Thursday, August 30, 2007

Chris Barzak Day, International Edition

Okay, somehow I missed Chris Barzak Day. Something about time zones, I am sure.

I have ordered "One For Sorrow" over (EUR 9.34, and free shipping!) and I am really looking forward to it. I was captivated by "Dead Boy Found" in Trampoline, and then I read the book twice at Blue Heaven in manuscript, and it just kept getting better. It is funny and spooky and about death but not at all creepy, and honest and sad.

And yay yay yay it is finally out. So go get it!

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

On Zoning

We live now in a small suburb of Basel.

When I say suburb, don't imagine an American suburb. The one we left -- Pimmit Hills, in Falls Church, was a textbook maze of cul-de-sacs, a square mile of houses, lawns, and parks bounded by highways and strip malls. Within the square mile, kids biked along the sidewalks, neighbors chatted across fences and verandas. It was a lovely neighborhood.

Pimmit Hills was great to bike within, but you couldn't bike beyond it. The subway station was only a mile and a half to the south, and the vast sensory-overload-inducing shopping mall (Tyson's Corner) a mile to the north; but they were, respectively, unpleasant and literally impossible to bike to. (Getting to Tyson's by foot required taking a bus at least one stop, past the multi-lane I-495 on-ramp).

One of the most strikingly different things about Basel is the granularity of zoning.

In America, from the center of the city, you drive half an hour -- an hour in traffic -- before reaching the suburbs, where trees begin to be taller than houses and greenery to outmass buildings. Then, after you drive through the suburbs for another two hours, you reach the exurbs, and then actual productive agricultural land. Then, after driving through that for an hour, you reach uncultivated land -- forests, etc.

To envision Basel, replace "drive an hour" with "bike five minutes".

Note: this is the honeymoon period, in which I will be blogging about how awesome Switzerland is. Expect me to be bitching in three months or so about how nothing is open on Sunday and a sushi lunch costs $50.

The one thing that I really do miss, though, zoning-wise, is the fact that the kids could run right out the door, through the front yard, and down the sidewalk to other front yards, with other kids playing in them. Here we have to negotiate a side street, a main street, a crosswalk with a light, and a cobblestone piazza before we get to a playground with other kids (when we arrived, at the height summer, most of the other kids were in Kosovo or South France anyway. School starts today, and the playgrounds are full again).

This is a little stressful -- you can't be just like "you're being too loud! Out! Out! Go play!" (Instead, the attic becomes the area to funnel loud kid energy into.)

In an odd reversal typical of crossing the atlantic, when we go downtown, to the center of the city, it's all Fussgängerzonen -- car-free -- so that the kids can run wild, scaring the pigeons, climbing on fountains, parking themselves on chairs of outdoor cafes, and singing their way, hand in hand, over the cobblestones.

Everything is backwards in our new life, so outside your door, in the suburbs, is car-dangerous, but running around in the urban center is safe.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Compliment from Noah

"You are as fancy as my elbow."

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I Weaken

Maybe I will go to the World Fantasy Convention.

Who is going again? Anyone still have space in a room?

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Mail Working Now

If you tried to email me over the past three or four days while I was fighting with my ISP (Digital Space, who used to be cool but was recently acquired by Sauron), try again now. It should be finally working.

(For the curious, the disk was full, but not, mind you, the part of the disk I could actually access. The fullness was mostly contained in a mailbox which refused to respond to POP or webmail and to which I had no write permissions in the filesystem. Why wouldn't it respond to POP? Why, because there were too many messages, of course!)

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Radically Egalitarian Neoplatonism

Okay, this is wacky.

I was a little worried about breaking to Aviva and Noah that it doesn't look, empirically, like they're going to be able to leave in a rocketship and come back to where they started before they left, but this did not, in fact, bother them. I also thought they would be creeped out by the thought of infinite copies of themselves distributed throughout space, some identical, some subtly divergent.

But they seemed to think that anything involving more Noahs and Avivas was an improvement over the previous model.

The first three levels of multiverse in that paper are wild enough, but I think in the fourth, Tegmark creates a beautiful work of devotional religious art...

Updated: Ok, now I've put my finger on it.

If, in the Level IV multiverse, every possible mathematical configuration that can support internal sentiences is represented, don't you think godawful sprawling Rube-Goldbergian messes full of tweaks, hacks, absurdities, special cases and dead ends would far outnumber elegant, simple universes following from a few simple laws?

And in that case, isn't regarding our own efforts to figure out our own universe's laws as approaching Platonic (in his terms) verities -- rather than as workaday Aristotelian approximations -- a spectacular leap of faith?

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

World Fantasy Awards

The World Fantasy Award nominations are out, and "A Siege of Cranes" is on the ballot.

Congratulations to Mary Rickert (dominatin' with three nominations for her marvelous stories and collection!), Susan Groppi (also on the ballot thrice, if you squint, since she edited "Siege" in Twenty Epics as well as being nominated for the fabulous Strange Horizons), Mr. Ford with double nominations, Mr. Moles for Twenty Epics (plus editing "Siege"!), Ellen Kushner (more nominations for the excellent TPOTS, and did I tell you guys I helped pick the title? huh? huh?), Ellen Datlow, Leslie Howle (and it's lovely to see my alma mater Clarion West recognized), the inimitable Mr. Ryman, my ancient nemesis Mr. Rowe (who emailed me to say "and so our game begins again..."), and all the rest of the folks on the ballot, who I admire from afar.

It's a fine ballot and it makes me very homesick, because if I were still in Falls Church, it would be a no-brainer to jog up to Saratoga Springs for the weekend. As it is, it seems unlikely. On the other hand, I mean, it's closer than Alberta...

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Strangely Horizontal

The magnificent Susan Groppi interviewed me for the relaunched Strange Horizons Podcast, in two parts.

Update: and here's their actual page about the podcast episode, with links.

Strange Horizons is, as you all should know, inimitably wonderful. They've published lots of my stuff, and they are the shining example of free, professionally remunerated fiction thriving on the net, in the wake of many wonderful venues that have died. Not to mention being among the best sources of speculative poetry, essays, and reviews. They are all-volunteer, so practically their only costs are running the servers and paying the authors.

They've just extended their fundraising drive, because this year they are having trouble meeting their fundraising goal. Perhaps, after seven years of publishing 51 weeks a year, rain or shine, people are getting blasé about their existence? Well, more likely it's that they moved to a once-a-year fund drive, from twice a year, and people haven't figured that out yet. Still -- for a funding hitch to damage Strange Horizons would be a tragedy; they are at the heart of short speculative fiction in the twenty-first century.

Go give them some money, even if it's five bucks, because for getting other grants and such, it's really important for them to be able to show broad community support.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

If you can make it there...

Ethan and I are having a gallery show in New York.

The show is a spin-off of the Anthroptic project (which, because someone asked recently and I forgot who, you can still buy in its objet d'art incarnation).

The show will be at:

PS122 Gallery
150 First Avenue
New York, NY 10009

October 13 - November 4, 2007
Opening party: October 13, tentatively 5-7pm

Apparently Ethan has made big, high-quality prints of the images to hang in the gallery, and with each, he says, "will be some text along the lines of 'to hear the accompanying story by Benjamin Rosenbaum, call (212)555-5555 ext. 5.' When that number is dialed, the caller will hear the short story as read by an actor."

So my inbox is full of MP3s from professional voice actors Ethan is auditioning. Which is a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, I won't make it to the show, but if you're in NYC, go and tell me what it was like!

You can also read Anthroptic online. Here it is, broken down by chapter:

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Monday, August 6, 2007

I love reading the crime news in Switzerland

There was a fight on Saturday in Steinen (aka "stones"), the downtown bar area in Basel. (Original version here). One person was mildly injured, and a window worth 500 Francs was broken.

Okay, naming the nationalities of the participants? Not cool. Not cool at all.

But the fact that this fight is page three news in the newspaper?


I love it here.

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