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Category: Reading

Reckoning 3, Out Now

I would be remiss not to mention that the third (amazing) issue of Reckoning, which we’ve worked all year on, is out now. You can see the cover below, made by Stylo Starr, and if you click on it or the link below you’ll be whisked away to a page where you can buy the ebook for a mere 7 American dollars. Come read about extinct animals and endangered justice.

weightlessbooks.com/nonfiction/reckoning-3/

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Reckoned Things

This month there is no content from me, not even a little thoughtlet of a poem, but I thought I’d point you to something to read by someone else instead. It may have escaped you, generally because I am bad at informing people of things and specifically because this website isn’t exactly read by anyone other than people trawling archives (which is fine by me, hello from the past), that I’m on the staff at Reckoning, a non-profit annual about environmental justice and the human relationship with the earth. The second issue came out last solstice, and you can purchase it here: weightlessbooks.com/format/reckoning-2/.

The contents of the issue is published online for free over the year, and what I wanted you to look at is the story The Complaint of All Living Things, by Joanne Rixon: http://reckoning.press/the-complaint-of-all-living-things/. I love this story for many reasons, and you will too even though it might be difficult to read for personal reasons. But you’ll be glad you read it, and maybe you will cry a little about it but that’s okay too. No one judges you for crying.

Once you’ve read that, you can read an interview that me and Michael, the editor, conducted with Joanne as well: reckoning.press/joanne-rixon-interview-the-complaint-of-all-living-things/. The interview is well worth your time.

I hope you’re well. All the best,
Johannes

Review: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

Dear All,

I have written a review of Annalee Newitz’s book, Autonomous, for your perusal at Minor Literature[s]. minorliteratures.com/2018/01/29/autonomous-by-annalee-newitz-johannes-punkt/

In the review, I proffer opinions on things like capitalism, slavery, and cyberpunk.

Best,
Johannes

Review: Provenance by Ann Leckie

At some point I will write a very blog post. A incredibly blog post — about how to translate things. I have a draft of the post. But right now it’s easier to just post a review of something else. Books! They’re fun. Mild spoilers below, and some speculation about the foundation of the Unites States of America.

ProvenanceProvenance by Ann Leckie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Uncertain about what to focus on in the review. I admire the thematic precision implied in the title: everything that happens is so tightly wound around, so clearly fuelled by, the theme of provenance. Through the concept of ‘vestiges’ — memorabilia, essentially, of anything that happened and which accrue value — Leckie talks about how we make history and inject history onto objects. How the past is malleable: several or most of the vestiges pivotal to the culture of Hwae are actually fakes manufactured for various political purposes. History is just politics. The commentary is obvious, especially when it comes to the document of the Declar- er, the Rejection of Obligations. It’s a physical document that declares the independence of the planet of Hwae from an empire across the sea (the sea of vacuum). And it’s a fake. I think it’s pretty obvious what Leckie is implying: the United States Declaration of Independece is a big phony lie cooked up by liars and served with a side of lie, and science fiction is the only safe way to get this theory out there past the United States Goskomizdat.

Or, in a less facetious interpretation, assigning cultural sacredness to objects alters the perception of the events. Time warps the course of events. It’s stressed in the book that it’s the words that matter, not the paper they’re printed (written?) on. There are proper ways of remembering the past and respecting history. Like in the Ancillary trilogy, Leckie includes an undercurrent of social justice (although I hesitate to use that term because of how the internet works with its toxic tentacles poisoning words left right and centre). There are injustices, and they get addressed. Never solved, but they get airtime. There are never any quick solves.

Also there were aliens and intrigue and character arcs and such, that was cool too.

View all my reviews

Real Reviews and Such

Reader, I am writing to say that for some reason I’m using Goodreads now and writing reviews of things I read there. The some reason is that I want to make sure I learn something from each book I read or something. Or at least each book I finish. Also, if you look at my reviews you’re not allowed to judge me for how few books I read or something like that. I’m a complicated maelstrom of soggy emotions and sometimes I don’t read books, okay. Right now I’m reading loads though.

UPDATE: As of July, 2018 I am no longer doing this. Instead I got a reading diary which is a hundred times more fun. Still like writing reviews, but not for goodreads.

www.goodreads.com/user/show/33168595-johannes-punkt

Here’s my latest review, of Alastair Reynolds’ Poseidon’s Wake. I’ve just copypasted the thing on Goodreads that says “blog this review” so I hope it looks nice. (I don’t actually believe in rating things with stars, but, y’know.) EDIT: Okay it didn’t look nice so I’m fixing it.

Poseidon's Wake (Poseidon's Children, #3)Poseidon’s Wake by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Man, what an anticlimax. I was looking up synonyms for “anticlimax” because the word didn’t contain all the nuances I wanted and I stumbled over “bathos” under ‘related words’, and well, bathos is also an appropriate word to use when talking about this book. It’s like the lack of awards and overwhelmingly positive hard-sci-fi reader responses fizzled out Reynolds’ enthusiasm for this series and left all the characters flat and bathic, the emotional scenes mostly off-key. Though they hit a few notes right, that feels more like a statistical certainty than an understanding of humanity and emotions. I don’t expect prose mastery from Reynolds and I get none. In this book’s defence, I guess, it is very easy to read the sentences. Because there is no weight behind them, nothing that can make me stop and contemplate. I just don’t believe the words.

And now you’re thinking, why read space opera if you’re looking for emotions and prose? Well, this is supposed to be Reynolds’ softer sci-fi, and space opera is based on character, and I was led to believe based on the first — amazing — book in this series, and based on what the book is clearly aspiring to do, that I should expect at least some of these things from this series. Instead I get another one of Reynolds’ signature moves: an ancient alien race has discovered an impending doom and it has far-reaching consequences for the future of humankind. This time, that race has buggered off or whatever. I wanted the arc of the Uplifting of elephants to be more satisfying, but it feels to me like it finished like someone ending my breakfast by putting out their cigarette in my orange juice. The first book ends with Geoffrey realizing he thought his Butler was an elephant-killer and that’s why the elephants killed him (long story but it has telepathy). The elephant arc ends with similar themes drawn from that moment: humans have endowed elephants with sin and free will and all those other things that burden us. But it feels wrong. It hits the wrong notes. An unsatisfying fugue dissolving in the evening. I can’t even bring myself to analyse it more than this. Goodbye.

View all my reviews

Review: Normal

In case you keep reading my counterfeit reviews of books thinking, damn I would like to read one of the books that this man describes, fear no more. I have written a real review of a book that actually exists, and the only thing I had to counterfeit in the process was my self.

The review is up at Minor Lit[s]; just click the following link: minorliteratures.com/2016/10/21/normal-by-warren-ellis-johannes-punkt/

FakeReview: The Boneyard Bedouin Epique by J. Steam Fronker

I know I said I would not write another review of a book that doesn’t exist, but this one just gripped me, readers. Right from the start it hooked me, with little barbs and flukes on the inside of the hardcover, like a psychopath had designed this book. This is the kind of book that would bleed you dry if you’d let it.

I’d never heard of J. Steam Fronker — the anagrammatic pseudonym of a weird sex pharmacist who in the meatspace goes by Hannah Dee Arbucte — before I read these books, but she’s apparently something of a sensation in the online literary world. More accurately, she is a catalyst, the substance against whom everybody reacts. You have to have an opinion on the latest Fronker doolally. Apart from her uncle’s publishing house, she only communicates with the “Inside World,” as she calls the world outside her books, through her microblog on Regrettr. There, readers are treated to a cornucopia of strange terminology, only half of which is decipherable. She rarely responds to replies, but seems to welcome the attention.

Imagine if Chuck Tingle wrote Gormenghast. No, don’t imagine that. Forget that thought. Fuck. Let’s start over, from the other end.

Ghias Aljundi once said that “writing a poem can be as dangerous as carrying a gun.” Because any weapon has at least two edges, doesn’t it? He was talking about the horrible regime in Syria, specifically, which is known to murder poets to silence them. As such, it is a bit perverse of me to relay it here, relating it to this steampunk desert fantasy epic no-one has read, but that is what I’m doing. Perhaps I, like Fronker, believe I have something imporrtant to say and I hide it here, in a silly fishtank, where you won’t read it. Perhaps I don’t want to write you a poem. There is a double valence to danger: the danger can be to oneself or to others. Expand it a bit and it’s us or them. Often it is both. I believe J. Steam Fonker wishes to weaponise literature. She wants it to be equally as dangerous.

Just last week, she pleaded with world leaders (“kopfhats” in Fronkerese) to ban more books. It was a surprisingly coheroquent plea, and it turned out to be an old “Now York Toast” article pleading with President Obama to ban guns, which she had transformed with some search-and-replace magic. Hence all the paragraphs about how access to books leads to school shootings. Her followers had been arguing in circles with each other for a day until this was revealed, minithinkpieces bubbling forth, and then the bubble burst. I admit I may have got caught up in the dunderfrolic myself.

Consider the plot of the Boneyard Bedouin Epique (consisting of four books: The Word in the Stone, The Trunk in the Junk, The Gland of Arlulin, and The Sand in the Clothes). A young woman sets out to peel her own world apart like one continuous clementine spiral by singing herself out of it, her culture not having anything like literacy. This brings danger, long before she comes close to succeeding, but she eventually succeeds. This is perhaps the most unfair summary I’ve ever done of one of these series, but there is so much in it. How do I explain to you the ship of avarice? How do I tell you of the Dune pisstakeage of giant writhing cocks fucking the desert and how it is a comment on US foreign policy? Why would you believe me that that fits in with the rest of the book? I could tell you the whole story is of a dustmote falling to the floor, shaken loose from a rocking table, which is true. Or I could tell you about the calligraphy. The instructions for dancing with ink-tipped boots. The suicide pact the author makes with the reader. It all makes sense; none of it makes sense.

Virgil said that a good couplet should be enough to make a snake explode. Such is the power of words. Fronker longs for a time gone by, when her words would have a physical effect on her surroundings instead of being shielded by a humtracker and electricity. I don’t think she’s written herself out of this world just yet, but she might. When she does fall through, I wonder if we will all solipsistically blink out, or if we will stand there dumbfounded, mouthing “I didn’t know you could do that.”

