One week after joining the Black Panthers, Alfred Woodfox was arrested for robbery. Implicated in the murder of a prison guard, he spent 41 years in solitary confinement, longer than any American in history. His story, documented by Rachel Aviv, is one of extraordinary strength of mind — and the willful persistence of independence despite unbelievable social and physical constraints.
On February 19, 2016, his sixty-ninth birthday, Woodfox packed his belongings into garbage bags and put about a hundred letters in a cardboard box. He put on black slacks and a black bomber jacket that a freed Angola prisoner had sent him.
Not until he was outside did he believe that he was actually going to be freed. It was a warm, clear, sunny day. He squinted and held the hem of his jacket. When he reached the front gate, he raised his fist and gave a closed-lip smile to a small crowd of supporters.
Michael led him to his car, a blue Corvette. Woodfox shuffled when he walked, as if shackles still connected his feet. Biting his lip and crying, Michael helped his brother into the passenger seat and showed him how to fasten the seat belt.
Robert McCrum has a delightfully bookish profile of Heather Wolfe, whose contribution to Shakespeare scholarship should but probably will not close the age-old question of who wrote the most celebrated plays in the English language. Among her other work is “Project Dustbunny,” which analyzes hair, dust, and skin to trace the habits of 17th century readers. Dr. Wolfe, we are at your feet.
Dr Wolfe is a willowy, bright-eyed manuscript scholar, a paleographer specialising in Elizabethan England who in certain moods of candour might put you in mind of Portia or perhaps Cordelia. She’s also a Shakespeare detective who, last year, made the career-defining discovery that is going to transform our understanding of Shakespeare’s biography. In the simplest terms, Wolfe delivered the coup de grace to the wild-eyed army of conspiracy theorists, including Vanessa Redgrave and Derek Jacobi, who contest the authenticity, even the existence, of the playwright known to contemporaries as Master Will Shakespeare.
Petty pleasure or genuine act of defiance, there’s something viscerally satisfying about Richard Prince’s decision to disown his own creation after its purchase by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Prince has been called a flim-flam man and worse for selling art based on images lifted from Instagram, but like the artists who have refused to perform at the inauguration on January 20 — and unlike Silicon Valley’s tech elite — he’s hitting Trump in the only place that seems to hurt: the president-elect’s delicate ego.
Jerry Saltz on learning to fight on a new cultural and political battlefield.
Even if this en masse disowning is only an isolated action, limited to those artists lucky enough to live off their work, just a drip in the middle of this building shitstorm of a presidency, I gleaned an artist trying to take back his name, his work, do something, anything. To do this in a time that is calling to us all to take action rather than to simply default, using our energies to criticize how others use their energy.
Prince's act of disownership opens up an incredible window of resistance.
In the wake of Donald Trump’s first press conference as president-elect, a cautionary tale for American media from Russian journalist Alexey Kovalev.
This man owns you. He understands perfectly well that he is the news. You can’t ignore him. You’re always playing by his rules — which he can change at any time without any notice ... Your readership is dwindling because ad budgets are shrinking — while his ratings are soaring, and if you want to keep your publication afloat, you’ll have to report on everything that man says as soon as he says it, without any analysis or fact-checking, because 1) his fans will not care if he lies to their faces; 2) while you’re busy picking his lies apart, he’ll spit out another mountain of bullshit and you’ll be buried under it.
If you can set aside the irony of yet another online essay railing against the Internet — which is gutting our attention spans, killing our ability to experience the sublime, and probably kicks puppies when nobody’s looking — Craig Mod has some good reminders about what happens when we turn on the content spigot and why we should occasionally turn it off.
Today, I could live on Twitter all day, everyday, convincing myself I was being productive. Or, at least inducing the chemicals in the mind that make me feel like I’m being productive. Read more news. Send more replies. Start more threads. Each incoming reply activating a corresponding dopamine pop. Largely pushing nothing in the world forward.
Maybe I lost my attention because I’m weak, lonely, pathetic. Maybe everyone else has total control; they can resist all the information spun by algorithms — all the delicious dopamine hits in the form of red circles. Bing! Maybe it’s just me.
But … I want my attention back.
The Butterworth Building is haunted. Just ask anybody who works at Kells, the Irish pub in the basement of the building.
Opening in 1903, purpose built as a mortuary for the firm Butterworth & Sons, it was likely the first building in the United States to provide full mortuary services under one roof. In fact, the grand man himself, Edgar Ray Butterworth, is credited with having coined the terms mortuary and mortician. So, take that, rest of the world who then adopted terms invented in Seattle. Tell all of your funeral-nerd friends!
Speaking of firsts, it was the first building on the west coast to have an elevator — although the 1st avenue face of the building is only three stories, if you walk around back to Post Alley, you'll find another two below them. Kells is in the former embalming room and crematorium, or the stables and storage for funeral wagons, depending on who you believe.
The building was in the news a few weeks back after catching fire, which is when I started reading about it. Isn't it funny how this little three-story wonder can have such a history? At the end of the post, I'll include a second shot from Flickr, when the building was an engineering firm in the 1960s.
If you search for information about the Butterworth Building, you will find many writings talking about how haunted it is.
All of which gives us some nice potentials for:
afrose fatima ahmed, Quenton Baker, Jamaica Baldwin, Ellie Belew, Catalina Marie Cantú, Wancy Young Cho, Calvin Gimpelevich, Steph Kesey, Hera McLeod, D.A. Navoti, Ashlan Runyan, and Brandon Young.
Unlike 2016's crop of Jack Straw writers, which featured popular local names including EJ Koh, Robert Lashley, and Shin Yu Pai, 2017's list is mostly unknown to me. (The exception, of course, is Quenton Baker, who is having a phenomenal year including the publication of his first book.) You can learn more about these Jack Straw Writers at their annual reading series, which takes place on the first three Fridays in May.
Outgoing Seattle Times Books editor Mary Ann Gwinn reports on the winners of this year's Pacific Northwest Bookseller Awards. It would've been weird had Lindy West and Sherman Alexie not won these awards, to be honest. The big surprise on this list of winners is Portland author Kelly Sue DeConnick's comic book Bitch Planet, which is an exceptional book that falls outside the (generally very comfortable) profile of traditional PNBA winners. If you haven't read Bitch Planet yet, you should; I've written about it several times.
Seattle author Tara Atkinson has a terrific essay up at Hobart right now. It's about Burger King and heartbreak. Atkinson read an early version of this essay at the very first APRIL Festival's literary pub crawl while sitting in a little red wagon that was being pulled down Capitol Hill.
Speaking of local authors with connections to the APRIL Festival, you can find an excerpt from Richard Chiem's still-in-progress novel at Scramble right now. The opening line is pretty great: "Being able to handle rejection is sexy."
Fantagraphics would like you to know that Gilbert Hernandez saw all this coming thirty years ago:
I think @BetomessGilbert is a prophet. From Love & Rockets #17, 1986 pic.twitter.com/7Uq12qPggF— Fantagraphics Books (@fantagraphics) January 12, 2017
...we, with the help of Savage Minds and the journals American Anthropologist, American Ethnologist, Cultural Anthropology, and Environment and Society are proposing a Read-In on January 20, 2017. We invite all anthropologists and others to come together to read Michel Foucault’s lecture eleven in “Society Must Be Defended” which he delivered on March 17, 1976. This lecture strikes us as very good to think with at this present point: it demands we simultaneously consider the interplay of sovereign power, discipline, biopolitics, and concepts of security, and race. In light of the current socio-political situation where the reaction to activism against persistent racism has been to more overtly perpetuate racism as political discourse, we need to remember and re-think the role of racism as central to, rather than incidental to, the political and economic activities of the state.]]>
Some of my writer friends have gone off the deep end on Facebook, posting novel-length rants about the state of the country. It’s misplaced energy — they’re just dumping content into a void. I want to ask them to do something else with their time and energy, but a lot of them work multiple jobs already so volunteering is straight out and I know they don’t have any extra money to donate. Is there something that a writer can do to fight Trumpism that nobody else can? Preferably something that doesn’t involve Facebook?
Dan, Crown Hill
I understand your friends' need to vent. What was once a diverting sideshow in the freak tent at Barneby's Human Marvels, otherwise known as the Republican primary, has become another credentialed nightmare embodying America's worst impulses: racism, greed, serial narcissism.
The next four years will feel like a punishment for many people. It will be a punishment, and because life isn't fair, it will be shouldered primarily by those who are too demoralized, too poor, too busy feeding their families to fight back.
What would I recommend your writer friends do to combat the era of Trump? First, I would tell them to read this exhaustive Atlantic piece on the psychology of Donald Trump. The Andrew Jackson comparison gave me comfort that our country has weathered this brand of egomaniacal leadership before. Then I would ask them to stop ranting for a bit and take some time to do what writers do best – observe and record. Talk to people. When Trump and our Republican Congress implement new policies, find out how those policies affect their coworkers, family, friends, people in bars and on the bus. Write about that – even write about it on Facebook (sorry, I know that's not what you wanted to hear).
We need those records because this administration won't last anywhere close to forever; midterm elections are two short years away. Having those stories – not rants, but fact-driven anecdotes – will be important in proving the harm this Congress and president-elect have caused in our communities, and the people most vulnerable to harm often need help getting their stories out there.
That's my advice. My other advice is for you to host parties. The weather is taking a continual shit on our heads while the tannest man in the nation takes over the whitest house on the planet, and to top it all off many species of spider are in hibernation so my friend pool, at least, has been cut in half. Take care of your human friends: even the busy ones need to eat and everyone needs company at a time like this.
Sunday January 15th
Writers Resist: A Celebration of Free Speech
It seems impossible that this week will bring both the annual celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Donald Trump’s inauguration. But here we are. To mentally prepare for the discord to come, why not attend this freedom-minded reading by writers from Bellingham (Robert Lashley) and Spokane (novelist Jess Walter, poet Tod Marshall) and Seattle (Elissa Washuta, Jane Wong, G. Willow Wilson)?
Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave., 652-4255, townhallseattle.org. $5. All ages. 7:30 p.m.
Good news if you were frustrated by entirely sold-out shows for David Sedaris' series of readings — Sponsor Northwest Associated Arts has informed us that tickets for both the matinee and evening show this Sunday, the 15th, have just been released. Act fast!
If you somehow miss snagging one of those, we've also been told that a small number of tickets will be available at the door for most performances. If you're deep Sedaris fan who wasn't able to grab tickets in time, you might want to give the box office a try right before the performances. You can also read more about all of this on our Sponsor's page.
We have released our new sponsorship dates! Sign-up to become a sponsor. Most dates from Feb — July are available, so snag yours while you can. We typically sell out, and it would be great to make sure you're in the calendar. It's the only guaranteed way to make sure your work gets in front of our audience.]]>
Interviewers sometimes ask me which mode of science fiction is easier to write: Utopia or dystopia? Look around you, I answer. Dystopian fiction is basically mimetic (realistic) fiction. It’s way, way too sodding easy to depict a scenario so ubiquitous; I choose to get my jollies envisioning the Utopian coolness that could be.
Equality and perfection are two hallmarks of Utopias. Especially for members of non-dominant groups like myself — women, queers, racial minorities, etc. — the status quo has long been anything but egalitarian, and its operating methods far from perfection. Even able, cis, white, heterosexual, young, middle class males are having hard times lately, though. Or so I hear from friends who fit those default categories.
We haven’t always inhabited this particular nightmare, and for decades science fiction/fantasy/horror has produced cautionary tales which could have warned us away from it. Thus my unease at the rise of “reality shows,” those television programs, common since the beginning of the millennium, in which supposedly unscripted action features non-actor celebrities and unknowns. I first encountered mention of them in extrapolated futures I wanted no part of, like James Tiptree, Jr.’s short story “The Girl Who Was Plugged In,” and “Baby You Were Great” and “Ladies and Gentlemen, This Is Your Crisis,” both by Kate Wilhelm. Novels from William Gibson, Barry Malzberg, and John Brunner fleshed out the picture: corporate ownership of governments; 24/7 surveillance; a culture of jaded, passive cynics.
Now a reality show star has been elected President of the United States. Now I’m living in the sort of world I didn’t even like reading about. Now I want to know how to change life’s channel.
So of course, being me, I turn to the imaginary.
Of published work, the most optimistic science fiction/fantasy/horror written recently on the topic of elections is Malka Older’s Infomocracy, a June 2016 publication that leaps a couple of decades ahead to a time when “microdemocracies” — non-geographical communities of 100,000 citizens — cover the globe. While Older’s depiction of how such a system would work — and fail — if put in place is entertaining in a governance geek way, this novel gives no turn-by-turn guidance on getting where it shows us winding up.
More promising in terms of finding a way forward, perhaps, are a pair of projects only lately underway. Ben Winters, Philip K. Dick and Edgar award-winning author of Underground Airlines, is putting together a series of stories “contemplating the future of our nation and world during and after a Trump presidency.” Scheduled to start appearing in Slate Magazine on Inauguration Day, these stories will be set in the 2016 presidential election’s immediate aftermath. Judging by the list of authors participating, bitterness, irony, and parody will probably be mixed with inventive strategies of resistance.
One prominent name on the list is crime fiction writer Gary Phillips, who will also edit The Obama Inheritance, an anthology in which contributors “riff on any one of dozens of teabagger-alt right conspiracy theories.” Time-traveling John Birchish saboteurs intent on destroying the president’s birth certificate, Michele wielding Pam Grier-worthy kung fu skills, and scenarios even more psychedelic than these seed the book’s proposal. In audacity there is hope.
Held February 3-5, Foolscap is a small, local convention that wants you to decide what it will consist of. Members plan the weekend’s programming at a Friday afternoon meeting, scheduling panels and discussions around set pieces such as an auction, a banquet, and writing workshops. Their first Guest of Honor was Octavia E. Butler, and 2017’s is Patricia Briggs, but this con’s website claims that “Everyone is interesting.” Come take advantage of this least hierarchical of fandom’s famously non-hierarchical communities. And bring your brain; quoting again from Foolscap’s website, “Ideas make the best toys.”
Radcon is a more conventional convention, so to speak. It features the usual panels, gaming rooms, film viewings, and masquerades. Idiosyncratic strengths include well-organized school visitation sessions for professional writers; a chill, rambly hallway scene with an upright piano providing mood music; and a rave-like dance party.
If SFFH’s Golden Age is 12, as some insist, the genre’s Golden Format is the short story. Just the right size for having adventures in, short stories allow authors and readers to experiment with settings, ideas, characters, styles, so forth, so on, without making us invest huge wads of wordage. And anthologies with unifying themes both inspire these experiments and bring them together, thus making it easy to compare the ways they work.
The editor of Latin@ Rising (Wings Press), Matthew David Goodwin,focuses on SFFH by US-connected Latinos/Latinas/Latinx writers. The closest comparable anthology is 2012’s Three Messages and a Warning, a book of new SFFH by modern Mexican authors. Though over a third of Goodwin’s selections are reprints, they’re of recent enough vintage that this book feels fresh and damp, as if the ink hadn’t yet made up its mind to dry. In particular I enjoyed the Klein bottlesque plot curvature of Kathleen Alcalá’s “The Road to Nyer” and Ernest Hogan’s far-too-relevant politipunk story “Flying under the Texas Radar with Paco and Los Freetails.”
Paying less attention to source than content, Jaym Gates and Monica Valentinelli, co-editors of Upside Down (Apex), asked contributors to invert “tropes,” worn storytelling clichés such as “The black man dies first” (full disclosure: I have a story in this book based on that very cliché). Their directive results in surrealistic premises such as the trendy small-appliance bodymodding in Adam-Troy Castro’s “The Refrigerator in the Girlfriend.” But it’s also interesting to see how some authors subvert their chosen tropes rather than simply standing them on their heads, as when in “Those Who Leave,” Michael Choi’s Asian scientist is emotionally driven rather than a stereotypical personification of cold, passionless intellect. Plenty of pleasure of all kinds here, including deeply moving weirdness from Michael Matheson and Haralambi Markov. A section of essays by academics and writing professionals on tropes in general and certain toxically tempting ones in particular adds further depth to this already thought-provoking anthology.
At the opposite end of the length spectrum from short stories lies the realm of the series — quartets, septologies, and the like. Charles Stross’s Merchant Prince series began, according to the late David Hartwell, as this notoriously “hard” SF-loving author’s attempt at writing fantasy. Sharing the multiverse premise and settings as well as several “worldwalking” characters with the Merchant Prince books, Empire Games (Tor) could be considered their seventh volume or, as it’s billed, the first of a related yet different series, the Paratime trilogy. Either way you read it, Stross’s latest will deliver vivid, unexpected, complicated fun.]]>
Superman, on the other hand, is all about being an adult. I've written about what makes Superman an interesting character: internal conflict over complicated moral choices. Batman often can't withstand that kind of complexity.
But DC Comics recently released paperback collections of the first six or so issues of the 2016 Batman and Superman series, and I'll be damned if these two characters haven't flipped in my estimation: Batman is the more interesting, more adult character and Superman is caught in a tar pit of adolescent melodrama.
Let's be clear: Batman Vol 1: I Am Gotham isn't a transcendant superhero comic. Hell, it's not even the best superhero comic from writer Tom King to be released in the last year (that would be King's amazing Vision series, which added layers of depth to a weird tertiary Marvel Comics character.) But it is a hell of a lot of fun, with Batman facing down a pirate, a crashing 747, and a pair of superpowered heroes who want to make Gotham City a better place.
I Am Gotham deals directly with Batman's perennial Superman envy by introducing a team of heroes with Superman's power set but very little real-world experience. Most of the book consists of Batman trying to figure out if he can trust them, and whether he's been outclassed as hero of the city. King's Batman seems to be growing and changing: he's aware of his own flaws and he's actively trying to overcome them.
David Finch's art is not my favorite: everything looks a little too pinched, and heroes look a little too constipated. But here, Finch allows for more depth, introducing characters with different body types. His facial expressions could still use some work — so much grimacing! — but it's nice to see an established fan-favorite artist take on greater depth and range.
Speaking of depth and range, Superman Vol 1: Son of Superman delivers none. What a mess this comic is. It's unclear how much of this problem is due to writer Peter Tomasi and how much of it has to do with corporate edict. I can't even fully understand what's going on here.
So it seems that Superman is dead. But another Superman from a different timeline is seeking refuge in the dead Superman's timeline. This other Superman is married to Lois Lane (the one from his own timeline, not the one in the dead Superman's timeline) and has a child. This version of Superman is living in hiding, waiting for the dead Superman to come back to life. But eventually...
...oh, who cares? This book is just a bunch of flying and screaming and punching and angst, all signifying exactly nothing. It's too bad, too, because artist Doug Mahnke is one of the better Superman artists of our time: he can draw pretty much anything well: super-fights and morose graveside scenes and optimistic faces. But this story is all over the place, and not even Mahnke's remarkably solid art can provide a sense of consistency.
The one thing that Son of Superman does right is that it provides a great vision of Superman as a parent. His son with Lois, Jonathan, is basically a carbon copy of himself, only more reckless and more uncertain. This new character adds a new twist to the Superman formula: not only does he have to save the world, he has to raise a son while he's doing it. Being a parent makes Superman even more interesting. Too bad everything else about this Superman comic is so damn boring.]]>
About 20 employees will be affected. They are eligible to apply for positions at University Book Store’s six other locations. Those stores, including ones in Seattle’s University District, Mill Creek and Tacoma, will remain open.
Tu quotes University Book Store CEO Louise Little as saying the space, which UBS owns, is “larger than we need," and that UBS "is looking for a smaller space on the Eastside."
When I talk to Seattle-area booksellers, most tell me that this Christmas retail season was a little slow to start, but they report that their sales finished at or above expectations for the year. Still, the retail landscape is always perilous; let this serve as your reminder that independent booksellers need your support. Though it's easy to take them for granted because they've always been a part of Seattle, no bookstore is invulnerable.]]>
The first is the Poet-In-Residence position, which is a two-year title that offers a monthly stipend and paid teaching opportunities. You can read about the current Writers-in-Residence here and apply here.
The second is the Made at Hugo House program, which offers "space and resources to four to six fellows in the Seattle area to complete a proposed project." Those writers get full access to the House's many writing classes, offices, readings, interaction with literary professionals, and a group of dedicated writers at roughly the same stage in their careers. This one is open to poets, memoirists, novelists, journalists, and just about any other literary discipline you can think of. Apply for that here.
My advice for you is this: if you're thinking about applying for either of these positions, you absolutely should. What's the worst that could happen? And if you do apply for these — which, again, you should — don't wait until the last moment. Take your time but also know when to let go of your application. Have a friend — one friend, not all of them — look it over, and then send it out. Who knows? Maybe you'll see your name on this here website when Hugo House announces their newest incoming writers.]]>