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Seattle Writing Prompts are intended to spark ideas for your writing, based on locations and stories of Seattle. Write something inspired by a prompt? Send it to us! We're looking to publish writing sparked by prompts.

Also, how are we doing? Are writing prompts useful to you? Could we be doing better? Reach out if you have ideas or feedback. We'd love to hear.

All it takes is $14 to get hoisted 175 feet in the air in Seattle. You could do it for cheaper in different locations — an elevator, say, in the middle of a building without a view except of the numbers as they rise — but to do it right on the waterfront with a view takes $14 and a little patience, depending on how busy it is, at the great wheel.

Pier 57 is full of amusements, some of them faded in the glory of their carnival ways, but the wheel is new, opening in 2012. One day there was no wheel, and the next, there it was: the LED lit exterior, which is themed to whatever event is going on around our city. At least that's what it felt like from the outside, but to pier owner Hal Griffith had been dreaming about the wheel for thirty years, the inception probably felt much slower. Now he wants to build a gondola aerial tram down Union street.

Have you ridden the wheel? Have you done it alone, or with family when they're visiting from out of town? Did you look down and see the water below, a ferry going by? See the cars on the Viaduct? Did it feel like you were in a model of a city, instead of a real city? Did it feel both removed from the city and, also, at the same time, like you were in the city in a kind of serious way that only a tourist might usually experience?

The wheel is smaller than the London Eye, which raises 443 feet above the sinuous Thames. But Seattle is not London. We're a bustling growing city, but we're still a colloquial one. Our ferris wheel is big, but not the biggest, and that's okay with us. We're a people that let other drivers in, when we can. We take pride in our buildings being "tallest west of the Mississippi", not tallest in the world. The Seattle way is about exuding a certain modesty, in an extravagance sense, not in a moral sense. It's the Scandahoovian in us. Don't make too much of yourself. Put your nose down and get to work.

So, $14 is a modest price for a modest ride in a modest city, with immodest beauty. $14 to sit on a seat and rotate in the air for a few minutes and wonder about your place in the world. If that's what you want, and you're not scared of heights, it's waiting for you.

Today's prompts
  1. It was perfect when they got stuck, not at the top, exactly, but at the 2 o'clock position if you were to look at the wheel from the north. That meant they had a stellar view of the sunset and the peninsula, the Bainbridge ferry passing right nearby. The gondola stopped, and he dropped to one knee, and reached into his pocket to bring out the little velvet ring box. He only regretted he didn't have some photographer capturing the moment with a telephoto lens. As he dropped, the gondola swung, a bit, and his soon-to-be fiancée slammed her hands to the sides of the swinging container, and shouted "I'm so tired of being scared. I never feel safe with you. I need to break up with you" before she reached up and pressed the emergency button on the ceiling.

  2. Nothing excited Baby Boy mouse more than the idea of riding inside a gondola in the Great Wheel. "You are never to go near that thing!" said his mother, pretty much every day when they would scurry along the roof line to go foraging for food. Baby Boy would stop, the rain wetting his fur, and stare at the glowing wheel until his mother would come to nudge him along. And again, at night, tucking him in "You are never to near that wheel. It's too dangerous." She would make him promise, but he always crossed his claws when he did. It was a cold December day when he finally had his chance.

  3. "You have to decide," he said to his son. "We can't wait here all night." They'd already gone to the front of the line, then bailed out, twice. The dad could see how badly the boy wanted to go, but he was running up against his fear. The choice was to be brave and do it, or to feel bad about chickening out, no matter if the dad gave him a shoulder squeeze and said it was okay. The boy would be worried about his choice impacting the whole family. The dad knew all this, but also knew the only thing he could offer was pressure to put the boy in the corner, and let him decide. Hope he picked the brave choice, and be kind if he didn't. "And if you don't decide in five minutes, we're just going to leave without doing it. I think we should. I think you'll love it, but it's your choice, buddy." They stood at the rail and watched the wheel, and the dad wondered what was going through the boys head, and watched his watch, hoping he wouldn't have to force them away.

  4. They say there's one car on the wheel that's haunted. Nobody remembers which one — maybe they enter saying "Oh, I'm in car 5" when they climb up to the wheel, but when they leave, they forget as they walk away. They always forget. Some say the ghost came from the pier, a stevedore who was drunk and incautious at work, and so was crushed by a falling crate when this pier was commercial, after it was built in 1902, some say it's a young girl, a tragic figure from a neglected home who died in a way so sad that just to speak of it would cause rain to fall. Some, even, say both visited them when on the wheel, that the gondola was filled with crackling energy and presence, these two figures keeping each other company in the afterlife. But whether the ghosts are him or her or both, those that experience the haunting all report one creepy fact in their telling of their stories....

