Inhuman Swill : Page 42
Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.

The phantom reviewer

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There's a good chance that you've seen this already, but if you haven't and you care about good, clear storytelling and you have 70 minutes to kill, you must watch this epic deconstruction of The Phantom Menace.

Aside from the pointless serial-killer subplot (seriously—the narrator of the review is supposed to be a delusional serial killer), this is a brilliant and funny dissection of why the Star Wars prequels suck so hard. It crystallized for me many of my own unfocused thoughts about the films, and gave me ten times as many new reasons to hate the them. The sequence where the reviewer asks friends to describe specific Star Wars characters is alone worth the price of admission.

Because of the 10-minute limit on YouTube content, the review is broken up into seven parts. (Part 7 doesn't always seem to play in its original configuration. If you have that problem, try this version of Part 7 instead.) Here's Part 1 to whet your appetite:

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New short story online

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The Visitors at Wriggly Field, by William Shunn
Batter up! My pulpy new short story, "The Visitors at Wriggly Field," is now online as part of the Pulps series at ChicagoIn2012.org. It's probably my first sports story, and may well be my last, so I hope you enjoy it. (The illustration is by Frank Wu!)

The Pulps series supports Chicago's bid for the 2012 Worldcon. Earlier stories in the series, both in print and online, have been contributed by Frederik Pohl, Gene Wolfe, Mike Resnick, Phyllis Eisenstein, Roland Green, Richard Garfinkle, Lois Tilton, and others. I'm glad I hadn't read any of the earlier stories before I wrote mine, or I might have been too intimidated to produce.

The stories are an homage to Chicago's past as a home to many classic publishers of pulp science fiction. The guidelines we all were given were that:

  • the hero must be square-jawed and dim-witted, with B.S. for his initials;
  • the heroine must be smart, capable and beautiful, with the name Elaine Ecdysiast;
  • the evil-genius villain must be dastardly and scenery-chewing, with the name D. Vice;
  • and the story must be set at least in part in Chicago.
Even by those standards, I clearly went for the lowest common denominator. No, seriously. Frank chose wisely by not illustrating the story's climax.

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#83

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I have a confirmed report that book #83 has been spotted in the wild. That's #83 out of only 100 signed, numbered and jacketed copies of Cast a Cold Eye. If you want one, act fast.

(Plenty of copies of the regular edition available, of course.)

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Cast a Cold Eye, by Derryl Murphy & William Shunn
Writing-related announcements have been piling up here in the blog queue, so if you'll indulge me here, I'm just going to get all of them out at once.

CAST A COLD EYE

First and foremost, my book Cast a Cold Eye, a collaboration with three-time Aurora Award nominee Derryl Murphy, is out and available from PS Publishing!

The slim volume looks beautiful, with front and back cover art by Steve Leary, and features an introduction by Charles de Lint. It comes in two editions: a signed, numbered and jacketed hardcover limited to 100 copies, and an unjacketed hardcover.

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Having watched Valkyrie recently, I've been thinking about the intersection of art, commerce and religion. I know, that's probably not the kind of discussion the filmmakers intended to provoke, but here we are. Germany started it.

Every so often a big kerfluffle flares up in the media or the blogosphere about what famous entertainer is or isn't a Scientologist, and why. Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Isaac Hayes, Beck, Chick Corea, Edgar Winter, Chaka Khan, Mark Isham, Greta Van Susteren—we're supposed to avoid giving them money so we don't inadvertently support their reprehensible "church." Leonard Cohen, Paul Haggis, Jerry Seinfeld, Courtney Love, Gloria Gaynor—once were Scientologists, but now they're on the okay list. Neil Gaiman—wait, what's the controversy with him? I'm not supposed to read him because his relatives are Scientologists?

Frankly, keeping score like this is ridiculous.

As much as I dislike Scientology, discriminating against artists because of their private beliefs is a losing game. I hate the fact that there were Crusades, and a Spanish Inquisition, and institutional coverups of child sexual abuse, but that doesn't mean I'm going to deny myself the work of Catholic writers like Graham Greene or Tim Powers, or Catholic filmmakers like Kevin Smith. Will some of the money I pay for their stuff end up in Vatican coffers? Possibly, but I'm not naive enough to think that any of the money I give or receive is pure. We live in a pluralist society. We can't help the fact that our money is going to circulate through parts of the body politic that we don't like. The only judgment we can really make is how we respond to the art, how pure and universal and human it is, how ennobling or demeaning or thrilling or dull, how free from or full of agenda or polemic.

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Give me a long enough lever...

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We're used to thinking of the movement of an object as homogeneous and instantaneous. In other words, for example, when I give a push to the fat end of my pool cue, the felted end moves at the same time to strike the cue ball.

But I have a question—and I'm asking this because I'm curious about the answer, not because I know the answer. Let's say I had a pool cue that was 186,282 miles long. In other words, light would take a full second to travel from one end of it to the other. So, if I were to give my end of this pool cue a push, would the far end move simultaneously? Or would the motion take something more than a second to propagate along the length of the cue (causing it to ripple, as it were)? Physicists, I'm talkin' to you.

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What goes up must come down

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Dear Miz Manorz,

I find myself flush with discomfort, and I hope you'll give my predicament a swirl.

At my shared workspace, a sign over the privy clearly requests that writers of the male persuasion put the seat down when finished, yet at least one of my upstanding colleagues consistently leaves it up. I'm about to flip my lid! It not just the effrontery that peeves me so. It's also the idea that my female colleagues, in toto, might judge me the culprit!

In loo of direct accusation, please advise me how I might call this breach of manners to the men's attention without upsetting the honeypot. Your priceless advice is of the first water, and I would be greatly relieved should you bowl me over with your insight. I can handle it, and I don't want anything to hit the fan.

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Tuesday Funk Reading, November 3, 2009
Hey, Chicagoans! I have a reading coming up just a week from today, Tuesday, November 3, 2009, as part of Chicago's Tuesday Funk Reading Series.

I'll be appearing alongside Robert Duffer, Lynn Suh and Chris Sweet. It's my third time at Tuesday Funk, where I'll be reading another sequential installment from my memoir The Accidental Terrorist. The reading begins at 7:00 pm sharp upstairs at:

Hopleaf Bar 5148 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL 60660
That's just south of Foster, in the beating heart of beautiful Andersonville.

Hopleaf is one of my very favorite bars in the world, specializing in Belgian ales but with a menu of over 600 craft beers from around the world. All that and excellent Belgian food too!

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That was The Week that was

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To my dear former friends at The Week:

I am highly annoyed by The Week's handling of my subscription. I received your magazine just fine for several months at my new address. Suddenly I realized that I had not received an issue for a few weeks. I checked my subscription status at your web site only to find that "the post office has notified us that the address we have listed on your subscription is incorrect."

Well, that's ridiculous because mail—including, once upon a time, my subscription to The Week—gets to me at that address just fine.

Nonetheless, knowing that the post office is picky about things, I updated my address a couple of months ago, but I still have not received any further issues. I checked the site again today only to find that same ridiculous objection about the post office.

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Tiny dancer, on our wall

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A quick update about "Strong Medicine," tonight's fiction-and-dance event at Writers WorkSpace in Chicago. Due to unfortunate unavoidable circumstances, Asimina Chremos (the dance half of Microgig) will not be able to appear in person tonight. However, she will appear on video accompanied by live cello improvisation from Fred Lonberg-Holm, making the evening even more science-fictional than it was before. Don't miss it!

We look forward to seeing you tonight at 7:00 pm at Writers WorkSpace, 5443 N. Broadway in Chicago. (Doors open 6:30.)

For more information, please visit: http://www.shunn.net/medicine

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
that even a
missionary
could afford.

Order yours now!

William Shunn

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