Map blogger. Science fiction and fantasy critic and writer. Snake whisperer.

Month: July 2022

Night of the Cooters Premiere

The film version of Howard Waldrop’s “Night of the Cootershas its world premiere tomorrow night at the L.A. Shorts International Film Festival. It’s 34 minutes long, animated using the trioscope process, and stars (and is directed by) Vincent d’Onofrio. I hope the film maintains the zaniness of Waldrop’s original story, which transparently imagined its sheriff protagonist as Slim Pickens—who was not available for this production on account of having died in 1983. The trailer (below), which I completely missed when it was released in December, sheds no light on that question (previously).

The Cartographers

I bet you’ve been wondering what I thought about Peng Shepherd’s novel The Cartographers (William Morrow/Orion, March 2022). After all, it’s a literary fantasy about maps: is it even possible for a book to be more relevant to my interests? Well, wonder no longer, because I’ve reviewed it for Strange Horizons.

This piece is a little bit different from the usual review, in that it examines The Cartographers in the context of mysteries and fantasy that deploy similar map tropes, as well as the idées fixes our culture has about maps. As I write in the review, there’s an awful lot for me to unpack:

I have been writing about maps for nearly two decades, and in that time I have encountered many works of fiction that incorporate maps and map tropes into their storytelling, whether as paratexts or as plot elements, and I have never encountered a story, at any length, as thoroughly encompassed by maps as The Cartographers. It’s not just that almost every character in the book works with maps in some fashion, whether as a cartographer, artist, librarian, map dealer, or technician. Nor are maps just a plot point—they are the point. The Cartographers is a Stations of the Map: its pilgrimage follows a path that touches on so many aspects of maps and mapmaking, from academic cartography to fire insurance maps. It spends time on the purpose and meaning of maps: it aspires to an almost Socratic dialogue. It deploys familiar fantasy genre tropes about maps. But it’s structured as a mystery novel, and opens with a murder.

Amazon (Canada, UK) | Apple Books (UK) | Bookshop

‘She Was in Danger. Many Times.’

In an excerpt from her new memoir, Run Towards the Danger, Sarah Polley reflects on her traumatic experience as an eight-year-old actor on the set of Terry Gilliam’s Adventures of Baron Munchausen (a movie that meant, and still means, a great deal to me), where she was put in physical danger more than once. She’s written about it before, but: “As the years go on and Terry makes more and more comments that demonstrate not just a childlike incapacity for understanding grown-up problems but a wilful dismissal of movements that seek to claim equality and acknowledgment for past harms, I see him, and the role he played in the mayhem back then, differently. I see it in the context of a cultural phenomenon of what many white men have been allowed to get away with in the name of art. Though he was magical and brilliant and made images and stories that will live for a long, long time, it’s hard to calculate whether they were worth the price of the hell that so many went through over the years to help him make them.”

The Online Discussions Around ADHD

Also at the new Gawker, James Greig writes that while he’s relieved to have been recently diagnosed with ADHD, he’s kind of annoyed by the online discussions around ADHD. “What’s really striking is the extent to which a disorder associated with garrulousness and substance abuse has been captured so utterly by nerds. To what neurodivergent urges would I now be subjected? Would I be tempted to start drawing pastel-colored webcomics about buying too many notebooks or set up a TikTok account with my boyfriend in which he is assigned the role of baffled but tolerant neurotypical and I am essentially a child? […] I didn’t want to do any of those things, but I did start to consider what we are telling ourselves—and one another—about ADHD.” It reminds me the online discourse a generation ago about what was then called Asperger’s, which was also framed in nerd-superpower terms (and also just as classist).

‘We Need a Way to Mute America’

Writing in the relaunched, Bustle-owned Gawker, Australian Patrick Marlborough argues that we need the ability to mute America. “Why? Because America has no chill. America is exhausting. America is incapable of letting something be simply funny instead of a dread portent of their apocalyptic present. America is ruining the internet. […] America insists that you bear witness to it tripping on its dick and slamming its face into an uncountable row of scalding hot pies. You do more than bear witness, because American Twitter has the same kind of magnetic pull as a garbage disposal unit.”

Garlic in a Jar and the Casual Ableism of Foodie Culture

“The culture that surrounds cooking today is one that lends itself well to casual ableism,” writes Gabrielle Drolet in The Walrus. “It’s a culture that prizes specific ways of doing things over others, constantly pitting methods and recipes against one another: French-style scrambled eggs over American; minced garlic instead of pressed, nonstick pans against those made of cast iron, bouillon cubes against broth cartons against homemade stock.” Drolet had cause to reconsider the precepts of foodie culture when an injury limited her ability to cook the right way. “Often, the wrong choice is the easier (read: more accessible) one—and making it is a fatal flaw. These aren’t things to try to avoid when you can. They’re things you should never do, even though many of us don’t have a choice. This lack of nuance is what made me believe using accessibility tools might make me a bad cook, pushing me to hurt myself even when cooking alone.”

The Return of the Airship

BBC Future on the reinvention of the airship: “A new generation of airships—the lighter-than-air craft that don’t need conventional airports—will be built in a corner of Ohio which played a unique part in the history of aviation. What’s more, if built they will be housed in one of America’s most iconic structures, the Goodyear Airdock in Akron.”

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