May 2nd, 2007

NY Times on the death of paper book reviews

Today's NYT has an article on the death of  book review sections in major newspapers  —

The LA Times recently folded its section into their Style Magazine, and there's a petition makingn the rounds in an effort to save the Atlanta Journal-Constituion's book review.  The Times does a good job of summing up the rise of litblogs like & Galleycat & Bookslut, but makes no mention whatsoever of the Washington Post Book World, which recently revamped and now includes a children's book section aimed at younger readers (rather than at their parents & teachers) -- a savvy move, given that Harry Potter has turned children's & YA publishing into a growth industry.  Book World also continues to give ample coverage to new fiction by lesser-known writers, which the Times has cut back on considerably.  Obviously I'm biased — I've been writing for the Washington Post Book World for almost 20 years (so does my Inferior 4 teammate, Paul DiFilippo) — but it seems like an odd omission, to say the least. 

I also wasn't encouraged by Richard's Ford admission that he has never looked at a litblog.  An ideal literary world would include both online book reviews and their print counterparts — we can't have too many people reading, folks!  Litblogs like Beatrice and Bookslut aren't  the wave of the future, they're the wave of the present.  Any writer who ignores that fact does so at her/his peril.
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Chris Bell

Kiwi author Chris Bell, whose work I had the pleasure of reviewing some years ago in ASIMOV'S, and who has remained in touch as a pal ever since, has just revamped his website, and is offering lots of free fiction, plus an intriguing and timely manifesto on the virtues of posting stories gratis. Why not pay him a visit at:
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Trondheim & Sfar

My recent praise of the DUNGEON series by Lewis Trondheim and Joann Sfar must have caused the skies to open up with new product by these men. Just last week came two books from these creators--but working separately, as writers allied with two other artists--and they could not be more different.

THE PROFESSOR'S DAUGHTER is pure steampunk, sure to be enjoyed by any fan of THE ANUBIS GATES by Tim Powers or THE STEAMPUNK TRILOGY by your 'umble correspondent. Imhotep IV is a living mummy who happens to fall in love with the daughter of the archaeologist who "owns" him. She reciprocates. But the course of true love ne'er runs smooth. In this case, the respective parents of mummy and bride are the sources of contention. And how does Queen Victoria get involved? Read it and see

The delicate washes of artist Emmanuel Guibert rest lightly on superb figuration and meticulous architectural rendering.

TINY TYRANT is a an all-ages romp featuring the world's smallest monarch, Ethelbert, ruler of a modern-day vest-pocket country in Europe named Portocristo. Greedy, willfull, vain, Ethelbert is pure id, and causes one comedic disaster after another.

The alluring art of Fabrice Parme is part of the new school that seeks to emulate the 1950's esthetic of Gene Deitch and other illustrators of that period. Like John Kricfalusi and Craig McCracken, Parme draws elaborately detailed, mannered scenes in unbordered panels that strain to contain the chaos within.

New publisher First Second is a boutique imprint of the much larger firm of Holtzbrinck, and has already established a fine repuation with just their beginning offerings.

New York Review of Science Fiction Reading

Last night I guest-curated the NYRSF reading series at the South Street Seaport Museum's Melville Gallery. Reading were David Wellington, he of zombie Monster fame, and F. Brett Cox, whose short fiction has appeared just about everywhere, and who co-edited, with Andy Duncan, the successful 2004 anthology of Southern-themed fantastic literature, Crossroads. Dave read a suspenseful scene from Monster Island, the first in his highly enjoyable and quite scary revivification of the zombie genre (the third of which, Monster Planet, will be out in August), while Brett, battling off a bad cold, delivered a terrific reading of a novel-in-progress set in a beer-soaked, teenage-hormone-twisted South, circa mid-1970s, that rang absolutely true to this Son of Virginia.

Afterwards, led by Jim Freund, who normally curates, and who broadcasts these readings, and those over at KGB, on his radio program Hour of the Wolf, we repaired for drinks and dinner to Ryan Maguire's Ale House.

Kudos and thanks to Dave and Brett and Jim!!

          Brett and Dave                         Yr. Humble Etc.                          Jim's Rocketship


After I was in Nicaragua a few months back, I posted the following on the Nightshade Discussion Board:

While in Managua we saw some cane workers picketing the National Assembly and went over and asked them what was up. They told us of a disease that had killed five thousand people over the past three years in Chichigalpa. Chichigalpa is owned literally by Carlos Pelas, the wealthiest man in Honduras. He owns, among other things, Flor De Cana rum, which is produced in Chichigalpa. How powerful a man is he? He kept his wealth and his plantations during the Sandinista regime, which meant he paid off certain high-ranking Sandanistas. Do the name Daniel Ortega ring a bell, Recently he had the National Assembly declare a 40 story office building a hotel so he wouldn't have to pay taxes on it.

Anyway, the workers called the disease the yellow disease because it gave its victims a jaundiced look. It affected the kidneys, sometimes shrinking them to the size of walnuts, so the victims couldn't urinate and swelled up. Often their faces would get so swollen, they became monstrous, unrecognizable. Eventually there was a complete organ breakdown and they bled from every oriifce. They attributed the disease to a powder they spread over the cane field by hand, without masks or amy protection. At the beginning of each season, Flor De Cana gave the workers a blood test, but wouldn't tell them what it was for. Some workers were told they couldn't work any more, and this was essentially a kiss of death, as those workers shortly fell ill (within 3 years) and died. The chemical is now in the ground water and the wells that provide water to the town, so everyone in the town is on a deathwatch.

They invited us to Chichigalpa to see for ourselves. To cut a long story short, while in Chichigalpa we were invited to witness a death.  The man who was dying and his family invited us to watch because they wanted the story to get out. We bought them a cell phone and told then to call when the time fame and we'd be there with our cameras.

We came back two nights later. We were paranoid, because it doesn't pay to be messing around in these company towns. There were drunks stumbling in the streets, cops cars parked everywhere, frightened faces peering out the windows. The dying man's house was a one room casita lit by a single light bulb. There were never less than a dozen people crammed inside, and I had a feeling that a goodly precentage of them lived there. the man went through stages of delirium when he didnt recognize anyone and shouted incoherently. Then he'd pass out. Sometimes he'd be clear when he woke and during one of these clear phases he gave us his last words -- he wanted everyone to put aside their differences and stop this thing that was killing them. Toward the end he got very cold and they wrapped him in blankets and put a hat on his head. He hadn't swelled up, but he bled copiously. I don't want to write more. but I'm going to put up some pictures that tell the story. I am writing about it, but it goes slowly--it was an incredibly harrowing experience. Women were screaming and one woman was reading Bible verses at the top of her voice and you could feel a strange gravity in the room. I guess that's all for now.

If you want to see some pictures of this, go to:

Then scroll down to Jan. 15th.

Anyway, I'm happy to say that bottled water, enough so the children at least can stop drinking poison, is now going in to Chichigalpa.  And more is coming--we hope to be able to supply clean water to everyone in the town within the next few months, thanks to Robert Isdepski at Sub Ocean Safety and various people too numerous to name here.

It's a little victory, but it sure makes me happy.    I'll be posting more on this in the coming months.  And going down again in the fall to cause some trouble.