Newsletter No. 2 (20 Mar 2022)

Last month the Argentine writer Angélica Gorodischer died at the age of 93. She was not well known in the English-speaking world: I could only find Spanish-language coverage of her passing until the sf world caught on. Her books only recently started to be translated into English, beginning with KALPA IMPERIAL in 2003; translations of TRAFALGAR (2013), PRODIGIES (2015) and THE JAGUARS' TOMB (2021) followed.

Most of the attention has been given to KALPA IMPERIAL, which is magnificent--the fact that it was translated by Le Guin didn't hurt either--but it was TRAFALGAR that I found to be an utter delight. The two books operate in quite different registers. KALPA IMPERIAL is about the rise and fall of countless emperors of a seemingly eternal empire: we're in the hands of a storyteller, and the tone is epic, vatic. Whereas in TRAFALGAR we're listening to a raconteur, regaling us with tales of intergalactic sales trips gone hilariously awry over endless cups of coffee. But both are collections of *told* tales, and it's such a delight to listen to them.

Small Beer Press on publishing Angélica Gorodischer:

From 2003: 20 Questions with Angélica Gorodischer:

From last week, Leah Schnelbach on TRAFALGAR:

NEW! 'MAPS IN SCIENCE FICTION' My article "Maps in Science Fiction," which attempts a taxonomy of maps that appear in science fiction novels and media, appears in the February 2022 issue of THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF SCIENCE FICTION.
From the examples explored here, we can discern several functions science fiction maps can perform on behalf of both text and reader. Maps may have a thematic purpose as in the case of maps of Pern or Majipoor in that their style signals a science fantasy environment, the use of fantasy reading protocols, and a text of likely interest to fantasy readers. They may have a storytelling purpose as with the maps from Dune, the Steerswoman series, and the Mars trilogy: the maps separate the known from the unknown, the transformed from the untouched, the colonized from the indigenous. Or they may have a conceptual purpose by giving the reader a big-picture understanding of structures, solar systems, networks, or empires.
Some background. You know that I've written a fair bit on the history, design and function of fantasy maps. But back in July 2014, during the Q&A part of a presentation on fantasy maps at Readercon, I was asked: what about maps in science fiction? I extemporized, put out a call for suggestions on social media, pitched the idea for an article on the subject to Kevin Maroney at NYRSF when I spoke to him briefly at Detcon at that month--he was keen--and then life got thoroughly and fundamentally in the way. It was still thoroughly and fundamentally in the way when I finally, finally finished that article and sent it off to NYRSF in the summer of 2020. Life was thoroughly and fundamentally in the way at their end, too--thanks, pandemic!--so it's taken until now to see print at last. I'm glad it 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. I'd love to know what you think. You can buy the issue of NYRSF in which this article appears at Weightless Books for US$2.99: But! Because you're nice enough to subscribe to my newsletter, you can read the article in its entirety here: (I will announce this link more broadly around the end of the month or so; in the meantime I'm still adding images and cleaning it up--why you take my commas Kevin?--so it is very much Not Final at the moment. Bear that in mind if you link or share.)
LONG FORM PAUL KINCAID offers a taxonomy of reviewing, and the various forms and modes it takes: TALIA LEVIN looks at the Americanized version of bologna, or baloney, and the privation that enabled its spread: A recent study argues that Tyrannosaurus rex was not one species, but three. It's a contentious claim, and NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC has the most in-depth reporting on it I've seen: A harrowing long read from SHANNON GORMLEY on the struggle to get an Afghan family out of Kabul during the U.S. withdrawal:
POP CULTURE POTPOURRI Hayao Miyazaki's classic SPIRITED AWAY has been adapted for the stage--it's currently playing at the Imperial Theatre in Tokyo until March 29, and then goes on a Japanese tour--and it looks magnificent: Here's a fellow who does tarot readings using a deck of SESAME STREET flash cards:
LAGNIAPPE BIRD OF THE MONTH: The birds are back. Mostly goldfinches--there were at least two dozen at the feeder yesterday--but also redpolls, nuthatches and woodpeckers. Expect an onslaught of bird pictures over the next few months. It was pretty bleak a month ago, though, enough that I found the visit of a solitary purple finch noteworthy. (For one thing, I didn't think they came in single servings.) FROM THE ARCHIVES: Speaking of T. rexes, here, from November 2017, is my argument for an extremely carnivorous plot device, the T. Rex Machina:

Newsletter No. 1 (14 Feb 2022)

Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter. Some of you are personal friends, some of you are colleagues in the science fiction and fantasy community, some of you have followed me here from my map blog, The Map Room. Some of you are all of the above. Regardless of how--or whether--I know you, welcome. 

