Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Essentials

A sense of play, of humour. Or nonsense. Language assembling, dissembling, describing, distorting. Lines, or words, or letters.  Absence.       Space.

Response. Replay. Revision. reVision. Conversation. Textual intercourse.

Patterns. Rhythms. Repetitions. Construction. Deconstruction. Reconstruction. Vacancies. Architecture. Archeology.

Signifiers. Signifieds. Economy. Abundance.

Either/Or/Both/And. Whatever.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Spike, creator of the alternative history webcomic Templar, Az is asking for support for her next project. The project is Poorcraft: A Comic Book Guide to Frugal Urban and Suburban Living. The book is a good idea for artists, students, writers -- anyone who might need to reduce expenses, really.

What really interests me is that this project is being done through a website called Kickstarter. For those who don't know, Kickstarter is a website where artists pitch their projects and collect donations from backers. The artist sets a goal - Spike's is $6000 - and offer rewards for donations offered. With Poorcraft, $1 gets access to a behind-the-scenes blog on the making of the book, $5 gets a pdf of the book, $10 a hardcopy, and so on, all the way to $500 securing the donor a spot on the cover of the book. If the goal is not met, no one's donations are deducted from their credit cards, and the artist can try again with a lower goal, or scrap the project.

The idea of Kickstarter is a good one; artists get funded by the public, rather than having to break through the industry doors. It enables a DIY artistry by opening avenues of promotion, allowing an artist to attract people who are interested in their art; once they donate, this public becomes vested in the project. Now, Kickstarter does require a certain amount of self-promotion; time and energy spent looking for the right audiences to pitch to, amassing patrons who care enough to throw a few dollars at a project. However, I really like the idea of having art publicly funded by interested parties, especially when the project is something that might not be possible to market through the traditional channels. The patron of arts is no longer someone rich, or some corporation trying to look community-minded, but the individual who can spare a few dollars here and there, or someone who pays for a book up-front, before it is completed. There are many artists on the internet finding new ways to support their craft; the singer Amanda Palmer wrote a long, but interesting blog post called "Virtual Crowdsurfing" about how she has made more money from self-promoting through the internet than through her record label. Amanda Palmer uses Twitter and her blog to connect with fans, to offer them conversations and performances, to arrange meetings and flash gigs, to get places to stay and pianos to practice on, and to ask for money, hold auctions, sell DVDs and t-shirts, etc.

People want to get behind art, I think. While the type of art still makes a real difference (would a book of my poetry ever be able to amass the same kind of following as music or comics? probably not, but that's okay.) all artists who spend time building or joining online communities can potentially use the medium of the internet not only to create art, but to profit from it. And that is a beautiful thing.

I await the day when Kickstarter (or a competitor) offers this kind of service to artists outside the U.S.A. I am itching to try it out.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

State of Sci-Fi

An interesting rant on io9: "Is Science Fiction Feminized Or Is It Sexist? Both."

The author writes that while many commercial venues of SF are "feminizing" their content (i won't get into the ugliness of the word "feminizing" [what the hell does that even mean?!] i don't know why there's a move away from showing SF on SF channels - cost of production maybe? - and i don't see why it's necessarily got anything to do with appealing to women), female authors are not being properly represented in anthologies and other publishing venues because the idea persists that women are not interested in science fiction. It remains a boys club because the idea continues to be bought into by corporate entities and fangroups. Women writers tend to wind up in fantasy circles, because men still dominate sci-fi.  Apparently it is easier for women to publish in fantasy/paranormal genres, and so they ultimately do.  i loved Sci-Fi growing up; but many SF authors I read ALSO wrote fantasy. Anne McCaffery is the first author that comes to mind (she was my favourite for years). I never saw the two genres as exclusive until i was older, mostly because both were regulated to the same small sections of my local library and bookstore.  So i thought that there were a great number of women writing SF; i didn't realize i wasn't supposed to like it.

Admittedly, i adore fantasy books as well. But the premises of SF novels always get me because i love science. There was a time when i thought i would pursue biology as a career (as a geneticist, or a veterinarian - i was 12 or so). Now that i study books, i've noticed that far fewer female SF writers tend to come to my attention; even Octavia Butler, who wrote SF, i'm more familiar with her fantasy work. Maybe it's time for me to look into more female SF writers - suggestions welcome in comments, if you have them.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Poet Laureate of Toronto

is Dionne Brand.  i love No Language is Neutral, a book of poetry that deals with the institutionalized racism/classism that exists within the English language, or rather, within English-speaking Canada.  Her book is often cited in linguistics textbooks that deal with varieties of English, or the idea of English as a world/international language.  It is a beautiful book. Brand is a fantastic writer.  And there's something very pleasing about the fact that a poet who has been critical of Canadian systems can still be honoured by Canadians and their institutions.

News item stolen from Bookninja.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A bit of this, a bit of that

Attention is fragmented, lately.

Currently reading:

Stephen Henighan When Words Deny the World - it says everything about CanLit that others are afraid to say. And then says a bit for, for good measure. Internal contradictions: write what you know; write the local; there is no such thing as appropriation of voice. (One of these things is not like the others . . .). Not that I necessarily disagree: authors should not be afraid to explore perspectives outside their own, but there is a particular ethical problem posed by using the voice of an ethnicity or gender other than your own. Here is where research becomes a wonderful tool for overcoming the impulse to write in stereotypes. Here is where the internet, with its multiplicity of voices, becomes an ideal forum for research.

Daphne Marlatt Ana Historic - am enjoying this book. It will probably need at least two full read-throughs in order to do it any kind of justice. Right now, i love the poetic non-linear novel. The careful cultivation of words into sentences, paragraphs, chapters. The prominence of female voices.

(right now blogger has a bright red ERROR bar across the top of my page. it seems to be disagreeing.)

Neil Gaiman The Graveyard Book - am reading online, but have reached the end of the sample. i will admit to having a prejudice against Gaiman because of the Beowulf movie; but when i began exploring his website and twitter accounts, rethought my position. Perhaps it is unfair to judge a writer based on a Hollywood production. Perhaps I was overly influenced by my academic peers/professors ranting about the inaccuracies of the film (and the first-years writing Beowulf essays based on said film rather than reading the text). Might just go to the library to reach the conclusion of The Graveyard Book - it's very endearing.

A pile of books about Creative Writing Pedagogy also are being perused, but i won't get into that.

Still need to read more of the issue of Open Letter that deals with feminism & poetics. This is where I miss my old commute - it was perfect for reading articles. i haven't quite figured out where to fit them into my new schedule, yet.

There's also The Story Of O, written by Pauline Réage (a pen name of Anne Desclos) which i'm thinking of as literary pornography (which is a loaded, but accurate, term). Although a feminist reading of the text is deeply problematic, the story itself is pretty compelling. The text deals with the idea of complete (willing?) sexual submission of a woman, and consent seems to be a ritual more than a necessity. That gives me chills; informed consent is the most important aspect of sexual freedom. So i'm slowly making my way through this book, trying to figure out how much fiction owes to reality; sure O seems content in her role, but if she were a real woman this would be wrong. Not the sex or the mutilation, but the lack of specific permission, and the cursory way in which consent is treated. It raises the question of whether it's okay to enjoy a book, knowing that it is ethically deficient. i also wonder how many people read this book as some kind of bdsm 101, and then go to an event expecting to have an experience like O, or like the men she belongs to. Then i wonder whether i have the same problem with books that are more clearly "fantasy" - if these were vampires and/or were-creatures (à la Laurell K. Hamilton) would i find it so troubling? Probably not. Should i? Maybe. i've read some reviews that call Story of O anti-woman, and O's musings on women are troubling - she sees herself as superior to other women, and men as superior to them all. The dominant women in the text only ever have control over other women. But is that because in the world of the text, the activities are financed by a club of rich men? Or is the text trying to say something about all women? If it is, i strongly disagree with the idea that all women essentially want to be dominated, or want to serve. Anything that essentialist is reducing human complexity to a ridiculous level of simplicity. In any case, i'll finish the book. i'm waiting for a moment that reveals that O was giving informed consent all along. i have a feeling i'll be disappointed.