One Guest for Dinner (Mania.com)

By:Denise Dumars
Date: Friday, November 10, 2000

I'll Be Post-Feminist in the Post-Patriarchy

So, what's up with B. Dalton calling pioneering cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling 'post-cyberpunk'? I guess this just means that cyberpunk isn't 'in' anymore, so we're supposed to call Sterling's work something else. Anyway, he has a new novel out called Zeitgeist, a word which gives me hives just thinking about the sorts of coffee house nouveau-beatniks who use it. Anyway, why this is considered SF is beyond me, as it's set in 1999 and is essentially social satire of what appears to be the most benign kind. As one of the last left-leaning SF writers, maybe Sterling is losing his edge in the face of the reactionary turn the genre is taking. I don't know. You tell me. I haven't even read the book and already I'm disappointed.

Sherri S. Tepper is one fantasy-SF author of whom I should keep better track. Her stories always approach their subject matter with a feminist perspective which is all too rare in this day of SFnal heroines geared toward the fantasies of teenage video game players. The protagonist of her new novel, The Fresco, is met by altruistic aliens who want to better humankind. Hmm, where have we heard this before? Surely a cookbook is involved somewhere.... Of course things go horribly wrong, and as the nice aliens face civil war on their homeworld a new, predatory race of aliens discover Earth and think it would make a nice snack factory. When the good aliens, called the Pistach (Why? Are they green? Nutty? Go good with ice cream?), return, Earth learns that if it wants to join their club it will have to fulfill the requirements...reminds me of the sorority at CSUN that wouldn't admit a pre-op transsexual so he/she is going to start his/her own 'sorority.'

Plagiarizinger, I mean retellingold myths and legends has always been a staple of fantasy. Sometimes this works very well, as is some of the books of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mary Stewart and just lately, Reyna Thera Lorele. Now a dude named Stephen Grundy has attempted his version of the epic of Gilgamesh. HarperCollins is putting it out in splashy hardcover, so they must think it's pretty good. It looks to me like a fairly standard version of the Sumerian myth, which first hit the 'new papyrus' shelf of the library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh in the 7th century BCE. Gilgamesh is a Hercules-type hero of half-mortal and half-goddess heritage who runs afoul of the gods, of course. To see what happens read the book or look up the myth in The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.

A new Lois Lowry title should be good news to young people and adults alike. Her heroine in Gathering Blue lives in a post-apocalypse world where women are devalued in society and the handicapped are considered useless. Kira's mother, however, insists that her disabled daughter is useful, and Kira becomes an outstanding seamstress, even better than her mother. This being a Lowry tale, Kira eventually discovers a truth about her society that will set her world on its ear. This sounds pretty darn good; and if you haven't read Lowry's Newbury award-winning The Giver make sure you pick that one up to read as well.

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Egypto-nut that I am, when I saw a volume called An Egyptian Book of Shadows wherein authors Jocelyn Almond and Keith Seddon apply Egyptian ritual to the eight seasonal rituals of neo-paganism, I thought it would be fun to try it out. Of course, even trying to celebrate the sabbats as they were in old Europe is pretty silly in SoCal; for one thing, we don't have four seasons, unless you want to call them sun, rain, wind, and heat. But I tried to start with the ritual in this book for Halloween, which was based on the mysteries of Osiris. OK, well, as soon as the text read, 'Hail to you, Mourner of Osiris who bewails the limp Great One...' I could imagine the outbreak of hilarity among any group who tried to read these lines. Of course, in the original myth you'd be limp too if your brother had just pulled a Lorena Bobbitt on you. So I guess I could say that the prose was flaccid or the ritual fell flat or whatever. Oh, stop giggling; it wasn't that funny.

A much better book with a more scholarly slant on somewhat the same issue is The Great Goddesses of Egypt, the latest book by Barbara S. Lesko. Lesko wrote her first book on Egyptology, The Remarkable Women of Ancient Egypt, in 1977. Committed to discussing the women and the goddesses of Egypt, which she feels are somewhat shunted aside by male Egyptologists, Lesko has with this volume given us another great book to bolster our goddess lore. In it she takes the seven most prominent goddesses of the Egyptian pantheon and discusses their attributes and how they were worshiped in the context of Egyptian society. And no foo-foo-kitty Wiccan stuff. You know what I mean.

