Father Stephen writes about doors. I have always loved doors. They can be beautiful works of art, magical opportunities to enter or be freed from. This post reminds me of when I took shelter from the rain in a Prague cathedral full of tourists.


Book Links

More book links today!

Lonely planet compiles the best bookshops around the world. Have you visited any of them?

Not quite book news, exactly - but Amazon will be launching a new film studio sort of thing in which amateur filmmakers and scriptwriters can submit their work and just maybe get some funding for it.

The casting for Baz Luhrmann's Great Gatsby has been the subject of considerable internet gossip. Good to hear the role of Daisy Buchanan has gone to the brilliant starlet Carey Mulligan. Though I must confess that the disparity in age between her and DiCaprio seems just a bit . . . odd.


Book Links

Screenwriter Steve Cloves talks about the process of adapting all (but one) of the Harry Potter films for the big screen over at the NYT. A fitting trailer for the fast-approaching release of Deathly Hollows, Part One.

The new Barnes & Noble Nook Color shipped out today, and Gizmodo gives us a wee introduction to the techno-infant.

Penguin has at last released their new line of hardcover children's classics Stateside . . . through Anthropologie?
The trouble with listening to Psalm's album while you're trying to do anything else is that it refuses to be background music. I'm in the middle of an oceanic whirlpool, a siren-beast-woman sucking down the hapless pirate lad in the middle of the unsuspecting theatre (can you tell I'm reading teen fantasy again?) - and I keep pausing to breathe in the notes, little and big, of "Silent Song" and "Songs of Angels." Thank you, Psalm.


New Release!!!!!!

If anyone happens to have a ticket to Tel Aviv in just over a week, I'll gladly take that off your hands for you. One of my favorite artists (and college roommates and top of the list of most fabulously beautiful people in the world) is releasing her second album on November 25th. The album release party just happens to be on the other side of the world from me. Oh. Well.

In the meantime, at least I can listen to the music in advance! Hear Psalm along with her (incredible) accompaniment here.


Steampunk Day Something: Finishing Books

I finished Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan the other night, and it was excellent. The major characters were given just enough time to develop on their own before they met up with each other and we started to see them through each others' eyes. I finally got used to people walking around the inside of a flying whale. I finally also got used to thinking of metallic legs rather than wheels/those-treaded-conveyer-things on a tanker as being a good thing. I also got used to the characters, the tone, the general world of it all, so that when I set it down upon its final page and picked up Boneshaker by Cherie Priest a few moments later, it came as a wee bit of a shock. There's the difference, you see, between YA lit and adult lit. I don't know what it is exactly, because they're both beautifully written books (and beautifully designed, too - Keith Thompson's phenomenal illustrations in Leviathan vie with Boneshaker's incredible graphic design and formatting). But whatever paves the path between the two sections of the library, that is what lies between these two novels. I set down Leviathan feeling like a daring, clever adventurer. I picked up Boneshaker and felt like a grown-up. (In the best possible way. But still.)

I am still making my way through the latter. For Westerfeld fans - or newcomers - just know that you'll have to read this one with the sequel waiting in the wings. Because this is no stand-alone introduction to the series. It's a proper launching pad. And I'm so very excited to continue with it - once I've gotten a hold of a copy of the second one, of course.


Steampunk Day Four: We Begin Our Dissertation

So, I've actually been reading Leviathan, pictured and posted below, and I find myself continually approaching it as an academic. It's hard not to, since the book re-imagines the origins and development of the first world war. There's so much cultural, social, historical, philosophical richness to those origins. Who could resist a little intellectual elaboration?

I scribbled about four pages worth of thoughts on steampunk's revisionist historicism as a method of preservation against eschatological fears (among other things). Then I read this post over at Millinerd, and I get a whole other wave of thoughts on steampunk as a way of infusing post-enlightenment history with the aesthetic consciousness it originally lacked. I have no idea if I'm off-base with this or not, but we have wandered around for so many years regretting the apparently ugliness of the inheritance of the enlightenment. Could steampunk be a way of unconsciously (or otherwise) re-imagining that brief history with the beauty it lacked? It would explain why it focuses on that specific span of time between all that business with the French and WWI.

Or should I just cut it out and keep reading?

Steampunk Day Three, Just a Quick Link

Scott Westerfield picked up on the steampunk train because he is smart about stories and creative with his brain. Mucho kudos to him for that. But as much as you should read his books (Leviathan, for a start, which is sitting by my bedside even now), you should also read his blog. If nothing else, read it for phrases like "RATHER MORE BAD" referring to costumed Storm Troopers as opposed to aristocratic nobility, all in response to that Charles Stross article that's got steamers all fabulously defensive of their genre. Gah. He's delightful.

Charles Stross, on the other hand, is not. At least not in this post. We'd probably have some lovely conversations over even lovelier tea in any other context. But really, only someone very short-sighted would be so condescending both to history and to fanboys all in one fell swoop - and on the internet, no less! The irony will come around in about a hundred years when Stross's grandchildren look at our generation and call us dictatorial barbarians with no sensitivity or intelligence or sense of democratic well-being, and then criticize their own novelists for romanticizing our own period. My dear one, it is fiction. This is about as nutty as previous linkage to readers getting up in arms over the difference in vampire skin conditions between paranormal authors. Not to mention the fact that the moment you start thinking your own generation is so much better than the last one, you fail to learn from it.


Steampunk Day Two, Featuring Felix Gilman

Felix Gilman, author of The Half-Made World, was discussing the trend toward anachronistic fiction over at Omnivoracious yesterday. (Sidenote: If you are interested in trends in the book industry and you don't follow Omnivoracious, you are doing yourself a disservice. It's Amazon's book blog, and they do a fabulous job of letting you know all the most relevant book buzz in the most unpretentious and jovial sort of way.) I had seen the cover for The Half-Made World somewhere else last week and was half a click away from posting it to my Pinterest board featuring lovely cover designs when something (squirrel?) distracted me. Serious failure. This cover just makes me love cover art all the more.

I double-perked up about the book when I noticed the Ursula K. LeGuin blurb on the front. Sometimes when a notable author blurbs your book that just means you got lucky. Or you found yourself a really awesome publicist/agent/editor/spy who managed to blackmail said notable author into making up something about how great your book is. But there are certain authors whose names actually tell the reader something about your book. If Ursula K. LeGuin has blurbed you, you have a special piece of fiction on your hands. Hear it: Special.

All this I noted before reading the aforelinked post over at Omni. Everything Gilman says about the move toward steampunk and the possibilities in contemporary fiction just make me want to read his book all the more. It's not a long post, but this paragraph in particular struck me as hitting the nerve of the thing. It's especially relevant because he's mostly addressing the "weird, weird west" element of steampunk that is the featured theme of this year's Steamcon (see previous post regarding reason for my post-fest on steampunk in the first place).

Read on:

. . . all of this stuff--steampunk generally--is fiction about the future, for people who can’t really believe in the future right now. The future is closing off, the natural world dying, technology no longer looks very optimistic to a lot of people. SFF looks back to the birth of modernity, the birth of technology, and imagines how things might have started off differently--what went wrong--how things might have been better, or maybe worse -- but either way it imagines alternative paths, there at the beginning. And if that’s what you’re into, then America, the west, the frontier, is inevitably where you’ll end up. The most open and optimistic of beginnings, the moment of greatest perceived potential; and the moment when the original sins of civilization are at their starkest.

I have to admit that steampunk is most appealing to me in the context of (anachronistic) Victorian England, but this makes so much sense that I can't imagine why I never though of it myself. Read that last line again: "the moment when the original sins of civilization are at their starkest." That sounds to me like the heart and soul of a great novel.


Steampunk Day One

In about two and a half weeks, I will be making the trek to Seattle to join a hoard of rather fascinating people celebrating a fast-growing subgenre of fantasy/sci-fi most commonly known as Steampunk. As a publisher, I will be sitting on panels acknowledging the importance of the sub-genre, the growth of the sub-genre into it's own genre proper, and a number of other things I haven't figured out yet.

The truth is that I know very little about steampunk in general. What I do know, I know as a not-so-distant observer of culture. I know as an expert in my field - the book industry. I know as much as anyone else who has visited steampunk blogs, webshops, and bookstore shelves with the curious fascination that comes over one who feels too old to join a new trend but young enough to realize that I would have eaten it up ten years ago.

Even so, when I mention steampunk to friends/family/acquaintances, I realize that I do, actually, know a lot more than I give myself credit for. Much of the world still hasn't heard of the movement - if I may be so bold as to dub it so. I may not yet have donned the ubiquitous goggles, and I may not yet own a bronze-ribbed corset, but I could at least begin to answer the question "In what way is steampunk a modern myth?" Which is a good thing, since I'll be discussing that very topic at Steamcon in three weeks.

In the meantime, I'd like to use this blog to chart the development of my learning. I will be taking a three week intensive dip into the steampunk world in preparation for the great convention. It won't be very difficult; I've been studying Victorian literature and culture since high school. I have examined the various moods and possibilities of modern mythology since I first stepped foot in the Edman Tower at Wheaton, where Dr. Hein opened up for us wide-eyed collegiates the anagogical mysteries of A Canticle for Leibowitz, Lilith, and Till We Have Faces. In so many ways, this will just be a freshening up. Regardless, I'd like to take you with me.

To start, I'll link you over to a recent critical post over at NPR. This article is more interesting for the reader comments than it is for the content. While you're at it, take a look at the main site for Steamcon itself. Have fun. :)

Twilight Keeps Buzzing

Anne Rice gives her thoughts on the Twilight series, and everyone is up in arms on one side of the fence or another. Which is funny, 'cause I don't see these lines as being very critical:

['Twilight']’s based on a really silly premise: that immortals would go to high school. It's a failure of imagination, but at the same time, that silly premise has provided Stephenie Meyer with huge success," Anne said. "The idea that if you are immortal you would go to high school instead of Katmandu or Paris or Venice, it’s the vampire dumbed down for kids. But it's worked. It's successful. It makes kids really happy.

Sure, calling the Twilight books "silly" isn't very flattering, but "it's worked" and "it's successful" and "it makes kids really happy" sound pretty good to me, considering the vast expanse between Anne Rice's version of vampires and Stephenie Meyer's. The article later concedes she even referred to the concept of Twilight as "almost a stroke of genius." So...why all the fuss? There's a point at which sales figures outweigh any idealistic purism you might have for a genre. I can moan and groan all I want about the absurdity of The Da Vinci Code. Or the inanity of Eat, Pray, Love. After a few million copies fly off the shelves, my convictions just sound a bit...well, pretentious.

So I'd like to tip my hat to Anne - center of so much fuss herself lately - for giving credit where credit is due. There's just no sense arguing with a phenomenon.

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