22 September 2011

Is one passport too much to ask for?

M. isn't anyone noble. He's a sweet, weak sort of guy trying to make a decent life for his family. He would like to live where he grew up, in the land of his father and mother and forefathers and foremothers. But ten years ago, he asked me if I could help him move here, or to some other country where I have friends: Turkey, say; or the USA–somewhere that his children wouldn't have nightmares of being shot, somewhere with a chance for his family to live in dignity and his children could dream of a different future—somewhere that, when you look up in the sky, you only expect to see stars, not starbursts. He told me that he felt guilty wanting to escape, but he didn't see any other way.

I tried hard to help him, but couldn't. Legally, his kind isn't wanted anywhere.

"I'll do anything," he said. "Wash dishes for the rest of my life, dig holes. Work every day. I don't care what I'm paid. Can't you sneak me in?"

Righto, an illegal immigrant who's a Palestinian. If he got caught, he could look forward to quite a future.

We're still friends though I as a Jew, am encouraged by Israel to live in his land, while he is expected to grasp the short end of history. He once told me that he felt that he was a victim of antisemitism.

As Gideon Levy has just said: "The Palestinians are The New Jews . . . The great powers supported partition at the time, the great power is now opposed to a state. But the moral validity remains the same, there is no longer anyone in the world who can seriously claim that they don't deserve what we deserved, without being a racist, a chauvinist or a cynical opportunist."

M. also said that he found it odd that he as a Palestinian, has no passport, while many of the Israeli "settlers" have two.

We still "hope" together, but to be asked to be "patient" now, in a speech that never even mentioned the euphemism "settlements", is to be asked told to, well, Steve Clemons put it best in his column in The Atlantic: Obama Tells Palestinians to Stay in the Back of the Bus

Also recommended:

Robert Fisk: A President who is helpless in the face of Middle East reality
"I couldn't believe what I heard. It sounded as though the Palestinians were the ones occupying Israel. There wasn't one word of empathy for the Palestinians. He spoke only of the Israelis' troubles."
—Hanan Ashrawi, quoted in Haaretz
Israel's Anti-democratic enterprise

Israel's anti-democratic impulses grow

19 September 2011

Lime pickle, dried squid, vegemite, halvah, dates in space

Further to my questions to you the other day, more queries.

From Star Wars to Avatar, to the freshly published Robert Reed novella "The Ants of Flanders" in Fantasy & Science Fiction, the food we eat in space seems to have been designed by McDonald's and British Airways. There's an assumption that it's all hard going, and as textureless as the foamed lobster 'molecular gastronomy' joke pawned off on today's luxury-weighted diners with more money than sense.

But what if these assumptions of bland untasty spacefood are wrong? What if people in space are going to be very different to the assumed? What if they have, for instance, taste? And what if they did not necessarily grow up sucking on Mac's teats and the products of companies that put the ic in artificial?

What do you think people off-earth will eat? What would you propose that they should be offered?

Lime Pickle - the perfect space food?
  • Reduces nausea
  • Digestive
  • Adds taste to everything
  • Can be eaten alone
  • Sugar free
  • Indestructible
  • Gets better with age
What would you pack?

17 September 2011

Animalians, Vegetalians, Minerinvasivans - Non-humans who people fiction & other arts

At next week's Conflux conference that I mentioned (so I could pick your brain about a banquet for overspace guests—and your advice, menus, and reading recommendations) here, there is yet another panel that I'd like to get your input on, whether you are human or not.

Animalians, Vegetalians, Minerinvasivans—Non-humans who people fiction & other arts
A discriminatory exploration of non-humans in fiction (humanoids will be shunned, even if they threaten to bite and are called 'The Doctor'). Many non-humans have been the good bones, uh, flesh and, uh – living substance – of a great story. Who are they? And in our age when few humans interact with other species willingly, are real non-humans (with complex personalities) endangered? Panelists: Marilyn Pride and Anna Tambour. Participation from the floor will not only be encouraged, but if everyone sits like inanimate objects, they should expect to be stimulated by the odd non-human animal and tendril.

What do you think? What would you recommend?

Starting the discussion with a list of 5 great stories—creepy, haunting, fun, outrageous, and all published recently —

Explanations are Clear by L. Timmel Duchamp (in Never at Home)

Fjaerland by Rudy Rucker and Paul Di Filippo (in Flurb #12)

The Bird, the Bees, and Thylacine by Thoraiya Dyer in the Andromeda Spaceways #51)

Leng by Marc Laidlaw (in Lovecraft Unbound)

Fossil by Angelo R. Lacuesta (in A Time for Dragons)

16 September 2011

Get your free Infinities sampler now

100,000 words


A banquet for overspace guests

Haven't we met somewhere before?

Planning a Science Fiction theme dinner? There are a whole range of consumables (and drinkables) described throughout SF literature and media. Some of it could be delicious, some revolting, and some of it can eat you! And, master-chefs to the Universe, what would you serve at a banquet for non-earthlings?

That's what Laura E. Goodin, Marilyn Pride, Lewis Morley, Valerie Toh and I, along with everyone who pitches up, will be considering next week at a panel at Conflux.

So this post is to pick your brains.

What would you like to see served at a SF-theme dinner?
At a banquet with guests who ar
e possibly almost as vicious as starring food judges, what would you risk?

Menu, etiquette, and survival considerations in planning a banquet for non-earthlings ~ some fussingalready notes
  • Mouth parts ~ sucking, chewing, other
  • Tastes ~ We can't assume that guests will have sensory organs for sweet, sour, salt, bitter, umami. So other possible tastes: electric, ozone, colour, assorted waves, other
  • Allergies ~ Assuming that peanuts are out (the starving can't be choosers, but we'll assume our guests are not intergalactic refugees) what else should be excluded?
  • Social considerations ~ What taboos should we plan for?
  • Catering for immatures ~ Separate facilities and a Children's Menu (pussgetti, half-pints, slurpées, etc.) will be necessary for all nymphs, eggs, and others who might metamorphose during the banquet, keeping in mind that larvae who don't eat once they reach adulthood will be particularly hungry.
  • Social expectations ~ Can this be called a banquet if guests expect to be served high-grade fissionable material, yet we only serve champagne?
  • Hostpitality ~ It's only right that hosts try to cater for their guests' every need, though the saying "You should be willing to lay down your life for a guest" was spread by mosquitoes. So if a guest turns to you and says, "Will you be my amuse-bouche?" it is perfectly advisable to reply "I'm sorry. I speak no Astmarsian."
  • What to say to "What's in this?" ~ Remember that only humans accept "You don't wanna know."
  • These are only starters ~ So what do you think vital, so as to be a good host who lives to enjoy another dinner?
So come one, come all.
Please post your thoughts, advice, and menus!
because online,
you can't be skewered

Anyone with experience is automatically a Master.

Possibly The Last Supper detail

08 September 2011

07 September 2011

"The Oyster and Alice O." just released in the wild Flurb #12

Dive into the latest issue of FLURB, a Webzine of Astonishing Tales edited and illustrated (in paintings and photographs) by Rudy Rucker.

Authors in this (Fifth Anniversary)
Issue #12, "Fall–Winter 2011"

(I'm not telling you the names of the stories, so that you can enjoy discovering.)
Brendan Byrne
Adam Callaway
Will Ellwood
Eileen Gunn
Martin Hayes
Ernest Hogan
Justin Patrick Moore
Rudy Rucker and Paul Di Filippo
A. S. Salinas
Emily C. Skaftun
John Shirley
Bruce Sterling
Anna Tambour
Don Webb
I'm utterly delighted that my story—"The Oyster and Alice O."— accompanied by a perfect storm of photographs by Rudy Rucker, nestles amongst this unruly mob.

You might know Rudy Rucker as a polymath whose latest novel, the "weirdest, craziest, colorfulest book yet?" is Jim and the Flims.

But with Rucker, there's always more. He's too busy writing, teaching, exploring, artisting, and living to keep everyone informed of his daily production, so, amongst the just-outs and comings, a few snippets:
Nested Scrolls - a Writer's Life has recently been released by PS Publishing.
Better Worlds is a new edition of his artbook, with commentary.
See more about all sorts of his projects here.
He hasn't said, and I don't know how many others have mentioned, that he's also a handful of raisins if you happen to be a vat of water and rye. I loved feeling my brain brew, though the froth was messy. He's a great editor.

3 personal favourite stories in this issue are:
"Xuanito", with its sly humour and my favourite photo of this issue.
"Fjaerland"—Having had an eel make its way into one of my own stories, and a Norwegian troll into another, how could I resist this?
"After the thaw"—I'm a slave to any story with the line "That sounds unpleasantly task-oriented".

06 September 2011

Which way?

Kennedia rubicunda (Dusky coral pea)

This little beauty, celebrating spring, belongs to the genus Kennedia. My calling it rubicunda could be a familiarity too far.

Though I am always charmed by this colourful clinging climber, I am genuinely sorry that no Kennedia prostrata lives here.

With very similar flowers, its common name is Running Postman. So:

Is the postman running to or from?

05 September 2011

The value of private friendships

"… not being on Facebook had made me feel as if I lived under a rock … I received e-mails from two friends announcing the births of their babies, and I hadn’t known either woman was pregnant, even though I was a bridesmaid in one of their weddings. (One e-mail began, “For those of you who we are not in touch with by cellphone, or Facebook. ...”) Last August, my friend Jesse told me that not being on Facebook was just plain rude."
- Curtis Sittenfeld, I'm on Facebook. It's over, New York Times, 3 Sept 2011

There is a difference between a letter and a newsletter, just as there is a difference between one person saying "I love you" to another person, or to a crowd. A communication to a list is a newsletter.

In the rush to find out trivial things about people we haven't cared enough about to want to keep in touch with, we are losing the most important parts of ourselves. The imposed extrovert personality of 'friendship' that is the dominant culture negates the value of real friendships, intimate secrets and inspirations between people who actually care about each other. This EZ way to socialise in bulk takes the pain away from actual communication, the letter that really matters, the one-to-one conversation without the thought by either that any part of that communication needs to be labelled 'off the record'.

I owe, I always owe, letters to people that I have been slow to write to. Some of the most important, I will probably write after I do those other things I never get around to because they are too hard. In the end, I will fail. But at least I know that. To make life easier by commoditising the personal relationship only cheapens life.

When we can speak from the heart and not some online 'personality', we can not only be more honest but more generous and hopefully, naked compared to wearing that online clothing: the self-defensive garb woven of finely felted bullshit. In personal communication, we can be who we really are, in all its quirks and many conflicting variations of 'who'. It's hard, old-fashioned, finicky work—communicating—but I would value it higher even than the time needed to put into making a decent cup of coffee, or getting into the next networking loop. Real hard friendship might even be more worthwhile working at than body sculpting.

Real friendships if they are worth it, are also worth caring enough about, to take the care to be personal and private about them. And as for those 'Friends' lists, anyone truly interesting has a mix of true friendships that is worth privacy, too.

04 September 2011

Waratahs are blooming this year

If I were to name it, I'd call it the salamander flower.

Sweet sour salt bittern

Never hunt your banqueting dish,
as you could cause it to faint, if not expire.

One of the curses of being a fictionist is that life keeps imitating your stories, and you want to say, "See here! It's not right to keep reporting things that have to do with my story, and all the while keeping the public in the dark about the story itself." (said to oneself with many !!!s)

So I'll announce right now that Gunkl Fleer would have made sure that no food source would ever need to be "making a new comeback from extinction" even if that claim were capable of truth. As for Gunkl Fleer, his existence won't be known to the masses of bitterns and other readers till Phantasmagorium (announced yesterday) makes its appearance.

In the meantime, enjoy the Telegraph's article, full of wreckless fancies:
Bittern: medieval banqueting dish that died due to hunting and loss of habitat

03 September 2011

Laird Barron edits new journal: Phantasmagorium

Phantasmagorium is coming soon. "A new quarterly collection of visceral adult fiction", edited by Laird Barron, who has no equal in the offhand remark that makes a reader's guts freeze. He is heartlessly cavalier in causing people to mistrust wakefulness as well as sleep.

I'm not sure if I'm allowed to tell about the other folks involved in Phantasmagorium, so I'll just say that I expect a knife-along-the-back thrill of a publication, with the highest standards of writing, art, and even treating authors better than cobs of corn in a syrup plant.

The authors for the first issue have just been revealed.
Joseph S. Pulver is not only one of them, but an author you should sink your eyeballs into, so see his announcement where he reveals all the authors:

02 September 2011

Myths of separation of Church and state

Remembered especially for her dedication to spreading the Gospel to children in state schools.
Obituary/Tribute to Sister Shirley Rsj Fagan, Sydney Morning Herald, 29 August

"The west's separation of Church and state is something to cherish."
— Elizabeth Farrelly, Keeping quiet allows intolerance to thrive, Sydney Morning Herald, Sept 1

Despite cuts in other areas, the Federal Government has announced a $222 million increase in funding for the controversial National School Chaplaincy Programme... Most school chaplains in government schools are employed through a state provider of chaplaincy services. Nearly all providers are Christian organisations.
– Kelly Hockley, Students need school counsellors, not disciple makers, Independent Australia

"In recent times peaceful, let alone fruitful, coexistence between Christian societies and Islamic groups has again become more difficult. The causes are many ... have accentuated the tensions always inherent between a West in which the separation of church and state has become routine, and an Islam that has, often and for long, seen the two as indissolubly linked."
— Harry Gelber, Immigration, the Nation and Multiculturalism, Quadrant Magazine, July-Aug 2011

Religious instruction teachers are forbidden to advocate or proselytise (try to convert pupils) for Christianity or any other religion.
Religious education in public schools, Colleen Ricci, The Age, 2 May 2011

"in Australia we have a God-given open door to children and young people with the Gospel, our federal and state governments allow us to take the Christian faith into our schools and share it. We need to go and make disciples."
School chaplains: Time to look at the evidence, Inside Story, 13 May 2011
The jazz singer who isn't keeping quiet
"This is a man [Ron Williams] who's gone to the High Court to get the justice that he believes is due to him - that is the separation of church and state." — Ron Williams is fighting the National School Chaplaincy Program in the High Court, claiming it is unconstitutional.

Campaign against chaplaincy program reaches the High Court, 7:30 Report,Tracy Bowden, reporter, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 10 Aug 2011

So why in heaven's name is an ordained minister not a fan of kids learning about right and wrong? Because they provide a secular alternative to "special religious education".
—Dominic Knight, Here endeth the ethics lessons?, ABC's The Drum Opinion

And now, children, we'll learn all about …

The best morality teachers are dyslexic.

01 September 2011

Death talks

Blue Steel Special

I recommended Iain Rowan's Nowhere to Go back in May, if you like your crime stories memorable both for the way they're told and the characters. If you haven't bought this collection yet, now's the time. Throughout September, Nowhere To Go is down from the usual price of $2.99 to just 99c/86p at Amazon.

And those author interviews he's running have really added up. See them here.