One Egyptologist who demands to be stood up and paid attention to (no 'limp' jokes) is Dr. Bob Brier. He's sort of a sensationalist in the field of Egyptology, what with theories that King Tut was murdered and all that. But his scholarship is good, and he's made many TV specials on ancient Egypt. Stay tuned, as sometime in early December he's got another TV special on, and he's supposedly going to embalm somebody Egypto-style live on TV! Will let you know when it airs.

Culture with a Capital K

In my continuing quest to uplift the cultural awareness of Fandom readers, I hereby bring you news of publishing, book signings, and art shows. First I have some publishing news: DarkEcho's Paula Guran is now working with Stealth Press, a new publisher that plans to bring out nifty leather editions of out-of-print titles by the likes of Peter Straub and Peter Atkins. Long-time editor Pat LoBrutto is the editor-in-chief, but methinks Paula must have some say in the matter as Stealth plans to bring out all seven of the Skipp & Spector books. Yeeks. How many splatterpunks can afford leatherbound volumes? Check out the new press out at www.stealthpress.com.

Craig Spector, who was half of the S&S team, has a new novel coming out from HarperPrism. Will have to give that a look when it appears at the end of the year.

Another giant surprise to many of us in the publishing and genre fiction world was the news that Gordon Van Gelder, long-time editor at St. Martin's, has left his position there and bought from Ed Ferman The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction; he plans to work on it fulltime. He's been editor of F&SF ever since Kristine Kathryn Rusch (whatever happened to her?) stepped down a few years ago.

Book-into-film news I'm happy about is the announcement that Tananarive Due's book, My Soul to Keep, will be made into a movie produced by Tim Reid and starring Blair Underwood. No female lead is as yet announced. The film will be shot on location in Ethiopia. A sequel to Due's book will be published in 2001.

Book signing stuff: Anne Rice, whose novel The Feast of All Saints is currently filming, will be doing book signings across the country in November. She'll finish the tour with appearances at Vroman's in Los Angeles on Nov. 13 andoddlyWal-Mart in El Cajon, CA on Nov. 15. Guess she knows her audience.

And I attended a book signing this past Saturday at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, CA. Robert Devereaux signed his sinister horror novel, Santa Steps Out, which I will review with much evil glee as Xmas approaches; Chelsea Quinn Yarbro signed her latest St. Germain novel (you'll get a review and an interview); and Mick Garris signed his first collection of short stories. I love going to Dark Delicacies, as every time I'm there I see at least three people I know. This time Peter Atkins and Dennis Etchison showed up, and John Skipp came in with a trayful of cookies. Now, where else, I ask you, will you find horror writers arriving with home-baked cookies? If you're in L.A. for any reason stop by Dark Delicacies and chances are someone from horror field will be hanging out there.

But back to Big Culture. I mentioned Penn Jillette in a previous column, and now I'd like to talk about Teller, or rather an artist who is interpreting Teller's particular brand of madness onto the canvas. Georgia Maher, a.k.a. TexasArtChick, has Teller as her patron. Several of her works are being shown at the Artscape Gallery, 2226 E. 4th St., in Long Beach, CA, through November 12. The good news is that Artscape will continue to sell prints of the paintings as well as t-shirts, postcards, and other stuff long after the show closes. Maher's paintings include 'One Guest for Dinner,' a painting of Teller eating a brain out of a skull; 'Frugal Gourmet,' which depicts a bloody cow's head on a plate; 'Clowns in Their Spare Time,' which shows a clown gouging out the eyes of a stuffed animal; 'Always Check Your Apples,' in which a bloody-mouthed guy who bobbed for apples found a razor blade and most importantly, 'Teller as Dorian Gray,' a painting which Maher will change subtly each year as Teller ages, each time making it more decrepit and sinister. There's no room to discuss all of Maher's paintings in this column, but suffice to say that anyone with a ghoulish sense of humor would enjoy these works, which are rendered with an impressive watercolor technique. When you see her work you'll know immediately why Teller fell in love with it, and, best of all, you can buy a t- shirt with your favorite Maher on it.