Archive for April, 2014

What I’m Up To

OK, kind of a gratuitous, self-centered sort of post, but after posting about my friend Tiff’s recent short story, and with a new year coming up for me (ie, impending birthday), AND considering that this would be my ONE HUNDREDTH POST, I felt like going over my different projects the last 9 months or so. Maybe more for myself than anyone else, but you are welcome to listen in.

Grim Bunny 12

The last of my 12 The Grim Bunny pages–though hopefully I’ll be continuing this with a second series of 12 one of these days.

With this year off from academia, I was hoping I’d be working on my writing a lot more than I have, but between a family emergency and starting a super cool but super intense translation project (I’m a third of the way through the initial translation now), I haven’t gotten as much done as I’d like, and what I have done has in large part gone towards revising and adding to a novel draft that will probably never be published (because I started it as a naive, silly, childish undergraduate), and towards my art, the latter of which has turned into a decent internet presence/following, including a not-quite-webcomic of 12 installments, and about $60-80 or so of profits from my DeviantArt and Redbubble stores… hm, might need to pick up the pace if I want those to make a bit more of an impact on my financial situation…

IMG_2451I have had a bit of progress getting myself back in gear fiction-wise– I received an honorable mention a few months back for a short story that I submitted to the Writers of the Future contest, and I’ve currently got that on the submissions circuit. I’ve been slowly pulling together ideas for another short story that I’ve got high hopes for (have gone through a number of plot mutations at this point, but feel like I am progressing rather than spinning wheels–have also done some brainstorms for further stories, but am not really pursuing those ideas yet). Have started revising more of my poetry and fragments (have written mostly fragments the last couple years), and while I haven’t had much luck with the places I submitted them (OK, I was overly ambitious with a couple target journals), I got some great comments on two of them from the poetry editor at Ideomancer, where my poem “The Cabin and the Stars” was published in 2011. Her notes reinforced some of my own thoughts, and to be honest, I’m feeling pretty interested in going back over these and some other poem-sketches and revising them fairly thoroughly–something I have always hated doing, as poems seemed too tightly wound to meddle with, but right now it just feels like it would be nice to have some raw material to work with…

At the intersection of my academic specialty and my creative work, I took an hour or so this week to start a preliminary translation of a short Old Icelandic story that I have been wanting to turn into a picture book for a couple years (some preliminary sketches are here). We’ll see what happens–I think it will have to be a one-step-at-a-time process, as there are a few different stages to deal with in the drafting and the illustration, and I need to stay on top of ways to make money NOW rather than later.

Meanwhile, please feel free to share any of my blog posts you like, my poems, my art, my Grim Bunny almost-a-comic thing, etc. While I haven’t been as productive as I’d like (life happens… and so does procrastination, I guess), I’ve been really happy to share my work-thus-far with the world, and look forward to putting some more things out there.

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I am always SO EXCITED when friends of mine get published (like my old friend from grad school Liz, who is tearing it up at The Atlantic, among other places), partly because it gives me hope I will get more of my work out there than the handful of poems I’ve published, but mostly (I swear) because I am just so happy that the rest of the world gets to see how awesome they are as well. So I’m really excited that my friend Tiffany Tsao has had a story published (not her only publication by any means) in issue two of Lontar, a new journal of speculative fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, etc) about/from South East Asia. I actually found out about this issue first from the blog of Eliza Chan, whom I’ve been a fan of since her story “The Boy Who Made Stars” in Fantasy Magazine–I ran across her work while I was trying to get back into publishing my own work in 2010-2011 (I was able to get a good number of poems out 2011-12), and actually started this blog after seeing hers and thinking that a blog might actually be a nice sort of web-presence to have for my author bios (since my old geocities site had gone away a year or two before that).

The issue costs just $2.99 for the e-book version, so I picked that up earlier today and read through three stories (the first plus Tiff’s and Eliza’s) and a couple of poems. Really impressed with Tiff’s and Eliza’s stories. Eliza Chan’s is a really cool fantasy/magical realism (I think we would have to call it both… which is a bit weird, but hey, interstitial fiction is hot, right?) with a folk-lorey feeling, and oh, it was SO FUN to read something like that built on non-European folk culture–which would be a major point of this journal, I believe. The world of speculative fiction has become incredibly rich the last decade or so, as space for non-Euro-Tolkienesque fantasy (beyond orientalizing caricatures) has opened up, and to be honest, I am still processing the possibilities there are for the genres I grew up in, and working through how my own voice can productively fit into this. Heady stuff.

