Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 in Review

Good grief, what a year.

Ordinarily I am not very much invested in celebrity culture. But from the tears that came unexpectedly to eye when a local DJ played "Blackstar" recently, it has become clear to me that I never properly, fully mourned David Bowie. He directly and indirectly (through his influences on Brian Eno, Talking Heads, Joy Division, and so many more artists) formed much of my aesthetic sensibility, not only in terms of his primary genre--the music I listen to--but in the sense of performative transformation that pervades what I seek in other areas, especially prose writing. An exception to the general run of promoted mediocrity, I predict he is one of the few cultural figures from the latter half of the 20th century who will be remembered at all in the 22nd. If nothing of note other than his death had happened in 2016, it might have been possible to come to grips with what it means to be in a world without him, with one fewer piece of unanticipated genius to look forward to. But so much more happened.

2016 was also the year in which the analytic techniques I learned from Marxism began to fail me in predicting world events. Not only the election of Trump and Brexit came as some surprise, but most signally the relentless betrayal and destruction of the revolution in Syria. Malevolence seems to have taken shape as an active force in human affairs to a degree unparalleled since the 1930s. In the 1930s, at least, there were still a few political geniuses on the scene who discern, in the chaos of events, the coming line of development--most importantly Leon Trotsky; until his premature death, Antonio Gramsci in his notebooks (from which few at the time could benefit); some forgotten or nameless Bolshevik veterans who perished in Stalin's camps; C. L. R. James, Chen Duxiu, and Ta Thu Thau; and in their more astute moments, the likes of Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht. I do not doubt that there are individual geniuses of my generation or younger. But one effect of the last forty years of relentless, slow-moving defeat is to isolate individual genius from the motion of masses, to blunt and stupefy political judgment, rather than sharpen and make it incisive.

There was so much mourning, then, to be done this year: for individual examples of the best the species has to offer (not just Bowie, but then Prince, and Leonard Cohen, and Sharon Jones...); the relentless, crashing dissonance of each person, especially black, callously murdered by police this year (more than 1,000 in 2016 alone); for the very prospect of the collective, long-term survival, let alone flourishing, of the species as a whole; and also, in my case, for the remains of a world-view that had served me pretty well in understanding and anticipating events over the years. Mourning is work, and with my attention to the world divided in so many directions, I did not do the work very well.

Despite, or perhaps in some measure because, of that work of mourning, I did get some writing done, and did manage to get some of my writing published.

To be precise, two new short stories of mine were published this year: "The Libidinal Economy of the Suburbs" appeared in FLAPPERHOUSE, and the May/June issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction included "Caribou: Documentary Fragments". I liked and am proud of both; for those of you keeping track for purposes of annual awards, only the latter counts as "science fiction". Though FLAPPERHOUSE's tastes are pan-genre, that piece is solidly in the realm of domestic realism, albeit in an experimental mode. (Both, it could be said, are formally experimental, though their experiments are more in the nature of replication efforts than attempts to break new ground.)

Publication of a third story is in the works, but it is now clear that it will not be in time for this calendar year. I usually reserve announcements of forthcoming new pieces until I have either received payment or signed a contract, but in this instance the labors and reassurances of the fiction editor seem to be promise enough: My story "Ruins of a Future Empire" will appear in the upcoming fourth issue of Salvage, a communist periodical out of Britain whose fiction editor is none other than China Miéville. Working with him has been a delight. Not all great writers are good editors, either of their own or others' work, nor are all great editors any good at all as writers. China's talents are evident on both sides of the transaction; he helped me to identify the warts that distracted from the underlying structure of the story and surgically remove them. I am looking forward to the issue.

My first published story, "Moose Season," has now been republished by the new short fiction app for mobile devices, Great Jones Street. To be frank, I don't own a suitable device, and even if I did, I doubt I would download the app, as I dislike reading fiction on screens. However, their selection seems to be great, so if you do like reading fiction on such devices, please give it a shot! I have been recommending pieces to the editors. If you are a writer and have written a short story that I like, or that you think I would like, feel free to remind me in the comments. And if you are a GJS writer or user, and there's a story of mine you think should be in it, please let the editors know.

Unlike last year, I do not have detailed thoughts on either of the major science fiction awards. My writing income was so meager this year that I had to let my SFWA membership lapse, so I am not able to nominate things for the Nebulas. And for similar reasons, I will not be joining WorldCon or nominating for the Hugos. When the official nominees are announced, then I will read or comment.

I have been working on my annual "Meta-Anthology" post; at this point, I am waiting on a copy of the Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016. Once I have read that, I will finalize it and post it.

I do want to put up reviews of some of the best books I have read this year, but for length's sake I will omit that from this entry, bring it to a close, and save those for another day.

May 2017 find you strong enough for whatever struggles it brings.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Cuba after 57 Years of Fidel: Socialist Barbarism at Its Best (So Far)

The Marxist hypothesis (as distinct from Alain Badiou's Communist Hypothesis, which upon closer examination turns out to be neither communist nor hypothetical, but Neo-Platonist) was grounded in material reality and therefore potentially falsifiable. The most concise statement of it in Marx's own words can be found in his 1852 letter to Joseph Weydemeyer:
  1. that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production
  2. that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat,
  3. that this dictatorship itself only contributes to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.

There are a few subsidiary clauses about what each of these key phrases--the development of production, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the classless society--mean in Marx's usage that can be found in The Critique of the Gotha Program (1875), but the essentials are all here at least in embryo.

Over the course of the 20th century several social formations and events arose whose leaders and supporters claimed to be instantiations and proof of the Marxist hypothesis, but we have yet to see the classless society. Insofar as they developed production, it was either on a temporary basis, only to later fall behind the competitive baseline of surrounding capitalism (the Stalinist USSR and afterward), or through flagrantly capitalist methods (post-Maoist China). To claim to be the dictatorship of the proletariat, rather than over the proletariat, required both in Stalin's Russia and Mao's China the torturing of a few concepts and more than a few human bodies. From a point of view that regards Marx's original hypothesis as worth testing and the classless society as a goal to be achieved, these are easy to reject.

