Kevin Curran’s presentation on famous murders in Shakespeare is November 1, at 7:00 PM.

One episode he will focus on is Macbeth’s tortured waffling before the murder of Duncan. You can almost hear the groundlings chanting, “Do it! Do it!.”

Here are two versions of the famous monologue. The first is performed by a very young, pre-Gandalf Ian McKellen I love him rolling up his sleeve at the end.




This scene of Jon Finch struggling to act with some really dopey special effects might remind you why the only thing you remember about Roman Polanski’s Macbeth are the nude scenes.

WordSpace salons are free for WordSpace members, $10 for non-members. Since events are in private homes, we ask that you RSVP at 214-838-3554. You will receive the address with your confirmation.

For more on this and all upcoming WordSpace events, visit the WordSpace website


A lot of people get bumped off in Shakespeare’s plays. Kings, queens, children, innocent wives — no one is safe. They are murdered in their beds, in the Roman forum, in forests, and back alleys. (I hope I didn’t make that one up about the back alleys.)

In Killer Shakespeare, Kevin Curran, associate professor of English at the University of North Texas, will examine three famous, bloody incidents in Shakespeare to explore how the bard used murder to “think through other, larger topics.” The incidents include the exuberant bloodbath that concludes Hamlet, the assassination scene from Julius Caesar, and Macbeth’moment of conscience before the killing of Duncan.

Follow those links above to read up before the event, and mark your calendar for November 1 at 7:00pm. Since salons are held in private homes, we do not publish the address, but ask that your RSVP at  214-838-3554.

Salons are free to WordSpace members and $10 for non members. (Join now, it pays in the long run. Visit our website for membership information.


At WordSpace we are excited that Ben Fountain’s novel Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk has been nominated for the National Book Award. Ben is a past president of the WordSpace Board of Directors and a longtime friend of the organization. He read from Billy Lynn at a WordSpace Salon just as it was being published.

The National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the Hemmingway Foundation/Penn Award (which by the way Ben Fountain has also won) get a lot of national attention. But there are many awards out there, prestigious in their own fields, that most of us never hear about.

I thought a good ongoing feature for the WordSpace blog might be to periodically highlight one of these awards. And first up is The Shirley Jackson Award. 

Most people know Jackson as the author of the short story “The Lottery,” the story that causes the most discussion in whatever eighth-grade English class encounters it. But she was a distinguished American writer who has her own volume in the Library of America.  Since 2007, the award named in her honor acknowledges “…outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic”

Looking over the list of winners and nominees for the Jackson award points up how diverse the field of horror writing has become. One of this year’s nominees was Donald Ray Pollack’s The Devil All the Time. I read Pollack’s book shortly after it was published, and it never crossed my mind that I was reading a horror novel — although come to think about it something pretty horrible happened every dozen pages or so. Robert Jackson Bennett is a past winner of the award. He is an Austin author who will be reading for WordSpace in 2013.

This link to the official site will give you some  background on the award and the list of winners. There is even a video of the 2011 ceremony. You can also find out more about Jackson winners on Worlds Without End. They feature only winners and nominees in the novel category, but you get synopses, in some cases excerpts, and links to online reviews.

Check it out. There is still time to choose something spooky to read before Halloween. And the jurors for the Jackson Award are both picky and creative about what they consider.


Beginner’s Guide to Neal Stephenson

Since the OffWorld group will be reading Neal Stephenson novels over the next three months. we thought it a good idea to provide some brief descriptions of a few of the more popular ones.

These come courtesy of Phillip Washington:


Snow Crash follows the story of a man named Hiro Protaganist, a half-black, half-asian computer programmer and samurai prince of the Metaverse. The Metaverse is a virtual reality construct where people come to interact and stage heroic battles and build entire worlds of their own. It has been said that the Metaverse, as  Neal Stephenson wrote about it, was the inspiration for the popular game Second Life. As a computer virus begins to disrupt the entire Metaverse, and affect real-world events as well, Hiro teams up with a rebellious, foul-mouthed, roller-blading 15 year old girl named YT to investigate. What follows is an adventure from Land, Sea and Virtual Worlds involving samurais, religious cults, Sumerian mythology and pizza delivery. Did I mention that this book is fucking hilarious?

ZODIAC (1988)

Zodiac is a story about Sangammon Taylor – a chemist, employee of G.E.E (Group of Environmental Extremists), and an overall fierce proponent of ecological “do-goodery”. He is also the type of guy you might find huffing nitrous oxide in his free time. Working as a professional headache for industrial polluters, Sangammon unexpectedly finds large amounts of incredibly toxic materials in Boston Harbor. Just as soon as he discovers these poisons, they magically disappear , violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Then people start trying to kill him. Zodiac is a fast-paced eco-thriller. It is hilarious, informative, and you will more than likely think twice before drinking tap water ever again after reading it.

ANATHEM (2008)

Anathem could easily be mistakem for the Bible, if not for the appearance of monks and hooded, robed figures on the cover, then for its sheer size. It is a near thousand-page novel geared towards the purest incarnation of nerd energies; the men and women you might engage in conversation about philosophy, geometry, space travel, multiverse theory and quantum physics all in one evening. Neal Stephenson himself has said that this book is more of a work of “speculative fiction” than “science fiction” , but once you have made it halfway through this spellbinding novel I doubt you will be able to classify it at all. The main character is a beer-drinking, star-gazing proto-nerd named Erasmus who lives within the confines of a secular order of monks on a planet named Arbre. Strange astronomical events lead Erasmus’ teacher and mentor to take measures into his own hands for the sake of the planet. This involves using technology, which for reasons I shan’t spoil for you, has been completely outlawed by the government. When you find out why, you will see why Anathem is such an unclassifiable novel. A supremely rewarding read, and personally my favorite book ever.

From Dee Mitchell:

Since Stephenson has written thirteen novels I thought I was going to quickly write up something of three or four more. Not going to happen. Each of his novels merits a long article with many cross-references on Wikipedia. You can access all those from the bibliography on his own Wikipedia entry.




A message from your leader, Phillip Washington:

Reading Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game as a teenager convinced me that science fiction is the most entertaining and thought provoking genre in literature. Fantasy, historical fiction, and political thrillers didn’t capture the sense of wonder available at the edge of the human imagination.

It is only in science fiction that we get what author Neal Stephenson describes as “idea porn”. It is in science fiction that the human imagination amalgamates all of human history, its past and its possible futures, its technologies and ideologies and wraps them all up into one glowing, futuristic theme park. It rolls you through a land of possibilities.

Neal Stephenson will be the first author that we celebrate in Offworld: The science fiction reading club sponsored by WordSpace. Stephenson is one of my favorite science fiction writers. He is the author of thirteen novels as well as collections of short fiction and essays. Each novel captures images from the cultural retina and displays his interpretation on the screen of the reader.(He does this in a funny, sometimes strange, yet always satisfying way. I have never read a Neal Stephenson book and not learned a wealth of information about the world around me, whether it was about the way things used to be, how things got to be the way they are now, or how things could possibly be in the future. And all of these things are wrapped in the implications of ideas and themes brought to us by technology, science, mathematics, the internet, and modern culture.

If you are already a Neal Stephenson fan or have never read one of his books, please join up. Members may choose which of Neal’s books they want to read. Our blog postings will direct members to online sources on Neal Stephenson. Our forums, hosted by the website Worlds Without End, will provide a place for ongoing discussions of individual books and general topics. Our meetings will include group discussion and guest speakers from the fields of science, philosophy, and literature.

To join up or ask questions email

Watch this blog for a guide to Neal Stephenson’s more popular novels as well as other info on Offworld.