Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Home and Happy

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I'm home!  And I'm exhausted.  But nevertheless I'm blogging, though only briefly.

Nevada is perfectly wonderful and empty, empty, empty.  If you love living there, then Philadelphia is  its exact opposite.  But if you're a Philadelphian, its the other way around:  Philadelphia is thronged and wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.  Today I went into Center City to arrange for bespoke shirts from my Hong Kong tailor.  Then Marianne and I dropped by a student exhibit at the University of the Arts.  And bought a couple of corned beef specials from Bain's Delicatessan.

I'm nuts about Nevada.  Philadelphia is better.

No diss to those who feel otherwise.


Above:  There's where we went.  God, of course, is in the details.

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Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 170

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Written upside-down, which is usually my attempt to make something marginally more interesting, is . . .

Reasons to kill a man -- 
He's married to your lover.
He has money.
Your wife is his lover.
He has your money.
You both want the same woman.
THe woman you want has money.
He knows something about you.
He doesn't know and is about to find out.
He knows something that will put you in jail
He has a lot of money . . .

He has money.
He has money.
Money.
Money.
Money.

*

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 169

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Doodles.  Not very good ones.  I'd've spared you this, but it wouldn't have been honest of me.

*

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ghost Towns, Mines, and Ichthyosaurs, Oh My!

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 So Hurricane Irene smashed into the East Coast and as a result I couldn't get home.  Two of my surplus days are currently being used up in travel.  But the third . . . ahhhh, the third.

In addition to my usual running-about and haring down dirt roads and going to look at the glittery whatever, I visited the Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park.   It's a triple-threat tourist destination, because it includes:

a)  The ghost town of Berlin.

b) The Diana Mine, which can be toured.

c)  One of the most important ichthyosaur sites in the world, preserved in situ.

The park rangers are knowledgeable and enthusiastic, the experience is terrific, and because it's located a good hundred miles outside of Fallon, there are almost no visitors.  If you're ever in the area, I do recommend it.



And because I'm in San Francisco until my 6 AM flight . . . 

Allow me to introduce a new feature:

Martinis of the World, Part 1:



 San Francisco Martini

A bit kinky, a little askew, but still the real thing.  Served with a twist.


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Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 168

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Another collage, posing a question which I'm sure R. Crumb has frequently asked himself.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

APPEARANCES -- Sunday Update

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I'll be beating the drums for the next two weeks about my appearance at The Spiral Bookcase in Manayunk.  There are three reasons for this:  First, The Spiral Bookcase is an independent bookstore, and independent bookstores are to be cherished and encouraged.  Second, it's a relatively new bookstore (it just celebrated its first anniversary) so it can use all the attention it can get.  And third, it's a very nifty bookstore, which means that it's the kind of place I want to keep in my neighborhood.

So if you live in the Philadelphia area and you have that Saturday afternoon free . . . why not drop by?  The world needs good bookstores.

You can check out their website here.

Here's the basic info:

When: Saturday, 9/10, 3pm-5pm
Where: The Spiral Bookcase, 112 Cotton St. (right off Main St.), Manayunk, PA 19127




And, oh yeah, the basic schedule . . .

You'' note that, along with the days, my schedule is getting shorter.  That's because the publicity cycle for Dancing With Bears is drawing to a close.  Soon I will retreat to my cave and do nothing but work on the next novel.  Such is the cycle of life.

Sept. 10           The Spiral Bookcase (signing)
                         Manayunk
                         Philadelphia

Sept. 21            KGB Bar (reading)
                         NYC  

November 10    Wold Newton Reading Extravaganza (reading)
                            NYC

And in 2012 . . .

Aug. 31- Sept. 2   Chicon 7
                             Chicago

Above:  On the way back from Berlin, Nevada, the Diane Mine, and the Shonisaurus display, we ran across another shoe tree.  People need superstitions and this seems to be a harmless one.
*

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hearts, Herons, and Hurricanes

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I'm supposed to be on my way home now.  But there's a hurricane headed for New York City, which means that every airport from Atlanta to Maine is closed.

So I went birding.

Nevada isn't known for its marshlands, but what little it has is prime bird habitat.  Marianne and I went to Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge and saw:

Swainson's hawks, Brewer's blackbirds, a common tern, mourning doves, coots, quails, kestrels, ruddy ducks, buffleheads, redheads, cinnamon teals, Canada geese, a white-faced ibis, black-crowned night herons, great egrets, great blue herons, cormorants, Clark's grebes, and American white pelicans.

Also a coyote, bounding through the grasses.

Some of the birds were in such profusion as to be an event.  When eight great egrets tumble out of the only tree in sight and into the air at your approach, your heart lofts.  When four night herons lift from the reeds at once, you catch your breath.  When pelicans are coming and going, flying surely and landing softly in the water, swimming in a stately fashion in pairs, and lifting off again, so that there are always six in the water before you, only a curmudgeon could be unhappy.


And earlier . . .

Marianne and I went to Lovelock to take advantage of their self-promotional scam.  When you want tourists and have no attractions and your city is named Lovelock, what to you do?  You borrow a recent romantic folk-notion from China and declare it a tradition.  Declare that lovers lock a padlock to the chains behind the courthouse and throw away the keys as a symbol of their eternal love. Sell padlocks in the nearby stores.

It's nonsense, of course, and in its origins cynical nonsense to boot.  And yet . . .

And yet knowing all this Marianne and I bought a lock, inscribed it with our names, and threw away the keys, miles away, in the desert.  It made us happy.  Such is the power of symbols.








Above:  Two pelicans swim past a great egret.  You can imagine how happy I was.

*

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Road Goes Ever On

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You know how you have mixed feelings at the end of a vacation?  You want to get back to work, but you kind of wish the vacation could go on longer?

Well, that's how I was feeling until I learned that my flight home tomorrow had been cancelled.  Now I have mixed feelings about the whole thing.  I want my vacation to go on longer, but I really wish I could get back to work.  Particularly since I've snapped a tendon on the little finger of my right hand, so my handwriting is even worse than usual -- and slower!  I really need to get back to my keyboard.

More as I know it.  He said exhaustedly.


Above:  You think Route 50 is lonely?  Try the road through Ruby Valley.  That's where the Secret Creek flows.

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Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 167

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Swipe cards from the London Metro.

Marianne and I took Sean to London when he was nine.  The recorded voice saying, "MIND . . . THE GAP!" really cracked him up.

*

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Night of a Billion Stars

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I have  been to the mountaintop and seen the lights of the holy city.  I have traveled through the Secret Pass and heard the waters of the Secret Creek.  I have been to Poverty Gulch and returned.

There's the problem with going into the Great Empty at the heart of America.  After a time, all that emptiness, those meaningless vistas, that free-floating nihilism call up a response from within.  A spiritual fire infuses all one sees.  Place names turn to allegory.  That's where all those religious loons come from -- that and the fact that so many of our ancestors were religious loons to begin with, before they got kicked out of Europe.

Last night, I went up on Mount Wheeler to do some star-gazing.  Standing in one of the darkest spaces in the lower forty-eight I saw the stars the way they were meant to be seen.  You . . . okay, here,\'s an example:  If you follow the pointer stars of the Big Dipper, you'll come to the North Star, which is the last star in the handle of the Little Dipper.  Once you have both of them clear in your mind, the string of stars in between the two constellations reveals itself as Draco, the Dragon.

Only it rarely does.  It has to be an extremely clear night to see more than two or three of its stars.

But last night I could see all of Draco, and the myriad stars between it and the two dippers as well.  The Milky Way was a great cloudy arch of stars looping overhead from horizon to horizon.  There were five, ten, fifteen times the number of stars you normally see.  It was a glorious experience to look up and see what looks to be the entire universe.  You think about infinity.  You think about life on other worlds and what it might be like.  You think about alien civilizations.

Me, I looked up at all that astral glory and wanted to create science fiction all over again from scratch.  And made me want it to come out exactly as it did.  It's a pretty good genre.  I have no complaints about it.


And speaking  of rainbows . . .

When I was a kid, I used to chase after rainbows.  Not that I believed there was a pot of gold at the end -- I knew that was a lie.  But from something I'd read, I conceived the notion that where rainbows touched the earth, they formed a circular rainbow, in sort of a rainbow pattern.

Yesterday I saw a rainbow, so I chased it.  In my car.  To take snaps.  There's one of the pictures above.

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Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 166

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Afternoon at Schrafft's
[Ancestral Voices]
A Midwinter's Tale
[Midnight Express]

Four of my stories, two of them collaborations.  I have no idea what I was working on.  Tweaking the lineup for a collection?

*

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ten Thousand Feet and Only Two Pairs of Socks

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Sometimes I wonder if other people see these thing as well.  I was on my way to the Grand Basin National Park when I saw a rusted-out old flivver in a field.  There was something white inside, so I went to take a closer look . . .

. . . and discovered a ghost cow out on a joyride!

The park itself was a hoot, twelve miles of winding two-lane no-passing road up the side of Wheeler Peak.  The altitude was 6,500 feet at its foot and we went up as far as cars could go to 10,000 feet.  Pretty wonderful.  At that altitude I couldn't manage the mile-and-a-half trek to see the 4,000-year-old bristlecone pines -- not with my lungs!  But it was a strange and beautiful environment, which I enjoyed immensely.

Mount Wheeler is so large it creates its own weather systems.  Which may be why it rained on me on the way down the mountain.

Rain in Nevada!  Sometimes I think my experiences aren't the same as everybody else's.

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Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 165

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This speaks for itself, I think.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ghosts of Nevada

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Another long and tiring and exhilarating day.  The above shot was taken from the jacuzzi of the La Quinta in Ely and it captures exactly how I feel.

On the elevator as I was leaving the Nevada Hotel today, I met a ghost hunter who'd been up all night searching for ghosts in the basement and sixth and fifth floors.  I was on the fifth floor and can testify that if there was such a ghost, he or she was most considerately quiet.

Then I went out searching for ghosts of my own -- ghost towns, specifically.  And even though I am, next to Darger & Surplus, the world's most distractable fellow (let's go hunting for garnets! let's look for the charcoal ovens! let's check out that junk shop! what's down that road?) I made my way to Hamilton and almost made it to Treasure City before deciding that a decent respect for the car rental company required that I turned back. 

Hamilton was a boom town, founded on a silver strike in the 1860s which went away almost immediately.  But for a few brief, giddy years, it had something like 1500 citizens and became the county seat.  People built substantial houses in the belief that they were creating dynasties and buried their children in graves they thought would be cared for forever. 

