Thursday various

  • I could be reading this wrong, but I think the New York Times compared Joe Frazier to Hitler.
  • And Ethel Merman to Kim Kardashian.
  • When is honey not honey? Apparently when it’s most of the honey sold in stores in the U.S.. [via]
  • So presumably you’ve heard of If Day, right? It was “a simulated Nazi invasion of the Canadian city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and surrounding areas on February 19, 1942.” Yeah, I’d never heard about it before either. [via]
  • And finally, Cormac McCarthy’s Yelp page. Hysterical:

    He pulled another cold french fry from the greasestained Happy Meal box. He ate it slowly. The sun rising behind him over the limestone bluffs. The barren valley and the road winding through it still in morning’s blue shadow. He wiped his hand on his jacket and checked the breech of the big Weatherby. Bullet as long as man’s finger sitting there. He lay down on the blanket, the rifle’s barrel resting on the saddlebag, and glassed downcountry with the telescopic sight. The dusty road was empty. He waited. [via]<.blockquote>

All the news that fits, we print

Today was an okay day.

We had another of our regular “brown bag” lunches at work, this one with Robin Pogrebin, a journalist with the New York Times, who talked about her own history with the magazine, the general state (and likely future) of print journalism, and answered some of our questions. It wasn’t as interactive as last month’s improv session, but it was interesting.

This evening, after work, I took the subway downtown to the NYU campus to hear novelist (and NYU professor) Zadie Smith talk. She wound up mostly reading from her novel-in-progress, a novel she’s apparently been working on for the past six or seven years — and which is quite good, from the sound of it. Afterward, she took questions from the audience. I stayed for most of that, but sneaked out a little early near the end. Smith’s a funny and engaging presence, but I had me a train to catch. (I also had yet to have dinner, and it was already half past 7.)

All in all, a pretty okay day.

Tuesday various

Sneezing like a madman

What yesterday was still the distant rumblings of a cold is today a full-on assault, sneezing and coughing and a runny nose. I’ve kept the worst of it at bay through the generous application of cough drops (more than a few cadged from the office first aid stations), tissues, and chamomile tea, but I’ve still felt better.

This evening, rather than do the sensible thing and go home after work, I stayed on in the city for yet another event at the Center for Fiction, this one on “Outsiders in/of Science Fiction and the Fantastic.” The panel was moderated by Ellen Kushner, and featured writers Steve Berman, Samuel R. Delany, Andrea Hairston, Carlos Hernandez, and Alaya Dawn Johnson. It was interesting, overall, and I’m sure at some point the discussion will be up on their YouTube channel. Two things I noted:

  • Berman joked (seriously) that one of the benefits of writing YA from an outsider’s perspective is that every YA reader — at least the intended actually teenage audience — every one of them feels that he or she is the outsider, even if that’s not the case.
  • Hairston said that what science fiction does is rehearse the possible and the impossible.

I snuck out a little early, since they started a little late and ran a little long, and now I’m home, sneezing like a madman.

A fantastic day

All day long, and even since late last night when I think it first happened, I’ve had what I think is maybe the single itchiest mosquito bite on the inside of my left leg. It’s driven me quite mad throughout the day.

But this evening, despite all that, I went back to the Center for Fiction in Manhattan for a panel discussion on Why Fantasy Matters. It was about as interesting, but a lot more on point, as the utopia/dystopia panel on Monday. I’m a big fan of Kelly Link, and I quite enjoyed Naomi Novik’s first Temeraire book. And if I’ve yet to read anything by Felix Gilman and my experience with Lev Grossman’s writing has been less than terrific, everybody had a lot of interesting things to say about the genre. Including Grossman, who I actually quite like as critic of (and apologist for) fantasy, and whose much better known novels I may just have to pretend don’t exist. (Seriously, if I haven’t made it clear, I hated The Magicians.)

Two things I particularly liked. First, Grossman’s acknowledgment that “one thinks a lot of grandiose and unacceptable things as one is starting a novel.” And Novik’s writing advice: find writing that you like and critique it. I find this is one of — possibly the only, but certainly one of — the benefits of having a slush pile, as I do with Kaleidotrope. Figuring out why a piece of fiction does or doesn’t work, and putting that critique into words, can be valuable experience for a writer. (It also doesn’t hurt to see the other side of the rejection letter. It’s almost never fun for anybody.) You can learn just as much, if not more, from giving critique as from receiving it, Novik said (to a nodding Kelly Link beside her).

There are a few more events this month at the Center that I may be going to, but that’s it for this week. Onward to a perfectly ordinary, realistic Thursday.