Friday, September 26, 2008

Vacation Reading

Vacation Time!

By the time you are reading this I’ll be on the road and starting my vacation. But, don’t worry gentle reader, I’ve pre-loaded some content to post over the next week or so to keep you covered. So, except for not responding to e-mail or comments, it’ll be like I never left!

As I do every year, I’ll have a small collection of books and magazines accompanying me and my wife. We drive, and there is probably 50 hours of driving (total), which means I’ll have around 25 hours of passenger time.

This post was written a week ago, so there may be a minor change or two (the overall trip is shorter, so I may drop a book), but here’s what I expect to have with me:

Move Under Ground – Nick Mamatas
Plugged In – Maureen McHugh and L. Timmel Duchamp
The Gospel of the Knife – Will Shetterly
Territory – Emma Bull
Implied Spaces – Walter Jon Williams

Plus, an issue each of Weird Tales and Asimovs. I may also bring Electric Velocipede #14, but I think this will wait until I come home.

Five books and two magazines sounds like a lot, but the first two are rather short and if Shetterly’s novel is anything like his short fiction, it’ll be a smooth and easy read. I don’t want to weigh my bag down with too many books, but I really don’t want to be left with nothing to read.

I’m tempted to bring A Fortress of Shadows from Glen Cook, which is a thick omnibus of two Dread Empire novels, because there’s nothing like a long car ride to help get through a slow book (I made it through To Green Angel Tower last year in the car), but I think it might wait until I get back.

I may also sub in Elizabeth Bear's Undertow for something, but I'm not sure about that yet.


Anonymous said...

Jonathan McCalmont- Dig a Hole and Crawl Into It - An Essay.
[Oh, you just did that......... thank fuck for that!!].
The Consortium for Equal Rights in Science Fiction had been working on an essay expounding the evil self-righteousness of evil self-righteous arsehole and self-confessed “Retard of Science Fiction”, Jonathan McCalmont, not just miserable and lonely, but completely negative and filled with – as far as we could see – bile and poison and hatred for the very SF industry he proclaimed to uphold. Below, is the essay we were working on.... and then McCalmont pulled the plug on his own sorry SF Diplomat crap. Thank you, Jonathan. You have spared the world your poison. And what poison it was. Here, then, is the Consortium’s argument for McCalmont crawling into a hole and, hopefully, masturbating until dead. Which is, let’s be honest, all SF Diplomat was about in the first place – Jonathan McCalmont, talentless, full of his own self-importance, failed academic lecturer, wanking all over the WWW (world wide wank). Ken Macleod’s The Execution Channel, Charles Stross’ Halting State, and Richard Morgan’s Black Man recently came under fire by McCalmont of SF Diplomat, and, it has to be said, we could take no more of McCalmont’s drivel. When three of our favourite writers, and we are sure most would agree, awesome pioneers of current SF, are taken apart by some pointless fat-faced retard, it really has become time for these abused writers to stand up for themselves, or if they won’t (and we know they are too polite and mild-mannered to take on the ilk of McCalmont), then it is up to us, the SF community, the fans, the Consortium for Equal Rights in Science Fiction, the people who must endure McCalmont’s consistent self-righteous eulogising crap, to beat him into (wanking) submission.
In SF Diplomat, once again Jonathan McCalmont, self-styled critic, miserable bastard, ‘miserable, lonely git’ (Jay Rayner, The Observer, 2005) and supposed self-style saviour and ‘voice’ of modern science fiction (is this fat fuck deluded) has decided to hack away at so many of our favourite writers of recent years that we needed to air our disappointment. With regards the three above writers, McCalmont states, “My problem with all of these books is that they are nowhere near as smart as they need to be.” (McCalmont, 2008). So, Jonathan, here you are suggesting that they should be more intelligent for the likes of super-intelligent human beings like yourself? Maybe you should act as editor, because obviously Orbit and Victor Gollancz must have utter shit publishing departments to let such crap wander through. Jonathan, you are a deluded egotistical narcissistic arsehole if you think you are superior in any way (except maybe the quality of your excrement) than these fine authors.
So then. Jonathan McCalmont, the man who celebrates little, and ridicules most, big on negative ideas, small on creativity or praise, decides once again to hack away at three of the most influential, brilliant and most vibrant writers of recent years, namely MacLeod, Stross and Morgan. In McCalmont’s recent “Near-Future Fiction and The Social 'Uncanny Valley” (itself a base, contrite and totally stupid idea) essay he stipulates that our three SF heroes are working below the expectations of an SF-savvy world populace. For McLeod, McCalmont stipulates ‘even an episode of The Bill conjures up more excitement and plot twists than The Night Sessions’ which we find frankly offensive, and we are sure McLeod finds offensive, sure his publisher and fans all find offensive, and actually simply achieves a beam by which to illuminate McCalmont’s personal bitterness under the ‘umbrella’ of SF critic. McCalmont then states ‘in and of itself, pedestrian plotting is not that problematic’. What? You dare to question the plotting skills of the great McLeod? Are we operating on the same planet? In the same plane of existence? McCalmont is moaning for more twists and turns, like the rather pathetic Hollywood double-endings that became so tiresome a few years back. Just for the record, there is nothing wrong with a straightforward structured narrative. It worked for George Orwell, Ernest Hemingway, even J. R. R. Tolkien. There is little balanced argument here, just a highly personalised viewpoint which becomes perverse in its recurrent attacks on nearly every single work McCalmont reviews. But then, some people like abusing little kids, and some don’t. It’s just a personal viewpoint, right? Paedophiles deserve a right to poke. Ask Mr Glitter.
Some critics are great. They critique and write balanced arguments. However, some critics are so far up their own wide and exposed arseholes they become self-parodying. McCalmont is one such critic. After browsing SF Diplomat it becomes apparent that McCalmont is an absolute pestilence on the world of science fiction, who seemingly celebrates nothing, and denigrates everything. It could be suggested that McCalmont crawls back into his little maggot hole at King’s College and stops bothering the people who have an ability to write great novels, rather than act as the anti-Christ of SF, with his own brand of negativity and anti-create. McCalmont is the Black Plague of science fiction, and needs to shut up. A few months ago McCalmont suspended his SF Diplomat website due to apparent apathy – nothing could satisfy him. A question that needs to be asked is that of the intrinsic underlying problem. The baseline. The concept. Is the problem, for example, the entire SF output of the modern world, or simply McCalmont himself, a bitter and twisted individual with little grace and an apparent negative twist on most of what he reluctantly explores? Who gave McCalmont a platform? He did it himself. Who appointed McCalmont judge and jury? Again, he did it himself. What an ego. What an arsehole. If you’re one of McCalmont’s students (he claims to be an “educator”), and you’re out there, and you haven’t crumbled into a pile of bitterness and bile, then please please please sort this retarded self-important non-critic wanker out. He needs it. He deserves it. Indeed, he thrives on it.
Check this out: “Fuck Cineworld Cinemas. Right. That's it. I've had enough. Ever since the french chain UGC took over most of the big cinemas in London, going to the cinema has started to become a more and more arduous prospect and since UGC turned into Cineworld, the rot has well and truly set in.... So I say this to you, the aptly-named Steve Wiener, the chief executive of Cineworld PLC : FUCK YOU!”
Is this insane? Is this man an idiot? Does this man have nothing better to do? Does this man need a girlfriend? A boyfriend? A childfriend? Does this man need exterminating with a particularly powerful pesticide? If you answer YES to any or all of these questions, let’s find out his address and pay the fat-faced chipmunk motherfucker a visit to remove the evil that is his possessed keyboard.

We see that one of McCalmont’s most recent moans is about Morgan’s Steel Remains, likening it, as far as we can tell, to vomit. He says, “It's been a while since I last read a work of SF that I really enjoyed. Egan's Incandescence had flashes of brilliance obscured by a disastrous central theme and Harkaway's The Gone-Away World has prose to die for but is a clear 200 pages too long. As you can probably tell from reviews like this, my frustration is starting to show as book after book feels stunted and inadequate. I recently tried changing tack by taking on Morgan's The Steel Remains but the result was a reaction that combined THIS with THIS.” I.e. Vomit.

We should stress here that Morgan’s Steel Remains is a fine book, and the opinion we are increasingly accumulating is that McCalmont is in the wrong profession. How can one be a critic, when everything (according to McCalmont) is crap? This would suggest the problem lies with McCalmont, not the Rest of the World. It makes one wonder how he functions in the real world, is he like the perennial Mr Angry, shouting and screaming at everything which annoys him (and it seems to be EVERYTHING), or is he simply one of those really sad academic pricks who tries so, so hard to impress other academic pricks: they never create, they just destroy – in a perfectly cyclical hyper-lexical tirade of abuse on everybody and everything they once celebrated. It’s one thing to be a cynic, it’s another to be psychotic. McCalmont needs to see a doctor. Or maybe get a woman (or a man  ) to relieve some of the quite obvious frustrations he suffers. Please, Jonathan, stop taking the acid from your veins and tongue, and continue to pour it on us lest we burn SF Diplomat in some kind of quasi-religious hate-fuelled ceremony.

But then, it gets worse: On July 2nd 2008, Jonathan McCalmont of SF Diplomat posted the below text. We were so incredibly stunned when reading this, we had to gestate before posting a reply, because his fundamental morals are so screwed that McCalmont must appear as a guest on the Sexual Offender’s Register (budge up, Gary Glitter, McCalmont’s here, and his arse is much bigger). Anyway, read below, then examine the follow up comments:
“Fairy Tale Child Abuse
Evidently, Dave Truesdale has decided to review Ellen Datlow's The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy and has taken a particular disliking to Margo Lanagan's short story "The Goosle", making a fool of himself in the process. I really don't know where to begin in describing "The Goosle" by Margo Lanagan, except to say it is a retelling of the Hansel and Gretel story. Lanagan turns this traditionally gruesome fairy tale into one of child porn (depending on your point of view) and repeated homosexual rape of a child (Hansel). With several other stories in this collection aimed at juveniles or teenagers (the Ballingrud and the Cadigan), I find this story highly inappropriate. Would you want your young child to be introduced to science fiction or fantasy thinking a story like this represents, as the cover of the book entices, SF's "finest voices"? One rape scene is fairly graphic, and at one point young Hansel thinks he might even like what is being done to him -- over and over. Given that there are many versions of this grim fairy tale, and gore and violence abound in the original(s), there must be lines drawn somewhere, folks. Depicting child rape, with the author having the child think he might like to be buggered in his "poink hole" (as the story euphemistically calls it) is where I draw my own line. Editor Datlow has co-edited some six collections of retold fairy tales, with tremendous and deserved success. Has the idea well run so dry, and are authors so bereft of true originality in these retellings that they must resort to shock value of the most depraved sort? For someone being published as a critic in such well known venues as F&SF and SFSite, Truesdale is here displaying a frankly astonishing amount of naivety. The link between fairy tales and child abuse is by no means a recent invention. Nicole Kassell's The Woodsman (2004) for example drew heavily from the story of Little Red Riding Hood for its imagery and content. In fact, a couple of years ago, my girlfriend appeared as the Witch is a production of Engleburt Humperdink's Hansel und Gretel opera. Her performance included the continued stroking of one of the singers playing one of the children on the grounds that there's more than one way for an adult to devour a child. One of the most notable facts about fairy tales and these kinds of folk tales is that they nearly always represent an adult version of family relationships. The Grimms always wrote about step-mothers rather than real mothers because they were accutely [sic] aware of the frequently ambivalent feelings that adults can have upon enterring [sic] into relationships with people who have children via a previous union. Consider a story like Cinderella for example, it is clearly all about the fact that when people remarry, they all too often place their previous life on a shelf and this includes their children. In fact, I do not think that it is beyond the pale to imagine that such stories were all about abuse in the first place. If you consider the role story-telling has as instructional tools in pre-literate societies then it seems pretty clear to me that stories such as Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel are about telling children to be careful not to be raped while they are out wandering in the forests. A rather splended [sic] article by Anna Roberts explores the frequency of abuse themes in fairy tales. For a critic to react against abuse themes in a fairy tale strikes me as utterly baffling.”
OK. Here, we are baffled. A story is published which purports to have a child rape scene, which is fairly graphic, whilst a ‘young Hansel’ seems to enjoy what is being done to him (i.e. anal rape, over and over). A fine message to jolly paedophiles out there, we think you would agree!! Quite rightly, Dave Truesdale rails against this horror, shock-sensation, and base attempt to sell more copies of a feeble sub-standard text. However, for McCalmont to then denigrate fellow critic Truesdale (and let’s be honest, McCalmont is pretty hot on the pro-critic scene) about his completely valid criticism, is beyond us. McCalmont states that ‘Her performance included the continued stroking of one of the singers playing one of the children on the grounds that there's more than one way for an adult to devour a child.’ OK. That may be the case, but you don’t need to celebrate it. Why would you celebrate it? Why would anybody want to celebrate child abuse? Maybe McCalmont was abused as a child, and to relieve the pain now he wants to promote child abuse in the hope that other children will be abused in the future. The dumb ass. ‘For a critic to react against abuse themes in a fairy tale strikes me as utterly baffling.’ (McCalmont, 2008). Why? Why would it be baffling for a normal person to react against themes of child abuse? So what McCalmont is really saying is that he would like to rejoice child abuse? He would like to glory in the suffering of children? Shouldn’t we be trying to exterminate this sort of filth, rather than revel in it and promote it? Truesdale was quite correct in his concerns over the Del Rey text, his is the correct response from any normal person, but for McCalmont to endeavour and bring him to task over such criticism could only indicate McCalmont has the gravest sympathy for child abusers, and thus likely, it needs to be said, to be a child abuser himself. What’s the problem here Jonathan? Are you afraid that the possibility of abusing innocent children might be taken away from you? Are you a true libertarian? A nihilist? An idiot? Finally, and even worse than his love of child abuse, you’d think McCalmont would be able to spell. This does not bode well for graduates of King’s College, London. McCalmont should invest in a decent spell check, say, the one that comes with WORD, called the SPELL CHECK. Idiot? We think so.
To summarise:
Jonathan McCalmont and SF Diplomat appear to be:
- Pro-paedophile/ Pro child-abuse
- Anti Stross/ Morgan/ MacLeod, in fact, anti—everythingthatis-SF
- The kind of (supposed) academic that gives other academics a bad name
- In a position of responsibility as (allegedly, although we doubt it) an “educator”, and should be sacked from this position forthwith under suspected child protection issues/ mental deviancy/ lack of any real intelligence, empathy or social integrity, although we doubt in any real terms that McCalmont is employed in any position of educational trust, and if he is, his simple tirade against Cineworld should get him struck off any professional register or shot at dawn down to his basic stupidity, miserly leanings and narcissistic bent. McCalmont. You are retarded. Go away. Nobody wants you. The majority of the SF community are sick of your self-righteous whining. The SF community want balanced criticism, not SF-hate. Or, if you really are that good, you write the perfect story. You seem to think you’re the expert. Today, as we go to press, McCalmont has hung up his fake wank spurs and called it a day. Yes. Right. Sure you have. Like a bad penny, like a bad masturbation tool, McCalmont will turn up again, and again, and again. Just so long as he realises that WE understand him, understand his poison, his hatred, his evil, and know without a doubt that all McCalmont really needs is a little love from a good woman. Get a girlfriend or a boyfriend. And stop the hate.

