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Organizing Cools the Planet: A Review on Znet

by Brian Tokar
Znet
October 15, 2011

How do we develop a genuine movement for Climate Justice in the U.S.? Nearly everyone agrees that community-based environmental justice groups – mainly rooted in communities of color – should be in the lead, but this has presented a host of problems in practice. Environmental justice groups are chronically under-resourced, and activists of color can cite numerous experiences to explain their caution toward working in racially-mixed groups. There is wide agreement that more conventional climate activism is often politically shallow, and that a more systemic critique of the roots of the climate crisis is urgently needed. However, we have yet to see the kind of movement in the US that has united people around the world to raise radical, justice-centered demands to confront accelerating global climate disruptions.

Some of the most inspiring efforts to bridge the divides and develop models of real solidarity in climate justice organizing have emerged from a relatively loose alliance known as the Mobilization for Climate Justice West. In the lead-up to the 2009 UN climate talks in Copenhagen, MCJ-West organized frequent mass actions in the San Francisco Bay Area. Many were organized in partnership with the East Bay community of Richmond, the home of one of Chevron’s biggest oil refineries and a host of other toxic industrial facilities. Large, diverse actions at the gates of the Richmond refinery demonstrated region-wide support for local residents, and helped celebrate their recent court victory against Chevron’s plans to expand the facility.

Still, the steady outpouring of people into the streets of both Richmond and San Francisco left many organizers exhausted, and ultimately frayed the bonds of solidarity that had been so carefully nurtured. After Copenhagen, MCJ-West organizers pulled back, restructured their organization, and recommitted themselves to strengthening their working relationships with community-based environmental justice groups throughout the Bay Area. To outsiders, what was most apparent was that there were no longer such frequent mass actions against the corporations that profit from the climate crisis. Behind the scenes, however, there emerged one of the most original and inspired approaches to genuine alliance building—and sustaining activists for the long haul—that has been seen in more than a generation.

Hilary Moore and Joshua Kahn-Russell’s new booklet, Organizing Cools the Planet, recounts those experiences, and offers some of the most engaged and original thinking about the dynamics of social movement organizing that we have seen in a long time. It urges all of us to reach beyond the limitations of often-insular activist networks and create genuinely collaborative relationships across barriers of age, race and class.

In an insightful, but also very accessible and conversational manner, the authors challenge our understanding of alliance-building, collaboration, and our accountability to the communities most affected by environmental problems. They urge us to act, not out of guilt or ideological fervor, but out of genuine solidarity and engaged relationships of trust, and offer numerous helpful tools to encourage our thinking and activist praxis toward that goal. In a short 60 pages, they describe their own experiences, and present a wealth of new organizing theory, much of it developed in collaboration with Bay Area groups such as Movement Generation and the Ruckus Society.

Organizing Cools the Planet urges us to take home some of the most practical, creative, and up-to-date lessons about the ongoing development of social movements, and helps us begin to feel just how these ideas can transform the ways we work and the way we live. The authors challenge and inspire us to be better people, confront our deepest challenges as activists, and also learn to take better care of ourselves. As people around the world are rising up against the elites that have sold out our future, it could not be more timely.

Brian Tokar is the director of the Vermont-based Institute for Social Ecology and the author of Toward Climate Justice: Perspectives on the Climate Crisis and Social Change (New Compass Press, distributed by AK Press, 2010). His other books include Agriculture and Food in Crisis: Conflict, Resistance, and Renewal, co-edited with Fred Magdoff (Monthly Review Press, 2010).

Buy book now | Download e-book now | Back to Hilary Moore's Author page
                                                          Back to Joshua Kahn Russell's Author Page




Found In Translation Imprint


logoFound in Translation is the finest way to experience the abundance of riches outside of the English language. 

Found in Translation

 

 

Purchasing Links

Lonely Hearts Killer
Author: Tomoyuki Hoshino
Publisher: PM Press/Found in Translation
ISBN: 978-1-60486-084-9
Published November 2009
Format: Paperback
Size: 8 by 5
Page count: 232 Pages
Subjects: Fiction
$15.95

What happens when a popular and young emperor suddenly dies, and the only person available to succeed him is his sister?  How can people in an island country survive as climate change and martial law are eroding more and more opportunities for local sustainability and mutual aid?  And what can be done to challenge the rise of a new authoritarian political leadership at a time when the general public is obsessed with fears related to personal and national “security”? These and other provocative questions provide the backdrop for this powerhouse novel about young adults embroiled in what appear to be more private matters – friendships, sex, a love suicide, and struggles to cope with grief and work.

Praise:


“A major novel by Tomoyuki Hoshino, one of the most compelling and challenging writers in Japan today, Lonely Hearts Killer deftly weaves a path between geopolitical events and individual experience, forcing a personal confrontation with the political brutality of the postmodern era. Adrienne Hurley's brilliant translation captures the nuance and wit of Hoshino's exploration of depths that rise to the surface in the violent acts of contemporary youth.”
— Thomas LaMarre, William Dawson Professor of East Asian Studies, McGill University

“Since his debut, Hoshino has used as the core of his writing a unique sense of the unreality of things, allowing him to illuminate otherwise hidden realities within Japanese society. And as he continues to write from this tricky position, it goes without saying that he produces work upon work of extraordinary beauty and power.”
—Yuko Tsushima, Award-winning Japanese Novelist

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Tomoyuki Hoshin's Author Page

Calling All Heroes: A Manual for Taking Power
Author: Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Translated by Gregory Nipper
Publisher: PM Press
Published: July 2010
ISBN: 978-1-60486-205-8
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 128
Dimensions: 5 by 8
Subjects: Fiction, Latin America
$12.00

The euphoric idealism of grassroots reform and the tragic reality of revolutionary failure are at the center of this speculative novel that opens with a real historical event. On October 2, 1968, 10 days before the Summer Olympics in Mexico, the Mexican government responds to a student demonstration in Tlatelolco by firing into the crowd, killing more than 200 students and civilians and wounding hundreds more. The massacre of Tlatelolco was erased from the official record as easily as authorities washing the blood from the streets, and no one was ever held accountable.

It is two years later and Nestor, a journalist and participant in the fateful events, lies recovering in the hospital from a knife wound. His fevered imagination leads him in the collection of facts and memories of the movement and its assassination in the company of figures from his childhood. Nestor calls on the heroes of his youth--Sherlock Holmes, Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp and D'Artagnan among them--to join him in launching a new reform movement conceived by his intensely active imagination.

Reviews:

"Taibo's writing is witty, provocative, finely nuanced and well worth the challenge." --Publishers Weekly

“I am his number one fan…I can always lose myself in one of his novels because of their intelligence and humor. My secret wish is to become one of the characters in his fiction, all of them drawn from the wit and wisdom of popular imagination. Yet make no mistake, Paco Taibo—sociologist and historian—is recovering the political history of Mexico to offer a vital, compelling vision of our reality.” --Laura Esquivel, author of Like Water for Chocolate

“The real enchantment of Mr. Taibo’s storytelling lies in the wild and melancholy tangle of life he sees everywhere.” --New York Times Book Review

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Paco Ignacio Taibo II's Author Page

 

We, the Children of Cats
Author: Tomoyuki Hoshino
Translated by: Brian Bergstrom & Lucy Fraser
Publisher: PM Press/Found in Translation
ISBN: 978-1-60486-591-2
Published August 2012
Format: Paperback
Size: 8 by 5
Page count: 320 Pages
Subjects: Fiction/Literary Collection

$20.00

A man and woman find their genders and sexualities brought radically into question when their bodies sprout new parts, seemingly out of thin air…. A man travels from Japan to Latin America in search of revolutionary purpose and finds much more than he bargains for…. A journalist investigates a poisoning at an elementary school and gets lost in an underworld of buried crimes, secret societies, and haunted forests…. Two young killers, exiled from Japan, find a new beginning as resistance fighters in Peru….

These are but a few of the stories told in We, the Children of Cats, a new collection of provocative early works by Tomoyuki Hoshino, winner of the 2011 Kenzaburo Oe Award in Literature and author of the powerhouse novel Lonely Hearts Killer (PM Press, 2009). Drawing on sources as diverse as Borges, Nabokov, Garcia-Marquez, Kenji Nakagami and traditional Japanese folklore, Hoshino creates a challenging, slyly subversive literary world all his own. By turns teasing and terrifying, laconic and luminous, the stories in this anthology demonstrate Hoshino’s view of literature as “an art that wavers, like a heat shimmer, between joy at the prospect of becoming something else and despair at knowing that such a transformation is ultimately impossible…a novel’s words trace the pattern of scars left by the struggle between these two feelings.” Blending an uncompromising ethical vision with exuberant, free-wheeling imagery and bracing formal experimentation, the five short stories and three novellas included in We, the Children of Cats show the full range and force of Hoshino’s imagination; the anthology also includes an afterword by translator and editor Brian Bergstrom and a new preface by Hoshino himself.

Praise:


“The loosely linked stories collected in We, the Children of Cats home in on everyday events of millennial Japan only to slowly pan out onto alternate realities—voyages, crimes of passion, cultural histories of treason, sudden quarrels and equally sudden truces. Bergstrom and Fraser’s translations brilliantly capture the emotional tones and shape-shifting nature of Hoshino's language. These stories explore the longing to be somewhere, sometime, or even someone else so strongly that reality itself is, before you know it, transfigured.” 
—Anne McKnight, Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies at UCLA, author of Nakagami, Japan: Buraku and the Writing of Ethnicity

“I see [in Hoshino] an ability to truly think through fiction that recalls Kobo Abe.  This superlative ability makes even the most fantastical details and developments read as perfectly natural.” 
—Kenzaburō Oe, Nobel Prize winning author of Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids and Teach Us To Outgrow Our Madness

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Tomoyuki Hoshin's Author Page




Spectacular Fiction Imprint


logoFrom science to speculation and beyond — Spectacular Fiction! offers the best stimulating writing for this world...and all the others.




1. TVA Baby — Terry Bisson
2. Fire on the Mountain — Terry Bisson
3. Sensation — Nick Mamatas

TVA Baby
Author: Terry Bisson
Publisher: PM Press (Spectacular Fiction Series)
ISBN: 978-1-60486-405-2
Published April 2011
Format: Paperback
Size: 8 by 5
Page count: 192 Pages
Subjects: Science Fiction, Short Stories
$14.95

Beginning with a harrowing, high-speed ride through the Upper South (a TVA baby is a good ol’ boy with a Yankee father and a 12-gauge) and ending in a desperate search through New Orleans graveyards for Darwin’s doomsday machine ("Charlie’s Angels"), Terry Bisson’s newest collection of short stories covers all the territory between—from his droll faux-FAQ’s done for Britain’s Science magazine, to the most seductive of his Playboy fantasies ("Private Eye"), to an eerie dreamlike evocation of the 9/11 that might have been ("A Perfect Day"). On the way we meet up with Somali Pirates, a perfect-crime appliance (via Paypal) and a visitor from Atlantis who just wants a burger with fries, please.
 
Readers who like cigarettes, lost continents, cars, lingerie, or the Future will be delighted. For those who don’t, there’s always Reality TV.

Praise:

"Bisson's work is a fresh, imaginative attempt to confront some of the problems of our time. It is the Bissons of the field upon whom the future if science fiction depends.”Washington Post Book World

“With his sharp accuracy and sharp humor, he seems to me the Mark Twain of science fiction." —Kim Stanley Robinson

“Terry Bisson is one of the sharpest short story writers in science fiction today.” Sacramento Book Review

Buy this book now | Download e-Book now | Read reviews | Terry Bisson's Page

Fire on the Mountain
Published: Oct. 2009
ISBN: 978-1-60486-087-0
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 208
Dimensions: 8 by 5
Subjects: Fiction

$15.95

It’s 1959 in socialist Virginia. The Deep South is an independent Black nation called Nova Africa. The second Mars expedition is about to touch down on the red planet. And a pregnant scientist is climbing the Blue Ridge in search of her great-great grandfather, a teenage slave who fought with John Brown and Harriet Tubman’s guerrilla army.

Long unavailable in the US, published in France as Nova Africa, Fire on the Mountain is the story of what might have happened if John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry had succeeded—and the Civil War had been started not by the slave owners but the abolitionists.

 Praise:

"History revisioned, turned inside out ... Bisson's wild and wonderful imagination has taken some strange turns to  arrive at such a destination."
--Madison Smartt Bell, Anisfield-Wolf Award winner and author of Devil's Dream.

“You don’t forget Bisson’s characters, even well after you’ve finished his books. His Fire on the Mountain does for the Civil War what Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle did for World War Two.”
--George Alec Effinger, winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards for Shrödinger’s Kitten, and author of the Marîd Audran trilogy.

“McKinley Cantor and Ward Moore move over! The South has risen again--this time as a brilliantly illuminated black utopia. Terry Bisson’s novel touched my heart, brought tears to my eyes, and kept me thinking about it for days after finishing the book. It’s an astonishing feat of rewriting history into something truly wonderful.”
--Edward Bryant, co-author of Phoenix Without Ashes and winner of two Nebula awards for short stories Stone, and gIANTS.

“Few works have moved me as deeply, as thoroughly, as Terry Bisson’s Fire On The Mountain… With this single poignant story, Bisson molds a world as sweet as banana cream pies, and as briny as hot tears."
--Mumia Abu-Jamal, death row prisoner and author of Live From Death Row, from the Introduction.

Buy this book now | Download e-Book now | Read reviews | Terry Bisson's Page

 

Sensation
Author: Nick Mamatas
Publisher: PM Press (Spectacular Fiction Series)
ISBN: 978-1-60486-354-3
Published May 2011
Format: Paperback
Size: 8 by 5
Length: 208 Pages
Subjects: Science Fiction
$14.95

Love. Politics. Parasitic manipulation. Julia Hernandez left her husband, shot a real-estate developer out to gentrify Brooklyn, and then vanished without a trace. Well, perhaps one or two traces were left... With different personal and consumption habits, Julia has slipped out of the world she knew and into the Simulacrum—a place between the cracks of our existence from which human history is both guided and thwarted by the conflict between a species of anarchist wasp and a collective of hyperintelligent spider. When Julia's ex-husband Raymond spots her in a grocery store he doesn't usually patronize, he's drawn into an underworld of radical political gestures and Internet organizing looking to overthrow a ruling class it knows nothing about—and Julia is the new media sensation of both this world and the Simulacrum.

Told ultimately from the collective point of view of another species, Sensation plays with the elements of the Simulacrum we all already live in: media reports, businessspeak, blog entries, text messages, psychological evaluation forms, and the always fraught and kindly lies lovers tell one another.

Praise:

“Nick Mamatas continues his reign as the sharpest, funniest, most insightful and political purveyor of post-pulp pleasures going. He is the People's Commissar of Awesome.”—China Miéville, award-winning author of Kraken and The City and the City

"Nick Mamatas’ brilliant comic novel, Sensation, reads like an incantation that both vilifies and celebrates the complex absurdity of the modern world."—Lucius Shepard, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

"The Majestic Plural, or Royal We, is well known—Sensation introduces the Arachnid Plural, the we of spiders, the ones that live inside you. The spiders care about you—deeply—and want to use you in a millennial war against certain parasitic wasps. No, I was wrong. The spiders only want to help. So let them in."—Zachary Mason, the New York Times best-selling author of The Lost Books of the Odyssey

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Read Reviews | Nick Mamatas's Page




The Green Arcade Imprint


logoThe Green Arcade is a curated bookstore in San Francisco that represents challenging ideas and promotes the preservation and fostering of cultures and planet. The Green Arcade: Sustainability in all colors.


1. Low BiteSin Soracco
2. A Moment of Doubt — Jim Nisbet
3. Edge CitySin Soracco
4. Against Architecture — Franco La Cecla
5. Snitch World — Jim Nisbet

 

Low Bite
Author: Sin Soracco
Publisher: PM Press/The Green Arcade
ISBN: 978-1-60486-226-3
Published May 2010 (2nd edition)
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 144 Pages
Size: 8.5 by 5.5
Subjects: Fiction
$14.95

Low Bite: Sin Soracco’s prison novel about survival, dignity, friendship and insubordination. The view from inside a women’s prison isn’t a pretty one, and Morgan, the narrator, knows that as well as anyone. White, female, 26, convicted of night time breaking and entering with force, she works in the prison law library, giving legal counsel of more-or-mostly-less usefulness to other convicts. More useful is the hootch stash she keeps behind the law books.

And she has plenty of enemies--like Johnson, the lesbian-hating warden, and Alex, the “pretty little dude” lawyer who doesn’t like her free legal advice. Then there’s Rosalie and Birdeye--serious rustlers whose loyalty lasts about as long as their cigarettes hold out. And then there’s China: Latina, female, 22, holding US citizenship through marriage, convicted of conspiracy to commit murder--a dangerous woman who is safer in prison than she is on the streets. They’re all trying to get through without getting caught or going straight, but there’s just one catch--a bloodstained bank account that everybody wants, including some players on the outside.

Low Bite: an underground classic reprinted at last and the first title in the new imprint from The Green Arcade.

About the Author:

Sin Soracco, author of Edge City, lives mostly in the Mission District of San Francisco and along the outer edges of madness on the Lower Russian River in Sonoma Country, California.

Praise:

“Vicious, funny, cunning, ruthless, explicit...a tough original look at inside loves and larcenies.”
--Kirkus Reviews

“Tells a gripping story concerning a group of women in a California prison:  their crimes, their relationships, their hopes and dreams.”
--Publisher’s Weekly

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Sin Soracco's Page 

 
 
A Moment of Doubt
Author: Jim Nisbet
Publisher: Green Arcade / PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-307-9
Published: November 2010
Format: Paperback
Size: 8 by 5
Page count: 144
Subjects: Fiction
$13.95

A Moment of Doubt is at turns hilarious, thrilling and obscene. Jim Nisbet’s novella is ripped from the zeitgeist of the 80s, and set in a sex-drenched San Francisco, where the computer becomes the protagonist’s co-conspirator and both writer and machine seem to threaten the written word itself.

The City as whore provides a backdrop oozing with drugs, poets and danger. Nisbet has written a mad-cap meditation on the angst of a writer caught in a world where the rent is due, new technology offers up illicit ways to produce the latest bestseller, and the detective and other characters of the imagination might just sidle up to the bar and buy you a drink in real life. The world of A Moment of Doubt is the world of phone sex, bars and bordellos, AIDS and the lure of hacking. Coming up against the rules of the game--the detective genre itself, has never been such a nasty and gender defying challenge.

Plus: An interview with Jim Nisbet, who is “Still too little read in the United States, it's a joy for us that Nisbet has been recognized here..." Regards: Le Mouvement des Idées

About the Author:

San Francisco writer Jim Nisbet has published eleven novels, including the acclaimed Lethal Injection. He has also published five volumes of poetry. His novel, Dark Companion, was shorted-listed for the 2006 Hammett Prize. Various of his works have been translated into French, German, Japanese, Italian, Polish, Hungarian, Greek, Russian and Romanian.  2010 could be named “The Year of Jim Nisbet” as, in addition to the PM/Green Arcade publication of A Moment of Doubt, Jim has a new hardcover, Windward Passage (winner of the San Francisco Book Festival 2010 Award for Best Science Fiction) from Overlook Press, along with two reprints, kicking off Overlook's reissue of Jim's entire backlist, beginning with the long out of print Lethal Injection, and, to finish off an amazing four-novel year, The Damned Don't Die

Praise:

"He is as weird as the world. And for some readers, that's a quality to cherish. It's as if Nisbet inhabited and wrote from a world right next to ours, only weirder."
--Rick Kleffel, bookotron.com

"Missing any book by Nisbet should be considered a crime in all 50 states and maybe against humanity.”
--Bill Ott, Booklist

 

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Jim Nisbit's Page 

 

Against Architecture
By Barry Graham
ISBN: 978-1-60486-451-9
Published July 2011
Format: Paperback
Size: 8 by 5.5
Page count: 172 Pages
Subjects: Fiction

$14.95

First published in 2008, (as Contro l’architettura), Against Architecture has been translated into French and Greek, with editions forthcoming in Polish and Portuguese. The book is a passionate and erudite charge against the celebrities of the current architectural world, the “archistars.” According to Franco La Cecla, architecture has lost its way and its true function, as the archistars use the cityscape to build their brand, putting their stamp on the built environment with no regard for the public good.

More than a diatribe against the trade for which he trained, Franco La Cecla issues a call to rethink urban space, to take our cities back from what he calls Casino Capitalism, which has left a string of failed urban projects, from the Sagrera of Barcelona to the expansion of Columbia University in New York City. He finds hope and some surprising answers in the 2006 uprisings in the Parisian suburbs and in wandering the streets of San Francisco. La Cecla recounts his peregrinations, whether as a consultant to urban planners or as an incorrigible flaneur, all the while giving insights into how we might find a way to resist the tyranny of the planners and find the spirit of place. As he comments throughout on the works of past and present masters of urban and landscape writing, including Robert Byron, Mike Davis, and Rebecca Solnit, Franco La Cecla has given us a book that will take an important place in our public discourse.

About the Author:

Born in Palermo in 1950, Franco La Cecla is a renowned anthropologist and architect. He has taught anthropology in many European and Italian cities such as Palermo, Venice, Verona, Paris, and Barcelona. In 2005 he founded the Architecture Social Impact Assessment, ASIA, an agency that evaluates the social impact of architectural and city planning projects. In addition he has created several documentaries, one of which, In Altro Mare (In Another Sea) won the Best Coastal Culture Film award at the 2010 San Francisco Ocean Film Festival. Franco La Cecla is currently in production with RAI television on a series based on Against Architecture.

Praise:

“To tell the truth, Franco La Cecla is not wrong. There is too much building, sometimes only to put a signature, a stamp on a spot, without any worry about the people who are going to live there. In other situations it is easy to be used by the institutions that support speculation. It is the reason why I refused many projects, because, I am lucky—and I can choose.”  —Renzo Piano in La Repubblica

“La Cecla's book is a delight, in the way that he dismantles the glory of the 'archistar' in their proud myopic grandeur that totally ignores people and their rights to a better urban life.”  —Sebastian Courtois, La Reforme

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Franco La Cecla's Page


Edge City
Author: Sin Soracco
Publisher: PM Press/Green Arcade
ISBN: 978-1-60486-503-5
Published May 2012
Format: Paperback
Size: 8.5 by 5.5
Page count: 240 Pages
Subjects: Fiction
$16.95

Edge City, from the author of Low Bite, takes place in an every-noir-city (a thinly veiled portrait of San Francisco’s North Beach) and its newest resident is Reno, an angry fledgling just hatched out of prison. Getting out is like a weird dream, and the streets of the City are a muddle of sensations pooling around her.
 
First there’s the bustle—everybody busy with mysterious businesses—an amplifying racket of choices. Staggering out onto the late night streets of the City, Reno ends up at the infamous Istanbul Club: dim lights, Arabic music and the sensual Su’ad dancing. Music, booze, babes and drugs: what more could a felonious girl want?

She encounters Huntington, the poisonous charmer who lives above the Club—perverse and powerful in the way only the wealthy can be. Eddie, the underage bartender, is happy to chemically enhance every waking moment. Slowmotion, the sound light technician, huge and darkly mysterious, has connections to people and places that Reno didn’t even know exist. Slowmotion’s elegant friend, Poppy, offers mental transport to realms beyond Xanadu; in her little valise there’s everything necessary for any trip, including the hallucinogenic “Teeth of Idi Amin.”

The owner of the club, handsome gambler Sinclair, hires Reno to waitress. Grumbling, drinking, snarling and swearing, Reno bangs her way through everyone else’s complicated plans, entangling herself in a byzantine labyrinth of betrayal, revenge, general mayhem, and yes, good times.

About the Author:

Sin Soracco, author of Edge City, lives mostly in the Mission District of San Francisco and along the outer edges of madness on the Lower Russian River in Sonoma Country, California.

Praise:

“Brilliant…Edge City is truly an extraordinary book in every way: story, people, atmosphere, writing.”
—Hubert Selby, Jr., author of Last Exit to Brooklyn

“Sin Soracco cooks! Her writing is beyond hip—it struts and whistles down the last dark mile. Edge City, like her Low Bite, is the bad girl’s version of Mean Streets, an unbeatable double-feature for the fearless.”
—Barry Gifford, author of Wild at Heart

"Dark and sultry . . . an illuminating view of hell as a nightclub that never closes."
New York Times

Snitch World
Author: Jim Nisbet
Publisher: PM Press/Green Arcade
ISBN: 978-1-60486-681-0
Published January 2013
Format: Paperback
Size: 8 by 5
Page count: 192 Pages
Subjects: Fiction
$14.95

“The Miata jumped the curb and sheared off a light pole. The impact deployed the airbags, but Chainbang was ready. He knifed Klinger’s before it was fully inflated and his own before it could crush the glass pipe in his breast pocket. The six-inch blade went through the nylon like a pit bull through a kindergarten.”

So, what kind of world is this Snitch World? In the new novel from noir master Jim Nisbet, it is actually made up of different worlds, some old and some new—with the old-time petty criminals like Chainbang and Klinger, but also with a nouveau femme fatale, whose tools of the criminal trade are from the new economy. Snitch World takes place in a San Francisco of menacing technology, where the old cons come up short and the crimes of the night turn into crimes done in the light of day—or from the glow of a smartphone.

Klinger hangs out at the Hawse Hole Bar and Grille, a pretty bad dive even by Tenderloin standards. All he really wants is enough to have a cup of coffee, buy some cigarettes, make it through the day, and find a warm, dry place to sleep. All accomplished by the next easy grift. Little does Klinger know that the rules of the game have changed, and the stakes are higher than he could ever guess, or even care about. The seemingly simple act of rolling a drunk begins a series of events that get stranger by the moment. Jim Nisbet, with his characteristic humor and brilliant prose, creates a world where to trust is to possibly sacrifice all.

This is Snitch World, where an IPO is as deadly as a night in the sack. Snitch World includes a recent interview with Jim Nisbet, in conversation with Patrick Marks, owner of The Green Arcade, talking about writing, publishing, and technology.

Praise:

""Missing any book by Nisbet should be considered a crime in all 50 states and maybe against humanity.”
—Bill Ott, Booklist

"Jim Nisbet is a poet…[who] resembles no other crime fiction writer. He mixes the irony of Dantesque situations with lyric narration, and achieves a luxuriant cocktail that truly leaves the reader breathless."
Drood's Review of Mysteries

"Jim Nisbet is a lot more than just good...powerful, provocative…Nisbet's style has overtones of Walker Percy's smooth southern satin, but his characters—losers, grifters, con men—hark back to the days of James M. Cain's twisted images of morality."
Toronto Globe-Mail

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Jim Nisbets's Page
 



Progress or Change? Cory Doctorow's The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow

By Stefan Raets
Tor.com
November 1, 2011

When we meet Jimmy Yensid, the hero of Cory Doctorow’s new novella The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, he is aboard his giant mecha and hunting down a wumpus in the abandoned city of Detroit, until he comes under attack from a rival group of mechas. The resulting action scene is spectacular—and really made me want to dig out my ancient Mechwarrior games—but as you’d expect from Doctorow, there’s much more going on than meets the eye.


Jimmy is a transhuman boy, genetically engineered to be as close to immortal as you can get. The wumpuses are ravenous mechanical monsters who consume any non-organic matter they find and recycle it into arable soil. Meanwhile, Jimmy’s father is actually trying to preserve Detroit, the last standing city in the United States, as a historical artifact.


The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow is the latest installment in the wonderful Outspoken Authors series by PM Press. In addition to the title novella, the book also contains the text of Cory’s “Creativity vs. Copyright” address to the 2010 World Science Fiction Convention, and a scintillating interview conducted by Terry Bisson. I don’t use the word “scintillating” very often: this really is an excellent, informative, fun conversation between two sparkling minds, and its inclusion adds considerable value to the book. The main course, however, is of course the grim but wonderful title novella.


The central theme Doctorow is playing with throughout The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow is progress, or maybe more exactly, progress versus change. As Jimmy puts it:

[...] we didn’t have “progress” anymore. We’d outgrown progress. What we had was change. Things changed whenever anyone wanted to change them: design and launch a fleet of wumpuses, or figure out a way to put an emotional antenna in your head, or create a fleet of killer robots, or invent immortality, or gengineer your goats to give silk. Just do it. It’ll catch on, or it won’t. Maybe it’ll catch itself on. Then the world is... different. Then someone else changes it.


The world Jimmy lives in is a dystopian wasteland. Detroit is the last standing city. Jimmy and his dad live in the abandoned Comerica Park baseball stadium. One of their prized possessions is the lovingly restored Carousel of Progress exhibit from Disneyworld. In this future, technology has taken enormous strides, but the result isn’t a streamlined, high-tech world: all we see is an abandoned city, or a cult-like mini-society that monitors and equalizes everyone’s emotions, or a guerrilla movement in the wilderness trying to preserve its last vestiges of functioning technology from the ecological warfare of the rampant wumpuses.

In the world of The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, change doesn’t equal progress.


Likewise our hero Jimmy. His gengineered state causes him to age at an incredibly slow pace. Throughout several decades he stays stuck on the edge of prepubescence, struggling with his urges and dreams and hormonal drives. Much like the animatronic family in the Carousel of Progress, he’s frozen in time. The status quo slowly drives him crazy: he desperately wants to grow up, wants to find a “cure” for his immortality, but will growing up be an improvement? Peter Pan is actually being forced to remain a boy forever, and he wants to grow up. It’s Disney in reverse (notice Jimmy’s last name?) and coming from an author who’s written some excellent YA novels in recent years, it’s really a startling plot device.


The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow
is filled with people and factions and groups who try to change the world for the better, often with horrific results, usually aiming for or resulting in a scary status quo that offers peace in the form of perpetual stagnation. Characters like Jimmy and his father struggle to maintain an identity in the constant onslaught of uniformity, whether it’s a cult that turns its members’ personalities into emotional mush or a machine that turns anything artificial into mulch. The title, which refers to a song on the Carousel of Progress soundtrack, has to be one of the most cynical lines in Doctorow’s bibliography. Even though much of this novella is an entertaining read, the end result is as grim as it gets for Doctorow. Don’t get me wrong: I loved The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow and recommend it wholeheartedly, but reading it is a sobering experience if you come into it expecting the exuberant techno-optimism often found in Cory’s fiction and non-fiction.


The only real complaint I have about this novella is simply that it’s, well, a novella. It’s just too short.

There’s more than enough material here for a full length novel. The story is divided in four sections, and the final two are considerably shorter than the first ones. This makes those last two chapters, especially the final one, feel like an extended epilogue, which is a shame because they contain some of the most startling ideas and revelations in the entire book. It’s always a good sign when you want any piece of fiction to be longer than it really is—if anything, it’s an indication that the signal-to-noise ratio is very high—but in this case the transitions between the chapters are a bit abrupt, and the story’s resolution feels almost rushed. I would have happily read another few hundred pages, filling in the gaps and expanding the story and the characters, but much like in the Carousel of Progress, there’s no filler between the brief flashes we’re shown of the characters’ lives.

For fans of Cory Doctorow, reading The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow will be a no-brainer. Grim as it is, it’s also as thought-provoking as anything he’s written. If you’re new to the author, start with the interview in the back of the book to get a taste of the fireworks factory that is Cory Doctorow’s mind, then read the novella for an example of why he’s a cultural force to be reckoned with, and finish up with the “Copyright vs. Creativity” speech to get a quick rundown of some of Cory’s core beliefs. This is a lovely little book in every respect, from its stylish design to its phenomenal content.

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What Would It Mean to Win? in Social Movement Studies Journal

By Bertie Russell
School of Geography, University of Leeds
Social Movement Studies Journal
April 2011

Published by PM Press in the latter half of 2010, What Would It Mean To Win? contains a provocative set of texts that compel us to ask questions of ourselves and of the movement which we are endlessly producing. The Turbulence Collective have previously produced four publications timed for distribution at moments of "movement visibility," such as the August 2008 UK Camp for Climate Action at Kingsnorth power station and the December 2009 COP15 protests in Denmark.

The stated aim of these publications is to provide a space "in which to think through, debate and articulate the political, social, economic and cultural theories of our movements, as well as the networks of diverse practices and alternatives that surround them" (see http://turbulence.org.uk/). Along with an unpublished interview with two members of the collective and a foreword by John Holloway, Turbulence’s most recent offering brings together two previous publications—What would it mean to win? and Move into the light?—originally published immediately before and after the 2007 anti-G8 protests in Heiligendamm. As such, What Would It Mean To Win? contains contributions from a wide range of participants from social movements in Europe, Latin America, and North America.

To ask why these texts have been republished three years later is to ask what has remained the same (and what is profoundly different) about the movements being critically explored. Far from an attempt to immortalize the texts, or to capture movement knowledge(s) within some abstract yet destructive academic assessment framework, the republication of these texts serves a reminder that we must constantly keep reassessing the efficacy of our politics. Rather than taking refuge in refrains—inhabiting a world of recognition—we must constantly look for those excesses that move us beyond the present. Indeed, it is precisely this ‘moving beyond the present’ that is constitutive of movement.

To read more, please check out Social Movement Studies Journal website or visit your local library.

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What Would It Mean to Win? in Radical Philosophy Journal

by Gavin Grindon
Radical Philosophy Journal 169
September/October 2011

The notion of "inquiry" as a critical practice has its origins in Operaist or more broadly autonomist thought. In arguing that, as opposed to any assumption of a 'timeless' notion of working-class identity, a grasp of the composition of working-class movements was crucial, and that bourgeois sociology should not have a monopoly in this area, both Operaists and French and American council communists published examinations of workers' conditions, such as Daniel Mothe's dairy of a French autoworker in Socialisme ou Barbarie or the Johnson-Forrest Tendency's American Worker. More recently, the notion has become popular among Western scholars, artists and activists engaged with social movements in a rather broader sense, though it has often remained more of a proposition than a developed methodology or practice, something suggested by the proliferation of initial terms around militant inquiry, militant investigation, militant research and so on; as well as by various attempts to extend this inquiry not only to particular working conditions but also, for example, to the role of affect, or even sound, in the composition of movements (see, for instance, the work of Ultra Red or the Carrot Workers Collective).

Reclaim the Streets and other groups immediately prior to the current conjuncture produced a number of Reflections on . . . texts inviting and collecting critiques and evaluations of particular actions, but in the present there have been fewer examples of these broadly autonomist ideas being marshaled directly as part of the self-critique and strategy of movements.

In the UK the Free Association have been a notable exception, with five issues of the irregular publication Turbulence: Ideas for Movement, first distributed for free during the mobilization against the G8 in 2007 in Heiligendamm, Germany, and more recently among the UK's Climate Camp mobilizations. The journal builds a kind of accessible toolkit of post-structuralist materialism which uses broad metaphors (Summits and Plateaus, What Would it Mean to Win?) to open up timely, grounded and practical examinations of the ideas and practices of particular movements. Many of these articles have been collected together in the excellent What Would It Mean to Win?, published by PM Press. (Recently, something similar was attempted by a different group, in the midst of the UK Student Protests, in two issues of a journal simply titled The Paper.) Turbulence's book springs from a particular moment of crisis, critically examining the state of the anti-globalization movement when it seems to be waning, becoming something else. As such it is far more than a document of the changing ideas, debates and practices of a movement; it offers valuable tools and provocations for the present moment.

