March 4th, 2009

talks to wolves

"The pitying smirk, the argument runs like clockwork."

Well, first the good news. Peter Straub has selected "The Long Hall on the Top Floor" for Fantastic Tales: American Stories of Terror and the Uncanny, which he's editing for the Library of America. The volume is due out in October 2009. I count this, with the reprint of "In the Water Works (1889)" in S. T. Joshi's American Supernatural Tales (Penguin Classics, 2007), as among my most notable accomplishments thus far. "The Long Hall on the Top Floor" first appeared in an issue of the now-defunct Carpe Noctem magazine, in 1999, and was thereafter collected in Tales of Pain and Wonder.

But, the bad news is that it looks like my plans for a March "vacation" are going to have to be scrapped, as I owe ellen_datlow a story, and somehow the deadline, and, indeed, the whole book, had slipped my mind, until she emailed me about it last night. So...I have until March 23rd to get that done, and when you figure in Sirenia Digest #40, the month is pretty much shot. I might be able to squeeze in a week between the story and the digest, maybe.

I spent all this morning figuring out fair-use and public-domain questions concerning three quotes used in The Red Tree. Specifically, a quote from Seneca the Younger's Epistulae morales ad Lucilium, one from Hesiod's Theogony, and another from The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe. All these were, of course, translations, and what is at question is when the copyright on the translations I used expired, or if they have not yet expired. Turns out, we're clear on Hesiod (Evelyn-White translation) and Goethe (Saunders translation), but not on Seneca (Gummere translation). Fortunately, sovay is very kindly providing me with a new translation of the Seneca passage in question, so I won't have to cut it from the book. That was my extra-tedious morning.

Here in Providence, the day is cold, and the sun blindingly bright off all the snow that isn't melting. Right now, it 29F, but 19F with wind chill factored in.

I'm still looking back over comments I've made regarding sf, and my science fiction, in particular, and there's this interesting bit from March 5th, 2006:

matociquala (Elizabeth Bear) and cpolk (Chelsea Polk) have coined a literary neologism for a certain sort of sf, a term which I'm finding extremely useful: eco-gothic*. I quote: "We look around at the world and we're fucking scared. There's this underlying idea of the implacability of the universe and the smallness of humanity. We know that there is no guiding, caring force. That life is amazing in its tenacity and persistence, but that ultimately, it's completely pitiless. And if you take it too far, if you unbalance it enough, it will crush you. This idea of the tenacity of life in a pitiless universe. And nobody else seems to fucking GET IT. Because life is tenacious, but humanity is disposable. It's not a tragedy that the passenger pigeon perished. And it won't be a tragedy when we go either...God doesn't care if we persist. We're not special. We're not essential. The universe doesn't love us bestest of all. Because you know, there's this critique that a Black Novel is not Relevant because it's about Blackness, not Humanity. Which upon I call bullshit. Because a human novel isn't relevant. Because it's about humanity. Six point five billion ugly bags of mostly water on a second-class planet in an arm of a barred spiral galaxy. Pretending like Hell that we signify." Click here for the transcript from which this quote was cobbled together.

Certainly, all of my sf would fall into this category of "eco-gothic." The Dry Salvages, "Riding the White Bull," "Faces in Revolving Souls," "The Pearl Diver," "Persephone," "Hoar Isis," "Between the Flatirons and the Deep Green Sea"...all of it. And I think one thing I found particularly intriguing was the suggestion that writers of "eco-gothic" sf may, perhaps, do so because "we were the second-class geeks who took life sciences instead of physics with the hard-line geeks." That's one of my dirty little secrets. Sure, I took chemistry and physics and mathematics in college, but I had no real aptitude for it. It was in the life and earth sciences that I excelled, particularly in paleontology, which is often disparagingly labeled by the math and physics types as a "soft science." Anyway, it's just something I wanted to note, because of the things I said about sf on Friday, and because it's something I want to think about. I have no problem with a neologism or a literary category so long as it is useful and needed and I suspect this one may be both. It is, of course, inherently Lovecraftian, and minor caveats and questions do arise. Perhaps I will come back to those later. Not only does this remind me why I shall never appeal to those sf readers who dislike "dystopian" sf, but also why I shall likely always find myself in a rather minuscule fraction of Wiccans. The gods do not care because, after all, they're only hopeful metaphors for needful humans. Anyway, thank you Bear and Chelsea.

So, it's not surprising that Elizabeth Bear ended up writing an afterword for A is for Alien, an afterword which, in part, explores the idea of the eco-gothic.

Also, it has been one year to the day that I announced in the journal that Spooky and I would be moving from Atlanta to Providence. What an eventful year it has been.

Yes, the Immaculate Order of the Falling Sky has duly noted the Earth's recent near-miss by a Tunguska-sized asteroid. Hope springs eternal.

Last night, I stumbled across some bloody frakking idiot, somewhere on the web, who'd referred to Echo (from The Dreaming) as a "Mary Sue" character, and I'm still laughing...

* matociquala later found a use of "eco-gothic" dating back to 1996, in a description of Stephen Palmer's novel, Memory Seed.