Links and Notes for the Week of January 1, 2018

Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky are holding their annual State of the World conversation over at The Well. Quite worth following over the next couple of weeks, and bookmarking for reference as the world continues to continue.

Charles Stross gave the keynote speech at the 34th Chaos Communication Congress in December 2017. Transcript here. Video here. Much discussion about the idea of the corporation as artificial intelligence. As always with Stross’s blog, the comments following the transcript are well worth reading.

* At the day job, I am studying up on React.js. After learning and using many versions of jQuery, Backbone, Bootstrap, Angular, Ember, and a host of other frameworks, my emotional reaction to React can be summed up as “eh”. The ennui of the Javascript developer.

* Over at File770, we learned that Rabid Puppy ally Jonathan Del Arroz has been banned from the next WorldCon due to his extremely bad behavior and threats of disrupting the con. This is merely another in the ongoing trend of Puppy-aligned writers and fans running aground on the cold rocks of the rational, adult-behaving world.

* During a quiet moment I looked around the interwebs to see if any other countries had the misfortune of having a leader like Trump. As it turns out, there is one! Turkmenistan has the great good fortune of being led by one Gurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç Berdimuhamedow, who has recently outlawed black cars in his country, and who has had made a giant statue of himself riding a golden horse. Also he is a dictator and runs one of the most repressive regimes on the planet.

2018 Reading List

Welcome to the fourth year of the Reading List. These are all of the books I have purchased and/or read in calendar year 2018. My full list of books can be found on LibraryThing (my personal library) and GoodReads (books I own, books I have read, etc.).

January

  1. McKean, Dave and Schafer, William – The Weight of Words (Subterranean Press)
  2. Nguyen, Viet ThanThe Refugees
  3. Atwood, MargaretThe Handmaid’s Tale
  4. Walton, DavidThe Genius Plague
  5. Sterling, PhillipAnd Then Snow (Main Street Rag)
  6. Mitchell, DavidSlade House
  7. Peninsula Poets #74.1, Spring 2017 (Poetry Society of Michigan)
  8. Peninsula Poets #74.2, Fall 2017 (Poetry Society of Michigan)
  9. D’Rivera, PaquitoLetters to Yeyito (Restless Books)
  10. Simo, AnaHeartland (Restless Books)
  11. Khan, Ausma Zehanat – The Bloodprint
  12. Liu, KenThe Man who Ended History, signed, #462 of 500 (WSFA Press)
  13. Chakraborty, S.A.The City of Brass
  14. Ashton, DyrkPaternus
  15. Hines, Jim C.Terminal Alliance
  16. Law, Lucas K. and Mak, Derwin (eds.) – Where the Stars Shine (Laksa Media Groups, Inc)
  17. Tomlinson, Patrick S.The Ark (Angry Robot Books)
  18. Tomlinson, Patrick S.Trident’s Forge (Angry Robot Books)
  19. Tomlinson, Patrick S.Children of the Divide (Angry Robot Books)
  20. Sizemore, JasonFor Exposure (Apex Publications)
  21. Sizemore, JasonIrredeemable (Seventh Star Press)
  22. Apex Magazine #104
  23. Gates, Jaym and Valentinelli, Monica (eds.) – Upside Down (Apex Publications)
  24. Townsend, TracyThe Nine (Prometheus Books)
  25. Ness, MariThrough Immortal Shadows Singing (Papaveria Press)
  26. Wolfe, Navah and Parisien, Dominik (eds.) – Robots vs. Fairies (Saga Press)
  27. Hirshfield, JaneNine Gates
  28. Brown, Adrienne Marie and Imarisha, Walidah (eds.) – Octavia’s Brood (AK Press)
  29. Karastoyanov, HristoThe Same Night Awaits Us All (Open Letter Books)
  30. Music & Literature #7
  31. Music & Literature #8
  32. Freedman, Carl (ed.) – Conversations with Ursula K. Le Guin (University Press of Mississippi)
  33. Le Guin, Ursula K.The Found and the Lost (Saga Press)
  34. Le Guin, Ursula K.The Unreal and the Real (Saga Press)
  35. Foglio, Kaja and Foglio, PhilGirl Genius 16: The Incorruptible Library (Airship Entertainment)
  36. Claybourne, Zig ZagThe Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan (Narmer’s Palette)
  37. Eastern Iowa Review #3
  38. Johns, AndreasBaba Yaga (Peter Lang Publishing)