Yours Truly

Dear All,

I wrote a long poem on twitter, and the marvellous Ria Gray read it aloud, and also had some very nice things to say about me. You can listen to her magnificent interpretation here: thebookofnights.com/post/150052083638 or read it for yourself here: twitter.com/_/status/685799168913346561.

Ria is a good friend of mine and a better poet. Her poems are like half-rusted keys you find hanging off trees, which then proceed to fit a lock you clasped onto a bridge-railing years ago; it’s okay now to drop the weight into the canal. This one still gives me shivers, for example: thebookofnights.com/post/43478744214

If you for some reason want to have me talk about my poem, just grab me and ask me. I’m all yours.

Your Truly,
Johannes

Review: The Weight of Things

Dear readers, another real review of a real book that actually exists has been written by me. You can find it over here at Minor Lit[s]: minorliteratures.com/2015/08/24/the-weight-of-things-by-marianne-fritz-johannes-punkt/. I hope you enjoy it.

~

austria

Picture by: me.

FakeReview: Under the Honey Moon by Goldiva Stetter

It is true that much of science fiction was founded on white guilt. First contact stories especially imagined a Columbus character but as a good guy, which is pretty wild. Of course, literature doesn’t exist anymore since the drubles annexed our planet, and Goldiva Stetter will be phloxed for writing this book, called Under the Honey Moon: A Retelling of the Invasion from their Side. I feel the need to write a review of her book, of which I have the antepenultimate copy printed before the baible-traz cummoxed the printing press. I feel like perhaps no-one will write a review of this book if I do not, and if no-one expresses their opinions in nuanced but easily swallowed ways, it is a bit like the book does not exist. I grabbed a copy still hot off the presses and ran for all my legs’ worth until I reached the safety of a burbium. Perhaps I own the only copy in existence. Perhaps I’m inviting my own phloxion if I publish this myself. Before you think that: know that I am against this kind of endeavour entirely and I aim to demolish the good reputation of this slanderous book.

Goldiva had found one of those humongous machines they used to print glossy-covered airport novels in, so this slim volume of sarcastic literature-that-shouldn’t-be feels like the ghost of a book. It’s been a decade since I read a new book, but I remember science fiction, and I think Goldiva Stetter does, too. There are all the classic elements of a good military space masturbation fantasy ball of yarn. There’s the excitement of discovering an alien species, there’s the intial misunderstanding, the weird sex scene, the war propaganda, the underlying sense of unease about defining yourself according to your species or defining yourself at all, the dazzling displays of the morally ambiguous achievements of science, there’s a quest, a good ending, and the unanswered question: are we the good guys?

No human speaks himut, of course, so this book is written in English. It tells the story of three imagined diplomats-turned war heroes: Pigeon, Rat, and Flea. In 87 short pages without paragraph breaks we are shown the moral struggle that Pigeon, Rat, and Flea must have felt when they murdered human civilians by the thousands with their pungytien and phloxoi. Their characterisation falls pretty much flat despite all the emotions they talk about having. In one scene near the end of the first act, Flea stops their phloxion and displays a human in exploded view and asks the question, “Are they not like us?” The answer is of course that we are. The human loses structural integrity and dies shortly after.

The Swiftian anger in this narrative is not escaping anyone, I hope. Jonathan Swift, for those of you who learned to read after the annexation, was a very angry man who objected to the drubles of his time, the British humans. He achieved fame, alright, but think of what he could have achieved if he had worked with them instead! At one point, Jonathan Swift poisoned six thousand babies so that when the British humans ate them, they would fall ill. A barbarous act. And Goldiva Stetter will scream her ire like that scene in Braveheart until they kill her for good, I bet. What a shame. Her incredible talent could be used for more productive things, such as galaschet, or moonfarming. Instead she chooses to waste it on writing, on stirring up feelings in the population, of writing coded messages about where the kimmolwoi meet to plan the revolution.

Stetter describes the druble anatomy and vichshen in mundane terms and only when necessary, but spends a disturbing amount of time explaining basic human physiology in an exotic manner. This only adds to the sarcasm which flows from the book so heavily despite its light form. Why on earth would a druble – the intended reader of this book is someone druble who speaks a human language, which is ridiculous as they do not need to communicate with us, but I digress – need to know about the alien concept of “pain”? It is not relevant to their frame of reference. I’m afraid that much like the druble empire I have run out of space and must award some stars now, as is traditional of a review. This book gets one star, no more, because that is the minimum of stars. This may have been the last book ever written. Our sun will shine for a billion long years more. Good riddance, literature.

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As you may be aware, my fake review The Cult of Numbers was recently published by Pamphlets for the Apocalypse! Unlike Under the Honey Moon, the book reviewed in there is an economy textbook. You will not be disappointed: you would love to read about a cult that sprung up around an economy textbook. I know you. You would wolf that shit down. Buy it here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/237006205/the-cult-of-numbers-johannes-punkt-with