  5. It was a slow day, nobody in line, and so they let her ride. Nobody knows who told them, exactly, but somebody said it "that's the woman, her husband was just killed." So the widow came alone, and politely asked if she could have a car to herself, and they let her (even though they weren't supposed to), and then when the gondola came around, they asked if she wanted to ride again, and she nodded yes. The third time they didn't even open the car, the attendant saw her tears, and just gave her a sign that he was gonna let her ride again, and she nodded. After that, they just ignored her, knowing when she was ready, she'd let them know. Until then, she rode, and everybody turned their focus to loading and unloading the tourists.

The Future of the Shadow Police

Oct. 21st, 2017 08:11 am
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Posted by Paul Cornell

Readers have been asking me for a while now about when the next Shadow Police novel is coming out.  The unfortunate answer is: I don’t know, verging toward never.  I’m afraid Tor UK have dropped the line.  Now, this is no cause for anger at them.  I serve at the pleasure of publishers.  I’m used to the ups and downs.  (And I know I have several ups coming my way soon, so I feel strong enough to write about this.)

I might, at some point in the future, consider using a service such as Unbound to publish the last two books in the series.  (There were always going to be five.)  And if a publisher were to get in touch, seeking to republish the first three, then go forward, I’d have that conversation.  But the aim right now is to continue with the flourishing Lychford series, and look to use the next non-Lychford novel to move up a league division or two, and then return to Quill and his team from a position of strength.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  I’ve loved the reader reaction to the Shadow Police books.  I promise I will finish that story when it’s possible to do so.  I thought you all deserved an explanation.

London Falling, UK ebook

In other, better news, you can get the digital versions of the complete Saucer Country and every issue so far of its sequel, Saucer State, very inexpensively, in the ComiXology IDW horror sale!

And here’s a brilliant review of A Long Day in Lychford.

Again, my apologies.  I’ve lived with this news for quite a while, without knowing what to do with it, and I feel relieved at having let it out into the world.  Thank you.

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Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna Madrid can help. Send your Help Desk Questions to advice@seattlereviewofbooks.com.

Dear Cienna,

When I was a kid my parents always had one of those big thick 70s novels going. The Godfather. Roots. Shogun. I was too young to read them then, but I'm thinking that this might be a good time to dig into all those thick, engrossing historical stories. Hell, I might even drum up a few friends and do a themed book club. Any other novel to throw on the pile?

Darrel, White Center

Dear Darrel,

Fall is the best of all seasons – spiders are growing their winter coats, making them perfect for cuddles; drinking whiskey for breakfast can be excused as medicinal; and forests look like living rainbow flags in which every tree's an ally. It is also the best time to get your lineup of epic novels ready before winter blots out the sun and takes a shit on your precious stores of optimism.

You've got a healthy start to your reading list. I'd recommend adding Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, which reads like a melodramatic soap; nevertheless, its eloquence in portraying the constricted roles of "proper" women in society is still pretty topical.

I've also got Roberto Belaño's 2666 and L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time series on my list for this winter. I'dd add them to your list if, like me, you have any stuffy friends or judgy children you're looking to impress.


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Something different in our Lit Crawl coverage this year. Instead of grouping together in an inconvenient cluster, we split up. Paul Constant, Martin McClellan, and Dawn McCarra Bass all attended different readings in venues around the city, thus tripling our ability to cover the amazing variety of events. Even with that, we had to make hard choices, and missed things we wish we hadn’t. But this is the bargain we always make. Lit Crawl comes but once a year, and you will, by design, always see less than you hope, no matter if you split yourself in three or not. But for what we could cover, here’s what we saw.

Phase 1: 6:00pm

Robots, Ray Guns, and Self-saving Princesses at Saint John’s Bar and Eatery

Starting LitCrawl with science fiction is always a good idea. We, sadly, missed SFWA President Cat Rambo delivering a story about a Valkyrie coming to escort a clown to Valhalla during a children’s party, which sounds like a bang-up way to start any night. We were thrilled to see Eva L. Elasigue read from work that she publishes on bonesofstarlight.com, and after her, Caren Gussoff Sumption who read from her novel Three Songs for Roxy, about a character learning to sex chickens as a job— the kind of detail that pulls you into the writing while leaving you curious to see where she could possibly take it — especially given that she takes it to deeply nerdy and human science fiction place. All the while, on a television behind the readers, Nick Offerman drank whiskey and stared at camera.

Caren Gussoff Sumption reads about sexing chickens under the watchful eye of Nick Offerman.#litcrawlseattle

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Seattle Urban Book Expo Author Showcase at Hugo House

As is custom during the first big autumn rain in Seattle, the city’s roads were shut down on the night of Lit Crawl. Why, after all, would anyone expect Seattleites to know how to drive in rain? (In fact, one of our correspondents wound up missing the first phrase entirely due to traffic woes; we are just as mortal as you, dear reader.) So this first Lit Crawl event featuring authors from the Seattle Urban Book Expo started out poorly attended, but gradually filled up as audience members, presumably, abandoned their cars and made their way to Hugo House on foot. Eventually, it was a full house.