Alas, Ozymandias could have told them better, as witness below.  And yet the graveyard, overgrown and a-tumble as it was, contained several graves whose stones had been replaced by modern granite versions, and several more with fresh (by which I mean unfaded) plastic flowers.  A hundred and forty years later, those deaths are mourned by family.  I find that genuinely admirable.




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Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 164

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Above:  First, oversimplified schemata for all the novel.
And here is the whole purpose of diagramming out the novel:  To raise questions.  To make obvious what parts of it I haven't yet figured out.

*

Monday, August 22, 2011

On the Road Again!

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Sorry to be so late in the day posting this.  This morning Marianne and I left Fallon, Nevada, and headed east on Route 50, famed as "the loneliest road in America."  That's it up above.  And, hoo boy, does it live up to its billing!

We had a great time, stopping at a pony express station, seeing Sand Mountain, driving into the hills to look at an earthquake fault, photographing petroglyphs, seeing a black-eared jackrabbit for the first time, and many other things as well.  We were going to stay in Eureka but when we got there, there was no room at the inn.  All the hotel rooms were taken.  So, feeling a certain amount of dread, we headed for the nearest lodgings -- which were seventy miles away in Ely.

Luckily, we found a room in the historic Hotel Nevada, where such luminaries as Stephen King, Gary Cooper, Pat Nixon, and Pretty Boy Floyd have stayed.  So I am happy, though exhausted, and wish the same for you.  Only not the exhausted part.



And I'm in e-print again . . .

If you go to Fantasy Magazine here, you can read "The Edge of the World," one of my best-known stories.  Of you can go direct to it by clicking here.  There's a lot more autobiographical material in that story than you'd expect.





Above:  As Donald Rumsfeld might have put it, you sell real estate with the history you've got.

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Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 163

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A
P
D
S
Z

Chortenko is plotting . . . what?

One of his autistics
openly refers to his plan
"You shouldn't know that, Max."

Max:  There once was an economic system that would suffice . . .

Still plotting.  All of this is gloss on the facing page.  And pretty much all of it was abandoned in the writing.

*

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Jay Pride!

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Normally I don't blog on Saturdays.  Especially during Worldcon.  But I can't resist sharing this with you:  Jay Lake has a Hugo fade!


Above:  You'll have to take my word for it that that's a photo of Jay.  But who else COULD it be?

*

Friday, August 19, 2011

Greetings From Downtown Reno!

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Reno has two big attractions -- gambling and legalized prostitution.  Oh yeah, and quickie divorces, though I gather that's fallen by the wayside since other states liberalized their marriage-negating procedures.  So this is one city that was high on my list of places I never expected to wind up in.

So why did I come to the Worldcon here?  Look up above.  Check it out -- that's a picture of me with Robert Silverberg. We're on a first-name basis.  I know him personally.
 
That's just cool.


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Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 162

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And here I go into overdrive and begin plotting out the climactic scenes of Dancing With Bears.  Good God, but that was work!

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 161

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* Surplus was not entirely displeased with how things had turned out.  Oh, there were disadvantages, to be sure . . . 

1)  Grow drugs
2)  Distribute
3)  Set fires
4)   Unleash [censored] (with [censored] infrastructure)
The [censored] steps on [censored]

Serious plotting going on here.

I've censored bits of this simply because someday you might read Dancing With Bears and . . .  Well, back when I was an undergrad at William and Mary, I used to read a newspaper which we all called The Richmond Times-Disgrace,   At that time they had a movie reviewer who judged films entirely by whether the ending surprised her.  She'd synopsize the plot and then conclude, "I would never have guessed that Norman Bates's mother was actually dead and he was dressing up as her and murdering people.  You won't either!  Highly recommended."

How many movies did this woman spoil for me?  I won't do that to you.

*

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

George R. R. Martin Sighting Du Jour

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Last Sunday, reading the New York Times, I ran across a reference to an old friend that I will confess gave me a momentary twinge of jealousy.  No, I'm not referring to the back-page essay in the New York Times Book Review which was all about how wonderful George R. R. Martin was.  ("Martin’s second virtue is a nearly supernatural gift for storytelling," it, for example, reads.  Click here to read for more informed and effusive praise.)  I'm referring to the fact that Jonathan Lethem's name was used in the cryptacrostic puzzle.  Even more amazingly, rather than referencing Motherless Brooklyn or The Fortress of Solitude, the clue was "Author of Gun, With Occasional Music -- his science fiction novel.  The guy's really tearing up the charts!

Not that George is failing to become a part of the common parlance.  As note the above clip from The Daily Show.  (Warning:  It starts with a commercial.)


And tomorrow I leave for Nevada . . .

So my blogging may be a bit sporadic.  I'll do my best to post daily.  But some of the places I'm going aren't likely to have broadband.  We shall see.

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Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 160

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Wow!  And here I'd thought I did hardly any diagrams for Dancing With Bears.  This one is only a blush away from being a circuit diagram.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Announcing . . . Dragonstairs Press!

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Those who've been following this blog for a while know that upon retirement my wife Marianne Porter reinvented herself as a "nano-publisher."  So far, she's nano-published six works by me:  A Blurb Book photo tale for Halloween titled Autumn Leaves, a chapbook reprint of "A Midwinter's Tale," which we used as a Christmas card last year, and a set of four small Darger & Surplus chapbooks, most of which I gave away as promotional items over the last few months.

