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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Name This Column

I woke up a few mornings ago listening to an old and familiar song: George Harrison, "Here Comes The Sun."
Little darling,
it's been a long cold lonely winter
little darling,
it seems like years since it's been clear
Only the weird part was, it wasn't playing on the clock-radio. That hadn't gone off yet. Something, somewhere up in the dusty attic of my subconscious, had fished that song out of long-term memory and put it on my in-head playlist, loud and clear. How very strange.

Yet, it seemed like a portent. It has been a long cold winter, and I'm good and ready for it to be over. (As I write this, though, the first flurries of a new storm that's promising to dump another foot of snow on us before its done are swirling through the air. The groundhog lied.) January was devoured by Otogu, and a succession of back-to-back First Rule situations. Then, three weeks ago, on the morning of Saturday, January 29—just as what they're now calling the Groundhog Day Blizzard was rolling up from Texas—we had a sudden and unexpected death in the first-tier extended family, which devoured another week.

Consequently the column that I was writing on Friday, January 28, remains a pile of untidy notes and fragments, and as Mr. Clock ticks closer to noon, it becomes ever clearer to me that I'm not going to get it finished this morning.

So instead, I would like to redirect your attention today to "Who put the "Psi" in Science Fiction?", by occasional Friday Challenge contributor Guy Stewart. (Hmm. If Henry and Kersley are Friday Challenge "regulars," does this make Guy a "slightly irregular?") Guy poses some interesting questions about the subject of Christian faith in the context of science fiction, and leads me once again to wonder why, in a literature that spends so much time gassing on about the exploration and settlement of the final frontier, three of the best-documented rationales for doing such pioneering work—the quest for personal religious freedom, the imperative to do missionary work, and the settling of the American west—remain largely verboten topics.

Anyway, Guy has written an interesting and thought-provoking column. Consider checking it out.

Also on the recommended reading list, if you're looking for something to do on this snowy afternoon, is "The decline and fall of the fantasy novel," by Friday Challenge highly irregular Vox Day (aka, "Theo"), which you'll find over at Black Gate. It's part of an ongoing discussion there re the changes that have appeared in the fantasy genre since Tolkien and Howard were writing, and of how the concepts of good and evil have been replaced by moral equivalency and confusion. This essay isn't for everyone—most writers are uncomfortable thinking about the latent moral implications of their work—but if you're ready to consider working at slightly greater depth than usual, it's definitely thought-provoking.

Finally, in case you somehow missed the news: the Borders bookstore chain filed for bankruptcy this week. While the immediate reaction in some circles has been much rejoicing—a lot of independent booksellers blame the big chains for their own poor sales, while somehow managing to avoid considering that perhaps their own sales methods could stand some improvement, and a lot of writers have taken to complaining loudly about the amount of influence the big chain store merchandise buyers have on editorial and publishing decisions—almost unnoticed in this news is that among their other creditors, Borders owes $41.1 million to Penguin Putnam, $36.9 million to Hachette, $33.8 million to Simon & Schuster, and $33.5 million to Random House. That's roughly $140 million dollars that the four biggest publishing houses in the country together are probably just plain going to lose, pretty much overnight.

And that should lead to some interesting changes in the publishing business...
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