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