I’m not sure whether this hit the news abroad at all, but the German TV station ARD did an exclusive TV interview with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. I only stumbled across the interview by accident, because I was waiting for the literary program Druckfrisch to begin, since ARD did not do much to promote it and hid the interview in a graveyard slot at 11 PM, the same graveyard slot usually occupied by Druckfrisch, which is a scandal in itself. However, you can watch the whole thing, in English even, at their website.
Over at Pegasus Pulp, I talk about the novella form and why it is ideal for certain genres and subgenres.
Jo Walton has an interesting post about swearing in science fiction and fantasy at Tor.com. I find her observations quite interesting, especially since I never really noticed that swearing became more common in SF novels between the 1980s and 1990s, though that was exactly the time I started reading SF in English.
But then, Germans are not all that sensitive towards swearing, especially not in my generation and so the controversy in the 1980s about tough cop Horst Schimanski (played by Götz George) saying “Scheiße” on German TV seemed very silly to me at the time and seems even sillier in retrospect, since Dietmar Schönherr had already said it on Raumpatrouille Orion back in 1966, albeit used as an adjective. It’s also used in adjective form in Salto Mortale, a German TV drama about a family of circus artists which ran from 1969 to 1972. The momentous occasion of Schimanski uttering “Scheiße” on German TV can be viewed on YouTube here. It happens at 3:28, though just watch the whole beginning, because it’s a marvelous bit of characterisation without any dialogue, until Schimanski yells “Du Idiot, hör’ auf mit der Scheiße” (You idiot, stop that shit!) a little over three minutes in (unfortunately, the moment is somewhat marred by a racist remark a little later, which is more shocking today than “Scheiße” and yet went entirely unremarked in 1981). This is the first line he ever said BTW as a new character in the venerable crime drama Tatort. Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine what a breath of fresh air Schimanski was in the staid atmosphere of German TV of the pre-private TV era. I pretty much fell in love with him at first sight, because he was the coolest German cop I’d ever seen. Even cooler is that actor Götz George wanted Schimanski to be gay and played him that way in the early episodes, but was shot down by the TV bosses, because while uttering “Scheiße” might have been barely acceptable back in 1981, a gay cop was not. To this day, I wonder what would have happened if George had gotten his way.
Come to think of it, I did wonder about the “swearing of oaths” that was so common in many English language novels of the late 1980s and before, because I interpreted it as swearing an oath before a court and wondered why on Earth everybody felt the need to sweat oaths all the time. The meaning of “oath” for “vulgarism” doesn’t exist in German, so I didn’t get what was meant. And of course, I adapted the neutered fake swearing (“darned” for “damned”, “heck” for “hell”) from the Marvel Comics of the period for myself, because I mistook it for “authentic American slang” and the idea of anybody, even the sort of people outraged at Horst Schimanski saying “Scheiße”, being troubled by “damned” or “hell” was totally inconceivable to me.
At Vulture, writer/critic Lev Grossman and writer Adam Sternbergh talk about genre fiction and theories of nerd-dom. What I liked best about this dialogue is the acknowledgement just how broad the overall field of SFFH geeky interests really is and also the discussion about crossgenre works and genre hybrids, which also jives with my personal theory that we are seeing more and more works mixing elements of two or more genres.
Australian SF writer Patty Jansen has some ideas on what science fiction needs to do to stay relevant. I agree with her, since it always makes me cringe when a young reader asks for science fiction recommendations and someone suggests the Heinlein juveniles or Isaac Asimov. Now don’t get me wrong, I still like Asimov (Heinlein not so much, but then I never did). But it’s not a good entry point into the genre for a young reader.
In Russia, they still take literature seriously and so an argument about poetry versus prose came to a lethal end in the Siberian town of Irbit. Poetry won BTW, by stabbing prose to death. Meanwhile, in September a man was shot, but thankfully survived, in the South Russian city of Rostov-on-Don because of an argument about philosopher Immanuel Kant, who – though German – was born in the West Russian city of Kaliningrad, then known as Königsberg.
Bremen has a beautiful Renaissance townhall (you can see a photo here) with a famous wine cellar, now a gourmet restaurant. Among many other treasures, the wine cellar also contains Germany’s oldest barrel of wine, dating from 1653. The wine is not for sale and very few people alive have ever tasted it, including some international wine journalists back in 1996 and an American GI who was given a bottle by the cellar master in 1945 (he visited Bremen for the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII, pointed at the barrel and said, “I got a bottle of that”, which stunned everybody present). However, now a Chinese billionaire has offered 150000 Euro for just one bottle of Ratskeller wine, 1653 vintage. Normally, this offer should be a no brainer, since the barrel is still largely full and especially since Bremen is chronically short of money. However, the market square and town hall are a UNESCO world heritage site and therefore the question is whether selling a bottle of wine a historical barrel in the wine cellar of the town hall would violate the sanctity of the world heritage site.
Want to learn Low German (which is a separate language BTW and not a dialect)? Radio Bremen has a free online course for you. Furthermore, Radio Bremen also has a whole Low German page, where you can listen to the daily Low German radio news as well as audio dramas and other Low German programs.
American folk singer and songwriter Pete Seeger died Monday aged 94. Here is a wonderful appreciation from the German cultural TV program Kulturzeit. Watch out for Pete Seeger singing the Moorsoldatenlied as well as the German folk song “Die Gedanken sind frei” (Thoughts are free).