Uncanny Valley: Science Fiction Summer Reading Group

If you buy one book this summer...Pravic for the people!Crack a book, science fiction lovers! Summer is back and so are we. Attend four stellar Thursday nights this Summer. (6/8, 6/29, 7/6, and 8/24) Join Editor of Pravic Magazine David Gill and science fiction author Suhail Rafidi as they once again brave the Uncanny Valley, searching out the latest and greatest in science fiction writers.

Page on!This summer, we’ll be reading 6 short stories over the first 3 sessions (6/8, 6/29, 7/6) counterweighted by one thick novel (Kim Stanley Robinson’s, New York 2140) for the fourth and final discussion (8/24). So plenty of time to get started on the whopper. If pages were years, this book’d have millennia. Let’s rock.

How’s It Go?

Four Thursday night discussions, 7:00 PM Pacific (6/8, 6/29, 7/6, 8/24)
If you’re in the Bay Area and can make it live, contact us for the address.
Otherwise, the Google Hangout link:

https://plus.google.com/hangouts/_/g5stgywth5n76vwbbyicm4jkqea

June 8
“The Game Of Rat And Dragon,”
-by Cordwainer Smith [Download PDF]

“And I Awoke And Found Me Here On The Cold Hill’s Side,”
-by James Tiptree, Jr. [Download PDF]

Yes, that Ted Chaing story...June 29
“Story Of Your Life,” by Ted Chiang [Download PDF]

“Reiko’s Universe Box,” by Kajio Shinji

July 6
“Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” by Jorge Luis Borges [Download PDF]

“Sharing Air,” by Manjula Padmanabhan

August 24
New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson


Mark your calendars! Start reading now and join us this summer in the Uncanny Valley.
See you Thursday nights! (6/8, 6/29, 7/6, & 8/24)

In The Uncanny Valley...Bring it!

Dude, it’s Nowell & Nikita.

Thank you for reading. Reading rules!

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Audio Book Me This: Cetus Finalis Gets Tracked!

Image by Lucie Hall (Linoleuim block print)Hearken, reader, to heaps of interesting developments on the horizon. Most interestingly, is on the subject of audio books. With each successive publication, a very common question I get is whether Cetus Finalis, or Chili Bill’s tome, or TJ & Tosc, are available for listening.

Many people want to read Cetus Finalis, but frankly do not have the time to read a book. They’ve solved this problem by popping in an audio book and bopping along through their commute, or during housekeeping errands, or baths, and catch up on their books that way. You asked, and here’s the answer.

Audio book production for Cetus Finalis: A Gray Whale Odyssey has officially begun! And for those of you who are curious who will voice this ambitious project, wonder no longer. It’s me! Yes, I have been busy preparing myself, preparing a studio, voice coaching, and at long last I am ready to read my own book, HA!

"This story, like most of its kind..."I’ve converted the walk-in closet to a recording studio, lined with thick fabric and egg crate sound insulation. Ryan has supplied me with a gorgeous Apogee mic. The microphone levels are set, the table and chair are placed. Now I’m plugging away, reading a bit a day. It’s good fun, and I’m thankful to be working on a project I care about.

It’s time consuming. Ryan’s assigned three takes per chapter. He’ll stack the three tracks, and since I am unlikely to make all of my mistakes in all of the same places, he can switch tracks as needed when mastering and mixing. All the while, laying on subtle, customized reading music.

Listen Up!Why did I choose to read my own audio book? Well, from a practical standpoint it’s cheapest. But there are other good reasons to do it, possibly better. I have the most intimate knowledge of the text, having chosen each syllable myself. But in voice coaching, I am learning to screen my identity out of the job, and be the vessel which bears the words. It’s difficult to write about sound, so ultimately you’ll have to listen to it. I don’t want to give too much away, but imagine an audio book, read by the author, with an original score.

He reads — he scores!

Ryan has written 8 pieces of original music, tuned to aspects of Cetus Finalis, capable of putting Brian Eno into a hypnotic state of ecstatic learning. We are studying the soundscapes together and assigning them to different themes; an orca theme, a deep diver’s theme, a dolphin theme, etc. Ah, the language of music layered subtly behind the language of prose, following the action.

This audio book will do unique and euphonic things with storytelling. We are cooperating and coordinating our talents to enrich the format. I’m listening to a demo now, and I can’t wait!

Stay tuned for a release date.

Thank you for reading. Reading rules!

Posted in Art and Artists, Audio Book, Authors and Writing, Books, Cetus Finalis, Music and Musicians, Ryan Hurtgen, The Writing Profession | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140 and Uncanny Thank You!

Wallpaper Credit: We Know Your Dreams dot com

The world’s alight with golds and reds, folks, and autumn’s got me smacked! A wonderful summer is dovetailing into the sweet coast toward December.

I want to thank readers and participants for your time, attention, and insights during this year’s science fiction reading group. Much obliged; keep it coming! We’ll bring you more hand picked science fiction next summer. But now is now. Several intriguing and promising developments on the horizon this Autumn, and more to follow on that.

But first let’s wrap up this year’s Uncanny Valley with our discussion notes of New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson. A Manhattan housing bubble bursts in the era of rising sea levels. Communities band together and, well…let Kim tell you. This voluminous tome has lots of smots, no matter how they scatter.

Yes, an owl mug and a wine glass.Wrap Up: The discussion night dinner party at my place was more fun than the book. We read this book so you wouldn’t have to. If you are a long time fan of KSR this book will do just fine. If you’ve never read KSR before, don’t start here. Start with Shaman, or the Mars Trilogy.
Now the notes:
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p. 33-4, 35 voice transcripts? Who are you talking to, because it doesn’t feel like you’re talking to me. Is the narrator a character? A very pronounced character. Trim a bit, dood.

p.37 Hubert Fauntleroy Julian, “The Black Eagle,” the “first Negro to obtain a pilot’s licence.” A black pilot who flew to Europe and challenged Hermann Goering to an air duel.

p. 39 Sky village harvesting apples

All aboard...p. 42 Amelia the sexy web hostess leading an aerial tour of Manhattan. She says: “Brooklyn and Queens make a very strange-looking bay. To me, it looks like some kind of rectangular coral reef exposed at low tide.”
And it’s just more narrator’s voice. Sparse use of dialog, sparse use of dialogue of consequence. Lots of telling-not-showing.

p. 35, 36, 42 It’s obvious KSR did a lot of homework, and needs us to know that, to the point of describing things until long after I was interested in hearing about them. His tome is very conversational and redundant, using phrases for color that repeat each others content. It sounds like someone waxing poetic about New York after reading about it a lot, but never living there.

p. 45 Ah, much better, some consequential dialogue.

p. 48 Plenty of show-don’t-tell to go around. Dialogue essays, even telling what characters say in an expository paragraph, rather than quoting it.

[I’m beginning to suspect this book was dictated into a voice recognition or some kind of recorder. He’s just running his mouth and they’re printing it all up.]

p. 50 Ah, immersed in actual people, actual things happening, how these communities operate. This is good.

Meg: “That’s what equality is all about: you never make assumptions, no matter what the cues are.”

p. 55, 62, 65 good examples of inconsequential dialogue, the last 4 volleys rehashes the same inconsequential dialogue.

p. 85 So, I’m reading a “sci-fi” version of the housing bubble burst of 2008. Just watch “The Big Short” and spare me. This exemplifies the recent sci-fi syndrome: Sci-fi has become contemporary literature, so why are you doing it? Sci-fi, please take the next look forward.

p. 152 Jeff (& Mutt) graffittied the body of Law

p. 206 – 209: a good example of a paragraph no one needs. The “list-loving writer” strikes again. 2008 redux, I know, it’s painfully obvious. The KSR meander style. A paragraph of riffs that culminates in, “Bubbles, skin, ducks, yes it was a morass of mined metaphors.”
Indeed, it was.
Or here:
p. 206 “Capital, having considerably more liquidity than water, slid down the path of least resistence, or up it, or sideways – it doesn’t matter…”
(Yeah, to him it doesn’t matter. Fire up the dictaphone.)

Or here:
p. 214 [in Garr’s voice] “The stack, as in stack of emergent properties, but really stacked emergencies. Really best to think of it as a kind of game. Mabye. A game, or a system for gaming things. Anyway,…”
(And it goes on.)

It’s a rent strike.

p. 210 Intertidal, defined at last. Lots more show-don’t-tell where that came from. Editor!

Red wine, beeswax candles, and a smile on Nowells face. What more do you need?Meg, recently returned from Taos Toolbox, criticized the sloppy writing and messy, untagged dialogues. It’s tough to know who’s talking, and not on purpose. “I don’t mean to bash Robinson, but has he even reread this?” Maybe Robinson has reached the bashing stage in his career. After a dozen or so books, maybe he’s already said what he’s here to say.

p. 212 “The invisible hand never picks up the check.” HA! I love it. Get moral, man!

p. 214 “New York still tended to stand for The City everywhere.”

p. 245 did Idelba and Vlade’s kid die? This turns out to be the most interesting relationship in the novel, and fairly incidental.

[I jumped ahead about 200 pages and they’re still talking about the offer on the building.]

p. 427 “a householder’s strike could cause a crash,” followed by a “nationalize the banks” outline, making the profits of finance a public fund. Seems like a naive leftism.
(I hope the Democrats don’t go Espresso Party.)

p. 432 The ratings agencies “never saw a bubble they didn’t triple-A.” Again, followed by a long, drawn out fictionalized 2008 rehash. Just watch The Big Short and save yourself.

p. 434 If we just replace it with OUR tyrannical system, everything will be OK. Bigger government, every aspect of life should eventually be a government province. Whew.

p. 528 democracy vs. capitalism entrenchment. Strike time!

p. 532 fiscal noncompliance, like No-Gas Day. The crash comes. The citizens go on financial strike.

p. 542 The concept of utopia has a very dark, indidious element. Utopia is the tyranny you designed, perfect as far as you care to measure.

To the last drop!p. 553 “see if government could go back to being the people’s company.” “Red Dems.” The Democrats have a Tea Party, also. But it needs a better name than Red Dems. Let’s call it the Espresso Party. HA!

p. 554 scaring the rich. “the fact that a real plan has reared its ugly head, and it’s called this: nationalize the banks.”

p. 558 (!) No! Is Larry Jackman a real villain?

p. 560, 2008 Bernanke analysis with imaginary hindsight, heh.

p. 561 call back on Jeff’s “graffiti hacks.”

A very distinctly purposeful book. Enjoying the story was incidental. It is teaching, in fiction form, what Zizek might call, “pure ideology.”

The householders, and most everybody, are real comunities of earnest people. I appreciate KSR’s moral storytelling approach. But it lacks something, a shadow.

p. 563 so that risky investments are not bankrolled by the government. Is Larry playing dumb because he’s a villain? Or is it because KSR doesn’t know what the chair of the Fed would think of this situation? Not economically literate in it?

Kim Stanley Robinsons New York 2140, as held by Suhail Rafidi.It’s supposed to be a long, drawn-out conversational book, because it is diluting complex ideas and postulating organized social movements, thinly veiled economic politcal instructions, on purpose, to make it comprehensible and practical to imagine into action.
Example: Joint enterprise laws.

p. 565 a little hand-tipping.

p. 577-8 more inconsequential dialogue, please!

p. 603-4 make it stop. Less of this would have made the book shorter, and easier to finish. Before you go, cover all your wisdom bases, old man.

Gill: “I can’t critique anything but his futurism, because there’s nothing else there.”

Suhail: “Using plausible technology removes the concept of ‘fiction.’ What’s the fucking point? It’s like his dictaphone was asking him, ‘What do you think, Kim?'”

“Siri, pad my book.”

Group: WAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Robinson knows how to do better character development, back when he didn’t have all of that prophet technologist mantle laid on him. A book by KSR that Meg and Chris both loved: Shaman. Ice age hunter, culture as technology, which deeply depends on human relationships.

1920s Utopias eventually contain an element of futurism that is fascist. What is the human plight against it. Utopias are a warning, too, because they imply, “Well if you just use my form of tyranny, we’ll all be happy.”

Science fiction is mined for movies, now it’s more fadish to mime science fiction for tech innovation. So sci-fi more and more writes towards R & D, rather than really using some fiction imagination. Maybe I’ll predict the next hot technology, ha.

This led to a nostalgic tangent about how exquisite was A Canticle For Leibowitz. That book – so good.

Suggestions so far for next summer’s list?
Vinge, Arabella of Mars
Burning Chrome
Any suggestions of your own? Please post them in the comments.
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Wrap up: If you’ve never read Kim Stanley Robinson, start elsewhere.

A hobbits life for me!

