27 July 2011

Catching Up

I was going to write a report on some of my experiences at Readercon 22, but it felt flat and boring, so I've discarded it. It was a great convention, as always, and I got to see all sorts of great folks in the way one does at a convention: too quickly. Panels seemed to go well, I enjoyed the ones I saw, I survived the ones I was on, and I got to see Jeff Ford do a little dance at the Wold Newton Reading Extravaganza, so my con was complete. For a comprehensive collection of links to reports on panels and the convention in general, as well as links to various videos of events, check out the official Readercon list. It was a wonderful few days, and I'm tempted to single out particular people who worked really hard behind the scenes to make it a wonderful few days, but really, everybody who volunteers for Readercon deserves thanks.

Meanwhile, I have neglected this here blog a bit over the last week, and am likely to continue to neglect it while I work on some writing assignments as well as preparing classes for the fall, so I would not be surprised if the next two or three weeks are fairly quiet around here.

To keep you from dying of boredom in that time (because I know I am your only source of entertainment!), here are some things that are not here...

12 July 2011

Blogging the Caine Prize: And the Winner Is...

The winner of this year's Caine Prize for African Writing is NoViolet Bulawayo for her story "Hitting Budapest", originally published by Boston Review.

"Hitting Budapest" was the first story we wrote about for the Caine Prize blogathon, and it's held up better in my memory than I expected it would. Despite my qualms about some aspects of it, there's a vividness to the language that gives it some freshness. Were I on the jury, it wouldn't have been my first choice (that would be "The Mistress's Dog"), but it might have been second, or tied for second with "In the Spirit of McPhineas Lata", though that's a story that, unlike "Hitting Budapest", has diminished in my memory.

10 July 2011

Born Which Way?

The liberal blog Talking Points Memo, always ready to score points against Republicans (a bit like shooting big fish in a little bowl these days), mocks boring presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty for his response to a question about homosexuality and genetics:
Pawlenty told Gregory on Meet The Press that when it came to whether homosexuality was a choice or an innate part of a person's character, "the science in that regard is in dispute" and that it was unclear whether it was "behavioral or partly genetic."

"There's no scientific conclusion that it's genetic," he said. "We don't know that. So we don't know to what extent, you know, it's behavioral and-- that's something that's been debated by scientists for a long time. But as I understand the science, there's no current conclusion that it's genetic."
I've long been an opponent of the "It's not a choice!" crowd, though really my opposition is to the whole way the question is framed, because the choice/not-a-choice dichotomy doesn't make any sense to me, and either side of the equation is perfectly useful to the homophobes.

Thankfully, this point is made in an excellent comment on the post at TPM. There are no permalinks to comments, so you'll have to scroll down to the comment by "kmellis" that begins "Right.  Having a strong genetic component doesn't exclude environmental components and, additionally, this doesn't tell us how much the proportions between the two varies between individuals." The final paragraph of the comment is a good summing up, though the whole comment really deserves to be read:
But I think we've gone past the science into a kind of dogma (understandably, but still) that, as I detail above, has some negative implications that we should think carefully about. It seems to me that now is about the time that we should change our focus away from the genetic argument and fully to the social justice and moral philosophy argument.  We should be going all-in on asserting the acceptability of non-traditional sexual orientation and move away from the inherently defensive genetic determinist argument.
As to the science, I don't have time to get into all that right now, but I'd recommend the chapter called "Sexual Orienteering" in Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences by Rebecca M. Jordan-Young for a start, since it's recent and gets at some of the problems with the studies of homosexuality that have tried to find a "gay gene" or some equivalent.

And I must admit, I prefer Weird Al's vaguely Butlerian "Perform This Way" to Gaga's "Born This Way".

The Tree of Life: First Thoughts After a First Viewing

Because I am an unabashed Terrence Malick fan, there was little question that I would find something to adore in his new film, The Tree of Life. Nothing highlights the subjectivity of evaluation to me as well as the fact that I will find a way to appreciate the work of a handful of creators in various media no matter what, because something in my past experience with them has made me assume that they are in some way or another smarter than me, and my job is to learn to appreciate whatever they have created. It's a sort of subservient humility -- anybody who wants to evaluate something honestly has to approach it with at least a bit of humility and try to allow the work to offer as much as it can, but with most things, especially in realms where we have some experience ourselves, humility soon enough gives way to the most basic, brutal evaluation: I think this thing is good, bad, or ugly. Without a sense of differentiation, there is no taste, and anyone who was humbly subservient to everything would be able to appreciate nothing. But a bit of subservient humility is good, too. It reminds us that our subjectivity can be capricious, that we are not purely rational in our reactions, that the meanings we find in the world are as emotional as they are logical.

