Sunday, January 31, 2010

Epyllion: Dream Music Puppetry at HERE

Last Tuesday evening the lobster and the canary were utterly spell-bound by Epyllion, a pan-human creation myth told through dance, wordless song, gesture, and puppetry. Written by Lindsay Abromaitis-Smith and Emma Jaster, a.k.a. The Aeolian Theatre, with music composed by Akie Bermiss, Epyllion was staged at the experimental performance space HERE in Soho (NYC), as part of their Dream Music Puppetry Program.

Click now more on HERE and the Aeolian Theatre.

Abromaitis-Smith and Jaster, with fellow dancer/actor/puppeteers Cory Antiel, Sophie Nimmannit and Matt Pearson, took us to the Ur-Place, where the Moon first rose, when the People first understood themselves and the world around them. Without artifice or preciousness, the players (including the musicians Bermiss, Zach Dunham, Kyle Jaster, Emmanuelle Lambert-Lemoine, and Rachel Menyuk) skeined back to the flickering rhythms of the cave-paintings at Lascaux and Altamira, the "cave of the hands" in the Pinturas River Canyon of Patagonia, the scenes on the walls of the Apollo 11 cave in Namibia. Back to Dreamtime in Arnemland, Australia.

Looming and swooping throughout the story was the Great Mother, handled with great suppleness by the puppeteers. Cryptic, fearsome, forgiving by turns...a Venus-of-Willendorf figure who towers over the puzzled little male puppet.

The crouching stag confronts the Mother... the males and the females circle each other warily, but find their way to union...waves and surges, with animal horn and the sickle moon...

Epyllion delves into the song and the movement at our collective core. The Aeolian Theatre troupe is young, exuberant, inventive, with a very bright future...the lobster and canary look forward to following their work. HERE did well to select them for its artist-in-residence program.

P.S. Kudos to the superb light and stage design & direction-- the lighting was a performer in its own right in Epyllion.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Kate MacDowell in the New York Times

Congratulations to the ceramicist Kate MacDowell, two of whose works illustrate an article in this weekend's New York Times Sunday Magazine. Click here.

Kate kindly interviewed with Lobster & Canary-- see our September 19, 2009 posting.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Avercamp Would Have Loved The Weather Today

Winter has us in his grip here in New York City. Gulls streak like jets across the Hudson, driven by the wind-- against which, sparrows fat as tennis balls puff out their feathers in the shelter of tossing bushes.

Skaters will be out in force this weekend at the rinks in Bryant Park, Central Park, pocket parks throughout the city. Just like they were in Amsterdam and across the Netherlands in the 17th century, as captured by Hendrick Avercamp. The Rijksmuseum has mounted a major exhibition of Avercamp's work, on view now (click here for more).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Titus Awakes: New Gormenghast Novel Found in Attic

With thanks to Sonya Taaffe for pointing this out:

Meryvn Peake's widow, the artist and writer Maeve Gilmore wrote a fourth Gormenghast novel-- by hand in exercise books-- which her granddaughter recently found in the attic of the family house in London.

Gilmore based the novel-- entitled Titus Awakes-- on a short note her husband gave her when Parkinson's Disease made it too difficult for him to pursue Gormenghast further.

Their son is negotiating with publishers.

Very timely as 2011 marks the centennial of Peake's birth.

For more, read this and this.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Jazz Loft Project

Put this on your calendar if you happen to be in NYC:

"Jazz Loft Project Exhibition Opens in New York City, February 17, 2010

January 11, 2010 PRESS RELEASE

The story of a little known five-story loft building in New York City’s wholesale flower district that was a popular late-night haunt for some of the biggest names in 1950’s and 60’s jazz is told in "The Jazz Loft Project", a new multimedia exhibition opening February 17, 2010, at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. The exhibition features never-before-displayed vintage black and white prints and rarely heard audio recordings by photographer W. Eugene Smith who spent eight years documenting the jazz musicians, artists, and underground characters who inhabited the scene at 821 Sixth Avenue. Smith’s remarkable photographs evoke the world of smoky jam sessions and after-hours rehearsals with musicians like Thelonious Monk, Zoot Sims, and Hall Overton.

Curated by Sam Stephenson and Courtney Reid-Eaton of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, the exhibition features more than 200 images, several hours of audio, and 16 mm film footage of Eugene Smith working in the loft. "The Jazz Loft Project" will be on display from February 17, 2010, to May 22, 2010, in the Donald and Mary Oenslager Gallery at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts located at 40 Lincoln Center Plaza. Admission is free."

The Impossible Black Tulip

Very exciting news-- the lobster will simply quote from the press release-- for more information, click here:

"Today at the Library of Congress the James Ford Bell Trust unveiled for the first time in North America, Matteo Ricci’s 1602 “Impossible Black Tulip,” a massive map showing the world with China at its center. It is the first map in Chinese to show the Americas, and the first printed map to incorporate both Eastern and Western cartography.

'Matteo Ricci’s Map is one of the most significant cartographical documents ever produced,' said Dr. Ford W. Bell, Trustee of the James Ford Bell Trust and President of the American Association of Museums. 'The map brings together the best of western science, mathematics and geography to show China, the western hemisphere and the five continents in their relative positions'.

The map was created at the request of Emperor Wanli and was designed to incorporate as much Jesuit knowledge as possible, in combination with some of the great works of Chinese scholars, demonstrated both graphically and in Chinese characters surrounding the map. The legendary map is the second most expensive printed rare map ever sold; the first was the Waldseemuller world map, the first to name America.

'The map represents the momentous first meeting of East and West as drawn by Jesuit Matteo Ricci, the first Westerner to enter Peking,' said Ti Bin Zhang, First Secretary for Cultural Affairs Embassy of the People’s Republic of China. 'This historic map was the catalyst for commerce and the subsequent relationship between the East and West.'

The Ricci Map is one of only seven known examples and there is no other known example in either the United States or China. The map will be on display at the Library of Congress alongside the Waldseemuller from January 12 to April 10, 2010."

Dan Beachy-Quick: A Whaler's Dictionary

Dan Beachy-Quick
is one of the country's finest young poets. Now he has produced a brilliant work as unclassifiable as the novel it seeks to understand: A Whaler's Dictionary (Milkweed Editions, 2008), a deeply felt and deeply searching meditation on Moby-Dick. Or, rather, a meditation on how Beachy-Quick understands, or tries to understand, Moby-Dick...a meta-cognition but one annealed with a poet's rigor.

For more on Dan, click here. To buy the book, and others from Milkweed Editions, click here.

Lobster & Canary: Italo Calvino (as translated by Martin McLaughin) in "Why Read the Classics?" asserts: "Reading a classic must also surprise us, when we compare it to the image we previously had of it. That is why we can never recommend enough a first-hand reading of the text itself, avoiding as far as possible secondary bibliography, commentaries, and other interpretations." A typically Calvinoesque admonition it seems to me, insofar as all his essays in Why Read the Classics? are, of course, commentaries. But leaving that aside, how do you respond to him? My take is that, in A Whaler's Dictionary, you have not only grappled directly with the book (whale) itself, but have gone even farther (as if that were not enough!)...I see A Whaler's Dictionary as also belonging to a very rare and special genre, that of sharing with another reader your own act of reading. (I am not even sure what we might call the genre). James Woods does this in his writing, Francine Prose, Annie Dillard, Pope in The Dunciad... Robert Motherwell likewise for the process of painting, M.F.K. Fisher on the savoring of food. Does my observation feel right to you?

Dan Beachy-Quick: The irony that you point in connection to Calvino’s claim is, I think, an important one, and shouldn’t be put aside. I do most certainly share in his notion that one must confront the work directly. There is a strange otherness in books whose fame precedes them. A middle-schooler could speak bluntly but accurately about the plot of Moby-Dick—the novel continues to find urgent location in the popular mind, mentioned in newspaper articles and political blogs and so on. We grow up—some of us, many of us—knowing that in this country there is a mad Captain chasing a White Whale and more, that we are somehow implicated in this chase. But what a surprise it is to read the book and find ourselves inside of it. This is to say that to read Moby-Dick is to become a whaler, to be aboard the ship, to chase the whale, with the terrible, almost inconceivable irony that what one holds in one’s hands—the book—is both ship and whale at once. I suppose it is deep inside the human psyche to express what one witnesses, to give it its words, to re-experience the experience at language’s forced remove, that remove which miraculously makes possible the entrance into the experience for others. What other art is there that contains in it this double-motion of farthering and nearing at once? I think of A Whaler’s Dictionary as a kind of witness in this sense, not only of the experience of reading, but the experience that is reading, the faulty map that is thinking. My hope was to write and construct a book in such a way that a reader of it must also face her or his own readerly experience. It is a faulty experience, always, a failed hunt—this hunt after meaning. That failure, too, necessitates the work of writing as response, of needing to create in order to re-create that which already exists. It is an absurd activity. But so is chasing one whale hidden in the depths of the whole world.

L & C: To take another slice at the matter, consider that Michael Chabon, in Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands, characterizes the following quote as "Herman Melville, on the writing of fan fiction": "The more I dive into this matter of whaling, and push my researches up to the very spring-head of it, so much the more am I impressed with its great honorableness and antiquity; and especially when I find so many great demi-gods and heroes, prophets of all sorts, who one way or the other have shed distinction upon it, I am transported with the reflection that I myself belong, though but subordinately, to so emblazoned a fraternity." Melville himself acknowledging the futility of claiming genuine originality-- the whale forever diving beyond our capacity to capture it?

D B-Q: I do think much about the fathomless—that is, a fathom being based on the span of the outstretched arms, and so what is without fathom being fundamentally ungraspable. But you bring up an even more intriguing point—this question you are asking about the nature of the “original.” I suppose in some sense we live in a writing culture that fetishizes the notion of being original, that is, being unique. But what is original and what is unique do not seem to me to be synonymous. Actually, I tend to think of them in opposition to one another, or at the very least, that the drive to be “unique” in voice or style or approach or topic presents an almost insurmountable obstacle to the work of being original, or more to the point, seeking origins. Ahab’s work in chasing Moby Dick is in great part a genuinely original work—that is, he is seeking a type of knowing not predicated on experience, the abysmal nothing, the white-dark chaos whose inchoate urge molds itself into a world. The White Whale is an original being, a kind of ur-text whose message is a blank message, a blank page—not a writing, but a space against which writing becomes possible. Ishmael is one who creates world, who needs world. Ahab abandons world to ask questions the world cannot answer for itself. He seeks a limit, and the whale’s limit is different than his own—and so he seeks it because it, the whale, asks for him his question in a way that he cannot. There is a Talmudic quality to Melville’s quote above—that is, this sense that his writing can at best only be a commentary on another text. This notion allows the work of writing to become not a creative endeavor in a normal sense, but an ontological and atavistic exploration for that series of links that might take one back to a first consciousness. The work becomes a discovery of beginnings—we must write toward it, but it seems never to simply be our own.

L & C: Ah, but then I think of Keatsian claims for imagination. You open The Whaler's Dictionary not once, but twice, with quotes from Keats: a quote on the heart as horn book, and then on the next page, a quote about dim perception. Keats figures throughout your book. Tell us more about how you see Keats, particularly his philosophy vis-a-vis that of Melville.

D B-Q: think I should perhaps begin with Melville, and in particular, his “review” of Hawthorne’s Mosses from an Old Manse in which he writes: “Now it is that blackness in Hawthorne, of which I have spoken, that so fixes and fascinates me. It may be, nevertheless, that it is too largely developed in him. Perhaps he does not give us a ray of his light for every shade of his dark. But however this may be, this blackness it is that furnishes the infinite obscure of his background,--that background, against which Shakespeare plays his grandest conceits, the things that have made for Shakespeare his loftiest, but most circumscribed renown, as the profoundest of thinkers. For by philosophers Shakespeare is not adored as the great man of tragedy and comedy.--"Off with his head! so much for Buckingham!" this sort of rant, interlined by another hand, brings down the house,--those mistaken souls, who dream of Shakespeare as a mere man of Richard-the-Third humps, and Macbeth daggers. But it is those deep far-away things in him; those occasional flashings-forth of the intuitive Truth in him; those short, quick probings at the very axis of reality:--these are the things that make Shakespeare, Shakespeare.” One might say that Melville, too, has an overdeveloped darkness in him, one so piercing that in almost miraculous ways the darkness becomes a form of vision if not a form of light. “Darkness visible.” What I find so helpful in Keats, so human in him, is that he refuses to let absolute dark and absolute light be the limits of the spectrum, but instead, combines them into one, a half-light in which what is perceived is dimly perceived, but perceived nonetheless. This is not an authoritative place from which to speak, but a necessary, because a helplessly honest one. I hope to write my own criticism—as well as poems—from such a place. No certain ground, but a suspicion nagging enough that it must be uttered, and the one uttering it implicated wholly in the result. It is in Keats that I find such encouragement toward the need of difficulty in life and thinking and reading and writing. I trust to his “world of troubles” as the difficult gift out of which actual experience and thinking must occur. I also think of reading as a primary form of experience, or at least one that is as real to us as is any real activity. He sees an astonishing and terrible reciprocity between what we live through in the world and who in the world we become. It is, in the end, that sense of one always becoming oneself, of self never being a status quo or a known quantity, but a continuously developing receptivity to the basic condition of being in the world that is essential to me. I find that in Keats.

L & C: Ishmael's dictionary, and your gloss upon it, bring to my mind the efforts of Johnson a century before Melville to capture the entire English language on the page. Henry Hitchings, in his Defining The World: The Extraordinary Story of Dr. Johnson's Dictionary, sums up the enterprise: "In one of the best essays in the Adventurer, published in October 1753, [Johnson] describes the importance of grand projects. Whoever devises them, [Johnson] tells us, 'unites those qualities which have the fairest claim to veneration, extent of knowledge and greatness of design.' The danger he or she faces lies in 'aspiring to performances to which, perhaps, nature has not proportioned the force of man.' Such performances are characterized by 'rash adventures and fruitless diligence.' " Yet we persist. Why? (Or how, at least, might Melville have answered Johnson?)

D B-Q: Part of that answer, I would suspect, would come from the 32nd chapter of Moby-Dick in which our narrator writes, reflecting on his own audacious lexical effort in cetology, writes: “Finally: It was stated at the outset, that this system would not be here, and at once, perfected. You cannot but plainly see that I have kept my word. But I now leave my cetological System standing thus unfinished, even as the great Cathedral of Cologne was left, with the cranes still standing upon the top of the uncompleted tower. For small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book is but a draught- nay, but the draught of a draught. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!” Melville (and Ishmael who might be considered Melville’s imperfect mask) knows that the world and the systems used to describe the world are never commensurate. A dictionary that fails gives in its failure a sense of scope of what is real that is at one and the same time full of awe and awful. What becomes important in the work isn’t the nature of its success, but the nature of its failure—for it is in the failure that one can sense the necessary, if still maddening, ambition of the effort. At the same time, I recall this passage from a letter Melville wrote to Hawthorne, a letter that still haunts me: “My dear Sir, a presentiment is on me,—I shall at last be worn out and perish, like an old nutmeg-grater, grated to pieces by the constant attrition of the wood, that is, the nutmeg.” There is the same insight as in the quote from the novel, but rather than a cathedral’s grandeur, we have the lovely and domestic image of the nutmeg grater. But here it is Melville who is the nutmeg grater, and the nutmeg-world so over-ponderously large that it will wear away the tool that makes it edible. That too is the importance of failure. It forces us to recognize a reality larger and more profound our own.

L & C: One of the other great 18th-century projects of classification-- Linnaeus's taxonomies--also comes to mind. It is an odd coincidence that on the wall above the door leading to Linnaeus's bedroom at his Hammarby estate he hung a drawing of a female whale with its offspring. The umbilical cord shows plainly in the drawing, and it was this feature that convinced Linnaeus to classify the whale as a mammal rather than as a fish. Yet from its/their beginnings, Linnean and all other systems to classify the natural world have run into conumdrums, porous borders, the sui generis. Is language simply incapable of coping the world?

D B-Q: What you write above brings so many things to mind for me. In the same chapter in Moby-Dick mentioned above, Ishmael goes defines the whale—with strange, almost comical force—as a fish, despite the evidence he names to the contrary. The foregrounding of that error has always been curious, and curiously important to me. I also recall the great chapter “The Grand Armada” in which Queequeg, looking deep into the underwater cosmos of the pod, sees what he fears is the line of harpoon in a baby whale, and only after realizes that he is seeing the umbilical cord. But to address the larger question you’re asking, I turn to Wittgenstein, who late in Tractatus writes of the way in which a system of description always says more about itself than it says about the world it’s trying to measure. Language is a kind of net out of which much escapes, and one could think of poetry—and I do think of Moby-Dick as a poem—as the effort to change the shape of the grids that make up the net. What fascinates me, what thrills me and fills me with doubt, is that language speaks of itself as it speaks of the world, and as such, is a tremendously faulty system at the same time that it is our most flexible, most necessary one. It fails, but as spoken of above, it fails in living, life-affirming ways.

L & C: Other than Melville or Keats, which dead author would you like to talk with, and why? What would you want him or her to tell you?

D B-Q: Right now, Thoreau. I would like to go on a morning walk with him, and for him to identify all the birds he can hear by their song.

[To which, in conclusion, the canary trills his thanks!]

Saturday, January 23, 2010

In Arisian Fields

The lobster and the canary loved our two days at Arisia in Cambridge, Massachusetts last week (work and travel schedules meant we had to miss the Friday and Monday sessions, alas!). Click here for the Arisia site.

Kudos to the Arisia organizers for putting on a good event-- 451 sessions over four days, ranging from medieval swordplay to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, from Joss Whedon's work to "How to Draw a Dragon."

The con was well attended, the buzz was happy. We were delighted to see many families there--the con had lots of kid-friendly activities-- and so many excited youngsters ("look Mom, a real light-saber!"). If Arisia is any indication, the future of fandom is bright.

As we posted a few days ago, we capped our Arisia off by dining on fish with Sonya Taaffe, Greer Gilman, and Eric Van.

Random notes from our time at the con:

We were stunned-- delightfully, full-body stunned-- that the panel on fairy tales held at 7:00 p.m. on the Saturday was overflowing, standing room only. At the end of a long day...during the dinner the masqueraders were marshalling for the con's single biggest event...

Quote of the session: "Death is a drastic price to pay for not cutting your toenails" (Vikki Rose, referring to Heinrich Hoffmann's 19th-century Struwwelpeter).

Another lively session, on "Interstitial Fiction: Dancing Between Genres." Andrea Hairston on the interstitiality of theater, Shira Lipkin differentiating between "genre" and "medium."

A tertulia at the "Non-standard Fantasy" panel: Taaffe, Gilman, Debra Doyle and Sarah Smith trading reading recommendations with a very engaged audience. Among the authors discussed: Hope Mirrlees, Mervyn Peake, G.K. Chesterton, Edward Eager, Kelly Link, Nalo Hopkinson, Lord Dunsany (likened to Laphroaig, and to Altoids), John Bellairs, Edith Nesbit, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Terri Windling (especially the Elsewhere anthologies), Jorge Amado, Avram Davidson, Tim Powers, Sergei Lukyanenko, R.A. Lafferty, Clark Ashton Smith, Roger Zelazny, M. John Harrison, Terry Bisson, Robert Holdstock.

Lobster and canary were in the audience for "Faeries of Color: Tales of the Fae beyond Europe," which featured Nnedi Okorafor, Sarah Smith, Trisha Wooldridge, Esther Friesner, and Julia Starkey. Excellent discussion. Also, Starkey presented the best, most succinct schematic we've ever seen explaining the relationship between folklore, fairy tale and myth. Should be required reading at all future cons!

Genevieve Iseult Eldredge ("Gie") had the quote of the session at "The Undefended Borders of SF": "What's the terminal velocity of a falling Balrog?"

Mike Kabongo had the quote of the session at "The City as Character": "Vampires don't hang out in small towns because there is not enough food."

Great insights from Elaine Isaak, Ken Kingsgrave-Ernstein, Katherine Crighton (who publishes as "Anna Katherine"), many others.

A good art show (loved the works by Tamara Gurevitz and by Wendy Ellertson), glorious costumes, interesting vendors.

Lobster & canary only regret that lack of time/direct schedule conflicts kept us from experiencing so much more: The Palimpsest Road Show (Cat Valente, S.J. Tucker, Kevin Wiley, Betsy Tinney); "The Changing Face of Fiction"; the Broad Universe reading; "The Next -punk"; "Queer SF & F"; "Short Fiction is not Dead"; "Take Back the Sci-Fi"; "Machines Augmenting Mankind: Our Cyborg Future"; "Fantasy and Horror in Shakespeare"; the Carl Brandon Awards; "The Art of Comics"...on and on.

Viva Arisia!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Laird Hunt at the Issue Project Room, Brooklyn

Great to hear Laird Hunt read three new short stories yesterday evening at the Issue Project Room at the Old American Can Factory in Gowanus, Brooklyn.

Something's afoot in Tipton County, somewhere in a hidden Indiana...a woman cannot recognize the faces of those she loves...a newcomer is stabbed to old man and a teenager tell each other stories by a bonfire of raked leaves as the first snowflakes begin to fall...did I mention that something strange happened back a time in Tipton County?

Laird is as wonderful a reader as he is a writer.

See the Lobster & Canary interview with Laird in our November 16th, 2009 post. See a note about his latest novel Ray of the Star (published by Coffee House Press) in our September 6th, 2009 post.

Click here for Laird's site.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Joseph Hart: Interview

Joseph Hart is a Brooklyn-based visual artist, whose work is currently on show at David Krut Projects in NYC. Above are enlarged slices of some of the pictures at Krut-- the lobster wanted you to feel the stroke of Hart's hand, and the canary wanted you to fall into the shades and hues. We urge you to view the entire pictures, and more of Hart's work, by clicking here and here.

Joseph kindly took some time for us between his Krut show "Stagecraft" and the show he is preparing for in Paris.

Lobster & Canary: Time, memory and forgetting play big roles in your work. You are probably best known for your interpretations of museum display cases, usually with an odd and oddly placed collection of objects. One of Walter Benjamin's best known quotes is germane here: "Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector's passion borders on the chaos of memories" (from "Unpacking My Library"). Is this what you are wrestling with, the chaos of memory?

Joseph Hart: I think about history, which is a type of memory. Taking blurry snapshots (which I sometimes use as reference) while visiting museums and drawing (literally) from reproductions in art history books have become important components of my practice. Through this, I suppose I am trying to better understand my own art iconography, where my work may or may not fit within the arc of art history, if it’s relevant, or if I should even care.

L & C: Continuing this line of musing: I see your work as thematically descended from the paintings by 17th-century Dutch artists of their own or their patrons' cabinets of curiosities. Your floral portraits as well, come to think of it. A valid comparison in your view?

JH: A few years ago, I came across a small floral still life by Jan Van Huysum at Musee du Louvre. It was installed low, just off the floor, in a dark and seemingly forgotten gallery. The painting struck me as powerful in an odd way. I admired its underdog status amongst the other works within the gallery, its modest subject, and creepy color palette. The imagery is an illustration of cliché, beauty and peacefulness, yet conceptually it is dealing with ideas of emptiness, fleeting beauty, death and decay, etc. I like the duality in that. Vanitas painting is sort of subversive and punk and funny.

L & C: Thinking about your work reminded me of something the abstract painter Jacqueline Humphries says in BOMB # 107 (Spring, 2009): "'re working away in your 21st-century way, and suddenly you're thinking about a 17th-century artist you never gave much notice to or didn't like and then you see this whole dimension opening up. I used to hate Caravaggio, and then one day I had an almost revelatory experience in front of his work in a church in Rome..." Does this resonate for you? One day you are looking at a krater in the Brooklyn Museum, and *pow* there's the insight that yields one of your works?

JH: It’s funny how our interests and goals evolve. I grew up looking at comic books, record covers and skateboard graphics. Now I’m wandering around museums, looking at dusty antiquities, paintings by dead Europeans, decrepit figurative sculpture, pottery fragments, and other museum objects. When I was a frustrated student, I used to sit in front of a Cy Twombly painting that was in my school’s museum and completely space out. I would stop worrying about things, and simply relax. I can remember listening to the first Wu-Tang album on my headphones, and staring at that Twombly for what seemed like hours. Twombly and Wu-Tang. How’s that for a paradox?

L & C: You not seldom put bodies or giant heads upon spikes, mounting them like mannequins, or like the fractured statuary in a gallery of Greek/Roman art. Layers on layers of contested history (if I read this right), with echoes of Dali, Magritte, De Chirico-- the 21st century revising the 20th century's revision of Antiquity--?

JH: Perhaps a little revision is going on, or updating, or highlighting. I like the combination of organic figurative forms mixed with the sharp architecture of pedestals and plinths, too. Decapitated bodies, severed limbs, knocked off penises; it’s a bizarre balance of violence and beauty.

L & C: Hmmm, one clutch of surrealists brings to mind another: your "Dying Warrior," "OHMUMSHEEBAH," and especially "Le Radeau (Backwards B)" evoke for me Miro, Arp, Picabia. Do you spend much time with these artists? Maybe with Saul Steinberg?

JH: Today it’s Miro, Gericault, Phillip Guston, Ben Shahan, Kandinsky, early Hockney, Fred Wilson, Twombly, Duchamp, Kitaj, Richard Tuttle, just to name a few. Tomorrow, this will probably change. My wife’s hand stitched quilts have been an influence as well.

L & C: If I were asked to highlight one of your pieces, I think it would be "Untitled (Hoard)" because you've so artfully abstracted to their essence the collected items, reducing and transmuting them into a disjointed musical notation or calligraphy from Atlantis. Several of your pieces in Fragments achieve the same thing. Where do you go from here?

JH: I’m currently working on a new body of work for my next exhibition, which will be this spring at Galerie Vidal St-Phalle, in Paris. I’m hoping the new works will be a provocative balance of tight and loose, light and dark, delicate and harsh, etc. Breaking things down, unraveling and simplifying imagery, then building it all back up seems to be an ongoing theme in studio these days, and one work usually informs the next, so we shall see where things end up.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Fish Dinner in Arisia

Arisia was fantastic, in all senses of the word.

Lobster is still ordering his impressions, and canary still setting these to music...we'll post our idiosyncratic observations later this week.

One highlight (there were several): just outside the Mezentian Gate, we had a lovely and lively dinner with fellow Arisians Greer Gilman, Sonya Taaffe, and Eric Van. Between the five of us we devoured a fish, a whole fish, a tilapia soused in chili and bean paste, stripped the creature down to its bones, leaving scant but its fins, two bulgy eyes and a downturned mouth.

More on Arisia this week. Until then, *yum*

Monday, January 18, 2010

Interstitial Arts Foundation Reading: Ford, Johnson, Hernandez

Last Thursday the lobster and the canary enjoyed the Interfictions 2 reading co-hosted by the Interstitial Arts Foundation and the St. Mark's Bookshop in NYC.

Delia Sherman, co-editor of both Interfictions anthologies to date, introduced Jeffrey Ford, Alaya Dawn Johnson, and Carlos Hernandez, who then each read all or part of their stories in the latest collection.

The audience, which included Ellen Kushner, Nora Jemisin, and Ellen Datlow, was enthralled. The fricatives fricked and the plosives plosed, the eyes cut and widened, the hands rose and fell...each of us was with Ford as he described the "war between heaven and hell wallpaper," and we followed the layers of memory and meaning in Johnson's "The Score," and Hernandez transported us deep into interstitial places with his "quantum santeria."

For more on the Foundation and Interfictions, click here. For St. Mark's Bookshop, click here (and when in NYC, make sure you visit!).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Steampunk Big Band: Darcy James Argue

Canary sings along to this, while lobster hums.

Darcy James Argue describes the compositions of his 18-piece Secret Society as "steampunk big band." Find out why at his blog here.

This is "Redeye" from their latest, Infernal Machines.

Some affinities to Robert Fripp, Eno, Carla Bley, Terje Rypdal,a hint of Miles from the days of Bitch's Brew... but this is something uniquely old/new, an orchestral voice all his own.

Monday, January 11, 2010

On our way to Arisia

The lobster and the canary will be at Arisia in Cambridge, Massachusetts this weekend. For more about Arisia, the largest fantasy/science fiction convention in New England, click here.

We'd love to meet any and all readers who may also be attending.

Here is our schedule:

Sat 10:00am Non-Standard Fantasy
Sat 11:30am Reading—Daniel Rabuzzi
Sat 12:00pm The Undefended Borders of SF
Sat 4:00pm Interstitial Fiction: Dancing Between Genres
Sat 7:00pm Inherent Darkness of Fairy Tales
Sun 10:00am The City as Character
Sun 12:00pm Myth and Folklore in Fantasy

We also have a table in the "Pros Nest/Author Alley."

We won't be blogging much the rest of this week or during the con...but will post our con report next week.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Shrine for St. Peregrine

On December 26-28 (2009), I argued that what we need is a "new artisanal turn"...and suggested that we may in fact be witnessing that in various artistic sub-fields.

My inspiration for the artisanal comes from many sources, but above all from someone very close at hand: my wife and collaborator, the artist Deborah A. Mills.

Deborah just finished a major project for a Catholic church, St. Roch's on Staten Island. The image above is from the shrine for St. Peregrine that she designed and co-created (with woodworker Kenny Creed and finisher Mary Kuzma).

To see more images and read about the project, click here.

As all artisans do, Deborah spends countless hours selecting and understanding the materials and the tools as well as the setting and the needs of those who will use the art. She visualizes, designs, prepares; she makes. Deborah fecit.

In the end, as she puts it, she "coaxes numens from the wood."

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Layering the Carapace: Swanwick and Goss in the Archives

The lobster is an archivist. He likes collecting and sorting, mapping and ordering. All in the service of memory, of a serviceable history, of a more richly textured and mottled carapace.

Which is why he is so happy that Michael Swanwick and Theodora Goss-- two of the best writers of speculative fiction-- have each recently given us essays on half-forgotten but very important figures within our genre.

Swanwick reminds us how rare and powerful Lud-in-the-Mist is, the 1926 novel by Hope Mirrlees. See here for a link to his The Lady Who Wrote Lud-in-the-Mist.

Swanwick also reminds us how popular and influential James Branch Cabell was in the first half of the 20th century, probably the most popular anglophone writer of fantasy before Tolkien. See here for a link to Swanwick's What Can Be Saved From the Wreckage?; James Branch Cabell in the 21st Century.

Goss surfaces fantastical themes in the writing of many poets in her Voices from Fairyland: The Fantastical Poems of Mary Coleridge, Charlotte Mew and Sylvia Warner Townsend. Here is a snippet from Goss's introduction:

"Coleridge, Mew, and Warner are only three examples of what I consider a broader phenomenon, the rest of the ice that must be present, underwater, when we see icebergs floating on a northern sea. That underwater ice is the tradition of women writing fantastical poetry. I will show you what I mean by focusing on one theme. Over and over again, women have written about witches." [Lobster added the highlighting.]

Click here for a link to Voices from Fairyland, which is volume 20 in the Conversation Piece series from Aqueduct Press.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"Sankar Yaare" by Burkina Electric

Tonight it is the lobster who is too tired to do more than wave a weary claw half above the brine, before letting it sink down again.

All he has to offer is this:

"Sankar Yaare" by Burkina Electric-- the Mapstation remix, with the Armitage dancers.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Remembering Sheila Lukins

Sheila Lukins--co-founder and co-author with Julee Rosso of The Silver Palate food shop on Manhattan's Upper West Side and the cookbooks that sprang from their catering business-- died late in August last year. She was only 66.

I never knew Sheila Lukins personally, never even met her. Yet I--like millions of others-- spent hours in her company, learning the recipes in the Silver Palate cookbooks. Not just learning recipes, but learning something about dining and hospitality and the presentation of good food, each of which is an art form, surely each protected by one of the spirits in the train of Bacchus.

Sheila Lukins cast a light glamour over the well-laid table.

"At Easter time," she (and Rosso, with Sarah Leah Chase) wrote in The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook (1984),"...find tiny little chevre balls or shape your own small egg shapes using soft Montrachet logs. Roll the cheese in Easter-colored herbs and spices. Choose dry lavender, rich curry powder, crushed pink peppercorns, freeze-dried green peppercorns, crushed pecans, and almonds, and paprika."

In the same book: "taleggio is a star of that hazy galaxy of soft, full-fat Lombardian semisoft cheeses known as stracchino..." "this fondue is both elegant and gutsy in flavor" "carefully place a few orange nasturtium or chrysanthemum blossoms on the platter for a dazzle of color" "the luscious flavor of the duck juices comes through the rutabagas, and all is sprinkled with caraway seeds" "we paint our canvas with arugula and herb infusions, mild leek stuffings, and colorful sautes."

To top it off, Lukins drew charming, vibrant pictures to accompany the text throughout: apples, pears and a goat in silhouette on one page, ducks marching across another page, a lobster splayed across cantaloupe slices and tomatoes elsewhere.

As Lukins and her co-authors put it: "When we begin to plan a party at The Silver Palate, we think of it as making magic."

Bon appetit, Sheila Lukins, et merci!

Monday, January 4, 2010

String Theory

The canary is too tired to lift his wings, let alone sing. So, he offers this instead...

Electronic fiddler Tiit Kikas playing "String Theory" in concert (Tartu, Estonia, 2007), with live visuals by Sveta Bogomolova. An imbrication of physics, Baltic folklore, constructivism, typography and trip hop.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Year in Review, pt. 7: Long Fiction

In this seventh and final installment of our “year in review,” lobster and canary offer some of our long-form favorites.

The novels that create all-encompassing worlds, that immerse us totally. The authors who transport us, so we come alive in the elsewhere and elsewhen. Those who give us the reading experiences we hunger for like children (the total abandonment discussed so well by Maria Tatar in this year’s Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood and Laura Miller in last year’s The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia).

As we have suggested throughout, we are happily drowning in a deluge of excellent fantastical writing and writing about the fantastical. We may, in fact, be in a new Silver Age.

[The lobster grimaces at the canary’s cavalier attitude towards time, but is overruled by his avian peer—as we have throughout, our “year” encompasses some entries going back into the middle of the decade, since we only started blogging in May, 2009 and feel the need to catch up.]

We have earlier this year posted on the following authors, but they deserve another round of mention:

Greer Gilman, Cloud & Ashes: Three Winter’s Tales (2009). I stand by my earlier claim that Gilman is one of the most inventive writers in the English language since Joyce (to which I would add Nabokov). Her prose is layered, lyrical, allusive, revelatory. Conjures up the Green Man, the Moon’s Huntress and the Queen in the Wood without ever, ever falling into twee habits. As Heaney says in “Bone Dreams,” Gilman is able to “push back /through dictions,/ Elizabethan canopies/ Norman devices/...”

Catherynne Valente, Palimpsest (2009). If Gilman is the doyenne of the stylists, Valente is one of the younger cohort looking to continue that legacy.

Ken Scholes, Lamentation, and Canticle (2009), the first two books of the five-book Psalms of Isaak. As we said in our interview with Ken last year, we think he is one of the best new writers of speculative fiction in the past decade. He acknowledges the influence of Herbert, Leiber and Moorcock, but has already begun to plow new ground. His treatment of moral themes is sensitive and acute.

Laird Hunt, The Ray of the Star (2009). As I said in my interview with Laird, he is a marvelous talent who defies easy categorization, except to say that he is very good. In this novel, he wraps a depiction of great grief within surrealistic events. Felliniesque characters will live in your mind long after you finish the book: Dona Eulalia, the people on The Avenue of Living Statues, and—above all, lurking like spiders—the Connoisseurs.

Cindy Pon, Silver Phoenix (2009). A strong debut, a coming-of-age story with real dangers. As noted in our interview with Cindy, her painterly descriptions make for gripping reading.

Marie Brennan, In Ashes Lie (2009). A sequel to last year’s Midnight Never Come. Very well drawn historical fantasy. As I noted in my interview with Marie, her background as a folklorist richly informs her writing. I am also partial to her Warrior and Witch series.

Delia Sherman, The Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen (2009). A sequel to Changeling. We believe in the New York Between she limns for us.

Now to some other recent favorites:

A.S. Byatt, The Children’s Book (2009). Magnificent. Deborah put it well when she said it is like reading a new E.M. Forster novel. Language so rich we feel like we’re eating chocolate. “I love the words that go into fairy stories,” Byatt says in a BookForum interview (Sept-Dec., 2009), “and the way in which Edwardian ones had different vocabularies from modern ones. [...] ...fairy tale is another layer of narrative, an alternative to ‘realism,’ something necessary to human beings.”

[Our first confession: we have not yet read Ursula K. Le Guin’s Lavinia. But we did read again The Other Shore last year.]

David Anthony Durham, Acacia: The War with the Mein (2007). Durham is a world-builder par excellence. He is exploring moral issues, difficult choices, the need of individuals to meet societal demands, the impact of power on individual lives. He deftly paints on an epic scale, while also managing to engage us in the inner workings of key characters. I am partway through the sequel, and am keen for the final volume of the trilogy to appear.

Amy Foster, When Autumn Leaves (2009). A charming debut that deserves a wide audience among folks who like Alice Hoffman, Charles de Lint and Anne Tyler. Foster is a natural storyteller.

Malinda Lo, Ash (2009). Another strong debut, an innovative take on the Cinderella story. Lo captures the eerie feel of the Other Folk, and she portrays budding love beautifully.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, The Palace of Illusions (2008). A glorious reinterpretation of the Mahabharata, focusing on the princess Panchaali. As Banerjee Divakaruni says in an interview on BookBrowse, she grew up listening avidly to her grandfather tell her stories from the Mahabharata, but wondered why she heard little about the many female characters: “ Perhaps, I thought, my grandfather had forgotten the stories about the women friends. He was an old man, after all, though a wonderful old man. Perhaps because he was a man he had not considered these stories important enough to remember. When I was older, I vowed, I would search the epics for myself and find them.” This novel is the result.

Naomi Novik, Victory of Eagles (2008). It’s not just that Novik has the language perfectly right, or that she writes battle scenes and derring-do better than most. No, it is above all the love between Temeraire and Laurence that keeps us coming back book after book...and yearning for the next installment, due in 2010.

[Our second confession: We have not yet read Ellen Kushner’s The Privilege of the Sword, but we did recently re-read Thomas the Rhymer.]

D.M. Cornish, Lamplighter (2008). Achingly beautiful, full of action, written brilliantly, this is the second volume of the Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy. Cornish is a worthy successor to Peake (including the fact that he illustrates his own books). Such strange characters in the world of the Half-Continent, starting with the orphan Rossamund Bookchild—Cornish’s world feels very alien, the thoughts of its inhabitants not wholly comprehensible to us. The third book comes out in 2010—we’ll learn then what happens to Rossamund and to Threnody of Herbroulesse.

Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games (2008) and Catching Fire (2009). These are riveting page-turners...while also exploring serious questions about power, authority, wealth and poverty. Chilling, gut-wrenching, all too believable. The third book in the series is due in 2010.

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007). What other novels repeatedly kept me in bed reading them cover to cover? Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Collins’s Hunger Games. No others come to mind. I raced my nephews each time—they always won because they bought each volume at the midnight launch, and thereby gained 8 or 9 hours headstart on their sleepy uncle.

Jay Lake, Mainspring (2007). A clockwork world! Angels, The Key Perilous, airships, "God's word and dark magic from the Southern Earth and the timeless power of stone walls and spreading oaks." Lake has a capacious imagination. My favorite here is the Equatorial Wall, which is more than a conceit, and becomes a character of its own. I have the sequel, Escapement, on the towering heap of books by my bed.

Elisabeth Hand, Generation Loss (2007). A thriller unlike any you have read, something along the lines of Patti Smith meets Robert Bloch. Gritty, unrelenting. Characters that are hard to like but for whom you do ultimately feel compassion—an extremely difficult thing for any author to pull off, but Hand does so.

Zachary Mason, The Lost Books of the Odyssey: A Novel (2008). Endlessly clever and diverting, a rebarbative retelling of a certain famous voyage. Mason’s work helps us focus on the nature of fiction and memory, on narrative beginnings and endings. The homecoming of Odysseus as Mason writes it is heartbreaking.

Dan Beachy-Quick, A Whaler’s Dictionary (2008). Another re-imaging of a classic. “The knife, the lance, the harpoon, the pen’s nib, the sperm whale’s and the shark’s scythe-sharp tooth, do not create the wound they inflict. The wound is created by the space the cutting implement opens.” One of the most intellectually ambitious projects in recent literature—a passionate effort to understand the complex cross-hatchings of meaning in Moby-Dick. A book to visit and re-visit again and again, each time leaving a little wiser but also a little more (healthily) perplexed. The endless conversation across the ages, all bound up in this one “dictionary.”

[Our third confession: We have not yet read China Mieville’s The City and the City. But we did last year re-read parts of Perdido Street Station.]

Justine Musk, Lord of Bones (2008). Jessamy Shepard owes something to Buffy, and to Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, but is developing a voice of her own. Musk’s style reminds me of Clark Ashton Smith’s and Clive Barker’s.

Sarah Micklem, Firethorn (2004). Another best-of-the-decade. I am a few chapters into the sequel, Wildfire (2009), and am looking for the follow-up expected in 2010. The harsh boundaries of love in a very savage world, the space women can carve out for themselves, the power of the powerless.

Libba Bray, The Sweet Far Thing (2007). Bray’s Gemma Doyle is a most engaging heroine, her boarding school the usual cauldron, the mysteries and magic of “the realms” nicely realized. I hope Bray will return to Doyle.

John Scalzi, Zoe’s Tale (2008). The fourth in Scalzi’s Old Man’s War universe. Taut, acerbic, raising critical questions about technology, aging, the nature of humanity. I cannot recall if it is in this volume or one of the others in the series, but Scalzi makes you feel the humanity in a, well, human who has been genetically altered into a sort of space tortoise that clings to the outer skins of space ships. That’s good writing. Plus his blog is one of the best around.

Norman Lock, A Book of Imaginary Colophons: Alphabets of Desire & Sorrow (forthcoming). I’ve read excerpts as they appeared in 2009 in Agni, Black Warrior Review and the Iowa Review. Lock says in an interview at The Collagist, that he hopes “to write something else that has never before been imagined. For me nothing else is worth the trouble.”

--- As I keep proposing, we’re in a Silver Age. What comes next from Sarah Monette? From Nnedi Okorafor? Jeff VanderMeer, Richard Flanagan, Bharati Mukherjee? M. John Harrison, James Morrow, John Crowley, David Mitchell? We could keep going...the list is long...but...

...we have books piled high on the bedside table, books clamoring and cajoling, books blandishing and seducing...

The Year in Review, pt. 6: Short Fiction

Lobster insists on lists, canary consents but only if the lists follow Borgesian principles. No priorities, not even by alphabetic order. Not much annotation, and none of it extended.

In accordance with what the manticores read in the bones on their lonely mountain-tops and what the centaurs glean from starlight. The third law of dessicated Tuesdays. Those who can be carried comfortably in a bronze box, and those who cannot.

Just some favorite stories, a personal florilegium.

They—the lobster and the canary (maybe the manticores and centaurs too)—agree that they’ll continue to stretch the “year” back a ways. Catching up, as it were, since they only started blogging in May of 2009. Next year’s “year” will in fact be a year, or so they promise.

A first matter:

Be impressed with the many strong anthologies recently published. The indefatigable Ellen Datlow has produced Salon Fantastique (2006), The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction & Fantasy (2008), and Lovecraft Unbound (2009)—just to name three from among her many offerings. The equally tireless David Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer every year curate both The Year’s Best Science Fiction and The Year’s Best Fantasy. Ann & Jeff VanderMeer edited Best American Fantasy (2007), with Matthew Cheney as series editor.

More: Mike Allen’s Mythic and Clockwork Phoenix collections, Delia Sherman’s Interfictions (the first co-edited with Theodora Goss, the second with Christopher Barzak), James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel’s Feeling Very Strange, the VanderMeers’ The New Weird, the ParaSpheres anthologies from Rusty Morrison & Ken Keegan, Sheree Thomas’s Dark Matter series (I am looking for the next one), and Senses Five’s award-winning first foray, Paper Cities edited by Ekaterina Sedia.

Special mention: the Polyphony anthologies from Wheatland Press (first six edited by Deborah Layne & Jay Lake)...see their site for pre-order instructions to the seventh, edited by Layne & Forrest Aguirre.

Another special mention: Peter Straub’s two-volume American Fantastic Tales for the Library of America, out this fall—we will take our time reading from Nathaniel Hawthorne up through Kelly Link and Michael Chabon.

A lament: after twenty-one annual editions, The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror from St. Martin’s Press, most recently edited by Datlow with Link & Gavin Grant, is no more.

As I suggested in earlier installments of this review, we may be in the midst of a Silver Age. Here are some reasons why:

Delia Sherman, “La Fee Verte,” in Salon Fantastique. Sherman evokes the spirit of Stendhal’s The Charterhouse of Parma, of Alfred de Musset and George Sand, with hints of Tieck, Hoffmann and von Eichendorff, as she paints a world I will gladly visit often. I hope a novel about Victorine and La Fee Verte appears soon.

Christopher Rowe, “Gather,” in The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction & Fantasy. My first encounter with Rowe leaves me yearning for more. “The southerners were bad batch men, mostly, with useless legs, bundled up under them if they were merchants or captains, legs self-amputated if they were hard men who needed speed, like the sweeps handlers.” Oh yes, I very much want to know what happens next to Gather and Miss Charlie as they go looking for God on the other side of the river.

Sarah Monette, “Draco Campestris,” in Best American Fantasy. Her short fiction says much with precise and evocative language. “Once, as the taxonomist was making comparative measurements of two D. anthropophagi skulls, a tithe-child asked, ‘Are there any dragons still alive, mynheer?’” Check also her “White Charles” in Clarkesworld #36 (Sept., ’09).

Margo Lanagan, “The Goosle,” in The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction & Fantasy. Possibly the most gratifyingly grisly tale I have ever read—a version of Hansel & Gretel that will make your innards twist. (For the historically minded, take a look at Jacques Callot’s Miseries of War series, depicting life during the Thirty Years War.)

Nicole Kornher-Stace, “Pieces of Sheherazade,” in Best American Fantasy. I also like her poetry chapbook Demon Lovers & Other Difficulties, out this summer from Goblin Fruit.

Kuzhali Manickavel, “The Dynamics of Windows,” in Subtropics # 4 (Fall/Winter, 2007). Like Calvino, Manickavel deals with the vagaries of fate and the importance of individual choice while depicting characters who stumble into bizarre but very human scenarios. A great ear for how unintentionally comic much daily conversation is, with its miscues, lacunae and fixations on the mundane and selfish. Best of all: “the vanishing twin”—a masterstroke.

Theodora Goss, the entire collection In the Forest of Forgetting. Lapidary, melancholy. Nonpareil are her ear for the deep rhythm of language (perhaps a result of her multilingual upbringing) and her practiced attention to other texts.

Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, “The Man Made Only of Straight Lines: A Fable,” in Neon #19 (2009). Read the interview with him in the same issue.

Julianne Lynch, “Caged,” in Lit #15-16 (Winter/Spring, 2009). Another re-telling of Hansel & Gretel, this one taking place in and above a shop selling Bengali sweets. “She likes that Mrs. Banerjee thinks she’s German. She is German, but she likes that Mrs. Banerjee thinks it explains every last thing about her.” There’s a real kick in the end.

Gemma Files, “Marya Nox,” in Lovecraft Unbound. I await her first novel, A Book of Tongues, out spring 2010 from Chizine Publications.

Nalo Hopkinson, “Something to Hitch Meat To,” in her collection Skin Folk (which, yes, now stretches our time constraints unbearably, having been published way back in 2001, but the canary keeps singing the song in the story: “Tain’t no sin, Take off your skin, And dance around in your bones.”) I love Hopkinson’s ability to capture dialogue –I feel like I am eavesdropping. Her pointed humor, the glimpses of rue. Seriously creepy at key points—reminds me of Bradbury.

Veronica Schanoes, “Rats,” in Interfictions. No one writes like this about this. (Elizabeth Hand is perhaps a neighbor, but Schanoes has her own voice; reminds me a little of PJ Harvey, if Harvey wrote short stories.) See also her “The Regime of Austerity” in Strange Horizons (Oct. 19, 2009).

Vandana Singh, “The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet,” originally in Trampoline (2003), included as the title story in a collection published in 2008. “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” for a new generation.

Alaya Dawn Johnson, “The Score,” in Interfictions 2. Best use of paranoid e-mail strings I have read. Fortunately, what Johnson writes is not real. (Is it?) Also recommended: “A Song to Greet the Sun,” in Fantasy Magazine (Oct. 26, 2009).

Erzebet YellowBoy, “Moonstone” in Mythic (2006). Also her “Waiting at the Window,” in Electric Velocipede # 14 (Spring, 2008).

Jesse Bullington, “The Bear and the Sea,” Chizine # 40. (I look forward to reading his first novel, The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart, out this year.) Not for the faint-hearted or those wedded to a sunny view of life.

Tara Mantel, “Confessions,” in The Gettysburg Review (Autumn, 2008). “I watch the dead, but not in the way you might think: that is, as spirits, as cold-cloud entities hovering in the corners of rooms said to be haunted, or as they appear in horror films—gray-blue zombies hobbling rancidly down abandoned urban streets or in moonlit cornfields. Rather, I watch the ni of my old and sick ones break down and lose its vitality. I watch until the ni cannot keep wrong thoughts away, until they swirl down from the mind to the soul, already hollowed, as if awaiting them.”

Dicky Murphy, “The Magician’s Umbrella,” in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet #24 (July, 2009). Made me burst out laughing—this guy is funny. His first published story. We want more.

Haddayr Copley-Woods, “Dust,” in Flytrap # 8 (Nov. 2007—and, alas, Flytrap is no more). Retelling Genesis, as perhaps it should be or have been.

Hal Duncan, “The Tower of Morning’s Bones,” in Paper Cities. A madcap wordsmith—stream of consciousness run through Jack Vance’s blender.

