (as it was originally), and fantasy when published in a fantasy venue. It works either way. I'm a big fan of those. (This shouldn't be that surprising. My one sale (so far, I hope) is a piece of fantasy to Boston Review written in 3rd person future.) If nothing else, it shows that genre distinctions, at times, can be completely arbitrary.
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Maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places, but I haven't seen very much speculative fiction about immigrants. Of course, no one is obliged to write about any topic in any genre. The best stories come out of passion, not merely out of obligation, and life's too short for anything but the best stories. For a genre whose stock in trade is people entering new worlds-- I mean, there's even a novel called _Stranger in a Strange Land--, not dealing with immigration from the view point of the immigrants seems an odd lacuna. I mean, there are the stories about people going into the new world to explore it, the stories about people going into the new world to conquer it and the stories about the people dumped into a foreign land trying desperately to go home, but what about the other possibilities?

Again, maybe they're commonplace and because there are so many stories out there these days, I'm not just not getting around to them. Anyway, I don't see many stories that are the outgrowth of people packing up their lives, moving to a new world then struggling to create a new life within the constraints of the society that already exists in that new world. i.e., the world isn't truly new. It's only new for them. Of the stories that ever deal with this, I rarely ever see one that convinces me.

[Yes, every time I go off on one of these rants, a little voice in my head says, "Hey, you know you can do something about that, right? Are you a writer of fiction or not?" Just like every time I read a complaint about how genre is too white or too straight though, my response is "I'm doing the best I can..." Seriously. Of my two most recent attempts, one just received an Honorable Mention at WotF. The story, IMHO, is such a mess though that I'm not going to send it anywhere else unless I can overhaul it. The other should be ready to send out soon, I hope.]

This is just a really long-winded way to say Skatouioannis by Nick Mamatas at this week's Podcastle is unadulterated awesome. He absolutely gets what it's like to be the child of first generation immigrants to the United States. Through the specifics of modern Greek culture, he hits the universal.

I mean, OMG, Nick could have been writing about my parents. Ok, my Dad came to the US with a suitcase of clothes but also with a telephone number that worked, and my Mom, savvy as she was, never did quite figure out she was no longer living in a farm in the south of Taiwan. The details are different but the feel and behavior are dead on. The title character works beautifully as a reification of their desires. (Note: They don't literally create the title character. He is a ghost that commits real world actions who also functions as *gasp* a metaphor. Gotta love genre...)

If it weren't for Podcastle, I'd never have even known of the story. I've never heard of Lenox Avenue, the venue that first published it. That gives me hope that there are more stories that engage with the specifics of having to live in a foreign land that I'd thought even if I never see or hear them. I'm glad I got to hear this one though.
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China Abandons The Abacus.

China is raising its interest rates by 0.25 points. The NPR Planet Money blog entry points out that this is the first time that the Chinese central bank has moved interest rates by something that is not a multiple of 0.09. So far, so good. I don't actually have any issue with the two reasons they quoted from Bloomberg News. (I'm not thrilled with the numerology argument but it's plausible.) However, the reason they quoted from the economist with Citigroup is just bizarre:

"The reason is that on the abacus, adding multiples of nine was much easier than adding multiples of 10. So the modern People's Bank of China inherited that special character from the old days."

Abacuses are decimal instruments. The way you add 9 is to add 10 then subtract one. The way you add 10 is... to add 10. e.g. You add 36 by adding pushing up 4 beads in the 10s place then removing 4 beads in the 1s place, dealing with carries as necessary. You add 40 by pushing up 4 beads in the 10s place. Not seeing how adding multiples of 9 is easier given that you have to add a multiple of 10 first then make a correction.

(My dad used to sit me at the abacus and make me add from 1 to 100 over and over again until I came up with the right answer. Looking back, I wish he'd taught me the other basic arithmetic operations.)

The abacus is ultimately a scratchpad made of rods and beads. The same trick for adding 9s works with paper and pencil too. If someone had made the same statement but replaced "on the abacus" with "on paper" and "People's Bank of China" with "Federal Reserve System," I suspect we'd think that person was a raving lunatic.
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It's not a big surprise, I guess, that a couple different podcasts landed on the same idea. It's horror month at both Podcastle and Lightspeed. The inevitable side effect is that most of the short stories I listen to this month are or will be some sort of horror story. This makes me weirdly thankful that Clarkesworld did *not* declare October horror month.

Fortunately, the stories that went up today at Podcastle and Lightspeed are both utterly captivating. The Related Burial at Podcastle, for me, is the more satisfying of the two. Lush, beautiful language. Rich immersive sense details despite the POV character having her eyelids sewn shut. All in all, a lovely meditation on the nature of death. (And it's all the more powerful for its length, or lack thereof.) Another Story I Wish I Had Written.

The Taste of Starlight is not really my type of story, but it is perfectly structured and it's unflinching in how it buries you inside the main character's head. i.e., if I were an editor, I probably would not have bought the story, not because it isn't a fine, well-written story, but because it's not the sort of thing any magazine I'd edit might publish.

Ultimately, the story isn't much more than a parade of the "violent and graphic imagery" that JJA warns about at the top of the web page with a smattering of hyper-rationality thrown in to justify it and, of course, the main character inevitable descent into madness. I don't think it's spoiling things to say that he does get his comeuppance. That's what happens in these sorts of affairs. (How it happens is one of those "inevitable but surprising" turns that's a mark of terrific writing.)

The story does everything it needs to do exquisitely. The violence the main character commits escalates inexorably throughout the story. At every point, he's challenged by his actions, but he pushes on nonetheless. The challenges mount ever harder. The story points out his own degradation skillfully and subtly. The story nails all the structural issues so that you keep with it. The "violent and graphic imagery" is as violent and as graphic as it needs to be to make the story work, but no more than that. Stinting on that front would have ruined the story but so would have anything gratuitous. The story navigates between those two with utter precision. It even justifies its length. (At an hour, this is a long podcast.) Pacing the story any faster would have robbed it of its power.

For me though, the end result is probably only a little more than the written fiction version of Saw. Lots of people loved Saw and its many sequels, but I never caught any of those movies because they're not for me, (This also means the Saw analogy may not be apt.) I'm striving to develop the level of craft and technique this story shows in abundance. I'd deploy it towards something else entirely, but that's just me.
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