Tag Archives: funny

Beware the Frankenstorm

This is direct from the NOAA, no foolin’:

DESPITE A MODEST CLUSTER OF OUTLYING DETERMINISTIC SOLUTIONS AND ENSEMBLE MEMBERS FROM THE VARIOUS MODELING CENTERS, THE LION’S SHARE OF GUIDANCE INDICATES THAT THE CIRCULATION ASSOCIATED WITH HURRICANE SANDY WILL PASS CLOSE ENOUGH TO THE AMPLIFYING POLAR TROUGH OVER THE EASTERN UNITED STATES TO BECOME INCORPORATED INTO A HYBRID VORTEX OVER THE MID ATLANTIC AND NORTHEAST NEXT TUESDAY. THE HIGH DEGREE OF BLOCKING FROM EASTERN NORTH AMERICA ACROSS THE ENTIRE ATLANTIC BASIN IS EXPECTED TO ALLOW THIS UNUSUAL MERGER TO TAKE PLACE, AND ONCE THE COMBINED GYRE MATERIALIZES, IT SHOULD SETTLE BACK TOWARD THE INTERIOR NORTHEAST THROUGH HALLOWEEN, INVITING PERHAPS A GHOULISH NICKNAME FOR THE CYCLONE ALONG THE LINES OF “FRANKENSTORM”, AN ALLUSION TO MARY SHELLEY’S GOTHIC CREATURE OF SYNTHESIZED ELEMENTS.

Just in case you ever thought weather forecasting was a boring, dreary job for people with no sense of humor! I love the last clause especially; I doubt many people need Frankenstein explained to them, but totally support taking any chance to namecheck Mary Shelley.

I hope everyone in the path of the Frankenstorm (which I like much better than “Snoreastercane”) stays warm and dry and safe.

Giving SF a Bad Name

This newspaper clipping is making the rounds:

A newspaper clipping showing a letter to the editor that predicts the legalization of same-sex marriage will lead to enforced polygamy, nuclear war, starvation, and the election of an "American Indian" president who puts all whites on reservations.

What appalled me the most when I read this was not its complete sociopolitical wrongheadedness but the giant logic holes. If all whites have been put on reservations, why is Chester’s grandson (who identifies as white) still living in the family home in California? Why can we afford shuttles to the moon but not food for the starving nation? Why is there more food on the moon than on Earth? Why do people on the moon not know who the U.S. president is or what’s happening on Earth? Why would the legalization of plural marriage mean that someone would be forced to marry people he didn’t want to marry? What sort of rotten grandfather would miss not one but all five of his grandson’s weddings? And that’s a classic “as you know, Bob” paragraph of expository dialogue there–cut and reword, please!

I think it’s pretty funny that I can so easily look past the stupendously flawed premise to critique the way it’s developed, but it’s also sobering. I wonder how many other editors and critics out there let content problems slide, or miss them altogether, while hammering on structural matters. That would explain how a lot of problematic books get published, come to think of it. This is a good reminder to those of us who edit and critique SF/F to dig down below comma placement and character development, and make sure the heart of the story is sound.

(While we’re checking our credulity at the door, let’s not forget to verify our sources. This letter does indeed appear to have run in the June 14 edition of The La Jolla Light; you can see the whole paper on Issuu here, and find the letter on page A19. A complete transcript is at the Gawker page linked from the top of this entry.)

In a World Where…

Congratulations to the fine folks at the Golden Bough, who were (as far as I know) the only ones to spot my little April Fool’s Day joke in PW‘s April 2 issue: all nine SF/F/H reviews began with the phrase “In a world where…”. This is, of course, an homage to the late, great Don LaFontaine, whose voice graced countless SF/F movie trailers. PW reviews, like trailers, have to very quickly set the scene, summarizing an often complicated background and setting in just a few words. LaFontaine had a real genius for this. The “In a world where…” construction has become a cliché, but it really is very efficient and effective, and it respects how important worldbuilding and scene-setting are in SF/F. I was delighted to have this opportunity to honor LaFontaine and his work while giving PW‘s readers a little extra fun.

All the News That Isn’t Fit to Print

Here are the SF/F/H-related April Fool’s Day posts I’ve seen so far:

Got any others to add to the list?

Link Roundup

This week’s roundup has surprisingly little to do with SF/F/H fiction per se. I think that’s a sign of how scattered my brain is while I get ready to move house.

  • Angry Robot is hiring an editor—for a brand new crime fiction imprint set to launch in 2013! Quoth the press release: “The imprint will be a standalone line, with its own name and presence, but will employ the same fresh and distinctly modern approach that AR has in the SF/F world. The editor will play a key role in building the personality of the imprint, and telling the world about its brilliant books, especially online.” I can’t tell you how glad I am to see publishers committed to doing new things with mystery, which is the most resistant to change of any genre I know (possibly excepting literary fiction).
  • Are you an aspiring comic creator? The magnificent Kate Beaton will answer your questions.
  • There’s a nerd bar in Brooklyn with a TARDIS bathroom. Apparently I am the last person in New York to find out about this. Fortunately I found out about it because I’m about to live around the corner from it.
  • Recent successful genre fiction Kickstarters: Fireside Magazine issue 1 and Laura Anne Gilman’s From Whence You Came. Also noteworthy: Melissa Gira Grant’s Take This Book: The People’s Library at Occupy Wall Street, the cyberpunk RPG Always/Never/Now, and a statue of Harvey Pekar. Nerds got funds!

Link Roundup

I get a cold, you get links:

Free to a Good Home

I was chatting with my friend Lindsay Ribar, an author and agent, about the difficulty of convincing some authors that their protagonists need to change over the course of the book.

L: It’s totally true. Overcome an internal conflict! Find self in a mess; discover you have the guts and resolve to get yourself out of it again! Forcibly change something about yourself! Kick someone’s ass in a way that you never have before! THE LIST GOES ON. AND IT DOES NOT INCLUDE “REALIZE YOU ARE IN LOVE WITH HAWT SUPERNATURAL BOY” UNLESS YOUR CHARACTER ALREADY HAD A PHOBIA OF HAWT SUPERNATURAL BOYS. Actually, I would totally read that last one.

R: That last one is half the paranormal romances out there. “You’re my soulmate? EW!” [200 pages] “Oh all right, I guess you are my soulmate after all. YAY!”

L: Oh, no, I wasn’t talking about soulmates in particular. Fuck soulmates. I’m talking about having a narrator who’s like “wow, I hope I never ever meet any supernatural hotboys, because that would be GROSS.”

R: “I’m so sick of vampire boys! I’m going to the big city where I can date someone who isn’t a stupid inbred vampire like here in my small town!”

L: … only to discover, wow, city vampires are TOTES DIFFERENT. They even believe in using mouthwash after they drink blood! Hearts!

Dear authors: have a free premise! You’re welcome.

(Obligatory disclaimer: Writing a book with this premise does not guarantee that Lindsay or I will so much as glance at it, much less rep it or review it.)

Look, Just Subscribe to FILM CRIT HULK’s Blog Already

It would get kind of boring if I linked to every brilliant thing that FILM CRIT HULK puts up, so I don’t, but I really have to single out this snarky, brutal, and deliciously smart deconstruction of the hero’s journey and the ways it’s frequently misunderstood and misused. If you write fiction of any kind, go read that post. Oddly, I came away from it wanting to write a Campbellian hero’s journey story… but wanting to do it well, and feeling better equipped to do that than I was 15 minutes ago.

And since I’m here, I will urge you all again to go read HULK’s piece on the myth of the three-act structure. Again, this post is completely applicable to fiction writing. I literally cannot recall the last movie I saw in the theater; plays and television likewise hold little interest for me. But the book/script distinction is irrelevant when we’re discussing these truly basic bones of story, so if you have any prejudices of that sort, chuck ‘em and go read those posts.

Oh, and when HULK says to watch a video of Trey Parker and Matt Stone talking about how to build a compelling story, do take two minutes to watch it. In fact, take one minute, because the good part starts at 0:53.

Link Roundup

Lots of interesting links have come my way recently! Here’s a roundup:

Monday Miscellany

  • I’m on the air, digitally speaking! Starting, uh, last week (I meant to blog about this on Friday but it’s been a bit hectic around here), and continuing ad infinitum, I’ll be giving sneak previews of PW‘s reviews section every Friday on special episodes of the Copyright Clearance Center’s Beyond the Book podcast (not to be confused with Barbara Vey’s Beyond Her Book blog). Other PW editors and staff will be talking about book news; in the first episode, features editor Andrew Albanese talks about the Amazon/Overdrive partnership, the upcoming Frankfurt book fair, and more. Listen to that episode here and then subscribe to the podcast through this iTunes link.
  • So you want to write a romance novel? Watch these videos first. “Was it good?” “It was amazing.” “Will we live happily ever after now?” “No.” If you want to write a non-romance novel, this video may also prove instructive. (Hat tip to Maureen Johnson.) I have yet to find equivalent videos for SF, fantasy, or horror, but if you encounter them, do send them my way.
  • It’s Strange Horizons fund drive time again, and they’re only about 20% of the way to their goal. Don’t forget that donating any amount enters you into a drawing for a wide array of nifty prizes.
  • Andrew Porter sends links to videos of Roger Zelazny and Jane Yolen doing readings at Fourth Street in 1986. Each video is an hour long, so give it some time to load before you start watching. They start with some introductory material about conventions; if you decide to skip that, on the broadly correct assumption that nothing much has changed in that regard over the past 25 years, the readings begin around 02:45.
  • Speaking of readings, Andy Duncan knocked it out of the park at KGB on Wednesday! Wow! If you ever have a chance to hear him read, do not miss it. Michael Swanwick, the least self-effacing writer I have ever met, went up to the podium after the break and said, “Andy is a hard act to follow. But I can do it.” Alas, his tale of doomed love between an ugly, brilliant theoretical physicist and her gorgeous, brilliant technician did not quite outshine Andy’s remarkable novelette “Close Encounters”, in which a mountain hermit reflects on his long-ago abduction by aliens.
  • Michael also mentioned a story idea and said I should blog about it and encourage someone to turn it into an actual story. Alas, I can’t remember what it was.
  • Also speaking of readings, I’m going to take a very brief moment to toot my own horn and note that I and other contributors to Milk and Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry will be reading at Bluestockings Books on October 10th at 7 p.m., and at CCNY’s Shepard Hall on October 11th at 6:30 p.m. If you’re in New York, come join us! The book is gorgeous and amazing (as is everything published by A Midsummer Night’s Press) and I’m kind of stunned that editor Julie R. Enszer liked my little poem enough to include it.
  • Oh all right, a bit more horn-tooting. That’s what blogs are for, isn’t it? I’ll be onstage at the 21st First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony this Thursday, September 29, up in Cambridge MA. Tickets are sold out, but you can watch for free on our webcast. I believe my role is listed in the program book as “Human Aerodrome and Onstage Lurking Presence”.

A bit of trivia for you: Many years ago, my father took a road trip with Tom Disch and Marilyn Hacker. The men took turns driving, and whoever wasn’t driving would write sonnets with Marilyn to pass the time. My father assembled these sonnets into a tiny chapbook called Highway Sandwiches. As it happens, Marilyn Hacker is also a contributor to Milk and Honey, so I believe she’s the first person to ever share TOCs with both my father and me. I could not have predicted that!

Make Loki Fix It

NB: Some of the text in this post is decidedly R-rated. It is also laugh-out-loud funny. Exercise caution if you’re reading this at work.

Thanks to Greg Van Eekhout, I have been introduced to Myths Retold, which is exactly what it says: a fellow named Cory O’Brien retelling myths from around the world, translated into modern vernacular. For example, this Norse classic:

so they go see Freyja
and freyja is like hey thor what’s good
and thor is like
SOMEONE STOLE MY HAMMER
WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
and Freya is like shut the fuck up man
we can solve this mystery
Loki did you steal the hammer
and Loki is like nope
and Freyja is like fuck well I’m out of ideas then

Or this bit of poignant Greek tragedy:

and then later Procris hears that Cephalus is talking to himself
writing love poems to the fucking wind
and she freaks out because she thinks the wind is a person
and goes to spy on him
and because he is a great hunter he shoots her in the fucking face
and then she dies
and he’s like woman
the breeze is not a person what the hell is your problem
and everyone is sad forever

In my head, I hear these in the voice of the narrator of The End of the World, which is even better when they’re about the end of the world.

