Inhuman Swill : April 2008

On lying, and lying artlessly

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Longtime readers may recall me railing against James Frey and the phenomenon of the invented memoir a couple of years ago. Rather than chilling the memoir marketplace, though, Frey was merely in the vanguard of a veritable explosion of exposed frauds that now includes such "memoirists" as Margaret B. Jones and Misha Defonseca.

The topic of these overly embroidered tales is much on my mind as, again, my memoir makes its way back into the marketplace. I feared two years ago that Frey's escapade would make a memoir more difficult to sell. Now I fear that he didn't make it difficult enough.

Nearly two months ago, Scott Simon on NPR's Weekend Edition delivered an editorial that made me stand up and pump my fist in the air. He made the interesting argument that the phony memoirist cheats in two ways: first, by weaving of his life an epic that never was; and second, by scanting the literary rigor a novel would have demanded. Listen here:

Writing and Truth in Fact and Fiction
by Scott Simon
Speaking as someone who has labored for nearly ten years to produce a book that will hold up on both counts and provoke more than skepticism and cynicism, I can only add my fervent amen.
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Sheila Williams & Connie Willis
Laura and I had a memorable weekend in Austin, Texas. We were there, of course, for the Nebula Awards Weekend, but we spent Friday evening out with local friends—expatriate New Yorkers and repatriated Texans. This was a very good thing, we later decided, since Laura was forced to deal with a terrible work crisis almost as soon as we reached our hotel and the evening out with close and sympathetic friends served as a better tonic for that than would brooding at home or making small talk with strangers.

Saturday morning we dragged our hangovers out for breakfast with our friends up from Houston. We arrived back at the Omni Austin around noon—just in time to spy Geoff Landis at the breakfast bar in the restaurant, rush up to say hello, and stumble into the middle of the Dell Magazines awards ceremony that was just getting underway. Sheila Williams was very mostly almost patient with us as she invited us to sit down right now so they could start handing out certificates. Sorry, Sheila! Sorry, Stan! Hi, Trevor!

While Laura hoofed it in search of a pedicure, I lingered to chat with Geoff, [info]maryturzillo, Connie Willis, Nancy Kress, and Jack Skillingstead about politics and other ephemera. Next was the SFWA Business Meeting, after which I enjoyed an afternoon snackie in the bar with [info]paulmelko, [info]scottedelman, and Mike Marano. I spied Toby Buckell across the bar, and though he was suffering from something nasty, I managed to get close enough to him to have a long conversation about writing.

We sat with Geoff and Mary and Paul and Scott at the banquet and awards ceremony—an occasion, I agreed with Mary, which is always more enjoyable when one is not nominated. Mary was, and, sadly, did not take home the Lucite in the short story category. Michael Chabon did win, however, for his wonderful novel The Yiddish Policemen's Union, making 2008 one of the years when SFWA most certainly got it right. His acceptance speech was charming and heartfelt; he admitted that he'd started wanting a Nebula at the age of 15, and he thanked his editors for not catching on to the fact that his novel was really (if I can recall his phrasing correctly) "at its counterfactual heart a work of science fiction."

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The weigh of the ranger

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196 and still falling. I might have fallen further were it not for a weekend in Texas. Not that I regret it in any way.

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New sensation

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This just in. New agent loves new draft of Accidental Terrorist. "I've just read the additions/revisions and I have to admit I am elated.... [Y]ou've completely rounded out the long, strange adventure and added a whole new depth to the tale."

This puppy's on its way to editors again. Thank fucking Elohim.

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Mystery bird

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Mystery Bird
For those of you who were chiming in the other day about the new waterbirds that have recently appeared on the lagoon at our local park, Ella and I took some pictures yesterday. The photos aren't great, but can you identify this bird?

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April's CD mix of the month

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Laura Chavoen, media star

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So, the company my wife works for has been redoing their web site—transparently, exposing the whole process. Every week they post updates about the project, and this week's offering is...

Engaging Imagination, with Laura Chavoen, Senior Vice President, Digital Media

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ShunnCast #52

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[info]
Epidode #52 of "ShunnCast" is now available, in which Bill reads a restored and revised chapter from the brand-new draft of his memoir The Accidental Terrorist.

http://www.shunn.net/podcast?id=52

See also shunncast.

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Woody

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Walking the dog in the park this morning, we heard a woodpecker in the distance. We followed the sound into a grove where Laura spotted the little thing drilling away about fifteen feet the trunk of tall tree. We watched in amazement for several minutes.

There are new birds on the lagoon as well, swimming with the mallards and the Canada goose. I've been trying to identify them in waterfowl galleries on line, but with no success so far. They look like ducks but are about half the size of mallards. The bodies seem to be all black, the head is smaller and the neck shorter relative to the body, and the bill looks bright white.

The red-wing blackbirds have been ubiquitous for the past few weeks, but we didn't see very many of them this morning. Migrating away?

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By the weigh

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199. I'm just sayin'.

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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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