Inhuman Swill : Science Fiction : Page 6

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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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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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 plan

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I keep wanting to write a long entry about Blue Heaven 2009, but I keep not having enough time to put together something of appropriate length, depth, and breadth. (And also something that works as a sufficiently laudatory travelogue of Kelleys Island so Marvin will stay my friend.) Suffice it for now to say that I could not be happier with the feedback and suggestions that [info]hollailama, [info]rambleflower, and [info]secritcrush gave me on my novel-in-progress Technomancers. And I can't fail to mention [info]bondgwendabond, who lent half an ear to the proceedings, offered more great suggestions, and may well have renamed my novel to Endgame. (And I can't fail to mention [info]ccfinlay for putting everything together and making it so much more than just a week of critiques, and my great once and future[?] roommate [info]gregvaneekhout, and...)

Anyway, I thought, since I outlined my writing goals at the beginning of the Endgame project, I'd post an update about where I am on it and what I have left to do. 70,000 words into the novel, I realized I was only about halfway through the plot, if that. For a young-adult novel, this was rather unacceptable. With insufficient ruthlessness I was able to hack and revise that down to 60,000 before Blue Heaven, but there's more cutting and rewriting that needs to be done. That will come after I complete the current draft, though, which I'm already moving forward on. I'm giving myself 50,000 words and to the 30th of November to reach the end. Then I'll spend December reworking the problematic opening of the novel and cutting that first half down from 60,000 to, I hope, 30,000 words or fewer. That will give me an 80,000-word novel to start shopping. That's the plan, and a mere thousand words a day will get me there.

One of the consistent comments I got from my critiquers is that the book is pleasant enough but really starts humming around page 200. The faster I can get to that point, and the more humming I can coax out of it before that point, the better.

And now, back to executing my Endgame.

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Reading tonight!

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Just a reminder of the reading tonight at Flourish Bakery Cafe, 1138 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Chicago, IL 60660. I'll be appearing with five other authors and poets. What a bargain! For more information, please see:

http://tuesdayfunk.blogspot.com/2009/08/tuesday-funk-16.html

Here's a personal invitation:

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Tuesday Funk Reading, September 1, 2009
Hey, Chicagoans! I have a reading coming up just under a week from now, Tuesday, September 1, 2009, as part of Chicago's Tuesday Funk Reading Series.

The reading starts at 7:00 pm sharp at:

Flourish Bakery Cafe 1138 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Chicago, IL 60660
That's just east of Broadway, just west of the Bryn Mawr stop on the Red Line.

I'll be appearing with Robyn Detterline, Billy Lombardo, and Dancing Girl Press poets Stephanie Anderson, Kristen Orser, and Susan Slaviero. I'll be reading from my memoir The Accidental Terrorist. Copies of my chapbook An Alternate History of the 21st Century will be available for purchase for a paltry $4.

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Writing from Starbucks
You may know that John Klima, editor of the award-nominated Electric Velocipede, has taken the month of July off from blogging. Instead, he's solicited posts from a variety of folks, including Jeffrey Ford, Chris Roberson, and EV assistant editor Anne Zanoni so far. We've all submitted material that's been going up bit by bit over the course of the month.

Next week is my week, and things will kick off Monday morning with a brand-new short story, "A Strong Premonition of Death Struck Me This Morning." I hope you'll check in at the Electric Velocipede Blog next week, and if you enjoy what you read that you'll consider grabbing a subscription to the fine print magazine.

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On the Zane Grey Ballroom balcony
I was going to catch up on more of the week at the workshop yesterday, but Michael Jackson died and took Farrah Fawcett and most of the internet with him. You live on earth. You know.

On Tuesday, Brad Beaulieu made us all eggs benedict with crabmeat for breakfast. This was somewhat suspicious, given that he was first on the critique schedule for the day, but I don't think any of us actually changed our comments because of the fantastic food. Most of us joked about it, though.

My first-fifty was the fourth and last to go under the scalpel that day. I got a ton of very helpful feedback. There were elements of the book that I was very happy to hear that people were responding to, I got confirmation that the bits I suspected were big problems really were big problems, and then I heard just oodles of impressions and misimpressions that helped me see where I was setting the wrong expectations, where I was being unclear or vague, or where I was just being silly. Leaving the critique session, my mind was already whirring, working on how best to integrate the feedback I received into the next draft. I was very happy with the way it all went.

From this remove, some of the days begin to blur together, but I think I'm pretty safe in saying that we returned to the balcony at the Zane Grey Ballroom to enjoy beer in the open air at an even greater altitude than that of street-level Flagstaff. That happened almost every night.

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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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