A full list of my publications is available at kaufmanwrites.com.
If you don’t care about video games, don’t bother clicking through. Read the rest of this entry »
So I just came across Joshua Rothman’s really wonderful New Yorker article about genre (in the Tweeter feed of Sequoia Nagamatsu who edits the really lovely Psychopomp, go investigate all that), and you should read it. I’ll give you a minute.
I’m not going to get into the whole thing here — it’s a great article and I love what it has to say about genre — but I did want to write down something it helped clarify for me. Our current conceptions of “genre” are highly problematic; I’ve previously talked about how their increasing granularity is bad for writers.What Rothman does so nicely in his article is briefly explain Northrop Frye’s genre system…I’m not going to explain it again here, because you should have just read Rothman’s article.
One of the key differences between the way publishing constructs genre and the way Frye does is what “cross-genre” comes to mean. Essentially, today’s publishing-oriented genre system means “cross-genre” is a mixing of tropes. Cowboys vs. Aliens is perhaps the most ad absurdum way to think about it. Cross-genre to Frye is a blending of approaches, a blending of systems.
I’ve recently been thinking a lot about “great” works of literature, the works that have stuck with us, stood the test of time, informed generations of writers…you know the drill. What they have in common, at least to my mind, is that they provide their readers with new tools — mechanisms for addressing reality, for writing new stories, etc. The problem with our current system of genre classification is that it doesn’t allow space for creating new tools. The most innovative tool it allows is genre crossing, and that limits authors to existing tropes. “Innovation” in this context becomes the rote work of finding unused combinations.
Blending systems, as Frye would have us do, changes the equation. Anatomy and confession (you read the damn article, right?) are necessarily progressive affairs. By which I mean, where the recombination of tropes roots the author in the past, the recombination of systems requires the author to address the present, the ongoing. The former rejects new tools, the latter practically requires their invention.
I know I’m being a little obscure, but to hell with you. I have two graduate degrees in English, I’m supposed to be obscure.
I’m really happy to report that my newest story, “Coping with Common Garden Pests,” is live in Unlikely Story. You can read it for free!
Unlikely Story, for those who don’t know, publishes themed issues. This particular issue is another installment of their wonderful Journal of Unlikely Entomology, so expect lots of bugs. Also expect a whole bunch of great, speculative-fiction short stories.
Unlikely will be posting an interview with me that covers anything I might have said here that anyone might even be able to pretend is interesting. So in lieu of any commentary, I’ll just update this post with a link at some point in the future.
*Update* The Unlikely Interview is live.
One thing I noticed while watching mainstream coverage of Ferguson was how any place reporters had set up a stationary camera, the police would shine a bright light at the camera. One CNN reporter actually commented on it, and said he didn’t know why the cops were shining a light at reporters. Seems obvious to me: at night, the light messes with the camera’s light meter, and essentially makes everything on the far side of the light source invisible to the camera. The police do not want to be watched. They want their activities to go unrecorded. They want the activities of the people they are policing to go unrecorded. They know that if anything that happens leads to legal action, they will be completely protected so long as there is no recorded proof of the incident itself. It’s the same reason the airspace over Ferguson was declared a no-fly zone, and media aircraft were kicked out.
Thankfully, the courts have decided that it is not unlawful to record the police, but why should it be incumbent on the policed to make those recordings? The White House issued a bullshit response to the original petition calling for police to be required to wear body cameras. Make no mistake, it is a bullshit response, one that boils down to, “we will do nothing,” because no politician wants to be on the wrong side of the police unions when election time rolls around.
Police need to be held accountable for criminal actions. There is a preponderance of evidence that, if nothing else, the investigation into Mike Brown’s murder was massively mishandled, to a degree that conspiracy seems much more likely than incompetence. At every step along the way, from the crime-scene tech with a dead camera battery to the prosecutor who seemed to be working for the defense, there was an absolute unwillingness to challenge the police. The people who work closely with the police, who rely on the police for their jobs and personal success, will always be unwilling to challenge the police in any situation where there could be even a whiff of subjectivity.
And this makes a police officer’s uniform a symbol of otherness, of immunity from the laws they enforce, of unchecked authority, and power without balance. It demeans the uniform, it undermines the ideas of protection, service, and justice. It makes the police an invading force, operating from a different culture, morality, and rule of law than the people they police.
Body cameras should be required for all on-duty police officers. They should be a part of the uniform. Not as a symbol of mistrust. Not as a way of saying that the police must be watched. But because the police should be representatives of the people. So that the police and the policed know that when they stand before each other they are equal in their accountability. The actions of the police are not the actions of some other, but the actions of the community. No more than a criminal should believe himself in opposition solely to the badge and gun, but not the community he preys on, or than an innocent man and his community should fear victimization by outsiders, should any community be allowed to choose ignorance, to turn away when vile things are done in its name.
Justice is not a game of cops and robbers, it is the accountability of the community to itself. Unjust laws and policies can not change, and the just ones will forever lack credibility, so long as they are enforced out of sight.
This is the fifth year in a row that people have posted, en masse, “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers,” to teh internetz, so I thought I’d write my own take on this annual tradition. I sent it off to McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, who published the original article (and my own Open Letter to Jif Peanut Butter), but they said it was “too meta, even for [them].” So, for shits and giggles, I went and posted “It’s ‘It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers’ Season, Motherfuckers” to Buzzfeed Community. Because why the fuck not. After all, if you prick me, am I not still a hack?
Publishing Updates: Unstuck, Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed, Unlikely Story, and Bonus PANK InterviewSeptember 10, 2014
I will probably never not neglect this blog. I know that some non-self-promotional-blogging is called for, but that’s not what I’m going to do today. Today I’m going to catch up on all the self-promotional news I haven’t blogged on my blog yet.
First, Unstuck 3 came out, and it includes my story “The Beginning of Peace.” The issue is already out of print, but can be purchased as an ebook from Amazon. Getting published in Unstuck was really, really exciting for me. They’ve published a whole host of authors who I love, and who have influenced my writing. It’s a wonderful feeling to share paper with such talented people. I also had a wonderful experience with the Unstuck editorial staff, who saw the potential in my story and had me write a whole second half for it. I’ve never before engaged in such extensive revision with an editor, but I can’t wait to do it again. If “The Beginning of Peace” is any good, half the credit goes to Josh Rolnick and the rest of the Unstuck editors.
If it sucks, please blame them.
Second, I made my first professional sci-fi/fantasy story sale to Daily Science Fiction. “Chapter One” is available to read free on their website. I can’t say I’m entirely happy with the formatting, but I am ecstatic that they liked the story enough to publish it.
Third and Fourth, I recently made two more professional-rate sci-fi/fantasy story sales: one to Lightspeed, and the other to Unlikely Story for the Journal of Unlikely Entomology. The story in JUE will be out in November, the story in Lightspeed doesn’t have a release date yet. Again, very exciting stuff for me. All I want from life is to be a professional writer, and to make a living doing it. This feels like a solid step towards that goal.
These three pro sales are also a testament to the effectiveness of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Workshop. Seriously, if you want to write science fiction and/or fantasy, apply to Clarion. I originally wrote the story Lightspeed bought for week five of Clarion, and the story in Daily Science Fiction was my week six effort. Unlikely Story bought my first post-Clarion effort. I owe Clarion a debt of gratitude, and I particularly owe Karen Joy Fowler and Kelly Link, who taught week five and six as a team, for their guidance and encouragement. They are amazing people, teachers, and authors. Buy their books.
Lastly, PANK interviewed me for their Lightning Room after publishing my story “Selling the Fall” (which is neither sci-fi nor fantasy, though it is weird). If you care what I think about, like, writing and shit, check it out.
I have decided to post the results to all of my Zimbio quizzes in one spot, rather than flood social media with separate posts for each delightful quiz. So here, without further ado, is the stuff. Read the rest of this entry »
I was very excited to find the new Gigantic Sequins in my mailbox today. Octopi!
It’s filled with wonderful things, the least of which is flash fiction from yours truly. You should totally support this wonderful journal, and fill your brain with wonderful: buy a copy here.
Also, start loving giganticsequins.com.
So, someone shared this article via social media (I swear, I wasn’t googling, “How to turn a thousand dollars of VR immersion equipment into a masturbation aid”). I’ll post a link, but the upshot is that a Japanese company that makes fake vaginas (faux-vaginas? Fauxginas! Nailed it!) that look like Neuro bottles has jury-rigged a set of Oculus Rift goggles, a Novint Falcon 3D haptic controller thing, and said fauxgina, into a gizmo to make you believe you’re being jerked off by a cartoon girl.
There’s nothing surprising to me about people figuring out how to use technology for sexual gratification. The technology exists, so we will figure out how to use it most effectively for porn. Least. Shocking. Thing. Ever.
No, I’m compelled to write a blog post because of this line: “‘I think that there’s a taboo with male masturbation,’ Sato [the CEO of the fauxgina company] said. ‘We want to normalize it, that’s why we design features for it.'”
That. That right there. To normalize a taboo, all you have to do is add features. Because if it’s a grand of technology instead of sixty cents of rubber tubing, it ain’t weird. Read the rest of this entry »