Happy Thanksgiving (Mania.com)

By:Denise Dumars
Date: Friday, November 24, 2000

Prize Patrol Completely Out of Control

So many book prizes to announce this time I don't know where to start. Ray Bradbury was given the medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters by the National Book Foundation on Nov. 15. This is a lifetime achievement award, and it's a big deal, folks; for one thing, it means that it's OK to read SF. Really.

Kurt Vonnegut, that man who does not write SF, was named State Author for New York. That's saying something, too, as in NYC there are at least 1,000 writers per square mile. He gets $10,000, too, which ain't bad.

Last but certainly not least is Margaret Atwood, who won Britain's Booker award for her novel The Blind Assassin, which was previously spoken of in this column. She gets a bunch of dough with the award, also; it works out to about $29,980 US.

Fabulously Fun Fiction

OK, maybe that's an exaggeration. But I'm trying to be positive. Really. And I'm very positive about this first item. Vanishing Acts is a new short story anthology edited by Ellen Datlow. It's SF this time, not horror, but that doesn't mean it isn't full of downer stories, as it's about endangered species. But with contributors such as Suzy McKee Charnas, Michael Cadnum, Karen Joy Fowler and David J. Schow, it's bound to be good. And if you want to do something to protect endangered species, check out this website recommended by Datlow: www.stopextinction.org.

Kij Johnson does some nice things with fantasy, and in her latest novel, The Fox Woman she takes her title character from a figure in Japanese mythology and weaves it into a magical love triangle of a man, a woman, and a fox woman. No, I'm not talking about something that usually goes on behind closed doors at Confurence; this is a charming story of ancient Japan.

While we're on the subject of classy fantasy, I just saw an intriguing-looking book by someone I haven't read. Paula Volsky's The Grand Ellipse looks like Steampunk fantasy! What a great idea: a society with gaslights, steam engines, and indoor plumbing finds that they also need magic when threatened by bad guys trying to take over their realm. Could be good.

Magic, both stage and supernatural, is the focus of The Spirit Cabinet by Paul Quarrington. It's about a couple of magicians who, like Siegfried and Roy, make it big in Vegas. Then one of them buys up Houdini's stuff, including his famous Spirit Cabinet, and starts messing around with the 'real' magic he believes is there beneath the stage illusions he's performed all his life. It looks like a pretty funny book, sending up the Vegas tropes we all love.

Terry Pratchett already has a new Discworld novel out, and I haven't even read Carpe Jugulum yet. The Truth takes on an easy target: journalists. The fifth estate gets a comic trouncing in the latest in this popular funny fantasy series. Can you believe he's written 25 of these books? Man.

Caleb Carr will sign his new novel, Killing Time, which I mentioned last week, at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop on Nov. 29. Yet another author and book I mentioned earlier, Sharon McCrumb and her new mystery The PMS Outlaws, will be at Book Warehouse in Boone, NC on Dec. 7.

Nightmarish Nonfiction

Both good and bad NF to talk about this time. First up is a fun movie review book, Phantom of the Movies' latest edition of Videoscope. This book contains 3,000 reviews of the weirdest films ever. I flipped through it, secure in the knowledge that I'd seen every bad SF, horror, fantasy, or exploitation film every made, and man, I was wrong. Who ever heard of Terror at Red Wolf Inn? Swingers Massacre? OK, don't ask. Just get this book. Might make a good Xmas present for the psychotronic film nerd on your list.

Now we have a couple of stinkers. I read that Katherine Ramsland, famous for her literary biographies of Anne Rice and Dean Koontz, and her way over-the-top 'nonfiction' book Piercing the Darkness: Undercover with Vampires in America Today is going to discuss and sign her new book, Bliss: Writing to Find Your True Self on Nov. 24 at Borders in Ann Arbor, MI. What's this? I wondered. A book on writing? So I looked in the writing section of Borders. Wasn't there. I asked the fat guy in the X-Men t-shirt behind the counter, and he rolled his eyes and then took me to the Self-Help section. What the frell? I took the book and sat down in the Metaphysics section and looked it over. Blecch. It's not a writing book; it's one of these things where you 'find yourself' by 'following your bliss,' as Joseph Campbell would say. I read in it a case study about a high-powered exec who really wanted to be a stonemason and how much happier he was doing blue collar work AFTER HE'D ALREADY MADE HIS FORTUNE OFF THE EXPLOITED WORKING CLASS. Sorry. That last part was my addition to the story. Apparently, Ramsland goes around giving this as a workshop. Nice scam, Katie; gives you more spending money to buy those little bondage outfits, I guess.

I was seeing red after this, and so I wanted a good devil book. I reached down to my right (shouldn't it have really been on my left? Ah, the perils of journalistic integrity), and I plucked a book from the Metaphysics shelf called Raising the Devil: Satanism, New Religions, and the Media by Bill Ellis. Hmm, what's this? A book debunking the 1980s wave of cattle mutilations, satanic cults, recovered memories, tree-hugging hippie blood-drinkers et al...and by a folklorist who is an evangelical Lutheran, no less! Yep, this guy is ratting out his own people and their superstitions! His basic thesis is that these are urban legends whipped into a frenzy by the media and picked up on by gullible fundies. Wow. Good stuff.

The other NF book I'm recommending is by feminist critic Cynthia A. Freeland. The Naked and the Undead: Evil and the Appeal of Horror is a look at the horror film through the eyes of a critic who argues that horror is not, as many critics believe, largely a reactionary and misogynistic genre. As Freeland says in her Introduction, 'I will argue, however, that in their reflections on evil, horror films often question the traditional values and gender roles associated with patriarchal institutions such as religion, science, the law, and the nuclear family.' A scholarly book on horror films and a fun one, too.

Just so as not to end on a positive note and ruin my reputation, I have one more stinker to talk about. John E. Mack, Harvard prof, psychiatrist, and Pulitzer Prize winner, treats us to another atrocity in the seemingly endless realm of 'UFO experiencer' phenomena. His latest book, Passport to the Cosmos: Human Transformations and Alien Encounters has me just shaking my head. It's the typical idea of 'the space brothers coming to save us from ourselves,' which, if you know anything about the history of UFO's, was old hat in the 1950s. I kind of don't mind this sort of thing when Whitley Strieber or some other UFO nut does it, but it really bugs me when it's such a highly respected academic pulling this krap. Double blecch.

More Book News

There's good news and bad news on the publishing front. First, the good news: Random House is now going to pay 50% royalties to authors published in electronic versions. Sounds great, but remember that 50% of nothin' is still nothin'. And online book buying just got a little less fun: Barnes & Noble will start charging sales tax on all online purchases beginning in 2001. Happy frelling new millennium, readers!

I'm so out of the loop electronically that I don't even understand this next bit: horror writer Douglas Clegg will offer the first chapter of his latest novella, Purity, free to those who have Internet-enabled cell phones. He's calling it an 'm-book.' Huh? I have no clue. Check it out at www.beaker.net. Doug's books are also available in a format I highly recommend: it's lightweight, completely portable, needs no batteries or Internet access, and costs only about $6. You'll find this revolutionary item by Clegg in the Horror section of Borders or stuck somewhere in with the mainstream fiction in Barnes & Noble. These handy items are called 'paperback books,' you moronic webheads!

Stop Press

My husband just ran into the room waving a newspaper around and announcing that he's entering the Quills contest. The filmwhich looks as if it could be a camp classic right along with Mommie Deareststars Geoffrey Rush as de Sade. Win a six-day trip to Paris, the home of the Marquis de Sade! Check out the film section of your newspaper for an entry form. Yikes.

Happy Thanksgiving


Hope you all will enjoy your Thanksgiving turkey this year. You don't even have to miss out if you're a vegetarian; there's that simulated soy bird called the Tofurkeywhich also sounds like something highly illegal that people may be doing at Confurence. And last but not least, for the very decadent among you, there's the deadly Turducken. Now, I personally wouldn't want to eat anything that begins with those four letters, but some people claim that this combination of turkey, chicken, and duck is a gourmet treat. I first saw the thing (it's Cronenbergian; take my word for it) in the freezer section of Bristol Farms. Then I looked it up on the web and found out that, ulp, people from somewhere within my gene pool made this thing up. So for Chef Paul Prudhomme's recipe for it, check out: www.gumbopages.com/food/poultry/turducken.html. Gobble gobble!