See you next time for some exciting announcements about this crisp and lavish autumn’s literary endeavors, including another school talk (my favorite), a short story contest, an audiobook of Cetus Finalis, and more.

Thank you for reading. Reading rules!

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Science Fiction, Sociey and Culture, summer reading, uncanny valley | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Uncanny Valley Digest: Manjula Padmanabahn

Hello, and welcome back to lip-smacking science fiction in the Uncanny Valley! Our “Sharing Air” discussion was the champagne’s bubbles! What happens when you’re buying air like bottled water? Are you aghast at the prospect? Or proud of how many flavors you can afford? This tidbit-length story packed a conversation-rich wallop.

“Sharing Air,” by Manjula Padmanabahn was published in 1984 in New Delhi’s New Sunday Express magazine. Another story of ideas; a pollution and climate change story that sets us up for Kim Stanley Robinson next time. Padmanabahn depicts the absurdity of the new culture that settles in after we adapt to rampant pollution.

Why the shortest story in the penultimate meeting? This week is our deep breath before a plunge. Our next discussion will be a full length novel, the latest from Kim Stanley Robinson: New York 2140. We will reconvene Even though you’ve still got four weeks to read it, Robinson’s book is nearly 700 pages long, so start now. Now for the notes!

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Padmanabahn’s story contained some essential character expression that was sorely lacking in Borges. The double edged satire of our flawed character narrating the story gives the sci-fi reveals a nice crackle.

"Are we there yet?" "Maybe we passed it."Welcome to HelDavid: “This story would be a great final exam. Come in, read it, then – based on the stories we read this semester – answer this question in an essay: ‘Is this story a utopian or a dystopian story?’ It’s clear they’ve solved a lot of environmental problems, after some serious setbacks (only 2 million humans left on all of Earth, for example). At the same time, you get the sense that they’ve got it worse than us.”

David and Nowell: “I am fascinated that this was 1984.” “Yeah, it seems 10 years too early.”

David: “It’s so clearly political that sci-fi magazines in the 80s would not have wanted it. That’s why it wasn’t never published in a sci-fi magazine. In some ways it resembles H.G. Wells, writing as a vehicle to get people to understand and become activists.

Huh...?

Nowell: “I like the flaws and self-critique of the main character. The mask and the radio communications, never seeing actual faces or hearing actual voices.”

p. 927, col. 2, “I own a brood of virtual children whom I share with other members of my thought-group.” A great, insidious line.

Not that kind of sharing...David: “The indignant narrator is what makes it work so well. The self-righteous narrator can’t see the things being preached to us. Just as heavy handed as the anti-nuke writing of the golden age. Sci-fi writers have something to learn from this writer.”

Nowell: “It turns on itself well, with good reveals. It’s like a dialectic.”

David: “Yeah, dialectic is a good word for this. But so heavy handed, it’s like a New Yorker piece.”

Suhail: “Another good example of a story of ideas. But at least this one has an engaging, flawed character to keep pace with. So much more effective.”

One smile?!David: “It’s not quite so dry. Telling, not showing; essay format, but nails it.”

Suhail: “It has a character. A narrator with a good conundrum of disdain for the past while still fetishising the past. (she still order boutique ‘Five Cities’ scented air.)”

p. 926, col. 1, “More like bleary with a touch of pleasurable panic,” The Radiohead syndrome. Modern technologized paranoia.

p. 926, col. 2, “They breathed one another’s air, for goodness’ sakes! Recycling all their airborne germs, their waste products, their cast off bronchial ceils, every kind of organic junk.” Contamination anxiety [This came up in The Iron Dream, also.], not just about pollution. People hermetically sealing their lives off from the organic living juices of other life forms; an unhealthy utopian perfection syndrome.

p. 926, col. 2, “The polluted earth itself!” By the end, a nice tidy, obvious, playful, heavy-handed, and mercifully short satire.

The reveal: A depression plague killed them, TJ & Tosc style, and who knows if it’s over. Self-loathing killed them. No trees, no air, no food, and she’s convinced she’s living in a modern utopia (because the propaganda apparatus works so well).

Did I mention the pizza was delicious?Did I mention the pizza was delicious?Did I mention the pizza was delicious?Did I mention the pizza was delicious?

See you August 24th for Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest novel, New York 2140.

Thank you for reading. Reading rules!

Posted in Science Fiction, Short Stories, Sociey and Culture, summer reading, uncanny valley | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment