Archive for the 'science_fiction' Category

Dec 24 2008

Nisi Shawl Reads in San Francisco, Jan. 3

Published by Brian under events, fiction, science_fiction

As its first event of 2009, Borderland Books in San Francisco is hosting Nisi Shawl on Jan. 3. Nisi will be reading from her book of stories, Filter House. Here’s the reading details, including directions to Borderlands. Nisi has been a prolific contributor to Puck over the past six months–just by reading through these posts you can get a glimpse of the range of her interests.

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Dec 09 2008

Nisi Shawl on Yin Radio

Published by Brian under writing, science_fiction

Yin Radio logoWhen Nisi read at Book People in Moscow, Idaho recently, a young woman interning as a reporter for Yin Radio (based at KRFP FM in Moscow) recorded her reading. You can now hear that reading via an MP3 on Yin Radio’s site. Nisi read all of “Bird Day” and part of “Wallamelon.” The 53-minute program also includes Kim Barnes reading from her new novel, A Place Called Home, as well as a piece on Coco Umiker, a food science grad student at WSU (one of my public relations interns wrote about her major professor here) who is a partner in a winery down the hill in Lewiston, Idaho.

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Nov 04 2008

Shawl’s Filter House Is Best of 2008

Nisi Shawl’s Filter House has just been named one of the “best books of the year” by Publishers Weekly:

Shawl’s exquisitely rendered debut collection weaves threads of folklore, religion, family and the search for a cohesive self through a panorama of race, magic and the body.

Yes. Here’s my review of Filter House. Here’s an article in the WSU student newspaper about Nisi’s reading at BookPeople of Moscow.

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Oct 03 2008

Local Press for Nisi Shawl’s Reading

Published by Brian under science_fiction

The WSU student newspaper, The Daily Evergreen, has a nice feature on Nisi’s reading tomorrow at BookPeople in Moscow. Reporter Brandon Seiler interviewed Nisi, me, and BookPeople owner Bob Greene.

Feminist science fiction.

Without mention of an author such as Nisi Shawl, these words have about as much to do with each other as three balls dropped from a bingo machine. Her work is helping pioneer the capacities of the sci-fi genre beyond the cliches from questioning the most rigid social norms.

Defying any branch of mainstream storytelling, Shawl said her ratio of female to male protagonists is nearly nine to one and the women are rarely preoccupied with locking down a love interest. Yet, Shawl said she doesn’t feel particularly aware of trying to write feminist literature.

“It’s not a conscious or preachy thing, gravity is a part of my work too,” she said.

Nisi reads at BookPeople Saturday the 4th starting at 11 a.m.

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Sep 27 2008

Nisi Shawl Reads at BookPeople Oct. 4 in Moscow, Idaho

Nisi ShawlNisi reads from her new story collection, Filter House, and answers questions about African Americans in speculative fiction, Filter House, and Writing the Other: Bridging Cultural Differences for Successful Fiction at BookPeople in Moscow, Idaho, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Copies of Filter House and Writing the Other will be available for sale, with a signing session following the reading. BookPeople is at 521 S. Main St., Moscow, ID, 83843.

Also, Nisi and I may play one of my songs together at her reading. She’s got a great singing voice and I’ve written an SF carpe diem love song we like to do.

This is a brown-bag affair, so hit the farmer’s market to score some lunch to munch while Nisi reads to you. Bring questions and ideas, too, on anything about writing, life, the universe and everything, as we’re hoping for a lively postprandial discussion.

My review of Filter House is here. Nisi’s Science Fiction Writers of America page is here.

Filter House, said writer and critic Samuel R. Delany, “is just amazing. What a pleasure and privilege it was to read it!”

The eminent novelist and critic Ursula K. Le Guin wrote of Filter House: “From the exotic, baroque complexities of ‘At the Huts of Ajala’ to the stark, folktale purity of ‘The Beads of Ku,’ these fourteen superbly written stories will weave around you a ring of dark, dark magic.”
Matt Ruff, author of Set This House In Order and Bad Monkeys calls Filter House “A travelling story-bazaar, offering treasures and curios from diverse lands of wonder.”

Karen Joy Fowler declares, “Sometimes enigmatic, often surprising, always marvelous. This lovely collection will take you, like a magic carpet, to some strange and wonderful places.”

Eileen Gunn, author of Stable Strategies, concurs that these are “Remarkably involving stories that pull you along a path of wonder, word by word, in worlds where everything is a bit different.”

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Sep 16 2008

Visual Thinking in Engine Summer by John Crowley

some notes from an article I wrote on the Visual Reasoning wiki

Engine Summer is set in post-apocalyptic distant future, hundreds of years, at least, after a series of anthropogenic catastrophes, known collectively as the Storm, have reduced human populations to a fraction of their former billions. The teller of Engine Summer is Rush (as in reed), a member of the Little Belaire community, all of whom are “truth speakers.” Truth speakers attempt to communicate in such a way that “they mean what they say, and say what they mean.” One of the ways they do this is by telling lots of stories. As a boy, Rush — Rush that Speaks is his full name — spends time with a “gossip,” a wise woman, named Painted Red.

Storytelling allows for the creation of communal meaning; but by what cognitive means is that accomplished? In as much as Crowley’s novel is a meditation on this question, he seems to argue that the means is through perception. For instance, the young Rush is being counseled by Painted Red while they are both in a heightened state of consciousness thanks to the use of a “rose-colored substance” dabbed on the lips:

What I did notice was that Painted Red’s questions, and then my answers, began to take on bodies somehow. When she talked about something, it wasn’t only being talked about but called into being. When she asked about my mother, my mother was there, or I was with her, on the roofs where the beehives are, and she was telling me to put my ear against the hive and hear the low constant murmur of the wintering bees inside. When Painted Red asked my about my dreams, I seemed to dream them all over again, to fly again and cry out in terror and vertigo when I fell. I never stopped knowing that Painted Red was beside me talking, or that I was answering; but — it was the rose-colored stuff that did, of course, but I wasn’t aware even of that — though I knew that I hadn’t left her side and that her hand was still on mine, still I went journeying up and down my life. (359; references, unfortunately, to an oddball 3-in-1 edition.) Continue Reading »

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Aug 31 2008

Anvil of Stars by Greg Bear

Published by Brian under reviews, science_fiction

review by Brian Charles Clark

Anvil of Stars book coverEarth is dead, reduced to rocks and dust by a horde of marauding alien machine intelligences. A few thousand Earthlings have been saved by the Benefactors, themselves machine intelligences who have helped the survivors re-establish themselves on Mars. That story was told in Greg Bear’s 1987 novel, The Forge of God.

Now, in Anvil of Stars, the sequel to Forge, three hundred years have gone by, and the Benefactors have outfitted 80 or so Earth children with a Ship of the Law capable of exacting revenge on the killer machines that destroyed their home. Three hundred years have gone by in a literal blink of the eye, as the children have been asleep, traveling at 99 percent of the speed of light. They begin training for what lies ahead of them: the willful destruction of an entire solar system full of intelligent beings.

This tightly plotted novel stands alone as a highly imaginative consideration of genocide. Enacting the Law of revenge is one thing; making sure you’ve got the true perpetrators of Earth’s destruction is another. Hundreds of years have passed—what if the killer machines and their makers have changed their ways? Continue Reading »

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Aug 24 2008

Quantico by Greg Bear

Published by Brian under reviews, science_fiction

review by Brian Charles Clark

Quantico by Greg Bear - book coverGreg Bear’s novel Quantico was a long time coming to the U.S. market, his publisher evidently thinking that it was too real for tender American sensibilities in the wake of events in late 2001.

Finally released in the U.S., the novel is more startling now than when it was first published in the U.K. in 2006, especially in the wake of the recent suicide of Bruce Ivins, the federal biodefense scientist who was being investigated for the 2001 anthrax mailings in the FBI case known as Amerithrax. The mailings resulted in the death of five people and the infection of 17 others.

Using Amerithrax as a jumping-off point, Bear has constructed a gripping thriller in which the anthrax mailer (based on Ivins, perhaps, but more likely on Steven Hatfill, the scientist originally indicted in the case but who was recently exonerated and given a nearly $6 million settlement) is himself a pawn in an even more nefarious plot. Continue Reading »

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Aug 21 2008

Filter House by Nisi Shawl

Published by Brian under fiction, reviews, science_fiction

review by Brian Charles Clark

Filter House bu Nisi Shawl - book coverCall Nisi Shawl’s marvelous first collection of stories slipstream, call it speculative, call it curvy fiction for the straight-ahead twists that bend her fiction — they’re all grounded in experience. In Shawl’s stories, calling upon an African goddess is no more speculative than hailing a taxi, and following a bird to enlightenment is as normal as talking to your mother on Sunday. In Shawl’s realities, imagination is a force to be reckoned with, and the universe teems with life and spirit and desire.

Filter House is aptly named. A filter house is the structure secreted by a minuscule sea creature (an appendicularian, for the curious) that filters the sea for the wee beastie’s food. Food, dwelling, the implied hearth and heart that is fed - all these describe Shawl’s stories. Her characters are closely observed and gain quick traction in the friction of the real. Continue Reading »

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Jul 25 2008

Read More Jack Womack

cover of Jack Womack's novel Random Acts of Senseless ViolenceVisiting with writer Nisi Shawl a couple weeks ago, I asked her what she was working on. Among other projects, she mentioned she was working on a review of Neal Stephenson’s forthcoming novel, Anathem. That got my wild up, as I’m a big fan, so she let me peruse her advance copy. Tucked in was the usual PR stuff from the publisher, in this case a letter from Stephenson’s publicist, Jack Womack.

The Jack Womack?” I asked. “Yes,” said Nisi. “He’s Gibson’s publicist, too.”

I devoured Womack’s novels in the ’90s as they were published. I’ve been waiting for a new one for quite a while now. Nisi said she was afraid I might have to wait quite a while longer as, for some reason, his novels didn’t sell, so he wasn’t publishing. He’s publicizing. WTF? Continue Reading »

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