Saturday, May 30, 2009

Alexei in America


My apologies for being a day late! I've been squiring about my Russian friend, Alexei Bezougly, in Philadelphia. Here he is at (inevitably) the Liberty Bell.

Yesterday I went with him to the Franklin Institute and took in the Galileo exhibit (featuring one of the two surviving telescopes that Galileo owned and used) and the Star Trek exhibition. A bit of cultural whiplash there. I may have to write an essay.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Eileen Gunn on Video

I just found this on YouTube! The immortal Eileen Gunn being interviewed in Japan a couple of years ago. She's obviously tired, but she still has that pleasantly strange quality of bemusement that is her hallmark.

Here's the video. I have no idea what's going on with the feet.

And that comment about "a peace-keeping measure"? Neither Eileen nor I will give an inch on matters of literature. "Eileen is as proud as I am," I told Marianne recently.

"The phrase you're looking for is 'proud as the Devil.'"

"The Devil's not half the writer I am!"


Monday, May 25, 2009

The Inimitable Jeffrey Ford


It's Memorial Day and after the services at Gorgas Park, I'm off to a barbecue with friends. So this will be a brief post.

Friday, at Philly Fantastic, my old pal Jeff Ford read his story, "Night Whiskey." And he mesmerized the crowd. Then he apologized because the story was so long. But nobody was complaining. We could have listened all night.

In the car, on the way home, Marianne turned to me and said, "And I thought your stuff was strange!"


Friday, May 22, 2009

The Death of Culture on a Lazy Friday Morning

It's a lazy Friday morning and I'm finally back home after a week on the road, so I'm feeling singularly unambitious. Plus, I used up the only piece of news I had by posting it yesterday. So today's post is going to be a simple demonstration in two parts that our culture is now finally and officially dead.

Exhibit A is a gallery demonstrating contemporary taste in unicorn tattoos. Click here to see it.

Exhibit B (and it is unanswerable) is the crime against culture below. Literary discretion is advised.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

And at the Risk of Being Boring . . .

. . . there's yet MORE good news for me!  I'm up for the Sturgeon Award!

Here's the short-list:

"The Gambler", Paolo Bacigalupi (
Fast Forward 2)
"The Political Prisoner", Charles Coleman Finlay (
F&SF 8/08) 
"True Names", Cory Doctorow & Benjamin Rosenbaum (
Fast Forward 2)
"The Ray Gun: A Love Story", James Alan Gardner (
Asimov's 2/08) 
"Memory Dog", Kathleen Ann Goonan (
Asimov's 4-5/08)
"The Tear", Ian McDonald (
Galactic Empires)
"Special Economics", Maureen McHugh (
The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy)
"His Master's Voice", Hanu Rajaniemi (
Interzone #218) 
"From Babel's Fall'n Glory We Fled", Michael Swanwick (
Asimov's 2/08). 

Kij Johnson's "26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss" (
Asimov's, 7/08) was also a finalist.  But because Johnson was a juror, she removed it from consideration.  Which was a classy thing to do.  Particularly since "26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss" is widely held to be a front-runner for the Hugo.  Which it's also been nominated for.

So . . . my hat's off to the lady with ethical standards.  And congratulations to all the other nominees.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

One Page from the Scribbledehobbledehoydenii


I've started scanning random pages from my notebooks -- the Scribbledehobbledehoydenii, as I've named them because, well, because I could -- which I plan to post in plenitude when the next novel comes out. In the meantime, up above is a preview. This is a picture that I tore from a magazine and pasted down and then extemporized a story upon. The point of doing this? To impose a first-draft discipline on myself. "First thought, best thought," as the beats used to say. Transparently untrue though that is.

And the story itself? It goes as follows:

I know what you're thinking, but don't be afraid. I'm a doctor, a mentalist, I've sworn the Hippocratic Oath.

Actually, no I haven't and no I'm not. I bought this empath mask in a yard sale and that's why you're lying on that bed, strapped motionless, hand and foot, and unable to remember how you got here. I'm going to play mind games with you now, and then we'll play body games.

Oh, hahaha! You believed me. No, I'm really a doctor. For real. But to get access to your deepest fears and memories, I had to pretend to be a mental predator. You don't need worry about them -- they're few, disorganized, and in hiding.


Did you ever stop to think how much fun it would be to play with a conventional little mind like your own? One that's surprised by what pleasure another might get out of introducing it to the possibility of creative agony?

It could be fun. It could be grand.

