Tag Archives: fiction

2014-08-09 10.54.16

THE LARB END-OF-YEAR EDITOR INTERVIEWS: David Higgins

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth interview of several we’ll be publishing this month, all with our section editors. Like the rest of the LARB ecosystem, their work depends on the generous support of everyday readers who keep LARB going;  we hope you’ll consider giving this month for our winter fund drive. 

Meet David Higgins, Speculative Fiction Editor.

What do you do and why?

I teach in the English department at Inver Hills College in St. Paul, Minnesota — a tiny, picturesque little college buried under snow for at least five months of the year.  I also write academic non-fiction — mostly scholarly articles related to science fiction and imperialism.  This year, I was also a judge for both the Philip K. Dick award (for the best new science fiction novel published in paperback) and the Science Fiction Research Association Pioneer Award (for the best article-length work of SF scholarship).  Why do I do these things?  I love reading, and I’m fascinated by how science fiction reflects the best and worst aspects of imaginative literature.  On one hand, this is a genre which has always been about conquest and empire; it’s filled with fantasies related to colonial expansion and imperial exploitation.  On the other hand, it’s also (sometimes simultaneously) a genre which deeply questions what we take for granted about “reality” in fascinating, thoughtful, and and insightful ways.  What’s not to love?

What is your favorite place to write/edit outside of your home?

My office on campus, where I’m surrounded by books (and a number of vintage Star Wars and Doctor Who toys).

What is your favorite thing to drink while writing/editing?

Coffee.

What piece did you submit to the LARB Anthology and why?

I submitted Gerry Canavan’s The Warm Equations, which is a double review of Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora. These were two of the most fascinating books of the year, and Canavan considers how they offer alternative visions of humankind’s future in space after the inevitable end of the Earth as we know it.  I also submitted Siobhan Carroll’s The Ecological Uncanny, which reviews Jeff VanderMeer’sSouthern Reach Trilogy, which is probably the weirdest and coolest work of speculative fiction I’ve encountered in recent memory — everyone should read all of these books right away!

NASA asks you to select one piece of art/literature/music/film to send into space that will explain our civilization to aliens. What do you chose and why?

If I was in an optimistic mood, I might send the first season of Sense8, which is all about how people from vastly alien social worlds can build meaningful bonds of love and support with one another.  If I was feeling more pessimistic, I might send the film Primer, which is a time-travel flick about the fathomless depths of human mistrust.  If I just didn’t want the aliens to invade Earth, I might send The Avengers in the hope of scaring them away…

Share a cultural moment/experience you had in 2015 that you really enjoyed.

Mad Max: Fury Road.

Share a cultural moment/experience you had in 2015 that you really didn’t enjoy.

Eric Harris. Walter Scott. Sandra Bland. Samuel DuBose. Freddie Gray. Jamar Clark — It’s hard to keep track of the names.  People adopting the stance that “all lives matter” refuse to face the violence inherent to systemic inequality for blacks in America right now.

What is the one question you always wish people would ask in interviews? Now answer it!

Q:  What’s your favorite quote?

A:  “The best thing for being sad . . . is to learn something.  That is the only thing that never fails.  You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder in your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds.  There is only one thing for it then – to learn.  Learn why the world wags and what wags it.  That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you.” — Merlyn (to young King Arthur), The Once and Future King by T.H. White (183).

MedayaOcher

THE LARB END-OF-YEAR EDITOR INTERVIEWS: Medaya Ocher

Editor’s Note: This is the second interview of several we’ll be publishing this month, all with our section editors. Like the rest of the LARB ecosystem, their work depends on the generous support of everyday readers who keep LARB going;  we hope you’ll consider giving this month for our winter fund drive. 

Meet Medaya Ocher, Deputy Fiction Managing Editor.

What do you do and why? 

I’m one of the fiction editors here at LARB. Why? How far back should I go? I really love fiction, I’ve worked on it for quite some time academically, but I wanted to bridge that divide that sometimes exists between academia and the rest of the world. I also wanted a literary community in Los Angeles, and I found one at LARB.

What is your favorite place to write/edit outside of your home? 

I rent a desk in an all-women’s work space near my house. There’s a huge cart full of tea and some very intelligent, cool women work there. It’s also very fun to tell men that they’re just categorically unwelcome. It really upsets them.

What is your favorite thing to drink while writing/editing

Sparkling water, because it feels very indulgent.

NASA asks you to select one piece of art/literature/music/film to send into space that will explain our civilization to aliens. What do you choose and why? 

What sort of question is this? Why would NASA ask me to do this? Just to make me miserable? No thank you NASA, go trick someone else.

Share a cultural moment/experience you had in 2015 that you really enjoyed.

I loved Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts. I read it on the plane, in the middle seat, and I was crying by the end, which was embarrassing. I wanted to hide my face but also just pass it down and tearily wave my hands, and make everybody read it.

Share a cultural moment/experience you had in 2015 that you really didn’t enjoy. 

I somehow found myself watching the MTV VMAs this past September and let me tell you, that was just awful. Somehow I sat through the whole thing, but I was just bewildered the entire time. What is anger? What are tears? Did Miley Cyrus just call Snoop her “Mammy”? It was just a series of events and emotions and performances that I could not understand at all.

What is the one question you always wish people would ask in interviews? Now answer it!

I wish people would ask about personal ghost stories. It would take too long for me to answer that here, but I’m happy to do it in person, always.

Kader_Attia_2

Muammer’s Last Day

Today’s post was originally published by LARB Channel The Offing.

By Maruan Paschen

Translated by Amanda DeMarco

Muammer’s last day is my first day. I stand, eyes on the floor, in a classroom full of Arabs. Ms. Whyy from the Schiller Institute introduces me and immediately cracks a joke. Then another.

The new teacher has a really hard German name, she says, it’s hard to remember it: Said Maruan, she says and laughs, really loud.

Besides her, I’m laughing too, but not so loud.

I rub a piece of chalk between my fingers until it’s gone. A student in the last row understands the joke and grins retroactively. Ms. Whyy from the German Schiller Institute says her goodbyes and wishes me luck — don’t worry, the Arabs are a polite little tribe. Then she wishes the Arabs luck with me, but they don’t understand the joke, and neither do I. Continue reading

michelle blog

The LARB End-of-Year Editor Interviews: Michelle Huneven

Editor’s Note: This is the ninth interview of several we’ll be publishing this month, all with our section editors. Like the rest of the LARB ecosystem, their work depends on the generous support of everyday readers who keep LARB going;  we hope you’ll consider giving this month for our winter fund drive. Here we present Michelle Huneven, a Senior Fiction Editor. 

Give us some background – how did you end up working at LARB? What do you do for LARB? What do you do when you’re not working for LARB?

I had been eyeing LARB since its inception, and finally asked if I might step into the drink. I am a Senior Fiction Editor, which means that I assign essays about fiction, reviews of fiction and interviews with fiction writers, which I then edit and, eventually, shepherd into production.When I am not editing and shepherding, I am trying to write fiction. I also teach creative writing at UCLA.  Continue reading

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A Trip Back to Beijing — Courtesy of Xu Zechen and Eric Abrahamsen

By Megan Shank

Step out of the Beijing airport, and taste the tang in the air. For the remainder of your time in the capital, it will linger, metallic, on the back of your tongue. Is it burning plastic? Coal? The sweat of migrant workers who have come to chase dreams and money? The boozy breath of corrupt officials? The hot asphalt poured for wide boulevards? The lingering dust of razed neighborhoods, a powdery earthen scent that haunts like an odiferous ghost? Pop music blares. Repairmen bike through neighborhoods with megaphones advertising their services. Garlic hits food vendors’ woks with a sizzle. Amateur opera singers warble in the park. Buses belch fumes. Modern subway doors swoosh open, people smoosh together. Old men with t-shirts rolled up over their bellies sit on stools in alleyways and chat. Young lovers wearing matching outfits interlace fingers and stroll in shopping malls. More than a million smokers could be lighting their cigarettes at any given moment. With enough of a spark, it almost feels like the atmosphere could burst into flames and smolder.

Xu Zechen’s slim 2008 novel Running Through Beijing, recently translated into an English version published by Two Lines Press (2014), transported me back to that city and all its colorful inhabitants. The novel captures the taste and tension of Beijing better than any I’ve ever read. I felt the grit from Beijing’s frequent sandstorms sting my eyes. I savored on my tongue again the spicy mutton of a hotpot joint. Readers will internalize the restlessness and loneliness of young strivers. And Eric Abrahamsen’s translation is so deft, it’s hard to remember that it wasn’t originally written in English. He especially executes slang-filled dialogue with pizzazz. Continue reading