[De-Con-Struc] FrankenCop // Tyson Bley

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This is not a review but my method of reading experimental work, which is, in basic form:

Examine context/premise.

Go through the text and see what flows and what jars, which lines spark some kind of reaction.

Try to pull out the allusions, intended by the author or invented by myself.

Head off on tangents.

Speculate what the meaning might be.

Stop about thirty pages into the text to avoid spoilers.

I am not an expert, or an academic, or even anchored in reality half the time, so a lot of this could be way off.

But could also be way on too.

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Book: FrankenCop

Author: Tyson Bley

Publisher: Schism Press

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[Background/context]

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I’ve read a lot of Tyson’s poems and sent zines to post offices in Germany that may or may not have existed and listened to his song Gertrude’s Knees, so I usually know what I’m in for.

Body horror

Machinery gone wrong [or right, depending on your views]

Extreme juxtaposition of cultural references with anything conceivable

A bizarro, unforced sense of humour

Dada-style off-lyricism [or maybe zaum]

Continue reading

Compartment No.6 [To Murmansk] // Thomas Stolperer

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You know why people live longer than most animals? It comes from the fact that animals live based on their instincts and don’t make mistakes. But we humans create reason and botch everything all the time. Half our life goes to screwing up, another part to recognizing our idiotic actions and the rest to trying to fix what’s fixable. We need all our life’s years just for that circus.

Cause I encountered what I’ve feared. And what I’ve dreaded happened to me, Vadim Nikolajevitš.

the man and the girl from the Book not the Film,

the Book, and the Film, the man older the girl young, and the man young the girl young, late soviet russia, and early post soviet russia, she carried, used a 90s personal video camera (90s personal video cameras what an annoying idiotic phase of personal camera development. As I’m hopeless now drowning in crushed under consumption, existing for consumable things that people live on by creating them so I need them to live – I would never make them and wouldn’t even need them if they weren’t created for me to need — now as I’m existing in apps and gadgets and usage models and commands and appliances and comforts that are really no comfort, I remember old heavy 90s cameras and VCR players and realize, assert that those were even worse than current suffocation under consumerisms and gadgets, than current extinguishing of a personality, of personalities, under consumerism articles, under gadgets, under articles heavy and light complex and simple, drowning and suffocating and watching my flat existence slide along, although there are more consumerism articles now and more types of articles now, and the articles and their types have multiplied exploded exponentially bc of technology, and the inundating now is more crushing, more suffocating to natural instinct life than the 90s inundation and it makes me more miserable now bc there are fewer existence alternatives to defraying misery or lame existence with miserable unsatisfying consumption now than in the 90s or so it seems, or seemed —  even still, I’m glad I don’t have to use, learn to use VCR players anymore, don’t have to use big camera recorders from the 90s anymore, those were shit annoying, shit unintuitive, bulk, dumb.  Well I know, that makes me a consumer, a consumer seeking benefit from the progress of consumer items nonessential consumer functions gadgets programs functions. Everything is flat, consumerism makes every direction flat and the same direction)

Continue reading

Horrorlandia

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Got a good feeling about this one.

Synopsis on the back, maybe three words I don’t know, the rest fully comprehensible.

Either the translator is slumming at my level or those three back to back exchanges chatting about Halloween are about to pay off. Hopefully they go easy on the idioms. Or I can probably just skim over them now. Long as I recognise they’re idioms then things should work out.

Goosebumps itself?

The beauty of reading Chinese is that I have no standards, no gauge of the actual quality of the writing. Though I suspect Goosebumps is pretty basic in all languages. Best-selling series in history? Maybe cos there’s about seven hundreds books in said series.

Probably too harsh, I’m sure it’s decent.

Anything with a horror element is okay for me.

Bonus Spanish on the cover too.

I’ll let you know if I make it past page 5.

Galaxies // Barry N. Malzberg [Thoughts & Spoilers]

ANTI-OEDIPUS PRESS: Galaxies

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Author: Barry N. Malzberg

Setting: his living room

Plot: Malzberg can’t be bothered writing a novel so writes the notes for one

Subplot: Malzberg can’t stand whichever sci-fi writers he’s criticizing [Heinlein?], but sees them at conventions sometimes so doesn’t want to use their names

Sub-subplot: A ship falls into a black ‘galaxy’, where narrative descriptions are endless

Notes:

The cover is good, the plot description is good, the 4 and 5 star reviews on Goodreads make good points, but the 2 star reviews are closer to how I feel about this.

Basically, the novel is a series of short chapters that function as notes on a future novel as well as Malzberg’s feelings on the state of 70’s sci-fi. Straight away this brings up two problems. 70’s sci-fi is era specific and, although some of the points remain valid [e.g. writing filler to bump up the word count, hard sci-fi writers hiding their lack of writing ability behind hard science], the era itself is long gone.