More challenging is the comparatively humanist example of the 1959 revolution in Cuba and its aftermath. In ways that had been obscured early on by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, each eager to claim pride of place for the guerrilla foco, but that have been recovered by subsequent historiography, the overthrow of the Batista regime was to a great extent the work, the doing, of the urban and rural working class in Cuba, much as the overthrow of first the Tsar and then the Provisional Government had been in Russia in 1917. Yet unlike Russia, power was not captured by any party rooted in the proletariat, but rather by a loosely affiliated set of political leaders from urban middle-class origins. The party that did have the strongest roots in the Cuban working class, the Popular Socialist Party (aligned with the USSR), had largely held aloof from the uprising and had attempted at various points to sabotage it; it only began to join post-revolutionary governing circles as Fidel Castro and others tightened their own alignment with the Soviets, and sought to ally with a disciplined, practiced bureaucratic structure for use in calming outbreaks of working-class radicalism and demands. Thus, unlike the post-World War II overturns in most of Eastern Europe, or the "People's War" that culminated with the proclamation of the People's Republic of China in 1949, it would be false to say that the Cuban revolution was not a working-class revolution. But it is accurate to say that it was not a revolution led by the working class, and that the resulting government was not a "dictatorship of the proletariat." The role played by the working class in Batista's overthrow accounts for why, throughout the subsequent 57 years, Fidel Castro had to be far more attentive than his former counterparts in eastern Europe or east Asia to the well-being of the masses. The advances in medical care and education of which the Cuban people have cause to be proud (though they know the present system's limitations better than most external observers, e.g. the emergence of a two-tiered medical system since the "Special Period") are in fact the gains of the Cuban working class itself, alienated from them and presented as the beneficent product of the leadership generally, and Fidel in particular. (There is a longer story to be told about how the defeat of an earlier, more explicitly proletarian uprising in the mid-1930s made possible this particular combination of events, but retelling it would take me too far afield from the point of this essay.)

The preceding paragraph is a very concentrated summary of research that I undertook, extending over several years, with an eye toward at least an article, possibly a book, attempting to explain the Cuban Revolution from within a theoretical framework that regarded the Marxist hypothesis as still open to validation. As I have explained in previous entries on this blog, however, unfortunately the possibility of validation of the Marxist hypothesis is most likely closed, due to impending impacts of climate change, brought about by the accumulation of capital. My best statement of the case so far remains this one from May 2013:

As powerful as Marxism may be as a method of critique--i.e., as a means of understanding and predicting the destruction that is being perpetrated by those who rule us--its utility as a guide for positive political action was premised on a conditional hypothesis: That the working class would come to a conscious understanding of its own interest in and capacity for revolutionary reconstruction of society after the capitalist class had created the material prerequisites for a higher order of social organization, and before the capitalists had managed to destroy those material prerequisites. In Rosa Luxemburg’s words, the choice facing humanity was that between socialism--understood as a classless society based upon a level of technical development and productivity of labor sufficient to allow the steady and expansive satisfaction of human needs--or barbarism.

If we reach 450 ppm [of atmospheric carbon dioxide], however, then even if the working class were to take power, it would do so in a context of runaway climatic feedback processes, sea-level rises sufficient to inundate major cities (and even entire nations), dramatic desertification of the world’s bread-baskets, deadly heat waves in some of the most densely populated regions of the planet, etc. Marxism as a method of critique would tell us that new scarcities will give rise to new oligarchies, new distributions of power, and new modalities of exploitation and oppression. Marxism as a mode of critique will tell us that the moment for its realization has passed, that its fundamental positive hypothesis has been invalidated, not as a moment of a self-devouring dialectic of negativity but as an inexorable consequence of physical processes triggered by humanity but escaping its control.

The choice, then, is not between socialism and barbarism, but between various flavors of barbarism. And there may well be some flavors of barbarism which label themselves socialism....

More than three years later, the only thing I would change about this passage would be to remove the reference to 450 parts-per-million. Already at 400 ppm we are seeing evidence of accelerating feedback processes and all the rest. Three years ago I thought we had a window of about 35 years for recomposition of working-class revolutionary leadership, and judged, based on the state of affairs at the time and the history of political development, that such recomposition was unlikely in that timeframe. That was based on what was known scientifically at the time. But the methodological conservatism of climate science--which has an eerie parallel in the routinist conservatism of most putatively Marxist organizations--meant that this timeframe was too generous. The window is already closing, and the world political situation is, if anything, worse.

So I want to return to what I hinted at in that last sentence, "some flavors of barbarism which label themselves socialism." At present there are only a few "actually existing" examples of such "socialist barbarism" remaining. In most of them, the element of barbarism has such an overpowering stench as to render nauseating the lingering pretense to socialism--the billionaires' party of today's China, the barrel-bomb Ba'athism of Assad's Syria, or Venezuela, where the boliburguesia and its ruling clique loyally pay their debts to the world's banks while food and medicine disappear from the shelves. For the moment, Cuba remains the best (most attractive, least repellent) example of socialist barbarism on offer.

How long that moment will survive the death of Fidel remains to be seen. During the peculiar interregnum of the last five years, in which he had formally turned over his positions of authority to his brother Raúl and others but remained, insofar as his health allowed, a vocal public figure, he often subtly undermined the plans and policy initiatives of Raúl, who has made little secret of his desire to be Cuba's Deng Xiaoping, by making speeches or writing newspaper columns that hearkened back to the egalitarian traditions of Cuba's working class. Aside from the differences in ideology and personality between the brothers, well-known to long-time Cuba watchers, this reflects more importantly a dialogue within the ruling stratum, trying to gauge how much the masses will tolerate increased openness to world capital and the growth of inequality that would necessarily result. With Fidel's death, the ruling stratum loses a well-respected voice--not for the working class, but for an ingenious combination of revolutionary romanticism and Machiavellian caution. The ghoulish celebrations by Trump-voting gusanos in Miami hoping to regain a share of the lucre ought not to blind us to the fact that world capital already has its tentacles coiled around the neck of the Cuban working class, extending from Canada, Spain, Germany, Britain and, yes, Russia and China.

For those of us who want to retain some element of socialism within the heritage of barbarism which capital has bequeathed to us, Cuba represents not an unsurpassable horizon, but a target of what can be attained and exceeded. The task remains to salvage as much of the Marxist hypothesis as is materially possible. If not the full abundance promised by the classless society, then at least the proletarian dictatorship--that is, rule of, for, and most importantly by the working class. If not development of production--for production as it exists at present accelerates the destruction of its natural basis--then reorganization of production to minimize, end, and ultimately repair the destruction wrought by capital. In this we can learn a few things from the Cuban people--for example, the dramatic reduction in petroleum use and carbon emissions during the Special Period, cited even by Jill Stein of the U.S. Green Party as something to learn from--but that means being frankly critical of their past and present leaders.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Red Cat, Green Bag

I guess the cat is out of the bag, or at least, the cat has stuck its head out of the bag and started meowing. A quick summary is that the Maine Green Independent Party (to date, the only minor party registered with the State of Maine, though it looks like the Libertarians will start winning their appeals soon) is now pissing itself in public. The only Green candidate in the entire state who braved Maine's ballot access requirements--more restrictive for minor parties than for unregistered independents--is Seth Baker. But the Democrat he is running against is Ben Chipman, a former Green with a reputation (in my opinion, mostly undeserved) for progressivism and a lot of personal friendships among the older cohorts of Portland Greens. And so you have recognized leaders of the state Green Party--including the state coordinator for the Jill Stein campaign--who are openly campaigning for a Democrat, against the only other member of their own party on the ballot in this state.

And these same people expect to be able to parry Democratic Party criticisms that "all the Greens do is run a presidential candidate every four years," even as they openly sabotage their non-presidential candidates.

I have been holding my tongue for months. I no longer see the tactical advisability of continued silence.

My ballot has already been cast. I did vote for Jill Stein, though largely at this point to be able to tell my 9-year-old daughter (who was seriously fangirling about Stein) that I had. Ancillary reasons include having that at the ready to piss off the many Hillary Clinton supporters in my life, and the fact that socialists in Maine didn't have our collective act together in time to get the Soltysik/Walker campaign recognized as a write-in candidacy by the Maine Secretary of State (let alone the far more onerous task of ballot access). Seth, to his credit, is keeping things positive--far more than I would if I were in his shoes--and thanks to young comrades like him, I expect the latter issue will not be a consideration the next time ballots come out. I don't live in his district, so unfortunately I could not vote for him.

My qualms about the Stein campaign, however, far predated the present situation. Some of them are organizational. Aside from the local situation, the fact that her national campaign coordinator is David Cobb--the milquetoast "safe states" candidate of 2004--was an early bad sign. But mostly, they are political. Some are matters of style that give a clue as to substance--the insistence, for example, on referring to the candidate as Dr. Jill Stein, which telegraphs an emphasis on middle-class respectability. But others are far more substantial. First there was the pivot to trying to capture the support of disappointed Bernie Sanders supporters, which went too far in soft-pedaling the analysis of the Democratic Party. (For example, going from saying "you can't have a revolutionary campaign in a counterrevolutionary party" to saying "it's hard to have a revolutionary campaign in a counterrevolutionary party.") But where Stein really screwed the pooch was on Syria.

It was in the cards from the moment Ajamu Baraka was announced as her running mate. Even before then, though, I had characterized, in private conversation, Stein's call for a Middle East-wide U.S. arms embargo as comparable to FDR's policies during the Spanish Civil War--preferable, in theory, to the current U.S. policy of arming Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Sisi regime in Egypt to the hilt, but fundamentally a recipe for counterrevolutionary slaughter, since there is no chance short of global thermonuclear war that Russia would abide by such an embargo and stop arming Assad. But I have to confess that I took my eye off the ball, and it was not until early October, when Syrian activists started calling out Stein, that I realized that her official position called for aiding the Assad government to recover control of the full territory of Syria. Unfortunately I can't link to that version of her statement, since it was deleted off the website in favor of a much briefer, formally pacifist version. This is not the only issue on which Stein's website has disappeared past positions down the proverbial memory hole, and that in itself is an example of poor political hygiene.

The point of this is not to blame Stein for the U.S. left's confusion regarding Syria. Stein is symptomatic, not causative. (The remainder of this paragraph is a slightly expanded version of a series of tweets that I posted on October 5th.) On some level one would expect her views on Middle Eastern politics to be bad; it's almost a miracle that they are not worse. She's a Jewish woman, older than my mom, younger than my mother-in-law. She lives in a very bourgeois milieu in suburban Boston. Then in the 2000s, she started radicalizing, driven largely by the health care issue. Demographically, one would expect her to be a PEP (Progressive Except for Palestine). And given the Green Party's history of taking pacifistic positions on the Israel/Palestine issue, that obscure the real power relations of ethnic cleansing and occupation under a veneer of false balance, she could very well have taken refuge in that sort of position. To the partial credit of the Massachusetts Green-Rainbow Party, one gets the sense that this was not how things played out, that her new lefty friends started telling her that a PEP position is indefensible. Again to Stein's credit (unlike my mom, who sticks fingers in her ears whenever I mention Palestinians) it seems she tried to learn. The problem is, in the Green Party, who is there to learn from? Stalinists without a political home; conspiracy theorists; kooks. (Baraka fits under these headings.) Even so, the sort of political education one can obtain from these people is useful up to a point. In the mid-2000s, the notion that the USA is the source of all evil was the beginning of wisdom. But only the beginning. But then in 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi of Tunisia set himself on fire. Previously impregnable regimes across the region of the Middle East and North Africa started looking shaky. This was not only a problem for the Green Party, but the entire U.S. left, who all got caught flat-footed. For the conspiracy theorist types, who entered the period with a crude classification of "puppet regimes" (those openly subservient to the U.S.) and "the Axis of Resistance" (those with a rhetorical patina of opposition to the U.S. and Israel, no matter how inconsistent), the refusal of popular uprisings to respect this dichotomy could mean only one thing: it's a CIA plot. And with political education from such people--who now cannot acknowledge in the face of growing evidence that U.S. policy serves to prop up the Assad regime, not take it down--it is therefore unsurprising that Jill Stein puts her foot in her mouth whenever she opines at length about the Middle East.

This is one issue of several. I would argue that the most important issue of all is climate change, and its threat to human survival. That at least is how I rationalize my own approach to the Green Party, which once upon a time I would have regarded as impossible to justify. The fact that several people who were attracted in 2012 and beyond by Stein's talk of a Green New Deal are now open in arguing for socialist solutions as a necessary alternative to capitalism provides me with further justification. But issues like Syria provide advance warning signs of how seriously individual leaders and political tendencies can be taken when they speak of "revolution." Just as some members of the Green Party limit their opposition to capitalist Democrats to the ones they dislike, and support those they like, too much of the U.S. left turned on the people of Syria when they dared show their distaste for a preferred ruler. As the candidacies of the two major parties show, U.S. imperialism--political and economic hegemony backed by military might--is the cornerstone of the capitalist stability in the U.S., constituting the one orthodoxy which no one, not even Bernie, dare question. U.S. imperialism will only be overthrown by revolutions that replace the interlocking system of capitalist states--sometimes puppets, sometimes "resistors," always repressive--under its control in key regions of the world. And to paraphrase Jill Stein herself, "you can't have a revolutionary party with a counterrevolutionary foreign policy."

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Pocket Update

I have a new story knocking on my brainpan, and ideas for political essays and polemics hanging on the vine, but work and family life leave just enough time and energy for self-promotion, or rather, promotion of others who like my shit:
  • If you are the sort of person who uses Apple-branded electronic devices for reading, you may wish to download the Great Jones Street app. As advertised, it will put short stories in your pocket. Right now, that includes a lot of stories by Ken Liu, which is reason enough to get it. In the near future, it will include my story "Moose Season".
  • I will soon be among a select few humans who have received editorial notes from the legendary China Miéville. More details soon.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Libidinal Economies & Dialogic Functions

My flash fiction "The Libidinal Economy of the Suburbs" is now available to be read on the FLAPPERHOUSE website.

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction has posted an interview with me about "Caribou: Documentary Fragments". My answer to the first question may become my standard answer to any question in the form "tell us a bit about," but it does get more informative and, I hope, interesting after that.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Oversized Rock

My wife is in a discussion group for parents of gifted children, and the topic of Simon's Rock College came up. Since I attended SRC, she asked if I wanted to chime in. The result is too long for the venue in which the discussion is being held, so I am posting it on my blog so that it can be linked to. My wife asked if it wasn't a bit too self-revealing for sharing with strangers, and I reminded her that I am a writer. Even if the things I publish are nominally "fiction," I am in the business of revealing the darker crevices of my psyche to strangers all the time. Compared to that, the things that have actually happened to me are relatively tame.

Getting accepted to Simon's Rock was the second-best thing to ever happen to me. The best thing was getting kicked out. Another way to put this is that it was a bad experience, but that it was likely a better bad experience than staying in high school would have been.

I was a gifted child attending a magnet high school that had both an International Baccalaureate curriculum and an advanced Math-Science-Engineering program. I was the only student who was in both these curricula. I was one of only two students who, in math, was a year advanced even of the MSE program (the other being my friend T.), such that we had completed the equivalent of 3 semesters of college calculus by the end of sophomore year. If I had stayed in high school, then T. and I were going to have to start attending advanced math classes at a local university, but how the school was going to work it logistically with my participation in the IB program, they couldn't figure out. I didn't want to quit the IB program, because pesky me I enjoyed the humanities. I had friends, who were either older than me or dated back to my middle school participation in county-wide academic competitions, but my social life consisted mainly of afterschool extracurriculars and riding the resulting late bus, which because it had to traverse half of Palm Beach County, took a while.

Did I mention I was in Florida? I hated Florida. I still hate Florida.

I had no prospect of a sex life, because girls (justifiably) found me creepy, and I had not yet acknowledged my attraction to other boys. The fact that my physics teachers were in the habit of making sexist and homophobic jeers didn't exactly contribute to me wanting to be openly non-conforming to gendered expectations of maleness. Not only had my parents not saved any money for college, but they were facing imminent bankruptcy. And my abusive father had punched me in the face and broken my nose. This was before Columbine, but already I stalked the halls fantasizing about carrying weaponry advanced enough to blow all my classmates and teachers away, not out of any particular individualized animus (though there were plenty of individuals who had earned such hatred) so much as an expression of generalized rage. So when Simon's Rock recruited me, with a full scholarship for the first two years, there was never really any question of me not accepting.

The year before I arrived at the Rock, however, there had been a tragedy. Wayne Lo, a self-described "Asian supremacist," came onto campus heavily armed and shot six people, killing two of them, a student and a professor. Like I said, this was before Columbine. School shootings had not yet become a routinized American rite of passage. The faculty, staff, and returning students were all survivors of a novel trauma, on edge, and on the alert for anyone who might be at risk. Even though, unlike Lo, my political extremism leaned toward the left rather than the right, and I had no prior familiarity with the use of guns, I suspect I was marked as one of the people "at risk." See above, under "generalized rage." This was compounded by the fact that, by the end of Freshman Orientation activities in a forest somewhere in New Hampshire, I had alienated most of my classmates with generally odd and pompous behavior, and earned myself a humiliating nickname: "The Naked Man." This was because, prior to my arrival, my parents had been too broke to even buy me a pair of swim trunks that fit, but when I saw everyone enjoying the lake, I couldn't not join in, so I did. In my white briefs. Which, when wet, became nearly transparent. In a small school, especially in a small school where entering students range in age from 15 to 17 and thus, however smart they are, fundamentally have the emotional maturity of teenagers, people split off rapidly into cliques. All the freaks who had been excluded from cliques in high school had gathered in one place and replicated the very same structure that had once alienated them. I was left, as in high school, with the people too freakish, even among freaks, to be accepted into a clique. And when things got bad, since were united by little more than our rejection by others, we ultimately turned on one another.

Some good things happened while I was at Simon's Rock: I had sex, finally! Unfortunately, it was with someone with more than her share of problems. I also, ultimately, came out as bi, though too late in the year to be able to do anything fun with it. I got to probe into advanced math, for example, setting up a 3-student independent study in symbolic logic and set theory, and I also got to take things like art history courses in which I explored the esoteric realms of poststructuralist theory and discovered the works of people like Robert Rauschenberg and Cindy Sherman. I began the lengthy, painful process of coming to terms with my abused childhood. Best of all, were long, meandering conversations about life, the universe, and everything in the common areas of Kendrick Hall until 4 or 5 in the morning. And did I mention the sex?

But that's where it all falls apart. [Incorrect info about K., my on-and-off girlfriend of the first year, redacted. It wasn't essential to the argument.] The friend of mine with whom she cheated, H., also assigned male, has since come out as genderqueer. I suspect that the ill-starred evening in which the three of us tried and failed to have a threesome plays a role in H.'s coming-out story just as it does in mine. Maybe if we three all met now we'd laugh and bond over it. Or maybe we'd find new reasons to hate each other: One was emotionally abusive, the other a pompous jerk, and if I am being honest with myself I have to concede that I was both, a Hegelian synthesis of the two. What got me kicked out and stripped of my scholarship was not even a suicide attempt, it was more like a suicide threat. A pretty classic case of a cry for help. But with the college staff on edge, the overreaction was swift and, to anyone but a naive and emotionally unstable 16-year-old, predictable.

The end could have played out worse for me. My father--for a change making himself useful--negotiated an arrangement where I would be limited in my opportunities to come on campus but would be able to finish my coursework. (It helped that for financial reasons my parents had moved to the Albany, NY area, so I wasn't far from SRC and was able to make use of the SUNY Albany library for free.) My grades suffered that semester but not as badly as one might expect: I ended up getting a 3.8 GPA for the year. It was hardest though to focus on my math and physics coursework, and that may have contributed to my ultimate decision to stick with the humanities. Because New York State will accord a GED to anyone with a year's worth of college credit, I got my GED and promptly transferred to SUNY Binghamton. There, surrounded not only by people of more traditional college age, but also older, adult students, I was forced to mature fast. And I flourished.

SRC may be better now. Another person in my entering cohort has written a coming-out story in Psychology Today that credits their Residence Director of the time, Leslie Davidson, with having been very supportive. Leslie is now SRC's Dean of the College, the most important day-to-day leadership position for student support on campus. That story contrasts sharply with my RD of the time, who made all sorts of sexist and homophobic jeers aimed at K., me, and others. Another friend of mine ended up staying at SRC all four years, loved it, is active on the alumni council, and seems to be a pretty well-adjusted, successful person. Clearly it works for some kids, and it may work better now than it did in the immediate aftermath of Lo's massacre.

This account has so far been written from the point-of-view of 16-year-old me, with the aid of 20/20 hindsight. What do I, as a parent, make of it all, and what would I tell other parents whose kids are considering SRC?

  1. Make sure you are comfortable with the idea of your kid having sex. If you're not, they will give you so many reasons to overreact. The residue of in loco parentis rules that SRC has to maintain to appeal to parents forces students to sneak around and retards their emotional development. It's bad enough that the school does that; if kids feel like they have to hide things from you, then they may not be able to come to you for emotional support when they need it.
  2. Do you have reason to believe that your kid may be gay, bi, trans, or otherwise gender non-conforming? If so, is your kid out to you? If not, why not? A wildly disproportionate number of the people I've known at or through SRC turned out to be gay, bi, genderqueer, trans, or some combination thereof. This is probably because, in the 1990s, high school was a really lousy place to be LGBTQ. Academically talented students who were straight might have been able to stick it out in high school, but academically talented LGBTQ kids were in most cases going through hell. The problem was that, at SRC, straights were still in the numerical majority and in positions of institutional power. So the LGBTQ kids who flourished there were the ones who were already out before they went to SRC. In most such cases, I suspect these kids were the ones who knew, deep down, that their parents would always love and support them no matter what. Though I have reason to believe that both high schools and SRC are better environments than they were 20 years ago, this is still the case.
  3. Make sure you understand why your kid wants to go. If one of their reasons is that they want to get away from you, then congratulations, you're like my father--and the parents of most of the maladjusted folks I was "friends" with at SRC. In that case, they may have to go, but odds are they're in for a series of personal and emotional crises, and SRC is probably best as a quick stepping stone to other, better places where they can mature faster and get more social support. If your kid is relatively socially adjusted (for a gifted kid) and their primary motivations are academic, then they may be able to flourish at SRC. But a cautionary note is that they may also be able to flourish even more in a larger institution with greater resources.
  4. Which leads into a point I make from the standpoint of now working in higher education administration. SRC joined Bard to get greater financial stability. Which is a bit like a woman fleeing from ISIS to Saudi Arabia to find a less repressive environment. Bard is notorious for having a very small endowment. Leon Botstein is visionary, but he's also mercurial, something that his personal friendship with George Soros has been able to paper over--basically, if he has a big project in mind, he gets Soros or one of his rich buddies to bankroll it. Bard is now in the midst of a capital campaign, which will hopefully make it (and SRC) more financially stable over the long term. But if the campaign fails and/or Leon, at his advanced age, passes away, Bard may soon be looking to unload a valuable piece of real estate in the Berkshires.

SRC treated me horribly. I will never give them a penny. If my daughter, a few years from now, were to express interest in going to SRC, I would help her research what her options might be for graduating high school early and/or gaining early admission to other colleges. Incidentally, for those of you in the Boston area, a friend of mine operates a local non-profit that does exactly that with local high-school-aged kids, called Rise Out. I recommend it. I do not recommend Simon's Rock.

After I did my first draft, my wife reported that people were already chiming in to talk about sex and drugs and "lack of supervision." In case it's not obvious from what I already wrote, let me stress that the problem with SRC is not too little supervision, but too much, which retards rather than promotes the students' emotional development. The kids who benefit from it could benefit more from engaging in their inevitable experimentation in a more standard college environment. That may not be a popular position among parents, I acknowledge. And for what it's worth, my time at SRC was the only year I spent drug-free as a teenager. Maybe the experience would have gone better if I'd gotten high once in a while. Or maybe, just maybe, drug use is more a symptom of emotional dysregulation than a cause.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Big News (2 pieces)

To the left is the cover of the forthcoming May/June 2016 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, which, it has been confirmed to me, will include my short story "Caribou: Documentary Fragments". And thus begins my career of being one of the "and others". Though it is an honor to be one of the "others" in an issue that features a story by the legendary Ted Chiang.

In other news, you may want to check out the website of the Socialist Caucus of Maine. Yes, there are socialists in Maine. Quite a number of us, actually. And we seem to be figuring out how to work together. How novel!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

2015 Nebula Award Ballot

For the first time as a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, I am about to cast a ballot for the Nebula Awards. Here it goes:

Novel: The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

None of the books I nominated made it to the final ballot in this category. Of the books that did, Jemisin's The Fifth Season is by far my favorite. My main complaint about it was that it did not seem to have enough, in its 450-ish pages, to justify that length. My fear is that one novel's worth of character development, plot revelation, and world-building has been padded out to meet the now-seemingly-inescapable requirement in fantasy and science fiction for a trilogy. I hope the second and third books in the series prove that fear wrong, because within those 450 pages there was nevertheless much that I loved. The last four years of open atrocities and legal indifference have forced Black Americans--and anyone else who pays attention and recognizes their humanity--into states of intermittent public grief. The world created by Jemisin brings forward truths that apply as well, albeit less self-evidently, in the world we live in: that the system hates and fears the power of the oppressed, not the madness into which they are forced; that it depends far more upon their forbearance to survive than on their weaknesses. This novel taps into subterranean magmatic flows of rage. In that respect, I would compare it to several other books published in the last year, such as Tananarive Due's Ghost Summer collection, Paul Beatty's The Sellout, and T. Geronimo Johnson's Welcome to Braggsville. Of those, it resembles Beatty in that the novel did not live up, in execution, to the high hopes raised by its conceit and opening chapters. (In most other respects, the two works are as near to polar opposites as one can imagine.)

Novella: "The New Mother" by Eugene Fischer

In this category, two of my nominees made the final ballot. Ultimately I chose Fischer's piece over Usman T. Malik's "The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn". It was a tight call. Overall, I thought "The New Mother" better maintained narrative tension over its full span. It also did one of the things I love about science fiction, the accurate depiction of scientists as characters with motivations that might at times seem a bit odd to a lay-person without much opportunity to interact with them.

Novelette: "Our Lady of the Open Road" by Sarah Pinsker

I read all of the pieces that made it to the ballot; some of them had caught my attention and I liked several. But this was the only one I loved. It is the only one of which I can honestly say, in multiple senses, "That rocked."

Short Story: "Today I Am Paul" by Martin L. Shoemaker

Many amazing short stories were published this year, but none of the ones I nominated made it to the final ballot, probably because I leaned more toward print anthologies than to the electronic periodicals that now dominate this category. The Shoemaker put me in mind a bit of George Saunders, but if you didn't leave the milk out to curdle first.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Meta-Anthology 2015

This year's Meta-Anthology is derived from Pushcart Prize XL, The Best American Short Stories 2015, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015, and The Best American Mystery Stories 2015. I also bought a copy of The O. Henry Prize Stories 2015, but I noticed when I checked the copyright information for the stories that they had mostly been published in 2013, whereas the other collections contained stories from 2014, so to maintain some consistency I will not be including stories from that collection in this post. There are some further levels of analysis to be done on this selection, about which I may try to write later in the week.

Richard Bausch, "Map-Reading". From Pushcart Prize XL. First published in Virginia Quarterly Review.

A deft thought-experiment in how, especially in families, the things people do to protect themselves can inadvertently hurt others. For gay men of a certain age who thought the rainbow was enough.

Justin Bigos, "Fingerprints". From The Best American Short Stories 2015. First published in McSweeney's Quarterly 47.

Terrible fathers often make for good stories.

T. C. Boyle, "The Relive Box". From The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015. First published in The New Yorker, March 17, 2014.

I had already read this story, which was also included in the themed collection Press Start to Play. It was worth reliving, if only as a reminder of how good Boyle is at evoking the inattentive self-absorption of sad middle-aged white men (of which I am one).

Lee Child, "Wet with Rain". From The Best American Mystery Stories 2015. First published in Belfast Noir.

Evokes both the bleakness of place and the sangfroid of the international spy game with prose that is just the right kind of laconic.

Julia Elliott, "Bride". From The Best American Short Stories 2015. First published in Conjunctions 63.

The best passages effectively evoke medieval mystic manuscripts.

Scott Grand, "A Bottle of Scotch and a Sharp Buck Knife". From The Best American Mystery Stories 2015. First published in Thuglit 11.

What I found most compelling about this story was the simmering undercurrent of violence in the relationship between father and son: Though that is not the central axis of the action, the story would not have been possible without it.

Alaya Dawn Johnson, "A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i". From The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015. First published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

I tend not to like vampire stories. Occasionally I make exceptions, such as when the implicit metaphor of the vampire as capitalist oppressor draining the blood of the working class is made explicit, but with well-turned rather than strident rhetoric. Marred slightly by the human characters acting like overgrown adolescents.

Arna Bontemps Hemenway, "The Fugue". From The Best American Short Stories 2015. First published in Alaska Quarterly Review Vol. 31, No. 1 & 2

This might be the best "Iraq veteran with an obscure neurological illness" story published in the year 2014. I like it almost as much as my "Afghanistan veteran with an obscure neurological illness" story published in the year 2014, "The Jumping Frenchmen of Maine".

Janette Turner Hospital, "Afterlife of a Stolen Child". From The Best American Mystery Stories 2015. First published Georgia Review, vol. LXVIII, no. 3.

The most effective deceptions begin with self-deception. Mesh them together, and everyone is satisfied with the new consensual reality, except the dead child.

Richard Lange, "Apocrypha". From The Best American Mystery Stories 2015. First published in Bull Men's Fiction, Bull #4.

I had already read this in Lange's new collection, which was one of my favorite books of last year. This was not among the best stories in that collection, but it was very good and held up to a re-read. The narrator's voice is near-perfect.

Victor Lodato, "Jack, July". From The Best American Short Stories 2015. First published in The New Yorker, September 22, 2014.

I loved this story when it first came out, and I still love it--unfolds new mind crevices upon re-reading.

Elizabeth McCracken, "Thunderstruck". From The Best American Short Stories 2015. First published in StoryQuarterly 46/47.

I think this is my third time reading the story--when it first appeared, then again in the short story collection that McCracken named after it, and now in the anthology. Each time I find a new sentence or paragraph to be amazed by. Puts me in mind of one of my favorite Carver stories, "The Bath," which was much improved by Gordon Lish cutting it to hell. It's as if McCracken found a better way to continue that story than either Carver or Lish were capable of imagining.

Maile Meloy, "Madame Lazarus". From The Best American Short Stories 2015. First published in The New Yorker, June 23, 2014.

An aging gay man's love for his dying dog uncovers his uncertainty about his present relationship, his feelings about his own advancing years, and his regrets about past loves.

Sam J. Miller, "We Are the Cloud". From The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015. First published at Lightspeed Magazine.

What is better than Marxist cyberpunk? Gay intersectional Marxist cyberpunk with hot sex, snappy dialogue, and sentences that imply worlds within worlds.

Susan Palwick, "Windows". From The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015. First published in Asimov's.

I don't want to believe that continued drug prohibition could coincide temporally with a generational starship, but worse futures that at some point would have seemed improbable have already come to pass.

Lilliam Rivera, "Death Defiant Bomba or What to Wear When Your Boo Gets Cancer". From Pushcart Prize XL. First published in Bellevue Literary Review.

Read it and then ask yourself, would you wear the red dress?

Karen Russell, "The Bad Graft". From The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015. First published in The New Yorker, June 9, 2014.

Great sentence after great sentence, building one upon the other into paragraphs, narrative arcs, and elucidating digressions that will leave you rooted in place.

Sofia Samatar, "Ogres of East Africa". From The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015. First published in Long Hidden.

Against the bestiality of colonialism, an esoteric bestiary gathers strength.

Zadie Smith, "Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets". From Pushcart Prize XL. First published in The Paris Review.

Sometimes microaggressions make you want to aggress right back. Smith evokes the tension and pace of life in New York City, reminding me both of why I left, and that I need a new corset.

Frederic Tuten, "Winter, 1965". From Pushcart Prize XL. First published in Bomb.

We all know that guy, the guy who reads only fictions more recondite and experimental than he has the talent to emulate, who finds his fantasies of other people, women especially, more satisfying than his actual interactions with them, and who is helpless as a newborn when it comes to business end of his writing "vocation." At my worst, I am that guy.

Jo Walton, "Sleeper". From The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015. First published at

Marxist cyberpunk, but also a meditation on how secrets work and the frustrating necessity of refighting old battles, with a bit of philosophizing on interpersonal relationships sneaking in between the cracks.

Hugo Nominations Ballot

I am about to submit my Hugo Award nominations ballot. It is very similar to my tentative Nebula Award nominations ballot, so this post will summarize the differences rather than walk through every category.

Best Novel

Unlike the Nebula, the Hugo uses ranked choice voting, so the order of works on your ballot actually matters. I put Beauty Is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan in the 4-spot, bumping Slade House down to 5 and knocking Laurus off the list.

Best Short Story

Another difference between the Hugo and the Nebula is that the Hugo allows self-nomination, and as I said a year ago, "if I am not for myself, who will be for me?" I put my story "The Joy of Sects" at the top of my ballot. In the interests, however, of not bumping off too many good stories by other authors, I only nominated that one, leaving Miéville, Sakurazaka, Enjoe, and Hirayama on the ballot.

Best Professional Editor (Short Form)

For this category, I nominated some editors with whom I have had the privilege to work, namely, C. C. Finlay of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld, Nick Mamatas of Haikasoru (and other ventures), and A. C. Wise and Bernie Mojzes, both of Unlikely Story. I recognize that the inclusion of Wise and Mojzes may stretch the definition of "Professional Editor"--I try not to devote too much brain power to the metaphysics of Hugo Award categories--but Unlikely Story is an excellent publication that deserves widespread recognition.

Best Semiprozine

This is another Hugo category whose definition would baffle Aristotle. I confined myself to nominating publications that I thought might be eligible that had appeared elsewhere on my nomination ballot, thus, Unlikely Story and Lightspeed. I'm not entirely sure if Lightspeed is still eligible.

The John W. Campbell Award (not a Hugo)

This is for "a new writer is one whose first work of science fiction or fantasy appeared in 2014 or 2015 in a professional publication." This is my second and last year of eligibility--the count of years was started by "Bonfires in Anacostia"--so of course I nominated myself first. I also nominated Scott Hawkins, whose novel The Library at Mount Char was his debut as a published writer, as well as Lesley Nneka Arimah and Libby Cudmore, both of whom published excellent short stories this year that didn't make my nomination ballot only because there was such an abundance of excellent short stories this year. I'm quite sure that Arimah is in her first year of Campbell eligibility, and I encourage everyone to read her story "Who Will Greet You at Home". Cudmore I'm less sure of, because she did have some publications a few years ago in what I believe were "non-professional" venues. So I am pretty sure that her story in Haikasoru's Hanzai Japan was her first Campbell-qualifying publication. She also has a novel, The Big Rewind, that came out earlier this year, which I am looking forward to reading. (And she is a fellow SUNY-Binghamton alum!)

You may notice that I only nominated 4 authors out of a possible 5 for the Campbell. If you believe I've unfairly overlooked someone, please feel free to comment!

Categories in which I did not nominate

Best Related Work (didn't read anything this year that struck me as relevant); Best Graphic Story (the only graphic I read this year was Red Rosa, which has no science fictional or fantastical elements); Best Dramatic Presentation (both Long Form and Short Form--I rarely watch movies or television); Best Professional Editor (I don't have enough data on which to judge this); Best Professional Artist (I was tempted to nominate Yuko Shimizu, who, among other things, has done a lot of cover art for Haikasoru, but I am not enough of an expert on illustration to defend that choice); Best Fanzine (I was tempted to Google my name and nominate any such publication that has given complimentary reviews to my stories, but that seemed crude. If I don't care enough about these to regularly read them, I should not nominate); Best Fancast (I rarely listen to any of these); Best Fan Writer (I want this category to be incinerated); Best Fan Artist (I cannot even begin to care about this). My bias in favor of prose as an expressive medium is pretty clear.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Revised Nebula Ballot: Beauty Is a Wound

