Archive for March, 2008


Um … yeah, about that thing with the Comments

March 30, 2008

Perhaps this would be a good time to mention that we did fix the Comments feature on the SCWC blog. I mean, since I forgot to mention it last week. And especially since I am unsure how long the restriction was in place, suffice to say that I was thoroughly embarrassed when I figured out that I had asked people to give us their two cents’ worth on the passing of Arthur C. Clarke, and, well, you know ….

Or maybe you don’t.

At any rate, we’ve taken care of that little glitch, so drop a line and say hi. Really, we’d love to hear from you.




Inflatable aliens, Japanese stewardesses, Typhoid Buby, and more filking (this time with Hobbits)

March 29, 2008

So the update on Norwescon is only about a week overdue. Um …. yeah. That would be my fault, obviously, but I’m guessing nobody noticed.

So first up, the Saturday reports from The Stranger‘s Paul Constant:

What? This is how it goes up here in the great northland. Maybe this would all seem strange to me if I spent more time in southern California.

The Sunday reports are a little more interesting. Well, sort of. It’s a perspective thing.

  • Norwescon Sunday: Report One — Umm … yeah. So, how do you feel about erotic inflatable aliens? ‘Nuff said? Actually, no, it’s not. It seems this report deals with the Saturday-night parties, and should not be viewed by persons of delicate sensibilities or who have at least a half a brain. I won’t say anything about setting hair on fire, either. I mean … whoops.
  • Norwescon Wrap-Up — And y’all thought Typhoid Buby’s poetry cram disaster at SD22 was bad …. Beware, though, as this report includes disturbing notions on “fanfic”, and the phrase “Hobbit Filking”, which scares me even more than the words “Hobbit Country Dancing”.

And that’s pretty much it. I was thinking about a way to work in a happy hour update just for Ed, but it’s only peripherally relevant, and the related event has already taken place … some two-thousand miles away. Er … yeah.



Dragons, filking, and Scott Bakula (oh, and the Phillip K. Dick Award)

March 22, 2008

Norwescon 31 is taking place as I write this. Well, I think they’re probably wrapped up for the evening, and drinking themselves stupid over toasts to Scott Bakula. And me? Well, I had no idea. No real excuses, either. I just wasn’t paying attention.

Paul Constant was, however, and the literary man for The Stranger has been checking in at Slog now and again. The big news is apparently the announcement of the Phillip K. Dick Award winners.

The Special Citation, or runner-up, went to From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain, by Minister Faust. I read this one, and I’ve got to say, I’m pretty disappointed. It’s not a very good book, an unoriginal satire on superheroes and power and blah blah blah.

And the winner of the Philip K. Dick Award this year is Nova Swing, by M. John Harrison, a kind of noir-y alternate universe story. Harrison’s previous serial-killer novel, Light, was excellent. Harrison’s speech was read by a surrogate, since he couldn’t be here, but it was a good speech, mainly about how he’s all about growing beyond the idea of personality being a consistent thing, that we are a bunch of actions who are consistently retroactively explaining our actions, and that justification is what we think makes us us. It was a good speech, and people read from all seven books on the short list before the prizes was announced and there is, thankfully, no actual statuette of a prize (a Dick prize could be banned in certain states, I’m sure) because they decide to give the winners the money instead. How civilized.

In the meantime, entertain (or torture) yourselves with Mr. Constant’s reports from “SeaTac’s biggest science fiction convention”:

  • Norwescon Report One: Get the skinny on gypsy sluts, masculine insecurity, and Klingon community service.
  • Norwescon Report Two: Two words, dragons and filking.
  • Norwescon Report Three: Find out abut Vader’s Fist, raucous Scott Bakula fans, why Lovecraft is still popular despite being a horrible writer, and the importance of costumes.
  • Norwescon Report Four: The Fantasy Flower SmackDown, creepy dolls, and the death of schoolgirl fantasies.

My mother’s in town this weekend, so it’s not like I’m going to rush off and catch the Hobbit Country Dancing, the slide show on “Evolving the Star-Trek Replicator”, the evening’s filking concerts, or the workshop on Advanced Polyamory. But, hey, I’ll also miss Dan Simmons, so there is a hint of tragedy about it. Point being, I expect there will be further reports, so I’ll just have to update y’all vicariously.



Shrinking Fiction with Michael Thompkins

March 21, 2008

Some of you might recognize a few words here and there, and why not? Ideas, as we all know, evolve, and this particular adaptation would not have come to be without the interest and supportive feedback of SCWC participants.

Michael Thompkins, mystery writer and SCWC contributor, is bringing elements of his conference workshops on character development to the internet. That’s right, having paid money to attend the conference, booked and shelled out for a hotel room, and suffered through MSG’s speeches just for this sacred advice, you can now get it for free.

Okay, okay, okay. That’s not fair. After all, it has been the growth of the workshop’s attendance and the response of participants that have encouraged Mike to go forward with this project. And, frankly, if you ask me—then again, who did?—it’s kind of like any performance act. A comedian can’t get up and tell the same jokes over and over again, and Mike can only recycle so much material each time he does the workshop. While it is said that old dogs can’t learn new tricks, Mike’s not that old; sixty is the new fifty-eight as they say, and he’s a smart guy, which means that no matter how hard he tries, he can’t help but learn something new each time out.

That’s right. It’s not a myth. The perspectives received and performances witnessed change the way he looks at the material he presents and the points he hopes to communicate. And, yes, I’m pulling monkeys from sunless regions on that, but come on, we all know it’s true. Good teachers learn from their students. Good performers grow with each performance. I doubt Mike would argue—except, maybe, that I keep calling him “Mike”—and, most likely, would encourage me to keep on as long as I think I’m making him sound smart.

That said, of course, I should probably shut up.

Some of the earliest Emotional Anatomy maps of character structure come from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Western Folk Medicine, world-views inherited from the ancients. In TCM, and Western Folk Medicine (Naturopathy, Homeopathy, et al.), there is no difference between the practice of psychology and the practice of medicine. Specific emotions, patterns of thought, and attitudes are associated with specific anatomical organs and other physical structures in complete systems of correspondence. In TCM these are often called Five Element Theory. In Western Folk Medicine these are call humours.

For example, in TCM the human liver is associated with the emotion anger and the mental function of planning, and the heart is connected with the emotion of joy and the controlling of the entire organism. TCM comprises a complex, voluminous system of such correspondences. In the TCM world-view an individual’s anatomical structure, inherited and acquired, significantly influences an individual’s characteristic attitudes, thoughts and feelings. The systems of correspondences in Western Folk Medicine are less organized, less discrete, and less studied.

As a psychologist, I have spent much time studying these and other similar emotional anatomies, the organization of emotional patterns into specific anatomical patterns. My point here is not whether these systems have any relative or absolute scientific merit; I will leave that to the scientists and the physicians. My focus here is whether the psychological systems to be found here in these bodies of knowledge can help us as writers to construct more congruent characters, characters that ring true on all levels, spiritually, emotionally, and physically ….

Anyway, like I said … if any of it sounds familiar …. He’s just getting started, though. Drop by, say hi, let him know you’re out there, what you think, and what you would like from future installments of “Shrinking Fiction“.



Arthur C. Clarke (1917 – 2008)

March 21, 2008

I am perhaps the last person on the planet who should attempt to eulogize the late Arthur C. Clarke, who departed the mortal experience earlier this week at the age of ninety.

I saw the movie. I remember reading “The Sentinel” in junior high. And I had an anthology from Famous Fantastic Mysteries that featured “Guardian Angel”, which would eventually become Childhood’s End.

And that’s it. The novels were always something I put off, part of that nebulous list of standards and classics I could always get around to reading. And certainly I still can, but I find myself, for my embarrassing illiteracy, lacking the appropriate words on this occasion of the passing of a literary and scientific luminary.

So you tell us. Memories, favorite stories, wild speculations … who and what was Arthur C. Clarke to you?



SORDID TALES (a biweekly column by Edwin Decker)

March 16, 2008

Horses Hate Me

I was flipping through the TV channels the other night and came across The Ring 2. I tuned in just before the scene where the horse flips out on the boat. It is, for me, the scariest part of the movie.

In the scene, Rachel is traveling by ferry to the house where Samara, the creepy, dark-haired, damp girl, lives. At one point, Rachel notices a horse in a trailer and approaches the animal, which, as if it sensed something malevolent living inside Rachel, goes utterly berserk. The horse kicks its way out of the trailer, rises on two legs, stomps a car, chases Rachel to the edge of the craft and leaps over the rail into the black water. Read the rest of this entry ?


Looking Forward

March 13, 2008

Novelist Ed Lin took some time to offer some thoughts on literary fans. Unfortunately, these reflections, penned for The Stranger aren’t the happiest:

A lot of great things happen at readings, enough to make it more than worth my while to step up to the mic. I like hearing that someone loved my book—it made them laugh, cry, whatever. One guy even told me that he read my first novel, Waylaid, in one sitting. On the toilet.

Hey, it made me laugh.

The only downside to readings is when the Weirdies show up. Weirdies love mouthing along during the reading; asking many, many questions during the Q&A; and following the author for blocks afterward ….

Maybe someday I’ll have weird fans. And maybe some day the experience will unsettle or annoy me. For now, of course, I can only wish.



More on Seltzer

March 8, 2008

More on Margaret Seltzer story:



Modern Problems, or, The Week in Fabrication

March 4, 2008

The Simply Embarrassing

Motoko Rich, “Author Admits Acclaimed Memoir Is Fantasy“. New York Times, 3 March 2008.

In “Love and Consequences,” a critically acclaimed memoir published last week, Margaret B. Jones wrote about her life as a half-white, half-Native American girl growing up in South-Central Los Angeles as a foster child among gang-bangers, running drugs for the Bloods.

The problem is that none of it is true.

Margaret B. Jones is a pseudonym for Margaret Seltzer, who is all white and grew up in the well-to-do Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley, with her biological family. She graduated from the Campbell Hall School, a private Episcopal day school in the North Hollywood neighborhood. She has never lived with a foster family, nor did she run drugs for any gang members. Nor did she graduate from the University of Oregon, as she had claimed.

Riverhead Books, the unit of Penguin Group USA that published “Love and Consequences,” is recalling all copies of the book and has canceled Ms. Seltzer’s book tour, which was scheduled to start on Monday in Eugene, Ore., where she currently lives ….

…. Ms. Seltzer’s story started unraveling last Thursday after she was profiled in the House & Home section of The New York Times. The article appeared alongside a photograph of Ms. Seltzer and her 8-year-old daughter, Rya. Ms. Seltzer’s older sister, Cyndi Hoffman, saw the article and called Riverhead to tell editors that Ms. Seltzer’s story was untrue ….

…. Sarah McGrath, the editor at Riverhead who worked with Ms. Seltzer for three years on the book, said she was stunned to discover that the author had lied.

“It’s very upsetting to us because we spent so much time with this person and we felt such sympathy for her and she would talk about how she didn’t have any money or any heat and we completely bought into that and thought we were doing something good by bringing her story to light,” Ms. McGrath said.

“There’s a huge personal betrayal here as well as a professional one,” she said.

No, there is no punch line coming. No condemnation, no hammer and nails. No wondering what Christmas dinner must be like. In truth, this phenomenon escapes my comprehension, and for the simplest and most obvious reasons. How do people not expect to get caught?

It strikes me that there is, in that context, a story in there somewhere. And it can only be a tragedy.

• • •

The Spectacularly Embarrassing

Lindesay Irvine, “Nazi flight memoir was fiction, author confesses. GuardianUnlimited, 3 March 2008.

Misha Defonseca, whose bestselling account of a childhood flight from the Nazis was made into a feature film and translated into 18 languages, has admitted that her memoir is a work of fiction. Surviving with Wolves, her story of a 1,900 mile trek across Europe, living with a pack of wolves and shooting a German soldier in self defence, is now said to bear little resemblance to any real course of events in the author’s life.

Defonseca, a Belgian writer who now lives in Massachusetts, was contacted by her own lawyers in the wake of research published in the Belgian newspaper Le Soir questioning her story. The 71-year-old author, conceded that she was not Jewish and confessed that she had fabricated the story.

“Yes, my name is Monique De Wael, but I have wanted to forget it since I was four years old,” she said in a statement from her lawyers obtained by Associated Press. “My parents were arrested and I was taken in by my grandfather, Ernest De Wael, and my uncle, Maurice De Wael. I was called ‘daughter of a traitor’ because my father was suspected of having talked under torture in the prison of Saint-Gilles. Ever since I can remember, I felt Jewish.”

Perhaps the one thing Ms. Seltzer had going for her amid collapsing literary ambitions this week is that her fall from grace will be overshadowed by an episode of legendary notoriety. While Love and Consequences crumbled shortly before its publication, Defonseca’s Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years hit the shelves in 1997 and, more recently, was the subject of a legal dispute with Defonseca and her ghostwriter accusing Mount Ivy Press of various wrongdoing that resulted in a $32.4 million judgment against the publisher. According to a background summary released by Sullivan & Worcester LLP in the wake of the decision, “Without money, facing the loss of her home, she maintained her courage and dignity and refused to allow Mt. Ivy to take that, which undisputedly was hers: her story.”

The irony is nearly toxic.

• • •


Over at GuardianUnlimited, Claire Armistead blogs a few words on “making up memoirs“.