Bipin Aurora, “My Father is Investigated by the Authorities,” in Ep;phany (Fall/Winter, 2009-’10). “Kafkaesque” for sure, but not in a hackneyed way. An echo of the singer of tales runs through the prose: “’ How much money did they find under the bed?’ The people were gleeful (how gleeful they looked). ‘And how much money did they find?’ ‘Money?’ ‘How much money did they find (how much, how much)—how much money did they find under the bed?’”

Donna Quattrone, “Fairy Godmothers are Everywhere, This is the Story of One,” in Cabinet des Fees # 6 (Sept., 2008). Never certain who you will meet on a bus.

Sean E. Markey, “The Spider in You,” in Strange Horizons (March 23, 2009). Though it gave me a stomach ache.

Ted Chiang, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” Fantasy & Science Fiction (Oct. 2007).

Angela Slatter, “The Juniper Tree,” in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet # 18 (June 2006).

Abby Frucht, “McGuffy’s Third Eclectic Reader,” in Memorious #13 (Oct., ’09). Another one of the stories that grabs you from the first sentence and never lets go: “The day Queen Elizabeth the First was eaten by the goat was the same day the earthquake laid waste to the public library”.

Vylar Kaftan, “Fulgurite,” Sybil’s Garage # 6 (May, 2009). Updating the unicorn-and-the-maiden story.

Svetlana Lavochkina, “Semolinian Equinox,” in Eclectica #13:1 (Jan/Feb., 2009). “Andrey feigns due awe of Nikolai Vassilievich of course, but, mumbling unintelligibly as he does, Andrey still knows for sure that his mark will not quite exactly mirror the fact that he has neither opened any book on the course programme nor seen the professor doing his main job at the pulpit, his silver tongue pouring out undiluted Middle English to the drowsing audience, too recently weaned from Mother Goose to be able to partake of swiche licour.” Down the rabbit hole.

Mary Robinette Kowal, “Evil Robot Monkey,” in The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Vol. 2 (2008). One of the most moving stories I’ve read recently. Watch for Kowal’s first novel, Shades of Milk and Honey, coming out Spring 2010.

Rachel Swirsky, “Exodus,” in Ideomancer 7:4 (Dec., 2008). An amusing take on the old werewolf-and-chickens story.

Monica Eiland, “Voices of God” in Shimmer (Autumn, 2006).

Ken Scholes, “The Boy Who Could Bend and Fall,” in Electric Velocipede # 19 (2009). I really enjoyed interviewing Ken on Lobster & Canary, loved his first two Isaak novels, look forward to the next three in the series.

Marcela Fuentes, “Cucuy,” in Blackbird 8:2 (Fall, 2009). “Mamande’s hair turned white the winter Alma went to live with her and Alma took that as a sign. If the sight of Cucuy could diminish even a stalwart brick-and-mortar woman like her grandmother, Alma had been right to rinse her own eyes with holy water every night. Her diligence on this point was the only reason Alma’s hair had not turned the night her mother locked her out and she won the competition, long-standing between her cousins, of who was man enough to face down the ancestral curse of Mamande’s house, that wrathful specter, Cucuy.”

Jacqueline West, “The Wedding Gift,” in Ideomancer 8:2 (June, 2009). Cozy folkloric themes from Mitteleuropa.

K. Tempest Bradford, “Enmity,” in Electric Velocipede #17-18.

Paolo Bacigalupi, “Pump Six,” in Fantasy & Science Fiction (Sept. 2008). I was enthralled by his comments on a panel at this year’s Readercon—I think he said something like “we’re artists, which means we’re anarchists by nature.” I look forward to reading his The Windup Girl.

Paul La Farge, “The History of the History of Death,” in Conjunctions 53 (the “hybrid histories” issue).

Neil Gaiman, “An Invocation of Incuriosity,” in Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance, the Martin/Dozois-edited volume from Subterranean. I have not actually read the story yet, but I had the huge pleasure of hearing Gaiman read it to a packed house at Worldcon this summer. As someone who loves Vance’s work and Gaiman’s work, I was in heaven.

Virginia Aronson, “depersonalization,” in Literal Latte (June, 2009). How could I resist a story that starts like this? “The plan was, i would go into the hole, sit in the queen’s chair, and exit my body”. Aronson maintains the inventiveness right to the end.

Kelly Link, “The Faery Handbag,” and all the other stories in Pretty Monsters. If Link were in The New Yorker once a month, who would mind?

Elizabeth Bear, “The Horrid Glory of Its Wings,” in this month (with a striking illustration by John Jude Palencar). Not a gratuitous word here, and the overall effect moves the heart.

Marie Brennan, “Letter Found in a Chest Belonging to the Marquis de Montseraille, Following the Death of that Worthy Individual,” in Abyss & Apex # 29 (First Quarter, 2009). Charming, and keeps the tone just right.

Tai Dong Huai, “Heavenly,” in Reflection’s Edge (July, 2009). The power of storytelling made visible.

L. Timmel Duchamp, “Tears of Niobe,” in ParaSpheres (’06). She is also one of our best critics/commentators.

Stephanie Campisi, “The Title of this Story,” in Paper Cities. “The tram car was coated in soot from the crematorial belching of the Abattoir Towers that huddled alongside the Wynching Cemetery.” One sentence (and she has many, many more) places me instantly in this city of her imagination.

Alex Dally MacFarlane, “Snowdrops,” in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet # 22 (summer, 2008). A sort of inverted Juniper Tree. “ “Mother,’ I whispered to the wind, knowing it would carry my message to her white ears. ‘I hope you are afraid. We have only just begun.’” See too her “The Devonshire Arms,” in Clarkesworld #32 (May, ’09).

Benjamin Rosenbaum, pretty much everything in The Ant King and Other Stories. All impish, kaleidoscopic. “A Siege of Cranes.” “Other Cities.” “The Book of Jashar.”

Claude Lalumiere, the same for Objects of Worship. James Morrow’s introduction “Gods of Desire: The Erotic Theology of Claude Lalumiere” more or less sums it up.

Alex Rose, The Musical Illusionist and Other Tales. A beautifully illustrated and constructed book that mimics, glosses, and plays on Renaissance and Baroque era scientific treatises and cabinets of curiosities.

David Nickle, Monstrous Affections. A master of economical story-telling successful at raising the hairs on the back of your neck. A skewed and disturbing worldview. Thanks for sharing.

Brian Evenson, Fugue State. Another master of the unusual and the disturbing, leading us to the Burkean sublime.

Cat Rambo, Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight. “They line up before Lauranna, forty baked-clay heads atop forty bodies built of metal cylinders” (“Sugar”). “ ‘Marry me,’ the rat said. It stood upright on its back legs, its tail curled neatly around its feet. She was pretending to eat breakfast. A pot steamed on the table. She poured herself a deliberate cup of chocolate before speaking. ‘Why should I marry you?’” (“The Dead Girl’s Wedding March”).

Caitlin Kiernan, Alabaster. Another purveyor of queasy-making, shadow-edged tales. Sometimes explicit horror, yes, but often something even more sinister: normalcy that isn’t normal after all.

Steven Millhauser, Dangerous Laughter. Let this one passage stand for many: “The maker of miniatures...returned with some impatience to his work; and as he sank below the crust of the visible world, into his dazzling kingdom, he understood that he had traveled a long way from the early days, that he still had far to go, and that, from now on, his life would be difficult and without forgiveness” (“In the Reign of Harad IV”).

--- Perhaps that is the fate of all of us who fantasize and who presume to share our fantasies on paper and with paint, via the computer screen and in wood or ceramics...