I have revised my Nebula ballot to remove Laurus from the Novel category and replace it with Beauty Is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan. It sits very comfortably in the tradition of magical realism. It begins with a prostitute rising from her grave after 21 years, and ends with an invisible lover falling prey to a revenge murder. Along the way, a courtesan learns to fly, a gangster ascends to heaven by attaining meditative moksha, and a thousand communist ghosts torment their murderers. Yet for long passages, it could be read as a fairly straightforward family drama in a historical setting, the setting being Indonesia over the course of the 20th century. Its primary weakness is that it is a touch too long, a weakness that it shares with Laurus, both opting for a synoptic view of history rather than narrative economy. Ultimately my preference comes down to being more interested in 20th century Indonesia than 15th century Russia, and preferring communist ghosts to holy fools. Here is what they do to the warlord who masterminded the local execution of what was, in 1965, a nationwide mass murder of millions:
For years after the massacre he experienced terrible insomnia, and then when he finally did fall asleep, he suffered from sleepwalking. Communist ghosts were out to get him all the time, even sabotaging him at the trump table and making him lose again and again. Their constant annoyances were driving him insane--he'd often put his clothes on backward, or walk out of the house in his underwear, or go home to the wrong house. Or he'd think that he was making love to his wife but it turned out that he was fucking the toilet hole. The water in his bathtub would turn into a sticky pool of blood, and upon investigation he'd discover that all of the water in the house, even the water in the teapot and the thermos, had also suddenly thickened into dark red blood.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Tentative Nebula Nominations

Since I joined the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) last year, I am now eligible to nominate works for their Nebula Awards. The following are my tentative nominations. I say tentative because ballots can be revised until the end of the nomination period on February 15th. I do have at least one novel from last year which I am hoping to get read before then, and am always open to recommendations of shorter works that I may have missed when they first came out. The following is intended not as lists of "the five best publications in each category," but the five best that came to my attention early enough for me to read them.


  1. Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson: I strongly suspect this will prove durably to have been the best science fiction novel published in English in 2015. There is a lengthy section of the book that could be used in a physics classroom to convey the sublime beauty of Newtonian mechanics. By making an artificial intelligence into the narrator, Robinson affords himself the opportunity to digress metafictionally on the nature of language and narrative, opportunities passed over all too often by other science fiction novels. Though a novel of interstellar exploration, it dares to undermine the premises of the subgenre, detailing in excruciating manner the ways in which life, ultimately, is a planetary epiphenomenon.
  2. Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins: Worth reading if only for the chapter describing the Amargosa Dune Sea. The mathematical sublime in the inevitable death of the American West.
  3. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins: This is the most "fun" of my nominees for the novel category, if you are the sort of person who finds the combination of adolescent psychology and supernatural power characteristic of the gods in most of the world's polytheistic traditions "fun".
  4. Slade House by David Mitchell: Combines the precise linguistic control and baroque imagination of most of Mitchell's novels, but without the grand metaphysical or socio-political ambitions for which his longer pieces are known.
  5. Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin: This translation from the Russian has garnered many comparisons to the work of Umberto Eco, and those are fair, though unlike most such reviews I think this book has more in common with Bardolino than with The Name of the Rose. And if you compare it to the former, then the comparison is in Laurus's favor. The Russian Orthodox figure of the holy fool is one that should appear more often in world literature.


  1. "The New Mother" by Eugene Fischer (first appeared in Asimov's): Reproductive freedom, patriarchal violence, and the very nature of parenthood are all brought to crisis by a peculiar, sexually transmitted syndrome.
  2. "The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred" by Greg Egan (first appeared in Asimov's): This story should replace "the trolley problem" on the syllabi of courses in introductory philosophical ethics.
  3. "The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn" by Usman T. Malik: Malik continues to out-write most of the rest of us in the world of science fiction and fantasy, in quality if not in quantity. In this piece he brings together the legends of the Islamic world and the existential angst of the immigrant son, and in so doing, out-Rushdies Rushdie.
  4. Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds: This one grew on me more than I expected. It starts out like a fairly standard, grim bit of military SF, but by bringing in atrocity, torture, vengeance, the decline of civilization, memory, and identity, it ends up echoing Kafka's "In the Penal Colony". A very timely glimpse into a far future that isn't quite so distant.
  5. "What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear" by Bao Shu (first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction): If time is reversible then the apparent inevitabilities of history are only so many stories we tell ourselves. They might be even if the arrow of time has a definite direction.


I have already stated why I hate the concept of "novelette". The following are the stories that I will nominate within it.

  1. "We Never Sleep" by Nick Mamatas: All your grandiose ideas were invented by intellectual whores to keep the pot boiling. All of them. Accept it and move on.
  2. "The Prospectors" by Karen Russell: Even ghosts want to get lucky.
  3. "The Long-Rumored Food Crisis" by Setsuko Shinoda (first appeared in Hanzai Japan): Civilization is a convenient fiction.
  4. "Our Lady of the Open Road" by Sarah Pinsker (first appeared in Asimov's): What happens to DIY culture when surveillance becomes such an accepted norm that the very desire to be or do by "yourself" is prima facie grounds for suspicion? This piece doesn't quite answer that question, but it kicks out a few jams along the way toward an answer.
  5. "The Saitama Chain Saw Massacre" by Hiroshi Sakurazaka (first appeared in Hanzai Japan): Has a bit more in common with Heathers than the movie explicitly referenced in the title. Great, bloody fun.

Short Story

This is the only category in which anything I published this year would qualify. However, Nebula rules, unlike those for the Hugo Awards, forbid self-nomination. If you are a SFWA member and have read "The Joy of Sects" (I think the strongest of the three pieces I had published in 2015), and deem it worthy of a nomination, I would be honored. Here are my nominees:

  1. "The Buzzard's Egg" by China Miéville (first appeared in Granta): Indescribably weird, as Miéville is at his best.
  2. "Respawn" by Hiroshi Sakurazaka (first appeared in Press Start to Play): The murdered becomes the murderer, which is much less fun than it sounds, finding yourself drenched in your own blood but in a new body.
  3. "Printable" by Toh Enjoe: Translation as an act of murder that takes place outside of time: Sounds about right.
  4. "Monologue of a Universal Transverse Mercator Projection" by Yumeaki Hirayama (first appeared in Hanzai Japan: The map is not a mute instrument, but a co-conspirator.
  5. "Best Interest" by Brian Evenson (first appeared in Hanzai Japan): Even as Gojira is destroying the city, the yakuza find a way to work it to their advantage.