fiction, news

Wow, that was quick: “Chatarra” now up at Ideomancer

What better way to return from a long and pleasant summer vacation than with an announcement like this:

My short story “Chatarra” has just been published over at Ideomancer. Go check it out, it’s me in ‘sombre’ mode.

Kind of a funny story about this one getting accepted, I’ll have to tell you about it sometime.

In the meantime, thanks to Leah and everyone else at Ideomancer. Cheers!

 

 

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Uncategorized

Welp, now I’m almost certainly being spied on, closely perhaps, by the NSA

So we’ve known for a while now that government spooks were snooping through all of our internet communication, or as I like to put it, they were all up in your business like K-Solo’s girlfriend’s mom. Supposedly, they were just ‘collecting’ it and not ‘targeting’ it. ‘Targeting’ was only for the bad guys.

Now it’s come out this week that the NSA has some very interesting criteria that it uses to narrow down who the ‘bad guys’ are.

Cory Doctorow published an article this week entitled “If you read Boing Boing, the NSA considers you a target for deep surveillance.”  In it, he linked to a article on the German news site Tagesschau written in which journalists gained access to the “deep packet inspection” rules used to determine who is considered to be a legitimate target for deep surveillance.

Apparently, the NSA knows when, where, and whether or not you’ve ever searched for online articles about Tails or Tor, perhaps the two most well-known tools used to preserve Internet privacy and anonymity. Now let’s say neither of those names sound familiar and you want to learn more. Before you run off to Google, hear me out first: If you do search for either of those terms, there’s a strong chance you’ll be put on their bad guy list. That’s what I did.

Basically, the NSA thinks it has a right to know if you’re interested (even if only in a casual, ‘here-lemme-click-on-this-link-for-a-second-oh-never-mind-this-shit’s-boring’ sort of way) in the subject of Internet privacy tools, because that interest might translate to you actually using such a tool, which could possibly mean that you’re using it to do ill of some sort (terrorism, cybercrime, piracy, etc.).

That’s some ol’ Tom Cruise Minority Report pre-crime shit if I ever heard of it.

Also–as you’d imagine–anyone who they determine is actually using Tor is also targeted for long-term surveillance and retention. Doctorow writes: “One expert suggested that the NSA’s intention here was to separate the sheep from the goats — to split the entire population of the Internet into ‘people who have the technical know-how to be private’ and ‘people who don’t’ and then capture all the communications from the first group.”

Sad thing is, I’m not even really in the first group and they may already be treating me as such–like, I tried downloading and setting up Tor once, and no matter how many times I tried to key in the command lines, Linux wasn’t havin’ it. I mean, that’s how little I have in the way of ‘technical know-how’. So I was like, fuck it. Doesn’t matter–they’re prolly still gonna read this, and all my email, and all that. And in lieu of coded message about terrorist attacks, they will find boring email back and forth between me and my bosses, banal Facebook posts, and little else I imagine.

I don’t have any illusions about anything I do being at all secure, really. I know basically any jerkass who had a mind to could jack my whole computer up and wreck shop on my hard drive and what not. I’m not naive in that sense. But it makes you think. The government (probably) really is in my business. Damn.

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current events

More bad news (El Jueves, etc.)

Yes, I’m afraid I have more bad news. This time, it’s not football-related.

For those of you living outside the ‘Kingdom of Spain’ who haven’t been paying attention to the news over here, the King of Spain announced this past Monday that he was abdicating the throne. (I suppose the New York Times’ article will bring you more or less up to speed if you’re interested.)

And no, this is not the bad news I was referring to. The bad news came yesterday, and is only indirectly related to the king’s decision to step down.

Albert Monteys and Manel Fontdevila are leaving El jueves.

El jueves, for those unfamiliar with the publication, is a satirical humor magazine dealing chiefly in comic strips that run the gamut from the political to the scatalogical, from surreal to vaguely smutty.

The magazine’s tagline is “El jueves, la revista que sale los miércoles” (Thursday: the magazine that comes out on Wednesday.) This week it came out on Thursday.

RBA, the company that publishes the magazine alleged some sort of technical problem. Other sources, however, have alleged that the problem stemmed from the question of what to put on the cover. Of the two covers below, which one do you think they went with–the one lampooning the meteoric rise of Pablo Iglesias, or the one featuring Juan Carlos I handing over a crown covered in doo-doo to his son Felipe?

RBA initially claimed that the Iglesias cover which was finally published was the one originally slated before the King’s announcement, and that with news of the abdication coming on Monday there was no time to get a joke to the presses before Wednesday. Then eldiario.es published a story saying that 60,000 copies of the King/Prince cover were printed (and subsequently mulched, one assumes), giving the lie to RBA’s claims vis-a-vis timeframes…

But I don’t want to talk about the alleged political pressure from the Royal Family, or the ‘chilling effect’ of self-censorship in the echoes of the 2007 controversy (which not coincidentally also involved the Royal Family), etc., etc. No, I want to get sentimental and talk about what the work of Monteys and Manel F. means to me.

Flash back to early 2006. I’m still finding my way around Barcelona and the ex-pat life in general. One bored afternoon in Fnac I come across a book of cheaply printed comics entitled Para ti, que eres joven: Sexo, drogas, y otras cosas que les pasan a los demás (‘For you who are young: Sex, drugs, and other things that happen to other people’), which was a collection of strips about a variety of topics: ‘Family’, ‘rock ‘n roll’, ‘looking for work’, ‘sharing a flat’, ‘the future’. At this point, I didn’t know what El jueves was, I just knew I liked the style of art and humor, and that there was a lot of jokes that I didn’t get and would have to look up or ask someone about.

The truth is, discovering the work of Monteys and Manel F formed a huge part of my language learning process here: first, as motivation to learn more about the language. And then later, as a sort of informal corpus for later study.

Yeah, that’s right, I brought up corpus linguistics in a blogpost about comics. My other main interest at the time being language pedagogy, I decided I would try to apply some of the concepts I’d been reading about (Michael Lewis’s ‘The Lexical Approach’, for instance) to my own language learning. (Yes, I did have a whole lot of free time and very little social life at that point in my life, why do you ask?)

For example, I made concordances–which is basically to say that I isolated individual words and tried to locate them in as many different contexts as possible to see its semantic and grammatical characteristics–especially verbs that confused me or that seemed especially versatile or important (i.e., pillar: “Oye, te pillo el boli un momento”, “El futuro puede llegar en culaquier momento y no quiero que me pille en la calle”, “Coño…me parece que ya lo pillo…”, “Lo habitual es pillarse un buen cebollón antes de la sesión perforatorio”, or  enterarse: “Es muy peligroso ser un manitas–sobre todo si los demás se enteran“, “Para que te enteres: yo en mi vida solo he dicho una mentira…”, “–‘Muere en en nombre de Dios! –‘¡Si no existe te vas a enterar, mamón!'”

And in case you were wondering, why yes, I am a huge nerd.

But apart from all these two maestros of the comic arts taught me about the idiosyncrasies of the greater Iberian culture and language, more importantly they made me laugh. It’s true that in recent months I stopped buying the magazine regularly, but when I did pick up a copy I always knew Para ti que eres joven was good for at least a chuckle. (Of course, I also enjoyed their other work in the magazine (Tato, La parejita S.A., etc.), but I always went straight for the pink pages.)

As you can imagine, a world without Para ti, que eres joven in the magazine that comes out on Wednesday is, for me at least, a slightly sadder, more melancholy world than the one I used to know.

I can only hope that Monteys and Manel F continue working, drawing and writing jokes, and wish them the best of luck.

 

 

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current events

Goliath/David redux (empate técnico)

Monday. A cold rainy morning in Barcelona. All across Europe the headlines scream: Le Pen winner of French elections, UKIP wins in UK.

Racist, xenophobe right-wing extremists who once struggled to eke out even a single seat in the Europarliament have now become many voters’ number one option. France’s prime minister Manuel Valls (not exactly an immigrant’s best friend himself) publicly called LePen’s victory ‘a disaster for Europe’. I don’t know how you say ‘a fucking disaster’ in French, but that’s probably what he said in private.

By mid-day though, rays of sun break through the clouds.

In Spain, a new formation by the name of Podemos (one of the ‘smaller grassroots platforms’ that I mentioned yesterday) surpasses all expectations with over 1.2 million votes. 5 seats in the European parliament from which to pursue their platform, available here in Spanish. Regardless of what you think of their agenda, it’s undeniably heartening that a group with only 4 months of existence and a campaign budget of some €200,000 has been able to make such a dent in its first elections.

Some have complained that leader Pablo Iglesias’ experience as a panelist in a number of Spain’s ever-popular TV ‘tertulias’ (debate programs somewhat in the vein of the old McLaughlin Group or Cross-fire) have given him an unfair advantage. Iglesias responded thusly (quoted from an article in El País):

“The criticism is fair. I don’t like it either that there are people who are famous just for being on TV […] We don’t have the funding of the PSOE or the PP, we haven’t asked for a loan, we don’t have any powerful friends nor any friend in the media who give us concessions as favors–we just have a kid with a ponytail on the TV.”

However, some allege that they do in fact have friends in the media–Grupo Planeta, for instance, or Mediaset. Others say that LaSexta TV’s televisedsparring matches between Iglesias and La Razón director Pepe Marhuenda function as a sort of mediated, self-congratulatory voodoo doll are designed to make viewers feel like their voice is being heard and at the same time keep them passive, on their couch, glued to the screen.

Maybe so. Be that as it may, Europe and the world seems to be getting grayer and more dystopic with every passing day. Podemos has a long way to go if it truly hope to achieve its goal of winning the next elections. In the meantime, I say: Damn it, for once just please let me have this one ray of sun.

 

 

 

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current events

When Goliath wins

J.M. Aznar, ex-president of Spain whose land reform inflated the housing bubble and Florentino Pérez, Real Madrid club president and construction magnate

José María Aznar, Florentino Peréz (l-r).

Fate decreed that the Champions League final and the 2014 elections to the European parliament are both being held on the same weekend. I doubt very seriously that the parallels between the two are lost on anyone who’s been paying attention to either.

But just in case, allow me to explain.

Last night two Spanish teams (more specifically, two teams from Madrid), Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid, disputed the final of the Champions League, the biggest and most elite tournament in European football. For those who are  unfamiliar with the narrative between these teams, it goes something like this:

Real Madrid (as the name, ‘Royal Madrid’ implies–the King himself Juan Carlos I is a supporter, not coincidentally) has throughout its history been seen as an upper-class team, ‘posh’ if you will. They also bear the unfortunate stigma of having been the official team of the dictatorial Franco regime. Even after the death of the Caudillo, they remain the ‘establishment’ team par excellence.

As for el Atleti, their English-language Wikipedia page sums it up admirably:

“On the other side, the Rojiblancos were always characterized by a sentimiento de rebeldía, a sense of rebellion, although during the early Francisco Franco years, it was Atlético that was the preferred team of the regime, albeit forcibly[…]

“Such perceptions have had an important impact on the city’s footballing identities, tapping into the collective consciousness. In this vein, Atlético fans were probably the originators, and are the most frequent singers, of the song ‘Hala Madrid, hala Madrid, el equipo del gobierno, la vergüenza del país’, “Go Madrid, go Madrid, the government’s team, the country’s shame.”

(One would be remiss, though, not to point out the shadier parts of Atleti’s history, namely the 16-year presidency of Jesús Gil, mayor of Marbella and one of the most famously corrupt politicians in Spain’s long history of corrupt politicians.)

In any case there was no small amount of drama in the duel between the two Madrid clubs last night on the international stage of Lisboa’s Da Luz Stadium, with Real Madrid seeking to capture their tenth European title and Atlético seeking their first, a perfect capstone to their Cinderella season. Real Madrid versus Atlético de Madrid: the team of €100-million transfer deals for players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale (seen by many as absolutely criminal given Spain’s current economic situation) versus a much more modestly financed squad (though, truth be told, none of the players on the Atleti side are what you’d call poor, either).

Powerhouse versus underdog. ‘Establishment’ versus ‘sentimiento de rebeldía’.

Real Madrid won, 4-1.

Inevitably, I find that the result of last night’s match has colored my perception of the European elections being held today. As we speak, Spanish voters are casting their votes for the European parliament, and turnout is projected to be abysmal–I, for one, didn’t get the feeling as I accompanied my wife to the polls (she can vote, I can’t) that many people were turning up for what the media often calls ‘la gran fiesta de la democracia’.

Whether that’s down to general skepticism about the European project or perhaps a huge collective hangover after last night’s match, who knows. Maybe people feel as though their vote doesn’t matter. That the major parties have the game rigged in their favor, to the exclusion of smaller grassroots platforms. That no matter who they vote for, the die has been cast, the tide of rampant globalization unleashed and Europe as a whole doomed to backslide into 21st feudalism. That the bigwigs of industry and finance will continue doing whatever the hell they please, regardless of what the great unwashed have to say about it.

Or at least what photos like the one above suggest to my mind, anyway. Try as I might, I can’t shake the feeling that tonight when they announce the elections result, we’ll be told that–just like last night–Goliath won.

 

 

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other

Translation, asymmetry, intrusismo, a forthcoming offer.

What follows is a somewhat lengthy blow-by-blow account of a discussion across blogposts by several different authors regarding the idea of translating short fiction (genre fiction, mainly) in English ‘on spec’.

The ‘TL;DR’ version: “An imbalance exists between English-fiction-translated-into-other-languages vs. Fiction-in-other-languages-translated-into-English; the idea of established Anglophone authors (i.e., non-professional translators) offering to help redress that imbalance raises interesting questions re threats to the livelihood of literary translators”

The long version:

This morning, as I was leisurely scrolling back through my Twitter feed with cup of coffee #2, I ran across a tweet from the highly prolific and entertaining Alex Shvartsman (@AShvartsman), in which he and award-winning author Aliette de Bodard were offering their services to non-Anglophone authors interested in having their work translated to English.

Clicking along the Internet trail, I was led to a post by the great Benjamin Rosenbaum entitled “Translation, Asymmetry, An Offer”. In it, he begins by pointing out that his stories have been translated into 17 languages: “a symptom,” he says, “of a staggeringly — ridiculously — English-dominated world translation scene.”

He goes on to point out that, “Of all translations worldwide, perhaps about half are from English — within Europe, it’s about two thirds“, while native English speakers are only 5.3% of the world’s population.

“That means,” writes Rosenbaum, “under six percent of the world gets to write maybe a third of the books read by everyone else.”

To redress this, Mr Rosenbaum offered his services as an ‘on spec’ translator (paraphrasing very roughly here): if readers or writers had a non-English-language story they’d read or written that they thought matched his sensibility and was awesome enough to demand the English translation it would most likely never have access to, he would attempt to translate it or pass it on to someone who could. In the first version of this post (later amended), he added, “I’m not really interested in making money on this, and would waive my cut if that’s a thing.”

In the comments section, however, translator Edward Gauvin (whom you may know from his translation work for Weird Fiction Review) pointed out that the “symbolic gesture” on Rosenbaum’s part of translating on spec and waiving his fee could contribute to a disturbing trend:

“In the case of your offer above,” he writes, “we are talking about a very invisible part of an already relatively invisible profession: translating on spec, often in contact directly with the author (and not his/her publisher, much less the minimal contractual protection of any English-language publisher). In this kind of situation, I have seen too many translators, hungry for work or just hoping to work on something they like, get treated really unscrupulously by foreign authors, themselves hungry to get into hegemonic English, to be comfortable seeing translation services offered FOR FREE. Authors who pit multiple translators against each other, who deny the translator ever did any work at all, who go on to defame said translator to authors and publishers… you name it.”

As a result, Rosenbaum gladly edited his post to stipulate his proposed cut of any commercial work that might be done, as well as clarifying several other points in hopes of removing any implication that translation work is somehow undeserving of remuneration.

“My ideal scenario,” he said, “is that this would create more work for professional translators, along the lines of: 1) Anglophone author who benefits from translation translates non-Anglophone author’s short story, 2) Anglophone publisher, intrigued, contacts non-Anglophone author with a book offer, 3) non-Anglophone author or Anglophone publisher pays for professional translation of book — novel or collection — which no one’s going to do as a lark.”

A similar exchange took place on de Bodard’s blog, where she had wholesale cut-and-pasted Rosenbaum’s original post and Gauvin subsequently cut-and-pasted the concerns he’d voiced earlier at Rosenbaum’s blog. Bodard pointed out in response that “the issue isn’t, per se, the prohibitive cost of professional translation, it’s the fact that there is no translation infrastructure in place from other languages into English […] At the moment, as you point out, there really is little to no market for translating short stories into English on spec, and no smart solution that I can see for creating one…”

To which another professional translator Laura Watkinson replied: “there are professional literary translators out there doing this work already […] Many of us know about possible sources of funding for translations and have professional relationships with publishers. I’d say that there definitely is an infrastructure in place for professional literary translations into English. I’d recommend the Society of Authors as a good place to start.

The discussion in the comments went on (including interesting comments re the going rates for translation vs the going rates for SF short stories, and the fannish tradition of paying-it-forward and so on which I recommend anyone interested in this topic to pay special attention to), but for our purposes here, suffice it to say that this whole thing is a sticky wicket indeed.

Coincidentally I had already in recent months been pondering the possibility of just such a thing, inspired by the example of author Ken Liu’s success in publishing translations of Chinese SF authors in some of the field’s major English language publications.

And I think that the imbalance that Rosenbaum et al point out is something worth addressing. However, the comments coming from the other end of the equation, by translators like Mr. Gauvin and Ms. Watkinson, raise interesting questions about the impact of such an endeavour on the industry of translation itself as a whole.

Indeed, in a country like Spain, the spectre of intrusismo laboral looms large over the translation business–basically anyone with a minimum grasp of basic English grammar can, if they so desire, fancy themselves a translator, whether it’s your stereotypical backpacker native-speaker TEFL teacher with no formal training in translation whatsoever or a Spanish speaker with the First Certificate doing inverse translations(!) for a little extra pocket money.

In the near future, I fully intend to post a similar offer to the one made by Rosenbaum, de Bodard, and Shvartman (though, credential-wise I’m don Nadie by comparison), but not without first giving the whole thing a nice long think.

Meanwhile, writers and translators are welcome to post their take on things in the comments below.

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