gift guide: When visions of sugarplums dance about, making a mess of things, leaving things sticky.

It’s begun. December. The time of year when people I haven’t spoken to in six months start asking me about “good” presents, the sort of memorable, interesting, quirky gifts that perpetually win. This year, partially in self defence, partially because there’s really no good reason why not, (and I’m certainly not going to write Canada Council Grant Applications for all of you), I’m going to attempt to write a gift guide.

To start, here’s some pretty fabulous reading material.


  • Oryx & Crake and After The Flood: a duo of nested dystopian science future novels from Margaret Atwood detailing the collapse of an utterly believable civilization only a few steps farther down the road. They’re fascinating, beautiful books, not only for the intense, incredible story telling and characters, but for how terrifyingly accurate her future seems, as the science and politics of her future world are not so much invented as they are extrapolated from current breakthroughs in technology and recent social and economic developments. When I first finished Oryx & Crake, I turned immediately to the first page and read it again. Upon finishing After the Flood, my response was the same.
  • Boneshaker: Steampunk! Seattle! Zombies! The ever exciting, ever fantabulous Cherie has fallen in love with every larger-than-life pulp archtype possible, and a few more besides, and hells bells, ladies and gentleman, it makes for a heck of a ride when she packs them all in. (HINT: She’s currently writing an “urban fantasy adventure about a neurotic vampire/thief and her wealthy blind client, now with Bonus! Cuban drag queen and military intrigue”). I haven’t even read this one yet and I’m excited. The reaction to its release has been bloody overwhelming, and all of it positive. For extra fun, Amazon’s offering it cheaper when paired with Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, another grumptious run through the world of sepia-tinted rivet sci-fi/fantasy.

    (One of her publishers, Subterannean Press, is having a 50% off pre-orders sale right now, too.)

  • Scenting the Dark and Other Stories: Primarily a puppeteer, of all delightful things, Mary‘s also on Subterranean Press, and also an incredible, wonderful woman I wholly endorse. This most recent book especially, as not only is she a very dear writer, I love short stories, a format woefully underappreciated outside of Strange Horizons or 365Tomorrows. Her puppeteering story Body Language is now up at OSC’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, as the cover story. (IGMS charges $2.50 for access to the full issue).
  • COILHOUSE magazine: Inform. Inspire. Infect. Mer, Nadya, and Zoetica got together to make a magazine and madly, madly succeeded. Here’s their schtick, “COILHOUSE is a love letter to alternative culture, written in an era when alternative culture no longer exists. On paper and on the web, a collection of articles, interviews, rants, musings, and imagery showcasing the planet’s bravest explorers of Ye Old Future.” Each issue is a piece of art wrapped in design then hammered onto paper. As a bonus, they’ve also got some pretty sleek t-shirts.
  • Chiggers: One for the kids, Hope‘s latest graphic novel is a very sweet story about “nerdy teenaged girls” who meet at summer camp. The local indie bookstore has it on the shelf up next to Twilight with a little sign that says, “this author won an Eisner Award, please give this to your daughter instead.” (Really, I even took a picture.) Salamander Dream, her first book, is available on-line.

    (As a footnote, Charity Larrison, someone I will love forever, also has kid-recommended work available on-line. Start with Busted Wonder, a work of joy if there ever was one.)

  • Y: The Last Man: A graphic novel set for the adults, this time, by Brian K. Vaughan and David‘s darling friend, Pia Guerra. A mysterious plague has killed every man on earth except Yorick Brown, who was somehow spared. Pia’s a solid, very talented artist, and I sorely wish she’d had the chance to contribute to the writing near the end of Y as much she did at the beginning, but even so, they’re well worth your time.
  • The fast fiction challenge by Lee Barnet: One of the best things about following Budgie on-line are his completely delightful, razor wire witty short short replies to a challenge he posted to his journal ages and yonks ago, “requested: “reply with a title (no longer than four words) about which you’d like me to write a fast fiction of exactly 200 words, along with a word you want me to include in the tale.” This little chapbook is 180 of his so-far favourites. Given how clever the man can be, if they’re his favourites, you know they’re going to be killer.
  • Hacking The Earth: “Environmental futurist Jamais Cascio explores the implications of geoengineering in this collection of thought-provoking essays. Is our civilization ready to take on the task of re-engineering the planet?” For $12.99, can learning how to save the planet get any easier?
  • The Age of the Warrior: Selected Writings: Robert Fisk is a war correspondant for London’s Independent. The bleak depths of winter might not be the perfect time for this, but if you’ve ever been curious to learn what is actually going down in the Middle East, here’s a grand a place to start. It’s understandably a bit liberally biased, as the man’s been living surrounded by atrocity and violence for thirty years, but it’s very well possible his writing and perspective on his topics are unmatched.
  • Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony: A magnificent small collection of essays by the scientist Lewis Thomas. I haven’t the foggiest how I acquired my copy. I suspect it was a gift in a batch of books, but I truly do not know, which is sad, as I would very much like someone to thank. Late Night Thoughts is a very pretty book, so elegant and thought provoking it near breaks my heart that the author is dead.
  • Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics: The Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner. They are excellent. I say so. The internet says so. I’ve just realized the time, so that’s all I’m going to say. Find them, read them, laugh, worry, enjoy. The life of the day-job requires I must now get to bed. edit: apparently they’re playing silly buggers all through the second book, so nevermind that one, stick with the first.


    Pipe up in the comments if you’d like a plug to something, (I’m looking at you, David), or even if you simply appreciate what I’m trying to do. The more positive response, the more I’ll put the effort in, and hot damn, have I got a lot of cool stuff I want to show you sitting open in tabs right now.

  • The generator weighs four thousand pounds and writes six hundred books a year.

    Given my now regular eight hours on the bus every weekend, I’ve been reading more books a week than I have in years, (since I banned myself from libraries), as I swallow two or three whole each way. The last book I finished, China Tom Miéville’s the city & the city, was strange and fascinating, less for the content and more for how political it made me feel, how much I innately disagreed with the premise of the strange place he brilliantly created for his setting, a city that legally counts itself as two cities, invisible to each other through the sheer power of opinion, where your neighbor isn’t your neighbor unless you agree on which city you see.

    strike back by passing it on

    Someone scraped the contents of Darren Di Lieto’s website and published it into a 350-page book being sold online for $100. via warren.

    This book — which reprints without permission several dozen artist interviews which Darren had posted on the LCS blog — transcribes these interviews word-for-word, including the artwork, and was “published” under the title “Colorful Illustrations 93°C”. The book even includes a CD with all the illustrations from the book, all lifted off the site as well.

    Publishers have faked their details, resellers refuse to pull the book. The ISBN they provide is also a fake. It being nigh impossible to track down the culprits, (they seem to be located in HK, a city world renowned for copyright infringement), the only real way to shut these people down and/or make sure no one works with them again is to spread the word, create an information backlash and rub their faces in the muck so hard they’ll never get clean.

    First, please re-distribute this blog post or Darren’s original post. Repost the whole thing, or part of it, in your blog, with links and tags included.

    Next, use whatever social networks and news sharing sites you use every day — Twitter, Flickr, Delicious, Magnolia, Digg, StumbleUpon, Facebook — to spread the word about this overpriced book full of plagiarized and stolen content. Feel free to quote us, and remember to also include the same keywords and tags in your posts.

    There’s more information on Darren’s blog as well as a gallery of photos taken of every page.

    the scent of your pretty black hair

    Jhayne, by Andrew Dimitt
    Originally uploaded by Foxtongue.

    haiku for ___:
    he reminded me
    of the twitchy tip of a
    purring cat’s tail

    Paula came over yesterday and helped me begin sorting my things. Now everything’s a precarious mess, there’s paper piled on every surface, slippery memories tangled underfoot, stacked CD’s of old music, and violently coloured stuffed cats curled up to calligraphy kits next to antique instruments and gold framed mirrors. To orate the list would make for a glorious message on an answering machine, much in the style of a baroque-gypsy version of the semi-infamous monologue from Trainspotting:

    The truth is that I’m a bad person. But, that’s gonna change – I’m going to change. This is the last of that sort of thing. Now I’m cleaning up and I’m moving on, going straight and choosing life. I’m looking forward to it already. I’m gonna be just like you. The job, the family, the fucking big television. The washing machine, the car, the compact disc and electric tin opener, good health, low cholesterol, dental insurance, mortgage, starter home, leisure wear, luggage, three piece suite, DIY, game shows, junk food, children, walks in the park, nine to five, good at golf, washing the car, choice of sweaters, family Christmas, indexed pension, tax exemption clearing gutters, getting by, looking ahead, the day you die.

    Now that Wayne and I have picked up boxes, things have been going quicker. It’s beginning to make sense outside of my head. Already the detritus of my life is beginning to classify. Speculations correspond with a basic duality: Things I Appreciate / Things I Will Never Miss.

    books for sale

    I dyed my hair so you carry me with you when you leave.

    Originally uploaded by Foxtongue.

    Minesh has left, gone back to The Smoke. Sweetheart that he is, I saw him to the airport Wednesday and took a bus back into town. He’s left me a small stack of fascinating seeming books with erudite notes written in the cover pages that I know I’ll never have the cleverness to match. They’re sitting next to my bed, now, waiting for me to pick them up and soil their pristine pages with my fingerprints. When he sent me a note to say he got home safe, which I never doubted he would, I sent him a copy of Maginalia.

    As if to gracefully ease absence, the airport then apologetically delivered up Michael Green late Thursday night for the tail end of the PuSH festival. Which means, lovelies, that I am generally unavailable for shenanigans until Tuesday. Call me then and don’t expect me to be home checking my messenger.

    Heart of the World news, there isn’t any positive. Monday I sign papers to the effect that if I give them the deposit, they will not pursue any legal action against me. There’s nothing else I can say.

    It tears my heart.

    In the mornings, with the dread of a long day ahead, your voice soothed me and gave me strength

    For those who are new here, and there do seem to be a lot of you, here is a published book you should buy a downloadable copy of and my story in it.

    I would like to say this is going to be my last six:thirty a.m. awake for awhile now that I finally have a job, but I know that would be a greedy lie. My face down unhappiness has been heaping lots of them upon me lately and I don’t like that my bed no longer smells like me. The air of the apartment has been filling with Kier, our house-guest who hasn’t paid his rent yet. It’s unsettling, it makes me want to double-wash all my sheets and blankets. I have no desire to climb naked into a bed that someone else has been rewriting while I’ve been away.

    Flickr just reached a quarter of a billion photos.

    Sam’s lent me a novel, Futureland by Walter Mosely, that I’m halfway through and still can’t decide what to do with. I get the feeling off this book that it’s not trying to be anything but a sci-fi novel. It was not written to be enduring, inspiring or to be especially moving. This isn’t rocking me, not even like a baby. It was written to be put in a bookstore and bought off the wire-rack shelf, to be consumed and then lost to some second-hand table fair. It’s a little.. baffling. I remember skimming past books like this in gift shops when I was younger, (and still commonly bought books), scanning the covers and dismissing them, the metallic newspaper quotes on the back covers.

    “5,000 of the most important photographs of the last 150 years.”

    I decided then I was only going to read books I would like to write, or literature that pushed my envelope, built of a nature so different that I can barely grasp them, insisting in my head that the better quality I read, the better I will write. Input matching output, I decided I want my shelf to be full of books that are endlessly interesting, not quite classics, but of the sort that can light up repeatedly and at different times of my life. This leaves me a rabbit in the headlights, uncertain what Futureland is for. This book is entirely alien to my nature. I suspect it’s meant to be entertaining, but it doesn’t survive my criteria, I don’t feel challenged. Is this what people commonly read?

    Fujitsu develops “invisible” barcode for photographs.

    why it’s important to leave the house #45908

    A patient’s self-rewired brain revives him after 19 years in a vegatative coma.

    Minus Kyle, Duncan, & Grant, you people missed a fantastic show. Tigers crept off the stage, dreams of lights, lakes of visionary stormy weather. The Roman Empire shuddered and fell under the waves of Atlantis. Shane brought his mother back to life as the audience cried and his grandmother told us all to rise and shine, all to a really good steel string slide. I managed to film clips of most of the first act, but not all of it, only enough to give you the barest skeleton of what actually happened. In the end, I have shaky teasers, but no real trailers. Next time, you, be there. Get out your silver kitchen knife and go culture hunting when I tell you to.

    So with only about a full day’s warning, we managed to get almost thirty people to Pirates of the Caribbean. An affable man sitting behind me noticed that our group took up two full rows and asked how much organization went into it. When I told him we hadn’t bothered with very much this time around, how it was entirely arranged through our on-line journals, he mentioned oh-so-fortuitously that he has an event coming up at the Planetarium. He handed me a cleanly designed flyer, the sort of thing I would notice on a table, and smiled when I said I would give him a plug. After a bit more conversation, he asked, “Will you really mention us?” Then handed me a free ticket.

    UK scientists have developed technology that enables artificial limbs to be directly attached to a human skeleton.

    I’ve been listening to the music The Beige have on their website for hours now and I’m going to leave one on when I finally go to bed. The flyer design made me ask if it was ambient, but though their songs powerfully insinuate Brian Eno leanings, they seem to play something else, a translucent mellow jazz with a delicate twist of quiet pop. I really like it. Stylistically, they remind me charmingly of Múm. The musicians, Andrew Arida, Geoff Gilliard, Mark Haney, Rick Maddocks, and Jon Wood, manage to dance the line between chill, softly effervescent, and catchy without being fluffy, bland or relying on hooks. I’ll have to remember to bring extra money when I go, because I want to buy the album.

    The show is only an hour long because they have to vacate in time for the stoned kids to watch the resident Doors/Zeppelin/Hendrix/Pink Floyd laser show, but they’ll have drinks and mingling downstairs afterward and their own visuals projected on the ceiling during their set. I’m curious to see what they’re going to do with the space. It can be awkward to set up anything meaningful around a giant robot projector ant that rises from the floor, but already I can imagine how their melodies could transform awkwardness into underwater gracefulness, sort of how a good director cuts out the sound in moments of tension.

    University of Alberta researchers have created an ultra-sound technology to regrow teeth, the first time scientists have been able to reform human dental tissue.

    About half my books have been spoken for and some already bought.
    a list of what’s left

    library on fire

    Dancing and Other Near Catastrophes, for Troll, because he doesn’t get out much.

    We’re ghosts haunting the wrong houses, spooks without a C.I.A. Neon signs fading into the distance and motels empty of newlyweds. We’re what influential german dramatists pictured when they had fever dreams, two people with shiny smiles anxiously standing by the side of a blind sea. Your hand in mine, how dangerous. Your graceful fingers spell out initiative while mine tactfully promise a lack of sleep. We’re going to spell out the end of the world together, in the movement of lines on palms and programmable languages directed by the tilt of a wrist. We’re the sound of a solitary radio while driving through Nevada at night. We’re the 327000 feet languishing between the earth and the edge of her atmosphere. No sleep and we’re speaking in punctuation. No dreams.

    Burrow‘s laptop recently got stolen while she was in Seattle. To try and raise money to buy a new one, she’s selling prints of her artwork. If lithographs aren’t your thing, but you’d still like to help, her link for donations is here.

    Me, I’m house-cleaning in prep for my trip to Europe. I’ve got a list of books I’d like to sell. I’m wanting them to go for 30% cover price OBO with probable discounts for wholesale.

    list of books for sale

    FYI events

    There will be a movie night at my place, Tuesday the 13th, of Snow White: a Tale of Terror, a more faithful adaptation of the Grimms Brothers’ tale, starring Sigourney Weaver and Sam Neill. A Potluck will start at 7:00 with movie at 8:30.

    Today Graham and Burrow and I are going to Grandview Park to sell books off a blanket. Bad fantasy novels and old sci-fi for a negotiable two bucks a book. Come join us, we’ll be there until the weather kicks us out.

    EDIT: The weather won.