Now Marianne's imprint, Dragonstairs Press, takes another step toward commercial reality:  It has a website.  If you go there, you'll note that no prices are yet listed.  That's because she's not ready to start mercantile operations yet.  When she is, in the not-too-distant future, I'll let you know.

Meanwhile, Marianne is working on a big new project.  It's very cool and very strange and something that no major press would touch on a bet.  Keep watching the skies!

You can find the Dragonstairs Press website here.


And speaking of minor japes by major writers . . .

I received my contributor's copy of the new Gardner Dozois collection, When the Great Days Come the other day.  (I co-wrote "Ancestral Voices.")  In the introduction, Robert Silverberg writes:

Not that Dozois the writer has gone unrewarded.  His first published story, "The Empty Man," was a nominee in 1966 for the award that science-fiction writers annually give their peers: the Nebula.

And he goes on from there.  But here's the thing:  "The Empty Man," written when Gardner was either sixteen or seventeen, is a bit of a potboiler.  In Being Gardner Dozois, my book-length interview with Gardner about the art and craft of every work of short fiction he had written to date, he summed it up thusly:  "Sucks! is the way we describe it in technical language."

So I wrote Gardner, asking for an explanation.  Here's his response:


EVERYTHING got a Nebula nomination that year.  As a protest over the way the Nebulas were run, Frederic Pohl nominated every single story to appear in GALAXY and WORLDS OF IF that year.  So "The Empty Man," like many other stories that year, got exactly one (1) nomination.
It still sucked.

So now you're in on the joke.


Above:  The Dragonstairs Press logo.  Derived from a photo of the Dragonstairs themselves.

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Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 159

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Here I'm plotting out Dancing With Bears.  It's worth nothing that I dropped the "tank grown" (which I lifted from the Dune books) as being just too awful.  The double-asterisks at the bottom are to make sure I don't forget to include that line.

My notes:

A:  1)  Bring up Y. as a character.
      2)  Find a rationale for the mask & imposture.
      3)  Koschei's revelation comes last & leaves A. feeling impotent and demoralized.  He overdoses,
           hoping to multiply strength.  He is stoned.  He is God.  He walks into the Terem Palace and sits
           upon the throne.
"Are you . . . him?"
"Yes, my children.
I am He Whom you seek."
AP     Crisis 1)  cut off from cigarettes
          Crisis 2)  Darger is missing

"We are searching for a weapon . . .  He may have found it."
"He claims he is searching for the tomb of the Lost Tsar.  But he is not."

     She convinces them he is looking for the Lost Tsar.
     They cut off her cigarettes

            The underlords [something] to grow rasputin

            "Tank grown."
            "What are the women for?"
            "They are the tanks."

Separate "tank grown" from revelation

Change title:  The Reign of Terror

* * "I'd kill for a smoke, "she said.

*

Monday, August 15, 2011

Whatever You Do . . . DON'T Drop It On Your Cat!

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I've had a story anthologized!  Big whoop, you say.  That happens all the time.

No, no, no, this is a very big whoop indeed.  Sense of Wonder, edited by Leigh Ronald Grossman, must surely be the very largest SF anthology ever compiled.  When I tell you it's almost a thousand pages long, that doesn't take into account that it has the dimensions of an old-fashioned telephone directory.  Or that each page has three columns of rather small print.  This book has fiction by something like 148 different authors, from Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly to Nalo Hopkinson.  It has 62 specialized essays on topic ranging from Postcolonial Science Fiction to Jim Baen.  It has the entire text of Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars!  And it contains my own "The Edge of the World."

Obviously this is not a book you'd want to drop on a household pet.

Sense of Wonder is intended, if I've got this right, to be used as a textbook for college science fiction classes.  No matter what slant the teacher takes on SF, this book has it covered.  Is this a totally mad notion?  Maybe.  But I remember when Jim Frenkl first came up with the concept of a gigantic best-of-the-year anthology and handed editorship of it to Gardner Dozois.  A lot of us wondered then if there was really a market for such a thing.  Yet now, more than a quarter century later, it's still going strong.  So the same thing may well apply in this case too.

You can read a description of the volume (and the table of contents) here.

Above:  Here it is, the distinguished thing, next to an actual life-sized pig.  Just to give you some sense of scale.


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Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 158

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2009 -- I am taking an extended vacation from science fiction.  Will I ever return to it?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  I could spend the rest of my life writing science fantasy without anyone being the wiser.
n.b.  -- ask M. for a recipe for human clone cutlets (& consomm√©!) 
& open file:
          -- haunch of unicorn
          -- the russalka's picnic
          -- [martuna]
          -- [comedian]

Marianne is a fabulous cook and she provides recipes and menus for all my fiction.  Someday I'll gather together all of them into a chapbook.  The items in square brackets are cocktails which I created.

