Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: Farewell

Happy New Year to all.

In the tradition of the SGU, I'd like to make some predictions for the new year in order to promote skepticism. Skepticism is an important thing; it's the basis of science. I believe in science. It's the best approach to life I know. The thing is, there are a lot of cranks out there taking people's money and calling themselves psychics. Typically, psychics employ one of two strategies (if not both): 1) they make generalizations that can apply to anyone, all based on individual interpretation (think astrology), or 2) they make a shitload of predictions knowing that the ones that are wrong will be eventually forgotten while the ones that "hit" will justify them as psychics. So the predictions I make are an attempt to put on the psychic hat and make it into a dunce cap. But if I get good at this, I will start charging people money to have their fortunes read. It's only right.

And it wouldn't be a NYE post without some resolutions. I will share my writerly resolutions with you all, as opposed to more personal stuff.

In terms of what to expect in the following year from me, your humble writer, I'll probably sell 3-6 short stories, 4-8 poems, and 1-2 novel(la)s. Stay tuned. (I realize that is an old obsolete expressions. But it still sounds cool.)

2012 Predictions:

General
  • Realistic - The world won't end. Ok, too easy. Besides, I'll look pretty stupid if I'm wrong. Instead: a powerful earthquake (at least 7.0 on Richter scale) will rock a Pacific island nation (say, Tuvalu - who gives a shit about Tuvalu, right?) causing substantial loss of life and property damage.
  • Taking a Chance -  Another nuclear meltdown. Where? Let's say: East Asia. Why? No reason.
Celebrity Death:
  • Realistic - Lindsay Lohan. You know why. (Last year I thought it'd be Steve-O, from Jackass. It was Ryan Dunn. I was close. I know we all wished it was Steve-O.)
  • Taking a chance - Jerry Seinfeld. I don't why. He's gotta die some time. (Last year I guessed Arnold Schwarzenegger. While he was definitely in the news, it wasn't what I had hoped for, or his wife.)

Writerly Resolutions:
  • Write 
    • 3 short stories
    • 2 novel(la)s
    • 2 poems
  • Read 
    • 3 novels
    • 4 short stories
    • 10 poems
  • Buy
    • 15 books
(Keep in mind, these are minimum quotas - I almost always exceed these. I wrote six poems for 2011, for example. (I'm principally a fiction writer.) Also, I do not believe in setting resolutions that are out of my control, such as: publish x short stories. I think this is actually not a good mindset to have since the quality of one's writing will likely suffer in order to reach one's publishing goals. Instead, I focus on writing and submitting year-round.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Post-Semester Post: Fall 2011

So the semester is over and I thought I'd share some mini-reviews and recommendations based on what I was forced to read. I won't be reviewing everything, only things I liked most. Also, keep in mind that I'm a writing major and did mostly writing - a lot of writing.

Francis Godwin's Man in the Moone: Arguably the first science fiction novel (though I think the credit should go to Kepler's Somnium, published four years earlier). Some say this book does not qualify as SF. I disagree: any story that has a plot dependent on some science element to make sense is SF.  At first, honestly, I thought it was a poorly written short novel. It was published (posthumously) in 1638, and it shows. Gonsales, the protagonist, a Spanish midget (or short person), flies to the Moon via geese power and arrives in a few days to meet a utopian alien society of giants. Weird. However, the professor of the class was able to cogently (whether true or not) point out the book's significance and meaning. Something about the scientific understanding of the time. I don't know how talented or prescient Godwin was. However, I'm convinced that this is an important little book.

Thomas More's Utopia: with this book I'm confident of the author's talent. It is quite thoughtful in its arguments against the societal and governmental ills of early modern England. One could, also, call it a proto-communist work. However, I did notice More's own religious views make their way into Utopia. (He was a devout Catholic, so devout, in fact, he was beheaded by Henry VIII, who he praises so efficaciously in the First Book.) The Utopians are not fond of atheists, regarding them as plainly in the wrong, and are shown to be beginning to accept Christianity, despite having their own beliefs and having a seemingly superior society. As a non-religious person, it's a tad annoying that Utopia cannot be such without the Christ. But that's More for ya.

(I bought Three Early Modern Utopias [Kindle edition], which, also, contains Bacon's New Atlantis and Neville's The Isle of Pines. Utopias are very fascinating, so I'm really enjoying these insights into how and why utopias are conceptualized.)

Edward Said's Orientalism: I'm always surprised by how much of this scholar's argument I'm able to understand. I'm usually at a lost with stuff like Lacan (or even Derrida, who I don't think was trying to be as obscure). I read part of this book as an undergrad for an English course on colonialism. Said's arguments are as relevant today as they were over thirty years ago, maybe more relevant, definitely more relevant today. Said considers this work, along with The Question of Palestine and Covering Islam, as a kind of trilogy. I don't have the other two books, but I will definitely get them as I am very much interested in US foreign policy, especially with regards to the Middle East because I feel they reveal much more about the US than they do of the Middle East, as do our conceptions of the "Orient."

Alain de Botton's The Art of Travel: I read the chapters "On Anticipation" and "On the Exotic." De Botton has a very nice way of writing (surreal, witty, peculiar) while maintaining a certain elitism I can appreciate as a grad student. De Botton confidently makes abstractions about traveling and how we perceive foreignness, how we are turned on by the slightest indication of certain difference from what we are familiar with, a phenomena he terms "exoticism"; it is really a book about consciousness and the nature of bias and discrimination. Things that really interest me.

I, also, read Borges for the first time (shame!) and would highly recommend his short story "Circular Ruins" to anyone who can read. If you cannot read, this story is not appropriate for you, as are all other such stories, those with words. I typically don't like reading translations. Especially when the original language is one I can read. (I'm multi-lingual.) So unsure if I would get all the Spanish and unsure I would miss something if I read it in English, I read the story in both languages. I should have just read it in English, I found out, because the translation was pretty damn good. It's a story that, in true Borges fashion, appears to have no connection with reality whatsoever and seems like nothing more than academic obscurantism but is actually quite deep and meaningful. It deals with, if I may give a vague interpretation, the nature of reality (and, therefore, of consciousness) and the pertinent dichotomy between the material and immaterial worlds. Entertaining throughout (a short short story) and a nice twist at the end.

(As a result of my enjoyment from reading this and a few other of his short stories for my fiction workshop, I bought the Borges collection Ficciones [Kindle edition and in Spanish], which I can't wait to start reading.)


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Poem: 24 / In My Head

Another free poem.

24 / In My Head

What's a word but name
for change,
making blind men of the would-be wise,
forcing them to think within corners,
the outside hidden,
condensed with clouds within,
heaving heavy rains,
drops distorting shapes,
like an ant farm filled with water,
disorder increasing like entropy?

I’ve been here too long;
to avoid wrong,
Yet I know:
the names of things we don't know;
the nature we know less;
nothing is clear – not even this;
we have no sense, for there is none,
only nonsense, which makes sense;
we should stop knowing, start unknowingly,
then we’d see the empty vessels, our heads.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Short Story Accepted: Jim & the Parallel Worlds

It's scheduled to be published by The WiFilesan e-zine, on May 6, 2012 (shortly before the world ends, thankfully).

The story is about a boy, Jim, who has a habit of getting himself lost in parallel worlds. As you might imagine, it's a bit surreal. There's also a healthy amount of science in the story (theoretical physics, that is). The humor, as new readers of mine will discover, can be quite crude and deadpan. (It's not for sensitive dickheads.) I feel like an idiot describing my story. Wait for it. (I'll do another post when it's up.)