The latecomers missed out. Host JL Cheatham II, Kristin Alana, and Natasha Rivers read from their childrens’ books. Alana’s beautiful baby daughter was so proud of her mother’s reading from Cerulean and the Snake that she clapped all the way through.

The last person to arrive at Hugo House due to the atrocious commute was the final reader, Kamari Bright. She was worth the wait. Bright read poems about senility and soul food, and about the difference between fresh orange juice and concentrate (the latter is the result of “trying to make something last longer than it should.”) A natural spoken-word reader, Bright dominated the room’s attention with her poems and closed out the reading in style.

We hadn't seen Kamari Bright read before, so #litcrawlseattle is already a win. What a powerful reader!

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Phase 2: 7:00pm

Fragmented Transmissions: Lyric and Hybrid Essays at Zoë Events

This collection of non-fiction writers read memoir and personal essays to a full, rapt room, even though they had to speak loudly to be heard over the driving rain pounding down on the metal roof of Zoë Events.

The standout here was Molly Thornton, who read the first twelve short pieces from a collection of one hundred 100-word vignettes about embarrassment. Thornton read about her childhood desire to grow to be six feet tall in adulthood, and her disappointment at falling about five inches shy of that mark. (“I have always wanted to be a grand, visible thing.”) She also discussed imagining the children she might one day have, who are “not yet born, but already endangered.”

When regarded singly, each of Thornton’s vignettes was a burnished little gem of economy. Taken in aggregate, they formed something much deeper and complex. If they are eventually published in a collection as beautiful and unique as Thornton’s prose, this book could really prove to be a delight.

Made at Hugo House Fellows Alum Reading at Barça

You may have heard that Hugo House's move into a permanent space has been delayed. While there seems to be no question that they'll ultimately land on their feet, last night's Made at Hugo House reading at Barça was a good reminder of why we should all keep pushing to make sure they get there.

The reading was unmiked, and first reader Ross McMeekin (editor of Spartan) suffered through a certain amount of chair shuffling as the room crowded closer. The excerpt he read from The Hummingbirds (forthcoming in 2018) — a story of teenage lust peeled naked under a preacher's eye — was excruciating and funny, easily reclaiming everyone's attention. Laura Da' read a too-short selection of poems about the mapping of the American West and its consequences for the Shawnee. The poems were rich with detail, powerfully narrative, and delicate in reflection, and her quiet voice carried.

Anca Szilágyi followed with a section from Daughters of the Air, her debut novel arriving next month. She's a lucid and thoughtful writer, with a strong viewpoint and an impressive range (we've been proud to publish her here). Like Da', her interests are both historical and human, and we're excited to see what she does with the space that a full-length manuscript offers.

Quenton Baker closed, and he owned the space, noting that Lit Crawl is like Valentine's Day in elementary school ("waiting to see how many cards you get") then blasting into a set of poems that blurred then tore right through the line between harsh reality and letters on the page. Maybe there's no difference between the two. This is the kind of work we need Hugo House to help Seattle's writers keep making.

Mineral School Resident Reading at Capitol Cider

The event started weirdly, with music playing as Mineral School founder Jane Hodges and Nicole Hardy introduced the event. Even after the music was finally shut off, it became apparent that there was an echoey delay on the mic, and since no one was singing here tonight, it just confused matters in the bustling and overpacked basement of Capitol Cider.

But as soon as Rachel Edelman took the stage, the sound improved and the reading went well. Edelman and Gabrielle Bates read poems. Alumnus Urban Waite read from a thriller, and made the point (or, rather, Nicole Hardy made it on his behalf) that the bathrooms at Mineral School are large, and there aren’t many men, so he had the place to himself.

Putsata Reang — you may have read her devestating and beautiful Modern Love column about coming out to her mother — read from her memoir about growing up in a Cambodian immigrant family living in Corvallis, Oregon, and how everyone picked strawberries during the summer. She remembered how her mother would wash their hands in bleach to make sure they weren’t too brown after a summer in the sun. “We were all locked in the conspiracy of becoming American together.” Reang’s clear, sharp voice, honed by years working as a journalist, centered the listener in her experience in a vital, honest way.

Mineral School has a great thing going on. Writers are advised to apply for a residency.

Phase 3: 8:00pm

Seattle City of Literature Presents: Nic Low in Conversation With Willie Fitzgerald at Hugo House

New Zealand author Nic Low is here in Seattle for a little more than a week as part of an indigenous cultural exchange program established by the Seattle City of Literature organization. This was perhaps the only reading at Lit Crawl with an actual, honest-to-goodness elected official in attendance — Lianne Dalziel, the mayor of Seattle’s kiwi sister city Christchurch, came halfway around the world to see Low read.

Low introduced a sly piece of satire disguised as a sci-fi story about the last man on Facebook. The future that Low imagines — in which kids wearing privacy-enabling scarves over their heads scoff at the idea that people used to put their most intimate information online for free — seems alternately amusing and all too likely.

Low was joined onstage by Seattle author Willie Fitzgerald, who led a conversation ranging from Low’s Maori roots to the similarities and differences between Seattle and Christchurch to the white colonialist roots of leisure hiking. The event placed Seattle firmly in a continuum of international literature, and it made Seattle City of Literature’s purpose feel even more compelling.

Nic Low is asking what it would be like to be the last person on Facebook. #litcrawlseattle

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Joyland PNW

Joyland Magazine is built on a contradiction that isn’t one: that fiction is both an international movement and grounded in local communities. They have editors throughout the United States and Canada who are responsible for curating stories that define each region's unique character, and they publish by the map — stories are grouped and tagged by location, so readers get to know the flavor of a particular place.

We’re lucky to have the Pacific Northwest editor, Kait Heacock, here in Seattle. Heacock read at the noisy Pine Box with fellow Joyland authors Margaret Adams and Corinne Manning (once of the James Franco Review). Defining the literary character of the Pacific Northwest isn't easy. If Heacock's opening remarks had the hallmarks of a work in progress, that's okay; this community is both diverse and changing fast. And the mix of reverence and playfulness she described bears out, not just for Sherman Alexie and other iconic voices. All three stories read last night carried it: Heacock's "Girl" was headed out of bounds from the line "my lover began as my dentist"; Adams' "Doreen" (coming next issue) takes a woman comfortably padded against unpleasantness into the teeth of the medical system; and Manning's "The Wallaby" stars a sad-clown marsupial who is both heartbreaking and hilarious. All of the authors read well; Manning read with a physical and verbal comfort that pulled both groans and laughter from the chilly (but increasingly well-oiled) crowd.

Lunch Ticket: Saveurs de Poésie at Vermillion Art Gallery and Bar

Meanwhile, at Vermillion, writers published by Lunch Ticket, the literary and arts journal of the MFA program of Antioch University, gathered to read.

“I don’t like white people. Except the ones I’m friends with. And myself” read Meredith Lorena, who started with a short poem, then dove into an essay about gentrification, and both the body politic, and the body turning middle-aged (“Of everybody in this house, I pee the most”). She compared her own body to her father’s, and imagining being at her parents house in Staten Island, and running into him on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, his underwear drooping. “He’d say hello. Hello.”

Sarah Jones, who read second, has a chapbook coming out in April of 2017 from Dancing Girl Press, and her work was vivid and unflinching, and left us wanting more. Her first poem, a lyrical ode and observation of trailer parks, had a staccato cadence, and contained lines that both amused and shocked. She wrote about being a mother, about being sick of the obligations of the world, about the women she meets at a rainy soccer practice. Jones is no stranger to the Seattle scene — she’s a staff member at Poetry Northwest — but we hope to see more of her work in more places on the way to her first publication next year.

Phase 4: 9:00pm

Sarah Galvin, Robert Lashley, and Timmy Straw at Pine Box

The show at Pine Box started late, but for the poets who ended this part of Lit Crawl, waiting was the least we could do. First up was Timmy Straw, whose poems, laced with liturgy and questioning, are ornate carved boxes that fit snugly. “God built the world in seven days. It took him much longer to leave,” was one resonating line. She said “We’re all temporarily in a band,” about her and Robert and Sarah, and it was true, this night. It felt like a performance.

Robert Lashley continues to be one of the most powerful readers you could hope to experience, and his first few poems were delivered with the kind of aplomb Seattle audiences have come to expect, but more reserved than he often is — those who have seen him know he grows beyond himself on the stage, extending in presence like a man who suddenly gained ten feet of height when in front of a mic. But it was his newest work, from his book-in-progress Green River Valley that provoked the strongest reaction. The poem, “Songs for the Commencement Muralist in Gentrified Neighborhoods” is a multi-part piece, part lament, part prayer, part gospel, that ended in Robert singing, a clear voice, loud and true, evoking something so powerful and immediate that stunned silence and tears was the response from those all around. Then, thunderous applause. It was a stunning moment, and showed the evolution of his form, and the power of a single man, standing alone, and bearing witness.

