What I Read in March 2020

I had such high hopes for March. As it turns out, existential dread and uncertainty are not conducive to good reading habits. Much easier to watch and re-watch and re-binge the myriad television shows on the various streaming services. There was one high point though – I have re-immersed myself in the writing of Roger Zelazny, who was one of the first writers whose work made me also want to be a writer. I think Zelazny and Douglas Adams (of course!) were the biggest influences on lighting in me the creative urge which, though it is not as consistent as I would like, has never gone away.

Hopefully April will provide a little more stability, or at least consistency (predictability?) around which to rebuild my reading schedule. If not, look for more short lists, and perhaps a list of those lists, in order to track them.

  1. “Fair Game” – Dick, Philip K. (The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, vol. 3)
  2. “The Hanging Stranger” – Dick, Philip K. (The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, vol. 3)
  3. “The Venus Effect” – Hill, Joseph Allen (The Long List Anthology, vol. 3)
  4. “Rain” – Shalamov, Varlam (Kolyma Stories)
  5. “By Design” – Sestanovich, Clare (The Paris Review #232)
  6. “This Mortal Mountain” – Zelazny, Roger (The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, vol. 3)
  7. “Auntie Han’s Modern Life” – Tam, Enoch (That We May Live)
  8. “Zombie Capitalism” – Buckell, Tobias (Vice)
  9. “The Man Who Loved Faioli” – Zelazny, Roger (The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, vol. 3)
  10. “Angel, Dark Angel” – Zelazny, Roger (The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, vol. 3)
  11. “The Hounds of Sorrow” – Zelazny, Roger (The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, vol. 3)
  12. “The Window Washer” – Zelazny, Roger (The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, vol. 3)
  13. “The Eve of Rumoko” – Zelazny, Roger (The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, vol. 4)

Poetry at the End of Days

Ugh. That was a week. The project I have been on for the past month crashed and burned, and I had the delightful and familiar experience of being thrown under the bus. Such is the life of a developer. The project manager was a good sort – smart, driven, creative, good ideas, but really bad with organization and communication. Thus the current view from under the bus.

A nice collection of reading material arrived this week, a combination of subscriptions, an online order, and a delivery from our superb local bookstore Books and Mortar.

On the left is the new issue of Poetry. Next to it is autobiography of a semiromantic anarchist by Monica Teresa Ortiz. On the top right is Kristin Chang’s collection Past Lives, Future Bodies.

Bottom row left is Palestine+100, a companion volume to Iraq+100, which I picked up a year or so ago. These are collections which imagine what the respective countries will be like 100 years from the catastrophic events which befell them, in the case of this book, the nakba in 1948. Lower middle is Barn 8 by Deb Olun Unferth, and bottom right is Wretchedness by Andrzej Tichy. These last two are the latest from my subscription to And Other Stories.

My girlfriend and I have adjusted to the new reality of both of us being home all the time and not being able to get out and walk around due to her recently-sprained ankle. We both have personal projects to keep us occupied, and house and kitten do take a lot of maintenance to keep them livable.

Speaking of kitten, Poe has been with us for just over three months. I think we will hit the 100 day mark on Friday, which will probably warrant its own blog post. Poe is a treasure, and her presence in the house is a wonderful stress reliever, even when she wants to be fed and entertained at 5:00 a.m. At this moment she is laying in my lap cleaning herself, sprawled across my left arm and partially tucked under my laptop. She is just too cute for words.

This past week I only read random bits of things, nothing meaningful enough to blog about. Likewise with the writing. The combination of existential uncertainty, coupled with the significant disruption to the daily routine, has diminished my ability to focus on what needs to be done. Even editing old work takes more mental energy than I currently have available.

But spring is here and the days are longer, warmer and brighter, and though the amount of time I have available hasn’t really changed, deep down in my bones I feel more energized.

The Marchest March that Ever Marched

Well that was a hell of a month. Not much read, not much acquired.

On the left is the new issue of Dreamforge, which tends to the hopeful and uplifting, which is much needed here in the Nth week of the quarantine. On the right is The Ides of Octember, A Pictorial Bibliography of Roger Zelazny. I picked this one up as a companion to the six-volume Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny. In the middle are the rewards from Dyrk Ashton‘s Kickstarter to release a hardcover version of his wonderful book Paternus: Rise of Gods. Dyrk is one of the first people I met once once I became a regular attendee at ConFusion. He is an excellent writer and a wonderful human being. He opened my eyes to the vast world of self publishing, which I admit I had not paid much attention to. The opportunities there are boundless.

In reading, not much has happened lately. I am still working my way through Rita Indiana’s wonderful Tentacle. I also pulled Thomas Piketty‘s Capital in the Twenty-First Century and Sheldon Wolin‘s Democracy Incorporated off the shelf and am about a chapter into each. In particular I can only handle a little of the Wolin at a time, as I find myself beset by fits of rage about once a page.

As for writing, I haven’t accomplished much since the early parts of March. Too many distraction and an increasing number of vicissitudes have kept that part of my brain too occupied and distracted to put anything meaningful on paper. In any event, once we come out the other side of the other side of the COVID-19 season, I expect the world, publishing and otherwise, will look much different than it did a month ago.

Quarantined, Pls. Send Books!

Here at the end of the first week of our quarantine, two books made it over the wall, across the moat, and through the door of Library of Winkelman Abbey.

On the left is the new issue of the Boston Review, and the first of my newly-acquired subscription. They publish some seriously good stuff, and I am looking forward to digging in to this issue. On the right is the latest from Two Lines Press/The Center for the Art of Translation, Lake Like a Mirror, by Ho Sok Fong, which is only the second book from Malaysia in my collection.

I’ve been collecting works in translation for a while now. According to LibraryThing I have 197 books in translation, from 60 countries. The plurality, of course, come from Russia. At some point I may do a post about them, but for now, they serve to help alleviate the slowly growing feeling of isolation and cabin fever.

Poe feels it too. This afternoon my partner and I went for a walk around the neighborhood just to give the cat some alone time. I think she appreciated it.

Books for Social Distancing

As of a few days ago COVID-19 has made landfall here in West Michigan, so we are all hunkering down for a long haul of avoiding significant social interaction. Fortunately I have several hundred books in the house that I have not read. They should last me a couple of weeks. I also have a job where I can work from home so, until the toilet paper runs out, I have no real reason to interact with other human beings beyond my wonderful girlfriend. She is a school teacher, so she will be hanging around the neighborhood for the next three weeks until the schools reopen.

On the left in the above photo is the latest issue of the superb Rain Taxi, because of which I will undoubtedly order several new books in the upcoming months. On the right is the latest delivery from Deep Vellum, Girls Lost by Jessica Schiefauer. 2020 is starting out with a much slower acquisition rate than the previous several years, and for that I am kind of happy, as I was beginning to feel the pressure of insufficient shelving. I mean, I still feel that pressure, but it is not an immediate concern.

In reading news, I am hopping randomly through volumes III and IV of The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, published by NESFA Press. These stories are just wonderful! I have been a Zelazny fan since I first read Nine Princes in Amber back in the early 1980s.

I am also reading Tentacle by Rita Indiana, one of the books from my subscription to And Other Stories. One chapter in and I am fully hooked.

My writing game has been significantly off these past few weeks so I am switching over fully to editing several short stories. I have four so far which I think will be worthy of publishing.

Assuming there is such a thing as publishing as we work our way further through this very stupid timeline.

Since you’ve made it to the end of this post, here is a picture of Poe.

 

Poe Dreams of Paris

This week Poe dreams of more cultured climes as she browses and also nibbles on the new issue of The Paris Review, which was the only addition to the Library of Winkelman Abbey this week.

I finally made it to the end of Sayak Valencia’s superb Gore Capitalism. It was a difficult read, not because of the writing, but because of the subject, and also because I have not had to put my head into the space of deep theory in a long time.

Between Gore Capitalism, Jackie Wang’s Carceral Capitalism and Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, I believe I now have the proper perspective to begin writing a series of Lovecraftian horror stories where the eldritch abomination is actually the free market.

In other words, they will mostly be non-fiction.

What I Read in February 2020

February was a fairly good reading month though I was sidetracked by a long weekend away, some family stuff, and the act and aftermath of getting the kitten fixed. Turns out that the drugs they use to anesthetize cats for surgery sometimes turns them into psychotic Tasmanian Devil beasts for about a day.

Most of the short fiction for February came from three sources – The Long List Anthology volumes 3 and 4, and Kolyma Stories by Varlam Shalamov. The rest were random picks from journals, both print and online.

I am also pushing through to the end of Sayak Valencia’s Gore Capitalism, which I started reading back in January. I hit a point where I had to put it down, and fully expected that to be the end of it, but there was something about the book that just would not let go of me, so I picked it up again and am going to try to get to the end in the next few days.

Here is the list of short prose I read in the month of February 2020.

  1. “Waiting Out the End of the World at Patty’s Place Cafe” – Kritzer, Naomi (The Long List Anthology, vol. 4)
  2. “Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue” – Anders, Charlie Jane (The Long List Anthology, vol. 4)
  3. “Confessions of a Con Girl” – Wolven, Nick (The Long List Anthology, vol. 4)
  4. “Utopia, LOL?” – Wahls, Jamie (The Long List Anthology, vol. 4 )
  5. “Lullaby for a Lost World” – de Bodard, Aliette (The Long List Anthology, vol. 3)
  6. “Terminal” – Tidhar, Lavie – (The Long List Anthology, vol. 3)
  7. “The Scholast in the Low Water Kingdoms” – Gladstone, Max (The Long List Anthology, vol. 4)
  8. “Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands” – McGuire, Seanan (The Long List Anthology, vol. 3)
  9. “Things with Beards” – Miller, Sam J. (The Long List Anthology, vol. 3)
  10. “On the Slate” – Shalamov, Varlam (Kolyma Stories)
  11. “At Night” – Shalamov, Varlam (Kolyma Stories)
  12. “Carpenters” – Shalamov, Varlam (Kolyma Stories)
  13. “Paradox” – Kritzer, Naomi (The Long List Anthology, vol. 4)
  14. “A Personal Quota” – Shalamov, Varlam (Kolyma Stories)
  15. “The Parcel” – Shalamov, Varlam (Kolyma Stories)
  16. “Sour Meat” – Tse, Dorothy (That We May Live)
  17. Gonzales, California” – Berardino, Christopher Seiji (Blind Corner Literary Magazine)
  18. Aquacultural Appropriation” – Glanzman, Kimberly (Blind Corner Literary Magazine)
  19. “Angel of the Blockade” – Acks, Alex (The Long List Anthology, vol. 4)
  20. “The Fisher of Bones” – Gailey, Sarah (The Long List Anthology, vol. 4)
  21. “Crispin’s Model” – Gladstone, Max (The Long List Anthology, vol. 4)
  22. “The Atheist and the Angel” – Buckell, Tobias (Patreon)

If you made it this far down the page, you deserve a picture of a kitten.

Poe in the Window

Apex Delivery

February ended on a cold note but here in the first day of March I walked along the river with my honey in late afternoon sunshine and an air temperature in the upper fifties, Fahrenheit. We still have three more weeks of winter, technically, but fifty degrees in winter is much better than fifty degrees in summer.

The library of Winkelman Abbey only saw one delivery this week, from Apex Publications, with the two books pictured above – Winterglass and Mirrorstrike, both by Benjanun Sriduangkew.

In reading news I rounded out the month of February with a little over twenty short stories completed, which put my brain in an excellent space to start revising a couple of first drafts. I will post the list later this week.

Writing for the past week was about on par with writing the week before, to wit: Not a lot started or finished. I was just completely brain-fried and needed to take a little time off. But now that we are in a new month I intend to get back into my daily routine tomorrow at 5:30 am sharp. If I can keep that up for the month that should be enough time to get another story to a point that I can begin shopping it around to some lit journals. And maybe give me time to start working on a new short story for one of the thirty or so calls for themed publications I have bookmarked for the rest of 2020.

That’s all for now; time for bed.

Poe Approves of Poetry and Translation

Poe is recovering nicely from her spaying and wants you to read the latest issue of Poetry, as well as That We May Live, a collection of Chinese speculative fiction in translation from Two Lines Press.

The big news from this past week is that I was notified that two of my poems have been accepted for publication! I will announce the venue when the publication date approaches. I can say that the journal which selected them is of the highest caliber. This will be my first unsolicited acceptance since the 1999 issue of Voices.

Reading and writing have both been mostly on hiatus for the last week, due to family duties, taking care of a recovering cat, and general exhaustion from extreme lack of sleep. I have managed to read a few stories from Varlam Shalamov‘s collection Kolyma Stories. This has done nothing for my peace of mind, as they are set in the gulag where he spent more than a decade of his life.

I have begun the process of turning my NaNoWriMo 2019 project — lightly-fictionalized writing about my terrible neighbor — into a series of short stories, and should hopefully have at least one of them whipped into shape before my birthday at the beginning of June. Would be nice to have at least one more publication under my belt by the end of the year.