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Over at the Lannan foundation podcast, there is a recording of Samuel Delaney interviewing Junot Diaz.

What more could you want? Seriously.

There's an introduction by Delaney, then some readings by Diaz from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and then a discussion.

The pleasure of this reading and conversation is immense. During the discussion, Diaz speaks about the interfeed of science fictional concepts with "the recent and the deep history of the Caribbean," -- both colonial foundations and post-colonial dissonance. "The Caribbean figures deeply in what we would call the power chords of science fiction." Love that.

Interplay about genre, form, reading, everything.

I got the podcast through iTunes, but it can also be got at: The Lannan Podcast. The specific program (from January) is here.

My one concern is that Delaney sounds like he is having some trouble breathing, and it worries me.

* * * * * *

I found the talk yesterday when I was looking for more Michael Silverblatt interviews. My Bookworm podcast hadn't updated yet, and I was feeling bereft.

He's got several interviews on the Lannan site. I also listened to an interview Silverblatt gave on the Marketplace of Ideas podcast. This was less satisfying, though I think it might have been the source for my Lannan Lead.

I am very fond of the great badger, and many of the things he said gave me delight, but he made a mistake.

He made a couple of mistakes, actually. The central error, though, was in saying, roughly, "Why shouldn't I be arrogant, if my abilities are superior?"

And the answer, also very roughly, is "Because in this same conversation, you have incorrectly defined 'anodyne' as though it had the same meaning as 'placebo', which it has not, and earlier you made another similar mistake."

That is, o great silver badger whom I love, even terribly terribly clever people get things wrong, and it's better if you leave yourself some leeway. A little false modesty serves very well when you find yourself in unexpected need of real modesty.

My wisdom. Hard-earned.


*O Barthes that you were with us now
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So Monday last.

I studied for a month leading up to the advising session with the grad studies advisor. I wanted to make it clear that I could do this work. I borrowed a heap of theory from Bee and [livejournal.com profile] stitchinmyside, much of which I have still not got through. I was working a lot of overtime through June, reducing my study time, which I found frustrating; but I did get some fairly key texts read -- key circa 1997, when everyone *else* did this, anyway.

On Monday before the consult, I sat down and wrote out my justification for my proposed eventual thesis topic. I wrote out my justification for my wildly uneven transcript. I brushed and flossed and shaved and wore Long Pants. I packed some essays *just in case* he wanted a writing sample, though I knew dimly that this was unlikely.

I arrived at the prof's office to find him working on a giant crossword puzzle poster in the hallway. He invited me into his office. He took my transcript from my treembling hand.

"You need a Shakespeare, a Victorian lit, a 20th Century survey, and a theory course."

"Anything else?"

"Not really."

And there you are.

My reactions:

1. But that's so straightforward.
2. What kind of standards do you people have, anyway? This isn't nearly elitist enough.
3. Don't you want to read my thesis?

I was too startled to say much of anything, however. I felt afterwards I should have tried harder to make an Impression, but unless my rakish, knowing smile charmed him, I fear he is as the untouched clay as far as the subject of Me is concerned.

I did find out that I'd done exactly the wrong thing in my statement of intent last time I applied, which: good to know.

The sweet in this is that he seems to be fairly upbeat about the idea of my getting into graduate school -- not on this round, but the next. He said (in the six other minutes of conversation) that if I applied this year, I would probably not get in because I wouldn't have finished the theory course, but that I would probably be asked to do a qualifying year and reapply the next year. So, he proposed, save the money this year and apply next year.

I have to get very good grades, you understand, but that seems like a much lesser problem.

Since I was unable to present my thesis to him, I thought perhaps you might like to read it.

Things I would have said if he had asked me: general thoughts on science fiction and transgendering )

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There is no reason for you to remember that I have been reading this year’s Hugo nominees: Rainbow’s End, Glasshouse, Eifelheim, His Majesty’s Dragon, and Blindsight.

I began in ignorance. I didn’t read the jacket copy. Well, I started to, but it put me off so much that I almost didn’t read the books. I have decided to give up reading book jackets rather than speculative fiction.

I started with Rainbow’s End, but I knew by the second sentence it was unlikely I was going to find it easy to engage with. This is the second sentence:

On July 23, schoolchildren in Algiers claimed that a respiratory epidemic was spreading across the Mediterranean.

My impatience is with the familiar fictional future evoked in this book, and not the book itself; but that is the matter of another post. I’ll have another go at Rainbow’s End, and at Glasshouse, which (at brief glance) seems to be set in a similar continuum of possible futures, but for now I’m starting let’s say alphabetically.

Eifelheim. This I loved. Almost without reservations, which is saying something for me.

Eifelheim is a dense book. I read with pleasure and a sense of progress, but I was repeatedly startled to look up from the book and find I’d only progressed a few pages. The book has a lot of history and a fair amount of science. I recommend it joyfully, but I suggest you allow yourself time to properly concentrate when you read it. You can’t really skim.

What I liked about this book was that I could not immediately place it; I didn’t feel like by the end of page one I knew exactly what kinds of things could and could not happen, which is a feeling that is sometimes reassuring, but mostly frustrating, like a park full of Keep Off the Grass signs.

If you think you will like this book, you might want to skip the unavoidable spoilers that here ensue. )

Then I read His Majesty’s Dragon, which is a very different sort of book. Coming from the dense, structured prose of Eifelheim, I was skeptical that this would be the Kind of Thing I Like. I ended up being delighted.

But that is another story.

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When I was last in Little Sister's, looking for pornographic comic books, my eye lit upon a large expensive hardcover book, which I stared at, snatched up, clutched to my chest, and bolted to the counter with, spending much too much money for a man with a Seattle habit.
It was James, Tiptree, Jr: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, author Julie Phillips. I'm really happy the book exists, and a little bit sad because I kind of meant to write it myself.
I've been afraid to start it, the way you are when you really want something but you're afraid it's going to hurt you. So I brought it to be my ferry book. (We ended up watching South Park in the car on my brother's laptop on the second ferry, but never mind.)
Does anyone else fantasize about time-travelling back to early eighties science fiction conventions? It just seems like those are the people who would most enjoy your claiming to be from the future and trying to quiz you about it. I imagine conversations like:
"Oh, yeah? Who wins this year's World Series?" "I have no idea. I don't follow sports."
These fantasies often culminate in someone asking me, "Okay -- is James Tiptree, Jr., a man or a woman?" Whereupon a look of infinite sorrow and regret crosses my face. "I can't tell you that." I say. "You'll have to wait and find out."
I've always avoided calling Sheldon/Tiptree transgendered, even in my head; you're not trans just because you write under a pseudonym. But I really want to get a picture of what taking on that voice meant for this person. It seems important, almost urgent, to know, or at least decide on a version to believe in, since I can't ask her now.
I'll file a report. {rf}


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