February is nearly done, and as usual I thought I would post pictures of this month’s book intake:
I am nearly done with the Moorcock (for review at SF Signal) and am navigating Liz Hand’s new novel with awe and unease. The Calvino is a first English, which is nice.
My latest column at SF Signal has gotten some kind words from Jeff VanderMeer and Adam Mills. I’m happy that a number of folks have enjoyed this entry. I wish that I had more time to expand on a few of the points, especially the one about home. Ever since I read the long interview with David Foster Wallace about fiction and story I’ve been trying to look at my reading of fiction with more attention to what I feel and how the experience informs other aspects of my thinking. I’m grasping for something that has not fully coalesced yet, but I find that in my recent writing I am struggling for an understanding of fiction’s effects that is not just about the language or cultural resonance. I’m still not sure what it is but I am pursuing it.
One of my favorite songs is “This Must be the Place (Naive Melody)” first performed by the Talking Heads in 1983. I’ve heard some other versions over the years and the only one to equal it is an acoustic version that Shawn Colvin did in a concert I saw in 1990 (and was far superior to the version that ended up on her album Cover Girl). What I love about the song is that, despite some sentimental overtures, it acknowledges that life is impermanent and that most of what we do is an attempt to give that impermanence meaning. But everything, no matter how deeply felt, significant, or powerful, does not last. Home is where we want to be; we long for it and try to make it real, immanent in our lives. But it is an illusion, one that perhaps we need.
Fantastika is a sort of home from many of its readers, in ways that are less prevalent with other types of literature. I certainly felt that when I started reading it seriously in high school, and it became that for me. Having never felt at home with my family, or really in the world, going to my first convention felt like coming home (a feeling-construct in need of being reflected upon). There is comfort, familiarity, challenge, exploration, in various measures. All fiction contains these elements, but there seems to be a peculiar alchemy in SF/Fantasy/Horror/Weird/Slipstream etc. that is about home. Avid readers and fans make their home in the words. It may sound ridiculous, but I think there’s something to that. I think that is an idea worth exploring.