Friday, August 7, 2020

The Brilliance of Gardner Dozois (and Other Topics)


The new issue of Clarkesworld has an interview with me, capably conducted by Arley Sorg. In it, I talk about the brilliance of the late Gardner Dozois, our collaborative novel City Under the Stars, how to stay relevant as a writer, and why there should be a sign by the womb-door reading  HEROES ONLY.

Among many other topics.

You can find the interview here.

And because you're wondering . . .

It bears repeating that Dragonstairs Press is Marianne Porter's micropress and not mine. She is the sole founder, operator, editor and publisher of the Dragonstairs empire. I'm only the content provider.

That said, you're probably wondering how the rollout of Swan/Wolfe, Marianne's latest chapbook, the lightly-edited transcript of my interview on the ReReading Wolfe podcast went.

Not so badly. Marianne made 100 copies of the the signed-and-numbered, hand-stitched, and beautifully-made chapbook, of which 76 were available for sale. Every one sold by the end of the day.

Of course, it was a Gene Wolfe related item, which means that a year from now it will be fabulously expensive--assuming you can find someone who wants to part with it. But Marianne is already at work on her next project, which I'm absolutely sure is going to sell out in less than an hour.

But it's still too early in the process to drop hints. For now, mum's the word.


Wednesday, August 5, 2020



Marianne Porter has announced another Dragonstairs Press chapbook. It goes on sale tomorrow, Thursday, August 6 at noon EDT.

Swan/Wolfe is my meditation on the place Gene Wolfe in modern science fiction and fantasy.  It came about because I was interviewed on James Wynn's and Craig Brewer's ReReading Wolfe podcast. (Normally, they do a chapter-by-chapter close reading of Gene's The Book of the New Sun quatrology, but from time to time they interview people who knew Gene and/or have interesting things to say about his work.)

I was chatting about the experience on social media afterward, when author and collector Lawrence Person suggested that a transcript would make an excellent Dragonstairs chapbook. Having done transcripts on occasion (including a book-length interview published as Being Gardner Dozois), I was not crazy about the thought of doing all that work. But Craig Brewer heroically volunteered to type out a transcript. Marianne and I consulted and told him to leave out the parts of the interview that didn't deal with Gene (I was given a lot of freedom to talk about myself), and the result is a nice, tightly-focused look at my feelings toward and admiration of Wolfe.)  I edited the results lightly to amplify and clarify my thoughts.

Out of all this, Marianne created another lovingly-crafted chapbook.  Hand-stitched, 6”x9”, and 10 pages long. Numbered and signed by the interviewee (me), and produced in an edition of 100, of which 76 will be available for purchase.

You can buy a copy on But not before tomorrow noon.

And if you're just curious about what I said, you can listen to the podcast here.

Above: Looks nice, dunnit? Cover by Philadelphia artist Susan McAninley.

Friday, July 31, 2020

City Under the Stars--coming SOON!


Look what came in the mail!

City Under the Stars is a collaborative novel written with Gardner Dozois, my latest and his last. In an afterword I trace its near 50-year history, culminating in its publication this month.

Here's how it begins:

It was high summer in Orange, in York, in the Human Domain of Earth. There was commerce in the town, crops in the field, beasts in the byre, bandits in the roads, thants and chimeras in the hills, and God in His Heaven—which was fifteen miles away, due east.   
That is one lovely stick of prose. I can say that in all modesty because every word of it was Gardner's. Most people today know Gardner only as an editor, but he was one of the best writers in the genre. I mean that seriously. He was a much better writer than he was an editor--and as an editor, he was aces.

So City Under the Stars is here and it's almost available to buy. Keep watching the skies!

And speaking of Gardner's co-author . . .

Open Road Media is putting the E-book of my novel, Jack Faust on sale for $1.99 in Canada and the US this Sunday, August 2nd.

That's one day only!

They tell me that you can subscribe to the newsletters at the links below so that you will get the direct link to the deal on the day that it appears.

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Jack Faust is my dark but beautifully written version of the Faust legend. I'm quite proud of it. So if you read E-books and are curious, well, here's your chance to buy it cheap.

End of commercial pitch.


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

"10 Can't-Miss Books...."


So one of my books made another click-bait list, this one titled "10 Can't-Miss Books like Carnival Row That Feature Magic and Murder." 

 I haven't read everything on the list but those books I have read, I admired. So I'm pleased that The Iron Dragon's Daughter is there.

And maybe I ought to check out Carnival Row as well.

You can find the list here.


Monday, July 27, 2020

Book of Dragons AMA -- Going on NOW!


There is a Book of Dragons AMA on Reddit Fantasy going on now (Monday, July 27), as of 9am EST. Editor Jonathan Strahan kicked it off and there is a guest writer every hour.

The schedule is:

 9.00AM EST Jonathan Strahan
10.00AM EST JY Yang
11.00AM EST Ken Liu
12.00AM EST Elle Katherine White
2.00PM EST Jo Walton
3.00PM EST CSE Cooney
4.00PM EST Ellen Klages
5.30PM EST Jonathan Strahan T

You can find the AMA by clicking here.

And you'll have noticed . . .

I'm not among the people taking part in the AMA. I should mention that this isn't because I made myself persona non grata with my peers or decided the enterprise was beneath me. The problem was that when this thing was being set up, I suddenly started solving the problems that were hanging up a number of short stories, so I've been writing furiously and finishing stories at a rate quite remarkable for me. So I was distracted and didn't get around to volunteering to help out. Mea culpa.

On the other hand, I should have this problem all the time.


Friday, July 24, 2020

17 Story Openings


Going over the typescript for a partially-written story, I discovered that a couple of days ago I had written the openings for 17 stories on the backs of the pages. Since I'm (probably) never going to do anything with them, I thought I'd share them with you. If you happen to want to use one, feel free. There's plenty more where these came from.

1. It was night, as it always was.

2. After five thousand years, the ship arrived. Too late, too late, too late!

3. The night before the end of the universe was lush and sultry.

4. The moon was full and our arsenals too.

5. The dogs howled at twilight, passing the news on and on. Mankind was dead

6. A goldfish in a fishbowl knows as much of the universe as do you and I.

7. There are over forty different species of fish in the sea. How dare the biologists say it's dying?

8. Three times I killed you. three times the universe was reset to bring you back. This time I'll you and the universe too.

9. I was the fourteenth woman and the third differently-abled person of color to set foot on Pluto. So close to the history books, and so far from anybody caring!

10. Human flesh is gourmet food in thirty-seven civilizations in this arm of the Milky Way alone. Which is why I got a degree in law.

11. How can you doubt I care for you? My zombie armies are about to destroy everything you care about. Leaving only me for you to love.

12. All the waters run to the sea. All the stars run to the black hole at the center of the galaxy. All the Galaxies run to the Strange Attractor. And all my life runs to thee, my one, my only, my dearest love.

13. The chair was plotting against me. I knew it. It knew I knew.  We both knew that nobody else would ever believe it. There was only one passible outcome.

14. After the Event, she was the last woman on Earth. Every straight man and would-be father in the world wanted her. Which was ironic, given her dating history.

15. The micro-aliens invaded Earth in 2170. They were successful in creating cities in the bloodstreams of all the major mammals, including humans. Then came the nano-aliens desireous of their internal habitats.

16.A sewer worker dreamed he was the philosopher Chuang-tse dreaming he was a butterfly. It was the most wonderful dream he had ever had and he wanted never to awaken from it. The analogy to your situation is obvious.

17. Life is real, life is earnest! And your place in it is as comic relief.

And you may be wondering . . .

Just why did I bother with this exercise? Three reasons, really: To keep in practice, to reassure myself that I still can, and just in case. Decades ago, when I was working as a church secretary in West Philly, I arrived at work early and set myself the challenge of writing ten opening sentences. Number six or seven or eight was "There was something ugly growing in the air over the altar."

I liked this sentence so much that I wrote the next paragraph. Then the one after that. Eventually, after many twists and turns, I'd written "Covenant of Souls," which was published in Omni, and which pleased my greatly.

Nothing came of this exercise, but so what? No writing is ever wasted, if you're a writer.

Above: "The Pillars of Creation," cropped and colored courtesy of NASA.


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

In Which My Book Leads off a List of Grimdark Fantasies...


So I've had the odd experience of learning that The Iron Dragon's Daughter (the first book of the stand-alone trilogy, not to be confused with The Iron Dragon's Mother, the last) leads off a list on The Portalist titled "Gritty and Gray: 12 of the Greatest Grimdark Fantasy Books Ever."

On the one hand I'm gratified to be on the list. On the other, I don't  personally think the Iron Dragon books are so grim and dark as to be defined by that term. There's a lot of joy to be found in them too. But of course, that's not my call. A novel is like a bird. For the longest time you fill its gaping maw with the creamed worms of your imagination. Then one day it wobbles to the edge of the nest, spreads its wings and takes an awkward leap... and is published.

From then on, its roosts where it wills. The writer's authority over it is no more. It belongs to the readers now.

Let them make of it what they will.

You can find the list here, by the way.