Paul's collaborative writing on the web

The Inferior 4+1 is a Livejournal community maintained by Paul, lizhand, Paul Witcover, lucius-t and ljgoldstein.

Recent posts:

  • New Review at LOCUS ONLINE June 24, 2016
    3 books, 3 reviews! A bargain!
  • Short Story: "If You Were an Award, My Love" June 23, 2016
    “If You Were an Award, My Love” is not so much a story as a group of schoolkids drawing dirty pictures in their textbooks and snickering.  It’s ostensibly a parody of Rachel Swirsky’s “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love,” but unlike successful parodies it has no understanding of the story it’s satirizing.  In fact, it’s so full of Rabid Puppy in-jokes it’s well-nigh unintelligible.  Scalzi, the Puppies’ nemesis, is there, and an award, and there’s something about rabbits… But there’s really no point in trying to give a synopsis, even if I could.  It was nominated to embarrass the Hugo voters, but it’s far more embarrassing for the people who wrote it.Brad Torgersen must be breathing a huge sigh of relief right now: he is no longer responsible for the worst stories ever nominated for a Hugo.And for the love of everything good in the world, don’t read the comments.  This is such a near-universal piece of advice it should have its own haiku:Leaves fall from the treesAnd drift away unnumberedDon’t read the comments.
  • Visit from the Malzbergs: June 2016 June 22, 2016
    Starting at the RH side of the first foto and going counterclockwise: Erika, daughter of Joyce & Barry; Quinn, daughter of Erika and Will; Barry M; Deborah; Joyce M.; Will. Then, in the next shot, DiFi and Barry.
  • Short Story: "Cat Pictures Please" June 22, 2016
    “Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer is a very sweet story.  Not coincidentally, it’s also the only story in this category not nominated by Puppies, mad, bad, sad, or otherwise.  It was added to the ballot after a Rabid Puppy choice, Thomas A. Mays’s “The Commuter,” was withdrawn by the author.An AI that becomes conscious muses about its purpose, and reads science fiction to help it discover its place in the world.  It finally decides that Asimov’s Law about “not allowing a human being to come to harm through inaction” can be broadened to allow it to actively help humans.  But what happens when a human doesn’t want to be helped?Like I said, very sweet.  It’s sort of a shame that I read it so early in the process — I just know I’m going to need something like this as I make my way through the rest of ballot.And on a personal note — What about dog pictures???
  • And So It Begins: Short Story: "Asymmetrical Warfare" June 20, 2016
    This is another entry in my ongoing attempts to understand the Hugo awards:In "Asymmetrical Warfare" by S. R. Algernon, Earth is attacked by starfish-shaped aliens, who then wonder why the Earth warriors they killed aren’t regenerating.  It’s an okay premise, but the problem is that all this story has is the premise.  There are no characters except the narrator, whose only job is to wonder why the Earth warriors etc.  It’s structured like a puzzle, but since we know why humans don’t regenerate there’s no tension, no point to trying to solve the riddle before the narrator gets there.And how is it possible the aliens don’t know that some lifeforms don’t regenerate?  Does everything in the universe except life on earth renew itself like this?  If you can “split the body cleanly along the midline, to give it two chances at renewal,” as the narrator does, then can the aliens create two of themselves, and what do they do about overpopulation?  But there really isn’t any point in asking these questions — this is a story about how starfish regenerate, and that’s pretty much it.  I’d recommend it for a kid who’s interested in biology, but as far as the Hugo award goes, not so much.
  • New Patricia McKillip Book June 18, 2016
    The new Patricia McKillip collection, Dreams of Distant Shores, is out.  The blurb I wrote for it says, “You are about to encounter mysteries, monsters, jewels, songs, witches, a treasure chest of story.  Here are magic worlds, places of enchantment, and a wonderful, lyrical voice to guide you through them.”Here’s something else I thought of since since I wrote that, though this is more about her overall career than a specific book.  There are a lot of people writing fantasy these days, but very few who can create myths, who can reach deep into the place where great stories come from.  McKillip is one of them.  If you like writers who speak the language of fantasy, I recommend this book (or any of her books, really) highly.

The Weird Universe explores a human and natural cosmos that is not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine. The usual suspects are Paul Di Filippo; Alex Boese, curator of the Museum of Hoaxes; and Chuck Shepherd, purveyor of News of the Weird.

Recent posts:

  • Skyslide
  • Editor’s Note
    Yr View from the Ledge Editor is having to alter the Mon-Wed-Fri posting regimen . . . to Tue-Fri . . . which means I'm no longer behind in posting. Right on schedule! (Gee, that was easy!) See ya tomorrow with News of the Weird and Tuesday with View from the Ledge.
  • Scientist who thought women were like apes
    The wikipedia article on Oxford anthropologist Arthur Thomson (1858-1935) notes that he's best remembered for formulating Thomson's Nose Rule, which states that ethnic groups from cold climates tend to have thinner noses than groups from hot climates. Apparently he's not remembered for his "Women Are Like Apes" theory, which he presented to a meeting of the Royal Academy of Sciences in 1927. The basis of this theory was that, "woman's legs are usually shorter, and her arms longer, than man's" — and this, Thomson felt, made women more ape-like. I was curious whether Thomson was actually correct about female body proportions, and after some googling I've concluded that he probably was — at least about women (on average) having shorter legs as a proportion of their total height than men do. See, for instance, this article by a designer of bicycles for women, which says that's the case. Harrisburg Telegraph - Oct 5, 1927
  • Mystery Illustration 22
    Which very famous movie star--he flourished from the 40s right into our present millennium--is this awkward drawing supposed to represent? Answer after the jump.
  • South Dakota’s Western Border
    If you look at a map of South Dakota, you can see that the western border isn't perfectly straight. Right where Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota meet, the border jogs inward a little bit. The story goes (which I've found in several sources) that this isn't how it was supposed to be. The border was supposed to run straight down the 27th meridian, but the surveyors messed up. The lines they ran from north and south didn't meet up properly, and to fix the error they just made the border jog in slightly, as it does, in order to connect the two lines. Google Maps You can find the story of the surveying error told in Joey Green's Dumb History. There's also some discussion of the issue over at the Straight Dope message boards.
  • Hannah, the Comicstrip
    I stumbled on this forgotten strip while browsing through old newspapers online. Apparently it was a weekly feature. Its boneheaded surreal literalism is right up there with Bushmiller's Nancy and Soglow's The Little King. Not much to be learned about its creator, Courtney Dunkel, beyond what you can read at the link. Here is a good blog post about one of Dunkel's other strips.