Tuesday, July 29, 2014

reading: Women Who Destroy Science Fiction & Literary Translations

reading this week: stories written by women who destroy science fiction, and literary translations

Science Fiction and the world
Last week, I started to read a short story anthology - it inlcudes more than 20 stories, and several essays - several of the stories deal with war, and new types of soldiers. In one story, the main character can pick up emotions and the hunch of thoughts - and is brought into regions of conflict, to find terrorists. Only that being more sensitive makes you also more human... In another story, the world is dealing with rising sea levels, and with genetic experiments to create “aquatic”-soldiers.. – people who are half human, half water-being. It made me think of the line that science fiction often isn't about the future, but about we deal with this ourselves as a society, and with this world.

Which is a question that created the collection...  published by Lightspeed Magazine, this is an all-women-author scifi and fantasy collection, inspired by a troubling aspect of the scifi writing / reader scene: that there are readers, fellow authors and editors who think women don’t belong to the sci-fi scene, that women and the “softer” themes they write about “destroy” sci-fiction. No matter that the classic first sci-fi novel was Frankenstein, which happened to be written by a woman: Mary Shelley. But maybe it would be too idealistic to expect a literary genre to be ahead of its time just because it is future oriented by definition.

This anthology was created through a Kickstarter campaign, and the ironic name of the campaign then turned into its title: “Women Destroy Science Fiction”. Every time I read the title, I have to smile: it’s so good that they didn’t move the odd believe that inspired the book into the editorial, but in an almost punk-way put it right on the cover. Or like one of the editors put it: "We took the rage and hurt and created something beautiful". The issue has both a print and an online part, here are some links:

Literary Translations: Asymptote

Asymptote is an international journal dedicated to literary translation, with editors who are interested in "encounters between languages and the consequences of these encounters. Though a translation may never fully replicate the original in effect (thus our name, “asymptote”), it is in itself an act of creation."

There was a great piece on translation in the previous issue: "The Space Between Languages" by Herta Müller.

Browsing the recent issues was indeed rather international - so many places, so many stories! Here are some links:

 Cubanology by Omar Pérez
"Walking through the streets of Cerro, Santos Suarez, Centro Habana, Las Cañas, you notice the presence of the numbers game, called charada or bolita. Kábala, tómbola, tíbiri tábara. Pythagoras said, life is number. Thursday I go out walking, but only after offering my salutations in the false-gothic church on Reina Street to Jesus and his father Joseph: I ask of the gods that they permit me to ask nothing of them..."

"Until a Hurricane Sweeps Through" by Margarita García Robayo
"My first flight was to Miami. It was the busiest international route in the city, and also the most sought after: I competed and I won..."

The Ears of the Wolf by Antonio Ungar
"My sister is alone on this side of the fence, standing on the red earth, under the noonday light. I am looking at her from next to the columns on the porch. She has done something forbidden and without hesitating for a second she has walked right up to the fence..."

"Farthest from Death" by Elina Hivronen

"I want to get out of this space. The engineer with the slicked-back hair sitting next to me has passed out on my shoulder..."

"Childhood in Madagascar" Christian Dumoux
"It was in Antsaralalana, which meant beautiful road. It was left of the station, with a restaurant, "The Lyonnais," at the end of the street. The house had the peculiarity of being partially collapsed and having three floors: they lived on the third floor..."


Links & More

Reading the world:  the collected list of stories is online here: global reading, and a note on the reading journey can be found here:  reading the (missing parts of) the world 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

portrait of, or: me/mories...

The new photo friday theme is: "Portrait", something i don't really feel to comfortable with... even though this is the age of selfies, i'd rather stay behind the camera, with the focus on moments, landscapes, roads, journeys... but browsing through files, i arrived at a portrait of the different kind: a photo of an art installation (and interesting, the way this connects to the tree art below).

The art installation reflects the room, and the visitor, in ever-changing and unexpected / rendered fragments.

which makes me think again of portraits and identity - and how we all are the sum of so many different, mostly invisible fragments of self.

here's another reflection - this was in Mallorca, in May. followed by a reflection on browsing photos... and another art installation: this was inside a pyramid-shaped object.

searching for a photo in the files, 
i find moments, 
reflections -


(more portraits: photo friday)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

green sky / yellow garden

right now, the Villa Merkel park not far from here is an art park. there is a line of old trees, and next to one, there's a sky / tree installation, with panels that move slightly in the wind. here's a photo:

i also tried a video, i will add it at the bottom, but first 2 more art moments:

This is inside the Villa Merkel - one of the spots where the inside and outside
develop a dialogue, with the window-framed world outside and the
wall-framed painting inside seem to corresponding:

right in front of the Villa is another outside installation, a "mobile garden",
created by artist Lois Weinberger who works with nature
(more about his work, here: Green Man)

back to the sky/tree installation, it's from The Chapuisat Brothers. They note: "Our constructions transform space, turning interior and exterior boundaries inside out and toying with the perception of a subjective reality."  - enjoy the perception!

related links:
more skies from everywhere: skywatch friday
art moments 2014: art short trips
Villa Merkel exhibition info

International Flash Fiction Competition + Disobedient Objects

It was sunny most of the week, and now it's the weekend - and rain.... but at least the rain brought 2 good web surprises this morning:

A Virtual Museum for Dialogue & an International 20K Flash Fiction Competition 
While looking for international short stories for my summer reading challenge, i came across the page of the Museo de la Palabra, a musuem that "supports and encourages dialogue between different cultures, ideas, religions and sensibilities. The result and the existence of this dialogue is in itself a museum piece, and configure as a meeting place, the unique virtual museum in the world in which nothing is exposed.."

The museum organizes micro fiction contests - in the third edition, authors from 119 countries participated (map), the stories are online here: Flash Fiction Competetion III

And now the next edition of the contest is open: the slogan is: "Mandela: Words and Concord", stories must not exceed 100 words, first price is 20.000$ (!), the competition ends on November 23rd, visit the webpage for the Short Story Competitin Guidelines + Participation Form.

Disobedient Objects 
London's news magazine The Guardian wrote about a thought-provoking new exhibition that opened its doors: “Tools of protest: Disobedient Objects, the V&A's subversive new show” – when I read it, I thought “V&A” must be an avantgarde gallery, but it turns out it’s a place I’ve been to myself once: “The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design”. Here is the link to the article: Disobedient Objects 


Extra Links

The summer reading challenge: reading the (missing parts of) the world 

More disobedience: photos of "Disobedient Objects"

More reading notes in this blog: life as a journey with books

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

the thing about the web, life, and larger stories

the thing about the web....
the name of my photo blog is... "once upon each day". and usually, i almost post daily. but right now, the days form a collage that makes me hesitate to post the next image: adding a photo might rather be a taking away from this chance constellation.

there are so many memories and places in the current 7 images: the feeling of journey, the most beautiful museum visit in Paris, the lovely flowers that are blooming right here in the garden, a moment from my trip to India...

and beyond this page, there are the other webpages and web projects i'm involved in ... the thing about webpages, especially those with forum / comment section / facebook page / blog... it's both great to work in this area, but also it sometimes make you wish for a "pause" button. yet the web never stops. and web projects are never finished. or, to put it more positive: they are a continuing thing with an own dynamic. like a garden. like life...


and not directly connected, but also vivid, some links from today and yesterday:

Emergence of Life
Coursera offers a new course: "Emergence of Life". It focuses on themes like: "How did life emerge on Earth? How have life and Earth co-evolved through geological time? Is life elsewhere in the universe?". and: how did the take of science on this topic change in the last years?

The stories we leave behind
And again, the topic of time, this time from the perspective of a journalist from the Philippines who reflects on her work: "There is nothing in the world more fluid than the news. I’m not the first reporter who is thankful that stories expire at a (nearly) daily rate.. Then there are the stories (you don't want to) leave behind."

Monday, July 21, 2014

reading: hugo award stories + between borders + Nadine Gordimer

Reading this week: the Hugo Award stories 2014, and stories from between borders - and short stories by Nadine Gordimer: 

Hugo Awards 2014
The Hugo Awards are a set of awards given annually for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year, and have a long tradition, reaching back to 1953. I read the nominated short stories - and it turned out, they are rather international this year, with stories and authors from Asia, Africa, Europe and America. And their themes: no space ships there, no aliens, but reflections on life and the universe, in form of the unusual mind games of speculative fiction: what if there was a tiny rain falling every time someone lie? Where do wishes go? What if you were a dinosaur?

Somalia, US
"Selkie Stories Are for Losers by Sofia Samatar
"You're not going to Egypt," I tell Mona. "We're going to Colorado. Remember?" - That's our big dream, to go to Colorado..."

The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, John Chu
The water that falls on you from nowhere when you lie is perfectly ordinary, but perfectly pure. True fact. I tested it myself when the water started falling a few weeks ago. Everyone on Earth did...

If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love by Rachel Swirsky
"If we lived in a world of magic where anything was possible, then you would be a dinosaur, my love. You’d be a creature of courage and strength but also gentleness. Your claws and fangs would intimidate your foes effortlessly. Whereas you—fragile, lovely, human you—must rely on wits and charm..."

quick detour into the past:  
The fourth nominated story was a real suprise: it is from a Dutch author (which is a Hugo Award first time). The story isn't set in Europe or in space, though... but in a place I've visited years ago. Such a beautiful way of arriving there again, in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Here's a photo from my own trip, and below the story link: 

Netherlands / Thailand
The Ink Readers of Doi Saket by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
"By now the surface of the river was teeming with krathongs. Like any other boy in Doi Saket, Tangmoo had been told the tragicomic story of Loi Krathong’s origins countless times, and so he was aware of the invaluable influence of the village he called home. Seven hundred years ago Neng Tanapong, daughter of a Brahman priest in the kingdom of Sukhothai, had been playing on the riverbank..." “

And 2 more sci-fi stories, recent reads, and both coming with spaceships - but the stories themselves are of a different kind:

"Mono no aware" by Ken Liu (Hugo Award Winner 2013)
"The world is shaped like the kanji for umbrella, only written so poorly, like my handwriting, that all the parts are out of proportion.."

"The Waiting Stars" by Aliette de Bodard (Nebula Award 2013)
"There were tales, at the Institution, of what they were. She’d been taken as a child, like all her schoolmates–saved from the squalor and danger among the savages and brought forward into the light of civilisation..." 


Somewhere Between Borders
It's exciting where this short story summer challenge is taking me, or rather: how it shifts the focus and leads to other places, and makes me more attentive to possible international short stories. When I browsed the current stories and essays on the homepage of London-based magazine Litro, I arrived at a story from Africa - and it turned out, it was more than a story. Here's the link and a quote:

"Somewhere between the borders: Night-Train to Kalaki"  by Tara Isabelle Burton (Uganda)
"I told him about the old Black Sea Express train that went east from Constantinople to Kalaki...."

More borders
Reading the story, I noticed that the first part of the title also is a blog tag: "Somewhere between the borders" ... and when I clicked it, I arrived at a series of stories from other places. Here are some direct links:

"Supersonic Bus" by Jowhor Ile (Nigeria)
"You are travelling from Port Harcourt to Yenagoa. Everybody knows the best place to board a cheap bus is at Mile One Bus Park, right under the bridge.  A man is ringing a bell and shouting, “Yenagoa, five hundred naira! Three per seat, five hundred naira.”

"'Til God" (Cyprus) by Polis Loizou
"On the other side of the window, the tips of the cypress trees met five metres above the road, vehicles running between them like children at the feet of kissing relatives. Only fifteen minutes ‘til God from here. The Holy House would sort him out."

"Crying Poverty in Guatemala Airport" by David Hutt
"I waited for my plane back to Britain in the Guatemala City airport I felt the satisfaction and aches of a man who knows he has done a job well. One twenty quetzales note sat in my pocket, kept as a souvenir..."

And an extra link from the current Litro features: a visit to a German town that once was utopia, and a reflection on Berlin... which again brought back memories of an own trip... and a visit of photo files:

"Futures Past" by E.E. Mason
"I walked around and looked and fell in love with this scuffed and battered city. Sleazy, insouciant, grouchy, bleak. Blunt, cheap, edgy. Ah, what great days. I thought I would stay forever..."


Nadine Gordimer
And in honour of Nadine Gordimer and her life work, I read some of her stories - Open Culture has a feature up with links, one of the stories is an audio with Gordimer reading: 5 Free Short Stories by Nadine Gordimer. And Granta Magazine has a special feature, too: In memory of Nadine Gordimer

Here's a direct link:
"The Ultimate Safari" by Nadine Gordimer

And a second one, following the city theme that is running through the current short stories. Especially the night train to Kalaki made me think of the book "Invisible Cities" by Italo Calvinowhich includes 55 portraits of imaginary cities, and each city reads like a zen riddle that hints at society, architecture, the shapes we form to live in. So here the final link, a story I have to read yet:
City of the Dead, City of the Living
"The street delves down between two rows of houses like the abandoned bed of a river that has changed course...."


Links & More

Reading the world:  a note on the reading journey can be found here:  reading the (missing parts of) the world 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

La Isla, or: i is for i/dentity

photo friday's theme "Solitude" brought me back to this reflection on going on a walk alone, and on language... this is for the A to Z challenge: i is for identity, islands, and "i" . 

La Isla

There was something magical about the island. Maybe it was the closeness to the elements that made the difference, the presence of those fire mountains that were only sleeping, that would wake again one day.

Isla de fuerta, the island once was named. Now it is called Lanzarote. She had been there years ago, in the time before digital cameras, in the time of just taking a few photos with a pocket camera. The intensity of its colours remained in her memory anyway. The white houses. The black beaches. The red hills. The green plants that were growing on lava earth. The blue water. And the sand that sometimes was carried by the wind, all the way from the Sahara, white like snow.

When she woke the next morning, she looked out of the window, and was drawn to the beach. She walked through the sand barefoot. Picked up a black stone and a white shell. Like back then. She even remembered the words she had learned, all those years ago, those Spanish basics of life: Yo soy - I am. Tu eres - You are. And the common greeting phrase: Buenos Dias. Good Day.

Everything was moving there, every single grain of sand. That's what she realized some days later, at the beach, where she stood still and watched the wind move across the ground. And was stunned. For what she saw was the miniature of a dune desert: the beach, a lake of motion, a genesis of sand, following the path of the wind. She kneeled down, and touched one of the tiny dunes, wondering where it came from, and how far it could travel. The dune gave its answer by gliding on underneath her hand.

Back at the bungalow, she looked for a book to read and picked up the one she brought from the library, a book of essays from Adolf Muschg, titled „Die Insel, die Kolumbus nicht gefunden hat“ – „The island that Columbus hasn't found." The book, it was about Japan, not about Lanzarote. She knew that much when she picked it, without idea how fitting it was nevertheless: one of the places Kolumbus wanted to find was Nippon, this city Marco Polo told silver roof stories about. And the islands Kolumbus started his journey from was - the Canary Islands. The very string of islands Lanzarote belonged to.

In those days, Lanzarote was covered with forest. Later, the forest was turned to sailing boats by the Spanish sailors and the army. A fact that was hard to believe when you saw the effort it nowadays took to just grow one single grapevine.

To protect the plants from the wind, and with it, from the moving sand, the farmers built strings of stone circles on their fields, which made the fields look like landscapes of abstract art. The wind didn't seem to mind. It kept blowing, across the fields, across the mountains, changing its direction with the names of the days, lunes to jueves, viernes to domingo.

The story of Columbus made her curious for more snippets of history, and so she headed towards Teguise, the oldest town of the island.

There, she learned that the first settlers of Lanzarote probably were Arab Berber groups who sailed to the islands from North Africa. After the Berbers came the Spanish sailors, in the 13th century. And with them came colonialization. And the slave trade.

Walking down the streets, she tried to imagine life back then, and arrived at the church in the middle of Teguise: Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, it was called. She tested the doors, but they were closed.

In a sidestreet, she noticed a flag, it’s presence a reminder of the closeness to Africa and the ongoing conflicts there. The flag, it carried a plea for a different life, noted not in Arab or English, but in French: Sahara Libre.

Back in her apartment, she looked up Arab key phrases and words, something she had never done before. The first word she learned was marhaban – which meant Hello. And next, in the unyielding logic of being, ila al’likaa – Goodbye.

That evening, in good time for sunset, she went for a walk along the shores of the island. She watched the seagulls while she followed the curved line that separated water from sand. The sky kept changing its color as the sun neared the horizon. She took a photo, then another, and kept walking, on and on, until it was only her and the ocean, her and das Meer, her and la mare.

Walking back, she followed her own trails for a while, and couldn’t help but wonder how it would have been to grow up here, on this island, surrounded by water. She would have been another Yo, that much was sure.


Related links:

Friday, July 18, 2014

today: the sky & the world

today: blue summer sky
today: memories of driving through Lanzarote island
today: the world, in an ongoing stream of painful news
today: the beauty and cruelty of the human mind.
today: reading Nadine Gordimer.
today: the next thing on the to-do-list
today: pink flowers in the garden
today: "and how are you?" - "okay, apart from the world"
today: july 18
today: sky friday.


the news about the missing plane, and that it might have been shot down, i heard it while driving through a forest yesterday evening. such a terrible tragedy. and to think, to plan and pack for a journey, to leave, and then to lose your life on the way - and probably by mistake. and then there is Israel and Gaza. and so many small tragedies that happen without ever reaching the news. but then, there are also so many beautiful and inspiring stories - which don't make the news, either. today i am glad for the garden here, the colors it offers, the daylilies in bloom. and for skywatch friday, with its positive vibe around the world.