Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Jane Quiet Cover -- Mach 2

Here's Elena's second go-round on the JQ cover. What do you all think? I've already suggested shortening the subtitle, LOL.

Jane Quiet Cover

Elena's put up her first go at the cover of Jane Quiet. She wants your feedback -- is it gruesome enough?! What do you think? This is going to be our chief selling point to grab eyeballs -- does it work?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

All Quiet!

Elena brings it all to a close -- whoo hoo! With luck it will not be long before we get Jane Quiet in physical form, too. Yee ha!

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Curse

Gene forwarded a link to a Wired magazine article where Clive Thompson actually compared genre writing positively to "literature" (i.e. stories with people a lot like you* to whom very little happens except for a small epiphany by the end of the story/novel; subgenres include stories about people who have really horrible chldhoods yet survive, or people who have really horrible divorces and/or deaths, yet survive, etc.). As Gene pointed out, too, the writer seriously undercuts any credibility he might have by ignorantly conflating fantasy and science fiction (Gene: "How many dragons are on the covers of SF books? "). But he means well:

From where I sit, traditional "literary fiction" has dropped the ball. I studied literature in college, and throughout my twenties I voraciously read contemporary fiction. Then, eight or nine years ago, I found myself getting — well — bored.

It's a feeling shared, seemingly even by the mainstream writers themselves, who all seem to be writing fantasy, science fiction or alternate history these days. Over at the Guardian, Mark Lawson takes on those who sneer at mystery writers with some really effective scorn:

So the reason for the survival of these prejudices can only be that whenever populist fiction makes an attempt to drag itself through the doors of the academy, it's held back by the dead, reeking weight of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code manacled to the ankles. But it makes no sense to discredit the best of a genre by invoking the worst: no television reviewer argues that Newsnight is rubbish simply because America's Next Top Model stinks.

If only everyone were that sensible. Good books are good books. But it's great to see mainstream journalists finally coming around to what so many of us have always known.

[*This generally only applies if "you" are white, middle class and have been through an MFA program]

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Happy B-Day, Vic!

Raise a glass of Bovril to England's top light entertainer, host of television (aka TV), radio, pirate history, and music.

[He does not eat bears, though (which is to say that the paparazzi have not yet snapped his picture doing so).]

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Publication: Oops

It's not like me to miss a publication, but I have done. My story "Tangled Up in Some Sort of Cerulean Hue" appeared in volume 3 of Ephemera in December (pp 49-52). It's a mash up of not quite Dylan lyrics from Blood on the Tracks (obviously stealing its title from the first track) with Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. It's best to listen to the album first, see a production of the play, then read the story.

If you don't have that much time, just read the story.

If you can find it -- it's a small press lit mag put out by students here, which means I only came across it by chance because there was a copy lying on the table in one of the other department buildings where I had a meeting this morning. I picked it up, a faint bell ringing in my head. Oh yeah -- that story. I had written the story originally for the Bayou Review, but then we moved up here and I submitted it here instead.

Then I immediately forgot about it. It's a nice way to be reminded, I must say. Of course, this means it will be difficult to get hold of, so if you want a copy let me know and I'll see what I can do.

Monday, January 21, 2008

PCA schedule

(At least the relevant parts for our schedule) My paper is up first:

WED MAR 19 / 2.30 pm – 4.00 pm
Golden Gate Hall Salon B2
042 Comic Art & Comics II: Novel Approaches to Narration
Chair: Claudia Stanger

“Phror, becadom, sissirishic and huwf: Alan Moore writes without some pictures”
K. A. Laity, The College of Saint Rose

“Speaking Loudly Through Silence”
John Lamothe, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

“The Grotesque in « Bluk-Bluk Zogotounga:” A Visual Semiotic Analysis of Edika’s Work.”
Luc Guglielmi, Kennesaw State University

“Towards a Narrative-Visual Grammar: Reading Comic Literature”
Claudia Stanger, Fullerton College

Wendy's up next:

THU MAR 20 / 8.00 am - 9.30 am
Golden Gate Hall Salon C2
095 Asian Popular Culture IV: Manga and Anime: Japan and Abroad
Chair: Wendy Goldberg, United States Coast Guard Academy

Shoujo Manga (Japanese Comics for Girls) Style as a Transcultural Form: Decentering Japan and Displacing the West
Fusami Ogi, Chikushi Jogakuen University (Japan)

Homegrown Shōjo Manga and Germany’s “Forty-Niners”
Paul M. Malone, University of Waterloo.

Transnational Circulation of Manga and Anime and Cultural Creolization: Reception, Absorption and Glocalized Reinterpretation of a Foreign Imagination in Italy
Marco Pellitteri, Trento University (Italy)

Bishie Love, for the Love of Bishies: Changing Understandings of Gender and Sexuality in Anime and Manga Fandom
Antonia Levi

And again:

THU MAR 20 / 2.30 pm - 4.00 pm
Golden Gate Hall Salon C2
170 Asian Popular Culture VII: Anime and Manga: Issues of Power and Identity
Chair: Wendy Goldberg, United States Coast Guard Academy

World Without Haragei: The Disintegration of Cultural Harmony in Abe & Ueda’s Texhnolyze
Debbie Scally, University of Texas at Dallas

Anime Pleasure as a Playground of Power, Resistance, and Sexuality
Lien Fan Shen, University of Utah

It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses an Eye: CLAMP and Their Three American Publishers
Stacy Rue, Bowling Green State University

The Manga Phenomenon in America
Wendy Goldberg, United States Coast Guard Academy

FRI MAR 21 is all my medieval panels and:

Golden Gate Hall Salon B2 8.00 am - 9.30 am
217 Comic Art & Comics XI: Concepts of Comics
Chair: Gene Kannenberg

“Lynda Barry: Building Bridges through Text and Image”
Susan Kirtley, University of Massachusetts at Lowell

“I Can Get College Credit for Reading Batman? That’s a Joke, Right?”: Confessions of a Fanboy Professor Teaching Comic Books”
David Whitt, Nebraska Wesleyan University

“Comic Books as Discursive Space”
Kris Wright, University of Texas at Austin

"Essentials Assemble!" A Glimpse into a Commercial Editorial Process”
Gene Kannenberg, Jr.,

So maybe Gene can use the digital recorder to make a copy of his presentation. Of course many will be looking forward to FRIDAY night's special panel, 6.30 pm - 8.00 pm:

FRI MAR 21 /Golden Gate Hall Salon B2
017 Comic Art & Comics XVI: Special Session: The Institute for Korvac Studies
Moderator: Nicole Freim

Please join us for a special discussion on the current state of Korvac scholarship and special discussions led by the most noted Korvac-ologists in the country.

“The Korvac Situation and Its Influence on World Affairs”
Nicole Freim,Riverside Community College

Discussants: Wendy Goldberg and Amy Nyberg

Unless I missed something, it looks like there will be some free time to actually have fun in SF on Saturday. PCA is always a whirlwind and this year looks to be no exception.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


"Ninja" Paul Gravett, the one man comics crossroad of Britain, has reviewed Tove Jansson Rediscovered, the collection edited by Kate McLoughlin and Malin Lidström Brock [Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2007]. Scroll down past the pillowcases to find the review.

As his primary interest is comics, he really only reviews my piece which he mostly seems to like. But he's positive about the project as a whole:

Late last year, the organisers, Kate McLoughlin and Malin Lidström Brock, edited for Cambridge Scholars Publishing a 256-page collection of nineteen essays by these conference attendees, interestingly the majority of them women. It's perhaps inevitably a rather pricey hardback but it is well worth seeking out, perhaps by getting your library to order it in for you. A joyful photo adorns the dustjacket showing an elderly, radiant Tove swimming, her hair garlanded with flowers, and sets the tone. Inside, a six-page section of colour plates includes a striking self-portrait painted in 1942 entitled 'The Lynx Boa' and one of her illustrations from 1966 for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland...

Get your library to order it today!

