Hump day dump

Halfway there, folks. It’s just up ahead, that Friday, waiting; lens flares shining on its shoulders like sunlight glinting off the dew on a cold bottle of beer. Look, it’s waving at you! “Come sit with me and have a drink, pal,” it says. You don’t have to wear a mask with me… Power through, people. Don’t let the end of the world ruin this for you.

Bookstore roundup

Here are a few articles on bookstores and the times in which we live and die. Just a reminder that you should be trying to patronize indie shops during this time (and all times, really). Though have some patience as they deal with things, please.

Don’t, like, try to pigeon-hole me, man

Is the way we categorize books out of touch? Tim Parks says in the NYRB that a careful eye can come up with a different way of grouping books that is perhaps more fruitful. This all sounds great in theory, but do I really want to enter a bookstore organized this way? I’m not really a browser anymore. I’m a more of a “Oh, Danine said to read NK Jesimin, so I’ll just go right to the SciFi section and grab all three books of the series and GTFO of this overpriced housewares store that also has books” type shopper. But I suppose everyone is free to arrange as they like at home. Or, you know, guerrilla styles in store.

Why do we categorize novels? Fantasy, Chick Lit, Crime, Romance, Literary, Gothic, Feminist… Is it the better to find what we want, on the carefully labelled shelves of our bookshops? So that the reading experience won’t, after all, be too novel.

Or is it simply for the pleasure of putting the world in order? French Literature, German Literature, American, South American, Korean. Or again, Renaissance, Eighteenth-Century, Postwar. In line with the notion of a body of knowledge—such that the more you read from one area, the more you can claim to be an expert, or at least a buff. There is even World Literature, which is not quite the catch-all it seems; rather, those novels that have appealed to many nations over the centuries, or that do so today. One chooses them to be a citizen of the world, perhaps, suggesting that behind the category is the desire to categorize oneself, the pursuit of identity.

In any event, I want to propose a different way of categorizing novels, or at least arranging the ones you have read on your shelves: something that came to me after reading Dickens and Chekhov in quick succession.

See, Dad?!

SciFi and Fantasy do not rot young brains; they nurture them. My parents didn’t care so much about what I was reading as they did about me regularly getting my ass handed to me at school, but there was definitely an element of derision in my household. I think they saw the very real cause-and-effect of my nerdy pursuits. First around the D&D, which my mother thought was Satanic (funny how many hypochondriacs crossed over into social “diseases” at that time as well), and second around my long hours spent reading indoors instead of going out and doing normal kid things like running until you collapsed and breaking stuff. It all evened out when I discovered punk girls and wanted to get laid. My dad was so relieved, I think. Of course, all my nerdiness couldn’t be kept down forever! It may have been swept under the carpet for a few years, but now look where it’s led me: I’m a nigh-50 penniless poet work on an interminable fantasy novel. So, who was right, Dad?! Me, obv.

Okay, maybe it did rot my brain just a little bit….

Reading science fiction and fantasy can help readers make sense of the world. Rather than limiting readers’ capacity to deal with reality, exposure to outside-the-box creative stories may expand their ability to engage reality based on science.

A 2015 survey of science fiction and fantasy readers found that these readers were also major consumers of a wide range of other types of books and media. In fact, the study noted a connection between respondents’ consumption of varied literary forms and an ability to understand science.

With increasing rates of anxiety, depression and mental health issues for youth in the past two decades, it may be the case that young people, no different from American society generally, are suffering from reality overload. Young people today have unprecedented access to information about which they may have little power to influence or change.

Save the literary journals!

This pandemic has got me so bored, I actually sent an unsolicited submission to a journal, which is not something I usually do. This article advocates for Aussie journals, but the issues at hand track across national boundaries. My first publications were in Canadian journals. The first time I submitted, I had no idea what I was doing and stupidly sent out the same five poems to five different journals. It was only after I’d sent them and told my mentor that I learned that was a no-no. He said not to worry, though, because it was unlikely any would even get accepted. I was super lucky that all five got accepted, but at different magazines. I’m not going to lie, I sort of swaggered into his office six months later with the letters. The first acceptance to come in was from The Antigonish Review, but my second acceptance (from Event) ended up appearing first. So, yes, they do help emerging writers. In my case, it was unearned arrogance, but still, it did help. Please make sure they survive!

Uncertainty, instability and fragility are perhaps the defining characteristics of small magazines.

The decisions to not fund literary magazines not only have a significant impact on the individual publications, but also to Australian cultural discourse.

What gets published within the pages of these magazines can entertain us, it can inspire us to critically examine the world around us, and can help us understand culture that moves us.

Vibrant discussion about culture, society and the arts does not happen by accident. It must be carefully nurtured and requires financial support.

