Weekly Churn 006: Blank Pages

Ahoy! This is the Weekly Churn, where every Sunday I post about what I’ve been reading, watching, and thinking about over the previous week. I’ve spent a lot of time staring at blank pages this week. Or not blank so much as unyielding. For a while now, and by “a while” I mean a few years, I’ve been working on a story called “A Fire in the Snow,” or maybe just “Fire in the Snow.” It’s the first project I’ve worked on that integrates some of the experiences I had working in northern Saskatchewan. At it’s core it’s just a scary-monster-in-the-woods story with Lovecraftian overtones, but it’s also about how men bond at work when that work is dangerous and isolated, and in a very small way it touches on the damage that settlers have done to First Nations communities—something that I think is important to address in stories about… Continue Reading

Weekly Churn 005: Public Policy and Innovation

Ahoy! This is the Weekly Churn, where every Sunday I post about what I’ve been reading, watching, and thinking about over the previous week. If you follow me on social media you might have heard some of this before. There’s this company called “Alphabet” that Google created, a kind of umbrella corporation to house all of its different experiments and subsidiaries without overtly drawing a line between those entities and Google’s worsening international reputation. Or at least I think that’s what it’s for; maybe it’s a tax thing, I don’t know. Anyway, one of those Google sister companies is called Sidewalk Labs. They are in the smart city business, and are looking to develop “Quayside,” which is part of Toronto’s eastern waterfront. There are a lot of problems with Sidewalk coming to town; some are related to consultation and democratic practice, some are related to trust and reputation issues. There… Continue Reading

Weekly Churn 004: The Worst Is Yet to Come

Ahoy! This is the Weekly Churn, where every Sunday I post about what I’ve been reading, watching, and thinking about over the previous week. Today is my mother’s birthday; she would have been sixty four this year. Computers are dumb, no matter how much we like to pretend otherwise, and some of the conveniences that programmers and device manufacturers have added to them have unintended consequences when we are faced with what is both catastrophic and inevitable. At fifteen minutes after midnight my iPhone suggested that I call my mother and wish her a happy birthday. The computer doesn’t know she’s dead, but the people who made it somehow didn’t anticipate this very human development, nor, apparently, that I’d be unwilling to remove her entry from my address book, or at least unwilling to do so after only six months. The relentless stupidity of technologists in the face of how… Continue Reading

Weekly Churn 003: Haunted

Ahoy! This is the Weekly Churn, where every Sunday I post about what I’ve been reading, watching, and thinking about over the previous week. What are the things that haunt you? I was thinking about that on Monday when I saw this story about Rosie, the corpse of a white pointer shark abandoned in a vat of formaldehyde. The images of Rosie are quite bracing; she floats suspended in murk, silent, motionless, appearing no less lethal than she would have in life—her stillness may even amplify that effect. Dom Krapski writes that seeing Rosie surrounded by “crap” spoils the haunting experience, but Gary Moore’s photographs leave me with a different impression. The stuff in the tank intensifies that haunted feeling for me. I can imagine the tank being cleaned out by human hands, but it is not possible for me to do so without me also imagining the shark slowly,… Continue Reading

Weekly Churn 002: Comics

Ahoy! This is the Weekly Churn, where every Sunday I post about what I’ve been reading, watching, and thinking about over the previous week. This week I thought a lot about comic books. I swear most Weekly Churn posts aren’t going to be as long as this one. I’ve been a comics nerd for as long as I can remember. I don’t know what my first books were; likely some Garfield collections. I have a distinct memory of asking my father for one at Harley’s grocery store and him telling me that I could get colouring books cheaper somewhere else. I was an Archie fiend for years, first glomming on to Dan DeCarlo’s depictions of Betty and Veronica, and then slowly acknowledging that Harry Lucey’s work was superior, although there have been a number of other fine artists to work on Archie over the years. I can’t say I’ve ever… Continue Reading

Weekly Churn 001: Television and Tattoos

Yonge Dundas Square

Ahoy! Welcome to the Weekly Churn, a regular series of posts about what I’ve been reading, watching, and thinking about over the previous week. This is sort of my response to the whole newsletter phenomenon, but mostly it’s about getting me back into a headspace where writing is a habit rather than an event. So here goes. The big news for this week is that Tim Maughan’s book Infinite Detail finally dropped. I’ve been a fan of Tim’s work for quite some time—somebody recommended Paintwork, his self-published collection of short fiction, and I was hooked right from page one. It took Infinite Detail almost a year longer to come out than expected, but it’s well worth the wait. I’ve been re-reading Bragi Ólafsson’s work as prep for my review of Narrator, his latest book to be translated into English, but I was so excited about Tim’s novel that I set… Continue Reading

Infinite Detail, by Tim Maughan

Infinite Detail cover

It’s rare for me to be as excited about a new release as I am about Tim Maughan’s excellent debut novel, Infinite Detail. I don’t recall exactly who put me on to Maughan’s work—someone on Twitter, surely, as that’s where I’ve gotten most of my book news and recommendations for close to a decade now—but I read Paintwork in 2016 and felt like I’d finally found the kind of science fiction I’d been looking for, and which the genre seemed determined not to give me. For those who haven’t encountered Maughan’s fiction before I’d probably say that it combines William Gibson’s remarkable ability to see right to the heart of now with the politics and analysis of someone like Adam Greenfield and the weird narrative prototyping of design fiction, although that doesn’t seem quite right. Jay Owens might call it kitchen sink dystopia, which applies to much of his short… Continue Reading

On Bookmarks

Various objects used for bookmarks.

Since moving back to Toronto in 2017 I’ve been thinking very carefully about the things that I own and why I own them. I don’t mean in a Marie Kondo sort of way, although space is definitely a driving force, but more in terms of how the things I own help me understand myself. My interest in this way of understanding stems in part from my first reading, as an undergraduate, of Robertson Davies’ What’s Bred in the Bone, the book that introduced me to the concept of “personal mythology.” Our personal mythologies are the stories, symbols, and events that make up our understanding of our lives and selves. Those stories, symbols, and events are often—though not always—real people and objects in our lives, and events that actually happened to us. Our personal myths are what help us making meaning and see structure in our lives. It should be no… Continue Reading

2018: Year in Review

My mother

Normally at the beginning of every year I post a breakdown of all the reading I’d done the previous year. I won’t be doing that this year. I’ll include some recommendations at the end of this post, but I’m having a hard time worrying about how many books I read by certain authors, or books of a certain kind, or whatever categories interest you, or have interested me in the past. Today, I don’t care. 2018 was not a good year. I’ve already written about my cat dying, but my mother also passed away in September, following complications from what is generally routine day surgery. I’ve had great difficulty reading, since then. In the four months since my mother died I’ve read seventeen books, which is roughly the count I normally have for December alone. My concentration is shot, my motivation is shot, and my investment in the world around… Continue Reading

Molly’s Last Day

Molly laying on the grass

My cat Molly died on June 8, 2018. She had been suffering from some minor health issues for several months, but two weeks before she died things got a bit worse, and then dramatically so. On June 6th we thought we had a handle on things; we knew she was diabetic and that she would need special care going forward, but she also hadn’t been eating or drinking very much and was losing weight. I asked the vet to monitor her blood glucose for the first day of her treatment so that we would be guaranteed to get her requirements right. The insulin worked, but the vet was concerned that Molly didn’t appear to be doing well otherwise, and asked to keep her overnight. On the morning of June 7th I got called to the vet’s office. Around noon we were told that Molly’s condition had worsened significantly despite her… Continue Reading