- "When Franny Stands Up," Eden Robins' debut novel: Supernaturual comediennes of WWII.
- Hey look at this: Delights to delectate.
- This day in history: 2002, 2007, 2012, 2017, 2021.
- Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current writing projects, current reading
"When Franny Stands Up," Eden Robins' debut novel (permalink)
Of all the alternate history premises in fiction, the McGuffin of Eden Robins's debut, "When Franny Stands Up," is one of the most unlikely and – it turns out – rich. Robins' novel opens on Franny, a teenage Jewish girl from the Chicago suburbs who's snuck out on Christmas Eve to hear the notorious comedian Boopsie Baxter do standup.
It's an all-female audience. After all, WWII is in full swing, and all the young men are Over There, including Leon, the older brother Franny adores. But there's another reason that Boopsie can pack the house with women: she's got a Showstopper.
This is the alternate history part. In Robins' world, the advent of World War II and the rise of woman comedians (filling in the vacuum left by the departure of all the men) reveals the existence of Showstoppers: involuntary psychic reactions that woman comedians can induce in female audience members when they're really cooking.
Some Showstoppers are relatively mild – like the uncanny sensation that you have just caught your bus. Boopsie Baxter's is a little more intense: she induces involuntary, powerful orgasms in the women who hear her sets. So yeah, she's got a packed house.
The magazines where Franny learned about Boopsie are squeamish about this, speaking in ellipses and euphemisms of Boopsie's Showstopper, and Frannie (young, naive) doesn't understand what's happening when Boopsie works her magic. Panicked and ashamed, she runs out of the room and flees home – just in time to learn that her brother Leon is missing in Belgium, lost in battle and presumed dead.
That's the setup. When we return to the action seven years later, Leon is home – shell-shocked and traumatized – and the world is roaring into the post-war new normal. Franny gets roped into sneaking out to a show at the Blue Moon, Chicago's last all-female showcase for comedians and their Showstoppers.
And that's where the action really takes off. Franny, it turns out, is funny. She's also pretty messed up. And soon enough, she's involved with the gangster's wife who runs the Blue Moon, and the comedians in her stable, and there's the clean-cut young man across the street who sexually assaulted her on her 21st birthday and the blockbusting Black family who lives next door to him but might as well be on the moon for all the neighbors interact with them.
On one level, this is a period coming-of-age piece about Franny, who is trying to release the humor that comes from the pain in her life and the lives around her – and reveal her Showstopper, and maybe save the Blue Moon from being shut down by the gangster who owns it.
On another level, this is an utterly contemporary story about allyship, gender and sexuality, one that never introduces an anachronism even as it explores how these eternal themes played out in a very different time and place.
It's a book about comedy, so it's funny – but it's a book about comedy, so it's also wrenching and difficult to look at (or look away from) in places. The supernatural conceit at the heart of the tale – the Showstoppers – are played perfectly, in matter-of-fact realness, and the rules that say men can't experience or create Showstoppers creates perfect cover for how something so profound could be confined to such a small corner of the world.
I taught Robins at the Clarion West workshop more than a decade ago. Even then, she was a standout for her slick prose, deft characterizations, and humor. Now, an overnight sensation more than a decade in the making, that promise has blossomed into an outstanding talent, a storyteller who manages to tell tales that feel utterly contemporary and like old classics.
Hey look at this (permalink)
- How Afrofuturism has empowered queer Black artists https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2022/10/afrofuturism-empowered-queer-black-artists/ (h/t Nelson Minar)
Extract the fediverse handles of your Twitter followings and import them on Mastodon https://fedifinder.glitch.me
Into the muck https://europeanreviewofbooks.com/into-the-muck/en (h/t John Naughton)
This day in history (permalink)
#20yrsago Manhattan is WiFi-saturated https://web.archive.org/web/20021106202827/http://werbach.com/blog/images/PIPsurvey.gif
#20yrsago Be a crooked CEO for Hallowe’en https://www.forbes.com/2002/10/28/cx_mh_1028halloween.html?sh=7600cc714eeb
#20yrsago Expoloring Liverpool’s forgotten network of makework tunnels https://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/2342183.stm
#15yrsago Scissor spiders made from TSA confiscata https://heartlessmachine.wordpress.com/2007/08/28/stainless-steel-spiders-from-stolen-scissors/
#15yrsago AT&T’s guilt-by-association algorithm for finding “terrorists” https://freedom-to-tinker.com/2007/10/29/att-explains-guilt-association/
#15yrsago BBC exec’s straw-man defence of DRM https://memex.craphound.com/2007/10/30/bbc-execs-straw-man-defence-of-drm/
#15yrsago War on Terror’s war on chemistry sets https://12angrymen.wordpress.com/2007/10/31/endangered-species-the-chemistry-set/
#15yrsago HOWTO Make an anatomically correct batwing costume from old umbrellas https://www.evilmadscientist.com/2007/umbrella-bat-costume-update-now-more-anatomically-correct/
#10yrsago Free/open source programmer and Creative Commons activist Bassel Khartabil faces torture in notorious Syrian prison https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/10/torture-fears-open-source-software-activist-detained-syria
#10yrsago Rookie: Yearbook One – Sassy’s second coming https://memex.craphound.com/2012/10/31/rookie-yearbook-one-sassys-second-coming/
#10yrsago Scary horror movie set in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0M-yetCGm-A
#10yrsago Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312: a novel that hints at what we might someday have (and lose) https://memex.craphound.com/2012/10/30/kim-stanley-robinsons-2312-a-novel-that-hints-at-what-we-might-someday-have-and-lose/
#5yrsago Sony’s new robot dog doubles down on DRM https://www.vice.com/en/article/bj778v/sony-wants-to-sell-you-a-subscription-to-a-robot-dog-aibo-90s-pet
#5yrsago Ohio Republicans create winnable electoral districts by siting nonvoting prisons near friendly voters https://www.cleveland.com/datacentral/2017/10/prisons_are_important_pieces_i.html
#5yrsago Indiana’s voter-purging software removes voters without notice, is wrong 99% of the time https://www.thedailybeast.com/lawsuit-indiana-purging-voters-using-software-thats-99-inaccurate
#5yrsago Researchers can fool machine-learning vision systems with a single, well-placed pixel https://arxiv.org/pdf/1710.08864.pdf
#5yrsago The 2-person Montana company Whitefish Energy just lost its $300M contract to fix Puerto Rico’s grid https://web.archive.org/web/20171029180711/https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/29/puerto-ricos-governor-demands-nullification-of-whitefish-energys-300m-power-grid-contract.html
#5yrsago A viral “angriest librarian” explains why America needs libraries now more than ever https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-29/portland-s-angriest-librarian-isn-t-mad-anymore
#5yrsago Universal health care is “free stuff” as in “freedom” https://jacobin.com/2017/10/medicare-for-all-single-payer-freedom
#5yrsago UK Tory aides are circulating a list of accused sexual predators and harassers in Parliament https://order-order.com/2017/10/29/tory-aides-spreadsheet-names-36-sex-pest-mps/
#5yrsago RIP Teaforia, the $1000 IoT tea-infuser https://mashable.com/article/teforia-infuser-business#FlBfCDr4haqM
#5yrsago How the tech workers of WWII thwarted the Nazis with high-tech sabotage https://medium.com/@silicondomme/hacking-the-holocaust-abcd332947ae
#1yrago LaserWriter II: Tamara Shopsin's celebration of the heroic era of the Mac https://pluralistic.net/2021/10/29/norwegian-potato-flour-enchiladas/#r2r
- The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. Friday's progress: 505 words (55839 words total)
The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation, a nonfiction book about interoperability for Verso. Friday's progress: 512 words (51955 words total)
Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. (92849 words total) – ON PAUSE
A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING
Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EXPERT REVIEW
Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION
Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FINAL DRAFT COMPLETE
A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED
A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED
Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.
Latest podcast: Sound Money https://craphound.com/news/2022/09/11/sound-money/
- Radical Book Fair/Lighthouse Bookshop (Edinburgh), Nov 10
Chokepoint Capitalism at Waterstone's Oxford, Nov 12:
Aaron Swartz Day and International Hackathon, Nov 13:
Arthur C Clarke Award (DC), Nov 16
Big Ideas Live (London), Nov 19
- Why Patients Should Hack Med Tech (Defcon 30)
The Literary Life with Mitchell Kaplan (Lithub)
Sex and Politics with Dan Savage (use coupon code "Doctorow" for a free month):
- "Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin", on how to unrig the markets for creative labor, Beacon Press/Scribe 2022 https://chokepointcapitalism.com
"Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone technothriller for adults. The Washington Post called it "a political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1840/Available_Now%3A_Attack_Surface.html
"How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a solution. https://onezero.medium.com/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism-8135e6744d59 (print edition: https://bookshop.org/books/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism/9781736205907) (signed copies: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2024/Available_Now%3A__How_to_Destroy_Surveillance_Capitalism.html)
"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1750/July%3A__Little_Brother_%26_Homeland.html
"Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed copy here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2682/Corey_Doctorow%3A_Poesy_the_Monster_Slayer_HB.html#/.
- Red Team Blues: "A grabby, compulsive thriller that will leave you knowing more about how the world works than you did before." Tor Books, April 2023
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