February

  1. Granta #142
  2. Stein, MelissaTerrible Blooms (Copper Canyon Press)
  3. George, JennyThe Dream of Reason (Copper Canyon Press)
  4. Nezhukumatathil, AimeeOceanic (Copper Canyon Press)
  5. Campbell, Bill and Hall, Edward Austin (eds) – Mothership: Tales From Afrofuturism and Beyond (Rosarium Publishing)
  6. Goh, Jaymee and Chng, Joyce (eds) – The Sea is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia (Rosarium Publishing)
  7. Karetnyk, Bryan (ed.) – Russian Émigré Short Stories from Bunin to Yanovsky
  8. Triantafyllou, Petros (ed.) – Art of War (Booknest.eu)
  9. Jemisin, N.K.The Obelisk Gate
  10. VanderMeer, JeffAuthority
  11. Jacobin Magazine, Issue 28 (Winter 2018)
  12. Nielsen, MadameThe Endless Summer (Open Letter Books)
  13. Kopf, AliciaBrother in Ice (And Other Stories)

March

  1. Okorafor, NnediBinti
  2. Sullivan, Susan AbelCursed: Wickedly Fun Stories (World Weaver Press)
  3. Parrish, Rhonda (ed.) – Fae (World Weaver Press)
  4. Parrish, Rhonda (ed.) – Sirens (World Weaver Press)
  5. Parrish, Rhonda (ed.) – Equus (World Weaver Press)
  6. Parrish, Rhonda (ed.) – Corvidae (World Weaver Press)
  7. Bujold, Lois McMasterPenric’s Mission, signed, #433 of 450 (Subterranean Press)
  8. Mandel, Emily St. JohnStation Eleven, signed, #588 or 750 (Subterranean Press)
  9. Reaves, Mallory and Reaves, MichaelEternity’s Wheel, signed, #485 of 500 (Subterranean Press)
  10. Armstrong, KelleyLost Souls (Subterranean Press)
  11. Blaylock, James P.River’s Edge, signed, #970 of 1000 (Subterranean Press)
  12. Silverberg, RobertThe Millennium Express (Subterranean Press)
  13. Spencer, William BrowningThe Unorthodox Dr. Draper, signed, #382 of 750 (Subterranean Press)
  14. Straub, PeterPerdido (Subterranean Press)
  15. Silverberg, RobertThe Emperor and the Maula (Subterranean Press)
  16. Shiner, LewisHeroes and Villains, signed, #436 of 750 (Subterranean Press)
  17. Lumley, BrianThe Compleat Crow (Subterranean Press)
  18. Pulphouse Fiction Magazine #0, December 2017
  19. Pulphouse Fiction Magazine #1, January 2018
  20. Schutt, ChristinePure Hollywood (And Other Stories)
  21. James, D.R.If God Were Gentle (Dos Madres Press)
  22. Bray, MarkAntifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook (Melville House Publishing)
  23. Kemper, DonnaForgive and Forgotten (Credo House Publishers)
  24. Apex Magazine #106 (March 2018)
  25. Joshi, S.T. (ed.) – Black Wings 6 (PS Publishing)

April

  1. Winn, HowardAcropolis (Propertius Press)
  2. Jemisin, N.K. – The Stone Sky
  3. Coates, Ta-NehisiA Nation Under Our Feet 1
  4. Brakefield, RussellField Recordings (Wayne State University Press)
  5. VanderMeer, Jeff – Acceptance
  6. Cleave, Sarah (ed.) – Banthology: Stories from Banned Nations (Deep Vellum Publishing)
  7. Ganieva, Alisa – Bride & Groom (Deep Vellum Publishing)
  8. Apex Magazine #107 (April 2018)
  9. Harris, Joseph – Logically Thinking (chapbook)
  10. Harris, Joseph – Speak Up! (chapbook)
  11. McSweeney’s #52
  12. Ugresic, DubravkaFox (Open Letter Books)
  13. Bat-Ami, Miriam – Measuring the Marigolds (Caffeinated Press)
  14. Ono, Masatsugu – Lion Cross Point (Two Lines Press)
  15. Two Lines #28
  16. Scalzi, John – Head On
  17. Willis, Connie – I Met a Traveler in an Antique Land (Subterranean Press)
  18. Lovecraft, H.P. – The Illustrated Call of Cthulhu (Flesk Publications)
  19. Mignola, Mike – Hellboy: Into the Silent Sea, Studio Edition (Flesk Publications)
  20. Peninsula Poets #75.1 (Spring 2018)
  21. Vodolazkin, EugeneLaurus (Oneworld Publications)

May

  1. Ward, Jesmyn (ed.) – The Fire This Time
  2. Vollmann, William T.No Immediate Danger
  3. Bacigalupi, PaoloThe Alchemist (Subterranean Press)
  4. Kuznia, Yanni (ed.) – A Fantasy Medley 3 (Subterranean Press)
  5. Hilbig, WolfgangThe Tidings of the Trees (Two Lines Press)
  6. Pulphouse Fiction Magazine #2, April 2018
  7. Mandanipour, ShahriarMoon Brow (Restless Books)
  8. Fresán, RodrigoThe Bottom of the Sky (Open Letter Books)

June

  1. Voices 2018
  2. Shishkin, MikhailCalligraphy Lessons (Deep Vellum Publishing)
  3. VanderMeer, Ann and VanderMeer, Jeff (eds) – Sisters of the Revolution (PM Press)
  4. Vollmann, William T.No Good Alternative
  5. Bulgakov, MikhailThe Master and Margarita
  6. Russian Literature Triquarterly #9 (Spring 1974)
  7. Carruth, HaydenScrambled Eggs & Whiskey (Copper Canyon Press)
  8. Le Guin, UrsulaSixty Odd (Shambhala Publications)
  9. Gaiman, NeilFragile Things
  10. Gaiman, Neil – Sandman: Overture (Vertigo Comics)
  11. de Jesus, Noelle Q. and Katigbak-Lacuesta, Mookie (eds.) – Fast Food Fiction Delivery (Anvil Publishing, Inc)
  12. Realuyo, BinoThe Gods We Worship Live Next Door (University of Utah Press)
  13. Malonzo, MervinTabi Po #1 (Visprint, Inc)
  14. Malonzo, Mervin – After Lambana (Vistaprint, Inc)
  15. Chacon, Sasha PimentelInsides She Swallowed (West End Press)
  16. Donoso, Isaac (ed.) Boxer CodexVibal Foundation
  17. Hagedorn, JessicaThe Gangster of Love
  18. Dunbar-Ortiz, RoxanneLoaded (City Lights Books)
  19. Giroux, Henry A.American Nightmare (City Lights Books)
  20. Reyes, Barbara JaneInvocation to Daughters (City Lights Books)
  21. Meltzer, David (eds) – San Francisco Beats: Talking with the Poets (City Lights Books)
  22. Lewis, Penelope and Page, Ra (eds.) – Spindles: Stories from the Science of Sleep (Comma Press)
  23. Depestre, Rene – Hadriana in All My Dreams (Akashic Books)
  24. Bakewell, SarahAt the Existentialist Cafe (Other Press)
  25. Abdurraqib, Hanif – The Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us (Two Dollar Radio)
  26. Sax, Sam – Madness
  27. Ferlinghetti, Lawrence – A Coney Island of the Mind, 50th Anniversary Edition (New Directions Press)
  28. Coval, Kevin, Lansana, Quraysh Ali, and Marshall, Nate (eds.) – The Breakbeat Poets (Haymarket Books)

July

  1. Lange, NorahPeople in the Room (And Other Stories)
  2. Apex Magazine #109, June 2018
  3. Hong, XiaoMa Bo’Le’s Second Life (Open Letter Books)
  4. PEN America #21 – Mythologies
  5. Stephenson, Neal and Gallard, Nicole – The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.
  6. Gleason, Rachel – New Kind of Rebellion
  7. Yang, Jy – The Black Tides of Heaven
  8. Yang, Jy – The Read Threads of Fortune
  9. Singh, Vandara – Ambiguity Machines (Small Beer Press)
  10. Erdrich, Heid E (ed.) – New Poets of Native Nations (Graywolf Press)
  11. Womack, Ytasha L. – Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-fi and Fantasy Culture (Lawrence Hill Books)
  12. Goncharov, IvanOblomov
  13. Arendt, HannahThe Origins of Totalitarianism
  14. Poirer, AgnèsLeft Bank

August

  1. Yesenin, Sergei – Selected Poems
  2. Mandelstam, Osip – Voronezh Notebooks (New York Review Books)
  3. Turgenev, Ivan – First Love and Other Stories (Oxford University Press)
  4. Mayakovsky, Vladimir – Selected Poems (Northwestern University Press)
  5. Watts, Peter – The Freeze-Frame Revolution (Tachyon Publishing)
  6. Haight, Ian – Celadon (Unicorn Press)
  7. Roanhorse, Rebecca – Trail of Lightning
  8. Granta #144
  9. Apex Magazine #110
  10. Salvage Magazine #5
  11. Brace, KristinFence, Patio, Blessed Virgin (Finishing Line Press)
  12. Ólafsson, BragiNarrator (Open Letter Books)

Issues: Preamble

Before I dive into the mosh pit of American and worldwide events I feel it is important to state my starting position. This will provide context for my positions on topics like politics, religion, economics, environmentalism, and so on.

I am a straight Caucasian male. I was born in June of 1969, which makes me a member of Generation X. Politically, I am a hodge-podge of liberal, socialist, anarchist and Green. Religiously I am predominantly Buddhist, with a strong dash of Taoism and sprinklings of Eastern Orthodox mysticism. I have a college degree and a good job as a programmer. My life is stable enough for me to occasionally feel genuinely bored.

As a straight white dude I am overwhelmingly on the side of hegemony in the United States. Every benefit it is possible to accrue simply by being born white and straight and a dude, I have accrued. In the past twenty years and eight jobs I have only *really* had to fill out a resume once. The only way I could more closely hew to the current odious version of the American Dream would be for me to be conservative and Christian.

Those last two points? Never gonna happen.

I recognize how privileged my life is, and how little I have had to work, comparatively, to make it so. The system is set up specifically for people like me, and specifically against people who are not like me. And that fact nauseates me.

As a nerdy kid in a small farm town I was bullied regularly. Not badly, compared to the suicide-inducing standards of today, but consistently. That led directly to my lifelong practice of martial arts, and to my lifelong–and steadily increasing–hatred of bullies and bullying. For the purpose of any discussion along those lines, I will define bullying simply as punching down from a position of strength. And since this is my blog, I will be the sole determiner in these discussions as to what constitutes punching down.

To go along with that definition, I also have three general rules or guidelines or aphorisms that I try to keep front-and-center:

  1. There is no such thing as an over-reaction to being bullied.
  2. In any particular situation, if you take the side of hegemony, the only direction you can punch is down.
  3. When in doubt, err on the side of compassion.

I agree that the third point is incongruous with the first two. So be it. I contain multitudes. And sometimes pie.

2017 Reading List

Same as the 2016 reading list. This are all of the books and journals acquired/read by Yours Truly in the 2017 calendar year.

January

  1. Suah, BaeRecitation (Deep Vellum)
  2. Klougart, JosefineOf Darkness (Deep Vellum)
  3. Manson, MarkThe Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck
  4. Blasim, Hassan (ed). – Iraq + 100 (Comma Press UK)
  5. The Long List Anthology vol. 2 (Diabolical Plots LLC)
  6. More, ThomasUtopia
  7. Harrison, JimRepublican Wives (novella)
  8. Žižek, SlavojEvent
  9. Volodine, AntoineRadiant Terminus (Open Letter Books)
  10. Chopra, SerenaIC (Horse Less Press)
  11. Anderson, StephanieLands of Yield (Horse Less Press)

February

  1. Athitakis, MarkThe New Midwest (Belt Publishing)
  2. Atkinson, Scott (ed) – Happy Anyway: A Flint Anthology (Belt Publishing)
  3. Wolin, Sheldon S.Democracy Incorporated
  4. Thompson, Hunter S.Fear and Loathing On the Campaign Trail ’72
  5. Thompson, Hunter S.The Great Shark Hunt
  6. Thompson, Hunter S.Generation of Swine
  7. Thompson, Hunter S.Songs of the Doomed
  8. Thompson, Hunter S.Better Than Sex
  9. Granta #138: Journeys
  10. Du Bois, W.E.B.The Souls of Black Folk (Restless Books)
  11. Weir, AndyThe Martian
  12. Aira, CésarThe Proof (And Other Stories)
  13. Dick, Philip K. – The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick
  14. Noll, João GilbertoAtlantic Hotel (Two Lines Press)
  15. Two Lines, Issue 26
  16. Harrison, JimA Really Big Lunch

March

  1. Eco, UmbertoThe Name of the Rose
  2. Xue, CanFrontier (Open Letter Books)
  3. England, AndreaOther Geographies (Creative Justice Press)
  4. Robinson, Kim StanleyNew York 2140
  5. Hines, Jim C.Revisionary
  6. Sterling, BrucePirate Utopia (Tachyon Publications)
  7. Castillo, AnaPeel My Love Like an Onion
  8. Castillo, AnaBlack Dove (Feminist Press)
  9. Blackburn, PaulThe Collected Poems (Persea Books)
  10. Castillo, AnaWatercolor Women Opaque Men (Northwestern University Press)
  11. Li HeGoddesses, Ghosts and Demons: The Collected Poems of Li He
  12. Kicknosway, FayeWho Shall Know Them?
  13. Vallejo, CésarPoemas Humanos

April

  1. Condrescu, AndreiAlien Candor (Black Sparrow Press)
  2. Cope, David (ed) – Song of the Owashtanong (Ridgeway Press)
  3. May, JamaalHum (Alice James Books)
  4. Wright, C.D.The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, a Wedding in St. Roch, the Big Box Store, the Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All (Copper Canyon Press)
  5. Poetry Magazine, April 2017
  6. Pitol, SergioThe Magician of Vienna (Deep Vellum Publishing)
  7. Gnarr, JónThe Outlaw (Deep Vellum Publishing)
  8. Adams, John Joseph (ed.) – Cosmic Powers
  9. Conversations with Paul Bowles (University Press of Mississippi)
  10. Conversations with Chinua Achebe (University Press of Mississippi)
  11. Patterson, Jorge ZepedaMilena, or The Most Beautiful Femur in the World (Restless Books)
  12. Fresán, RodrigoThe Invented Part (Open Letter Books)
  13. Garréta, AnneNot One Day (Deep Vellum Publishing)

May

  1. VanderMeer, JeffBorne
  2. Springer, FilipHistory of a Disappearance (Restless Books)
  3. Jaeggy, FleurI Am the Brother of XX (And Other Stories)
  4. Segaloff, NatA Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison (NESFA Press) #165 of 500
  5. Dostoevsky, FyodorCrime and Punishment
  6. Dostoevsky, FyodorDemons
  7. Jussawalla, Feroza and Dasenbrock, Reed Way (eds) – Interviews with Writers of the Post-Colonial World (University Press of Mississippi)
  8. Granta #139
  9. Miéville, ChinaOctober
  10. James, D.R.Split Level (Finishing Line Press)
  11. McGookey, KathleenHeart in a Jar (White Pine Press)

June

  1. Carroll, JimLiving at the Movies
  2. Rulfo, JuanThe Golden Cockerel & Other Writings (Deep Vellum Publishing)
  3. Nowicki, WojciechSalki (Open Letter Books)
  4. Glossolalia, Issue 3
  5. Jodorowsky, AlejandroWhere the Bird Sings Best (Restless Books)
  6. Martin, George R.R.The World of Ice and Fire
  7. Hopler, JayThe Abridged History of Rainfall (McSweeney’s)
  8. Walsh, JoannaWorlds from the Word’s End (And Other Stories)
  9. Laurel, Juan Tomás ÁvilaThe Gurugu Pledge (And Other Stories)
  10. NDiaye, MarieMy Heart Hemmed In (Two Lines Press)
  11. The 3288 Review, Issue 2.4 (Caffeinated Press)

July

  1. Schafer, William (ed.) – Best of Subterranean (Subterranean Press)
  2. Alexie, ShermanThe Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
  3. Alexie, ShermanReservation Blues
  4. Alexie, ShermanYou Don’t Have to Say You Love Me
  5. Oliver, MaryWhy I Wake Early
  6. Open Palm Print #7
  7. Eggers, DaveZeitoun
  8. Hammond, Rose L. – Just a Poor Country Girl (Run With It)
  9. LeBel, SteveThe Universe Builders: Bernie and the Lost Girl (Argon Press)
  10. LeBel, SteveThe Universe Builders: Bernie and the Putty (Argon Press)
  11. Davis, JeanThe Last God
  12. McClure, Patricia M.Losing a Hero to Alzheimer’s
  13. Payne, J. ScottThe Green Hell (Argon Press)
  14. Compton, Deanna J.Freecurrent: The Legacy (In God’s Hands Publishing)
  15. The Best of McSweeney’s (McSweeney’s)
  16. Torres, FernandaThe End (Restless Books)
  17. Bergsson, Guðbergur – Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller (Open Letter Books)

August

  1. Dickie, TenzinOld Demons, New Deities (O/R Books)
  2. Carroll, JonathanThe Crow’s Dinner (Subterranean Press)
  3. Sterling, BruceHeavy Weather
  4. Sterling, BruceGlobalhead
  5. Russell, Mary DoriaThe Sparrow
  6. Blas de Roblès, Jean-MarieIsland of Point Nemo (Open Letter Books)
  7. Kenny, TimothyFar Country (Bottom Dog Press)
  8. Steadman, RalphExtinct Boids
  9. Steadman, RalphNextinction
  10. Shrestha, RomioGoddesses of the Celestial Gallery (Mandala Publishing)
  11. YossA Planet for Rent (Restless Books)

September

  1. Hernández, CarlosThe Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria (Rosarium Publishing)
  2. Merwin, W.S.The Shadow of Sirius (Copper Canyon Press)
  3. Merwin, W.S.The Essential W.S. Merwin (Copper Canyon Press)
  4. Two Lines, issue 27
  5. The Paris Review, issue 222
  6. Powers, TimMedusa’s Web; signed #462 of 474 (Subterranean Press)
  7. Gallagher, StephenThe Authentic William James; signed #279 of 1000 (Subterranean Press)
  8. Carroll, JonathanThe Crow’s Dinner; signed #312 of 1000 (Subterranean Press)
  9. Egan, GregThe Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred; signed #669 of 1000 (Subterranean Press)
  10. Grant, MiraFinal Girls; signed #1161 of 1250 (Subterranean Press)
  11. Bujold, Lois McMasterPenric and the Shaman  (Subterranean Press)
  12. Kiernan, Caitlin R.Dear Sweet Filthy World (Subterranean Press)
  13. Resnick, MikeVoyages; signed #911 of 1000 (Subterranean Press)
  14. Reynolds, AlastairBeyond the Aquila Rift (Subterranean Press)
  15. Shepard, LuciusFive Autobiographies and a Fiction (Subterranean Press)
  16. Silverberg, RobertEarly Days; signed #626 of 1000 (Subterranean Press)
  17. Pugliese, NicolaMalacqua (And Other Stories)
  18. Boullosa, CarmenHeavens on Earth (Deep Vellum Publishing)
  19. Lahens, YanickMoonbath (Deep Vellum Publishing)
  20. Brandt, Per AageIf I Were a Suicide Bomber (Open Letter Books)

October

  1. Suah, BaehNorth Station (Open Letter Books)
  2. Neruda, PabloBook of Twilight (Copper Canyon Press)
  3. Chamoiseau, PatrickTexaco
  4. Bishop, K.J.The Etched City
  5. Akhmatova, AnnaSelected Poems
  6. Navarro, ElviraA Working Woman (Two Lines Press)
  7. Unnikrishnan, DeepakTemporary People (Restless Books)
  8. Cruz, Victor HernandezRed Beans (Coffee House Press)
  9. Michigan Quarterly, vol. 56 No. 2
  10. McSweeney’s #50
  11. Jemisen, N.K.The Fifth Season
  12. VanderMeer, JeffAnnihilation
  13. Oomen, Anne-MariePulling Down the Barn (Wayne State University Press)
  14. Cooper, WynPostcards from the Interior (BOA Editions, Ltd.)
  15. Cooper, WynChaos is the new Calm (BOA Editions, Ltd.)
  16. Holden, CraigThe Jazz Bird
  17. The Sutra of Hui Neng (H.K. Buddhist Book Distributor)
  18. Dobbs, David & Ober, RichardThe Northern Forest
  19. Watts, AlanPsychotherapy East & West
  20. Kapleau, PhilipThe Three Pillars of Zen
  21. Lopez, Donald S. (ed.) – Religions of Tibet in Practice
  22. Baghramian, Maria (ed.) – Modern Philosophy of Language
  23. Liu, Ken (ed.) – Invisible Planets
  24. Ward, JesmynSing, Unburied, Sing
  25. Schnurr, RyanIn the Watershed (Belt Publishing)
  26. McLelland, EdwardHow to Speak Midwestern (Belt Publishing)
  27. Nickels, Ashley and Vilella, Dani (eds) – Grand Rapids Grassroots: An Anthology (Belt Publishing)
  28. Sedegy, Jason (ed.) The Akron Anthology (Belt Publishing)
  29. Cleveland Neighborhood Guidebook (Belt Publishing)
  30. Piiparinen, Richey and Trubek, Anne (eds.) – The Cleveland Anthology (Belt Publishing)
  31. Atkinson, Scott (ed.) – Happy Anyway: A Flint Anthology (Belt Publishing)
  32. Boyd, Eric (ed.) – The Pittsburgh Anthology (Belt Publishing)
  33. Clark, Anna (ed.) – A Detroit Anthology (Belt Publishing)
  34. Foley, AaronThe Detroit Neighborhood Guidebook (Belt Publishing)
  35. Foley, AaronHow to Live In Detroit Without Being a Jackass (Belt Publishing)
  36. Bayne, Martha (ed.) – Rust Belt Chicago: An Anthology (Belt Publishing)
  37. McQuade, Zan (ed.) – The Cincinnati Anthology (Belt Publishing)
  38. Biehl, Jody K. (ed.) – Right Here, Right Now: The Buffalo Anthology (Belt Publishing)
  39. Marino, Jacqueline and Miller, Will (eds.) – Car Bombs to Cookie Tables: The Youngstown Anthology (Belt Publishing)

November

  1. Abani, ChrisThe Face: Cartography of the Void (Restless Books)
  2. Piglia, RicardoThe Diaries of Emilio Renzi, Formative Years (Restless Books)
  3. Keni, NiyatiEsperanza Street (And Other Stories)
  4. Quin, AnnThe Unmapped Country (And Other Stories)
  5. McDermott, John J (ed). – The Writings of William James (University of Chicago Press)
  6. McPhee, JohnDraft No. 4
  7. Subterranean Press Bibliography 1995 – 2015 (Subterranean Press)
  8. Hilbig, WolfgangOld Rendering Plant (Two Lines Press)
  9. Nielsen, JoanesThe Brahmadells (Open Letter Books)
  10. Diaz, Junot (ed.) – Global Dystopias (Boston Review)
  11. Long List Anthology vol. I
  12. McClung, Laren (ed.) – Inheriting the War
  13. Stoppard, TomPlays 5

December

  1. NaivoBeyond the Rice Fields (Restless Books)
  2. Silveira, Maria JoseHer Mother’s Mother’s Mother and Her Daughters (Open Letter Books)
  3. McSweeney’s #51

Drowning 2016 in the Bathtub

Events good and bad happen all the time and follow no particular cosmic order, but the calendar allows us to group them into convenient clusters around which we can allow narrative to congeal. A great many influential artists of all genres passed away during 2016. They were perhaps particularly influential for people my age because the artists were at the height of their power when we fans were at our most receptive ages. I became a fan of David Bowie, Prince, Umberto Eco, Jim Harrison, Elie Wiesel, Carrie Fisher, Harper Lee and Leonard Cohen all in about a ten year period.

This is a small sampling of the “notable deaths” of 2016. These were the ones who had the greatest emotion impact for me. Though the circumstances of their deaths varied, none of them were young, and none of them died in any unusual fashion. The world was better for their contributions, and though I never met any of them–though Jim Harrison glared at me briefly at a book signing in 2009–I miss their presence in the world.

That being said:

2016 sucked, and I am glad it is over. Politically it marked a gigantic step backward as bigots and bullies and dominionists convinced foolish people to vote for a fool. And the fool will be president for the next four years, or until he is impeached or otherwise loses his office. I would cheer wholeheartedly at the prospect of Trump losing the office before his term is up, were it not for the fact that Pence is markedly worse. All possible forms of Christian dominionist rule of this country are no different from fascism.

It is pure coincidence that all of these notable people died in the same year that Donald Trump was elected. But they did all happen in a single calendar year, and the narrative that has built around 2016 is that it sucked. Hardcore. If our calendar went from, say, November 1 to October 31, we could say that 2016 sucked and then 2017 got worse in its first week. It would not change the level of suckage. And since one of the first notable planned events for 2017 is Trump’s inauguration, we can safely assume that 2017 is going to totally blow chunks.

Pinning the bad mojo on 2016 is voodoo of a sort. When 2016 recedes into the past it will take its load of shit with it, and leave the slate clear for a fresh start in 2017. We are human beings. Going with the flow of narrative is what gives us meaning in our day to day lives. If 2016 ending means things will get better, then so be it. There’s a reason placebos work so well. That they are placebos does not diminish their importance or their potency.

With about six hours remaining in 2016 (EST) and the positive feedback loop of zeitgeist in full effect, now would be an excellent time to make some New Year’s resolutions. For me, it will be a pledge–to the best of my ability I will protect those who are being punched down upon. And if you are on the side of hegemony on any particular issue, and are punching down on those not, I will do my level best to make sure you have a very bad time of it.

Selah.

Issues: Introduction and Apologia

Rather than constrain myself to snarky memes on Facebook and the (regrettably) unmoderated comments sections of the various news websites, I will post my position on the Various Issues which make up the Frankenstein’s beast that is a “political position”. These will be wide-ranging and subject to updates as I clarify my views based on new information. I will contemplate things like gun rights, empire, capitalism, politics, religion, energy, sundry current events, technology and so forth. I make no pretense that this is objective work. I also make no pretense that this is scholarly work. These are my views based on my life experiences.

  1. Preamble

All Media is Mainstream Media

The title of this post sums up everything which is to follow.

All media sources which have internet access are mainstream. Full stop. Any story which appears virally on Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr or Instagram or any of the other click-bait aggregators, even if the original outlet was created only an hour earlier, is at that moment mainstream.

Post 2016 election, much hay has been made of “fake news” and how to distinguish the real from the unreal. Without falling into the rabbit hole of implicit vs. explicit bias–which is about as useful in this context as debating free will vs. determinism–let us agree that there is news which is deliberately false in its entirety, and news which is true from a certain point of view.

The news which is deliberately false is that in which the headline serves as click-bait, ESPECIALLY when the headline in question imparts no information about the content of the story. These are headlines which are in the form of a question, or are followed by a listicle. These are headlines meant to drive traffic rather than impart information. With this filter in place approximately 75% of all social media noise can immediately be ignored. For the rest, the next filter requires a little more thought.

Deliberately false news also includes everything which falls under the category of “opinion” or “editorial”. Here we can safely dismiss everything from Fox News and Breitbart, and all right-wing hatriot hives like World Net Daily, InfoWars, The Blaze, Focus on the Family, StormFront, Red State, and so forth.

This is not to say the left-leaning news and information sites don’t have similar problems, but “the liberal media”, to the extent that it ever existed, is responsible for only a tiny fraction of all noise generated by American outlets.

Oh: Fair warning–my political sensibilities fall fairly far to the left by American standards, which by rational world standards would make me ever so slightly to the left of center on most issues.

