Monday, July 25, 2016

The Big Book of Science Fiction

The Editor's early Tweet about the above review:

    The Star - H. G. Wells
    Sultana's Dream - Rokheya Shekhawat Hossein
    The New Overworld - Paul Scheerbart
    The Triumph of Mechanics - Karl Hans Strobl
    Elements of Pataphysics - Alfred Jarry
    Mechanopolis - Miguel de Unamuno
    The Doom of Principal City - Yefim Zozulya
    The Comet - W. E. B. Du Bois
    The Fate of the Poseidonia - Clare Winger Harris
    The Star Stealers - Edmond Hamilton
    The Conquest of Gola - Leslie F. Stone
    A Martian Odyssey - Stanley G. Weinbaum
    The Last Poet and the Robots - A. Merritt
    The Microscopic Giants - Paul Ernst
    Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius - Jorge Luis Borges
    Desertion - Clifford D. Simak
    September 2005: The Martian - Ray Bradbury
    Baby HP - Juan José Arreola
    Surface Tension - James Blish
    Beyond Lies the Wub - Philip K. Dick
    The Snowball Effect - Katherine MacLean
    Prott - Margaret St. Clair
    The Liberation of Earth - William Tenn
    Let Me Live in a House - Chad Oliver
    The Star - Arthur C. Clarke
    Grandpa - James H. Schmitz
    The Game of Rat and Dragon - Cordwainer Smith
    The Last Question - Isaac Asimov
    Stranger Station - Damon Knight
    Sector General - James White
    The Visitors - Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
    Pelt - Carol Emshwiller
    The Monster - Gérard Klein
    The Man Who Lost the Sea - Theodore Sturgeon
    The Waves - Silvina Ocampo
    Plenitude - Will Worthington
    The Voices of Time - J. G. Ballard
    The Astronaut - Valentina Zhuravlyova
    The Squid Chooses Its Own Ink - Adolfo Bioy Casares
    2 B R 0 2 B - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
    A Modest Genius - Vadim Shefner
    Day of Wrath - Sever Gansovsky
    The Hands - John Baxter
    Darkness - André Carneiro
    "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman - Harlan Ellison
    Nine Hundred Grandmothers - R. A. Lafferty
    Day Million - Frederik Pohl
    Student Body - F. L. Wallace
    Aye, and Gomorrah - Samuel R. Delany
    The Hall of Machines - Langdon Jones
    Soft Clocks - Yoshio Aramaki
    Three from Moderan - David R. Bunch
    Let Us Save the Universe - Stanisław Lem
    Vaster Than Empires and More Slow - Ursula K. Le Guin
    Good News from the Vatican - Robert Silverberg
    When It Changed - Joanna Russ
    And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side - James Tiptree Jr.
    Where Two Paths Cross - Dmitri Bilenkin
    Standing Woman - Yasutaka Tsutsui
    The IWM 1000 - Alicia Yánez Cossío
    The House of Compassionate Sharers - Michael Bishop
    Sporting with the Chid - Barrington J. Bayley
    Sandkings - George R. R. Martin
    Wives - Lisa Tuttle
    The Snake That Read Chomsky - Josephine Saxton
    Reiko's Universe Box - Kajio Shinji
    Swarm - Bruce Sterling
    Mondocane - Jacques Barbéri
    Blood Music - Greg Bear
    Bloodchild - Octavia E. Butler
    Variation on a Man - Pat Cadigan
    Passing as a Flower in the City of the Dead - S. N. Dyer
    New Rose Hotel - William Gibson
    Pots - C. J. Cherryh
    Snow - John Crowley
    The Lake Was Full of Artificial Things - Karen Joy Fowler
    The Unmistakable Smell of Wood Violets - Angélica Gorodischer
    The Owl of Bear Island - Jon Bing
    Readers of the Lost Art - Élisabeth Vonarburg
    A Gift from the Culture - Iain M. Banks
    Paranamanco - Jean-Claude Dunyach
    Crying in the Rain - Tanith Lee
    The Frozen Cardinal - Michael Moorcock
    Rachel in Love - Pat Murphy
    Sharing Air - Manjula Padmanabhan
    Schwarzschild Radius - Connie Willis
    All the Hues of Hell - Gene Wolfe
    Vacuum States - Geoffrey A. Landis
    Two Small Birds - Han Song
    Burning Sky - Rachel Pollack
    Before I Wake - Kim Stanley Robinson
    Death Is Static Death Is Movement - Misha Nogha
    The Brains of Rats - Michael Blumlein
    Gorgonoids - Leena Krohn
    Vacancy for the Post of Jesus Christ - Kojo Laing
    The Universe of Things - Gwyneth Jones
    The Remoras - Robert Reed
    The Ghost Standard - William Tenn
    Remnants of the Virago Crypto-System - Geoffrey Maloney
    How Alex Became a Machine - Stepan Chapman
    The Poetry Cloud - Cixin Liu
    Story of Your Life - Ted Chiang
    Craphound - Cory Doctorow
    The Slynx - Tatyana Tolstaya
    Baby Doll - Johanna Sinisalo

    Friday, July 22, 2016

    The Age of Lovecraft


    Just received this purchased book….
    Edited by Carl H. Sederholm and  Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock
    Foreword by Ramsey Campbell
    Featuring words from James Kneale, Isabella van Elferen, Brian Johnson, Jed Mayer, David Simmons, Jessica George, David Punter, W. Scott Poole, China Miéville.
    In due course, I shall comment on this book in the thought stream below.

    30 thoughts on “The AGE of LOVECRAFT

    1. I have just read the first six pages of the Introduction. Very satisfying fare. Highly textured with mind-awakening philosophy, even at this early stage of the book. “Why Lovecraft, why now?” Cosmic indifferentism seems akin to the results of gestalt real-time reviewing fiction books as objects become preternatural forces separate from humanity. Do they retain such power even if no-one reads them? impossible to answer, of course.
    2. The introduction deals thoroughly with the whys and wherefores of the high profile of Lovecraft in modern days, his racism etc etc
      The first essay proper is:
      GHOULISH DIALOGUES: HP Lovecraft’s Weird Geographies
      by James Kneale (cultural and historical geographer at University College London.)
      My review will continue in due course below….
    3. From Introduction –
      “Since one purpose of this book is to reflect on the significance of Lovecraft’s increasing popularity, not to mention his marked impact on early twentieth-first-century discourse, we cannot dismiss the problem of racism as irrelevant, nor can we resolve it to everyone’s satisfaction.”
      I have now read the first few pages of the James Kneale essay where we seem to be given permission to brainstorm upon HPL’s style and influence, where, just as one example, style awkwardness can lead to some sort of weird truth or insight (as my review above has ALREADY done!) i.e.:-
      “The Age of Lovecraft might, in fact, be weirder than many of the fictions in his name.”
      Weird style outweighing its weird content.
      More later…
      • Content versus style, a tension that concerned me personally ever since studying Russian Formalism in the 1960s and Wimsatt’s Intentional Fallacy. There is much food for thought in this essay, cubism and triangulation, and objects seen in their own right as flensed and flayed from under ‘unimagined’ layers of allusion. And his stories’ triangulated growing technics of transmission now taken further abroad within HPL’s residual ‘gray areas’ and spacing – as sexed up by the Internet?
        References to Poe, Miéville and Stross. And Graham Harman.
      • Looking back from the beyond of HPL’s Gothic narratives, and by dealing with the Gothic as THING-POWER, there are factored in, inter alia, Danielewski’s HOUSE oF Leaves, KIngs’s Overlook Hotel, Poe’s House of Usher, the Whovian TARDIS, and forbidden texts like The Necronomicon, and we are given a decidedly oblique slant on Lovecraft fiction texts, text that radiates more than what the words themselves mean, I guess. And, for me these thing-powers represent the flotsam and jetsam that I myself talked about in 2006:-
        “It is much more complex than simple suspension of belief (or even disbelief). Horror fiction, at its best, enters our individual territories and becomes part and parcel of a revolving realm with Death at its core: and, in this realm, all the flotsam and jetsam of life (the richest life being generated by the imagination as well as by the day-to-day interaction of our minds and bodies) spin round, some colliding only to ricochet off, others sticking together, some being swallowed whole or bit by bit. Eventually, the various items are sucked into the core where they are minced up or refined into streams of sense (or apparent sense or, even, nonsense) which are then released from that realm into other revolving realms which create new collisions, fusions and spin-offs. This is using Death as a positive tool, as it surely is. Without Death, we’d be nothing.”
        Above quoted from my blog here in 2006:
    5. The third essay is
      HYPER-CACOPHONY: Lovecraft, Speculative Realism, and Sonic Materialism
      By Isabella van Elferen (Professor of music and director of research for the School of Performance and Screen Studies at Kingston University London.)
    6. The fourth essay is
      PREHISTORIES OF POSTHUMANISM: Cosmic Indifferentism, Alien Genesis, and Ecology from H. P. Lovecraft to Ridley Scott
      By Brian Johnson (associate professor and graduate chair of English at Carleton University)
      More later…
      • “Just as Lovecraft personified his materialist philosophy of ‘cosmic indifferentism’ in a timeless pantheon of alien ‘gods’ productive of epiphanic ‘cosmic horror’ in human discoverers of their presence, so too did O’Bannon, Scott, and the film’s other scriptwriters embody the amorality of the universe in a deadly alien life form…”
        I am sure others will find this essay fascinating, but since I have long suffered from ‘cinematic indifferentism’, I don’t think I am in a position to comment further on its comparisons with the films Alien and Prometheus.
      • image
        And in the above context of its goal, this essay presents a telling perspective – from the HPL works and surrounding mores of the time, literature and scientific studies – of this knotty issue in HPL, including a fascinating reference to the tentacle’s arrival in the Gothic.
        On a personal note, when I first read HPL in the 1960s, I knew nothing about the author, and I then felt not even a hint of this knotty issue. However, forced as I was to learn more about HPL in ensuing years, especially through his letters to Kleiner, I, too, was altered in my mindset towards his works. I suppose, with my interest, also from the 1960s, in Wimsatt’s Intentional Fallacy as a literary theory, I should not have allowed my mindset to have changed, but change it did.
    7. The sixth essay is
      H. P. LOVECRAFT’S RELUCTANT SEXUALITY: Abjection and the Monstrousn Feminine in ‘The Dunwich Horror’
      By Carl H. Sederholm (associate professor of humanities at Brigham Young University)
      More later…
      • “In other words. Lovecraft’s sexual loathing, his attempt to separate human behaviour from animal action, and his apparent wish to escape physical instincts, desires, or passions, all suggest a difficulty reconciling intellectual fantasies with physical realities.”
        A refreshingly open-ended and exploratory essay, describing, inter alia, possible associations with his father’s death by syphilis, the “paradoxes of the body”, Lavinia Whateley’s imputed coupling with Yog Sothoth and Joshi’s apparent propensity, in his studies, not to pursue HPL’s sexual side, beyond reference to a possible low sex drive.
    8. The seventh essay is
      H. P. LOVECRAFT AND REAL PERSON FICTION: The Pulp Author as Subcultural Avatar
      By Davud Simmons (senior lecturer in English and screen studies at Northampton University.)
      More later…
      • “Lovecraft is, if not everywhere, in many places — and, as such, is many things.”
        “…that human identity may rely upon writing, but the identities we inhabit when we write, and when we rewrite by reading, are always multiple and partial.”
        This remarkably seems to represent my long-term ethos of gestalt real-time reviewing, i.e. reader and author in mutual synergy, the two-way pecking order of author, narrator, characters and readers, a filter in both directions. The potential public triangulation of any work as it is hawled or dreamcaught through a myriad of real-time reviewers, Wimsatt’s Intentional Fallacy, Jungianism and more. As well as this essay being another revelation regarding the phenomenon that is Lovecraft. A unique name that only he and his family bears – as the final irony? A watershed for me, too.
    9. LOVECRAFT: Suspicion, Pattern Recognition, Paranoia
      By David Punter (Professor of English at the University of Bristol)

