Siderea conducts the deepest dive possible into the history, context and significance of a particular phrase that emerged in Ukraine in 2014 and has since spread like wildfire: Путін хуйло1 (Putin khuylo: roughly, “Putin is a dickhead” or “Putin the dickhead,” depending on context, with the understanding that хуйло is a far far far stronger obscenity than dickhead is in English). That she manages to tie in everything from Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Æthelred the Unready when talking about something that began as a chant by Kharkiv soccer hooligans is impressive enough—to say nothing of the implication that Putin’s rage at Ukraine just might have something to do with “Putin Khuylo” becoming an epithet like Ivan the Terrible or Catherine the Great.
My review of Robert Freeman Wexler’s short story collection, Undiscovered Territories (PS Publishing, 2021), is now online at Strange Horizons. “Wexler’s stories inhabit the same emotional universe. There is a certain similarity to his protagonists and the situations they find themselves in. By and large they are men. More to the point, they are uprooted, unattached, and unhappy men: sensitive, socially and romantically isolated, unhappy in their employment, miserable to varying degrees of desperation, and above all else alone. In many of these stories, it’s into these miasmas of masculine anxieties that the speculative elements intrude, and offer a path out—whether emotionally or literally.” Amazon (UK)
A new study argues that what we know as Tyrannosaurus rex is actually a cluster of three species. The division is based on physical differences between the 37 fossil specimens found to date, plus there’s some variation in the age of the rocks in which the fossils were found. The researchers, led by paleoartist Gregory Paul, propose Tyrannosaurus imperator as the oldest and more robust species, with Sue as its holotype; the other two species, T. rex and T. regina, were contemporaneous, with T. regina the more gracile of the two (T. rex’s holotype is unchanged, T. regina’s is the Wankel Rex). The proposal is contentious to say the least: the best coverage of the debate I’ve seen comes from National Geographic’s Michael Greshko.
Another well-known specimen, Stan, would also become T. regina. Stan more or less disappeared from public view when he was auctioned for $31.8 million in October 2020. At the time no one knew who the buyer was, but Greshko (again: working full-time at the tyrannosaur desk) managed to work it out from trade records: Stan went to the United Arab Emirates. It’s just been confirmed that he’ll be the star of a new natural history museum now under construction in Abu Dhabi.
Update: Riley Black is tired of talking about T. rex, in a Slate piece that echoes something she wrote for the Grauniad eleven years ago: that there’s more to dinosaurs, and there’s other dinosaurs, than T. rex.
My article “Maps in Science Fiction,” which attempts a taxonomy of the maps that appear in science fiction novels, stories and media, has just been published in the February 2022 issue of The New York Review of Science Fiction. It took a while for this to see print—I started work on it in the summer of 2014—but I’m glad it finally has: science fiction maps don’t get a fraction of the attention fantasy maps do, and I think I might have come up with some useful frameworks in this piece. The complete text of the article will be posted at some point; in the meantime, I’ve posted a bit of a teaser to The Map Room. But if you really can’t wait, you can buy the NYRSF issue here; it costs just US$2.99 in the usual electronic formats.
Update: Read the article here.
Because I have an abiding interest in vintage Swedish typewriters, and information on said typewriters is somewhat thin on the ground online—especially in English—I’ve put together a page of links to various manuals, guides, reviews and videos about Facit and Halda typewriters. To be added to as I go.
Today marks the 88th anniversary of le 6 février: on 6 February 1934, far-right paramilitary leagues rioted in Paris in an attempt to overthrow the newly installed French government. Does that sound familiar? John Ganz thought so too. “So, just how similar were Feb 6 1934 and Jan 6 2021? Starting somewhat superficially, it has to be admitted that there is an eerie parallelism: both involve a far-right mob with many military veterans attempting to to storm the legislative branch that was in the process of recognizing a new administration.”
It is an indictment of how writers in other languages are overlooked that I cannot find a single item in English about the passing of Argentine writer Angélica Gorodischer, who died yesterday in her lifelong home city of Rosario at the age of 93. Here’s El País in Spanish. Of the four books of hers translated into English, I’ve read three: Kalpa Imperial, Trafalgar and Prodigies. (A fourth, Jaguars’ Tomb, came out last year.) Kalpa Imperial got the most attention (it was translated by Le Guin) and Prodigies is difficult; as for Trafalgar, a series of mischievous tall space tales from an unreliable narrator, it’s one of my favourites. In 2003, on the occasion of their publishing Kalpa Imperial, Small Beer Press presented 20 Questions with Angélica Gorodischer.
Update: A post from Small Beer Press, On Publishing Angélica Gorodischer, is a behind-the-scenes look at how they came to publish her in translation.
My first professionally published story, “Mermaid Care,” a flash piece with a creepy take on anthropomorphism and the exotic animal trade, can be found in the December 2021 issue of Mermaids Monthly—which is now officially available to the general public, both online and in the usual ebook formats.
It’s only 950 words long, so there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t go read it right now. Since I’m going to talk about the story’s origins and inspirations in this post, everything will make more sense if you’ve read the story first.Continue reading…
A profile of Kim Stanley Robinson in this week’s New Yorker, focusing on his recent novels about the challenges of climate change, and on his most recent, The Ministry for the Future, which has caught particular fire at this critical moment. “‘The Ministry for the Future’ gave me a sense of the space. It shows our prospects to be both imaginable and variable: we can still redraw the plans. Perhaps because the novel fills a vital narrative gap, it achieved an unusually wide readership. Barack Obama included it on his list of the best books of the year; the Times columnist Ezra Klein said that all policymakers should read it. Christiana Figueres, the U.N. diplomat who led the effort to create the Paris agreement, listened to the novel in her garden and wept.”
In Smithsonian magazine, Joshua Levine looks at the history and somewhat uncertain future of Roquefort cheese. “The king of cheese is in trouble. Over the past dozen years, sales of Roquefort cheese have fallen 15 percent, to 16,000 tons in 2020. The people who love it are growing ever grayer, and French parents are no longer bringing up their young to appreciate a taste that any normal child instinctively finds yucky (god knows, mine does). It takes training and persistence to overcome a natural human instinct to avoid food that, let’s face it, is spoiled, albeit in a tightly controlled and highly refined manner.” I have tried Roquefort a grand total of once: my sinuses have never since been so clear. It’s an experience, to be sure.