The entirety of mainstream American political though is skewed severely to the right side of the global political spectrum. Our Democrats are, in the main, to the right of where Reagan stood when we were engaged in nuclear brinkmanship with the USSR. Our Republicans are somewhere far down a slope along which lies plutocracy, corporatocracy, neo-feudalism, Dominionism and straight up reactionary sensibilities. And the Democrats are fast on their heels. Thus the center of American political conversation is substantially to the right of center. And thus any “compromise” between political parties moves the entire local spectrum farther to the right.

All of which is to say, any American media outlet which deliberately brands itself as “conservative” can be dismissed out of hand. The output of these outlets can be ignored for the same reason that fish have no words for “water.”

With these filters in place, recognize that whatever news media remains is driven first and foremost by the profit motive, and (distantly) second by journalistic integrity. This is a subtle form of regulatory capture which has always existed, but came to prominence when the Fairness Doctrine was revoked during the Reagan presidency.

So when someone on social media posts a story which includes a headline hinting of some grand conspiracy of silence, it can be safely assumed that the originator of the underlying story or meme is simply looking for attention. Or a quick buck. Not that there is much difference between the two.

Sometime soon, I’ll discuss the difference between “media” and “journalism.”

Implicit and Explicit Boundaries

We now live, as some of the snarkier pundits would have it, it a post-truth world. Given the sorting of world views which led to the recent election results I can’t find a specific argument to counter that statement. However, I would call it incomplete. The world isn’t so much post-truth as post-narrative, or even post-objectivity.

All of the dominant narratives are collapsing under the weight of the democratization of information. No new visions of the future have yet sprung up. Or rather, too many visions of the future have sprung up, and no one or few of these has asserted itself sufficiently to allow the random disconnected threads of attention coalesce.

This is an oversimplified view of an extremely complex process which has been ongoing since the mobile phone – which is in reality a pocket computer – became the dominant means by which humans access information and communicate with each other. Free access to information untethers people from the narratives into which they were born and allows a new kind of tribalism based on common beliefs or aesthetics. A tribe need lo longer be bound to proximity in a three-dimensional or even a four-dimensional space. Family roles need no longer be predicated on blood relations.

What we are seeing now, and have been seeing for the past two decades, is the exploration of boundaries which we did not even know existed at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And we are discovering exactly how arbitrary were the tacit boundaries which have guided and constrained the evolution of civilizations and societies over the past ten thousand years.

On Narrative, and the Threading Thereof

Many years ago I read Interface by Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George. It was a decent techno-thriller, most notable for being written in part by Neal Stephenson. In it was a brief passage explaining how the substrate of American politics had evolved over the years:

In the 1700s, politics was all about ideas. But Jefferson came up with all the good ideas. In the 1800s, it was all about character. But no one will ever have as much character as Lincoln and Lee. For much of the 1900s it was about charisma. But we no longer trust charisma because Hitler used it to kill Jews and JFK used it to get laid and send us to Vietnam…We are in the Age of Scrutiny. A public figure must withstand the scrutiny of the media…The President is the ultimate public figure and must stand up under ultimate scrutiny; he is like a man stretched out on a rack in the public square in some medieval shithole of a town, undergoing the rigors of the Inquisition. Like the medieval trial by ordeal, the Age of Scrutiny sneers at rational inquiry and debate, and presumes that mere oaths and protestations are deceptions and lies. The only way to discover the real truth is by the rite of the ordeal, which exposes the subject to such inhuman strain that any defect in his character will cause him to crack wide open, like a flawed diamond.

A few years after reading the book I had the good fortune to attend a signing event for Stephenson’s book Anathem. At that signing I attempted to ask him about this quote, and what he felt would be the next Age after Scrutiny. Of course I was struck dumb by fanboy nerves and couldn’t get the question out, so I never got my answer.

But, in the process of exploration and research and simply living my life here in modern America, I think I am sneaking up on an answer.

We are now in the Age of Narrative. Scrutiny became fractured fractal panopticon empowered by the extreme density of global information systems. The signal has become so ubiquitous and strong that the structure of stories breaks down under the weight of ten million self-referential and cross-connected media sources. Within this undifferentiated mass swim the billion threads of narratives, no one of any intrinsically greater value than any other. We are no longer bound to the stories into which we are born. We can choose to align ourselves to any narrative, or invent new narratives out of the pseudo-random bits of information in which we are immersed in every waking moment of our lives.

We are in the age of narrative because there is no objective overriding story by which we are compelled to live our lives. Both prediction and reminiscence have become democratized and made subjective, and if one story line proves inadequate we can easily align ourselves with another.

But thanks to the proliferation of both signal and noise, we are already nearing the end of the Age of Narrative and are seeing the first glimpses of a new tribalism, where the non-physical borders and boundaries of the last five thousand years become increasingly tenuous, and all allegiances will be by consent instead of by tradition.

And won’t that be an interesting time to be alive?