Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Worldcon Schedule

I'm going to the World Science Fiction Convention in Glasgow, where I get to find out if I won a Hugo Award for the zeppelin story.

Hope to see you there.

In case you're going -- here's my schedule:

Friday, August 5
~10:20 am Arrive in Glasgow on a train from Edinburgh

Saturday, August 6
12:00 noon Reading

Here, I read something. I have half an hour. Requests? What should I read?

7:00pm Is Blogging Helping or Hurting Your Career?

with Michael Cobley, Eileen Gunn, John Scalzi, Martha Wells. I am not too enthused about the stated topic, but the list of panelists sounds entertaining. My vote is to treat the official topic briefly, and then float off into conversational la-la land.

Sunday, August 7
12:00noon to 2:00pm Hugo Rehearsal

1:00pm Autographing

with Jay Caselberg, Anne McCaffrey, Bryan Talbot, Paul Witcover. My experience with signings has varied. Sometimes I have sat and read for an hour, undisturbed by autograph petitioners. Sometimes intense individuals have had me sign my bare name on my stories in many issues of digest magazines, which (they tell me when I ask) they have not read -- I feel kind of like a penny stock being bought "just in case" by a highly speculative investor. And sometimes my friends come by with copies of Other Cities (yay friends!). All of which are fine with me, and entertaining.
And then sometimes, every once in a while, people I haven't met before come with something I wrote that they liked. And that is very, very nice.

3:30pm Science Fiction Cities

with Gary Ehrlich, Ian McDonald, Steve Saffel, Robert Silverberg. Ooo! This one sounds like fun!

6.00pm Hugo Reception, Forth Room in Armadillo (Scottish Exhibition and Convention Centre)

8.00pm Hugo Ceremonies main theatre of the "Armadillo."

??? Hugo Loser's Party

Monday, August 8
2:30pm train to Edinburgh

...thence to Switzerland!

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Dola Bola And The Search For The Inner Pickle

Though she hasn't quite eclipsed Arthur, the new craze in our household is for Dora the Explorer. Aviva, of course, makes the choices, but Noah is just as enthusiastic as she is: he trucks through the house, arms held high like a sprinter crossing the finish line, calling out: "Dola Bola! Dola Bola!"

I have mixed feelings about Dora. On the one hand, I like her. She's clearheaded, resourceful and undaunted. She's even-tempered and nonviolent. She deals with any calamity by solving it as a puzzle. If my monkey friend's new toy fell off the back of the UPS truck somewhere along its route through the Southwest, I might try calling the company or looking up the tracking number; but if these failed, well, I would give up. Not Dora. She sets out. That's what Dora does: she sets out. She's intrepid.

When people wrong her -- steal her packages and fling them into the swamp, say, before she can call out the magic injunction "Swiper no swiping!" -- she spends not a moment on rancor or indecision or self-pity or revenge; she locates the packages. Dora believes in preventative deterrents, but never in punitive ones. We all need a little more Dora in our lives and characters.

Then, too, I'm a sucker for Nickolodeon's cleverly strategized marketing plan. I like that Dora's a capable girl who's the star of her own show. I like that she's Hispanic (and that Boots the monkey, cleverly, is clearly Anglo -- gamely parrots the Spanish words, but you can tell from his accent and from the fact that Dora often has to act as intermediary).

But the show also bothers me. Though I like Dora's own ethics, I find the moral universe she inhabits pretty simple compared to, say, Arthur's. In Elwood City, everyone has nice moods and mean moods. Francine is Arthur's buddy, but she also picks on him. Arthur and D.W. are deeply loyal to each other despite their constant sniping. Binky is a bully with a heart of gold. Buster, while he is pretty much always nice, is terrifically gullible and obstinate in his half-baked notions.

In Dora's show, though, Dora is always sweet-tempered, and always right. Sidekick Boots is always fun, but helpless. Swiper, the show's villian, swipes things -- you can tell from his name. Heroes are heroes, villians are villians, sidekicks are sidekicks; in Dora, they've made the Man In The White Hat a Hispanic girl, but his dialectic remains intact....which bugs me.

Partly, I guess, it's just that the Arthur characters are round, and the Dora characters flat. Arthur characters remind you of people: Dora characters evoke aspects of people, ways of being. We are all sometimes Dora-like, sometimes Boots-like, sometimes Swiper-like. We are not really Buster-like or Brain-like or Binky-like in the same way, because Buster and Brain and Binky are not just one emblematic thing. And that's fine.

