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Friday, 30 October 2009
Under the Bridge

Wordle: Under The BridgeLink here to see the Wordle page.

 I found a website that takes chunks of text and makes these fascinating collages/word clouds out of them. I couldn't resist plugging in a very short short story I wrote at the Dusty Owl Play Date a while back and was particularly pleased with...

Doing this kind of thing can be a mindless exercise along the lines of flipping through photos of yourself in your Facebook gallery, or it can give you some ideas. In this case, I think the image I got gives me a strange disjointed look at the story's atmosphere. It's like an automated version of the exercise where you cut up the words of a text and reshuffle them: which I've tried, like meditating, without ever getting to something I'd call enlightenment. Maybe you just need to take more time doing it, or maybe I'm a slave to syntax. In any case, this little applet does remove any compulsion to make sense out of words and shows me a bit about how I went about building the story's feel. 

And it looks cool. 

Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 1:21 PM EDT
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Sunday, 18 October 2009
Call for Submissions

I've decided to start reposting calls for submissions etc here, so keep an eye out for more of them to come!

Vagina Dentata, the Carleton-born feminist mag, is looking for submissions. You don't have to be female to submit, but check them out for the kinds of stuff they want.

They say: "The submission deadline for the next issue of Vagina Dentata has been extended to November 1st. Continue sending your poetry, stories, articles, and artwork to Thanks to everyone who has already submitted something!"

Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 10:14 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 7 October 2009
What I'm Reading

Okay, okay, I could be reading all kinds of stuff in preparation for the Writers Festival. All kinds of stuff that I don't actually have time to read because I'm busy preparing for the Writers Festival. I could be reading Linden MacIntyre's The Bishop's Man (which is sadly, oddly, topical right now.) I could be reading Where Am I? by Colin Ellard and getting my inner neuroscience nerd psyched. I would be reading David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries if the office had a copy yet.

But I could not resist. Dracula: the Un-Dead, by Dacre Stoker. Bram Stoker's great-grandnephew. (And Ian Holt, who doesn't seem to get much of the press attention.) It came in two days ago, blood-red cover and all. 

I started out sort of amused at the 25-years-later state of the main characters (Dr. Seward's a crazy morphine addict running around hunting vampires, Harker's a drunk, Mina just hasn't aged much a la the One Ring and is still carrying a torch for Dracula, and their son is dreaming of a career in the theatre while being forced through law school, and has never been told anything about the whole vampire incident his parents went through back before he was born.) All that's kind of entertaining, in the same sort of way that Anno Dracula was. I could even deal with the bits with our (apparently) new vampire foe, Elizabeth Bathory, although something bothers me about a Dracula sequel where you get to see the inner thoughts and memories of the vampire. Ah well.

But now, a few chapters in, I've just been completely blindsided by the sudden appearance in the narrative of Bram himself, and a theatrical production of the novel Dracula. What the...?

Quincey Harker (you may or may not recall, depending on your nerdiness, that the Harkers named their first son after Quincey Morris, who dies in the final battle of Dracula) runs into Bram Stoker in a theatre in Paris, points out that his parents are Jonathan and Mina Harker, then goes off and gets a copy of the novel and is only slightly disturbed by the fact that it's all about his parents - he's more interested in playing the part of his father in the production. And then we go back to vampires stalking the streets. 

Lesbian vampires, of course. I guess I was expecting that. 

I'm just confused enough by the weird metafictional quality of the Bram character that I think I've got to read on - something really interesting might be going on here... or it might be a driverless-ghost-carriage-wreck waiting to happen. We'll see.

Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 11:04 AM EDT
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Friday, 2 October 2009
Baned Books Week - Last Day!

Here's the last random post from the Banned Books Week map:

Newton, Iowa
(2007) John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men was challenged because of concerns about profanity and the portrayal of Jesus Christ. NCAC wrote a letter protesting its removal from a required reading list.

To read the letter, click here. 


It's been interesting posting these: more because of the memories that they've brought up for me, since most of these cases involve books in schools, where people have the impression they should be able to control what other people read. Parents that don't want their children reading books with dragons in them think that they have the right to tell all the other kids in the class that they shouldn't read books with dragons in them. And there are whole committees and procedures that school boards set up in order to validate those parents and "give it due consideration." There is a complaints process, and therefore there are complaints. Chicken and egg? Who knows?

I'd like it if the ALA's map covered other cases outside the schools and libraries - like what about books stopped at the border between Canada and the USA because of content (as happened to Little Sister's bookstore in Vancouver, which had a shipment of books held at the border, because of charges that the books were pornography)? I think that counts. 

As a parting note - look for an article coming out in a couple of weeks by Cory Doctorow about sex in teen novels. (Google it, I don't remember the title or where it's being printed.) He mentioned it at one of the schools we visited this week, when someone asked if he'd ever had complaints about his book Little Brother. He told them that yes, he had - a parent had complained because the main character loses his virginity (and "nothing bad happens as a result.") 

Oh, yeah, that's what you want to be teaching kids: that sex inevitably ends in suffering. That'll arm them for their future lives and relationships. Personally, I think Marcus and Ange (the kids in Cory's book) are a great model of a healthy, functional, equal, respectful, mature partnership.

Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 7:08 PM EDT
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Thursday, 1 October 2009
Banned Books Week: Day Six
Lackawanna, New York

(2008) T.A. Baron's The Great Tree of Avalon: Child of the Dark Prophecy, Eoin Colfer's The Supernaturalist and Jonathan Stroud's The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem's Eye and Ptolemy's Gate were all challenged but ultimately restored by the Lackawanna School Board along with other books after being pulled because of parental concerns that the books dealt with the Occult.
Sigh. I remember when I was in high school and someone managed to actually put through a rule that anyone caught with Dungeons & Dragons books on school property could be suspended. Not caught playing Dungeons & Dragons instead of going to class, and not reading the books when they were supposed to be listening to a teacher - just having the books at school. The unspoken reason behind this was that D&D was somehow occult.
Being D&D players, my friends and I were used to that kind of thing though.We probably even revelled in it a little. It was just a little bit after the big Satanism scare in the 80s, when a few books and movies came out suggesting that D&D players were Satanists, or that they would go crazy, decide they were their characters, and go on murderous rampages, and we'd all been exposed at one point or another to movies like Mazes and Monsters (where Tom Hanks played the world's oldest crazy high school student, driven loopy by his D&D campaign) and books like The Devil's Web, which claimed that Pink Floyd and D&D were Satan's way of trying to gain control of the world's children. Frankly, we enjoyed the notoriety. Face it, we were D&D geeks and no one was going to give us any respect any other way - so why not let people believe you were raising demons and sacrificing cats at your caffiene-and-Doritos-fuelled late-night dungeon crawls? 
But even so, we knew threatening to suspend us for having the books in our bags was never going to stick. We brought the books anyway - ooo, rebellion! - and secretly really hoped they - specifically, the one Mormon vice principal who was responsible for the rule - tried it, just once, just on one of us. It never happened. Too bad. 

Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 12:34 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 1 October 2009 6:19 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Basically, because he said it better, I'm going to quote rob mclennan's quoting of Roland Prevost's plea: and add my own. In a universe far far away, where things make sense, teachers are paid six figures and the army holds bake sales to buy bombers, and patrons take on people whose contributions to art are as important, and as hard to explain to the general population or god help us our current government, as jwcurry's, and they feed and house them, and let them continue to chronicle the development of our collective souls and generally exist for the expansion of our minds and the continued forward trajectory of thought.

So, think about it. Buy something from jwcurry. Or donate. Or subscribe. Or something. The government won't support him. Joe Six-Pack wouldn't understand him. Lots of people would shrug and tell him to get a job. But he's GOT one. It's just not one that our society's set up to support him for, and he needs the help of the artist community every so often. 


An urgent note from Roland Prevost: save jwcurry & Room 302 Books! 

john curry, certainly a world class poet living in our community, is presently facing almost certain eviction.

Stephen Brockwell alerted me of this precarious situation, by phone, and asked if I would get the word out, most recently at the TREE Reading Series on September 22, where we were able to scare up enough to cover one of his 5 months’ owed rent & save his telephone service.

curry’s been in constant production of his own and hundreds of others’ work since 1979. he’s mainly ineligible for grants. His bookstore is mainly an unused resource. His archive documenting the growth of avant-garde writing in Canada is one of the key collections in the country. Nicky Drumbolis has said: “curry and his work are the best-kept secret in Canada.”

Since time is of the essence, if curry’s to avoid eviction, there are a few ways you can help:

Start to use his goddamn store!

Room 302 Books is the only bookstore in Canada ever to focus specifically on the avant-garde and “overlooked outsiders,” specializing in concrete/visual/sound poetries (mainly Canadian) with a stock of over 20,000 mainly rare titles, including “elusive ephemera,” and probably the only source of most of jwcurry’s various imprints and titles (which number in the thousands). curry’s current lists finally focus on his own work as artist & publisher, virtually the first time everything that’s (still) available has been made commonly available. You can purchase bookstore IOUs (or set up an account) today in any amount for those who’d like to do that.

Subscribe to Curvd H&z, curry’s serial imprint. “donor” subscriptions (please indicate) of $100 or more get ½ the stash in a sampling of available titles from various of his imprints immediately, the remaining ½ put on account for forthcoming titles.

Donate outright.
I would like to encourage you to donate something so as to keep this excellent bookstore, publisher, archive and artist alive, and at the same time help prevent curry’s eviction from his apartment. For those who’d like to purchase bookstore IOU’s, I’d ask you to write (#302-880 Somerset Street West, Ottawa Canada K1R 6R7) or call him at (613) 233 0417. Please contribute as you can.

Roland Prevost (with collusions with curry)

Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 11:29 PM EDT
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Banned Books Week: Day Five
Raceland, Louisiana

(2008) Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War was removed from a classroom at Central Lafourche High School for violating the district policy on cursing.
Not because of violence, no. Not because of how shocking the story is, or the disturbing content. Nope. Cursing. 
My ninth grade English teacher, David Nielsen, once gave my class a writing assignment that is among the few writing assignments that I remember vividly. It had a fundamental effect on what I thought about writing, what I allowed myself to write, and what the other kids in my class (many of whom didn't have the writing bug in the same way I did) wrote. It was toward the end of the school year and we were all feeling that launching effect of knowing it was the end of junior high and the start of big-kid-ness. He gave us a completely open assignment: write a short story. He didn't care what it was about, we could pick any topic. And, he said - which had a massive effect on us - we could put in swearing, if it was justified and in character. We could include violence, if it was justified and served the story. We could do whatever we wanted. 
Okay, so, it was 1990. Weirdly enough, that now feels like a far more innocent age. Being told we could use violence and swearing in a story was huge. And we went off and wrote the best stories we'd written in our whole school career, some of us. (I read a lot of the other student's stories and I remember them.) I remember kids who had never really cared much about writing bringing in frightening stories about kidnappings, and gritty locker-room-y sports stories, having a literal blast romping around in battlefields telling war stories. I wrote a 10-or-more-page science fiction story about a guerilla strike by freedom-fighting aliens against the human outpost on their homeworld. Just being able to put guns and blood into the story had a freeing effect on me.
For once none of us were self-censoring, and we did better work because of it. And I remember that assignment, and that teacher, fondly for it. It cracked open another creative avenue for me, made the aperture my writing could come through a little wider. It allowed me access to the dark tones as well as the light and midtones, essentially, and it goes in my mental list of moments that helped me grow as a writer. 
Policy on cursing. My lily white ass. 

Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 4:33 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 29 September 2009
Banned Books Week - Day Four

I spent the day today bombing around talking copyright law, internet privacy, RSS and CMS and many other nifty things with Cory Doctorow, in the service of getting him to two high schools and a couple of media interviews. Fascinating guy to talk to, and I really had a lot of fun. It was also really fun to watch him asking groups of high school students, "So, how many of you have tried to look at something on the Internet that was blocked by your school's sensors?" (Hands go up across the room.) "And, how many of you know how to get around those sensors?" (Pretty much the same number of hands go up.) "Okay, those of you who don't know, ask someone who does." And this in front of the teachers... who are nodding in emphatic agreement. One teacher was asking how to get around the blocks that keep her from using YouTube with her class, and a boy in the fourth row who was probably about 15 put his hand up and told her. She blinked a bit, and said, "Okay, you, we'll talk after. Show me."


Keep an ear out, too, for interviews with Cory on Nigel Beale's The Biblo File, (on CKCU and also on podcast at his blog) and on CHUO's Audio Visual tomorrow at 1:00 (to be podcasted later at Apt613.)

And here's your random case, today from Arizona:

Chandler, Arizona

(2007) Nicholas Allan's Where Willy Went was challenged at the Chandler Public Library along with an audiotape of George Carlin's When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? and a fairy tale cd narrated by Robin Williams. Parents requested that the book be moved to a restricted area because Willy is a sperm and the book is about sex.

(Yes, but what were the objections to Carlin and Williams? That they're funny?) 

Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 11:00 PM EDT
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Monday, 28 September 2009
Banned Books Week - Day Three

Interestingly, I'm going to be spending most of my day tomorrow with Cory Doctorow, whose YA book Little Brother has been challenged by a parent recently - not because it incites kids to use countersurveillance, clone RFID chips, and defy the Department of Homeland Security, or because it acts as a handbook for organized dissent. Not even because of the graphic depictions of torture (like the harrowing waterboarding scene at the end...) Nope. Because of the (off camera, consenting and loving) teen sex.

Little Brother also won a White Pine Award (judged by librarians and young readers) and a Sunburst Award for YA Fiction. And was shortlisted for a Hugo Award (arguably the highest SF award in the English speaking world.) Hm.

And, here's your random mouse-jiggled case for the day:

Halsey, Oregon
(2008) Andy Riley's The Book of Bunny Suicides was challenged by a parent who said she'd rather burn it than return it to her local library. The story was nationally reported and prompted readers to send in 24 copies.

(Come on, the subtitle is "Little Fluffy Rabbits Who Just Don't Want To Live Any More." What were you expecting, lady? - Ed.)

Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 11:39 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 29 September 2009 11:20 PM EDT
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Sunday, 27 September 2009
Banned Books Week - Day two
Manheim Township, Pennsylvania

(2007) Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Dreams were challenged in Manheim Township schools due to sexual references. The book was retained in the high school English curriculum but it was moved up a grade the following year.

Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 6:57 PM EDT
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