06 July 2011

Personality Test: Top 10 Directors

It's summer and I don't feel like writing a post of substance, so here's some fluff.

On Facebook*, someone I know (who is welcome to out himself here if he so chooses), posted a fun exercise: "Apparently somewhere on facebook there's a challenge to name your favorite ten movie directors off the top of your head, no research or googling," adding: "It's an interesting personality test."

It is indeed. I'm going to be brave and see what I come up with this morning...
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Howard Hawks
Alfred Hitchcock
Werner Herzog
Stanley Kubrick
Terrence Malick
Anthony Mann
Michael Mann
Jean Renoir
Francois Truffaut
The list itself took all of one minute (alphabetizing it and finding appropriate links for each took longer), and is probably one that would be similar were I to do it on another day -- certainly, there are a bunch of directors who I thought about including (Orson Welles, David Lynch, Wong Kar-Wai, the Coen Brothers, Robert Altmann, John Ford, Fritz Lang, Akira Kurosawa, John Sayles, Terry Gilliam, Woody Allen, Guy Maddin, Gregg Araki, others) but whose work I am most interested in for only a few films, while a couple of others I love (Preston Sturges) or am fascinated by (Michael Haneke), but I really have to be in the right mood to watch their films. The list is of directors who, if you were to say to me at just about any time, "Let's watch a movie by x," I would probably say, "Let's go!"

Certainly, most of them, particularly the most productive ones, created some films of not particularly great value, but they all still have their interesting moments. And their best movies are ones I could watch forever.

What about the personality test part, since these are the names that came most quickly to mind?

They're all men, which is not entirely surprising, given how sexist the world of filmmaking has been; the number of women who have been directors is scandalously low.

Every person on the list is either European or American, which is a bit of a surprise, because I don't limit myself to those regions as a viewer, but they're clearly the ones I feel most connection to as a viewer. This is probably related to the fact that almost all of them are directors I first connected to before I was 20 years old. My father's interest in German film meant I saw Fassbinder's Ali: Fear Eats the Soul and The Marriage of Maria Braun and Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo when I was in high school, I first saw Truffaut's The 400 Blows in college and spent the then-immense sum of $35 to buy a VHS tape of the film so I could watch it over and over and over. I saw Michael Mann's Heat in the theatre 3 times.  Etc. The only ones there I discovered after college (though in my early 20s) are Renoir and Malick; both were love at first sight.

None of those directors specialized in comedy, though some of them created some sublime comedies, Hawks in particular. But on the whole, it's a pretty intense, even bleak group. A pretty "masculine" group, too, which is fairly surprising to me, as I am generally, and happily, a failure at masculinity. None of them are generally considered radically "experimental" filmmakers, though certainly Fassbinder, Herzog, and Lynch have made films that are experimentalist; those aren't my favorites of theirs, though. They all produced innovative work, but none are Stan Brakhage. Relatedly, it's significant that Renoir and Truffaut are there and Godard is not. The only Godard film I've ever really loved is Breathless; I can appreciate some of the others, but I always feel like I'm being dutiful when I watch Godard. I once told a cinephile, only half-jokingly, that I feel like one of the most shameful things I could ever admit is that I love Truffaut over Godard, but there it is.

And now I have succeeded in making myself want to be irresponsible, abandon all the many things I need to do today, and watch a movie...

*By the way, I've never said it here, so will take this opportunity: I use Facebook mostly for just silly and personal stuffs, nothing revelatory, so keep Friends to people I either know or know of in real life, or people with whom I've communicated in some way. Anything of substance I have to say about writing or publishing happens here or via Twitter, and my email address is public, so that works just fine for getting in touch if you need.

04 July 2011

A Numerological Note

The previous post, "The Sokal Hoax at 15", was number 1,500 here at The Mumpsimus.

The Sokal Hoax at 15

What, you ask, was the Sokal Hoax? [...]New York University physicist Alan Sokal, having read [Paul Gross and Norman Levitt’s] Higher Superstition, decided to try an experiment. He painstakingly composed an essay full of (a) flattering references to science-studies scholars such as Ross and Stanley Aronowitz, (b) howler-quality demonstrations of scientific illiteracy, (c) flattering citations of other science-studies scholars who themselves had demonstrated howler-quality scientific illiteracy, (d) questionable-to-insane propositions about the nature of the physical world, (e) snippets of fashionable theoretical jargon from various humanities disciplines, and (f) a bunch of stuff from Bohr and Heisenberg, drawing object lessons from the uncertainty at the heart of quantum mechanics. He then placed a big red bow on the package, titling the essay “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” The result was a very weird essay, a heady mix–and a shot heard ’round the world. For Sokal decided to submit it to the journal Social Text, where it wound up in a special issue edited by Ross and Aronowitz on…the “Science Wars.” Yes, that’s right: Social Text accepted an essay chock-full of nonsense and proceeded to publish it in a special issue that was designed to answer the critics of science studies–especially, but not exclusively, Gross and Levitt. It was more than a great hoax on Sokal’s part; it was also, on the part of Social Text, one of the great own-foot-shootings in the history of self-inflicted injury. 
--Michael Bérubé, Democracy, Winter 2011
Even people who followed the story with some interest and amusement may still be wondering what, exactly, the hoax proved. As one of the editors of Social Text, I freely confess what I think it proved about us: that some scientific ignorance and some absent-mindedness could combine with much enthusiasm for a supposed political ally to produce a case of temporary blindness. It remains to be seen, however, whether our editorial failure is really symptomatic of a larger failure in the beliefs we hold or the movements from which we come, and if so, what it might be symptomatic of. 
--Bruce Robbins, Tikkun, Sept/Oct 1996
As an anthropologist, I suspect Sokal may have misheard the anthropologists. Certainly I would never claim that in point of fact, denial of the European invasion of the Americas and the millions of dead indigenous that resulted, was not true. Having said this, to some degree in order to make a useful point not only iconoclasts throughout history but standard theoretical propositions exaggerate the arguments – in effect, at least partially construct the opposing view. Motivated by the threat of contamination of truth and objective reality, perpetrated in outraged defense of attacks he saw against the nature and intent of science, Sokal drove a nail into the coffin of postmodernism, cultural studies, lit crit, deconstruction, etc. It contributed to, or accelerated, a growing consensus even among social scientists and anthropologists that postmodernism had gone too far. Social commentators and social scientists, in general, replied to the question “Is everything a social construct?” with the short answer, “No”. A longer answer must acknowledge that there is no exact mirror to truth, and that even the hard scientist does construct her/his facsimile, but a continuing dialectic between theory and data takes place to make the reflection sharper and sharper. 
--Jonathan Reynolds, Spike, 4 July 2011

In 1996, I was an undergraduate at NYU, where Alan Sokal was a professor of physics and Andrew Ross, one of the editors of Social Text, was a professor of social and cultural analysis. I never encountered either man, but Sokal's hoax stirred up enough news that I certainly knew about the controversy -- I think I might even still have somewhere the copy of Lingua Franca that alerted me to what was going on in the groves around me (and I probably read something about it in The Washington Square News, since I was writing theatre reviews for them then). Because of the controversy, I began to read around and gain an awareness of some of the writers and thinkers involved, and would find myself nine years later working on a masters degree in cultural studies at Dartmouth. By that time, the fires seemed to have cooled between the humanists and the scientists, and one of the things I most enjoyed during that time was a chance to look at epistemology through various lenses, which was of tremendous help to me when I had to sit down and write at length about the works of Samuel Delany, whose essays and interviews of the '80s and '90s bridged these worlds especially well, even as the Science Wars and Culture Wars and Wars Wars raged.

Although, as an inveterate postmodernist, I like Sokal's original hoax article more than most of his explanations/elaborations of it (they seem to me to set up whole armies of straw people), the hoax served both as a wonderful provocation toward discussion (see The Sokal Affair & Social Text -- a collection of primary sources and responses from 1996-1998) and as a warning to folks inclined to write about science and subjectivity -- a warning that the boundaries between useful philosophical speculation and ignorant nonsense are perhaps closer than one might wish to admit.

I'm not a philosopher and am really just a casual observer of all the ideas at issue in the hoax and its aftermath, but the hoax remains useful to think and argue about, as Michael Bérubé and Jonathan Reynolds do in the anniversary essays I linked to above, because the questions of truth and knowledge that Sokal addressed are ones that have never been solely matters for philosophers and academics, and in the years since 1996 they have become urgent ones within the realm of politics -- not only, most obviously, in questions of climate change or Intelligent Design, but also with the Tea Party's construction of American history. I'm with Bérubé and his tribe on this:
Fifteen years ago, it seemed to me that the Sokal Hoax was [...] deepening the “two cultures” divide and further estranging humanists from scientists. Now, I think it may have helped set the terms for an eventual rapprochement, leading both humanists and scientists to realize that the shared enemies of their enterprises are the religious fundamentalists who reject all knowledge that challenges their faith and the free-market fundamentalists whose policies will surely scorch the earth. On my side, perhaps humanists are beginning to realize that there is a project even more vital than that of the relentless critique of everything existing, a project to which they can contribute as much as any scientist–the project of making the world a more humane and livable place. Is it still possible? I don’t know, and I’m not sanguine. Some scientific questions now seem to be a matter of tribal identity: A vast majority of elected Republicans have expressed doubts about the science behind anthropogenic climate change, and as someone once remarked, it is very difficult to get a man to understand something when his tribal identity depends on his not understanding it. But there are few tasks so urgent. About that, even Heisenberg himself would be certain.

01 July 2011

Blogging the Caine Prize: "The Mistress's Dog"

(This is the last in a weekly series of posts about the short stories nominated for this year's Caine Prize for African Writing. For more information, see my introductory post. Special thanks to Aaron Bady for coming up with the idea for this blogathon. Check out Aaron's post on this story for an updated list of other writers' responses, or follow #cainepr on Twitter.)

David Medalie's "The Mistress's Dog" (PDF) is a subtle, quiet, and profoundly sad story, easily the highlight of the Caine Prize nominees for me. It's a story in which nearly all the events have happened before the time of the first sentence, and this is what allows it a classic iceberg effect -- the story benefits from the characters' lifetimes of experience, yet takes place over the course of only a day and a half. Of the characters, only one has a name -- Nola, the protagonist. The other characters are named by Nola's perception of them: the powerful man, the mistress, the mistress's dog. It's significant that the powerful man was, up until his death, Nola's husband, but that's not the label she uses for him. To her, he represents power more than whatever qualities she associates with a husband.

We know Nola not so much as an individual character herself, but as a reflection of the other characters. She pays close attention to the mistress and dislikes her, referring to her as "blond and blowsy" ("she liked the demeaning effect of the alliteration"). Nola's watching of the mistress gives her some eloquent insights: "It was evident to her that the mistress had become a snob largely because she dreaded the judgement of snobs."

We learn less about the husband, who exists in the story primarily as force, a blast of malevolent gravity. Nola stayed in her marriage to him for forty years because, it seems, she didn't have the will to leave. She bore great resentment of the mistress and of the powerful man, but not enough to break free. She probably had a comfortable living with her husband, and jeopardizing that life seems to have been something she didn't desire. She acquiesced and went along with everything, getting in what little bits of rebellion she could (inviting old, moneyed people to parties with the mistress so that "The mistress, in their company, became heartier than ever, as abrasive as a typewriter in a room in which people were writing on soft vellum with quills and ink.")

But really, her only revenge is to outlive her husband and his mistress. Even then, though, she isn't free of them, because she agreed to take in the mistress's old dog when the mistress moved into a retirement home. This was, she says, one of the few moments in the marriage when she had the opportunity for power -- she could have said no, she could have sent the dog to be euthanized. "It was," she reflects, "an opportunity for revenge such as she had never had before." But no. It was too late. "The powerful man had gout, an enlarged heart, and a flickering memory. The mistress was no longer robust. They would never see each other again. It was too late, far too late, to triumph over them."

She goes on living, and she and the dog survive the people who determined everything in their lives. Though we're repeatedly told that Nola liked cats and not dogs, and we certainly know she had no affection for the mistress, she decides to take in the mistress's dog rather than let it die, and she has kept living with it even though it's past time when many people would have put the dog down. She seems to identify with the dog, but even she isn't sure why she's ended up this way: "Had she chosen him? Or had she ended up with him by default because she had not, during her life, made the wise, the adroit choices? If we are our choices, then what did it say about her that the mistress's dog was her last companion?"

The questions are raised, but not answered, and this is much to the story's benefit, because it allows the story's meanings to widen and open up -- to be not meanings, in fact, but suggestions, gestures of language and image. The story is not simply a domestic one; it has a lot to suggest about power and about regret, about putting up with the status quo until the status quo dies away on its own. There's not much triumph in simply outliving the power you quietly resented throughout your life. There's no moral victory in quiet resistance if that resistance has no effect on the circumstances that make resistance desirable. Nola let life happen to her, and she ends up with nothing more than her husband's mistress's decrepit dog. Both Nola and the dog, though, are not beyond our sympathy, and that's one's of the story's real accomplishments.

The only off moment for me, the only one that scratched against the delicate surface of the story's suggestions, was the moment where Nola takes the dog to the supermarket, the dog vomits on the floor, and a young woman who works at the supermarket comes to clean it up. When Nola says to the young woman (another character who has no name, only a label: she is young, she is a woman), "These things happen when you're old," and "We all get old," and the young woman replies, "They must shoot me first." This exchange seems a bit too obvious to me, a bit too convenient, too on the nose.

It's a minor misstep in a story that is otherwise elegant and affecting.

This brings us to the end of the Caine Prize stories for this year. The award will be announced on July 11. I'm very curious to see which story the judges choose (my own preference is obvious from what I've just written here). None of the nominees are terrible, but a few of them struck me as generally unremarkable, and I fully disliked one.

The good folks at New Internationalist sent me a copy of the Caine Prize anthology for this year, To See the Mountain and Other Stories. In previous years' anthologies, I've sometimes found the stories included from the annual Caine Prize writers' workshop to be more varied and interesting than the nominees, so I'm looking forward to reading the workshop stories in this new collection, though I expect I won't be able to read them for a little while, as I'm behind on some other reading that I have to do. If I discover anything that seems to me of particular interest there, I'll note it here.

Avatar: A Contradictory Text

from "Race and Revenge Fantasies in Avatar, District 9, and Inglourious Basterds" by John Rieder, Science Fiction Film & Television vol. 4, issue 1, January 2011:
The stupendous commercial success of Avatar may have been achieved in spite of its ideologically retrograde character, as many of its early reviewers seemed to think, but it seems more likely that its revivification of old-fashioned, reassuring exoticism is one of the principal reason for its popularity. In a contemporary economy whose financial, political, and commercial core continues to rely heavily on resource extraction from peripheral sites, Avatar offers a painless adjustment of colonial-era fantasies of appropriation to contemporary ecological and political conditions. Its vision is essentially akin to the widespread contemporary ideology -- arguably the dominant coprorate and political vision of the present-day US -- of a "green capitalism" that keeps the flows of resources and systems of profits intact while purging them of corruption and waste. The aspects of the capitalist world system and the US's dominance within it that Avatar repudiates -- ecologically damaging resource extraction and arrogant militarism -- are effectively erased, rather than criticized, reconceptualized, or reformed by the protagonists' whole-body assimilation into the Na'vi, because this transformation is cast as a return to pre-industrial harmony with nature (the strong similarity of the Na'vi to American movie Indians is no coincidence). That this prior state of harmony is just as imaginary as Colonel Quaritch is brutal only confirms the underlying coherence of Avatar's liberalism with its fetishism.
Avatar testifies to the continuing, apparently indomitable vigour of American exceptionalism, catering to the US audience's seemingly bottomless thirst for imagining themselves the heroes of world history.

 Some perhaps not very coherent notes on the two items above:

Remixes are wonderful for the ways they can break through the interpretations we've settled on, but because they do violence to the original text by tearing away its contexts, they are, at best, illuminating collages. They tell us as much about themselves as about the original, and so while the Avatar remix does indeed show us some tendencies within that film and others, so, too, do The Shining Recut and Wonka: Drug Baron.

The similarities between the films in the remix are amusing and disturbing; they certainly demonstrate some of the White Man as Savior narrative that has been popular in U.S. popular culture for a while, the guilty mirror image of the Non-White Man as Evil Savage story.

I've seen most of the films that are remixed in with Avatar in that video, and don't think much of very many of them, but I also think the video encourages readings of those other films that are, in at least one case, the exact opposite of what is actually in the movie itself. The most obvious example is The New World, which is about many things, but among those things, it is about how human beings from vastly different worlds experience contact with each other. Its characters experience the attractions and horrors of exoticism, the difficulties of communication and understanding, and there are consequences to all of it. It's an extraordinary movie with which to think and feel through the complexities of contact, vastly more nuanced than any of the other films included in the remix.

The remix video, then, while offering some real insights is also perpetuating an uncritical rejection of works in which the presence of certain elements common to problematic stories is what makes those stories problematic. But it's how the elements are used in the story that determines the ideological meaning of the work, not the mere presence -- if presence were all, Birth of a Nation, Rosewood, and O Brother Where Art Thou would be equal because they all include the Ku Klux Klan.

Help Writers Decorate Their Hovels! Buy E-Books!

The only e-book device I have other than my laptop is an iPod Touch, and neither the laptop nor the iPod is anything I want to read an entire book on (reading on the iPod is only slightly more comfortable than reading the The Compact OED through a magnifying glass), but I very much like the idea of e-books, even if I don't read them, and one of these days perhaps I'll break down and get one of them there gadgets that's designed for the durn things.

Anyway, as a public service announcement, here are some recent e-book announcements that piqued my interest:

Minister Faust's new novel, The Alchemists of Kush, is now available for $2.99, and it broke the Amazon Top 1,000 on its first day, which moves it closer to reaching the goal of breaking the Top 100, at which time Minister Faust will donate $500 to send textbooks to university students in South Sudan. For more info, check out this interview of Mr. Faust by Jeff VanderMeer.

Speaking of Jeff VanderMeer, he and his wife Ann were worried that they were spending too much time lounging around and staring at iguanas (or whatever fauna they have down there in Tallahassee), so they decided to get off their butts and be productive for once (since writing novels and stories, editing anthologies, running Weird Tales magazine, going to conferences, and teaching writing workshops just don't really take up enough hours in the day) and so they have started Cheeky Frawg, an e-book publisher. Jeff just announced the first set of titles today, and it's pretty amazing -- eclectic, international, and downright odd.

Speaking of eclecticism and anthologies, Ellen Datlow just listed which of her books are available in the format of e. Anthologies seem to me ideal for ebooking, and while I do love my shelves (literally) of Datlowian goodness, imagine what a wonderful resource it would be to have them all available at the fingertips... (With appropriate royalties, as well.)

Speaking of royalties, James Patrick Kelly is the king of all things electronic (you should see the Christmas lights he's strung on his Hugo Awards!), and now he's launching an e-book magazine of his own work, with a couple of stories and some nonfiction and other goodness for 99 cents a pop. Check out his website for more info. The first issue contains one of my all-time favorite JPK stories, "The Propagation of Light in a Vacuum", which is the tale of a man who discovers an extraordinary new way to vacuum the dust off of Hugo Awards when they're covered with Christmas lights. (Egads, I forgot a spoiler alert! Sorry!)

Speaking of Christmas, if I had an ebook reader it would feel like Christmas because I'd be buying lots of things from Weightless Books, which is run by famous Santa J. Claus impersonators Gavin J. Grant and Michael J. Deluca. They offer not just Cheeky Frawg books (see, too, the chance to win a book-book [b-book?] copy of the limited edition Secret Lives), but also books from Apex Book Company (get Nick Mamatas's Starve Better for only $3.99 -- it's a great manual for how to make enough money from writing to get some decorations for your hovel! The key insight is that you should write like that pretentious, overrated, plot-hating foreigner modernist James Joyce! Oh, forgot the spoiler alert again! Bad me!) Also, Weightless offers stuff direct from the authors themselves, all of which you should buy, or else these people will not be able to decorate their hovels, and their misery and abject poverty will be your fault.

Speaking of abject poverty, the British pound is worth 1.62 U.S. dollars at the moment, which means if you American readers convert all of the dollars you've stuffed under your mattress into pounds, you'll have more space under your mattress and you'll be able to buy e-books from the great Wizard's Tower Press, where you can get e-book versions of novels, anthologies, and magazines published by such good presses as Aqueduct and Prime and Lethe. You already have seventeen copies of the b-book of Genevieve Valentine's first novel, Mechanique, but because you've preserved them all in a vault to keep as collector's items that will make your ancestors independently wealthy, so it's important that you buy the e-book to be able to read the most-talked-about (in my head) book of the season! I haven't read it yet, either, because I haven't had time to read anything except stuff for work for months, but Genevieve rocks, so how could it not be great? And if you're not British, buying stuff in pounds will help you feel cosmopolitan, so you really should do it. And if you are British, you should do it, too, because you can feel like you're lording it over your poor American cousins.

And now we have come to the end of today's public service publicity announcement. I'm heading off to decorate my hovel...