In the USA, the collective Team Colors appear to be influences not just by this current of inquiry, but by the particular example of Turbulence, who have a similar political background in autonomous social movements since the 1990s. Unsurprisingly, they thus attempt a similar publishing strategy, transposed into the context of social struggles in the USA, as the metaphorical extension of the book's subtitle, "movement, movements . . ." suggests. Team Colors have produced a number of articles previously, as well as the pocketbook Winds from Below: Radical Community Organizing to Make a Revolution Possible, but rather than collecting a cumulative series of critical interventions penned by one group and distributed across the sites of particular mobilizations, their latest book functions more as a conceptual overview of movements in the USA; a project both more and less ambitious. Less because it functions as only a single publication, but more because it attempts to use an edited collection of diverse writing to survey a vast area across four thematic sections: Organization Case Studies, Movement Strategies, Theoretical Analyses, and Interviews. The text takes to this difficult task admirably, and rather than Turbulence's broader and strategically focused conceptual accounts of movements, offers a fascinating comparative survey including older groups such as Roadblock Earth First! Alongside the Starbucks Workers Union, Student/Farmer Alliance, and Picture the Homeless. Perhaps this approach is also—and this is my own European supposition—because these autonomist tendencies are less widespread among movements themselves in the USA, or because across the USA such movements are more diffuse in their focus and strategy, and the text functions partly as a conversation between these tendencies. In either case it is a substantial text that sill manages to include valuable and timely critical reflections on current movement concerns internationally, such as in Daniel Tucker's account of the work of AREA Chicago on the particular relevance of urban contexts, Getting to Know Your City and the Social Movements That Call it Home, or Chris Carlsson's essay on the affects of ageing, tiredness and the life of movements, "Radical Patience: Feeling Effective Over the Long Haul."

Both texts, focusing on the current moment of European and American radical social movements, form not only an impressive and useful document of their changing debates, focus and constitution over the last few years, but more importantly—especially given the recent turn to anti-austerity movements on both continents—offer grounded and practical strategic provocations that consider what we've got, and where we go from here.

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Chin Wag At The Slaughterhouse: Interview with Gary Phillips

By Richard Godwin
The Slaughterhouse
October 2, 2011

Mystery and crime writer Gary Phillips has led an interesting life. He was involved in easing racial tensions through community organizing and policy after the 1992 LA riots.

He is a widely published novelist and author of numerous graphic novels, including recently the brilliant Cowboys, illustrated by Brian Hurtt, in which a nightclub shooting changes the lives of two undercover officers.

Gary met me at The Slaughterhouse where we talked about the graphic novel and crime writing.

Do you think kindle lends itself to the graphic novel and what are the differences between writing one for kindle and writing for traditional paperback?

Not sure if the Kindle lends itself well to the graphic novel format. I know from the guy now converting Angeltown: The Nate Hollis Investigations—out now from Moonstone, y’all—for the e-book format told me he’s had to break up some of the pages as Kindle scrunches graphics and so say a page with seven panels would have to be two pages on the machine, four on one page and three on the following. That suggests as a writer providing a script to the artist, I would handle the pacing different, where are the dramatic breaks, mini-cliffhangers from one page to the next, and so on, differently if I was writing for the electronic medium.

For instance I’ve talked to younger guys at the comic shop I frequent, Comics Ink in Culver City, and some have talked about they prefer the printed comic book page as opposed to say scrolling panel by panel on an iPhone. I’m sure there are others who dig it that way. Clearly the various electronic formats create a different set of challenges to storytelling. Fact, I believe there’s been a graphic novel written solely for the so-called Smart Phone. I wonder how well it did, how many hits it got—how much was cost a factor?

To what extent do you think writers are motivated by a fear of death?

That’s a great question. Yes, I do find some small comfort in the notion that when I’m gone there will be, like this image from the recent film version of Wells’ The Time Machine, this massive crumbling library of marble and Ionic columns where among the stacks of crumbling books, there will be a copy or two of my books. Of course as soon as you touch the outside of one, it’ll disintegrate into dust. But what about this age of the Kindle? How will my bid for minimal immortality be realized if my books are only in electronic format? For surely there will be this world wide electromagnetic pulse the aliens or our mad scientists unleash and all this information is wiped in the Ethernet. Then what? Man.

Do you see the struggle of Social Darwinism at work in your novels as they portray crime and to what extent do you think the same forces are at work in the police force?


That’s a pretty high-minded concept but certainly on some level isn’t the crime and mystery story about that? We know there are various levels of crime from the street hoodlum to the Wall Street insider. We also know the one as Woody Guthrie sang, can do more thievery with a pen than with a gun. But really the lowly detective is hard pressed to truly bring down the powerful. Maybe the detective, be they private or on the police force, can hope to alter events to protect an individual or a small group but it’s not realistic to think they could say bring down a massive, multi-tentacled entity say in the mold of Halliburton or a Blackwater or whatever it is they calling themselves these days.

That doesn’t mean your protagonist can’t expose the wrong-doing of such a global spanning organization, but of course they would have at their command a phalanx of lawyers and public relations personnel to spin, obfuscate and delay, for years, justice. The detective at best seeks a modicum of balancing the scales. Not that they wouldn’t want more, but I think gone are the days when at the end of the novel or the movie the hero has managed to get the incriminating evidence in the hands of the intrepid reporter and the bad guys goose is coked. These days it’s just as likely the evil corporation owns the news outlet and can kill the story that way or more likely, get a few underlings to take the fall.

Conversely, it’s still compelling to read stories of thieves who operate in their own underworld and when they clash, it’s a head up kind of confrontation be one of the thieves a crime lord or even a crooked politician. There are rules after all to screwing the public and these chaps step too far out of line.

In terms of the police versus the little guy, that’s a different story. There are far too many stories of the poor and people of color being ground up in the machinery of the criminal justice system. There are now numerous cases of men who were convicted by juries of their peers, where damning eyewitness testimony was introduced against them who now 10, 20, 30 years later DNA evidence clears them. How many studies have demonstrated the unreliability of eyewitnesses. Or the power of the police to coerce confession after grilling you over and over for hours in the interrogation room. Big dog eat little dog indeed.

Tell us about The Underbelly.

The explosion of wealth and development in downtown L.A. is a thing of wonder. However, regardless of how big and shiny our buildings get, we should not forget the underbelly, the ones who this wealth and development has overlooked and pushed out. The Underbelly is a novella with this as context as a semi-homeless Vietnam vet named Magrady searches for a friend in a wheelchair gone missing from Skid Row— a friend who might be working a dangerous scheme against major players. Magrady’s journey is a solo sortie where the flashback prone protagonist must deal with the impact of gentrification; take-no-prisoners community organizers; an unflinching cop with whom he has a past in Vietnam; an elderly sexpot out for his bones; a lusted after magical skull; chronic-lovin’ knuckleheads; and the perils of chili cheese fries at midnight.

Roland Barthes introduced the concept of anchorage, in which linguistic elements can serve to ‘anchor’ the preferred readings of an image, he used this primarily in relation to advertisements but also to comics. How much more freedom do you find as a writer when writing comics and do you think the juxtaposition of image and words allows you to do things that you cannot when writing pure text?

So, on comics, well, it’s this great bastard form of storytelling, isn’t it? relatively cheap and disposable, tales of super heroes and monsters and all manner of fantastic going-ons. Then there’s crime comics too and even mixtures where the incredible mixes with the criminal. Batman certainly embodies this has he is both costumed adventurer yet employs the classic methods of detection—computer analysis, hairs and fibers catalogued in his brain, and so on—and like Mike Hammer on steroids, can beat the holy crap out of a suspect.

Anyway, scripting comics is great because the writer gets to use visuals along with words to tell the tale.

It does allow you a certain short-hand you can’t do in prose. After all in prose, you have to describe the PI’s seedy office, what the nightclub looks like in the smoky gloom and what have you. In comics these atmospheric ques are the purview of the artist and colorist. How much more then does it make the stuff in your head be realized on the page. But comics scripts like teleplays and screenplays have their limitations in the form of little room for long passages of text—dialogue in particular. This is a short hand process so the leisure you have of real estate in a prose novel is severely curtailed when the idea is to have visuals and text work in concert in comics.

It’s not inherently more freedom, rather another way to excite the senses . . . I hope.

Is there a particular experience that has influenced your writing?

Huh, I’d say all of it but in particular when I wrote what would become my first published novel, Violent Spring, set in the aftermath of the 1992 civil unrest, riots, uprising, describe it as you will (this the result of the not guilty verdict for the four cops who beat motorist Rodney King) here in L.A., I drew on immediate experience. I was a co-director of a non-profit begun after the riots to better race relations through community organizing and affecting policy. So I would be at some meeting in the morning in a downtown highrise talking with the so-called insiders of the city, the movers and shakers, and at night be in a meeting in a housing project (estates you call them I believe) with gang members looking to spread their gang truce—which had been formulated prior to the uprising.

Do you think political correctness is workable and has improved racial equality or is it the patronising attempt by a white liberal mentality to ease its own conscience and has it exacerbated racial tensions?


Oh what a loaded question. Like most things, and I’m not exactly sure where political correctness sprang from, though I suspect the halls of academia, the initial impulse was a good thing. Certainly it was a reaction to having others define the realities of people of color and what we used to call the Third World and now we refer to as Emerging Nations. I’m down with that. But as these matters go, some practitioners of PC-ness took themselves too damn seriously and there was a backlash. But I don’t feel PC has contributed to racial tensions. There’s plenty of teabaggers, gun nuts, GOPers and neo-nazis out there who did that day in and day out.

Do you think sexual pathology is behind extreme crime and how does it differ between the sexes?


I can’t say on the first part of your question as I’m no headshrinker. I will say as someone who utilizes pop psychology in hardboiled stories that sexual tensions, lust and mutual attraction of course play a role in the make up of the male and female characters who populate those tales. These attractions are part of what compels these folks, people who pay the gas bill and mow the lawn and do the dishes, to take a step out of line or pursue what any reasonable person—you the reader—can see is a foolish undertaking. But they are engulfed in a hormonal fog . . . they are in its spell and what chance do they have?

What do you think of the present administration in the US and its relationship to the pharmaceutical companies?

I don’t know what the Obama Administration’s relationship is to Big Pharma other than, like any administration, Dems or GOPers, I assume they dance to their tune to a lessor or greater degree. I’ve always been fascinated by Big Pharma concerns, their inter-locking boards, other companies their have monies in, and of course, as an example, withholding a pill that can help prevent HIV infection—or really charging way too much for it—can literally adversely affect countries in Africa. That is immense power. In the past I’ve tried to plot out a storyline involving Big Pharma with little success. The lone scientist who invents the miracle cancer drug and the scramble to either kill this guy or buy this guy off by the forces of Big Pharma. But we’ve kind of seen that. Your question has me thinking more on this . . .

Why did you become a writer?


I became a writer somewhat by default. When I was a kid growing up in then South Central L.A., I read comic books—still do in fact and occasional do some story writing in that medium. Anyway, me and my cousin Wayne used to trace over these dynamically drawn panels in say Captain America by Jack Kirby and put in our own dialogue. This hooked me to want to write and draw my own comics and tried to do that over the years, creating my own characters and taking art lessons and so on. Turned out I’m not much of an artist but the idea of being a storyteller—it also helped that while I played sports in school I was a big recreational reader—had me hooked. I’ve at least been able to “paint” with words.

Thank you for an insightful and wide ranging interview Gary that I hope will introduce your work to many readers.

Gary’s graphic novel Cowboys can be had at Amazon in the US and UK and many other online bookshops —see Goodreads for a complete list of online stores. Read a review on Barnes & Noble here.

Send My Love and a Molotov Cocktail! is an anthology Gary co-edited with Andrea Gibbons. Read more and see the full list of contributors at PM Press. Get a copy there or at Amazon US and UK, Barnes & Noble, or Powell’s.


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