Exciting times for Queer Literature

The revolution is still happening. More power to you, folks. (Glad to see EW running something like this.)

I grew up in Nigeria in the ‘90s, and we were under military dictatorship for most of that. So we had a lot of military curfews. We had a lot of violence happening, and that was oddly what I was using to calm myself down. I was like, “You know what this is like. You know what it’s like to have a curfew. You know what it’s like to not be able to go outside.” [Laughs] Which is a really messed up way of reassurance. It’s been so much worse in your lifetime. But at the same time, the one thing that I have learned in, I think, trauma and grief, and when there’s a lot of loss, and it’s really loud in the world, is that the world actually doesn’t stop. People are saying a lot that, “Oh, this thing has stopped the world.” And I’m like, “It hasn’t, because people are still doing things.” And I think for anyone who’s suffered a loss, it’s something that we know intimately, is that even if your world has stopped, the rest of the world doesn’t. And that’s one of the most heartbreaking things about grief, is that everything just keeps moving on.

The kids who need queer books still need them. They probably need them actually more than they did before. And so that I think gave me a little bit of permission to be like, “Okay, this is still important.” I think in any revolution, I suppose everyone has a particular role. And I think there’s often a lot of guilt about not being more on the front lines, or being safe or all these different things. But I think as storytellers, one of the things that I try to keep in mind is, I can just find my pocket, and I can fight from that pocket, and do my job that I’m here to do.

Tell me why…

I don’t like Mondays. I hate waking up to find out things went to shit over the weekend. So much wasted potential. Every week you hope, but every week it’s the same garbage. A strange new world out there every day, it seems, but especially on Mondays. Photos from Toronto this weekend show thousands of people crowding our old haunt of Trinity-Bellwoods park, and today the same scene is all over CNN with Americans flooding vacation hot spots as the country tries reopen (cue 2nd wave death train!) I don’t know why, but I was surprised about Toronto in a way I wasn’t about the USA. I often forget that Toronto is Canada’s most American city (yes, even over Calgary). I mean, they not only voted in a crackhead mayor, they then voted in his drug-dealer older brother as premier of the province. The real Toronto, for me, is no longer the city itself, but the people I glommed onto as a friend group within it. It’s not the place I remember anymore. It’s become a caricature of its own inferiority complex/wannabe hopeful about America. Sigh.

Pictured above: Bunch of fucking idiots

Myth in fantasy

Noted author and TERF supporter JK Rowling is popping a lot of Harry Potter mythology bubbles. Not the stuff in the books, but the cottage industry of tourism and speculation that’s grown up around her fabled writing of the books.

For years, fans of the beloved “Harry Potter” franchise have flocked to Edinburgh, Scotland, to visit the sites where author J.K. Rowling had reportedly started writing the series.But now, Rowling has revealed Edinburgh is actually not where the writing of the boy who lived began.”I was renting a room in a flat over what was then a sports shop,” Rowling said on Twitter, with an image of where she resided at the time of writing the first book. “The first bricks of Hogwarts were laid in a flat in Clapham Junction.”

Update on RWA turf war

Gang war. Will it ever end? Will we see, in our lifetime, a cessation of the senseless romance-writer-on-romance-writer violence? Will we know the peace of a torn dress pressed against a bare chest that looks like it’s been soaking in coconut butter during a heatwave? Will the bodices ever get back to being ripped open by grim pirates with 39 synonyms for their pendulous genitalia? Or will we be forced to continue watching a bunch of middle aged woman with hairdos from a 1996 New Jersey Statewide battle-of-the-bands duke it out for a piece of the lucrative organizational pie? Can the RWA be saved? Not so long as there is breath in the heaving bosom of one curb-stomping hairspray addict out there still unsure of who owns actually owns the leash attached to Fabio’s studded collar. Oh, sure, the names may change (“Rita” becomes “Vivian”, “the majestic tip of his prodigious sex” becomes “the business end of his love shiv”), but the battle will continue. Mark my words. These people have chosen a hard life on the mean streets of literature, right in the middle of the district with the highest death rate: at the corner of Rough-but-Gentle Hands Alley and Throbbing Member Way.

The Romance Writers of America will permanently retire its annual RITA Awards, which it has presented annually since 1982, and introduce a new award, the Vivian, named after RWA founder Vivian Stephens.

The move to retire the RITAs follows a controversy related to issues of diversity at the organization this winter that saw the resignation of its newly-instated president and its entire board of directors, as well as the cancellation of this year’s planned RITA Awards ceremony. In January, the RWA announced that it planned to hold the RITAs again “to celebrate 2019 and 2020 romances” in 2021.