Friday, September 20, 2019

Love, Death & Robots at the Emmys


You may remember that some where ago, my story, "Ice Age" was made into a live action/animation hybrid for the Love, Death + Robots Netflix series.

Well, I have just heard from the series creators at Blur Studio that their series has won four Emmys and was nominated for a fifth. "Creating all 18 stories truly took a global village," they wrote in an email to it must be hundreds of people, and congratulated everyone involved.

My personal involvement lies somewhere between minimal and nonexistent here. But they did a beautiful job with my stoy--and the other 17--so I thought I should pass along their happiness.

Congratulations to everyone who did the real work!

You can read all about it here.

And the diagram du Jour . . .

events accelerate

the still moment of self

Everything fled from her: her [something], her hopes, her ambitions, her hopes of

My best guess is hat his is the moment of incursion when Caitlin passes through Hell Gate and everything changes. But it's also pretty clearly a map of the universe as experienced from within the self during an instant of perfect awareness. The green line is labeled Time.

The incoherence of the third line indicates how fast I was scribbling down this insight, hoping to pin it before it faded.

At the bottom of the page, where you can't read it, I later noted (a chimneysweep universe); this was a reference to the Elizabethan word for dandelions.


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Thursday's Diagram


A whole page today! With comments.


*** When will Helen feel compassion for Charlotte?

I think she does by the end of the novel; but I wouldn't swear to it.

[*?? The daughter who knows she has more power than her  Mom]

I don't think Caitlin ever realizes that. In most cases, it's not true anyway.

The top Venn diagram shows All and Nothing with an asterisk footed at the bottom You are here. I'm being playful, obviously, but giving the deep underpinnings some serious thought nonetheless.

The second, punnishly labeled Zen diagram,  shows Earth and Faerie overlapping, the two realms touching, and the two realms separate. 1 and 3 I understand. The question is which of the three relationships is the real one. And that I did figure out by the end.

*What  is Charlotte's nom de fugitive?

This will be obvious as soon as I realize the protagonist's name is not Charlotte but Caitlin.

Faerie is not unchanging -- is it timeless?

Now, having finished hte book, I think that Faerie is not timeless. But I wouldn't swear to it.

The diagrams will get less whimsical as I go deeper into the novel and begin to understand it better. The beginning is always the roughest part. But the significant part is that drawing diagrams forces me to ask questions that need to be addressed.


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Once and Future Rye


Consider the strange fate of rye whiskey. From the earliest days of the Republic to the onset of Prohibition, it was the American tipple. From Monongahela to Sonoma, if you stopped in a roadhouse and ordered a shot of whiskey, rye was what the barkeep poured into your glass.

Yet by the 1950s, rye was perilously close to being forgotten. Where bourbon emerged gloriously from the Great Depression, self-mythologized and available from a constantly growing number of distilleries, only a handful of bottom-shelf brands of rye survived... and those, it has to be said, only at the benevolent toleration of a few bourbon distilleries.

The recent resurrection of rye whiskey is one of the few signs that the Twenty-First Century may have something to offer civilization worth the keeping. So the proprietors of The American Martini Institute and The American Martini Laboratory propose to present the history of the Whiskey That Was America here in a series of posts and tastings.

To celebrate this we opened a bottle of "Single Barrel" and "Genuine Small Batch" Dad's Hat Pennsylvania Straight Rye Whiskey. This is a pricey bottle we were saving for a special occasion. Which this is! According to the hand-printing on the label, this was bottle 100 from cask 4, barreled on 9-2-14 and bottled on 4-18-18. It's "cask strength," which in this case means an astonishing 124.6 proof.

First, we did a taste test. The color was dark and lovely. The nose was a strong caramel. The rye had flavors of brown sugar, caramel, cinnamon and--a touch of nutmeg? The alcohol could be felt. And the total impression...

Wow. This is one lovely drink. Perfect for sipping and lingering over. Rye is not often drunk straight. But this version cries out to be sipped and savored.

Nevertheless, we then used it to prepare a cocktail:

3 ounces rye
1 ounce sweet vermouth
2 dashes cherry bitters
chill and serve with a spiced cherry

Again, wow. The Manhattan is a regal cocktail to begin with. It's also one that allows the quality of the rye to shine through. As it did here. This was a distinctly delicious drink, as good a Manhattan as anyone at the American Martini Institute has ever had.

Also, it carries a punch.

(Note that the AML uses cherries spiced in-house and not those dreadful candied things they sell in a jar. It makes a tremendous difference.)

In future weeks, there will be more more posts tracking the rise of rye whiskey, its tragic downfall, and its wondrous rebirth. Telling the story of the Whiskey That Was America and might well yet be again.

Meanwhile, back on the diagram front . . .

Two small diagrams today. First:

Reading the line from left to right yields a map in parvoThe  of The Iron Dragon's Mother. The first section is Helen's story. Then the pilot (Caitlin) enters the picture. Both continue onward. There is a climactic scene with Caitlin's mother (though I forget which one. Then, after a brief coda, Helen and Caitlin part ways. Helen in one direction and Caitlin and her mother in another. There I commented: (But that is another story, and one that will never be told this side of Spiral Palace.) So I obviously had a specific end in mind. It wasn't the ending that I ended up with, though. That one caught me by surprise.

Between the diagrams, it reads: Skin Walker: Native Am. -- walks in the skins of others This was not meant to be cultural appropriation but inclusion. It was one of my ambitions to include everyone in the novel. It can't be done, of course--there are too many of us for that. But I was trying to exclude as few of us as possible.

As it turned out, I couldn't find a place to use a skin walker, so it's a moot issue.

The second diagram:

This shows the entirety of the novel in parvo again. The original plan was that most of the novel would deal with Caitlin's false mother and the resolution would deal with her true mother. Apparently, at that time she only had two.

(The green scribble is the crudely-drawn head of a giant, commenting, "You are little people in more senses than you know.)


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Another Diagram


The Wheel of Ixion

This was an early effort to work out the philosophical underpinnings of The Iron Dragon's Mother. They got much more complicated later on. But here, there's still a dichotomy between Earth and Faerie. The two chief things they have in common are Life and Death. But it's not at all certain that death is the same thing for the fey as it is for mortals. For one thing, they have the possibility of being reborn, while on Earth (my Earth, which is not necessarily the same as the real one) that's not an option.

The single most relevant word in the myth of Ixion is "forever." This is the arrangement both words are given and there's nothing to be done abut it.


Monday, September 16, 2019

La bohème on Independence Mall


When metropolitans are asked why they live in a major city, they usually cite art museums, symphony orchestras, the opera... and when they're asked when was the last time they took advantage of any of those things, they usually say, "Well..."

Saturday, Marianne and I went to Independence Mall to see La bohème. This was a recording, played over big screens and speakers, of a performance of Puccini's crowd-pleaser that played at the Academy of Music last year. 

It was glorious.

It was free.

And it had Independence Hall as a backdrop.

No dis to places where you can see eagles and bears whenever you wish, have the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, or have trout streams running right through the back yard if you're lucky. But if you want to listen to opera on Independence Mall, you've just got to come to Philadelphia.

And today's diagram . . .

Time to get to work.

I don't know what the upper diagram marked "hot" romance and no romance was meant to indicate--it was an early notion that got dropped at some point. The lower diagram, though, shows the emotional movement Caitlin goes through in the first chapter.

Imagine the line as being Caitlin's life. It begins with cameraderie (sic; it should be camaraderie) with her fellow dragon pilots. The dragon enters as a presence as she goes into flight. They perform the snatch to the accompaniment of banter. Then Helen enters the picture. Followed by a descent (both physical, to the base, and moral) into deceit. The actual writing doesn't follow the diagram exactly, since it begins immediately after Helen's intrusion. But Caitlin's life follows the pattern, so it's ideation time not wasted.

In the course of drawing the diagram and thinking about it, three thoughts occurred to me so I jotted them down. They were

The oldest recorded 
words are these:
Things are not as 
they once were

"You're in an
odd mood"

Dragons do 
not have 
moods; we
have fates

Half the purpose of drawing diagrams is to see the shape of things to come. The other half is to bring thoughts like these, observations and scraps of dialogue, into existence.


Tuesday, September 3, 2019



Just a reminder that I'll be reading at the Brooklyn Commons Cafe tonight, along with Gregory Feeley. Opening time 6:45 p.m.

Be there or be square!

And the sixth diagram  . . .

More a doodle than a diagram, I'm afraid. The triangle represents what I thought would be the central relationships of the novel--Brigitte (Caitlin), Helen, and the dragon. Below it, Helen and Brigitte come together at the beginning of the second chapter. (That's the circle.) They travel together for most of The Iron Dragon's Mother. Then, at the end of the novel, there's another major moment and one of them leaves. This part of the novel stayed the same through its entirety.

There wasn't any compelling reason to diagram out the novel at this point. I was just hoping that doing so would nudge some related observation about its shape into being. Not this time, however.


Monday, September 2, 2019

Reading Tomorrow! NYC! With Exclamation Marks!

I'll be reading from my new novel, The Iron Dragon's Mother,  tomorrow at The Brtookly Commons. Also there to read from his work will be Gregory Feeley. Either one of us would be enough to make the evening worthwhile. (He said modestly.) So I see no reason for you not to attend.

Provided you live close by enough to do, that is.

Here are the deets:

September 3, 2019

7:00 p.m.

The Brooklyn Commons
388 Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217

I look forward to seeing you there.

And in the ongoing series of plot diagrams . . .

First of all, Faerie has three hemispheres. This is canonical. I was trying to visualize it at the top of the page.

On the bottom of the page, technically speaking, is a cladogram. Which means that I was feeling a bit puckish when I drew it. So I started with Language, from which derived Un-Truth, from which derived Deliberate Entertainment, which gave birth to Fantasy and Mimesis. 

Some would disagree with my construction of the cladogram, of course. But they would be wrong.