Sarah Galvin was one of few local poets that could follow the stunned room after Lashley walked offstage, and, as always, she did it with confidence, style, and a wry smile that telegraphed that she was on to the joke before you, and the joke was really goddamned good. She read mostly new poems, one titled “Unlimited Clean Eggs”, brought down the house in abrupt and overwhelming laughter. It undersells her to say she’s the funniest poet around — Galvin is funnier than most professional comedians. But unlike that set, her humor is often settled in uncomfortable skin, with piercing insights amidst the laughter. One thing, however, is certain: her sense of timing is impeccable, and her game, and poems, seem to be getting tighter and funnier and more evocative all at once.

And beyond that, she’s the one who asked these poets to come together, to close out Lit Crawl at Pine Box. The band that she assembled? Mic drop all around.

Seattle Poetry Grid Reading at Vermillion Art Gallery and Bar

It was appropriate to end our night at a celebration of the legacy of Seattle’s first Civic Poet, Claudia Castro Luna. Three readers joined Luna to share their favorite poems from the Seattle Poetry Grid, a map of geographically specific poems created by Luna.

The readers shared poems about branches of the Seattle Public Library, about the eccentrics who make a neighborhood feel like a home, about the Seattle-y autumn moment when you realize that the damp gray blanket on top of the sky isn’t going away for another five or six months. Lynn Miller, Brian Roth, and Shin Yu Pai joined Luna, along with a surprise visit from Seattle poetry star (and Poetry Grid contributor) Quenton Baker.

At the end of the night, Luna discussed her decision to include poems written in foreign language, untranslated, in her grid. In a recent media appearance, Luna was asked if she believed that decision could possibly make some people — presumably, English-speakers — feel excluded from the project.

In the end, Luna announced, she decided to keep the poems as-is, in their own beautiful languages, there on the grid. She made that decision, she insisted, “not so others feel alienated” but rather “so everyone feels included.” There’s no better way to describe Lit Crawl’s celebration of Seattle’s wide-ranging literary scene than that; Luna’s legacy as our first Civic Poet is secure.

True Stories of #FML at Capitol Cider

It was reasonable to expect that the final leg at Capitol Cider — plugged as nonfiction essays with the theme "fuck my life" — would be sardonic, silly, and self-mocking. Brian McGuigan delivered brilliantly on that expectation, shredding his own dignity with a series of stories about online dating as a single dad. His bit was a stream of one-liners ("my texting had all the flirtation of a ransom note"; the good-night kiss "had a sensible amount of tongue") and dating stories as short and delicious as his profile handle ("ilovedembooks").

His fellow readers, Sasha LaPointe and Kristen Millares Young, had darker takes. LaPointe, speaking as an indigenous writer and a victim of sexual violence, opened with an extended and lyrical piece about survival, resilience, and monsterhood. She was barely audible beyond the front rows — too bad, what she had to say deserved to be heard by all — but the room held still and listened hard for as long as she wanted to talk.

It was Kristen Millares Young, though, who brought the evening home. Millares Young is an award-winning (remember Snow Fall?) and broadly published journalist, and she delivered an extraordinarily thoughtful piece about the threat of rape, and the different kinds of violence to which it gave birth — including the threats she made, as a white woman (a "Cuban cracker" as she jokingly called herself), to deter the black man who had her temporarily hostage in a hotel van. The essay is forthcoming from Moss; watch for it.

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Each week, Christine Larsen creates a new portrait of an author for us. Have any favorites you’d love to see immortalized? Let us know

Monday, October 23: An Evening with G. Willow Wilson

Humanities Washington brings Seattle memoirist, novelist, and comics writer G. Willow Wilson to the stage for a conversation about creating the world’s most famous Muslim superhero, what it means to be a political writer, and how to juggle fame across two or three literary disciplines.

Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, 104 17th Ave S. 682-1770 x102 http://humanities.org. $20. All ages. 7:30 p.m.

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Tonight is Lit Crawl, a bacchanalia of literary events spread over four courses across Capitol Hill, First Hill, and downtown. You can find the full schedule here, but we wanted to provide a few possible itineraries for people who have a hard time making up their minds. See you out on the streets tonight!

Here's Itinerary #1. Here's Itinerary #2. Here's Itinerary #3.

Phase 1: Your evening of writers outside of Seattle begins at Ada's Technical Books. Seattle author Kathleen Flinn tells the story of what happened when one of her books in translation hit the bestseller lists in Japan. She'll talk with her translator and Japanese editor over Skype to discuss the weird trajectory of her writing.

Phase 2: Then, go to Hugo House for a reading of writers from outside Seattle including Bellingham's Elaina Ellis and Tacoma's Jackie Fender. Keep an eye out especially for Hayat Norimine, who was born in Japan and grew up in Eastern Washington before moving to Seattle and taking over the Publicola politics blog.

Phase 3: Stay at Hugo House for APRIL Festival co-founder Willie Fitzgerald's conversation with New Zealand author Nic Low, who's here in town as part of a cultural exchange program thanks to the Seattle City of Literature program.

Phase 4: The last round of readings doesn't have an international component, so why not unwind with a showcase of humiliating true life events featuring Seattle writers Brian McGuigan, Kristen Millares Young, and Sasha LaPointe?

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During the first few minutes of The Snowman, the new adaptation of the popular thriller from Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø, I felt as though I was in good hands. With an excellent cast — Michael Fassbender as Nesbø's alcoholic police detective Harry Hole, Charlotte Gainsbourg as his ex-girlfriend Rakel, Val Kilmer as a detective on the edge named Gert Rafto — and some truly beautiful cinematography, The Snowman's early moments felt like a perfect fall entertainment: a serial-killer flick filmed on location in Norway (one of the most beautiful countries on Earth, and I will fight you if you disagree.)

Even more encouraging, the film seemed delightfully weird. Hole, with his unzipped olive winter jacket and his plastic shopping bag full of clues, is prone to drinking himself to unconsciousness at night in public places around Oslo. Given that winter in Norway is usnpeakably cold, he seems to be committing suicide in the most half-assed, drawn out way imaginable. And Fassbender looks appropriately terrible as Hole: pale and thin and scowling and about an inch away from losing his mind.

The Snowman's first hour is full of bizarre and fun moments. Chloë Sevigny shows up for one of the oddest, most hilarious cameos I've ever seen outside of the 1966 Batman TV show. Kilmer's drunken cop is so offended by the joy of his coworkers that they literally drive him out on a ledge. The plot picks us up and drops us off at different times and locations without explaining what we're doing there, or why. It's a little disorienting, but it's interesting.

And then the second hour of the film rolls out, and it's one of the dullest, most generic serial-killer films you've ever seen. In fact, The Snowman strikes me as remarkable for the simple fact that it gets less interesting with each passing moment of its screentime. A chart marking my moment-to-moment interest in the film would be a perfect diagonal line from the top left corner of the chart straight down to the lower right corner. By the time the interminable last fifteen minutes rolled around, I just wanted it to be over before it transformed all the way into the worst Law & Order spin-off you've ever seen.

That said, the twitchy and somber score by Marco Beltrami is excellent. Longtime Scorcese associate Thelma Schoonmaker's hand is apparent in some of the film's interesting editing choices. And Dion Beebe's cinematography perfectly captures the raw, monstrous beauty of Norway in the wintertime. But as the film goes on, each of these good qualities dissolve into the sloppy beige of corporate filmmaking at its worst. Rarely has so much cinematic promise transformed into so much unmemorable dreck. Nesbø and Hole deserve better than this; hopefully Fassbender can reprise the role in a more suitable adaptation of another Hole thriller sometime in the near future.

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This week I want to talk about a book that isn't actually a comic book, but which wouldn't exist without comics. Catherynne M. Valenti's young adult short story collection The Refrigerator Monologues is an attempt to give voice to the often-neglected women who serve in supporting roles in superhero comics.

Refrigerator is structurally a riff on the Vagina Monologues with a superhero twist, and Valenti clearly knows her source material. The name comes from a superhero comic trope known as "fridging," in which a love interest's grisly death serves no greater purpose than really pissing off a hero, thereby giving him the motivation he needs to defeat the villain of the story. The book examines, satirizes, and deepens the cliches that women must endure in comics.

These are riffs on Spider-Man's first girlfriend Gwen Stacy (thrown off a bridge to her death by the Green Goblin) and Cyclops's girlfriend Phoenix (committed suicide after being tempted to the dark side by a cosmic being) and the Joker's girlfriend Harley Quinn (not dead, but often reduced to a punchline about codependency.) Valenti gets deep into the characters' heads, adding motivations and complex emotional responses to the crude stories mapped out in superhero comics of the past.

The framing story in Refrigerator, a club in the afterlife where wronged women can gather and tell their stories, doesn't quite go anywhere. And the book feels a little slight; it could use one or two more stories. But Valenti definitely ties together a thesis here, and she vindicates a whole rainbow of characters who have only gotten short shrift for the last fifty years. Hopefully next, she'll write a comic that puts these women front and center — without the men around to ruin everything.

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Posted by Paul Cornell

Yesterday, Vampirella #7 came out, my last issue on the title, which is now going to continue in the very able hands of Jeremy Whitley and current artist Andy Belanger.  I feel good about how the series landed, and the reviews seem to be saying that, now they’ve seen what we were aiming for, people have enjoyed it.  I wish the new creative team all the best.

Vampirella 7

(Cover by Andy Belanger, and such a great one too.)

On the television side of things, there was a little bit of potentially exciting news this week: here’s Variety announcing executive producer Vanessa Piazza’s new deal with eOne, including shows from Gail Simone, Zoe Whittall, and an adaptation of Masked, the super hero prose anthology edited by Lou Anders.  If that goes to series, I’ll be adapting my own story, I’m pleased to say, so fingers crossed.  Here’s executive producer (and an author from that anthology) Joseph Mallozzi, talking more about the project.

I’m currently in the middle of a new novel, and finding it tremendously liberating.  More news on that when and if.  Cheers.

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Teach the Kids to Fish

Oct. 19th, 2017 12:15 am
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Posted by John Cappetta

By training the next generation of fishers through a hands-on mentorship program, scientists and fishers hope to feed the world for many lifetimes.

by John Cappetta | 650 words

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  • Got a press release from Third Place Books yesterday that deserves a signal boost. Here are the opening paragraphs:

This Saturday (10/21/17), Third Place Books will donate 20 percent of sales at all three of its store locations (Laker Forest Park, Ravenna, and Seward Park) to relief efforts in Puerto Rico, which has been devastated by Hurricane Maria.

Proceeds will go to Unidos Disaster Relief Fund, sponsored by the Hispanic Federation, an organization that Consumer Reports says “has been reviewed and received high ratings from two of the watchdogs, Charity Navigator and BBB Wise Giving Alliance.”

  • Related to bookstores providing relief in natural disasters: bookstores in California are providing shelter to wildfire refugees.

  • Of all the reasons to pull a book from a school, "It makes people uncomfortable" is maybe the worst. The book? To Kill a Mockingbird. The school? It's in Biloxi, Mississippi.

  • This Wall Street Journal story about the decline of e-book sales and the smartening-up of physical book publishers is a feel-good story for people who love physical books. But it's important to remember that everything is not hunky-dory in booksville. Chain retailers are disappearing. Publishers are merging and re-merging and swallowing each other up to the point where we might have a corporate publishing monopoly in the next decade or so. I hate to rain on the parade, but now is not the time for a victory lap. Now is the time to be vigilant.

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Wednesday, October 18: Translation Is a Mode

As part of The Bagley Wright Lecture Series on Poetry, Seattle poet and translator Don Mee Choi “will discuss Walter Benjamin’s bread, Korean cornbread, warships, Ingmar Bergman’s The Silence, and Kim Hyesoon’s mirrors in her exploration of translation.” Translation is one of the most difficult-to-explain aspects of literature, and the experience of having a mind like Choi’s describe it for us is a blessing. Sorrento Hotel, 900 Madison St., 622-6400, http://hotelsorrento.com. Free. 21 and over. 7 p.m.

Thursday, October 19: Lit Crawl Seattle

See our Event of the Week column for more details.

Friday, October 20: The Trade Reading

Journalist Jere Van Dyk was kidnapped in Afghanistan. After his release, his employers and the government weren’t telling him the truth behind what happened, so six years later, he went back to Afghanistan to uncover the real story. Tonight, the Washington native returns to read from his book about the whole harrowing, frustrating experience. PATH Auditorium, 2201 Westlake Ave., 652-4255, http://townhallseattle.org. $5. All ages. 7 p.m.

Saturday, October 21: Experimental Animals Reading

Thalia Field’s new novel, Experimental Animals: A Reality Fiction, is based on the true story of Claude Bernard, a French vivisectionist who was married to an animal rights activist. Bernard also was the man who invented and popularized the scientific method. Field has committed two decades to the research in this project, translating work from French into English and piecing together the complicated history of a complicated man. Hugo House, 1021 Columbia St., 322-7030, http://hugohouse.org. Free. All ages. 4 p.m.

Sunday, October 22: Reactions Reading

You’ve likely seen Theo Gray’s gorgeous book The Elements, an illustrated guide to every one of the elements on the periodic table. His newest book, Reactions: An Illustrated Exploration of Elements, Molecules, and Change in the Universe, shows what happens when those elements combine:.basically, those reactions are responsible for everything in the universe. Rainier Arts Center, 3515 S. Alaska St., 652-4255. http://townhallseattle.org. $5. All ages. 6 p.m.

Monday, October 23: An Evening with G. Willow Wilson

You might know Mischa Willett from her poetry podcast Poems for the People. Humanities Washington brings Seattle memoirist, novelist, and comics writer G. Willow Wilson to the stage for a conversation about creating the world’s most famous Muslim superhero, what it means to be a political writer, and how to juggle fame across two or three literary disciplines.
Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, 104 17th Ave S. 682-1770 x102 http://humanities.org. $20. All ages. 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, October 24: Loud Mouth Lit

This special edition of memoirist Paul Mullin’s reading series is curated by Seattle Times reporter Brendan Kiley. Readers include David Schmader, Sydney Brownstone, and Anna Minard. They’ll all be talking on the theme of “political nausea,” which is a commodity that is in no short supply these days.

Saint Andrew’s Bar and Grill, 7406 Aurora Ave N., 523-1193. http://www.standrewsbarandgrill.com/Free. 21+. 8 p.m.

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Tomorrow night is Lit Crawl, a bacchanalia of literary events spread over four courses across Capitol Hill, First Hill, and downtown. You can find the full schedule here, but we wanted to provide a few possible itineraries for people who have a hard time making up their minds. Come back tomorrow for the next itnerary. Here's yesterday's itinerary.

Phase 1: Your night begins at the new Ollie Quinn eyewear shop on Capitol Hill with the best possible way to start a poetic journey through Lit Crawl: a reading from Poetry Northwest, the longest-running poetry publication in the region. Readers including Sarah María Medina, JM Miller, and Ellen Welcker will share their work and celebrate the continuation of the tradition of poetry in the Northwest.

Phase 2: Weirdly, there's no poetry-only reading in the second phase of the evening. But that's okay. If you go to Barca, you'll find a celebration of graduates of the Hugo House's Made at Hugo program, which provides resources and networking for young Seattle writers. Former made at Hugo fellows Anca Szilagyi and Ross McMeekin, will be joined by two of Seattle's very best poets: Laura Da' and Quenton Baker.

Phase 3: At Still Liquor, Seattle-based poetry collective Margin Shift will present a lineup of poets including Adriana Nodal-Tarafa, Anne Tardos, Jennifer Firestone, and the fabulous Jamaica Baldwin

Phase 4: Your poetry Lit Crawl will come to an end at Vermillion, where former Civic Poet Claudia Castro Luna will present a reading celebration of her Seattle Poetry Grid. Readers who have contributed to the online poetry map of the city including Lynn Miller, Brian Roth, and Shin Yu Pai will share their geographically oriented poems.

Literary Event of the Week: Lit Crawl

Oct. 18th, 2017 09:50 am
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Sometimes you just need to throw a goddamned party, you know? Sometimes you need to show off, and invite everyone over, and throw the fuck down. In the Seattle literary scene, Lit Crawl has become that party, the one-night shindig that lays everything out in one glorious buffet. Spreading across Capitol Hill, First Hill, and downtown, Lit Crawl takes place in bars and bookstores and event spaces in five different “phases” on Thursday, October 19th. Readings begin at 6 pm, 7 pm, 8, pm, and 9 pm, with an afterparty running from 10 pm to midnight at Zoë Events on E Union Street.

This is quite possibly the most diverse Lit Crawl since the San Francisco operation opened up a Seattle franchise back in 2012. It includes readings from sci-fi authors, mystery authors, kid’s books, poetry, cookbooks, and podcasts. There are readings highlighting African-American authors and Asian-American authors. Maori author Nic Low is in town from New Zealand as part of a cultural exchange. The amazing Anastacia Reneé, Seattle’s newest Civic Poet, is featured in a showcase. The Civic Poet who came before Anastacia Reneé, Claudia Castro Luna, will be presenting her final thesis — an online map of Seattle, told in site-specific poems.

I want to spotlight what must be the centerpiece of the night: Eileen Myles’s reading at Elliott Bay Book Company at 7 pm. If Myles isn’t the smartest, funniest, most important poet in America right now, she’s got to be right up near the top of the list.

Myles has written about sex, gender politics, LGBTQ issues, Iceland, and the seeming inability of poetry to communicate anything at all. Her latest book is titled Afterglow (a dog memoir), and it’s Myles’s attempt to write an autobiography for her late, beloved dog Rosie. Unsurprisingly, the book is getting hammered by Amazon reviewers who expected the next Marley & Me and came away confused. One reviewer calls the book “Too much hard work” and whines “I found Myles' style to be the antithesis of poet Mary Oliver.” (Uh, thank God?)

So obviously you know what you’re doing on October 19th. But I have a question for you: what reading are you attending on October 20th? What bookstore are you visiting on October 21st? It’s easy to show up for the big, flashy parties, but we can’t have a community unless you show up for it on days when there’s not a giant festival going on. Fewer and fewer media outlets in Seattle are providing comprehensive and consistent arts coverage—which I define as reviews, news, and interviews—and the arts in Seattle is taking a noticeable hit for it. If the media continues to abdicate their responsibility as chroniclers of the entire scene—and not just the attention-grabbing parties—this city will suffer, venues will close, and artists will move away.

Simply: if you love books, and reading, and the fantastic literary community we have here in Seattle, you have to show up for stuff. Yes, come to Lit Crawl. Obviously, come to Lit Crawl. But be here all the time. If you’re not there for the community, you’ll one day turn around to discover that the community’s not there for you.

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Posted by Rachel Nuwer

Shark fin soup is on the menu in Canada, but a new investigation shows that some fins come from dubious, even illegal, sources.

by Rachel Nuwer | 650 words


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