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 the B&NR March 26, 2015
    I look at a debut novel of time travel:http://www.barnesandnoble.com/review/the-lost-boys-symphony
  • New Review at LOCUS ONLINE March 25, 2015
    A genre novel marketed as mainstream? What will they think of next?!?http://www.locusmag.com/Reviews/2015/03/paul-di-filippo-reviews-jill-ciment/
  • Scary Weather March 18, 2015
    We’ve been having a sort of heat wave here, with an average high in the last 7 days of 78 degrees.  (The historical March average is 64 degrees.)  I don’t understand why people aren’t running around with their hair on fire yelling, “Climate change!  Do something!  Climate change!”  But then I’m not running around with my hair on fire either.  Still, I’d like to hear people saying something other than “Nice weather we’re having, isn’t it?”
  • Here's a Good Book: H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald March 16, 2015
    For some reason none of the books I've been reading lately have grabbed me, or even kept my interest for very long -- so much so that I started to wonder if this was just going to be a crappy year for books.  And then, happily, I read H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.H Is for Hawk is really three books -- one an account of Macdonald training her goshawk Mabel; one about T.H. White, with emphasis on his own book about goshawks; and one a narrative of the author's mourning after her father died unexpectedly.  You wouldn't think these three things would fit together but they do, and amazingly well at times.I actually read White's book The Goshawk, a long time ago -- I'm not that interested in hawks, but I am interested in anyone who can write The Once and Future King.  What I was too young to get is that White was terrified by his sadistic urges, that he projected these feelings onto the hawk, and that he saw the purpose of his training as beating the savagery out of the hawk -- and so, of course, allowing him an outlet for his own sadism.  Macdonald understands this, though, and a lot more: she writes with great compassion about White's sad life, his disastrous upbringing, his attempt to deny his homosexuality, his belief that it was only by being perfect that he could win his parents' love.  (There's one heart-rending story about just how horrible his parents were.  When he was very young, his father built him a huge wooden castle to play in, with a pistol barrel on the battlements.  His father wanted to fire a salute for White's birthday, but when he ordered the child to stand in front of the castle, White was sure his father was going to execute him.  What on earth can that have been like, to feel in that much danger from your parents?)All of this horrible mixed-up mess goes into the training of Gos, his hawk.  Macdonald explains something you don't really get from White's own account, that he does pretty much everything wrong.  He over-feeds Gos, and then wonders why the hawk refuses to hunt.  He decides to train Gos by keeping him awake for days, a very old-fashioned method, and then gets tired and lets the hawk go to sleep.  He screams at Gos when Gos fails to learn something.  He ignores Gos.  He uses poor quality twine to tie Gos down, and so of course Gos escapes.  Gos, like White, has to be perfect, but there's always the fear that even perfection will not bring love, and so, to prevent this, White has to screw things up.And yet Macdonald points out a wonderful thing: it was the hawk, in The Once and Future King, that led Wart to Merlyn, and to self-knowledge and a kingship.  White was wiser than he knew.The best part of the book for me was Macdonald's account of her father's death, which is told with an honesty that goes bone-deep.  After he dies she runs away from her friends, her job, civilization.  For weeks at a time she does nothing but work with Mabel. She seems to want less to train a hawk than to become one, solitary, savage, wild. Her final epiphany is not what you'd expect, though.  It takes a while, but she realizes that training Mabel isn't helping her deal with grief.  "I don't need wildness any more… Living with a goshawk is like worshipping an iceberg, or an expanse of sliprock chilled by a January wind.  The slow spread of that splinter of ice in your eye.  I love Mabel, but what passes between us is not human."Her writing, as you may have noticed, is gorgeous.  Here's a description of a breeder taking her hawk out of a box: "Another hinge untied.  Concentration.  Infinite caution.  Daylight irrigating the box.  Scratching talons, another thump.  And another.  Thump.  The air turned syrupy, slow, flecked with dust.  The last few seconds before a battle.  And with the last bow pulled free, he reached inside, and amidst a whirring, chaotic clatter of wings and feet and talons and a high-pitched twittering and it's all happening at once, the man pulls an enormous, enormous hawk out of the box… My heart jumps sideways.  She is a conjuring trick.  A reptile.  A fallen angel.  A griffon from the pages of an illuminated bestiary.  Something bright and distant, like gold falling through water.  A broken marionette of wings, legs and light-splashed feathers."Wow.  I didn't mean to quote so much, but once you get started you can't really stop.Anyway, I was delighted to find a book this good.  And now I wonder -- are there books out there I've missed?  Recommendations, please?  Bonus points for science fiction or fantasy, which I don't think I'm reading enough of.
  • New Review at LOCUS ONLINE March 13, 2015
    I look at some SF from Taiwan:http://www.locusmag.com/Reviews/2015/03/paul-di-filippo-reviews-wu-ming-yi/
  • Bowery Boys Pulps March 3, 2015

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:

  • Air Raid Apparel
    It's important to continue to be a fashion leader, even when hiding in an air raid shelter. Source: The Valley Morning Star - Apr 30, 1941.
  • Rahsaan Roland Kirk
    "Multi-instrumentalist" was the term for Rahsaan Roland Kirk. But generally the term does not refer to simultaneous playing.
  • Heads Up
    How would you like one of these guys to land on your head? People walking through a particular field in the Netherlands get the chance to find out what its like. The friendly owl likes to spend a minute or so on his human perches before flying off.
  • Fresh Meat
    Ad agency Mother New York has posted this recruitment video to let people know about its desire for "fresh meat" (new interns) in its office. Apply here. via Ad Week
  • Miniature Menagerie
    A portrait of the once-proud USA squeaky-toy industry in its glory days, before Asia kicked our squeaky butt.
  • Minesweeping pig banned from drinking in a pub for headbutting customers
    That's the headline, as it appears on ITV News. When I first saw it, I figured it must describe a pig used to help find landmines, that for some reason was no longer allowed to drink in a pub whose clientele enjoyed headbutting each other.