I had a chance to read some of the poetry as well, and I’ve got to say, looks great–this is a quality rag, not some fan-fic outlet.

File:Tweed jacket edited.jpgAnd Tiff’s story–oh, SO GOOD! Sort of near-future science fiction this time, rather than the fantasy of Eliza Chan’s (or the first story in the collection, which is actually about Korea rather than South East Asia…). I had such a great time reading it, and was really impressed at the way it developed–engaging from the start, but deepening at an accelerating rate after a few pages. OK, part of what endeared it to me was how it was so clearly her voice, as in after the first paragraph or so I could say “only Tiff could write this,” as well as the fact that it is such a nice (speculatively hyperbolic) treatment of the academic experience, as well as (potentially) concerns over the relationship between the “real world,” the academic world, and the world of the privileged and powerful (not saying she wrote this as any sort of manifesto, just getting into what my reading highlighted)–and as powerful as I found it as an academic from a non-academic family, it seems all the more pertinent to (if still science-fictional) the experience of my academic friends from South East Asia–which, again, would fit the purpose of a journal like this, and it was nice to get an image of the academy (again, even if set in the future) that takes into account both the echoes of Western modernity that continue to resound throughout the academy, as well as the much more varied population that you find in the international academy–in other words, a view of the world that goes beyond the default assumptions we tend to grow up with and into.

Like Eliza Chan’s piece, this story revolves largely around family and memory, and the conflict (spoiler alert? not too much…) has to do with struggling against the fading of both. Again, I have to say that what really drew me in with Tiff’s story was how well she moved from a light, somewhat comic treatment of the material (being “Tweeded” as the way in which one became a scholar–hence the image of a tweed jacket that I took from wikicommons, though I daresay it is not nearly frumpy enough) to… oh wait, you need to read it for yourself.

Seriously, $2.99 is a bargain just for Tiff’s story, but so far this whole issue looks really good. And for those who don’t tend to read short fiction or poetry, well, this and other journals are a great, inexpensive (often free) way to provide healthy markets for talented writers, young and old, who are putting out quality, thoughtful, and entertaining work. OK, I’m biased, as Tiff and her husband Justin are old friends of mine and I MISS THEM AND WANT THEM TO BE RICH, as well as the fact that I would like to be getting more of my work out there, but you know, I really do think the world would be a better place if more people took a half hour a week to read some poetry and short fiction. I’ve listed some places you can look for this sort of thing before, but here are a few recommendations again (really short list, sorry–just what came to me at the moment–if you have favorites not listed here, put them in the comments!!!):

Speculative Fiction: Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed Magazine (includes what used to be Fantasy Magazine)

Poetry: Stone Telling (founded by another old friend from grad school, Rose Lemberg), Goblin Fruit, Everyday Poets

Fiction AND Poetry: Strange Horizons, Ideomancer

Well there you go. Thinking now of putting together a short post on my own progress in my creative endeavors lately, but we’ll see… probably better if I just get back  to work on some of them.


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Phew, I managed to throw together a pic for Earth day! Would have liked to put some more time and details into it, but I put this off as a reward to myself after meeting my minimum translation goal for the day–will probably try to get another page or two done as well.

Jörð, or “Earth,” giantess, mistress of the All-father, and mother of Þórr, with her son, probably dropping him off at school or something. As fun as it was to portray her like this, she wouldn’t necessarily have looked extraordinary to the gods (except that she might have been insanely beautiful… but hey, no reason this fecund form couldn’t be beautiful too), as whether or not the giants were portrayed as monstrous depends on the role they play in the particular story they show up in (in the Old Norse texts they are apparently not necessarily associated with gigantic size). Jörð seems to have been won over fairly thoroughly to the side of the gods (whether by seduction, force, or magic, we don’t know, but see the poem Skirnir’s Journey to see Frey’s shoe-boy attempt all three), as Snorri tells us in Prose Edda that she is numbered among them. I’m afraid she doesn’t really show up much in the myths, and for fertility deities you have to go to the wonder twins Freyr and Freyja… and, incidentally, Jörð’s son with his association with fertility through (presumably) the weather. 

Would love to go into some sort of eco-critical perspective on the relationship of the Vikings to the natural environment and how can be tied in to the relationship between the gods and the giants and gender and all that, but I should get back to work.

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Jackson's take on the poem is that of the Old West--mine is more that of David the Gnome, I guess...

Jackson has his cowboy-take on the Gnomic poem–mine is more David the Gnome, I guess…

Well, three current English translations anyway, now that Jackson Crawford has his translation of Poetic Edda for the general reader tapped for publication with Hackett Publishing Company in the (hopefully near) future. I’ve been meaning to post about this news, plus a rehash of my previous notes on Edda translations, but after finding out that this is apparently Cowboy Poetry week, I figured this would be a good opportunity to mention both Jackson’s upcoming Edda and his “Cowboy Hávamál,” a really cool rendering of the long poem of wisdom and Odinic escapades from Poetic Edda (his new translation will not be cowboy-style–which may relieve some and disappoint others, I suppose). I have a brief introductory post to the Old Norse Hávamál from way back at the start of this blog, if you are unfamiliar with this somewhat unwieldy but super interesting poem (Jackson’s translation is of the “Gnomic Poem” section, the title of which led to my possibly ill-advised comic to the upper right…), though if you want a more thorough introduction and Old Norse text oriented towards scholars in the field, David Evan’s edition is available online. An older non-cowboy translation is available here, though I recommend the current translations instead. Speaking of which…

A (finally completed) depiction of a moment that was left unrendered (but I think implicit) in Völundarkviða, one of my favorite poems in Poetic Edda.

A (finally completed) depiction of a moment that was left unrendered (but I think implicit) in Völundarkviða, one of my favorite poems in Poetic Edda.

I have a general and short introduction to Poetic Edda in my post on the difference between Skaldic and Eddic poetry, though if you have a subscription to The Literary Encyclopedia I did the entries on Poetic Edda and Prose Edda. Jackson’s translation will join two other current English versions, Larrington’s Poetic Edda and Orchard’s Elder Edda (both translations of the same book, despite the difference in titles). The selling point for Jackson’s translation, according to Jackson’s own blog, is that it in a “truly readable, contemporary style,” written for casual readers outside the classroom. Not that Larrington or Orchard are intentionally trying to obfuscate the material, but I think that scholars who are used to teaching the material in the classroom (since I have noticed this myself–though of course Jackson teaches these things in the classroom as well) have a tendency to allow the “Oddness” of the material to shine through in translation. Personally, I think this is productive, at least in a classroom setting. As has been noted by scholars in a variety of disciplines (for example, archaeologist of the North Neil Price discusses this in his book The Viking Way, citing a scholar in Classic, if I remember correctly), while we might notice the “Other” (the explicitly different or monstrous relative to the culture of the text we are studying) or the “Queer” (that which “queers” or subverts the norm of the culture of the text), we often miss the “Odd,” the ways in which the text itself, a product of a different culture and semantic world than our own, resists our own attempts to “get it”–or, we may have the illusion that we “get it,” interpreting what we see in terms of our own horizon of expectations, until we hit a knot of indecipherability, where we come up against the alienness of the text, or our own alienness relative to the world the text comes out of and once spoke within. A translation which preserves some of this ambiguity and “Oddness” helps signal the student that it will take some effort to come to terms with the text, as well as reminding us that we can never wholly “master” it–it always speaks to use from another world, to some degree (actually, another lit-crit person and I recently had a bit of an argument with a linguist about just this topic with reference to biblical translation–I suspect that there might be a bit of a divide values-wise in this matter between those who study ancient texts primarily and those who study Language primarily…).

None of this to say that I disagree with Jackson’s project–I’m really excited, actually, and curious to see how he handles the denser and weirder portions. My students have always struggled through the Helgi poems, for example, and the opening Völuspá can be super frustrating for neophytes (or anyone) with its allusiveness (an allusion is more frustrating than effective when we no longer know the reference). Meanwhile I hear Larrington’s translation is being reworked, so I’ll look forward to looking over all three eventually. 

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