Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Knot" up at Every Day Poets

My poem "Knot" is up today.  Another older poem, this one is basically a sonnet with the second quatrain surgically removed and replaced with lines from a Herman Melville poem.  Those Melville lines were some I read in a high school lit class, and they stayed with me, playing a part in my first attempt at a bit of poetic prose that I entered in a contest back then (and deservedly didn't win...) and then several years later in this poem.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A couple of small-press titles worthy of attention

I recently ordered a handful of books from Amazon, including two small press titles I was curious about and couldn't seem to find much discussion of online: Filaria by Brent Hayward and City Pier: Above & Below by Paul Tremblay.  (I was going to add cover images...but doing so crashed Chrome.  Hmmm, maybe I'll fix it in Firefox later.)

I'm not going to do a full review of either, but each is worthy of more attention than I've noticed them receiving (it could be that I just don't visit the right sites, of course).  Filaria is a horror-tinted SF set in a vast, crumbling underground world in which the network controlling the various aspects of the world is failing.  It weaves together the stories of four characters from different levels of this world as they all leave their familiarity of their own level to discover much more of the world...yet those four strands never directly touch each other but instead are bound (loosely) by secondary characters who overlap.  It's an ambitious goal to write this way, and for the most part I'd say it succeeded--one qualm I had about the story was that the character chosen to be the final viewpoint, Tran so, didn't seem the ideal one to end the story on, though I may change my mind on that as I think about the story more.  And as I said when I brought the book up in another forum, I'm a sucker for wildly inventive settings and tend to forgive much if the setting itself intrigues me.  This certainly fulfilled that for me.

The other book also had an intriguing setting.  City Pier (a 2007 release) is set in our own world in what's probably the relatively near future except for the fact that there's a city (presumably quite old, as no one quite knows its history) built 200 feet above the water on a massive pier, supported by the dead but still standing trunks of countless sequoias.  The book is a mosaic novella, I guess, made of four interlinked short stories.  The first three could probably stand well alone (and the third one, I think, should have been at least considered for year's-best-type lists and anthologies).  The fourth is the most structurally ambitious and brings the various other stories together nicely.  Stylistically and thematically these are hard-boiled stories (except the third one), grim and focused on those well outside of the city's power.  I don't have a lot of experience with hard-boiled or noir, so I don't have the full reference frame that some others might have, but coming at it as a widely-read general reader and a reader of the strange and bizarre, it was a gripping evocation of the city and the depths beneath it, certainly one of those cases where the metaphorical is made literal.

As I said, these aren't meant as complete reviews, and there are aspects of both books that I'm not completely sold on...but both are books that deserve more discussion and shouldn't just disappear without more readers knowing about them.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chrome browser

I quite suddenly started having a problem with accessing hotmail with Firefox the other day--precipitated by no changes I made in either Firefox or my laptop. I would enter my password (correctly, no CapsLock on or anything of the sort) and just get a message that the password was incorrect. I briefly feared someone had hacked into my account and changed the password, but no--another hotmail account also didn't work, and both worked fine in Internet Explorer. I searched for any answers, but none of the suggestions I found matched the problems I was having.

I spent the weekend putting up with IE for my email and using Firefox for everything else, but I didn't like it. Only this morning did I remember that Chrome even exists--news of its release had passed in one ear and out the other. I installed it, though, and I like it so far. I'm still using Firefox for this and all the various free fiction I had open in tabs already (that I save every night and slowly chip away...much more slowly than new stories come out...). But I could see myself doing more and more over there. I haven't tried to really test out how it does at different things, but for email at least it's been very good.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Another poem sold to Every Day Poets

My poem "March" has sold to EDP. It's another older poem, but one I always thought deserved a good home. This one's a sonnet, more or less (it breaks a few rules, but intentionally for specific affects). More about it when it gets published (in March, perhaps?).

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Quote from Maps of the Imagination

The subtitle of this book (by Peter Turchi) is "The Writer as Cartographer," so it's basically an extended metaphor taking what we know of and can learn from maps and applying that to the writing process. I'm enjoying the book a lot (understandably, as it combines two great loves I have: maps and writing). It's not a book of immediately applicable, concrete things to do with writing, but more a meditation almost, an exploration of the theme through a handful of more specific attributes of mapping that allows (requires, even) you to draw a lot of the implications for writing yourself. Even when it draws the connection more explicitly, it leaves the specifics of what exactly that means up to you, which is challenging but good in my opinion.

Anyway, here's the quote, in a section introduced by discussing how north-as-up is a convention so strong to many of us that seeing a map oriented differently can seem not just strange but wrong. Yet it is merely convention, something useful but not any more reflective of the world than any other choice someone might make. In the same way, writing rules and techniques can be conventions, useful for orienting ourselves but not inherently definitive:
But simply discovering them isn't enough. We need to devote ourselves to the ongoing practice of questioning the rules we have found most useful (including those we hear ourselves offering as advice) and the fundamental assumptions of our work, constantly checking for empty routine, throughtless employment.