I spent a long and pleasant weekend in Virginia for a family wedding. Now I'm back at the keyboard, weary but typing away. Since, mirabile dictu, I have no news to pass along today, I thought I'd throw in a second plug for the Walters & Kissinger Etsy sale. Robert Walters and Tess Kissinger are both paleoartists of renown. Which is to say that they don't just paint and draw dinosaurs and related subjects, but they do so in close consultation with paleontologists. To paint, let's say, an Sinraptor, Bob will begin by drawing its skeleton. This drawing goes back to the paleontologist working with the fossils for comment and correction. This can take several passes. Then Bob draws an écorché -- the skeleton covered with muscles, but without the skin. Back and forth it goes for corrections. Then he draws the animal covered with skin. After a last round of consultations, he paints the final version of the dinosaur. This is why you were never able to afford to buy a museum-grade scientific illustration to hang on your wall. Those things are labor-intensive, and the people who can create them are not numerous. Also, more and more the illustrations are being created on the computer. So the hand-made originals are getting progressively rarer. All that's background to the fact that Bob and Tess have put up a number of original illustrations -- the final, finished product, not an intermediary step -- for sale at what I consider to be bargain prices. I owned several major Robert Walters pieces already, but I took advantage of the sale to buy two skulls by Tess Kissinger -- one for Marianne's Dragonstairs Press office, and one as a birthday present for our son Sean.
I'm not sure how long these things are going to be for sale or whether any more items will be added to the shop. But I do know that the supply is finite. Right now, there are a dozen of Bob's illos available for prices ranging from $125 to $200, unframed. There's also a Tess Kissinger Sinraptor skull left unsold. There were rather a lot of skulls available when the sale began, but people like me leapt upon them with small, glad cries. You can find the Etsy shop here. Above: There resides the Giganotosaurus skull, just beneath the Moebius serigraph. You'll note that I very carefully bought it before letting you know such things were on sale.
As always, I'm on the road again. But here's a video to make your Friday morning brighter. It's the first music video ever made in Earth orbit. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield sang a modified cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" in the International Space Station and the results are pretty good.
Still. As an American -- a U.S.A. American, I mean -- it kind of grinches me that Canada beat us to this one. We used to be top dog when it came to pop culture.
I can just hear Rob Sawyer gloating.
You can read about the accomplishment in more detail here.
Gardner Dozois has just announced the table of contents of Rogues, which he co-edited with George R. R. Martin. The cross-genre anthology, whose title is pretty much self-explanatory, has been turned in to Bantam Spectra and will be published in the due course of things. The publishing industry's wheels grind slow but fine. I'm guessing sometime in 2014.
Here's what, assuming you buy a copy, you'll get: George R.R. Martin “Everybody Loves a Rogue” (Introduction) Joe Abercrombie “Tough Times All Over” Gillian Flynn “What Do You Do?” Matthew Hughes “The Inn of the Seven Blessings” Joe R. Lansdale “Bent Twig” - a new Hap and Leonard story David Ball “Provenance” Carrie Vaughn “The Roaring Twenties” Scott Lynch “A Year and a Day in Old Theradane” Bradley Denton “Bad Brass” Cherie Priest “Heavy Metal” Daniel Abraham “The Meaning of Love” Paul Cornell “A Better Way to Die” Steven Saylor “Ill Seen in Tyre” - a Gordianus the Finder story (with guest appearances by Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser) Garth Nix “A Cargo of Ivories”- a Sir Hereward and Master Fitz story Walter Jon Williams “Diamonds From Tequila” Phyllis Eisenstein “The Caravan to Nowhere” - the first Alaric the Minstrel story in decades Lisa Tuttle “The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives” Neil Gaiman “How the Marquis Got His Coat Back” - the first new Neverwhere tale since forever Connie Willis “Now Showing” Patrick Rothfuss “The Lightning Tree” - a long novella set in the world of the KINGKILLER CHRONICLES, featuring Bast.
And, from me, a new Darger & Surplus story titled "Tawny Petticoats." This one is set in New Orleans. (Yes, the lads do eventually get that far . . . and, indeed, farther.) The title is the name of their new partner in perfidy. Can a mere girl outwit our scoundrels? Well, what do you think?
Above: Sir Blackthorpe Ravenscairn de Plus Precieux continues to stalwartly guard my office. Peering down at him from atop the globe of Mars is Coyote.
