This and That

This weekend is Swarthmore's alumni weekend. I won't be there, sadly; not a Big Reunion Year for me, and I'm intending to head out for the SWIL reunion in the fall. (The Swarthmore sf group has a "reunion" every few years; I put the word in quotes because attendees span a wide range of class years (at least 15 years this time), so it's not like everyone knows each other. But for a group with such a wide age range, it's remarkably cohesive, perhaps kept that way by email lists and frequent alumni visits to campus. In many ways, it's a lot like a frat, only without the negative connotations that might have. Except for insularity—it's not actually particularly insular on the whole, but there's a widespread perception on campus that it is.)

In other Swat-related information, I just discovered (by reading this German sf site in Babelfish translation) that Eleanor Arnason went to Swarthmore! (Same class as Arthur Hlavaty (reviewer and frequent Best Fan Writer Hugo nominee), a few years off from Rudy Rucker.)

Apparently the German word feministische does mean "feminist" as I'd originally assumed, though Babelfish translates it as "toolist," whatever that means. Babelfish continues to amuse me; for example, apparently the Tiptree committee each year publishes a "Short cunning" and a "Long cunning." At any rate, that German "Feminist fantastic-utopian literature" site looks like a good one; it's been offline every time I've tried to reach it in the past, but it comes up frequently in Google searches for stuff I'm interested in. Bibliographies, plot summaries, and author bios for a bunch of feminist fantastic fiction (with vague criteria for both feminist and fantastic).

Meanwhile, a new-to-us word game has been (in a small way) sweeping the online SWIL community, sparked by my posting about it. I got it from the Nielsen Haydens' site; it's called "The Man Who Melted Jack Dann." It consists of finding book titles which, when concatenated with their authors' names, form amusing sentences or phrases.

For example (a small sampling from the many examples on the Nielsen Haydens' page):

  • The Phoenix Guards Steven Brust
  • Fear L. Ron Hubbard
  • Harlan Ellison's Watching Harlan Ellison
  • The City, Not Long After Pat Murphy
  • The Power That Preserves Steven R. Donaldson
  • Two Sisters Gore Vidal
  • The Joy of Cooking Irma S. Rombauer
  • Space James Michener
  • Quarantine Greg Egan
  • Discipline and Punish Michel Foucault
  • Contact Carl Sagan
  • Soldier, Ask Not Gordon R. Dickson
  • Little Fuzzy H. Beam Piper

Note that it usually works best if the title (or the author's name) contains a word that can be used as a transitive verb—I'm deducing the rules from the results, but it doesn't seem to be sufficient to form a simple descriptive phrase like The Female Man Joanna Russ. Specifically, I think if the book title can only be read as a noun, it's insufficient to just put it in front of the author's name to modify the author's name; that approach isn't clever enough. But if the book title can be read as an adjective modifying the author's name, that seems to work better. (Distinguishing between nouns and adjectives may not be as simple as it seems, but that's another topic.)

It turns out that I'm terrible at this game—most of my favorite books' titles can be read only as nouns. But the SWILfolk have come up with a bunch of good ones, including:

  • She Stoops to Conquer Oliver Goldsmith (—Hannah Schneider)
  • Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge Mike Resnick (—Jim Moskowitz)
  • Farewell My Lovely Raymond Chandler (—Fred Bush)
  • The Book of Laughter and Forgetting Milan Kundera (—Fred Bush)
  • Moon for the Misbegotten Eugene O'Neill (—Joshua Mackay-Smith)
  • Twenty-Seven Wagons Full of Cotton Tennessee Williams (—Joshua Mackay-Smith)
  • The Pentagon Papers Neil Sheehan (—Elliott Moreton)
  • Lectures on Government and Binding Noam Chomsky (—Elliott Moreton)
  • Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone J. K. Rowling (—Benjamin George) [okay, so it's missing an apostrophe, but I still like it]

And a bunch more. Try it; it's fun!

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