Ulla & Gerry

For your entertainment on a cold, cold Sunday (well, it is here), pal Gerry Henkel sends me the following video (that's one of his beautiful kanteles below):

A poetic collaboration by a Finnish poet, a Finnish expatriate performer, a Canadian Finnish videographer, and an American Finnish kantele player

Ulla Suokko, an expatriate Finnish citizen living in New York City, performs "Lapin Laulu," a poem written by Finnish native Tuovi Koivunen, with kantele accompaniment from North American Finn Gerry Henkel. This performance is excerpted from a video produced by Finnish Canadian Teuvo Hirvela taped at the Finnish Canadian festival “FinnFling” held in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, July 14-16, 2006.

One morning of the festival, Gerry Henkel wandered into the art gallery area and met Rita Apuli who was featuring her original paintings from the book Louhen Kartanolla - a joint effort with poet Tuovi Koivunen who was also present in the gallery. Gerry then met Ulla Suokko and insisted that she meet Tuovi and Rita because he knew of her love of Finnish poems. Later in the day during one of Gerry's kantele performance, he asked Ulla to read one of the poems on stage while he played kantele. The video is the result. It illustrates how wonderful things can happen spontaneously in settings such as a Finnish summer festival.

The poem which Ulla performs is from Rita Apuli and Tuovi Koivunen's book, Louhen kartanolla [ISBN: 9529185081].

More information about Rita (and paintings from the book) can be found on her website. Tuovi Koivunen's website is here.

Ulla Suokko will be performing with her flamenco partner Carlos Revollar at Carnegie Hall in New York on February 10th. In July, Ulla will be participating in another Finnish North American festival: FinnFest in Duluth, Minnesota.

Friday, January 18, 2008

More Quiet and a little medieval

Elena's got more of the Jane Quiet pages up at her Goth Scout pages, where she's also featuring a run on Andrew Jackson's ghost who's busy irritating the scouts. This section of our comic deals with the big monster battle, so there's lots of cool action. Elena's doing a bang up job, eh? Even as her house undergoes remodeling!

I also got an email today from the editor of the new journal LATCH that my essay "Medieval Community: Lessons from The Black Knight" (which I gave last May at Kalamazoo) has come through the first review with flying colors, so it looks like it will be another publication soon (though I'll keep my fingers crossed until I know for certain). In the premier issue, too.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Which Torchwood Member are You?

To celebrate seeing the first episode of series 2 of Torchwood, I offer this BBC quiz. They don't give easy cut-and-paste code, so we'll have to go with less attractive cut and paste.

You are Jack

You're a born leader - fair, charismatic, inspiring, firm, loyal to your team, and, most of all, measured and consistent in achieving your goals. With your vast amount of knowledge and experience, everyone knows they can look to you for clear-minded guidance. Your fearlessness also inspires people around you to push their boundaries a bit more.


The tough part was choosing a favorite Beatle (John, no George! ah...). Series 2 starts with a bang, so to speak, with guest star (soon to be recurring) James "Spike" Marsters. Whoo hoo -- some good liplock between Cap'n Jack and Cap'n John (jump to pix 27 and 28 ;-). This time Marsters' look comes from Adam Ant not Billy Idol. Still looks good! Otherwise the episode was a bit routine, apart from a flirting conversation between Jack and Ianto. Please no more Owen! And better monsters -- enough with the weevils.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

In Dreams

So, I woke up at 4 am from a dream in which I had been shot in the back. I think I was shot once more, but the bullet ripping through my back seemed the most important. I knew it was crucial not to panic, but because I was being calm, no one paid me any attention. I could feel my consciousness fading away and everything getting dark and then, finally, people were leaning over me looking concerned as I sank down.

Then, of course, I woke up.

Things had gone well on Monday, less well yesterday (I shouldn't have a student crying in my office on the second day of classes). Today seems better -- better than waking up at 4 with a horrible dream, anyway...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Princeton Scholar Unused to Literature

You're not surprised are you that Sophie Gee seems unfamiliar with both Beowulf and John Gardner's Grendel? She's only an English professor, after all. What's that -- she never read anything before Shakespeare? or after Eliot? She has seen the Beowulf movie though!


Well, I have survived the first day of classes -- that calls for a cuppa! Right up until I stepped into the first class, I was moaning and dreading it. I always forget it can be so much fun, a chance to be silly, to try to get their bored faces to light up with surprise and, sometimes, interest. Pity I had to end the day with a meeting, but there you are. Since people always ask me, I might as well tell you what I'm teaching this term:

This is a freshman level course that introduces non-English majors to the subject. Emphasis on making it accessible, showing clips of medieval films, lots of group work making sense of the texts, and fun presentations -- they have to come up with their own Beowulf movie pitch and perform a medieval drama.

This is the intro course for people to get their feet wet, try different genres and see whether any genius burns. A lot of fun except when someone decides to focus on poetry -- well, there are the occasional exceptions. I had a couple of students at UHD, Pamela Andino and Edgar Fuentes, who were simply brilliant. It can happen.

This is the film topics course and I chose to look at how writers are portrayed in film. Yes, a chance to share movies I love (mostly) and get students to read film more carefully. We tend to take the medium for granted because film allows us to be passive absorbers of its narrative. Well, we spent half an hour talking about Damien Hirst's 40 second film of Beckett's "Breath." That seems promising.

To celebrate surviving the first day, we indulged in pizza and our on-going wallow through the oeuvre of Johnny Vegas. I think this current mania came out of catching up with old episodes of Shooting Stars, where he was a regular with Vic and Bob and Ulrika and wordy-wordy wordsmith Will Self and where he occasionally gave in to his tendency to go off on rants. He also guested on QI; while Stephen seemed a tad trepidatious, he did find himself helpless with laughter at one point (was that when Johnny accused him of subsisting on "swan caviar" available only a select folk like Fry, Noel Edmonds and the Queen?). In Who's Ready for Ice Cream, he says he doesn't do comedy, but pathos. The two stand-up sessions that are extras on the DVD are a really good illustration of that (and yet, funny as hell). In 18 Stone of Idiot, you can see, well, just what the title suggests. It can be gut-bustingly funny and cringingly painful alternately.

On the publication front, I'm thinking about my Valentine issue essay for Up Against the Wall and I've just heard from the editor of the American Horror Film Today, that that collection is moving along mostly on schedule. I don't have a table of contents yet, so I can't tell you what will be in it apart from my essay on Terry Gilliam's Tideland. Now, it's time to go back to campus.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Jane Quiet rocks again!

Elena is doing some blistering work on our joint venture, Jane Quiet. Way cool! Here, the intrepid occult investigator and her friends confront the troublesome spirit mano a mano.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Näkemiin, Maila

Näkemiin, Maila Nurmi and kiitos paljon, Vampira. You will be missed by fans everywhere. [Thanks to the joey Zone for passing along the sad news.]

Friday, January 11, 2008

Something in the Eyre

During my week of solitude, I re-read Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre in the handsome illustrated version beautifully rendered by Dame Darcy. It's been ages since I last read it and months since a friend went off on a long rant about how he hated Jane. I found myself instantly captivated by the iconoclastic rebel, Jane. There were several words that made me want to reach for my dictionary and it was odd to be without both a dictionary and Most could be figured out from context (e.g. "vicinage" as an analogue to "vicinity") but many were simply out of fashion (like negus and bashaw). And speaking of fashion I ought to have known what a pelisse was, but it didn't matter too much. Brontë's habit of using painters to flavor her descriptions led me to several unfamiliar artists, like Cuyp. While watching Krapp's Last Tape, a Beckett play I thought I had read before (but hadn't) starring the wonderful John Hurt and a tape recorder (it's mesmerizing!), he uses the word "viduity" and I thought, argh, where's that dictionary. But Krapp has to look up the word he used 30 years ago on the tape, so I guess I ought not feel bad about looking words up that I thought I knew at one time.

Trying to hold on to the feeling of peace that permeated last week. That's always the hard part. As Larry Darrell says in The Razor's Edge, it's very easy to be a holy man on the top of a mountain; the challenge is holding on to a sense of tranquility when you're back in the noisy whirl of daily life. It pays to keep that sense of quiet in mind and to make some more concrete changes to that daily life. One endeavors.

Last night we drove down to make birthday tacos for Robert. They turned out pretty good, as did the nice chocolate cake from Hannaford's. We even had a chance to chat with the folks and Steve thanks to the speakerphone, then watched some SCTV. Around midnight we heard a crash outside -- it was the Possum of Unusual Size. The size of a schnauzer it was! Yikes. Robert's fattening it for slaughter, I think. How do possums taste?

Back to work on the last syllabus -- argh! Choices to make; decisions, decisions. Writing to do, too; I don't want to lose the momentum of last week.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Medieval Simpsons

Thanks to Gene, I got to see the latest Simpsons which aired Sunday. While most of the excitement on line seems to be about the Wiggum '08 campaign, I was thrilled by the couch gag, which referenced the Bayeux Tapestry. This 11th century tapestry tells the tale of William of Normandy's defeat of Harold in 1066 at the battle of Hastings, which spelled the end of the Anglo-Saxon era and the beginning of the infusion of French language and culture that changed the tongue to Middle English (the language of Chaucer and the Gawain-poet). Some of the images follow below (tip o' the hat to Gene):

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Jiggety Jigging

Here's the view (PDA snap) I had as I sipped my tea each morning of the past week before yoga, qi gong and of course, writing. I was in cabin #4 instead of #3 because someone canceled and they gave me the bigger cabin (about 12' X 16') for the same price. Very nice -- everything about Still Point is efficient and tidy. I played drums in the Welcoming House and borrowed CDs, but mostly I stayed in my cabin and relaxed and wrote. More about that later, but I finished one chapter and got through half of the next one of my latest novel; wrote 25pp of the play that will finish Unikirja, wrote the first 10 pp of a new short story as well as a few other short things. All in all a good week. I watched movies, re-read Jane Eyre and most importantly, relaxed and rediscovered some positivity.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Into the Woods

I'm off today to Still Point where I have reserved a cabin in the woods to do some writing and recharging. I am allowing myself the possibility of writing nothing at all; I know I wasted a lot of time at the beginning of my first writers colony experience worrying about writing -- and consequently, not writing. I may just walk in the snowy woods, or lay on the bed and read. Writing will come. It's not an end in itself, just a chance to jump start creativity for the coming semester.

I am not bringing a Necronomicon; I am bringing a Kalevala and Kanteletar in hopes of getting the last few things done for Unikirja.

Just a reminder that I will be without internet access during this time and, as Joey pointed out, it would not be the optimal time to send me gigantic files. Also, there will not be a new episode of the serial (perfect time to catch up on your reading of it). Instead, why not email Gene and keep him entertained? If you need something entertaining, acquaint yourself with the amazing Deborah Henson-Conant, hip harpist (thanks, Gene!).

Back soon --

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

[Picture:Frédéric Soltan/Sygma/Corbis, Guardian Unlimited]

Hoping your year has got off on the right foot. As I'm away on a short journey tomorrow (one whole week in a quiet cabin in the woods!), my thoughts turn to travel. The Guardian agreeably offers some interesting possibilities for destinations in their "12 top trips for 2008" including a stop in Mumbai for Ganesh Chaturthi or Ganesha's birthday celebration.

Further, "Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture kicks off on January 11 with a free open-air spectacular involving choirs, Ringo Starr and The Wombats on rooftops around St George's Basin; plus a ballet performed by cranes..."

If you want a good combination of art and humor, visit the Hayward Gallery in London for the exhibit Laughter in a Foreign Language, which explores the idea that "Laughter is universal... Humour, however, is socially specific." The exhibit includes fortune cookies with culturally specific jokes, including:

David Shrigley, UK
What do you call a fly with no wings? A walk.

Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn, US
How many Bush administration officials does it take to screw in a light bulb? - None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; its conditions are improving every day. Any reports of its lack of incandescence are delusional spin from the liberal media. That light bulb has served honourably, and anything you say undermines the lighting effect. Why do you hate freedom?