Litblog Roundup is a bi-weekly overview of topics, trends and highlights from the literary Internet. In this roundup: the very first work of science fiction, reading tons of magazines, and more.
This month, a substantially large group of writers, many of them highly credentialed, signed their names to an open letter that opposes the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump. They did this, “because, as writers, we are particularly aware of the many ways that language can be abused in the name of power.” One writer chose not to sign it because, in his words , “if the writers take the American electoral system to be legitimate and legal, the way to oppose Trump’s candidacy is to vote against him—that’s what voting is for.”
It seems there’s an open question about which work of fiction qualifies as the first-ever work of science fiction. Was it T he Chemical Wedding in 1616 ? Was it Margaret Cavendish’s “The Blazing World” in 1666? Or could it be that science fiction predates the development of Western ideas of science altogether? What do you think?
It almost sounds like a dare: read every short story published in 2014-2015 . To me it also sounds like an enviable job. What’s it like to actually do it?
Part of my job as editorial assistant, a position held by one or two MFA students each year, was to carry plastic vats of magazines from the mailroom on the third floor down to the basement, open the packaging, and shelve them. The next step was to read them. If a story struck a chord, I photocopied it and showed it to Laura (who did her own share of reading independently). I did this every week for ten months: haul, open, read, copy, discuss. It was often exhausting and occasionally exhilarating—the exhilaration coming in those moments when a story popped out and grabbed my hand and didn’t let go til I was in tears and I emailed Laura and said “You have to read this right now.” My arms got strong. I read newly hatched magazines and ones celebrating their centennial and erotic ones and ones stapled by hand and ones from prisons and hardcover ones with CDs inside. I read them all. Whether this made me a better reader or writer or editor, I’m not sure. But in the interest of sharing information, here’s an incomplete list of patterns I noticed and feelings I felt during that year.
In a blog series that is mostly written about other people’s writing, that frequently relies on quotes from that writing, it’s ironic to write about a plagiarist. Nevertheless, the story of this obvious case of plagiarism is making the rounds online, so it’s fit to include. The headline above gives you the gist, but for the details: