Saturday, November 3, 2018

Gregory Manchess Paints... Me!


So tonight, November 3, 2018, starting at 8:00 p.m. artist Gregory Manchess will paint a portrait of me... live! This will take place at the Artists' Reception of the World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore.

This is a big deal for me, not only for the obvious reasons but because I am a great admirer of Greg's work. Pictured above is his illustration for "The Mongolian Wizard," the first of a projected 21-story series being published on It's a terrific painting in its own right. But it also has virtues that you'll have to read the story to fully appreciate. First of all, it neatly encapsulates the tory without giving away any of its surprises. The faces of Ritter and Sir Toby (and the wolf Geri's, too, come to think of it) express their characters as I imagined them.

Most importantly, the illustration captures the essence of the story. If you looked at it and thought, "I hope the story's as good as the picture is," then you're going to enjoy the story. Conversely, if you thought, "That is exactly the sort of thing I would never read," well... Greg's just saved you the trouble.

While I'm being painted, both Greg and I will take questions about our work. So it should be a dynamic, involving event. If you're at the WFC, consider dropping by.

Oh, and spread the word, would you? This event was put together at the last moment, so not everybody who would be interested knows about it.


And you may be wondering . . .

Haven't I been saying I wasn't going to the World Fantasy Convention?

Yes, I did say that and, indeed, I'm still in Philadelphia. I'll be there only for the two-hours-and-change that the event will take. So if for any reason you want to see me...


Friday, November 2, 2018

All Lives Lingers


I keep an untidy office. Anyone who knows me knows that that's not an exaggeration.

Marianne and I came home this afternoon from a very pleasant lunch with Julie Phillips, the author of James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, easily the best biography of a science fiction author ever written, and Samuel R. Delany who is, well, Samuel R. Delany.  We talked about Julie's bio-in-progress of Ursula K. Le Guin and a variety of other matters that I for one found interesting. Then, back home, Marianne set about baking and I went to my office to take care of some business.

Casually, I picked up a newspaper clipping from the floor and glanced at it to decide whether it should be filed or discarded.

It was Gardner Dozois' obituary.

Ah, me. I knew Gardner for something like 44 years and Marianne knew him for only a month or two less. What a kind and generous man he was! How tirelessly he worked for the good of others! How terribly, terribly sad I feel to be reminded that he's gone.

But here's the thing.

I had a friend (nobody you know) who did not live his life a fraction so well. I will not go into the details. Suffice it to say, whenever I'm reminded of him and the damage he did to others, I reflexively think: "[Name], you idiot!"

When you die, the facts of your life are suddenly, radically simplified.  It's as if an enormous hand reaches down out of the sky and with one finger draws a line under the column of figures contains all the pluses and minuses of your life. The zeros fall off. What remains is a simple number, maybe positive, maybe negative.

Which is how you will be remembered.

End of sermon. Please forgive me for making it. I was reminded of a friend today and it made me sad. At least it didn't make me angry.


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Retroactive Wit for Procrastinators


What a stroke of luck! There was a button maker in the huckster room at MileHiCon 50.

What made this so fortunate  is that, as a former guest of honor at the convention,  Connie Willis was there too. And I see I'm going to have to explain this...

Long long ago in a galaxy very close to hand, back in the early 1980s, I had a notion. As a new writer of serious ambition, it was obvious to me who my peers were: people like Connie, Kim Stanley Robinson, Nancy Kress, John Kessel, Pat Cadigan, James Patrick Kelley, William Gibson, and a handful of others.These were the people whose work I most admired and the people I was in friendly competition with. So one day, when there was a great deal of talk about the latest SFWA Damon Knight Grand Master (I think this was before Damon's name was appended to the award), whoever it was, I came up with the notion of getting a batch of buttons made reading Grand Master of the Future and giving them to all of my pals who I thought were likely future recipients of the award.

It was an amusing idea because we were all young and at the outsets of our careers... a little early to be thinking about such matters.

Alas, I never got the buttons made. Why, I'm not sure. Possibly out of mere cheapness. Maybe because I didn't want anybody to think any of my pals were seriously politicking for the offer. The reason doesn't really matter.

Then, decades later, the latest Grand Master was announced and it was... Connie Willis.

I had two thoughts then. The first was: Yeah, she's a good choice.

The second was: Why didn't I get those buttons made?

So when I saw the button making machine, I realized that I had the chance to make things right.

There's Connie up above, wearing a button reading Retro Grand Master of the Future. So an involuntary injustice has been made right.

I hope to have more of these made up as time goes by. In the meantime, I think that Connie Willis is an excellent Choice for the Retro Grand Master of the Future button.

And I should thank...

I really should thank the button-maker, who went through a great deal of trouble to find a printer to make the button possible. But, predictably enough,  I didn't think to ask her name. I am, alas, a Past Mater of what the French call l'esprit de escalier.

Above: I apologize for the strange color values of my photo. I'm not much of a photographer, I'm afraid.


Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Unmoving Pivot


It seems to be the season for dreams. I had another of those ones last night.

I dreamed I met a Susan Casper impersonator. I was at a large house party with an enormous number of my friends and a lot of strangers too. I was talking to a woman I thought was Susan when she said, "I must have been the worst student you ever had, Michael."

Which took me aback because, as far as I could tell, I'd never taught Susan anything about writing. She had Gardner for that. So I just said, "Well, Susan, you always had your own vision and went your own way."

But in that instant, I realized that this woman couldn't be Susan, even though she sounded exactly like her. For one thing, she was too young. For another, Susan died a year before. Still, she was astonishing. Except for the youth and being alive and the strange comment, there would have been no telling.

When she left, I turned to Gardner (in my dream he was still alive) and said, "Who was that?"

Gardner, of course, said, "I have no idea."

So I went outside to reflect on how good it was to hear my name on Susan's lips again. Susan had a way of saying your name so that you could hear the fondness she had for you. Sometimes it was mixed with amusement or exasperation. But that fondness was always there.

I lay down on the grass and, staring straight up at the sky, thought, "I am the unmoving pivot." I could feel all of life whirling about me and, one by one, my friends falling away.

Eventually, I decided the time had come to leave. So I got up and went looking for the party's hostess so I could say goodbye.

But Janet Kagan was nowhere to be found.

And, again, as always . . .

I'm on the road. This time to Denver for MileHiCon.

Tomorrow at 4, I think, I have a panel discussion with Shaenon Garrity, best known for the (highly recommended) Narbonic and Skin Horse comics. It's a pairing so obvious that I don't have to tell you what the topic will be.

I'm sure we'll have figured it out by then.

Be there or be square!

Above: Susan Casper. All her friends miss her terribly.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Story Whose Name I Will Not Tell in a Category I Do Not Know


I'm in print again! Collaboratively! In an editorial that's simultaneously fiction and non-fiction.

Okay, this may take some explanation. Especially since I can't say much about my contribution without ruining the... Story? Essay? Whatever it is.

Here's what happened. Some time ago, in response to something I had read, I wrote a work of flash fiction and sent it off to Sheila Williams. It has a title but I can't tell you it without ruining the... But let's not go there again. Anyway, I knew that Sheila would publish it. I just didn't know how. Because the work was... kind of tricky to put into a magazine. But I trusted Sheila to figure out a way.

Which of course she did. Sheila made my short-short the centerpiece of an editorial titled "Never Say 'Highly Unlikely' Again." So I have a new collaborative... something... in the November/December 2018 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction.

Thank you, Sheila.

As usual, the first thing I did upon receiving the magazine was to add the collaborative work to my bibliography. The only question was whether it belonged in the"fiction" or "non-fiction" section.

Ultimately, I had to create a new category: "fiction/non-fiction hybrids."

I realize this is all a little vague, but if you read the editorial, all will be explained.

And as always . . .

I'm on the road again! Or I will be soon. Tomorrow I jet to Denver to attend MileHiCon, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary by bringing back so many former guests of honor you'll have to brush them aside to get into the bar.

Being one of said former guests of honor, I felt I should attend.

So off I go! More adventures when I return.


Thursday, October 11, 2018

"Five Things Nailed to Joe Haldeman's Door"


Dream Diary, 10/7/18

On my next-to-last night in Iceland, I had one of those dreams. One where someone you cared about isn't really dead after all.

In my dream, it was Gardner Dozois. It was only a few days after his death and I had suddenly realized  that there was a grace period of two weeks after you die before you have to go away. So I hurried over to his apartment.

When I got there, he handed me a thin typescript--maybe six pages altogether--of an essay he had just written. "I'd rather it was fiction," I said, "but I'll take what I can get." The title was "Five Things Nailed to Joe Haldeman's Door." 

"Aha!" I cried. "I know what this is." Because it was clearly a companion piece to an article Joe had written about his early days as a writer, titled "Five Things Nailed to My Door." Which had been written for I forget now what non-fiction book, possibly a collection of essays about his work. At which point, I dropped Gardner's typescript.

Gathering up the pages, I noticed that they had been misnumbered, so I said, "This is so very appropriate. I read Joe's piece a couple of days ago and every single page was numbered either 2 or 3--including the first one!"

Gardner threw back his head and laughed, then, that beautiful, full-hearted laugh of his. I felt a twinge of sorrow, then, knowing that this was the last time I would ever hear it.

At which moment, I woke up. It was night, and I'd heard Gardner laugh one more time. And I felt such a strange mixture of sadness and gratitude.


Friday, September 28, 2018

Starlight Touching China


I brought home from China a pendant for Marianne. It was a gift from Jie Zhang, one of my writing students in the Future Affairs Administration writing workshop. That's it up above, in use.

The pendant, as you can see, is a lovely piece of jewelry and Marianne was very happy to receive it. As Jie Zhang explained it to me, the spiral at the center of the piece represents starlight, the symbols around it are the Chinese names for constellations, and the line of stones downward represents the starlight coming down to touch the Earth.

So there's science touching science fiction touching craft. A tight little knot of creativity.
Jie Zhang has a store on Wechat, for those who use that app.  Here's (I think) the information for finding it.

And as always . . .

I'm on the road again. This time, I'll be in Iceland -- in part just to gad about, but mostly for Icecon, the national science fiction convention in Reykjavik.

More details as they develop.

Above: As you can see, I've packed everything I need for a tip to the North: a sturdy coat, a sturdy bottle of Scotch, and a sturdy cat.