Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Iron Dragon's Daughter Ebook Sale!


I'm of a generation that is really not comfortable with the whole self-promotion thing. However, a decent respect for my readers requires that when one of my publishers is promoting my work with a one-day sale I pass along the information. So...

The ebook of The Iron Dragon's Daughter will be featured in the Portalist's weekly deals newsletter on April 20th. That's on Thursday, two days from now. The ebook will be downpriced to $1.99 across all US retailers on that day.

And because my epublisher Open Road Media has made this possible I should mention that fact as well.

Um... and that's all The Iron Dragon's Daughter has proved to be the most popular fantasy novel I've ever written. So if you're a fantasy reader and an ebook reader and curious about my work, there's no better (or cheaper) place to begin.

You can sign up for the Portalist newsletter here.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Moonstone, Toast, and Chip


Spring is apparently when things turn literary. April 1, Samuel R. Delany turned 75 and The New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series held a reading and celebration in NYC. Alas, that same day I returned from a jaunt to Kitty Hawk and was too tired to make the 200-mile round trip drive so I missed it. Then, yesterday, Asimov's Science Fiction held a party celebrating its 40th anniversary. Again, for complicated reasons of plot, I didn't feel up for a drive that long.

So I made up for missing both events by going to the Moonstone Arts Center event held at Toast, a coffeehouse in the "Gayborhood" where Delany lives, to hear Chip (the name that his friends like to drop casually that he's known by) reading his latest essay.

Larry Robin put together both the event and a celebratory chapbook containing poems in Chip's honor by such luminaries as Lamont B. Steptoe and Gregory Frost. It's a lovely chapbook, which I was glad to have, Toast is an extremely pleasant place to spend a few hours, particularly with young bohemians coursing through the streets outside on a pleasant spring night, and of course Chip is famed for being an engaging speaker. The crowd was on the louche side (one young woman wore a shirt with the slogan Thank God for Abortion and another wore one emblazoned with I'm a Magical Motherfucker) and all either friends or people I wouldn't mind having for friends.

So, yes, it was an evening well wasted. If you haven't been to a literary event recently, I encourage you to do so at the very next opportunity.

Above: Chip is looking more and more like an Old Testament prophet with every passing year. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Darrell Schweitzer contributed a limerick to the chapbook.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Up the Rainbow


Gardner Dozois has just announced the forthcoming collection of fiction by Susan Casper. I've agreed to write the foreword and Andy Duncan will write an afterword.

Here's what Gardner posted on Faceboo:

I have signed the contracts for a memorial collection of Susan Casper's short stories, called UP THE RAINBOW: THE COMPLETE SHORT FICTION OF SUSAN CASPER. Gray Rabbit Books will do the physical edition, followed six months later by an ebook edition from Baen. Introduction by Michael Swanwick, Afterword by Andy Duncan. 
We're hoping to launch the physical edition at Readercon, but we'll see how that goes. 

 Susan wrote and published two dozen stories over the course of twenty years. A couple of those stories were instant cult classics. She had stuff.

When the physical and e-books become available, I'll post buying information here. In the meantime, it's back to work with me. I have an introduction to write.

And speaking of Susan...

There are three appreciations of Susan in the current (April 2017) issue of Locus. One is by Gardner, one by her old pal Jack Dann, and one by me. I don't think my friends at the magazine would want me posting what I wrote while the issue is still on the stands. But I'm sure they won't mind my posting the opening paragraph:

When Susan Casper was in high school, she would sneak out early so she could go to WFIL at 45th and Market Streets in Philadelphia to be one of the background dancers in American Bandstand. That was Susan in a nutshell: bold, brash, independent, no respecter of authority, and avid for the joys of life.

I offer this as a small gift to Susan's many friends: Hey, guys! Somebody you knew was on American Bandstand! Cool, innit?

Above: Portrait of Susan Casper and coffee mug by Jane Jewell.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

My Next Door Neighbor, Who Invaded France


Enid Hodkinson died today.  This means little or nothing to you, but only because you never knew her. Enid was Marianne's and my next-door neighbor for over thirty-six years She was the best of neighbors, bright and funny and friendly and upbeat. And in her youth she invaded France.

Enid was a communications tech in the Royal Air Force. She hit Normandy two days after D-Day and went with the armed forces across Europe. Immediately after the war, she met Albert Hodkinson, a young East-Ender who had started the war as a mechanic -- "Only gentlemen were allowed to fly airplanes," he told me -- but wound up, after the R.A.F. had run out of gentlemen, flying Lancasters over Berlin.

Albert and Enid were married for over seventy years, and it was only in the last two that she began to fade. After WWII, they came to America, where Albert worked as a contractor, and had children and then grandchildren and then great-grandchildren. If anyone ever had a good life it was Enid.

And now Enid is gone. I can only begin to tell you how devastated Marianne and Sean and I feel about that. She was one of those people who was always there and who always deserved to be there. The world is diminished by her passing.

Above: Enid with our then-thirteen-year-old son Sean after the blizzard of 1996. She'd been out shoveling snow, of course.


Monday, April 3, 2017

"No, River Ice Is Breaking..."


Yevgeny Yevtushenko has left the planet.

I speak and read no Russian, so I can't say I know his poetry, though I've read a great deal of it in translation. Having discussed poetry and the Russian language with Russians in Russia, I know that what you and I read in English is a pale shadow of the original.

Still. In 1961, Yevtushenko wrote a poem after a move to raise a memorial at Babi Yar, a ravine in Kiev, where 33,771 (Stop! Read that number out loud: Thirty-three thousand. Seven hundred. Seventy one) Jews were murdered by the Nazis, was blocked by anti-Semites. Speaking out like that was dangerous. But he loved Russia and knew that she was, or should be, better than that.

You can read "Babi Yar" here. And I really think you should.

Yevtushenko was a brilliant poet and almost as brilliant a politician, as witness the fact that he survived the Soviet Union when so many other brilliant poets did not. I vividly remember when he first came to the United States in the Sixties at the height of the Cold War. At that time, everything was seen as East-West competition and dissident poets were viewed in America as points for Our Side. So all officialdom was hoping he'd have harsh things to say about the USSR. Maybe he'd even defect!

And what did he do? Smile and nod, say nice things, and go drinking with fishermen in Alaska. Afterward, he said that was the best part of America.

To which I can only say:Damn straight, Yevgeny!

And since we're talking about Russian poets....

The second time I went to Yekaterinburg, I met the poet Evgeny Kasimov, who had written a poem with a hidden reference to my novel, The Iron Dragon's Daughter. I of course blogged about the experience. I had filmed his reading on my pocket camera and I threw that on the blog as well. So if you want some idea of the gulf between the poem and the translation, you can go here, read the poem, and then listen to it being read by Evgeny in Russian.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Geek Highways: James Branch Cabell in Richmond-in-Virginia


Richmond, Virginia is indelibly connected to Edgar Alan Poe, much to its civic disgust. Every building the man ever lived in there has been torn down and an attempt to have a statue raised in his honor was met with horror. There is a Poe Museum there, true, which I hope to return to someday (it has a pair of his socks!) but since I only had one day in town, I devoted it to Richmond's other great fantasist James Branch Cabell.

There I am with JBC's portrait in his library, which has been moved, books and furnishings and all, to the James Branch Cabell Library in Virginia Commonwealth University. This is a recursivity that would have amused Cabell greatly.

The day began with my visit (in pouring rain) to Hollywood Cemetery, a beautiful necropolis where Presidents Monroe and Tyler and Confederate President Davis are buried.  Cabell is buried there alongside his son and both his wives. On the stone is a crest showing Kalki -- rampant in both senses -- with the slogan not MUNDIS VULT DECEPI, which is recurrent in his work and means THE WORLD WISHES TO BE DECEIVED but IMPAVIDE, which means FEARLESSNESS.

After which, Marianne ran over to the main branch of the Richmond Public Library, which is located on the site of the long-vanished building where Cabell was born.

Finally, it was off to the Special Collections and Archives in the JBC Library at VCU, there to inspect four letters that Alistair Crowley wrote to Cabell and some interesting conversation with the curator of the Cabell papers, Ray Bonis, a man who knows considerably more about Cabell than I ever did. Which is something I have to respect.

The picture below should give you a good idea of the comfortable opulence of the room. I examined Cabell's collection of books and have to say it's quite nice. I could happily spend a week there, browsing. I had to admire his collection of occult and folklore and related books in particular.

There's so much more I could say about Cabell. I could write a book about the man and his work, and in fact I have: What Can Be Saved From the Wreckage: James Branch Cabell in the Twenty-First Century (preface by Barry Humphry, no longer available from Temporary Culture, though the ebook of it is). But this is running long as it is. So, instead, I'll give you a small notion of just what a big noise Cabell used to be: Below is a bust of one of his creations, Aesred, the plump and slightly sullen Goddess of Compromise. The sculptor  Edward R. Amateis crafted it from a block of marble imported from Greece to Rome in the first century C. E. and then gave it to him as a gift.

That's how big a noise James Branch Cabell once was. He was the single most successful living fantasist of the Twentieth Century. (Tolkien surpassed him, but onlyposthumously.)

And because life goes on...

I have been received the following news from Open Road Media, my ebook publisher,:

I’m pleased to let you know that Bones of the Earth will be featured in BookBub International, an ebook deals newsletter with subscribers in Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, on 4/1/2017. The ebook will be downpriced to the equivalent of 1.99 in Canada on that day, and Open Road will promote the feature via social media.

So if you're Canadian, read ebooks, and like science fiction with lots and lots of dinosars this is your opportunity. If you're Canadian and don't read ebooks, that's fine too. But if you're Canadian and don't like science fiction with lots and lots of dinsosaurs, Rob Sawyer has a few firm words to share with you.


Geek Highways: Digger's Dungeon


(This post should properly have been made yesterday. Mea culpa.  I only just now found an online editing tool to make the photo fit for Blogger.)

Unless you're already a fan, this takes a bit of explanation. Dennis Anderson is famous in monster truck circuits for his series of Grave Digger trucks.There's the original to the fore. It was a mud bogger until a monster truck failed to make an appearance at a show and he volunteered to crush cars with his own truck. That sold him.

Over the decades, the Grave Diggers (there have been dozens of them) got bigger,more powerful,and more thoroughly spray-painted with skulls, ghouls, and similarly Halloweeny blue-collar art. And of course, they aged out.

So long as the teams (I think there are nine of them now, making the circuits) needed a place to store and restore trucks not in use, somebody decided to take some of the old truck bodies and make a roadside attraction out of them. Hence, Digger's Dungeon. Trucks, a bit of welder's art, an enclosure with a goat, a pig, and various poultry, strange stuff, and a gift shop where you can buy an action figure of Dennis Anderson.

Anderson had to retire recently, after a failed flip resulted in unspecified injuries. I hope they were minor and he'll make a full recovery. A man who has devoted his life to giving people joy (and, boy howdy, monster trucks do!) deserves nothing less.

You can find Digger's Dungeon in Poplar Branch, North Carolina. In fact, if you're driving through you can't possibly miss it.