Indeed, that's what I think Aviva likes about the show. Compared to her usual diet of Arthur, it seems, on the surface, way too easy for her. The riddles and challenges meant to make the show, ponderously, "educational" -- finding the triangle, counting the eleven stars -- don't engage her at all. And she refuses to talk back to the screen, despite Dora's constant instructions and pleas to do so. (This makes watching Aviva watch the show kind of eerie. Dora pleads; Aviva is silent. Does she imagine Dora's pleas as being directed at some fictitious audience, not her? I find myself replying to Dora, shouting "barra!" to let the squirrel know he must stop his car at the stop light [who gave this squirrel a license anyway?] and Aviva shushes me. She has, apparently, less trouble than I do in keeping straight what is TV and what's real).

What I think she's loving about the show, though, what she's soaking up, is Dora's purity. She identifies with Arthur -- his anxieties, his failures, his nuanced triumphs -- but she aspires, maybe, to being Dora.

I told Aviva about how people are sometimes nice and sometimes mean in Arthur, and always one way or the other in Dora, and which did she think was more like life? She said, meeting my eyes, somewhat defiantly: "People who are nice are always nice." Which served me right, for asking a leading question!

What Noah gets out of it I'm not sure. He perches on the couch too, watching Dora, entranced. Part of it is that Aviva thinks it's cool and she's the center of his world at the moment. Part of it is that he thinks it's cool.

The other weird thing for me is how the show is clearly set inside a computer game. Where Arthur is a mimesis of life, transmuted by animal anthropomorphism, the exigencies of fiction, and occasional postmodern riffs like breaking the fourth wall, Dora is a mimesis of a computer game. It's not a dramatization of the events the computer game is supposed to represent -- it's a dramatization of what the lives of the characters in the computer game are like. The computer game is primary. I wonder if that'll be a core model of narrative for Aviva's generation? It sure wigs me out.


The title of this post, by the way, is from the Arthur casette tapes, which are many rungs of quality below the show. As opposed to the show's theme, played by Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, the casettes have their own theme, about "Arthur, the friendliest aardvark". In the song it says (I realized after much pondering): "when he finds he's in a pickle, you'll be amazed at what he can do". But I always heard it as:

   When he finds his Inner Pickle,

   you'll be amazed at what he can do-oo-oo...

Perhaps it's some kind of revelatory mystical state, like Buddha Nature: the Inner Pickle.


Also: I stumbled upon this and cannot resist sharing: Arthur/Simpsons crossover fanfic! (Only funny if you know both shows well enough to hear the characters' voices in your head; but then it's really quite funny indeed).

What I really want to see, now, is an Arthur/Cerebus crossover...

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Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Like a Sturgeon, Tapped for the Very First Time...

Like a Stuh-uh-uh-urgeon, when your heart beats, next to my-ee-hi-ee-hine...

I just got back from a week at the Sycamore Hill Writer's Workshop, where I discovered that the crazy story I brought is of the Bakhtinian/Rabelaisian/BugsBunnyian Carneval.

Nothing like a week of critique, talk, and ping-pong with John Kessel, Richard Butner, Jim Kelly, Ted Chiang, F. Brett Cox, L. Timmel Duchamp, Theodora Goss, Kelly Link, Maureen McHugh, Mary Rickert, and Christopher Rowe to make you feel poorly educated and slow on the pickup... and to not mind that at all.

There were also many goldsmiths atop the mountain with us. Through an odd series of events born of their generous hospitality, Maureen's graciousness in accepting such, and the general giddy end-of-camp feeling, Maureen and I ended up giving a talk on Sycamore Hill in the middle of their Show-and-Tell last-evening ceremonies. Whereupon I read Ponge, and the goldsmiths liked it. They flooded up and bought all the copies of Other Cities that Kelly had on hand, and all the copies of Richard's and Dora's and Christopher's fantastic chapbooks too, and lots of copies of Maureen's and Kelly's wonderful collections. And they hungered for more, so I took money and addresses to send them more chapbooks. Like locusts they were, these goldsmiths. In a really, really good way.

Also the goldsmithy things they made (which were as much silver and lapidary and slate and whatnot) were really cool, including silver pea shooters and rubber band guns.

So, I've decided. My new target audience: goldsmiths.

You know?

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