      As well as this essay’s attempt to reconcile the paradox of its own aim to ‘prove’ the modernity of HPL texts despite their overt, presumably ‘intentional’, archaism, it also deals, as part of that reconciliation, with apophenia and pareidolia which two linked obsessions anyone reading my gestalt real-time book reviews will attest are fully present in me!
      Paranoia, conspiracy, incantatory recurrencies like lists of forbidden books, a minimalist music or a French anti-novel?
      Another watershed for me. I have ever considered HPL’s work ‘modern’ but never really addressed this point before. Thanks, Mr Punter.
      I see that it can also relate to what I have long called Aickman’s ‘disarming strangenesses’ which in turn can be related to TS Eliot’s ‘objective correlatives’ (TSE being a writer I believe HPL did not like!)
      My things about AICKMAN linked here:
      Other possible related real-time reviews concerning works by Blackwood, Machen, Poe and John Cowper Powys:
      And other older or classic books triangulated by myself potentially relevant and linked from here:
      By Patricia MacCormack (Professor of continental philosophy at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge)
      “Against many critics, Lovecraft offers entryways into feminist, ecosophical, queer, and mystical (albeit atheist) configurations of difference. [.….] …to show that Lovecraft is uncannily relevant for posthuman philosophies, and that traditional criticisms of his work as nihilistic, misogynistic, unethical, and generally concerned with the maintenance of traditional values ought to be reoriented.”
      I wonder if you will consider this essay meets with such a goal. I, for one, have found it impressive and compelling.
      By W. Scott Poole (Professor of history at the College of Charleston)
      This seems to me to be a bit of a balance to some of this book’s other brainstorming. Basing HPL’s racism on his interest (subsumption?) in witchcraft (as well as cosmic horror, great old ones etc). This article does not excuse but perhaps explains. What do you think? I find it less interesting from an Intentional Fallacy point of view, and prefer the hyper-cacophony, pareidolia and modernity side of the HPL texts, if not the personal side of HPL himself.
      I do not usually carry out real-time reviews on anything but fiction, and I have tried, in this review, to draw out a texture rather than an acrimony. I may or may not have some skill in dreamcatching pure fiction, but I make no claims about reviewing academic literary-criticism, biography, history, philosophy, science, religion, sociology…
      imageI have found the afterword interview with Miéville offputting and unnecessary. But I did admire the Campbell foreword as a hors d’oeuvres. Meanwhile, I think anyone reading the main eleven essays as a gestalt will find a new gestalt of HPL as a multi-faceted phenomenon, a preternatural configuration beyond the tentacles, one that paradoxically attracts, repels and purges. Those who study, admire, hate or pastiche him are lucky to work in his shadow, a shadow more defined after this book but crazily even more ill-defined, too!
      Attracts, repels and purges, yes, and it is a book that I can now remove from the lid of the biggest purging device of our civilisation called the Lavatory. It seems to conclusively disprove a contention I found someone making about academic studies of HPL in connection with this specific book: an on-line statement that academia “went completely into the toilet with postmodernist insanities like poststructuralism and deconstruction after the 1960s).” At least we can now purge that particular myth. I hope my fiction reviews utilise such methods, among many other methods new and old, to triangulate the books I buy to read.
      Today’s Age of Lovecraft, derived from a prophetic sort of walking, breathing, complex, entangled Age of the Internet that is part of the same palimpsest. So, yes, the cosmic HPL HyPerLink attracts, repels, purges AND connects – for good and ill as humanity’s intrinsic nature that ever needs purging, laving, loving.

    Seduction of the Golden Pheasant


    7 thoughts on “Seduction of the Golden Pheasant

    1. Copy numbered 28/81. Luxuriously upholstered book with quality materials, about 10 inches square, 54 pages, marker ribbon, all generously designed with much artwork etc, dust jacket, and embossed hardback cover.
      My previous reviews of Damian Murphy’s work HERE.
      My previous reviews of this publisher’s works HERE.
    2. image
      Pages 7 – 9
      “…Séraphine Cloutier, her face-mask positively owl-like above her elaborate white party dress.”
      An extremely intriguing start as the masked guests are invited in for the party by Séraphine, and she effectively gives them carte blanche for stealing items from her chateau. There are rules to this ‘game’ which I will not cover here for fear of spoilers and I am excited to continue reading this book (a temptation I shall temporarily resist, a resistance for its own sake) to see if I can steal anything from the text without anyone noticing. I also wonder whether this ‘game’ is a tontine – or whether it has 81 prizes, one for each of us.
    3. Pages 10 – 14
      “in the grips of a sublime intoxication.”
      …a description of a photograph of a younger Séraphine as seen by our eyes In this visit to the chateau, our eyes being those of Valérie, whose father, originally accompanying her, fails at his own theft task. This point-of-view’s description, too, of the chateau and its masked denizens is one of sublime intoxication in prose. It really is.
      Until we leave along with Valérie. Which of us successful, I will leave to your imagination. If any.
    4. Pages 14 – 20
      “She mingles the streams, intermixes the tenets of one faith with another.”
      A blend of temple with temple, chateau with chateau, Séraphine’s son with Valérie’s father, a single and singular wallpaper intermixing and re-triangulating coordinates within itself, conversations over tea and Taoism, Viet Nam, and what was thieved or not on the night of the party. Increasingly intriguing and character-building. Even the prose style is syntactically syncretic, too.
    5. Pages 20 – 30
      “Below appeared the name of the author, which meant so little to her that she immediately forgot it.”
      ae49736f4cae8dc080c029fc36b3d702But this book’s author, whether the name is remembered or not, produces, for me, work that grows EVEN better and better the more I read of this author or the more this author writes new and newer works about these rarefied books that are created within such works. No exception here, as V receives a book (not the thing thieved by her, but freely borrowed from S’s chateau), a book that transliterates with the temples in her own chateau’s wallpaper. V is not a yellow wallpaper woman, but a woman far more destined to have thieved, with the arguably knowing nod of its owner, something I shall keep from you until you read THIS book that will entrammel something inside you, not your heart, soul or spirit, but something perhaps even more significant. You learn to handle these “logographic” things the more you read this author. And the more they actually handle you.
      The characters interact either in person or by some sort of ‘homing pigeon’ between book and book, temple and temple, woman and woman, father and father, and there are the “cherished cigarettes” handled, too…
    6. Pages 30 – 39
      “Séraphine appeared a third and final time in the theater of Valérie’s dreams. They swapped identities back and forth several times within the course of the dream, having grown so intimate as to comprise a single entity in two phases.”
      A golden pheasant as another objective correlative or leitmotif emerges at some point in these gestalt synergies of mutuality between woman and woman, temple and wallpaper, perhaps as an overdone version of the homing pigeon I earlier suggested. Perhaps I should have suggested a magpie, too, In view of the invited thieving? Indeed, this text grows superbly overdone, and it does not seem to matter HOW overdone because the rarefied concepts such as ‘Pao’ or ‘luminous gnosis of the ancient adepts’ actually make you the reader feel you have become one of the ancient adepts yourself. Nor, somehow, is the ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ scenario of luxuriance by impending séance offputting. Nor the arcane or pompish rituals. Nor the recurring incantatory images such as S’s self-admitted “ridiculous entrance” after which “She placed the cigarette between her lips and partook deeply of the rich, dark smoke…”
      I leave the text for a nonce just as V defies S’s instructions by wandering off from the séance at al. You may feel I have abandoned V, just to report so far these events real-time for you, so I intend now to hasten back there.
    7. Pages 39 – 50
      “To breach the temple uninvited would incur a definite consequence, a penalty by means of which the exalted heights of anonymity might be attained.”
      Via such, for me, essence of Nemonymity, I am back, by the skin of my teeth and health, alongside or within V, where “The sense of trespass was almost overbearing.” Almost. The gorgeousness of prose,too. “Nearly laughable” as the text itself slips in. Nearly, but never. Along with V’s growing contempt for S’s son whom she meets again, and his cynicism regarding his own mother and her over-doings. I sense at one point that V is the pheasant herself being hunted by S whom V has abandoned to the so-called séance (comprising all us 81 readers which the book itself somehow gives us such status within its text, with our showing various characteristics, but perhaps too many for a single séance?) – until I see this phrase: “Valérie passed between them like a peasant…” (My underlining.)
      “statuettes of birds”, “flitting like the wings of birds in flight”, “a rare bird in the night” … I am sure I myself have instead become the homing pigeon for this book? Yet the message I bring can never be definite as to the outcome of whether there is any doubt of there eventually being, at the end of this long night, a vicious battle or loving clinch between the two women, temple within temple, who photographed by whom, in this probably ever-resonating book once you’ve put it down. I must return to it eventually in the guise of moral-veering Valérie, as pheasant or peasant, or the reader “who, by means of cunning and acuity had gained the upper hand in their own interrogation.”