*

Sunday, August 14, 2011

APPEARANCES -- Sunday Update

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August 19-21   Renovation (Worldcon)
                         Reno, NV

Saturday
 Sat 11:00 - 12:00, Autographing: Michael Swanwick Sat 11:00 Hall 2 Autographs (RSCC)
Sat 12:00 - 13:00, The Craft of Writing Short Science Fiction and FantasyA SF or fantasy short story can be a sparkling jewel, making a long-lasting impact on the reader.  The story may be serious or comic, a pleasure to read or a tale that won't let you stop reading until it is done with you.  How does the writer craft effective short fiction?    What techniques help the writer achieve success?  We go beyond the "good idea" and discuss the craft of writing. 
Adam-Troy Castro (M), Jay Lake, Connie Willis, Michael Swanwick, Robert Reed
 Sat 14:00 - 15:00, SF: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow  (Dialog) A11 (RSCC) 
Two of SF's most award-winning writers discuss SF (and anything else they feel like touching on).James Patrick Kelly, Michael Swanwick
 Sat 17:00 - 18:00, Literary Beer: Michael Swanwick: Sat 17:00, Hall  Bar (RSCC)
 Michael Swanwick and Jack Skillingstead

Sunday
Sun 12:00 - 12:30, Reading: Michael Swanwick (Reading), A15 (RSCC)
Sun 13:00 - 14:00, Discussing Best Related Work (Panel), A05 (RSCC)
The Best Related Work category for the Hugo Awards can be anything about the field - from a humorous book about science to a biography or autobiography to a giant book about art.  The panel discusses this year's nominees.  Come and hear why you may want to pay more attention tothis fascinating category.
Farah Mendlesohn (M) Chris Garcia, Amy Thomson, Claire Brialey, Michael Swanwick, Stephen H. Segal

Sept. 10           The Spiral Bookcase (signing)
                         Manayunk
                         Philadelphia

Sept. 21            KGB Bar (reading)
                         NYC  

November 10    Wold Newton Reading Extravaganza (reading)
                            NYC

And in 2012 . . .

Aug. 31- Sept. 2   Chicon 7
                             Chicago


Above:  Friday I went around taking pictures of shadows.  I only kept this one.  It's of a tree in the courtyard of the Brandywine River Museum.

*

Friday, August 12, 2011

Some Pig! (and the chickens are good too)

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I didn't feel like working today, so I swung by Chadds Ford to take in Farm Work, the Jamie Wyeth show of (mostly) his portraits of farm animals at the Brandwine River Museum.  There were some marvelous pieces on display, but my favorite is still the heroic portrait of a pig which is part of the permanent collection.  The pig is painted side-on, very bright, and is unquestionably charismatic.  It's not just a painting of a pig but a portrait of a particular pig.

It's a great show and at ten dollars per adult admission, it's a bargain.  I recommend it.

The Brandywine River Museum specializes in three generations of Wyeths -- Jamie, his father Andrew, and his grandfather N.C.  I like 'em all, but every visit reminds me that I like N.C. Wyeth best.  I love his big illustrative work -- the portrait of Old Pew from Treasure Island is stunning -- but it's a still life that I love best.  It shows two old glass bottles on a shelf in a dark barn.  The light is rendered perfectly.  The glass has a wonderful solidity and the reflections are perfectly rendered.  And if you stand and look at them for a while, you realize that N.C. picked the bottles up from somewhere else and placed them on the shelf for the painting -- because you can see his finger-swipes in the dust.  You can tell he knew he'd created something special because in the upper right-hand corner, while the paint was still wet, he scratched the date and under that "3 HRS."

I mentioned the painting to an artist friend of mine once and he cried, "Yes!  Three hours!  The son of a bitch!"



Oh, and speaking of brainless summer movies . . .

I went to see Cowboys and Aliens the other day.  Everybody told me it was godawful.  So it was pleasant to discover that, expecting the worst, it turned out to be good, brainless fun.

I don't know how enjoyable it would be if you were expecting something decent, though.



Above:  Jamie Wyeth went through a period when he was painting chickens in baskets, pots, and boxes.  Sometimes they cooperated.  When they didn't, he used duct tape.  True story.

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Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 157

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Two three-by-fives of papers I meant to look up for one of my stories.  Or possibly I was just interested in them.  I'm glad there was some scrap of science in this notebook.  Usually there's more.

*

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Murray Leinster! Murray Leinster!

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Look what just came in the mail:  a copy of Murray Leinster: the Life and Works, by his daughters Billee J. Stallings and Jo-an J. Evans.  This the first biography ever of Will F. Jenkins, the man who wrote science fiction under the name of Murray Leinster and indeed who invented a great deal of what we call science fiction.  In the introduction, James Gunn notes that "He originated more SF concepts than any writer since H.G. Wells."  Think about that.  More than Heinlein!  More than Asimov!  More than Clarke!

But what really knocks me out most on a visceral level is the photograph in the book (shown above in an admittedly crude snapshot) of the 13--year-old Will proudly posing with the glider which he built and flew himself.

They built boys spunky back then.  And competent.

Those of you who need this book sufficiently to drop forty bucks on a trade paperback (and you know who you are) can buy it directly from McFarland here.  Or, if you're feeling virtuous, you can order it through a bookstore.


And speaking of Billee . . .

I've actually met Billee Stallings and think very highly of her.  At a recent convention, she gave an hour-long presentation on her father and her book.  Marianne video'd it and I put it up in six installments on YouTube.

You can view the first segment here.

The second segment here.

The third segment here.

The fourth segment here.

The fifth segment here.

And the sixth segment here.

There are also rumors that the New York Review of Science Fiction reading series in New York City is going to be doing a  special Murray Leinster evening.  If and when that happens, I'll let you know.

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Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 156

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Floating Lights
"Any sufficiently developed spiritual device is indistinguishable from fraud."  This is Giordano Bruno's first law.  The lights.
and also
"Let a thousand lights bloom."  Chairman Mao said that.  Those who believed him, lived to regret it.
and also

"The dame did it."  That's every second-rate fictional detective's first law.  To be immediately followed by a metaphor gaudy enough to choke a horse.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 155

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Urban Talisman

Found at Ridge & Leverington Avenues, January 9, 2009

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Winter Is Coming -- Also, Renovation!

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Here's my Worldcon schedule, for anybody who might like to saunter up to me at Renovation and say hello:

Thursday
Thu 15:00 -16:00 mass signing for the Asimov's 30th anniversary anthology 
Location not yet set.  Maybe at the Tachyon Publications table? 
Friday

I'll just be wandering around.
Saturday
Sat 11:00 - 12:00, Autographing: Michael Swanwick Sat 11:00 Hall 2 Autographs (RSCC)

Sat 12:00 - 13:00, The Craft of Writing Short Science Fiction and Fantasy
Adam-Troy Castro (M), Jay Lake, Connie Willis, Michael Swanwick, Robert Reed
This panel could be extremely good.  We all know tons and tons about the subject.  But can we explain it all coherently and in a manner that will cut years off the apprenticeship of all the gonnabe writers in the audience?  There's only one way to find out.
Sat 14:00 - 15:00, SF: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow  (Dialog) A11 (RSCC) 
Jim Kelly and me. 
That's it.  That's all the description there is.  I wrote to Jim to ask for his ideas, and he wrote back, "Oh, I'm sure we'll have plenty to say.  We always have."  So this one is either going to be brilliant or else it'll be a total bomb.  In a way, this is the kind of panel I like best . . .  Up on the high wire with no assurance I know what I'm doing and no safety net.
Sat 17:00 - 18:00, Literary Beer: Michael Swanwick: Sat 17:00, Hall  Bar (RSCC)
Michael Swanwick and Jack Skillingstead
Folks get to sign up to sit at a table and chat with Jack and me.  If only a few do so, we'll be at the same table.  But we'll probably both have a table to ourselves.   I always find these things pleasant.
Sunday
Sun 12:00 - 12:30, Reading: Michael Swanwick (Reading), A15 (RSCC)
After the reading, I'll do the usual signing-the-typescript-and-leaving-it-behind thing.  And I'll also leave a partial typescript of something I'm still working on.
Sun 13:00 - 14:00, Discussing Best Related Work (Panel), A05 (RSCC)
Farah Mendlesohn (M) Chris Garcia, Amy Thomson, Claire Brialey, Michael Swanwick, Stephen H. Segal

This one was Farah's idea.  She thinks the lineup of nonfiction this year is so extraordinary it deserves an extraordinary discussion.  It's probably going to be a brilliant panel.  There are some brilliant people on it anyway.
Sun 14:01  Marianne will return from the desert, swooping down on the convention like an eagle, and she will pick me up, drop me in a rental car, and drive off into the sunset with me.  And I shall be happy.


And because folks on Facebook have asked . . .

The Liars Club set up a page with info about their benefit party for L.A. Banks.  Those who'd like to contribute money to help pay her medical bills will find a donation button there.  Click here.


Above:  I've formed the habit of photographing my breakfast and posting it on Facebook.  This morning:  sprite melon.  See what you're missing by not having an account?

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Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 154

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Nordflesh.  Also some clippings from the paper that interested me.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Remembering Leslie Banks

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I went to a benefit Friday for the late Leslie Banks at Smokey Joe's.  It was organized by the Liars Club to help pay the medical bills she incurred in the course of dying.

Ms Banks -- I only met her once, so I won't pretend to be on a first-name basis with her -- wrote something like 61 books in a number of genres, including romance, African-American fiction, women's fiction, crime suspense, dark fantasy, and non-fiction.   She was probably best known for the twelve-volume Vampire Huntress Legend series, written as L. A. Banks.  In her spare time (!), she was active in Philadelphia's literacy programs.

And, oh God, did her fans love her!

As did her friends.  Leslie Banks was only 51 when she died and, despite that incredible rate of production, the medical costs incurred in the less than two months between diagnosis and death, ate up everything she had and more.  Hence the benefit.

It was actually a very pleasant evening.  There was a huge turnout, lotteries, a silent auction, music.  Probably the most satisfying moment was when Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter put in an appearance with his wife, Lisa, to read a proclamation in praise of our absent guest of honor.  That's a rather murky snapshot of him up above.

Mayor Nutter was, I'm sure, chiefly present because of Leslie Banks' literacy advocacy.  But, without shorting her on that account, he was careful to praise her chiefly as a writer.

I don't have to know her personally to know that that would have pleased her.


Above:  "Wait!" I hear some of you -- especially the Brits -- say.  "Philadelphia has a Nutter for mayor?"  Yes, we do.  He's a GREAT mayor too.  The man walks on water.  And he shows up for benefits for fallen writers.


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Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 153

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My instinct tells me not.  What?  Okay . . . what did he do?  So now we've got a [something] minute of justice.  I know it's early, I'm sorry.  I'll get more.  Is that your sister?  Yeah, she went off.  I really need to ask your mom some questions about your dad.  What about your sister?  I have to ask about everything.  He hit her.  He cried.  Touch her in any other way?  How should I know stuff like that?  Can I take that [something]?  Can I use the bathroom?  It's down on the right.
These young...  Nice smile.  Aww, little fella, [something], thank you.  Come on.  I'm sorry.  I'm sure that's some kind of serious antidepressant.  I suppose so.  One of the women -- yes, alright.  I feel there's a market for virgins.  Do you recognize any of these faces?  You see this man?  Couple of times.  Keep me out of this.  Please, I have a young daughter.  Brought the girls in from wherever.  You see her?  You don't think so?  Maybe.  A lot of them were foreign.  How short?  Thirteen.  She burned herself to death in front of me.
There was another man.  He was evil.  I will look after you, I promise.  I don't know her.
No one can.


Every now and then you have to take a steady look at what's going into your mind.  I was listening to something on TV and I wrote down the dialog as fast as I could, missing about half of it.  The resulting combo of banality and menace sounds a lot like a radio broadcast from Hell, doesn't it?

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

APPEARANCES -- Sunday Update

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I've added another appearance, the Wold Newton Reading Extravaganza in November, of which more as the time approaches.  And I've detailed my public appearances at Renovation.

I think I'll annotate my Worldcon schedule sometime later this week.



August 19-21   Renovation (Worldcon)
                         Reno, NV

Saturday
 Sat 11:00 - 12:00, Autographing: Michael Swanwick Sat 11:00 Hall 2 Autographs (RSCC)
Sat 12:00 - 13:00, The Craft of Writing Short Science Fiction and FantasyA SF or fantasy short story can be a sparkling jewel, making a long-lasting impact on the reader.  The story may be serious or comic, a pleasure to read or a tale that won't let you stop reading until it is done with you.  How does the writer craft effective short fiction?    What techniques help the writer achieve success?  We go beyond the "good idea" and discuss the craft of writing. 
Adam-Troy Castro (M), Jay Lake, Connie Willis, Michael Swanwick, Robert Reed
 Sat 14:00 - 15:00, SF: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow  (Dialog) A11 (RSCC) 
Two of SF's most award-winning writers discuss SF (and anything else they feel like touching on).James Patrick Kelly, Michael Swanwick
 Sat 17:00 - 18:00, Literary Beer: Michael Swanwick: Sat 17:00, Hall  Bar (RSCC)
 Michael Swanwick and Jack Skillingstead

Sunday
Sun 12:00 - 12:30, Reading: Michael Swanwick (Reading), A15 (RSCC)
Sun 13:00 - 14:00, Discussing Best Related Work (Panel), A05 (RSCC)
The Best Related Work category for the Hugo Awards can be anything about the field - from a humorous book about science to a biography or autobiography to a giant book about art.  The panel discusses this year's nominees.  Come and hear why you may want to pay more attention tothis fascinating category.
Farah Mendlesohn (M) Chris Garcia, Amy Thomson, Claire Brialey, Michael Swanwick, Stephen H. Segal

Sept. 10           The Spiral Bookcase (signing)
                         Manayunk
                         Philadelphia

Sept. 21            KGB Bar (reading)
                         NYC  

November 10    Wold Newton Reading Extravaganza (reading)

And in 2012 . . .

Aug. 31- Sept. 2   Chicon 7
                             Chicago


Above:  Miss Helen Hope Mrrrlees says, What are you looking at?

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Reading Apollinaire's Bestiary

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I do not argue that e-books will never replace the traditional book.  The advantages of being able to throw a few hundred books into your overnight bag are pretty well established by now.  Nor is it seemly for a man who makes a living from writing science fiction to wax overly nostalgic about the technologies of his youth.

But still.  There is a particular pleasure to a well-made book, and here's a case in point.  I am currently reading (and have been for some time) Guillaume Apollinaire's first collection of poems, The Bestiary: or Procession of Orpheus.  I have a particular fondness for bestiaries and for collections of verse, so this was a natural for me.  Also, I've never really gotten a handle on Apollinaire as a poet and I figured this was a good place to start.

The appeal of e-books seems to me chiefly one of efficiency.  You conceive a desire for a particular book and in less time than it would take to find the keys and back the car out of the driveway, your purchase is complete.  Rather than having to rattle through the house, searching through shelves and stacks of books, you simply boot up the reader and there the text is, at your fingertips.  These are undeniably good things.

Sometimes, though, you don't want efficiency.  The Bestiary is a collection of poems that are only four lines long.  You could barrel through it in fifteen minutes if you were willing to sacrifice  comprehension.  And yet.  The slim volume I have (from Johns Hopkins University Press) is designed for languorous reading.  The pages are thick, cream-colored stock, a mild pleasure to touch, and they are of slightly staggered lengths, so that one opens it at random to find a small treasure awaiting:  on the left-hand page, a single poem printed twice, first in the original French and then in English translation by X. J. Kennedy and on the right-hand page a woodcut by Raoul Dufy of the creature in question.  It is a book that as good as says, I am a complete waste of your time.  Come -- waste your time in my pleasant company.

It is when we are at our most inefficient that we enjoy life best.  I don't know how much of the book I've read yet.  But I'm sure that someday I'll pick it up and realize that I've read every poem it contains.  X. J. Kennedy also provides an explanatory essay at the beginning and I may get around to reading that too, someday.  Or maybe not, depending on my mood.

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Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 152

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To begin, a nonsense limerick in bad Platdeutsch:


Zwar einmal ein limerick
Das zweifal war gimmerick
Es plotz
Und zotz
Und immerfal dimmerick!

Then an article about Stephen Colbert and the dwindling of traditional news nedia, superimposed over a gorgeous drawing by R. Crumb.  What an eye that guy has!  How very hard he works!  Next to it I wrote:  Why can we not have a show of R. Crumb drawings -- those which are not cartoons?  Those which are not narrative?  I'd love to spend an afternoon wallowing in his line.


Finally, another piece of light verse.

There once was a couplet
for dogs -- 'twas a puplet!

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Telling Lies for Fun and Profit

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I'm a professional liar.  It's not an easy skill to master, but it's one I take very seriously.  So I'm always on the lookout for ways of telling lies more effectively.

I picked up a copy of the Fiction 2011 issue of the Atlantic yesterday, and in it found two true statements about my craft.  The first, from an essay about the writer's fear of saying what has already been said by John Barth (whose Giles Goat-Boy was, many, many decades ago, the first big-and-difficult book I ever read) is a quote from Andre Gide:

Everything that needs to be said has already been said.  But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.

The second comes from an essay by Bret Anthony Johnson titled Don't Write What You Know.  Which, I must confess, had me at the title.  Here's what he wrote:

Instead of thinking of my experiences as structures I wanted to erect in fiction, I started conceiving of them as the scaffolding that would be torn down once the work was complete.

Which is just brilliant.  The critic Hugh Kenner once wrote an essay describing an incident in WWII wherein two agents of the French Resistance were sent on an important mission.  Given an absolute minimum of information, in case they were caught, and disguised as tramps, they made their way across the perilous countryside.  Only to discover at their dangerously open rendezvous point that their contact had been delayed but that, surely, Mr. Godot would be there tomorrow.  This, he said, was in all likelihood  the story that Samuel Beckett started with, before scraping off the particulars and making Waiting for Godot universal.


And rather to my surprise . . .

My own Stations of the Tide made NPR's list of the 217 best science fiction and fantasy books ever written.  Actually, they're compiling a list of the top 100 but that won't be announced for a few weeks yet.  And since my novel may fall off the list between then and now, I'm celebrating while I can.

Life is uncertain.  Not long ago a food writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote of how his mother had died of a heart attack one day while making lunch.  He noted proudly that the piece of cake a neighbor had given her for dessert had already been eaten.
 
You can read about the list here.  Or you can go straight to the list itself here.


Above:  This quite good photo of me telling lies is copyright 2011 by Sally Wiener Gotta and is used here by kind permission of the photographer. 

Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 151

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A candle, a flame made from a scrap of label from a certain cola, and a slogan suggested by one used to sell expensive wine.

I think this is self-explanatory.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Another Bookstore Bites the Dust

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Sometimes it seems like I've spent my entire life watching bookstores close.  I came to Philadelphia in the winter of 1973 to discover that a landmark bookstore (I thought it was Leary's, but Wikipedia tells me that closed in '69) was giving away all its books free just prior to closing its doors forever.  For a time, my favorite bookstore was Middle Earth Books, but the owner finally had to shut it down and go into business rehabbing houses.  For years, Hourglass Books was the focus of the science fiction community in Philadelphia.  But then Fred Fisher concluded that he could do better things with his life than run an SF bookstore.  There was a great little bookstore on Main Street in Manayunk, where I discovered Amos Tutuola's fiction.  It didn't last.

And so it's gone.

I dropped by the Borders in Bryn Mawr today to buy a couple of books and witness the beginning of the end.  This store closing is particularly painful because between them the Borders and Barnes & Noble chain put the vast majority of independent bookstore in this country out of business.  And now, for reasons Marx mapped out over a century ago, the one has imploded and the other isn't looking very healthy.

Every time a bookstore closes, it feels like a friend has died.  I came home feeling unhappy and a little angry at impersonal forces that are beyond anybody's control.  The only consolation I have is that the chain didn't die because of anything I did.

God knows I spent enough money there over the years.

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Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 150

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This one reads:  This page unintentionally left blank.

It might help to remember that I write on the right-hand pages first, and save the left-hand pages for supplemental thoughts,   So yesterday's page was a commentary on this one.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Coming Soon to an Inter-Tubes Near YOU!

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I'm in e-print again!

Well, almost.

First things first.  Brand-new up is a podcast of my story Ancient Engines at Drabblecast.  "Ancient Engines" is a particular favorite of mine because it's based on a a story that my late father-in-law used to tell on himself, about going to view a locomotive in a science museum.  It lost the Hugo and Nebula Awards and the Locus Poll as well. But it won the Asimov's Readers Poll, so all in all it did pretty well by me.

You can find Drabblecast here.  Or you can go straight to the story here.

My other piece of e-news is that the story which won me my first major award (a Sturgeon), The Edge of the World, is scheduled to be re-e-printed (if that's actually a word) in Fantasy Magazine on August 22.  Or you can buy the entire issue in downloadable format for just $3.99.

All of which can be seen or done here.


Above:  A very nice cover for Fantasy Magazine.  But you already figured that one out.

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Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 149

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An upside-down sentence.  It says:  The other page page unintentionally no verb.


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