If you prefer video and audio rather than text, O’Brien has those too. I particularly enjoyed this rap about Oedipus. And of course there are t-shirts.

While these are hilarious if you know the source material, they’re also surprisingly instructive if you don’t. I clicked the “random myth” link a few times and encountered Arab and Taoist myths I’d never heard of (as well as a pretty spectacular rendition of one of the myths from American Gods). I don’t recommend doing this late at night, incidentally; the next thing you know it’s 3 a.m. and your head is buzzing with stories and profanity. If you’re an author looking for inspiration, a parent* looking to get your teen interested in mythology, or your average myth fan wanting to expand your knowledge of legends from around the world, this seems like it would be a great place to start.

* Due to the amount of profanity, I really can’t recommend this technique to high school teachers or young adult librarians–but college professors, go for it!

Publisher News from Worldcon

I need to go get four hours of sleep before getting on my flight home, so here’s the big official non-Hugos news from Worldcon in brief:

  • Angry Robot is creating a home for fan fiction and fan art based on some of their books (presumably the ones whose authors have given an explicit go-ahead). The “best” of the works submitted will be published in anthologies, linking this venture to the long tradition of shared-world anthologies. The big question, of course, is whether the fanfic-authorized books are the ones fans will want to write fanfic for, but it’s terrific to see a publisher encouraging and approving fan creations.
  • Tor/Forge is collaborating with NASA to produce “NASA-inspired works of fiction”, sending authors to Goddard to meet with NASA staff and tour the facilities. This sounds a lot like Launch Pad, but with less emphasis on astronomy and more on space exploration, and of course with the Tor/Forge branding.

Also Kim Stanley Robinson told me all about the novel he’s writing but I’m not allowed to tell anyone else. Sorry about that.

If you haven’t had enough of the Hugos, there’s a round-up of reactions at Strange Horizons. And if you want a little extra glee in your day, load up the UStream video of the ceremony and fast-forward to the bookmark labeled “The Garcia Moment”. There’s also video of the hilarious “Just a Minute” Masquerade halftime show, which is an excellent way to spend an hour when you really ought to be going to bed.

…oops.

The Lovesong of Admiral Piett

Here’s something cool while we New Yorkers suffer through the latest heatwave: one of the best bits of pietry* I’ve seen in some time.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the star destroyers are spread out across the sky
Like a smuggler frozen, cased in carbonite.
Let me wait, in half forgotten ports
My lord meditates on signs of vague import,
Through restless nights in light freighter hunts
For protocol droids and their sidekick runts,
Losing ships to asteroids,
Imagine the other grand admirals’ schadenfreude
That prompts a case of indigestion . . .

The whole thing is here. Enjoy.

* Filk:folk::pietry:poetry.

Monday Links

  • My mother and Ellen Stern have a lovely piece about novels with great second lines up on New York City Woman.
  • Got too many books? Turn them into bedside lamps and speakers.
  • FILM CRIT HULK diverges from films to discuss George R. R. Martin’s A Feast for Crows, explain why the Game of Thrones miniseries is better than the books, and otherwise very thoroughly spoil the entire series through book four. (No spoilers for book five yet, unless you count “Vader is Jon Snow’s father”, “Petyr Baelish is Keyser Söze”, and other contributions to the #dancewithdragonsspoiler hashtag game on Twitter the other night.) I personally found that A Feast for Crows improved greatly upon rereading, but it really isn’t a complete book without A Dance with Dragons.
  • The Readercon schedule is finished! I am very proud. I hope to see many of you at the convention. If you spot me, say hello!

    On a Lighter Note

    Some quick fun links to balance out the heavy stuff I’ve been blogging about this week:

    My Favorite BEA Photo

    As promised, me and the Scientology pirates:

    The gentleman in the middle is John Goodwin, the president of Galaxy Press. It is all his fault.

    As I’m not usually the fainting maiden type, I am slightly disgruntled that the photo of me banging the pirates’ heads together in retaliation doesn’t seem to have come out well enough to post.

    Incidentally, those of you who frequently do trade shows or otherwise walk around a lot may wish to take note of my extremely fetching sandals. They are Merrell Bassoons and they are amazing. Nice enough to wear to professional events, sturdy enough to wear out in the rain, and supportive enough (with glorious memory foam insoles) to keep my feet from aching after eight hours of roaming the Javits. I’m about to get a second pair because I go through a pair of sandals every summer–I’m a frequent and long-distance walker even by New York standards–and I will want new ones on hand once these burn out, though so far they’re holding up really well. I am totally not writing about my sandals in an effort to distract you from the picture of me being picked up by Scientology pirates. Totally not.

    April Fool Roundup

    It’s April Fool’s Day, and SF/F blogs all around the internet will be making joke posts. Help us collect them! Share your favorite links in the comments. (I’ll be keeping an eye on the moderation queue all day, so if your post is held because it’s too “spam-like”, don’t worry; I’ll approve it as quickly as I can.)

    It’s early yet, but my favorite so far is this brilliant fake trailer for Game of Thrones.

    The Secret Life of Laird Barron

    J.P. Langan has masterminded a tremendous impromptu online anthology of stories involving horror writer Laird Barron. Those of you who have met Laird will be entirely willing to believe that he was kidnapped by a man intent on sacrificing him to darker powers, as Langan recounts:

    Mr. Norris swept his arms around him, almost upsetting his balance. “I’m no longer alone; I haven’t been for some time, now. The Word’s attendants, its supplicants… As I’ve drawn nearer to the end of my task, I’ve had glimpses of them—not enough to say what I’ve seen with any certainty, just that they’re present, all around me.”

    As if in reply, the branches of the evergreens around them clashed in a sudden breeze, and Laird thought the spaces between them darkened.

    That he took a turn as a very exotic dancer, according to Lee Thomas:

    The Husky threw back the beaded curtain and burst into the lantern light, stomping his mink thigh-high boots in heated rhythm to Motley Crue, who expounded the virtues and the vices of the Wild Side. He strutted to the edge of the stage and spun, slipped the jacket to the crook of his elbow to reveal a white, muscled shoulder, and the men shouted as if for blood.

    That he studied carnivorous ants in Cancun with Sarah Langan:

    “Well,” Barron explained, “I’m bringing a colony back with me to Alaska and training them, so probably pretty soon. The west coast, then across the continent. Their neurochemical signals are very strong—you’d be surprised. Ants make hosts of lots of animals, even humans. But don’t worry, they work fast. When your time comes, you won’t feel a thing.”

    That he fled an angry volcano spirit as described by Jack Haringa (himself recently the victim of a similar literary roast):

    A hot wind chased him up the side of the cinder cone. He didn’t know if it was natural, but he knew it smelled wrong. It could have been the trade winds or the breath of whatever dragged itself across the beach. He knew it was behind him and that was enough.

    At the top he wanted to rest but the ground shook again and he could smell burning and something else, something rotten, and the wind spun dust into his eye and heard a sound like the inhalation of the very sea itself. His senses wanted to shut down, to deny these things, but he wouldn’t let them. He did not want to hear what voice or roar or cry would follow that great gulping of atmosphere nor to see what could make such a sound. But he had to hear and see if he wanted to live.

    That he ate himself to death at a book signing with Jeff Ford:

    When his lunch was revealed, I did a double take. Between two circular slices of rye bread the size of coffee saucers was stacked about four inches of what looked like bad chicken. The chunks of it were emerald green, like something you’d find at the back of the fridge before moving from a place you’d lived in for 8 years. Dripping from within onto the table top was a pale yellow sauce. I instinctively pushed my chair back a few inches and said, “What the fuck is that?”

    He turned his head and stared at me with his good eye—a look devoid of emotion. “Lunch,” he said.

    And many more sordid tales that J.P. Langan has collected links to here. Read them all–and wonder what secrets from your past might be revealed by your own writerly friends should they take it upon themselves to “celebrate” you in such a fashion.