March 21, 2008

The Adherents of the Repeated Meme

Tagged again!

Right, the Official Rules:
1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people and post a comment here once you post it to your blog so I can come see!
As chance would have it, my nearest book is Iain M. Banks' Excession, and the passage in question is a spaceship transmission giving the title shot (and for purposes of the excercise, I'm choosing to interpret "sentence" as "text ending with a period"):
Begin-Read point of Tracked Copy document #SC.c4: +
xGCU Fate Amenable to Change
Ethics Gradient
& strictly as SC cleared:
Excession notice @.
Constitutes formal All-ships Warning Level 0
[(in temporary sequestration) - textual note added by GSV
Wisdom Like Silence @].
(No, the whole book isn't like that; it's just how the dialogue between the Culture ships is written. For further context, the Fate Amenable to Change, Ethics Gradient, and Wisdom Like Silence are the names of the ships themselves, or at least of the godlike AI Minds who inhabit them, and SC stands for Special Circumstances, the Culture's secret service and intelligence organization.)

For something a little less obscure, I also have at hand Britta Sweers' fascinating study Electric Folk: The Changing Face of English Traditional Music, which I've been slowly making my way through for a little while now (it's very good, but a little dense and chewy). Page 123 is in Chapter 4, "The Electric Folk Scene: A Sociocultural Portrayal":
In 1965 Karl Dallas wondered, for instance, if folksingers were overpaid - not meaning to attack the stars of the scene, but rather the idea that even those without talent could make money. As he concluded in Melody Maker: "It's become very commercial, to be uncommercial" (Dallas 1965). Hence one problematic result of the musical fusions after 1967 was that electric folk groups presented their music within a commercial context - something that had previously been rejected by the revival scene.
Hmmm. I should probably just let that stand without comment.

This one's been around a couple of times now, so I don't know if anyone here has been hit with it already; who wants to risk the terrible Illumination that the books reveal?

In Poses Keen from Bygone Days

The blogosphere is awash in art of late, it would seem:

First, those of you who are fans of my late grandfather's work should check out this stuff that Tony found in one of the many recent attic excavations. Some of it's the abstract expressionism that he was known best for, but there's lots of atypical pieces there too. (I, of course, like the one that looks like a Great Old One, but YM, naturally, MV.)

Second, Spyder got tapped again to do some artwork for the award-winning RPG Burning Wheel, and is showcasing her fine illos for the upcoming magic-focused book here. (In case you didn't know, she previously did some interiors and the back cover painting for the acclaimed Monster Burner volume, which is a level of coolness I could barely have contemplated so few degrees of separation from when thumbing through the Fiend Folio in my fevered youth.) A great big hurrah to her for this new gig and another tally mark on her Srs Profeshunul Artist board. (Also: Mmmm. Wizards.)

Third, Elly (who is a colleague from my late place of employment and otherwise fellow-traveler, for those of you who have been wondering whence she came to the blogroll) has embarked on the ambitious project of a series of works inspired in part by Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, and chronicling the progress (of that, and other stuff too). Aeroplane is a work that's at the very least on my shortlist of Desert Island Albums: compelling, labyrinthine, bizarre, unsettling, and chockablock with strange earworms, which is why I sometimes find myself singing "When you were young you were the king of carrot flowerrrrrs" while I'm doing the dishes or some damn thing. (I recall reading that NMH's aesthetic was once summed up as "like Syd Barrett, but with more sex," and that's about right.) It's exactly the kind of effort I applaud, in part because it's the kind of thing I wish I'd thought of first, though my version would no doubt have more of a Mark Ryden sort of vibe going; I look forward to seeing what she does with it.

So that's at least a couple of you out there who have some catching up to do with the mini-zeitgeist, if you've been neglecting pen and palette of late. Show us yer canvases, baby! Whoohoo! (And this would have been an excellent place to note the official launch of Trixie Magpie, except the site's not up yet, nudge nudge, so you're just going to have to Watch This Space.)

March 13, 2008

Animals Belonging to the Emperor

So the last time around I mentioned my quirky and highly subjective system of organization for my bookshelves (and, indeed, other shelvable media as well). As it happens, last week Elly threw down the gauntlet for bookshelf pr0n posts, so this seems like as good an excuse as any to take a tour of one small corner of my library. So, then: Mah buks. Let me show u them:

This is the bookshelf most focused on straight-up prose fiction in my office (as opposed to reference books, graphic novels, or art books), so it seems like a natural one to showcase for you library voyeurs. Moving in closer:

The Datlow and Windling Year's Best anthologies were what restored my faith in modern fantasy back in the early 90's. My shelf fits exactly volumes one through eighteen; I don't know if that's a sign to stop, or to get different shelves. Also featured here are Thomas Monteleone's Borderlands anthologies, which are delightfully weird and dark, and a couple of Chaosium Mythos collections. (Frodo sculpture by Big Tony; and yes, the sign on top is from a Borders, though I confess I came by it through entirely legitimate means.)

Here we have New Weird, Old Weird, slipstream, and horror. The first third is classic weird fiction in more or less chronological order: Lautreamont, Chambers, Machen, Dunsany, M.R. James, Blackwood, and Lovecraft. In the middle are my personal favorite Lovecraft heirs, William Browning Spencer and Thomas Ligotti (and I don't use phrases like "the gem of my collection," but if I did, I'd say it about the hardback copy of Ligotti's Teatro Grottesco there at center stage), followed by the often Ligottian Darrell Schweitzer, Brian McNaughton, Jeff VanderMeer, Jeffrey Thomas, and Mark Danielewski. From there we have different sorts of all-out deconstructive weird fantasy: K.J. Bishop, Jay Lake, China Mieville, and Scott Lynch. Floating above are the unclassifiable Robert Aickman, more Mythos anthologies, the multi-talented Ramsey Campbell, and Hal Duncan's Vellum, which has kicked my ass every time I try to pick it up. (The Thing in a Jar there behind my tavern pipe was a 33rd birthday present from Spyder, and you're probably happier not seeing it any closer.)

And here is a whole bunch of urban fantasy and the genres adjacent thereto, all sort of circling around the Big Block o' Neil Gaiman in the middle, with some high fantasy and space opera thrown in for good measure. Hiding behind the hip UF and tie-in novels on the right, Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar books are keeping thematic company with Ellen Kushner's Riverside mannerpunk. From there I've got Patricia McKillip's Riddle-Master (probably my favorite Tolkienian fantasy that isn't actually very much like LOTR) and Gaiman's novels and collections, followed closely by Alan Moore and Mike Carey, likewise comics writers-turned-novelists. The rest of the shelf is filled out (to bring things full circle) with the sort of fiction the Year's Best anthologies made me fall in love with: Susanna Clarke, Kelly Link, Elizabeth Bear, Ekaterina Sedia, Cat Valente, and some wonderfully pulpy dark urban fantasy by Jim Macdonald and Stephan Zielinski. Outliers include more eBear, Iain M. Banks' Culture novels, Guy Gavriel Kay, Cory Doctorow, the first Liz Williams Detective Inspector Chen book (which I'm now reading, and is delightful), and, of course, John Crowley's Little, Big. Just below you can see a tantalizing hint of the next shelf down, which is All Clive Barker, All the Time (and which I'm going to have to find something creative to do with when he gets around to the next Abarat book).

(There's actually more to this bookcase as well, but it's sort of behind my laundry basket, and no one wants to see that.)

And just to show what a ridiculously obsessive completist I am, I've gone and made sure that everything in the above photos (along with a great deal more shelved elsewhere) is in my catalog at LibraryThing, which is a relatively new addiction for me and so I haven't actually added everything I own. Give me time.

March 06, 2008

An Old Day Now

(Finally, this, as promised last time, only lightly altered for current continuity. Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, and so on.)

So a little over a month ago I turned 34, as the inevitable and inexorable progression of numbers would have it. At this point, I'm no longer in the least surprised that as I stumble on towards my status as venerable graybeard (a designation increasingly literal these days, for good or ill), I still don't feel in the least like a grownup. So it goes, and frankly all for the better; being grownup remains an overrated prospect.

However, just to put this in terrifying perspective: Those of you who have known me for a long time, and maybe remember that unfortunate incident I was subjected to on my 17th birthday? The thing with the cheesecake and the uncomfortable car ride?* That was now officially half my lifetime ago.

Anyway, here in the Eternal Now, I see that I've been tapped with a Meme by Aishwarya, wherein I share six random and unimportant facts about myself. In honor of my 34th year and all the hermetic significance that implies, I'm upping it to seven. Bonus frivolity! So:

1. My very first comic book was a Marvel Conan the Barbarian, sometime around '81 or '82, now long since lost in a move, alas. It was wonderfully Howardian and spooky and weird, and I remember finding it fascinating and unsettling in more or less equal measure. (The Oracle at Google tells me it was #117, "In the Lair of Mullah-Kajar.") This imprinted on me pretty deeply in retrospect, if that wasn't obvious enough.

2. My list of DO NOT WANT Under Any Circumstances foods is relatively short, but hard-boiled eggs are right the hell at the top. If I were ever stranded on a desert island with nothing but a crate of hard-boiled eggs, I might actually starve to death.

3. For about five years now, I haven't listened to nearly any music I own on the original CDs. I have in fact become more than a little obsessive about keeping them pristine and unscratched in their cases while I use burned copies for actual listening. (This is a pretty good example of my particular cluster of neuroses involving Protecting My Stuff, which manifest in a number of amusing ways, though at least I no longer insist on covering my paperbacks in clear contact paper before reading them.)

4. The single biggest influence on any daydreams of rock-stardom I indulge in is without question Ian Anderson, who also gets the blame for why my Platonic ideal of performing music is wrapped up in a great deal of bombast and theatricality. Indeed, my one real regret in my public musical career is that I waited long enough to get serious about it that I no longer look any good in a codpiece.

5. I have an especially quirky and idiosyncratic way of organizing my bookshelves that boils down to "things that would get along well with each other." It's a source of no small irritation for me that I constantly have to compromise this system with the physical limits of the spaces involved.

6. I'm not sorry I didn't pursue theatre as a career, but I'd really like the chance to someday play the Divine Marquis in Marat/Sade. The psychoanalysts' field day's worth of implications of this I leave to those better equipped than I to mull over.

7. I still entertain an occasional daydream of being a radio DJ - not the modern vulgar shouty kind, but the cool 70's Venus Flytrap kind, or a more pretentious version of the guy who does Below the Salt. Preferably on some after-midnight program spinning, yanno, twenty-minute-long tracks in unusual time signatures.

As usual, I'm not tagging anyone in particular, but rather trusting to the whimsical enthusiasms of my loyal readers to pick it up as they so choose. Tra la!

*No, you're not getting any more than that. Not on the Internets, at any rate. I insist I still have my dignity, all evidence and Black Thursday** to the contrary.