Saturday, June 28, 2014

Achievement Unlocked in PhD Adventures

Before I forget again, just to officially announce it here, I recently sat for my qualifying exams over the first two weeks of June, and defended on the 19th. My committee was very interested in what I have to say about steampunk and generally agreed that I had too many ideas and not a single cohesive argument. Which, yeah, it's true. I forgot to cite Mwanda Ntarangi's Reversed Gaze: An African Ethnography of American Anthropology, as the type of project I want to do on steampunk (although more a POC Ethnography of Eurocentric Steampunk, I suppose). 

I have advanced to official PhD Candidacy, and reached the much sought-after ABD status.

Cupcakes of congratulations are much appreciated. With any luck, I shall be back to regular blogging (haha, as if I ever blogged regularly) soon enough to share with you the things I am reading!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Once More, With Feeling: A Belated Response

Sometimes last year, after Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution  edited by Ann Vandermeer came out, acclaimed SF critic John Clute wrote a review that was bounced from the essay that Ann Vandermeer graciously had me rewrite for inclusion into the anthology, in which I wrote a long call-out of steampunk, not merely of the performative aspect, but also of the literary, the communal, and the creative. (At least, I think it is supposed to be a review; much of it was spent not actually talking about the book itself, so I am not sure.) Clute sidestepped my criticism by focusing on the literary, the "roots" of steampunk, as it were. To quote:

"the extremely loose set of fictions that were retroactively treated as taproot texts for late-century/new-century Steampunk were in fact pure story, certainly if storytellers are most subversive of hegemony when they tell bad news with what looks like a smile but is not, for the original Steampunk texts are precisely not a nostalgic immersion in some polished-brass, utopianized version of Victorian England requiring only a twitch of the kaleidoscope to come true."

There are two claims in this sentence bubbling over with long words that I certainly would have been told to re-write by any professor and editor of mine: 1) the texts from which steampunk were coined were "pure story" (a term that could be read to mean either "totally divorced from reality" or "so real it hurts") 2) that call out the terribleness of the Victorian times for what they are. And, from what I understand, this is how we get an anti-hegemony writer like Michael Moorcock (and somehow his work from the 1960s which would later influence his Nomad of the Time Streams series will be relevant, because literary lineage). As well as a plethora of other writers who form, I suppose, the canon of "early" steampunk.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Article List Update and other stories

As I procrastinate prepare for quals, have an updated list in the "Read These Before Engaging" tab. I've added four new articles (one of them is actually an ebook), all of them in PDF for you to read on your ereader of choice. They are also all academic articles. Please note the nuances between the different types of racism. Of course it is easy to slip into the "all racism leads to the same racist end" mode, but I think there is value in noting the different manifestations of racism. If anyone is interested I'll post a more much comprehensive reading list on studies of racism.

What is perhaps most depressing is how long these studies have been going on, how long the discourse surrounding racism has been rearticulated and given nuance, and yet still at large we are stuck with people who insist on using a faulty dictionary definition for their arguments on racism.

On a different note I finally read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and am disappointed there are not more kraken battles and anti-colonial fisticuffs and most of it is just Arronax and Nemo swanning around taking a tour of the oceans with a litany of cataloging sea creatures, geography,  shipwrecks and a Canadian whaler's constant whinging about being stuck in a submarine. (I also mistakenly thought, for some reason, that the submarine could go 20,000 leagues in depth, but no it's 20,000 leagues of a tour of the planet's oceans.) Clearly I am a philistine for my assumptions.

I don't remember if I mentioned meeting Balogun Ojetade; a very fine encounter of minds! Bryan Thao Worra, who works on Laotian speculative fiction, mostly Lovecraft but he's also thought through Laotian steampunk, was also there. Balogun spoke extensively of his new movie, Rites of Passage, which looks tremendously action-packed, and of the challenges he's faced, being cheated in the media production industry. 

WisCon put me at long last face-to-face with my publisher, Bill Campbell, of Rosarium Publishing! I have new books: Day Black (about a black vampire who, I guess, daylights as a tattoo artist) and John Jennings' new artbook, Pitch Black Rainbow. You should check out his catalog and buy stuff because you would be supporting POC artists. Besides THE SEA IS OURS, Bill will also publish an anthology tribute to Samuel Delany, edited by steampunk novelist Nisi Shawl! Keep an eye out for the Kickstarter.

I also got the chance to meet Tim Powers sometime last week when he came to UC Riverside to speak about a writing process through a paranoid lens on reading history. He is a funny speaker, much like KW Jeter, but of course I saved my steampunk question until after the talk, and he told me, "yeah, I don't know much about steampunk or why I got classified into it, but it keeps me at cons and brought the Anubis Gates back into print!" He is also incredibly gracious and warm.

I have three more written exams to go, and my oral defense is on the 19th. I will see you after!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Secret Questions: Rest In Power, Yuri Kochiyama

I don't remember how I learned about Yuri Kochiyama; I know it was sometime after I grew into feminism, and was slowly learning about race identity and what that could potentially mean. I had very little sense of what Asian America was, what its relationship to Black America was, where it stood in the purview of white supremacy. But somehow I stumbled upon her name, and finding her biography interesting, I decided to look her up elsewhere.
I came across a Youtube video interview with her, of two young Asian women asking Yuri Kochiyama (and I thought, "how grand it must be to meet such a venerable elder" because it is the elders who have the stories that inform us how the world works, and it is through oral re-telling that such stories get transmitted) how she became involved in activism. I don't remember where the video is or what she said exactly, but she spoke about learning of the Native American genocides and how terrible it was that no one knew, and, I paraphrase, "how can you not do something about it?"

Other people have written more about her work and I didn't grow up knowing about her significance at all, but that question really stuck to me. When one sees injustice, how can one not do something, anything, about it? How can one just choose to turn away? It's not that I grew up with that kind of apathy, but none of my immediate family are activists. None of them move with the same quiet roar of righteousness I've seen from these luminaries.