A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘popular literature

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • blogTO shares photos of Toronto in the 1970s and 1980s, a time when the downtown was dominated by … parking lots.
  • Centauri Dreams hopes that the 2030s will be the decade when Europa (and its sibling moons like Ganymede) get explored.
  • Eastern Approaches guides readers through the competing Russian and Ukrainian iconographies of eastern Ukraine.
  • Hunting Monsters noted that yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the fall of Dien Bien Phu to Vietnamese rebels.
  • Language Hat draws from Herta Muller’s observation for the Romanian language’s sexual obscenities.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen notes that income in Brooklyn fell slightly, suggesting that gentrification isn’t driving people out.
  • The Planetary Society Blog’s Casey Dreier celebrates the restoration of 170 million dollars in funding to NASA’s planetary science programs.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer suggests that Panama hasn’t revealed the bank accounts of potentially corrupt Venezuelan officials because it doesn’t want to scare off Venezuelans generally.
  • Peter Rukavina and Van Waffle both reflect on yesterday’s death of Canadian author Farley Mowat.
  • The Russian Demographics blog reflects on Ukraine’s war losses.
  • Towleroad notes a documentary exploring the gay accent.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that some Russians would like to annex southern Ukraine, so as to be able to acquire the Moldovan enclave of Transnistria.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • io9 notes that apparently circumbinary planets and their moons–planets orbiting two stars which themselves closely orbit each other–might be better-suited to life than planets orbiting single stars.
  • Centauri Dreams’ Paul Gilster reacts to Karl Schroeder’s Lockstep, an imagining of a far future where slower-than-light travel is compensated for by hibernation technology.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to Kevin Luhman’s discovery paper for nearby brown dwarf WISE J085510.83-071442.5.
  • A Fistful of Euros reports on the Ukrainian release of intercepted communications between the Russian ambassador and separatists.
  • Mathew Ingram describes the role played by blogger Eliot Higgins in, through his sterling research, is undermining traditional models of journalism.
  • Language Log’s Victor Mair reports on the linguistic diversity within greater Tibet.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen predicts that Russia will undermine the Ukrainian government to the point that the entire country will align with Russia, not just fragments.
  • John Moyer makes the case for reading Beowulf. (It’s like Die Hard!)
  • The New APPS Blog notes that some Fox affiliates seem to be cutting oddly to commercials whenever the new Cosmos mentions human evolution.
  • Otto Pohl notes the Soviet Mennonite writers of the 1930s.
  • Savage Minds starts a discussion (through Alex Posecznick) about the ways in which anthropologists resemble hipsters.
  • Window on Eurasia links to a few article, one describing the current events as a delayed reaction to the Soviet split of 1991, another noting the de-Ukrainianization of Crimean schools, another noting Crimea’s potential for instability, another observing persecution of religious minorities including Ukrainian Catholics in Crimea, and noting separatism among the Karakalpak of western Uzbekistan.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait remembers recently departed colleague Bruce Woodgate.
  • Centauri Dreams examines the possibility of layered subsurface oceans on Ganymede.
  • Crooked Timber’s Belle Waring quite likes the song and video “Tous les Mêmes” by Belgian musician Stromae.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to one paper suggesting that circumbinary exoplanets–planets orbiting two closely-orbiting stars–might be quite common and another modelling the temperatures on the surface of a tide-locked ocean world.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes a DNA study of house mice suggesting that Vikings might have been the first to explore the island of Madeira and its neighbours, four centuries before Portuguese colonization.
  • Eastern Approaches visits east Ukraine and examines turmoil in Slovenia.
  • Far Outliers traces the evolution of the Melanesian island of Rabaul under Japan as a military base in the Second World War.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that anti-gay North Carolina Republican State Senate candidate Steve Wiles had a prior career as drag queen Miss Mona Sinclair.
  • Language Hat samples the beautiful strange poetry of the recently passed Rosemary Tonks.
  • Language Log’s Mark Liberman wonders, inspired by XKCD’s recent meditation on Morse code and Livejournal, how social media will continue to evolve.
  • pollotenchegg maps the changing relative proportions of Russians in different regions of Ukraine over more than a century.
  • Towleroad remembers the late disco great Sylvester.
  • Window on Eurasia links to warnings that Putin is a fascist bent on taking to Russia to war and concerns that so far, the Eurasian customs union isn’t boosting Russian ties with adjacent regions of Belarus and Kazakhstan.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • Centauri Dreams’ Paul Gilster visits depictions of Europa in classic science fiction.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper claiming that whether a planet of Earth’s mass becomes Earth-like or a mini-Neptune depends not so much on the planet as on the characteristics of its nebula.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes archeological analyses which suggest that Neanderthals were just as technologically capable of Homo sapiens.
  • Joe. My. God. quotes from ex-ex-gay John Paulk, who describes the factors that led him to flirt with the ex-gay movement.
  • Language Log’s Victor Mair doesn’t think Putonghua will become a world language because of its script. (Me, I think that’s decidedly secondary.)
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money starts a discussion on nuclear waste that’s a bit too panicky for my liking.
  • The Power and the Money notes that southern Brazil, like Argentina and Uruguay experienced sharp relative economic decline in the 20th century. This regional decline got missed in national statistics.
  • Strange Maps’ Frank Jacobs wonders why so many towns in the American South–especially Georgia–seem to be circular.
  • Towleroad notes that prominent Russian homophobe and politician Vitaly Milonov is calling on Russia to abandon Eurovision on account of its queer associations.
  • Transit Toronto notes a proposal to connect Toronto to London and Kitchener-Waterloo via high-speed train.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that the Russian private sector is being undermined and notes that Russians don’t travel all that much.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Antipope Charlie Stross wonders if one way to deal with the overaccumulation of wealth by elites is to get them to spend it in vast showy projects, like a crash program for nuclear fusion or a colonization of the upper atmosphere of Venus.
  • Centauri Dreams reacts to the discovery of the nearby and literally ice-cold brown dwarf WISE J085510.83-071442.5.
  • Crooked Timber’s Corey Robin argues that a recent American court case regarding a whistleblower highlights a tension between an individual’s freedoms as a citizens and limits as a private individual.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to two papers suggesting that a star’s circumstellar habitable zone could expand inwards if a planet is different from Earth, one pointing to slower-rotating planets and the other to lower-mass planets than Earth.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on the fascinating recovery of evidence of hunting nine thousand years ago from the bottom of Lake Huron.
  • Writing at the Financial Times‘ The World blog, Edward Luce is worried about Narendra Modi.
  • Language Log comments on browser plug-ins and other like things which adjust text to fit prescriptivist dictates.
  • James Nicoll seems much less impressed than the Volokh Conspiracy’s Ilya Somin in the idea of science fiction writers being criticized for their ideologies.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer argues that a chart suggesting there’s a low chance of civil war in Ukraine actually suggests no such thing on closer analysis.
  • Towleroad notes that Russia’s anti-gay laws are now being implemented in Crimea.
  • Window on Eurasia’s links warn of the need for NATO to defend its own, highlight Belarus’ stated interest in a foreign policy that balances the European Union with the Russian sphere, and quotes Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Cemilev on the Crimean Tatars’ continued dissidence and hope for rescue.

[LINK] “Hugo Nominations, 2014″

jsburbidge has a nice extended examination of issues with the 2014 Hugo awards. The first part deals with The Wheel of Time. Is it a novel? Or can it count as one?

If we view “novel” as a size description, then there’s a sequence Short Story, Novelette, Novella, Novel, much as books used to go up Duodecimo, Octavo, Quarto, Folio. Just as the sequence of book sizes (which were based on how many times a sheet was folded in the final volume) could be extended upwards (Elephant Folio), it might seem reasonable to extend the size-of-story upwards to include something which is not a series but is too big to be a novel. Giga-novel, maybe, or novelissimus. You’d have to find an appropriate size boundary for it, bearing in mind that War and Peace is by convention a novel and is 1296 pages long in a current translation, so the limit needs to be well over, say, 1500 pages.

However, that’s not really what’s usually meant when dividing up types of work. “Novella” and “novelette” are at best publishing categories (and since they aren’t really used as anything other than a way to talk about really long stories published, usually alongside shorter stories, in an anthology, they aren’t even that (although e-books may be changing the landscape here). Also, if War and Peace is a novel, so is (by ordinary understanding) Heart of Darkness, which is 80 pages long (the Dover version), which means that there’s a factor of 15 or so in terms of the allowable range for novels, and no obvious reason not to extend that ceiling.

We usually distinguish a novel[1] from a collection of related short stories by one criterion only: unity of plot. That doesn’t mean that there may not be subplots, but that there is one dominant story arc, that it is announced early on, and that the novel ends at the conclusion of that arc. That’s why The Man Who Was Thursday is a novel (although its structure is episodic and its ending somewhat arbitrary) and The Poet and The Lunatics a collection of tightly related short stories with a gradually emergent story arc.

Normally, the next step up from a novel is a series of interconnected novels. These may be tightly connected (Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle probably sits at an extreme here — it’s almost a novel in three parts, but not quite (it also harks back to the mediaeval romance’s technique of entrelacement)) or very loosely connected (the individual novels in La Comédie Humaine, or in the Dance to the Music of Time).

Most tightly-connected series fall into two categories. Either they involve stand-alone volumes (Inspector Alleyn, James Bond, Dominic Flandry) even though there may be some continuity and development between volumes, or they are volumes which have the shape of novels and initially look like the first kind of series but gradually accumulate a momentum towards a larger-scale resolution of a broader story arc (Toby Daye, Harry Dresden, Miles Vorkosigan, The Malazan Book of the Fallen). In either case, it’s quite clear that the components are themselves novels: you can pick up, say, One Salt Sea or Iorich and, with a bit of careful incluing, enjoy the volume as a work in itself. The characters’ backgrounds may need some filling in, but the action is a single action.

The second part, regarding the reading of authors who one doesn’t like, is also good.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 28, 2014 at 11:03 pm

[LINK] “Alistair MacLeod, acclaimed Canadian writer, dead at 77″

East coast author Alistair MacLeod has died; CBC’s initial report only touches on his importance. It’s remarkable that he had such an impact with such a small collection of published work. Such quality, though!

Alistair MacLeod, one of Canada’s great short story writers whose work detailed the people and culture of Cape Breton, has died. He was 77.

His death was confirmed by his friend, author Donna Morrissey.

“He was a beautiful friend, a mentor, a hero,” she told CBC News. “He was just a force that we … looked up to him.”

MacLeod was born in North Battleford, Sask. He moved with his family when he was 10 years old to Inverness County, N.S.

He authored two collections of short stories, The Lost Salt Gift of Blood (1976) and As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories (1986).

He wrote the novel No Great Mischief (1999), which won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Trillium Book Award and the Lannan Literary Award.

In 2004, he also authored the illustrated story To Everything There Is a Season: A Cape Breton Christmas Story (2004).

His writing touched on themes of economic migration, family ties and tensions and portrayals of cultural decline.

MacLeod taught literature and creative writing at the University of Windsor and was retired. He would return to Inverness County during the summer, where he wrote in a cabin looking west towards Prince Edward Island.

In 2008, MacLeod was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada for his commitment to Canadian literature and influence on Canadian authors.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 22, 2014 at 1:30 am

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

  • blogTO describes Toronto’s Great Fire of 1904.
  • Centauri Dreams and D-Brief react to the discovery of Kepler-186f, The Dragon’s Gaze linking to a paper that models potential climates on the world.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes, as does io9, that an Earth-like planet doesn’t need a stabilizing moon to be habitable. If anything, a shifting axis may help a planet avoid ice ages.
  • Eastern Approaches notes that the Czech Republic isn’t getting a Russian corporation to renovate its nuclear power plants.
  • Geocurrents notes the ongoing maritime border dispute between Romania and Ukraine.
  • Language Log notes an example of Chinese characters being used as annotations for Vietnamese script.
  • The Map Room’s Jonathan Crowe links to a copy of the only fantasy literature setting map needed. (The cliches are cringe-worthy.)
  • Marginal Revolution takes note of the ongoing real estate boom in Vancouver.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes that Ukraine needs to keep Odessa, not only because of the city’s importance as a coastal port but because of its oil refinery.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog links to a paper analyzing the different kinds of processes of depopulation in European Russia.
  • Towleroad notes that a photo exhibit showing same-sex couples kissing in Catholic churches, closed down in Rome, is now up in New York City.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that it’s quite rare to actually see police officers suffer serious penalties for lying.
  • Window on Eurasia points readers to the writings of Andrey Piontkovsky, who argues that Putin’s push for territorial annexations is more destabilizing (because more uncertain) than the Cold War.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell observes an uncanny congruence between maps of England showing ancient patterns of Viking settlement and contemporary patterns of areas with benefit cuts.

[LINK] “Generation Z”

Seen on my blogroll, science fiction writer Charlie Stross argues that dystopian young adult fiction is so popular because young adults in developed countries are plausibly expecting dystopia in their own futures.

So: low or stagnant income, the services my generation depended on and took for granted will no longer exist or be private monopolies, you either take on a crushing debt burden or consign yourself to unskilled labour for life, the cost of housing is an unsuperable barrier. To that you can add childcare costs: it’s estimated that the cost of day care for one infant is around 70-80% of the average female wage. One ray of hope for Generation Y is rising life expectancy—but by the same token the retirement age is rising, because there’s no way that working for 40 years can cover the costs of education and housing debt and a pension or annuity that will support you for another 25-30 years. Generation Y will probably work until they become too infirm, some time in their late 70s to early 80s, then experience the final 3-5 year period of decline in poor health and poverty if this goes on (because of course we’re talking about the state of the nation between 2060 and 2080).

If you follow this blog you already know my views on how we have created a security panopticon surveillance state the like of which would have given the East German Stasi wet dreams. Generation Y have come of age in this state; to the Millennial generation, East Germany probably looks like a near-utopia. (You have a 90% chance of your phone conversations not being bugged, and the state will pay for your education, housing, and healthcare! What’s not to like?)

There has been a boom market in dystopian young adult fiction over the past decade. There is a reason for this. Play and recreation is an important training mechanism in young mammals by which they practice or rehearse activities that will fit them for later adult life experiences. (It’s also fun, but bear with me while I discuss the more ploddingly puritan angle for a moment.) Could it be that the popularity of YA dystopias reflects the fact that our youngest generation of readers expect to live out their lives in dystopia? (The alternative explanations hold that (a) high school in the age of helicopter parenting, fingerprint readers in the library, and CCTV in the corridors is an authoritarian dystopia anyway, and YA dys-fic helps kids understand their environment; and (b) that worse, their parents (who influence their reading) think this.)

What is to be done? There’s some discussion in the comments about potential individual and societal strategies, for what it’s worth.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 17, 2014 at 3:57 am

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • 3 Quarks Daily asks whether parenthood is morally respectable.
  • blogTO has vintage photos of Toronto’s neighbourhood of Corktown.
  • Centauri Dreams notes that a small moon may be condensing out of Saturn’s Ring A.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes evidence that close-orbiting “hot Jupiters” influence their stars.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes continuing progress in teasing out evidence of Neandertal ancestry from current populations.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that some Muslim cab drivers in Cleveland refuse to drive cabs with signs advertising the upc9oming Gay Games.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money takes on the minor scandal of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s non-receipt of a symbolic degree from Brandeis University.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen seems unduly skeptical about Norway’s program of buying books by local authors for libraries, so as to subsidize literary production.
  • New APPS Blog contrasts the open citizenship of the Roman Republic with the closed citizenship of the Greek city-states, with Carthage being somewhere in between.
  • Towleroad explores continuing controversy around the use of Truvada as an alternative to condoms in HIV/AIDS prevention.
  • Transit Toronto notes the closing of several streets, notably Church Street, in downtown Toronto on the occasion of former Canadian finance minister Jim Flaherty’s funeral.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that contemporary Russians like their country’s open egress to the world and wouldn’t be pleased by transit restrictions, and observes that ethnic Russians in Estonia seem to be mobilizing against Russian annexation.

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