Inhuman Swill : November 2007

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November 19, 2007

Locus of power

It was as straightforward as I had hoped to find the November Locus in Manhattan. I simply walked up to the usual place on the newsstand at the Union Square Barnes & Noble and picked up a copy. I'm trying not to be frustrated that I don't yet have the ability to pull off similar feats in the city of Chicago. But it will come.

Anyway, I was finally able to read the Nick Gevers review of my chapbook, which leads off his short fiction column. It says, in part:

William Shunn is one of those SF writers who, because they specialize in short fiction, are not given quite the recognition they deserve—no novels, no mass-market publication, so only the plaudits of the cognoscenti of the short form. Yet Shunn is a fine writer; ingenious, stylish, closely in touch with current global trends and expert in producing thought-provoking near-future SF, and at last he has a collection to show off that keen ability, even if it is only of chapbook length. [It] contains six stories, including two impressive original novelettes.

"Objective Impermeability in a Closed System" is an intense evocation of the ethical and emotional dilemmas of a scientist of whom idealism is expected but for whom compromise is easier.... A temporal paradox exists; AIs and a time machine become involved; but rather than the conventional circular narrative this implies, Shunn opts for an unusual, psychologically resonant conclusion, and a subtle questioning of the essentials of cause and effect. The implications run quite deep.

A similar impatience with genre clichés informs "Not of This Fold," a first contact tale with a difference.... Perhaps a little predictably, [the Mormon missionary protagonist] becomes instrumental in communicating with the aliens, but the process is bizarre, eerie, ironic. Shunn's own Mormon background comes into idiosyncratic, richly humorous focus, and the soul's quest for consolation and communion is affirmed in salutarily non-sectarian fashion.

Those are about the best reviews one could hope for, and both stories made Gevers's recommended reading list for the month.

Steven H. Silver did not seem quite as enamored of the collection in The Fix, but he did call the writing in one story "reminiscent of Stanislaw Lem's" at times, and he seemed to find "Not of This Fold" very satisfying.

You can make up your own mind for a measly five bucks!

publications | reviews | science fiction | writing

Travel poker

Getting to O'Hare Airport on Saturday morning should have been simple and relatively quick. (Since this is Chicago we're talking about, that's heavy on the "relatively.") We allowed ourselves a bit of wiggle room, even, and hauling our suitcases over to the Blue Line station to board the train.

The train, of course, took forever to appear. Once we had boarded, we putted along at an infuriating pace. Then suddenly the conductor was on the PA system telling us that due to track work our train would stop at Jefferson Park, we would transfer to a shuttle bus, and we would board another train at Harlem making all stops to O'Hare.

I don't want to bore you with the details of watching the time tick past even as the train crawled at far less than the mandated 15 mph through the final stretch to O'Hare. Suffice it to say that once we finally alighted at the airport, a series of miracles occurred.

First, having checked in from home and printed boarding passes already, we went directly to our security gate and passed through unbelievably quickly. The TSA dude checking IDs told us it was the only slow period so far that day.

Second, having made our gate with ten minutes to spare before boarding, we were able to embark in a timely fashion and get all our carryon luggage on board.

Third, the flight took off on time, unheard of for O'Hare, and landed at Laguardia half an hour early.

Fourth, there was no line at the taxi stand outside. We made it to our Astoria destination and were inside our borrowed apartment four minutes before our flight's scheduled arrival time.

This is the traveler's equivalent of being dealt a hand of garbage and drawing to a straight flush. I fully expect that it will never happen again.

chicago | nyc | travel

Spam span span span

One day last week I cleared out my spam filter at exactly noon and checked it again at noon the next day. I wanted to see how much spam I would receive in a 24-hour span.

890 emails. O why do the spam gods not turn their bountiful gazes elsewhere?

computers | spam. internet

November 16, 2007

November's CD mix of the month

My contribution-in-absentia to the November CD Mix of the Month Club was Good Head.

(The story so far.)

cdmom | music

November 15, 2007

Bourbon County

I have defeated the Bourbon County Brand Stout, but I fear it is a Pyrrhic victory at best.

alcohol | beer

November 14, 2007

Racing to the dark

I am not long back from my trek to Andersonville to see Alaya Dawn Johnson read from her new novel Racing the Dark at the Women and Children First bookstore. The trip was an hour and a half each way on the sad excuse for public transit we have here in Chicago (which is otherwise a terrific, loveable town), but it was worth it to hear a great reading in a great bookstore, and to support a friend and colleague.

But don't take my word for it. Let Time Out Chicago fill you in on why you should check out this novel. (Let me tell you, it was rather strange to arrive home from my epic journey and find Alaya in the issue of Time Out I had brought inside from the mailbox as I was leaving for her reading.)

I keep meaning to post a World Fantasy report, by the way, but I want to note here that I'm glad I wasn't so drunk at the Johncon 3 party that I forgot Alaya telling me about her Chicago reading.

(Speaking of drunkenness, as I write this I am sipping from a bottle of Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout. I can't say I'm truly enjoying it, but since I was unable to finish the last bottle of it I opened, I am bound and determined to conquer this one. It is like drinking a syrup distilled from the walls and ceiling of an old cigar bar. Though the web site says BCBS is 11% alcohol by volume, the label on the bottle says 13%. I am choosing to believe the bottle.)

chicago | fantasy | science fiction

Coupling Jesus with sex

Since we were discussing Coupling here recently, I wanted to mention a rather jarring piece of advertising Laura and I saw last night. We DVR reruns of Coupling on BBC America to try to catch episodes we've missed in the past. Laura had never seen the very first episode, so that's what we were watching. As I fast-forwarded through the commercials, though, I realizes we were seeing an ad for The Lamb of God, a free Easter video from the LDS Church. (Sample bits here and here.) Seriously, the Mormons were advertising on one of the most frank, sexually themed sitcoms of all time. I have to wonder if that was deliberate or if it was a case of block ad-buying like the one that put Mitt Romney's campaign ads on Gay.com. What's next? Christian Scientists advertising on House? Scientologists advertising on Mythbusters?

In other amusing news, someone is selling The Lamb of God on eBay. Which is funny because the Mormon Church will send you a copy for free.

In other bittersweet news, How I Met Your Mother seems to have hit its stride again after a bit of a creative slump early in the season. The last few episodes have been sharp and as tightly written as Coupling, and Laura and I could barely breathe for laughing through this week's episode. This, just in time for the writers strike.

mitt romney | mormonism | sex | television

November 13, 2007

Spaghetti and spicy veggie meatballs

Have you tried this terrific recipe yet?

food | recipes

November 11, 2007

Extras! Extras! Read all about it!

Scott Westerfeld gets a great review for his new YA novel Extras this weekend in the New York Times Book Review (currently #2 on the NYT children's chapter books bestseller list):

With its combination of high-stakes melodrama, cinematic action and thought-provoking insight into some really thorny questions of human nature, the new novel, like its predecessors, is a superb piece of popular art, reminiscent less of other young adult books than of another pop masterpiece, the revived "Battlestar Galactica"....  [full review]
Way to go, Scott! Congratulations on the richly earned and deserved success.

books | science fiction

Recommended

I still haven't seen a copy of the November Locus, but I have learned that Nick Gevers put both new stories from my chapbook on his recommended reading list for the month.

publications | reviews | science fiction | writing

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