Because I am a semi-ambulatory hodgepodge of interests and activities, this newsletter will not have any particular focus, except on what I happen to be reading and writing about: it won't, in other words, be solely about sf and fantasy, or maps, or snakes, or typewriters, or anything else that has grabbed my attention. As many of you know, lots of things grab my attention. Not all of it will be of interest to you, but I'm fairly sure some of it will.

With that said, here's what I've been up to over the past month or so: what I've published and written, what I've read, plus some other things you might find interesting.

If you have any concerns with this email, or just want to send me a note:

PUBLICATIONS My first published story, "Mermaid Care," a flash piece (950 words) with a creepy take on anthropomorphism and the exotic animal trade, can be found in the December 2021 issue of MERMAIDS MONTHLY: For the story's origins and inspirations, and its rather long path to publication (eight years!), see my blog post: Meanwhile, STRANGE HORIZONS posted my review of Veronica Schanoes's BURNING GIRLS AND OTHER STORIES (, 2021) earlier this month. (I'll be honest: this was a tough review for me to write. Schanoes combines the historical with the fairy tale, and I know rather a lot about the former and comparatively little about the latter.) Speaking of STRANGE HORIZONS, at the start of each year they ask their reviewers to look back at what they've read, watched and played over the past year. Despite having read much less in 2021 than I have in every other year during the past decade, I managed to contribute a few paragraphs here: Also, I just handed in my next review for them: for Robert Freeman Wexler's UNDISCOVERED TERRITORIES (PS Publishing, 2021). The fifth story collection in a row; at some point I may actually review a novel. STRANGE HORIZONS has a fairly long production pipeline, so look for the review in late spring or early summer. Look for reviews of these books on The Map Room in the near future:
A FEW GOOD READS Still speaking of STRANGE HORIZONS, they're having a special issue this week on criticism and reviewing: STAT on how Black women with ankylosing spondylitis--which, as most of you know, I've had since 1997--have been ignored and overlooked by the medical profession: SMITHSONIAN magazine on Roquefort, the king of cheese, and its uncertain future: THE NEW YORKER on how Kim Stanley Robinson's science fiction addresses our climate reality: KNOWABLE on new reinterpretations of Tupaia's map of the Pacific Ocean: THE ATLANTIC on the USGS's Board of Geographic Names, increasingly tasked with replacing offensive and derogatory place names:
LAGNIAPPE INK OF THE MONTH: Rohrer & Klingner Isatis Tinctoria, their 2021 special edition ink, has been growing on me; I've been using it in correspondence a lot this month. It's blue-gray with lots of shading; if you know your fountain pen inks, it's midway between Fuyu-syogun and Shin-kai. Like other R&K inks it's pretty dry, and it needs a reasonably thick nib; it's been working well my Pilot Custom 74 medium. See the Wonder Pens blog post: TYPEWRITER OF THE MONTH: The Facit TP2 I bought on eBay last August is finally up and running. When it arrived its bell was inaudible, its right margin refused to release, and there was a problem with the ribbon reverse mechanism. Jennifer has done her work; all problems now seem resolved and it's behaving as it should, at least for the moment. (Touch wood because it is, after all, 57 years old.) Here's its entry on the Typewriter Database (yes, it is quite blue): BIRD OF THE MONTH: It's been too cold for most feeder birds lately, except for one occasional defiant nuthatch (also, there's been a fox about); but check out this dumb American goldfinch from early January: FROM THE ARCHIVES: From January 2020, and FOR NO APPARENT REASON, Adventures in Artisanal Snow Shovelling: