Sunday, June 29, 2014


In case yesterday's post was not sufficiently tempting to get you to read Matsuura's Triangle, here's a brief passage that is representative both of the protagonist's challenges and of the skill of Matsuura's writing and observation (and Karashima's translation):
When things fall apart, it doesn't just suddenly happen. Things shift out of line 0.01 millimeters, or more like 0.001 millimeters, every day, until the tiny shifts accumulate and one day you've got a big problem. The cogs stop turning, and the wheel won't turn. You wonder what the matter is and apply a little pressure to see what will happen, and to your utter surprise, the entire wheel comes flying apart, breaking the entire contraption.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Spirals of Noir

Translation is still labor, and labor still requires time, and as Einstein showed, time dilates. So in the international republic of letters there are often paradoxical simultaneities. And thus it can be that a book written in 2001 by Japanese author Hisaki Matsuura, translated by David Karashima as Triangle, though set in 1994, can occupy the same now as a book written in 2013 by Nick Mamatas, Love Is the Law, which is set in 1989.

First the obvious similarities: Both are noir fiction in which a protagonist gets tangled in the plottings of an aged occultist. In both, unusual events unfold naturalistically, though driven by the perversities of strange enemies. Both take place in urban and suburban landscapes hollowed out by recent economic catastrophes: Tokyo after the deflation of the Japanese bubble economy, Long Island in that interregnum before the military-industrial complex learned how to remake profits in the new world order.

There are differences, of course. Where Dawn Seliger is a believer who is made vulnerable by the collapse of everything that underpins her beliefs, Shunichi Otsuki is a cynic of long standing. His vulnerability stems rather from the fact that, having long since hit rock bottom, he cannot imagine that he has still further to fall. Their gender difference also imposes itself: Otsuki, being a heterosexual male, is prone to treat women as MacGuffins, and so the plot uses women as such, whereas Dawn's motivations are more ideological in nature.

I have some slight dissatisfactions with Triangle, the most significant of which is the name. "Spiral" might have been a more accurate rendering of the Japanese title Tomoe, and more consistent with the fundamental pattern of the narrative. There were also some occasional misprints that impaired the sense of the prose--one expects better from Dalkey Archive, and hopes they fix them in future printings. One hopes especially that the book does well enough that there are such future printings.

If you liked Love Is the Law, then you should read Triangle. If you haven't read it yet, then you should read both, especially if, for example, you have read and enjoyed Daniel Alarcón's At Night We Walk In Circles. If you haven't read any of those three books I just mentioned, then what's wrong with you? Hurry up about it!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

This Week in Shitlordery

Just a quick note: If you are a science fiction writer who was thinking of submitting something to the outfit calling itself OMNI Reboot, perhaps because you have pleasant childhood memories of a magazine named OMNI (or memories of getting beaten up as a nerd in the schoolyard for reading it and taking cold comfort in dreams of future worlds wherein you would rule them all and get your revenge), or whatever your reasons, just don't. Unless you're the sort of person (*ahem* scab *ahem*) who submits to non-paying publications. Because despite what it says on their Duotrope listing, they sent me a non-paying contract this week (which I rejected forthwith).

Honestly, this isn't even the worst shitlordery I've seen in the publishing world, just a variety that I feel safe in calling out.

Edited to add, 6/26/2014 at 6:24 p.m.: I got the following update from Duotrope: "We have been in direct contact with the editor, and their policy is that they pay sometimes, depending on the author's experience. As such, we have edited the listing to reflect that the market pays occasionally."

I'm glad Duotrope has updated the listing. As far as I'm concerned, this is almost worse on OMNI Reboot's part: "Fuck you, beginning authors. We'll take your stuff for free."

As a matter of policy, I never submit to "pays occasionally" publications, either.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

And Now I Have Things to Shill

FLAPPERHOUSE No. 2 is now available for sale, for only $3! Even if you have already read the preview of my story, I encourage you to buy the issue. First, because it will enable the editor to continue paying authors (which may or may not include me) for poetry and prose in future issues. But more importantly, because there are good-to-excellent pieces not included in the preview.

Also, I think the editor made a very good curatorial choice putting my story first in the PDF version. My story, by itself, is what I consider to be a kind of meta-story, an unreliable narrator speaking obliquely about the types of stories who could tell and thereby unintentionally revealing things about the types of stories he is trying to avoid telling. With my story in front, one could, if one was so inclined, read most of the other pieces as if they were examples of the sort of things my narrator was speaking about. It sits well in that position, is what I'm saying. Buy the mag and read all 76 pages.

But say, for one reason or another, you don't want to buy FLAPPERHOUSE: Your loss, but I can imagine a number of reasons. You don't like reading digital magazines, or you don't like paying more than an a very low price for them, or you don't like paying for them at all, or you didn't like my story or any of the other teasers. I would actually agree with you on most of these reasons, except for the last. If the last reason applies, I'd ask what's wrong with you. But even if that reason applies, then you still have no excuse for not pre-ordering Phantasm Japan from Haikasoru.

Phantasm Japan is a conceptual continuation of The Future Is Japanese from the same publisher, which combined translations of stories by some of Japan's best contemporary science-fiction authors with Japan-inspired science fiction by non-Japanese authors. The result included one of the best science fiction stories I've ever read, Ken Liu's "Mono no Aware," and introduced me to Toh Enjoe, who is without doubt the smartest human being writing fiction in any language or genre today. What Future did for science-fiction, Phantasm promises to do for fantasy. (What is the distinction between science fiction and fantasy? That is a fraught question, especially since now they overlap a great deal, at least in Anglophone literature. I have attempted to frame the distinction in philosophical terms, but I doubt the editors were keeping my ontologies in mind when they selected stories.) Judging by the author list, which with one notable exception consists of some fairly accomplished individuals, it promises a great deal, and is likely to deliver.

And even if you hated my FLAPPERHOUSE story, you might enjoy my story in Phantasm: It has a plot, and a clear and linear one at that. And even if you end up hating my story--it has my usual quota of philosophical speculation and human despair--you can look forward to pieces by the likes of Gary Braunbeck, Project Itoh, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Tim Pratt, Benjanun Sriduangkaew and Sayuri Ueda. In fact, you can go ahead and read an excerpt of Tim Pratt's story. Are you seriously going to tell me you don't want to see where that goes?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Testing My Hypothesis

A quick note to indicate that my story “Hypothetical Foundations of a Quantum Theory of Familial Social Physics” has been posted by the fine people of FLAPPERHOUSE as a teaser for their Summer issue.

If you love it, hate it, or are not sure but want to attempt to psychoanalyze me on its basis, the comments on this post are as good a place as any to let me know.