From Around the Web: 20 March 2017

A few links of interest from around the web:

This is Not a Food Blog: Victoria Sponge Trifle Edition

We’re approaching one of the best times of the year for baking, when many fruits start to come into season.  Victoria sponge is one of my old standby recipes, and it’s a great use for the boxes of strawberries I buy too many of this time of year.

The cake is a bit finicky to cut, so I decided to deconstruct it into a trifle.  Though it could be argued that the layered presentation of a Victoria sponge is a deconstructed trifle in itself? I baked only one layer of the sponge, as my trifle dish is, well, a trifle small.  Turned out quite nicely.

Victoria Sponge Trifle

Victoria Sponge Trifle

From Around the Web: 13 March 2017

A few links of interest from around the web:

  • From The New York Review of Books, Masha Gessen explores the role Russia is playing in the Trump administration and in our conception of it: “For more than six months now, Russia has served as a crutch for the American imagination. It is used to explain how Trump could have happened to us, and it is also called upon to give us hope. When the Russian conspiracy behind Trump is finally fully exposed, our national nightmare will be over.”
  • In “definitions depend on which field you’re in” news, the latest episode of Planetary Radio asks “Hope for Pluto—Should We Re-Redefine Planets?
  • And on the topic of Pluto, check out The Future Fire‘s interview with Toeken, who illustrated my story “Over the New Horizon.”

Redbud in Bloom

redbud tree bloomingSpring sprung up a bit early around here.  The altheas came out first in mid-February, which seemed too early.  A desert willow that I feared had died last year came out a couple weeks ago, too.

Here’s an attempt at a picture of the redbud tree nearby, behind which is an elm that has been gracing us with quite a bit of pollen of late.

My attempts at gardening with annuals always seems to fail–far too many critters around here end up eating what I plant.  Ah, well.  Maybe I should say I’m growing the odd assortment of small birds, muscovies, and squirrels?

From Around the Web: 9 March 2017

A few links of interest from around the web:

  • Check out Geoff Ryman’s “100 African Writers of SFF” write-up at Strange Horizons.
  • Skyboat Media is raising funds to produce an audiobook version of Lightspeed’s QUEERS DESTROY SCIENCE FICTION!
  • Here in the Lone Star State, State Representative Ana Hernandez filed HB1947, which would provide high school graduated with two years of free community college.  As a former community college student and, later, instructor, I’m heartened by this.  And as a Texan, I’m glad to see a bill filed of late that has nothing to do with threatening reproductive rights….


Alternative Facts and Wrongful Births

Another assault on reproductive rights here in the Lone Star State shouldn’t surprise any of us.  What’s disturbing is that the tactic used to used to wage this fight appears to be pulled right from the “alternative facts” playbook.

The Texas State Senate Health and Human Services Committee recently passed SB25 out of committee, which would essentially allow doctors to withhold information about fetal abnormalities from parents, overturning current “wrongful birth” legislation  This bill was promoted by the anti-abortion lieutenant governor, who, according to The Texas Observer, “told lawmakers to ‘protect the unborn'” through such legislation.

That said, this withholding of information is right in line with the sort of science denial that threatens clean air, vaccination rates, endangered species, and any number of other inconveniences to right-wing idealism.  By allowing doctors to withhold test results that indicate fetal abnormalities, law makers are essentially allowing anti-abortion practitioners to present “alternative facts” to parents-to-be who need to be informed about the implications of their situation, regardless of what those parents decide to do in response to that information.

Lt. Gov. Patrick’s purported wish to “protect the unborn” coupled with bill sponsor Sen. Brandon Creighton’s stated purpose to uphold “the sanctity of life” would do the opposite for affected children and their families.   Without time to prepare emotionally and financially, families will be devastated by the fallout from the lack of necessary information.

It’s a devastation that those in power will turn their focus away from.



Some Thoughts on the Venue for “The Next Big Dystopian Novel”

In a recent NPR interview, Margaret Atwood speculated that the next dystopian novel to capture our attention won’t be a novel as we think of them now:

Well, it won’t be a book, according to Atwood. “The question to be asked is, if somebody does write such a novel where will it be published?” she says. “I think we might go back to newspaper serials … Because events are evolving so fast it would almost take a serial form to keep up with them.”

I agree, but I wonder if this is a case in which we can look backward and forward at the same time.  That is, I do think publishing speculative fiction in widely-read periodicals (and on their corresponding websites) would be ideal to reach the broadest audience.  That said, what if we couple these venues with ones that are already in place that essentially do present serial speculative fiction?

If newspapers (and the like) drew on the editorial talent from weekly and monthly SF venues, not only would we be more likely to see the kinds of serials Atwood suggests, but also the SF the authors write and the editors foster would reach a larger audience.  I’ve heard a number of authors, editors, and publishers bemoan the fact that SF–a genre with great potential for social change–just doesn’t reach enough readers.  Perhaps this would be a way to make reaching more readers possible.

From Around the Web: 20 February 2017

A few links of interest from around the web:

  • From still eating oranges, “The significance of plot without conflict“: ‘The necessity of conflict [in stories] is preached as a kind of dogma by contemporary writers’ workshops and Internet “guides” to writing. A plot without conflict is considered dull; some even go so far as to call it impossible. This has influenced not only fiction, but writing in general–arguably even philosophy. Yet, is there any truth to this belief? Does plot necessarily hinge on conflict? No. Such claims are a product of the West’s insularity.”  This post is from a few years ago, but in a time when all is conflict, it seems, it’s an interesting way to look at narratives.
  • A poem from SF author Mary Anne Mohanraj:  “A Valentine for my Country, in the Time of Trump.
  • And an escape. One of the best snarky descriptions of the current US political situation would come from the BBC, wouldn’t it?  From last Friday’s News Quiz: “The wonky-wheeled shopping trolley full of flaming skulls that is the Trump administration.”  Indeed.

And We’re Back: Simplifying, Streamlining, and Sonnets

It’s been a long few weeks since I last posted, thanks to the round of viral crud that went around my house and the slog through the festival of pollen that is North Texas right now that preceded and followed.  It hit everyone, just about at the same time.  Seriously, even the possum that hangs around my patio seemed to be sniffling a bit….

Cedar Pollen

The culprit, or at least one of them….

Anyway, I received a good piece of advice during this time, when I didn’t seem to be able to focus on much of anything: focus on writing.  Though the giver of this advice meant that I should focus on the fiction I’ve been neglecting, I had to ask myself how I’m spending focus on the letters to elected folks.

I’d crafted–really crafted–some of these letters.  And given that I live in a red area of a red state, I’m crafting them for an audience who most likely won’t listen.  And given that the responses I’ve received haven’t always had much of anything to do with what I’d written about, I needed to switch tactics.

Postcards.  Printable postcards.  I can only fit so much onto them.  I have to keep the message simple and clear.  There’s a challenge to this, though, since my impulse is to provide all the reasons why I’m requesting the elected official support or oppose whatever measure or nominee the letter addresses.

So I’m trying to look at these postcards in the same way in which I look at formal poetry–sonnets, villanelles, sestinas, and the like.  Part of the challenge of writing in these forms is that one can’t expound at length on the poem’s subject.  And it’s easy to fail at linking together the parts of poem to make a coherent whole.  The challenge becomes both an intellectual and an aesthetic exercise: the logic of the poem must hang together, and the language of the poem must support that logic.  It’s easy to fail at writing poems that do both.

But when formal poems do work, they work on many levels.