Aaron Wilson said...

"Move Under Ground" is a great book.

Hope you like it!

- Aaron

Joe said...

Aaron: I was impressed by the writing and how Mamatas captured the feel of Kerouac, but I didn't love it. I admired it, but it wasn't the best thing I read on vacation (that honor would easily to go Emma Bull's Territory)

Anon: Thanks for coming by, I guess. I'm a little confused, though, about the purpose of your essay / comment here. See, if you've read my blog for a while you'd have realized that I generally like Jonathan McCalmont and while I don't agree with everything the man has written, I do think (from what I've read online) that he has a solid head on his shoulders when writing about the genre and that his is a voice I want to at least listen to.

He may be disgruntled, overall, with the genre, but I think he cares about it.

It sounds like you have a major grudge against McCalmont for no better reason that on his little corner of the internet (one which you are by no means obligated to visit), he has written negative stuff about writers you admire greatly. Now, I've only read one of the three you mention and if I'm being honest (and why the hell not?), I'm not overly impressed with Stross. I like his Family Trade work and his Bob Howard novels, but when he steps to harder SF (Accelerando, Singularity Sky), Stross loses me completely. I shut down.

If you've read McCalmont's article on The Stross Formula, you'll note that he and Stross have a dialogue on the comments about how Stross writes and that dialogue itself is well worth reading. In his criticism of Stross, at least, I think McCalmont was very even handed in both the praise and criticism.

To touch upon your comments on McCalmont and the Margo Lanagan story - I think you're dead wrong. The Dave Truesdale opinion / hate bashing of Lanagan's story is easily a minority opinion in the various corners of the SFF websites I read and McCalmont is one of many voices praising the story and stating that Truesdale misses the mark and can't see beyond his prejudices. One of many.

But, I'm biased because I'd prefer MORE posts from McCalmont, not less. I like the dude's work.

You don't, that's fine.

What I DO have a problem with is your coming here, not even bothering to come up with an internet handle (if you aren't going to use your real name when you're opening slamming the man), and basically spewing hate speech and wishing vehement personal ill towards McCalmont.

Even if I thought McCalmont's work was shit, which I don't, I can't think of a single reason to attack the man personally.

Except that you are acting in an infantile manner.

Except that you have no class.

Except that when you wish ill towards a man you have likely never met you have crossed a line beyond which even if you had a good argument, you've lost your audience.

So, why I wasted this many words on your, Anon, I will never know.

Just don't bring it here. If McCalmont bothers you so much, just DON'T READ HIM. It's simple, really.