First of all, I’ve been interviewed once again and answer 5 questions for authors and talk a bit about Murder in the Family at Randomize Me. You can also find links to other interviews I have done around the web archived at my Interviews page.
First of all, here’s a fascinating untold story involving Rainer Werner Fassbinder, probably the most famous director of the new German cinema of the 1970s and early 1980s. I freely admit that I’m not a fan of Fassbinder’s work, with two exceptions: One is the stageplay Bremer Freiheit, based on the case of Gesche Gottfried, a 19th century female serial killer and last person to be publicly executed in Bremen. Fassbinder worked at the Bremen theatre in the late 1960s and early 1970s and came upon the story while here. I played the lead in a school theatre performance of the play some twenty years ago.
The other Fassbinder work I like is his 1974 film Angst Essen Seele Auf (Fear eats the soul), the story of a German cleaning lady, played by legendary actress Brigitte Mira, who falls in love with and marries a much younger man from Morocco. Predictably, it doesn’t end well.
Now director Viola Shafik has uncovered the secret behind Angst Essen Seele Auf and tells a fascinating tale of gay love, racism among supposedly enlightened 1970s intellectuals and a broken family. In short: Fassbinder, who was gay (one of the few openly gay public figures of the time), met El Hedi Ben Alem, the actor who played Brigitte Mira’s Moroccan lover Ali, in Paris. The two of them had an affair, even though Ben Alem was married and had a family in Morocco. Fassbinder, who apparently dreamed of a family and children, brought two of Ben Alem’s four children to Germany, only to turn out to be utterly useless as a father. One of the kids was stuck in Germany for several years, neglected and alone. Meanwhile, Fassbinder’s supposedly so enlightened leftwing friends were showing their racist backsides. The story did not end happily for anybody involved. Fassbinder and Ben Alem eventually broke up. Both died young, Ben Alem in 1976 in a prison in France and Fassbinder in 1982.
On a slightly related note, Strange Horizons has a great article by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz about writing, identity and how difficult it can be to break free from western and more specifically US storytelling tropes as well as from western/US expectations how an authentic [insert nationality here] story should sound. At some level all of us writers from outside the US (as well as writers from minority cultures in the US) struggle with this, even those who like me come from countries that are considered part of the western world.
Nick Mamatas responds to the latest “literary fiction is superior to genre fiction” article by Arthur Krystal, who seems to specialize in such fare, in the New Yorker.
Pulp scholar Jess Nevins has an interesting article on German SF pulp fiction between approx. 1900 and 1945 at iO9. The headline about totalitarian regimes is a bit hyperbolic, because of the three different political systems that existed in Germany between 1900 and 1945 only the Third Reich was unabashedly totalitarian. You could probably make a case for the Second German Empire as a totalitarian state, though personally I’d view it more as an attempt at a constitutional monarchy that did not work very well. The Weimar Republic, meanwhile, was a democratic system, though again one that did not work very well and turned into a quasi-totalitarian state from 1930 and a fully totalitarian one from 1933/1934 on.
But otherwise it’s a good comprehensive overview of early 20th century German pulp fiction, though there’s a lot more to the story of Walter Kabel and his creation detective Harald Harst. I’ll probably write an essay about that some day and put it in the collection of my scattered essays on German pulp fiction (check the bibliography for an overview) that I’m planning to self-publish someday. It’s a complete for the love project, since I doubt a collection of essays about obscure German pulp characters will sell more than a handful of copies. But there is so little information about many of those characters and writers out there and even less in English that I still think collecting my own essays, now all out of print, will be worthwhile.
The Washington Post has an article on the impact Nora Roberts and her books have had on her hometown Boonsboro in Maryland. I’m always happy to see writers stay wherever they feel at home rather than pack up and move to Berlin or Brooklyn or some other supposedly hip place.
Lynn Viehl at Paperback Writer has some great tips for how to create portraits of characters for personal usage. This might come in handy for someone as artistically challenged as me.
Wordplayer has a great article by Stephen King on writing description.