Okay, I've got your readings now and therapy can begin. Don't worry, this is all for your own good.

You may experience a little pain.

"Here We Go"
by M. S.

Oh, and despite the date that Blogspot is going to put on it, this is my Monday blog. I'm going to be traveling, though, and thought I should post it early.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Sushi and Martinis Friday

It's summer in Philadelphia and it's a Friday, which in my house means Sushi and Martinis for dinner.  So you will pardon me if I'm experiencing a certain lack of ambition.

Today's news is that the latest New York Review of Science Fiction has just come out, with (among other things) my review of TH.2058 and Tom Purdom's latest installment of When I Was Writing.  It's always a pleasure to share a magazine with Tom, and this time is no exception.

If you haven't read Tom Purdom's literary memoir, then you really should.  Tom had the (in retrospect) blindingly obvious insight that what's interesting about writers is not their political opinions, or the places they go, or their dicta on the social aspects of technology, but rather . . . what they write.  So he's been going through his career, story by story, telling us what he wrote, why he wrote it, and what ideas went into each story.

It's grand stuff.  You can check it out at Tom's web site.   The first ten installments of his memoir are here.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Yet MORE Good News For Me

I am now officially one of the Guests of Honor for the World Fantasy Convention. (The others are Lisa Snellings, Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, and of course Garth Nix, who is the bull goose guest of honor.) You can read the news here.

The WFC will be held this Halloween weekend (October 29-November 1) in San Jose, California. People tell me it's beautiful there. Plus, World Fantasy has a higher ratio of People You've Heard Of to Those You've Not than any other convention in the world. Just in case you're thinking of going.

And if you do, be sure to say Hi. I'll be there too.

And this is what artistic discourse comes to in my house . . .

I was talking about Louise Bourgeois's giant spiders (there's at least a fleeting glimpse of them in this trailer) yesterday, and my son, Sean, put on a superior face. "When it comes to giant spiders," he said, "I prefer La Princesse."

Then he sent me to the following video:

And . . . I dunno . . . it seemed to me that the clash between high and low art was never murkier than it is here.


Friday, May 8, 2009

The True Face of the Duma


I'm still working away busily on the Darger and Surplus novel, in which they finally reach Moscow, determined to make their fortune there.

Two years ago, I went to Moscow to research the novel and scout out locations. And I am here to tell you that Moscow is a very strange place. How strange? Check out the above photo of the Duma, which is, as you surely know, the lower house of the Russian Parliament.

I swear to God, the photo is unretouched.

So what's going on? The unearthly face is a reflection from enormous billboards directly across the street from the Duma. The billboards showed what looked to be the cast of a science fiction television series, and probably a comic one at that. But, though we asked everybody we could about it, we could find out nothing. Nobody knew anything about them.

There are no facts in Russia, only dueling conspiracy theories.

The show, whatever it was, appears to have disappeared without a trace. The block-long billboards on one of the most prominent streets in Russia must have cost unspeakable amounts of money. For an explanation, I can only refer you to Victor Pelevin's Babalon. Pelevin understands Russia. I sure don't.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Yet MORE Mirrlees News!

I was almost stumped for what to post today, because while I have Good News for Me, I'm sworn to secrecy until it becomes public.  

But then, in the mailbox, comes a note from Dr. Sandeep Parmar, who is preparing a volume of Hope Mirrlees' poetry.  This will include all of her published poetry, including the storied Paris, a poem, plus unpublished works from the Mirrlees archives at Newnham College.

The book will be out "the next year or so" from Carcanet Press.

This is particularly good news for those of us who don't have, oh, let's say five thousand dollars, to spring for the original chapbook of Paris.  Which is, after all number 5 on the Hogarth Press checklist.


Friday, May 1, 2009

Road Trip, Interrupted

I'm still traveling, and it's been a busy week. Two days ago I was in Washington, D.C, to give a talk at the Library of Congress. Then a quick interview taping for Fast Forward, and into the car and up to Pittsburgh on family business.

Along the way I caught the Louise Bourgeois show at the Hirshhorn. ( Wonderful stuff! If you get the chance, you should definitely go.

The big news, however, is that The Dragons of Babel (flogging which is the reason this blog exists, remember) is a top five finalist for best fantasy novel in the Locus Awards. So I am happy. Here's the category lineup:

Can you say apples, oranges, pine trees, bicycles, and engine blocks, boys and girls? A delightful set.

My collection is also up, as witness the following:


But the single most interesting category has got to be:


To which I can only say: Wow.

You can check out the full list at: