Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm off to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving, so I thought I'd better post something today in case I can't manage Friday. My experience is that (oddly enough) it's hard to get Internet access and a functioning laptop together both at the same time in that part of the world. At least, it is if you're me.

And what better way to mark Thanksgiving than with a picture of Gardner Dozois? The above photo was taken by the extremely talented Kyle Cassidy -- on his cell phone! I've taken lots of pictures in my living room and this one is so much better than mine as to bring us smack-dab up against the question of talent. How can this be? It's just a snapshot! But there we are.

Gardner, of course, would say that I'm marking Thanksgiving by putting up a picture of a turkey. But we shall ignore his snarky comments.

And as always . . .

Poem du Jour
has been updated. I just now took a look, and it's coming to an end soon. How soon? Well, the latest poem is either number 93 or 94 (I'm about to post Thursday's poem early) and the surviving letters only go up to 99. But it's been fun, haznit? For me, anyway.


Monday, November 24, 2008

The Best Panel at Philcon

You missed the best panel at Philcon.  I know because pretty much everybody else did.  It was the Tom Disch memorial panel and it was held at 11 a.m. on Sunday morning, a time when nobody's in the mood to think about newly-dead writers.  Plus, it was up against ten other panels  -- at eleven in the morning!  

Which is why when the panel began, there was only one person in the audience.  I don't think the number ever got above six.

Now, the rule is that when the number of people on the panel exceeds the number in the audience, the panel is empowered to adjourn to the bar and continue the discussion over drinks.  But it was eleven o'clock on a Sunday morning.  So Gardner Dozois and Lee Gilliland and Darrell Schweitzer and I just reminisced among ourselves about Tom and his accomplishments.  About his poetry and his novels and his stories.  About the early video game he wrote.  About how "The Brave Little Toaster," a story dripping with sarcasm, became a Disney cartoon.  About his libretto for an opera based on Frankenstein.  About his very first story, "Descending," which we all agreed was one of the most terrifying stories ever written. About...

Well, it just went on and on.  We didn't even get around to his light verse explaining grammar, which is a personal favorite of mine.

So you missed a great discussion.  It wasn't your fault, but it is a pity.

If I can find the doggerel I wrote in praise of Disch's grammar poems, I'll post it here later in the week.

Oh, and the picture?

That's me wearing my new "Kosmonaughty" t-shirt.  I don't normally wear t-shirts.  But for this image, I was willing to make an exception.

And as always . . .

Poem du Jour has been updated.  This time, a poem by a guy who was "Fat, Jewish, Gay -- and Way Cool."  Enjoy.


Friday, November 21, 2008

A Blog Entry That Starts Out Looking Like It's Going To Be A Janis Ian Anecdote But Which Is Actually All About Bob the Musician

Last Friday I went to hear Janis Ian perform at the Sellersville Theater.  Good show.  At one point, though, she began to sing "Love Me Do" in a slow and sincere manner and at the break genially scolded the audience for not getting that it was supposed to be funny.

I can't speak for the rest of the audience -- maybe they were all louts, I don't know -- but personally I listened raptly because her version had an unearthly purity I found entrancing.  It put me in mind of another slowed-down Beatles standard, which I've never actually heard performed, but which has stayed with me for decades.

It was back in the early Seventies and I was sitting in a diner having a cup of coffee and a donut one afternoon when another diner moved his plate and cup and sat down beside me.  It was Bob the Musician.  I knew Bob's last name, mind you, and still do, but back then, when I was young, it was just sensible policy not to air people's full names in public.  So B the M he was.

Bob told me he'd stopped by to say goodbye.  That he had a gig in California that could be the start of a real career and was leaving tomorrow.  That his band had achieved "every white rock band's ultimate dream and hired a black female back-up singer."  And that he'd retooled "I Am the Walrus" as a slow, romantic number.

Back then, understand, nobody did covers of Beatles songs.  The very idea was blasphemous.  It was like writing your own version of the Koran or revising the Ten Commandments.  But Bub the Musician had done exactly that.

In heaven's name, I asked -- why?

Bob the Musician smiled.  "I just wanted to see yuppies slow-dancing to me singing 'yellow matter custard dripping from a dead dog's eye," he said.

Then he hoisted his guitar case and left.

Thirty seconds later, the diner's owner came over and said, "Do you know that guy you were talking to?  He just left without paying his bill."

"I never saw him before in my life," I said.

The Philadelphia Science Fiction Convention is the weekend . . .

. . . though, oddly enough, it's in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.  If you're going to be there, feel free to say Hi.  I'll be there all weekend, and I'll be ubiquitous.  Just like Chun the Unavoidable.

And as always . . .

Poem du Jour has been updated.  Check out "The Arrow, the Song, Will Not Stay Us Long."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Diagramming Darger and Surplus

Well, here it is, the distinguished thing.  You'll notice that it's more complicated than most of my diagrams.  That's because this novel is a lot more complicated than my previous ones.  Darger and Surplus are con men, see, so they lead less straightforward lives than most protagonists do.  Meanwhile, what's happening to them is pretty damn complicated in its own right.

The important things to notice in the diagram are the two vertical lines dividing it into three.  After drawing it all out, I immediately saw (as I presume you do too) that it's way too complicated for one chapter.  So everything to the left of the first line went into the preceding chapter and everything to the right line will go into the next one.

And it works!  How do I know?  Well, the added material bought the preceding chapter up to twenty pages.  Which is, you'll recall, the standard length for one of my chapters.

Q. E. D.

And as always . . .

Poem du Jour has been updated.  Yesterday:  high-level literary doodling.  Be there or be square!


Friday, November 14, 2008

A Day at Bombay Hook

As always, things are busy here, and so I haven't yet gotten my crack tech crew (Sean) to restore the driver for my scanner, and so I can't show you the diagram for the chapter I'm currently at work on.  Monday for sure!

Last Tuesday Marianne and I drove down to Bombay Hook, a major birding hotspot in Delaware, to look at the snow geese.  And there they were, flickering through the sky in vast flocks, covering the ponds like drifts of snow on still land, making a gabble like New York City at rush hour.  People who speak of the silence of nature don't get out enough.

There were also many, many harriers, a sufficiency of great blue herons, and all those pintails and shovelers and black ducks and such that Marianne's nuts about.

A lovely November day -- and on the way out of the reserve, there was a sunbow!  I took many shots with my dinky little $120 camera, of which the best was the one above, showing the rightward arc, where it touched the horizon.

So those who say nothing ever happens in Smyrna, Delaware, are wrong.  Just this week they had a sunbow.

And as always . . .

The Poem du Jour has been updated.   This time, I discuss "Three Metafictionally Blind Recursive Mice."


Monday, November 10, 2008

Ducking the Bullet

It was a busy weekend (the Art Crawl and conversation at the Pen & Pencil Club on Friday; Tom Purdom's literary salon, eagle-watching at Conowingo dam, and dinner with friends on Saturday; a quick visit to Greg and Barbara Frost and then several hours driving about a cemetery, writing words on leaves on Sunday), and as a result I still haven't found the scan.

So instead, I'll reflect briefly on the fact that I've just ducked the bullet yet again.  The November issue of The New York Review of Science Fiction contains an essay by Fiona Kelleghan, defining a new literary group she either discovered or invented, called the Savage Humanists.  The essay originally appeared in The Savage Humanists, a critical anthology also edited by Kelleghan.  And, though I am mentioned a couple of times in it as somebody who might belong in the SH camp, no story by me made it into the anthology.

So I'm not a member of the group.

Which is good, because I don't really think I fit the definition very well.  Gregory Frost seems to be the true and perfect exemplar of kind -- unless it's James Morrow.  In any case, satire seems to be important to the category, and satire is just something I don't do.  Sorry.

In any case, this brings to four the number of literary movements I've been close enough to that outsiders sometimes mistakenly include me in, but whose core members will attest to my not belonging to the club.  These are:

New Weird
Savage Humanists
I do not include Mannerpunk, Interstitial Arts (though I've attended their meetings), or Slipstream, because nobody's ever claimed I belonged in any of them.

Interestingly enough, the one group I did belong to -- other than being a freak, back in the late sixties, I mean -- nobody ever thinks to list me as.  Anybody care to guess?

A review worth cherishing . . .

In that same issue of NYRSF, Ariel Hameon has a very long review of The Dragons of Babel which would make me blush, if I didn't agree with every word of it.    I make it a point never to thank anybody for a good review, because . . . well, because it's an insult to the reviewer to imply that the words are anything other than honest opinion.  

Still, I was glad to get it.

And as always . . .

Poem du Jour has been updated.  Most recently, the power of "No!"



Friday, November 7, 2008

Thought for the Day

I was going to post a scan of the diagram I drew for the chapter I'm currently working on for the Darger and Surplus novel today.  But I can't find where it got saved to, and the program that runs the scanner has disappeared from my computer so I can't simply scan it again, and my tech staff (aka my son, Sean) is off with his D&D buddies and won't be back until tomorrow afternoon.

So instead, I'll simply share a thought that comes from Not Quite What I Was Planning:  Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure, edited by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser.  I didn't read the book itself, mind you.  I read a review of it.  I think the book itself would drive me crazy, because I want to know a lot more about people than six words can convey.

Still, I did like what Jennifer Shreve wrote:  Blogging is easy, writing is hard.

As always, as always, as always . . .

I've updated Poem du Jour.   The most recent poem is intended, without sarcasm or ill-will, for everybody who's unhappy about the results of Tuesday's election.  I'm ecstatic, mind you.  But I still respect those who are not.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Yesterday's Discovery

Yesterday, Marianne and I went to Laurel Hill Cemetery, a mighty Victorian necropolis ("Or --" as the guide on the Glasgow bus tour used to say in his quite wonderful Scottish burr, before this estimable gent was replaced by a perfectly inadequate tape --"City . . . of the Dead!") to take photos of gravestones for a project that will come to fruition next year, in time for Halloween.  And look what we found!  The grave of Rocky Balboa's wife!  Cunningly placed so as to look as if it were in a plebian urban graveyard, rather than one of the jewels of its kind.

What a fabulous world this is!

And as always . . .

The Poem du Jour has been updated.  This time with the abbreviated version of Mr. Toad's imaginary garden.