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shadow-of-malabron-thomas-wharton

I’m three-quarters of the way through Thomas Wharton’s The Shadow of Malabron and I’m just not feeling it–not the characters, not the world, not the story. Passages go by where I realize my inattentiveness several pages later, reading but not registering, and then having to flip back to figure out why Will is doing this thing or why the wolf is over there. Not a good sign, and one that chafes because Wharton’s glacially-paced Icefields kept me far more engaged. Much more happens in Shadow, yet the impact is much less. (more…)

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There are a lot of books on writing fiction, so many that I wonder just who’s buying them all. They’re either disproportionate to the people who actually sit down and write, or publishers can always count on writers (published and unpublished and self-published) to buy these books to the degree that releasing one is always a safe investment. Or else I’m missing something about the marketplace completely. (more…)

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9781843441267

Back in 2013 I wrote about new digital distribution models being ideal for a return of old-style pulp literature, because those “new” models looked a lot like experiments from the early days of mass print. The small presses I hoped would specialize pulp have largely failed to materialize, though in a large part that “lack” links directly to my own narrow definition of “pulp.” The media filling the void left by pulp magazines and dime novels doesn’t often look much like the stuff I seek out from the heyday of the pulp era, but the audience is the same class demographic and that’s what drives the content, after all. (more…)

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I’ve been trying to get into Avatar: The Last Airbender on the urgings of Alasdair Czyrnyj, with the eventual goal of being able to talk intelligibly about The Legend of Korra. Avatar has all the hallmarks of a great show custom-made to appeal to my interests: dynamic animation, strong characters, solid storytelling and a “land of adventure” setting with distinct, inter-meshing cultures. Yet I find myself continually pulled away from the show, and despite watching the first episode back in December I haven’t managed to get beyond episode six. Meanwhile, I’ve been obsessively watching Last Exile even though I can’t say the two shows are qualitatively that much different (and the plot of Avatar is certainly less confusing). (more…)

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States of Mind I: The Farewells, Umberto Bocciano, 1911

There’s a very good chance that historians will remember 2016 as the year we tipped the flusher on the toilet, leading to a long spiral into oblivion. Between Brexit, the Great Celebrity Die-off and the recent American election we have plenty of reasons to cast worrying gazes at the future. I did not want to see the re-emergence of fascism in Europe, and now a party founded by Nazi sympathizers who looked with longing at the Vichy regime is considered a viable option to lead in France. Based on demographics, I can’t help but feel like the previous generation has decided to stomp on mine with a giant boot to the face one last time before letting go of the reins, but with the added sting that there might not be a planet to piece together again after this latest experiment in pursuing ideology over practical concerns.

Couple that with a quarter-life crisis and you have quite the anxious mix. (more…)

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clifi-contest

Kicking off the last month of a rotten year with some cool stuff I’ve stumbled across in the last few weeks that I want to share, all available for free:

1. The Imaginary Worlds Podcast

I’ve been listening to episode after episode of this non-stop since I first heard a snippet played on CBC Radio’s Podcast Playlist. Eric Molinsky consistently delivers thoughtful, well-produced audio essays about science fiction and fantasy, often emphasizing the relevance of various popular films and books to the real world and how popular media can reflect and even drive cultural and political discourse. To this end, he interviews an army of scholars, fans and specialists in fields ranging from psychology to history to economics. Really fantastic stuff. A particular standout is the episode on Dracula, putting to rest the common wisdom that Bram Stoker based his vampire on Vlad Tepes and instead pointing to a far more convoluted and yet more thematically relevant inspiration for one of the nineteenth century’s most enduring literary characters. (more…)

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The only times Tatsuhiro Satou ventures out of his tiny apartment are for the basic necessities of life, and even then, he doesn’t go far. 22 years old, a college dropout, unemployed and living off a meagre allowance from his father…Satou seemingly has no hobbies or interests beyond sleeping, staring at the walls, or getting drunk/high. He’s been like this for four years now, and while he berates himself and dreams up various schemes to become a “normal person” again, he inevitably ends up retreating into his constricted existence. The days flow by and his only comfort rests in bizarre conspiracy theories about how the world is out to get him. That is, until he bumps into a young woman named Misaki who makes him sign a contract to take part in a “special project” to reform his life.

The hikikomori phenomenon was starting to get major media attention in Japan when Tatsuhiko Takimoto wrote Welcome to the NHK! (2002). While this manifestation of alienation, social anxiety, and inability to deal with expectations is largely unique to Japan, the problems that lead to it are common enough in the western world. NHK is in part the author’s own attempt to come to grips with these issues, but is clearly also a personal expression of the yawning hopelessness the author himself once felt. The Afterward confirms that NHK is semi-autobiographical, “I felt as though I were taking my own shame and revealing it to the whole world.” Out of all I’ve read, it most closely resembles the middle section of Lanark: both by the main character’s depths of self-loathing and the honesty with which it touches on that character’s less savoury qualities. (more…)

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