The second problem: if you’re going to write notes for a novel, you have to a] make sure the concept of that novel is interesting and complex, and b] keep your novel length down. Even at 180 odd pages, Galaxies is exhausting.

In fact, I haven’t finished the book yet.

Don’t know if I will either.

I’m on page 68, I think, and Malzberg is currently writing out potential dialogue between Lena, the main character, and another character who isn’t on the ship, it’s a flashback, a potential flashback, and I don’t really know either of these characters, I don’t care about them, and if this is the case then you better at least make the dialogue interesting.

It isn’t. Continue reading

Virgin of the 7 Daggers // Vernon Lee

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Vernon Lee = Violet Paget, claimed by some to be the best writer of supernatural fiction in the 19th Century and infinitely better than Henry James.

Having read this collection of stories and having never touched a page of James, I can say this is undeniably true.

First off, when I started reading the first story I thought it was a very long opening chapter of a novel, not a short story, so the structure really blew me away. I had no idea where the story was going. It was only when the plot seemed to be reaching a dead end that I flicked forward and realised the second chapter was a whole different story.

It was a bit deflating, not enough to forget that the main character was in love with a mystical snake lady and his granddad was strangely immortal, but it still would’ve been better if the story had gone on to another location, perhaps an alternate dimension or the Oort Cloud.

In future, should I read all short stories thinking they’re novels?

It might help.

Should writers write novels as if they’re short stories?

Anything to add something new.

There’s something about 19th Century fiction, or authors, the way they write their characters. Psychologically, they’re weird and deep, they have active minds and they think in a way that seems almost like a foreign language now. Even Sherlock Holmes has this style, though most people are used to his shtick. Continue reading

The 3 Body Problem // Cixin Liu [Thoughts + Spoilers]

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Plot: The Cultural Revolution is laid out for 50 pages and characters that no one knows nor cares about die/suffer. The only one left standing is a woman who will eventually sell out humans to aliens living in the Alpha Centauri System [off-camera]. In modern times, a scientist/nanotech engineer[?] called Wang forgets his family so he can focus on a video game called The Three Body Problem. It’s not a hard game, not as hard as the original Mega Man, and he quickly comes across the alien plot to take over Earth. Luckily, it will take 400 years for the aliens to arrive. Unluckily, they’ve invented nine dimensional protons that fly to Earth and do their best Stasi impression, which in effect limits humans to doing nothing scientifically for the next 400 years, which in turn will allow the aliens to land on Earth and do what?

Subplot: Disregarding the blurb on the back of the cover, 100 odd pages are dedicated to flashbacks of the traitor scientist figuring out how to send a signal to aliens without telling us that’s what she’s doing even though we know that’s what she’s doing cos we’ve read the blurb on the back cover.

Subplot: Wang’s wife asks for a divorce.

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The above summary of the plot may come across as negative, but I enjoyed about half of this book, especially the parts focused on the video game and the three body aliens themselves.

However, it takes a long while to get there.

The biggest problem is definitely the opening 50 pages or so. If you’re gonna write a sci-fi book that starts with some historical context, at least write it well. Or organise it well. Or make it involving, either emotionally or concept-wise. What Liu has done is write a succession of scenes that involve characters we don’t get to know at all and then kill them off. Continue reading

Space [Manifold] // Stephen Baxter [Spoilers]

Image result for space beyond solar system

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Title: Space [When I search for it online, it has a ‘Manifold’ added to the title].

Characters: Reid Malenfant [a name almost beyond parody]

Nemoto [Japanese scientist]

Gaijin [Alien robots]

Plot: Spanning almost two millennia, the story begins with the gaijin and their asteroid belt scam being rumbled by Nemoto, who spots them from her shoebox on the moon. Reid Malenfant borrows Stephen Baxter’s brain, figures out that the Gaijin are actually sailing in from the solar focus, which is somewhere out past the edge of the solar system, and goes to investigate. Other characters flit in and out, avoiding depth and other hobbies. The hobby is science. There is nothing else.

Better than Event Horizon?

This isn’t a bad book, but it isn’t a good one either. It’s hovering somewhere around average. Starting with the Fermi Paradox hook and then failing to keep my attention for more than seven pages is not a good sign [for me].

I’m sure there’s a better way to write that, but I’ve been struggling with English for a while now, especially when it comes to reviews. Something’s not working right in my brain. Feels like I’m parroting other sources. Or simplifying words to primary school level.

Still, this is not a bad book.

It’s about space, aliens, exploration…it has a page on different, theoretical ways we can travel to the next star…so why didn’t I like it more? Continue reading

Bakufu era Japan = Klingons

Image result for throne of blood

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I’ve heard this said a few times before

that Klingons in TNG and onwards were basically samurai with head bumps

but I only ever believed it on the surface level

e.g. code of honour, warrior govt

However, now I’ve read a book called ‘The Bakufu in Japanese History’ I realise that Ronald D Moore probably did read the same book before starting work on his first Klingon episode.

The house system is the same

This wasn’t unique to Japan, but in the era of Bakufu [1185-1868], which I think translates as a govt led by military guys, your house represented the power you had to a huge level. It chopped and changed a lot, and varied between different bakufu, but basically there was the bakufu [military] and two other powerful groups, Monks + aristocrats [including the Emperor], owning land and dividing power. However, by the time of the final Bakufu [Tokugawa 1600-1868?], the military and regional houses had dealt with the monks and nobles and had total control.

Don’t monks usually get slaughtered in history?

Later, yes, but not during the first two Bakufu.

In fact, it’s quite funny how the monks operated in some areas, specifically how they made their cash. Medieval Japan was quite a superstitious place, so the monks would take a portable shrine, drop it in someone’s house then sit and wait for that person to pay enough for them to get rid of the ‘evil spirit’ within the shrine. No one would challenge them as only the monks had the power to perform the task; even the samurai wouldn’t touch the portable shrines.

The noble samurai?

Ha, about as noble as old English knights. A lot of those fuckers were just thugs with swords who switched sides if the price was decent, and what’s worse, the Muromachi Bakufu made them cops in Kyoto too. Or the equivalent of cops. The rest of the samurai could just do what they pleased as long as they didn’t do it close to Kyoto. And they did. Continue reading

The Book + the Sword // Jin Yong

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Jin Yong is my wife’s favourite writer and probably the best known guy writing Chinese martial arts in the whole world.

Though most people in the west don’t know him.

I don’t know the reason, but not many of his books have been translated into English. My wife told me it’s hard to translate from Chinese to English as the traditional Chinese characters used often have a meaning that can’t be translated well. Also, there probably aren’t many western writers, apart from academics, who are at a high enough standard in Chinese writing to give it a crack.

Maybe the American-Chinese guy who did ‘The 3 Body Problem’ could give it a crack sometime?

Anyway, what my wife said could be true in this case, as the translation I read was quite simple in its style, word choice and sentence structure. And a lot of the story was just plot, plot, plot, which made me wonder if a lot of the deeper, between the lines stuff had been lost along the way.

And when I say ‘a lot’ I mean:

The Chinese version of ‘The Book and the Sword’ is about 1,000 pages

The English version is around 500 pages.

500 pages worth of story was lost?

I don’t know,

but,

although there were a lot of characters to keep track of and the story was quite melodramatic in a lot of ways, there were aspects of it that I thought were great.

Kung Fu strategy

The way Jin Yong describes the action is decent, but the parts that really stood out were the parts in-between where the characters or the narrator would delineate the style that was being used and the strategy behind it

E.g. the one third attack Continue reading

Gateway // Frederik Pohl [thoughts + spoilers]

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Book: Gateway

Author: Frederick Pohl

Plot: A guy living next to some mines on a depressing near future Earth wins the lottery and uses his cash to fly up to an ancient alien asteroid space station called Gateway. His choice: to fly one of the thousand or so ships left behind by the long dead aliens to god knows where and potentially make a lot of cash or stay still for a few weeks, drink, fuck, gamble, and then go back to the mines.

Or fly one of the ships into a star going supernova and die like whats-his-face in disney’s the black hole i.e. differently.

Subplot: A robot psychologist tries to get the main character to realise that he’s a bit of a twat.

Subplot 2: A female instructor on Gateway falls in love with the main character because his first name is ‘Main’. She later regrets it when he beats her for no reason, but is forced back into his arms by a mysterious god like entity called ‘Pohl’ who commands her to ‘close the narrative’.

Subplot 3: A Black Hole sucks as hard as it can to pull in that spaceship cos it’s lonely and sad and has been marginalised by the Tories.

Notes:

I’m torn between writing about Gateway and the Foundation books, but I’m also torn a third way as what I really wanna get back to is Babel-17, mostly because it’s all to do with language and the workings of it and specifically an alien language so weird and unfamiliar that no one can understand it, which is similar to Darmok and the Children of Tama in Star Trek TNG, but Delaney wrote his one first and I’ve read the first 40 or so pages of Babel and it seemed okay, but it didn’t reel me in enough, the writing wasn’t as strong or brilliant as other people said, but then it usually takes me a while to get into a book, the first page is always tedious, too descriptive, bland word choice etc.

Gateway had the same effect, took me two years to get past the first chapter even though it was quite well-written…

I think the main problem was the same problem that most old sci-fi had: the characters were too sharp and too smart.

Goddamn it, Siegfried and other lines like this and

there’s swearing later too, which I didn’t expect from someone like Pohl, but then

what can I expect when I know nothing about him? Continue reading