This is a story they tell
in the Communes . . . I was asked recently, by someone who was impressed by the depth of reference in "The Mask" (he'd just bought a copy of Tales of Old Earth), how much research had gone into those 1,700 words. Well . . . The tale-behind-the-tale begins in 1981 when Kim Stanley Robinson published a story called "Venice Drowned." Stan was one of a number of people -- Nancy Kress, Bill Gibson, Pat Cadigan, Jim Kelly, and Bruce Sterling were some of the others -- I considered my peer group. They were my ideal audience, the guys whose admiration I wanted and whose best work I wrote in competition with.
Maybe seven years later, as I was preparing for a trip to Italy, Gardner Dozois said to me, "As long as you're going to be going to Venice, Michael, you should write a story called 'Venice Rising,' and sell it to Asimov's." That was one of the many tricks and stratagems that Gardner had for tricking writers into providing first-rate work for the magazine and a good example of why he's such a great editor.
I went to Italy and all the while I was in Venice -- a stone dream of a city, unlike any other -- I took notes toward "Venice Rising." I imagined a future in which capitalism had all but been obliterated from the world -- save for one last stronghold. I imagined these new doges as being very much like the old ones -- hard working, colorless, ruthless. I imagined the technologies they'd be selling, and the uses they'd put it to. I lived in that alternate future.
When I got home, I continued to create an interesting and detailed world for the story. I worked on it, off and on, for years.
I'd chosen the wrong protagonist and, it turned out, the wrong plot. There just wasn't a story there for me, it seemed. So I set the story by, as one must from time to time.
Years later, I was reading the Re/Search book on J. G. Ballard, and came across a photo of three potato-shaped white men in chairs with before them a lovely young woman wearing only a bikini bottom and a fish net. The caption explained them as J.G. Ballard, two associates, and a stripper (Miss Tempest Blaze, if I remember correctly) who during during the 1960s put on a series of performances in which she read excerpts from Ballard's works and select medical texts while removing her clothing.
It made me feel like a degraded commercial hack, because all I did was write science fiction stories and sell them to Asimov's.
So I took all the unused ideation for "Venice Rising" and used it to write a 420-word story titled "The Mask." Using surgical gauze, I then made a life mask of my wife, Marianne Porter. When it dried, I painted the mask white and, cutting the story into strips, pasted "The Mask" over the mask in a sort of demi-mask. Marianne then punched two holes in the mask, ran a red silk cord through them and hung the mask on the wall. And I felt better. Some time later of course, I expanded the story to seventeen hundred words and sold it to Asimov's. Because I do have to earn a living.
So that's all there is to it. From Stan's story to publication in the April, 1994 issue of 'mov's (as Jim Kelly invariably referred to the mag) took a mere thirteen years. I'll leave it as an exercise for the student to work out how much I was earning by the hour. Above: There it is, the original mask. The story I pasted over her has discolored a little over the decades, but she still resides in a place of honor on the wall.
It was this date, May 12, in the year 403284163 B.C.E., that the first fish left the water, seeking a better life for her spawn on land. That fish is ancestral to all terrestrial chordates, including mammals, anthropoids, and human beings. She was the ultimate mother of our species.
It is for this reason that we annually honor that brave and hopeful fish -- whose name is lost in the mists of time -- on the Sunday we call Mother's Day.
The ATM was a great invention. Before that, you had to hit up the bank at lunchtime on Friday to make sure you had enough money for the weekend. If you had a job, it was the only time you could access your money because "banker's hours" back then were ten to three. And if you got an emergency assignment that made you work through lunch, then you fed yourself on whatever happened to be in the apartment pantry.
So I got the card and the instructions on how to make it work and, being an sci-fi kind of guy, wondered: How do they keep someone from opening an account, draining it down to one dollar, telling the ATM they were depositing a thousand bucks, and then withdrawing two hundred?
A moment's reflection, and I thought: Of course. They don't credit the deposit until the actual money or checks have been confirmed by the bank.
A week later, I read an article in the Inquirer stating that the new ATMs were no longer crediting deposits immediately.
It's amazing how naive bankers are.
You've probably read about the Great Cyber Heist. An international gang took advantage of the fact that banks in the United Arab Emirates and Oman have sucky security, and that American credit and debit cards are so far behind the technological curve that they still use magnetic strips. As a result, the gang was able to empty out ATM machines up and down Manhattan using a little hacker legerdemain and hotel room keys! Strangely cool, actually.
Except. These guys apparently forgot that they were living in 2013. They were filmed every step of the way -- at the machines, on the street, everywhere. It never occurred to them how easy they would be to trace.
It's amazing how naive criminals are.
You can read about the heist here. Or here. Really takes you back to the days when Cyberpunks roamed the earth, dunnit?
Above: My rather blurry snapshot of those members of the Avram Davidson Society who met for lunch in Manhattan yesterday. An erudite time was had by all.