Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Long, Lonnnnnnng Titles . . .


Eek!  I just discovered that I never posted yesterday's blog.  I just wrote it out and saved it.  My bad.

And here it is, yesterday's post . . .

I just popped my latest story "For I Have Lain Me Down on the Stone of Loneliness and I'll Not Be Back Again" in the mail today and it got me thinking about titles.  I've been on an desultory long title binge lately -- "From Babel's Fall'n Glory We Fled . . ." leaps to mind -- because I got tired of everything having short, tidy titles to the degree that there are months when the contents page of Asimov's looks like a row of neatly-tied brown shoes.

Seventeen words is nowhere near the record for longest title for a published short story, of course.  But what is?  Does anybody here know?

Above:  It has nothing to do with today's blog, but since I didn't have anything appropriate I thought I'd share this photo of the ghost of a jack-o-lantern.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Introducing Hope


Marianne claimed her Christmas present this morning:  an exquisite gem of a freshly spayed Bengal cat.  There she is, above.  She's been wandering about our house examining everything and taking the occasional break to disappear into a closet and sleep.

She's very small and very beautiful.

It's been a long time since we've had a female cat in this house and that will take some getting used to.  Plus we've never had a small cat in our house and Bengals are only generations divorced from the wild, so the next few months will be a voyage of discovery for us.

You'll  be getting posts whenever I manage to take a good picture of her.  Which is to say, not all that often.

And her name?

Those with weak stomaches may very well want to leave the theater now . . .

 Marianne and I told our son Sean that we needed a name for a beautiful female cat and expressed a preference for something literary.

"That's easy," he said.  "Name her Hope Mirrlees."

Which was almost perfect.  Its only shortcoming was that it wasn't a pun.  So, on reflection, we decided that the newest member of our family would be called:  Miss Helen Hope Mrrlees.  With the accent on the mrr.

Above:  That's Hopie herself.  The picture gives you only the faintest idea of how lovely she is.


Black Friday!

My apologies for not getting yesterday's blog entry up yesterday.  I had to be up at 5 a.m. for the traditional electronics-buying binge at Micro Center, spent the day working on the novel, and then went out to dinner with a friend.

But I'll have a photo of Marianne's Christmas gift posted sometime later this afternoon.

And speaking of the American vernacular . . .

Here's an exchange I witnessed yesterday morning, at the diner we always go to on Black Friday after buying electronics:

Waitress:  What do you want to drink?
Sean:  A cola, please.
Waitress:  A Coke?
Sean:  Sure.
Waitress:  Pepsi okay?


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Reasons To Be Grateful


It's Thanksgiving here in America, a time for gluttony and reflection.  The holiday will be celebrated at my son Sean's apartment, a new but pleasant tradition for us, and there will be all the traditional foods (celery, mashed potatoes, radishes, creamed onions cooked by Dad, jellied cranberry sauce with the can ridges on the sides . . .) that make the meal a true feast.  So it's time to pause and reflect on some small fraction of the things for which I'm grateful:

For family and friends, first and foremost.  For the above-mentioned feast.  For all the joys of culture -- books, movies, plays, the lot.  For having the opportunity to travel to other continents and discover friends in Russia, Sweden, England, Finland, Scotland, Australia, and China.  For still being commercially viable at a time when many worthy writers are losing their publishers.  For living in an age of scientific discovery when every issue of Science News has something worth marveling at.  For living to see Terrestrial life take its first faltering steps beyond the planet.  For living in such a rich world, so filled with pleasures and wonders and experiences that they're available even to me.

And for the fact that when I glanced out the window just now I discovered it was snowing.  Great big clumps of sugar snow sifting slowly down out of the sky.

Happy Thanksgiving Day, everybody.  May you have much to be grateful for, and twice that a year from now.

And on Saturday morning, Marianne receives her big Christmas present early . . .

She couldn't wait.  She's been jonesing for it.  So she's getting it a month early.  There'll be a photo later that day.

Above:  The last roses of autumn.  I'm grateful for them too.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

(Almost) Nothing To Say

I'm working on the novel nonstop right now.  Plus tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day and I plan to spend it doing nothing but eating, loafing, and preparing creamed onions.  In reverse order, of course.

So normally I'd have nothing to say.  But my admirable son Sean dropped by the house a few minutes ago to borrow a few last-minute utensils for the Thanksgiving dinner he'll be making us tomorrow.  And he told us of the following nearly-incredible piece of late-breaking news:

Dick Van Dyke rescued from certain death by friendly dolphins!

Do you doubt me?  Then click here.

And happy Thanksgiving Day to everybody!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Steampunk Pickles


I'm back from SFContario and working hard on the edited typescript of Dancing With Bears.  So I'm a little short on time for blogging.

But I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the pickle-electrifier that steampunk fashion plate Kevin Groocock demonstrated at the dead dog party.  Tres stylish . . . and it electrifies pickles in a grand manner.  A couple of people at the party took snapshots of the gizmo in action, which they promised to forward to me.  If they do, I'll share 'em with you.

Above:  Kevin Groocock adjusting his magnificent ionization device.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Always Coming Home


I'm on the road again -- only, this time I'm coming home.

SFContario was an enormous success.  I'd thought I would be a great first-con guest because I was aware of how many problems the first iteration of a new convention inevitably has and so wouldn't be offended by them.  But the convention was one of the most smoothly-run I've ever attended.  So they could've had somebody far grumpier for their goh.

Saturday night, at Geri Sullivan's exotic-beer-tasting party (sponsored by every current Worldcon bid and a whole raft of past Worldcons), I sat and talked all evening with Karl Schroeder (pronounced "shrader," incidentally) and Jo Walton.  Which reminded me of an incident thirty-plus years ago, before I had published my first story:

It was at a Disclave and on a Sunday afternoon.  In an hour, we would all be gone, on our way home. There was an airy room, part of the con suite I think, with open windows and big wicker chairs and a gusty wind filling it all.  Gardner Dozois sat on one, Joe Haldeman in another, and George R. R. Martin in a third.  They discussed art and literature and science fiction in an Olympian manner, while we groundlings, gonnabes, and fans crouched at their feet worshipfully, snatching at the crumbs that fell from their mouths.

So finding myself in exactly the same situation with Karl and Jo (who are both smart as a whip!) really brought home to me the circle of life.

And it turns out that I owe Peter Watts an apology . . .

I ran across Peter exactly once during the convention -- and bitterly regret it wasn't a dozen times; he's a very likable and impressive guy -- and apparently he has Google Alerts on his own name because he told me that, contrary to my recent posting that I'd never encountered him, we had met eleven years ago at ConSpec in Edmonton.  Worse, he remembered the conversations we'd had in detail.  Worse, it was clearly a conversation worth treasuring.

I, meanwhile, remember nothing.  Complete strangers come up to me on the street and say, "You don't remember me, do you?" and when I admit this is true, say, "I'm your sister."

What can I say in such a situation?  "Oh."


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fossils Under Ontario


The first SFContario has begun!  So I am busy as busy.

Yesterday afternoon, however, I was in the Royal Ontario Museum enjoying a behind-the-scenes tour of the paleontology department arranged by Rob Sawyer.  Rob, his wife Caroline Clink, Marianne, and I were shown the main collection room, the vertebrate oryctology lab, and of course the museum displays by paleontologist Kevin Seymour.

That's him, above, uncrating the holotype of Parasaurolophus for us to see.  A very cool moment for us all.

At the opening ceremonies for the con, Rob said that we'd gotten the V.I.P. tour -- V.I.P. standing for Very Interested in Paleontology.  I've gotta give him ten points for the witticism.

Above:  There are about a hundred thousand fossils in the main collection room.  You can see a few on the shelves there.


Friday, November 19, 2010

The Stone of Loneliness

Last night I did a reading at the Merril Collection of Speculative Fiction and Fantasy, which is based upon an enormous donation of books by writer and anthologist Judith Merril and was originally named (back in 1970 when it was founded and such a title seemed like a good idea) The Spaced Out Library.  I also got a tour of the stacks, which contain a really astonishing collection of SF and fantasy.

I read my latest completed story, "For I Have Lain Me Down on the Stone of Loneliness and I'll Not Be Back Again" (my latest assault on the current trend toward giving stories damnably short titles) and then went out for Chinese food with the cream of Ontario fandom.

Today, Rob Sawyer is taking me behind the scenes at the Royal Ontario Museum.  And then SFContario begins, and I'll be as busy as busy can be.  I'll let you know how it goes if I can find the free time to post.

And because I've just given myself an excuse to tell my one and only Judy Merrill story . . .

I only met Judith Merril once.  This was at a Readercon, not long before she died.  I was sitting at a table with a batch of writers, talking, when she came up, walking with difficulty, and sat down.

"You're looking good, Judy," somebody said.

She fixed him with a basilisk glare -- the kind of look you give a fool -- and very carefully said, "I am in constant pain."  Then she smiled the very best smile in the world and added, "But what does that matter?"

God bless you, Judy.  You set the standard for us all.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Another Pleasantly Odd Day


It's been another pleasantly odd day in Toronto.  Marianne and I went to Paddington's in the St. Lawrence Market for lunch and had peameal bacon sandwiches -- which for some reason Paddington's calls "the Big Oink."  Delicious, though.  Then we took the ferry to Ward Island and wandered about.

Ward Island is an odd little place -- lots of small houses on small yards off of small roads where motor vehicles are prohibited, and each yard featuring decorations or sculptures or eccentric decorations such as would mark one as the neighborhood oddball if everybody else weren't doing something completely different.

It's a congeries of individuals is I guess what I'm saying.  And their neighborhood association has a permanent croquet lawn.  With astroturf.

Marianne was ready to move there today.  Me, I want to come back in warm weather and spend a full day there.

In the evening we went to see Cinderella at the Four Seasons Center.  It was first-rate, involving, and well worth the money.  But during the intermissions, I counted the people streaming out of their seats and those remaining and discovered that the female to male ratio was roughly eight to one.

Eight to one?  Come on, guys!  Can you really be that afraid of a chick ballet?  Man up!

Above:  A typical Ward Island backyard.  Doesn't it make you want to write a fantasy story and set it there?


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Julian Schnabel at the Art Gallery of Ontario


Marianne and I went to the Art Gallery of Ontario today, one of a flock of museums worldwide that have been Frank Gehry-ed in  the wake of his triumph in Bilbao. 

When I go to a museum, I'm hoping for two things:  To discover a new artist and to learn something about a name artist I don't have a good handle on.  So it was a successful day.  There was a major exhibit of Very Big Canvases by Julian Schnabel.   There was a look back at Eva Hesse.   And there was a very big show by the I-presume-emerging Ontario artist Shary Boyle.

Boyle is one very strange cookie indeed.  The AGO is pushing her creepy-kitschy small ceramics hard, but I found her large installations the most interesting.  Particularly her life-size soft sculpture of a flat black skinned blond spider-woman tangled up in her own web.  It was a creature right out of the Jungian depths. 

Hesse was a German-born American sculptor who died at the terribly young age of 34 in  1970.  There's a touch of revulsion in her work and rather a lot of evocation of the body -- particularly skin.  Alas, the AGO had only one of her sculptures.  The rest of the show consisted of what were labeled "studio works," bits and pieces of this and that which she used to build models of what would later be her sculptures.  Which is to say, they were nothing she would have called art.  But it seems like her real art would be a bear to move and to conserve.  So maybe they had no choice.

I'm still learning Schnabel's art (this is the first time I've seen a large number of his canvases in person), so it's early to comment on him.   But at least the task is begun, and for this I am grateful to the Art Gallery of Ontario.

After several hours hard viewing, we retired to Frank's, the in-museum bar, where we had Back Stages (a variant on Manhattans, essentially).  And we were, as you can see, happy.

Tomorrow . . . off to the ballet!

Above:  A photo taken from the Allan Slaight and Emmanuelle Gattuso Staircase -- a "destination staircase" central to the museum, showing a detail of the Gehryesque exterior.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pub Meeting


When Marianne and I arrived in Ontario, Rob Sawyer called to invite us to SFContario's monthly Third Monday pub meeting at Orwell's in Etobicoke.  So of course we went, spent the entire evening talking with some very charming people, and had a completely splendid time.

Pictured above are the last surviving pubbers, still there long after weaker souls had given up and staggered away.  The picture is maybe a little blurry but I attribute that to their having had a pint or two.

It doesn't show, but a lot of business got done there last night.  Not by me.  I was on vacation.

And I should correct my previous post . . .

Marianne pointed out two errors in what I said about the Dragon Staircase the other day.  The first was that I didn't just enclose coins but also a handful of Dragon Dice, the purpose of such enclosures being to charm and puzzle whoever finds them when next the stairs need to be replaced, a century or two from now. And I'm pretty sure the lucky discoverers will find Dragon Dice baffling.

The second was that half of the reason the staircase was given that name was that, yes, it leads up to my office where a plaster dragon can be seen bursting out of the top of the chimney-ruins.  Though Sean never told me about this until he was a teenager, when he was little he was afraid to go into my office when it was dark, because of that dragon.  He only got over that fear when he was tall enough to reach in and turn on the light switch before entering.

If I had known, that dragon would have been gone so fast its plaster head would have spun!  But small children are not good at sharing their secret fears, alas.

Above:  Chris, Murray, Catherine (or possibly Katharine), Mara, and Diane.


Monday, November 15, 2010

North to Toronto!


I realize how tedious this is for you to hear, but -- I'm on the road again!  Only, this time I'm going to Toronto, the City of Peace and a terrific place to visit.  So much so that that I'm flying out there several days early for my SFContario guest of honor gig just so I can spend some time enjoying the city.  I'm planning on having a terrific time.

SFContario premieres this weekend, November 19-21st, and its list of participants includes such stellar Canadian SF writers as Peter WattsJo WaltonRobert J. SawyerKarl Schroeder . . . and I'd better stop there before the list becomes long enough that those I leave off feel offended.

Thinking about the above writers -- and specific others who won't be in attendance -- it struck me that the long project to create a distinctly Canadian science fiction is beginning to bear fruit.  Not that I could map out its distinctions for you, and granted that Jo Walton is an immigrant, and okay yes it's an extremely varied set of writers and fictions.  But it's easy to think of Jo, Rob, Karl and (since I've never met him) Mr. Watts as being engaged on a common enterprise congruent with but distinct from that which we practice in the States.

I could be wrong, of course.  It might be simply that I know these folks all know one another and trade ideas and influences.  But I think that something positive is coalescing up in the North.

And the rather disappointing answer to my Friday teaser is . . .

There were a couple of responses to my Friday blog guessing as to why the stairs to my office are named the Dragon Staircase, and they were so much more interesting than the truth, that I'm rather sorry I brought it up.

But a promise is a promise, so . . .

When Marianne bought the house, two years before we were married, it was a fixer-upper.  In our early years together, we replaced the ceiling in what is now my office (and, ripping out drywall, discovered the remains of a brick chimney), sledge-hammered the base of the shower in the downstairs bath and ripped out the rusted shower walls (a rumpled girlie magazine fell out from behind it), and steamed off five layers of wallpaper, each one uglier than the one before, so we could repaint the walls, and . . .  Well, the list goes on and on.  We made what felt like hundreds of repairs.

These included hiring carpenters to replace the stair treads.  We left the traditional handful of coins inside the stairs and then I drew a small dragon on the bottom tread.  It was meant as a kind of sign or pledge or even prayer that our lives would not be conventional ones,

And, God knows, we have kept that promise.


Friday, November 12, 2010

The Dragon Staircase


Have you ever wondered what the staircase to a writer's office looks like?  Well, wonder no more.  Pictured above is the Dragon Staircase, which leads to my own office.  It's typical for a writer's abode.  You'll note that it has the standard bottle of champagne on every other step.  With, you'll note, a bottle of Perrier substituting for one champagne bottle, just in case a teetotal should ever come to visit.

Okay, yes, I'm being whimsical.  What happened was that Marianne decided to refinish the stairs the other day and, since they were still being used, varnished every other step using champagne bottles to mark those that were safe to step on and then, when the first set were dry, shifted the bottles and varnished the rest.

And why do we have so much champagne on hand?  Well . . . when you're doing as well as Marianne and I are, we find that it's useful to stock up for the inevitable celebrations.

And if you knew Dr. Jenkins . . .

The English Department of W & M is having a memorial to Dr. David Clay Jenkins on December 1 in the Great Hall of the Wren Building, at 7:00 p.m.  From Philadelphia, that's a 75-hour drive.  But I will be there.  I owe him that much and more.  If you knew him and thought well of him, I'm sure you'd be welcome too.

If, however, you didn't know him but had a teacher once to whom you owe a lot, consider this:  A few years ago, belatedly realizing that Dr. Jenkins was, like the rest of us, mortal, I got in touch with him and set a date to see him and thank him for all he'd done.  Now I don't have to experience the regret of not having done so.

It was, in the final analysis, a gift to myself.

And why, you ask, is it called the Dragon Staircase?

Actually, you didn't ask.  But if anybody does ask, I'll tell you on Monday.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bombay Hook and Dancing Music Players


I played hooky yesterday -- sometimes you just have to -- and went down to Bombay Hook, the saltwater marsh wildlife refuge in Delaware.  It's a beautiful place and although, inexplicably enough, there were no snow geese (come on, guys! it's migration time!) but there were all the usual ruddy ducks and shovelers and mute swans and harriers and so on.  Plus a few yellow bellied sapsuckers.

And, oh yeah, we saw a pair of bald eagles fly in low over one of the ponds, panicking the geese and avocets there.  One struck, and then carried away a warm avocet carcass, trailed by his or her mate, the two screaming at each other proudly, off to a romantic meal of warm avocet tartare.

Life doesn't get a lot better than that.

And because I've been far too serious of late . . .

Why didn't anybody ever tell me about the Sony Rolly?  It's a music player which . . .  Well, it rolls, see?  And it has a couple of lights which turn on and off and change color.  And flaps on the ends which . . .  It's kind of hard to explain. 

Which is why Sony discontinued it.  It's hard to sell a piece of electronics whose purpose you can't even explain.

Also, they priced it at $350.

Three hundred fifty dollars for a small (it fits neatly in one hand) and perfectly pointless item of electronica that serves no known purpose and for which there is no discernible market.  No wonder it went down.  About a year ago, Sony remaindered all its stock at $99 a pop.  And, oh, had I known, I would have run right out and bought one!

Unfortunately, the only way to get one now is on eBay or maybe an antiques shop . . . and the prices are clawing their way back up toward what they cost when they were originally released.

Anyway, here are a couples of videos.  There are plenty more on YouTube.  I would've posted the one with four different color Rollies (or is it Rollys?) dancing in unison, but it began with a commercial, and I figured watching a commercial as the price for watching a commercial was a bit much.


God, I love that!  Livin' La Vida Loca -- one step closer to a future in which our machines have have all our fun for us.


Monday, November 8, 2010

David Clay Jenkins 1926-2010

Doctor David Clay Jenkins died last Thursday, after a long illness brought on by a stroke.   He joined the English Department at William & Mary in 1956 as an instructor in modern poetry and advanced and critical writing. He was a scholar of Alexander Pope and Dylan Thomas, but his academic passion was reserved for Owen Geronwy, an early American poet and teacher at W&M.

That's what the official record will tell you.  It misses the man, however, the eccentric goateed semi-bohemian academic, the writer who placed two stories in the New Yorker, the founder of the William and Mary Review which published not only me but Joanna Russ, the teacher who was never my official advisor but whom I always turned to when I needed advice because the advice he gave me was always practical.

I first met Dr. Jenkins in my freshman year when I asked permission to join his creative writing class, despite the fact that it was only available to sophomores and above.  He recognized my passion and let me in, and for two years I submitted terrible stories and fragments for his and the class's advice.  His suggestions were always good and invariably infuriated me, and I would rewrite the story in question from top to bottom in order to correct his criticisms without taking his suggestions.

I learned a tremendous amount about writing from him.

As a very small example, when I was writing "The Edge of the World," I remembered a story he had written in which a mugged cripple falls to the sidewalk with his arms extended, and Dr. Jenkins's explanation that this was a crucifixion image (which was a new and startling idea to my teenaged self), and so found the end of my story.  As a larger principle, I remember his mentioning in conversation that he was working simultaneously on two essays -- one serious on Dylan Thomas and the other frivolous on an obscene limerick found in the margin of one of Alexander Pope's manuscripts, proving that it was not written by him.  Ever since, I have sought to balance the serious with the frivolous, the light with the timeless.

Once, he told me that he'd liked something I'd written but it had "aggravated the hell out of" him.  I knew what he meant and was elated.  I was still years from publication, but he'd seen the virtue in what I was trying to do.  Not many people could have.

When I failed to graduate on schedule and was estranged from my family and had no way of earning any money, Dr. Jenkins heard me out and then offered to hire me by the hour to plant tulip bulbs in his yard.  He pointed out that I could perform similar services in the neighborhood and in short order I was supporting myself.  Which gave me a platform from which to launch myself out into the world.

Many years later, I returned to William & Mary to thank him for all he'd done for me and meant to me.  We had dinner at the King's Arms Tavern and, overruling my objections, he paid.

Dr. Jenkins was instrumental in bringing Avram Davidson to W&M as a writer in residence and published one of his Dr. Esterhazy stories as a chapbook.  Rather than focus on such safe academic perennials as Pope and Thomas, he put his best efforts into the reclamation of the 17th century poet "Black Owen" Geronwy, the first serious intellectual (in a series that would later include Thomas Jefferson, James Branch Cabell, and almost but not quite me) who was violently ousted from the College of William and Mary.  He chose to devote his life to promoting a writer who could benefit from his work rather than those who could advance his career.

Along the way, he helped me.

God bless you, Dr. Jenkins.  Wherever you are, Black Owen owes you a drink.


Friday, November 5, 2010

A Chance to Own a Bit of Fun Home


I was wandering through Alison Bechdel's website (here) and took a look at the Art for Sale section (here) where I discovered that she was selling original art pages from her graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic.

Here's what she has to say.  I couldn't post the picture she referred to, for reasons of copyright, so the picture above is of the book's cover:

I have lots of pages from Fun Home available for sale. The originals don’t look exactly like what you see in the book because I worked on separate layers and did the lettering in Photoshop. For each page, there’s a black and white drawing on 11 x 14 Bristol board, and a 9 x 12 sheet of watercolor paper with the ink wash shading on it. In this photo, I’ve also included a print of the way the finished page looks in the book, including the text.

If you buy a page, I’ll give you these three components. And if you like, I can also hand letter the drawing.
The prices for the pages vary based on how interesting they are. This one (page 137) is medium-interest, and I’m asking $375 for it. Click here for a little closer look at the individual pages.

The prices are not exactly cheap (and you'll have to fork out good money to have them matted and framed, too) -- unless you consider what you're getting.  Fun Home is a brilliant and trail-breaking work of graphic literature.  Getting to own a page of it is akin to owning a page of the original manuscript of Catcher in the Rye. 

So if you've got lots of money and a sweetheart of a literary bent . . . well, Christmas is coming.

And if you haven't read Fun Home yet, rush right out and nab yourself a copy.  I've been reading comic books and comix and graphic novels all my life, but before reading this I had no idea how good the form could be.  And, yes, I have read Maus.  

Which gives me the opportunity to tell my only Alison Bechdel story . . .

Years ago, I discovered it was possible to buy the original art for Aliscon Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For strip.  I wrote to her asking for the price for a particular strip and in between the query and the reply, my car's transmission died, sticking me with a very big repair bill.

For a time I thought I wouldn't be able to afford the artwork (but later some royalties came in, so I could and did buy it) and wrote to Ms Bechdel apologizing for having wasted her time.

She wrote back, beginning with the sentence, "Michael Swanwick isn't rich?"  Then she explained that this was a joke, that a great many people assumed that because she was famous she must necessarily be rich, and were terribly disillusioned to find out otherwise.

And I stood there, looking at those words and feeling a terrible sense of the inherent wrongness of this world.  Aloud, I said, "Alison Bechdel isn't rich?"


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sir Terry's Armoreal Bearings


You probably know this already, but what the heck.  Pictured above are the Armorial Bearings granted to Sir Terry Pratchett.

Quoting the College of Arms via Dave Langford's Ansible, "The Arms are blazoned:  Sable an ankh between four Roundels in saltire each issuing Argent.  The Crest is Upon a Helm with a Wreath Argent and Sable On Water Barry wavy Sable Argent and Sable an Owl affronty wings displayed and inverted Or supporting thereby two closed Books erect Gules."

The Ankh, obviously, is a reference to Ankh-Morpork, as is the owl.  A morepork, it turns out, is an Australian spotted owl.  Which neatly answers a question -- where that name came from -- that I'd always been too lazy to ask.  The Latin slogan translates very precisely as "Don't Fear the Reaper."

And isn't "affronty" the absolute best word you've learned all day?

So can I craft a tortuous connection between myself and Sir Terry using this coat of arms?

Indeed, I can.  The armorial bearings were issued by the College of Arms.  The Rouge Dragon Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary at the College of Arms was formerly Count Robin Ian Evelyn Stuart de la Lanne Mirrlees.  The great fantasy writer Hope Mirrlees was Count Robin's aunt.  I wrote a brief biography of Hope Mirrlees, for which I consulted Robin.  So I have a Kevin Bacon number of four with Sir Terry.

I also met him once, at a Hugo ceremony, but since that didn't result in any funny anecdotes to relate, I'm going to ignore that inconvenient fact.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Coming Soon

Still working on The Stone of Loneliness.  With luck, I'll be able to put it into the pie closet, to cool down for a few weeks, later today.  And while I was sleeping last night I came up with the final paragraph for The Dala Horse.  So I return to that story next.

Meanwhile, because I haven't been out and about and doing things, I don't have any news to report.  So I'll simply give you a short list of forthcoming stories, in my best guess as to the order in which they'll appear:

The Trains That Climb the Winter Tree (with Eileen Gunn) at Tor.Com

An Empty House with Many Doors in Asimov’s Science Fiction

The Man in Grey in Eclipse 4

Pushkin the American in Postscripts

Meanwhile, I'm researching the next novel.  So things are going pretty well here.  Even if Marianne does think I really ought to go to bed and try to sleep off this ague or elf-shot or whatever it is.  

Marianne's right, of course.  She almost always is.  But I think I'll finish the one story and then take a nap and get better this afternoon.  I really do want to see how it comes out.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sick Day

There are a lot of positive aspects to being gainfully self-employed.  I have the freedom to sleep as late as I want, there are no meetings, and if I feel like gallavanting off to (say) Russia, I can.

There's only one downside.  No sick leave.  So when I come down with something, I'm not only sick, I'm losing money.  You have no idea how treacly self-pity can be until you find yourself in that situation.

But I'm not very sick.  Only a little.  I'll be up and about tomorrow.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Thirty Years of Glory


Today is my thirtieth wedding anniversary.  When Marianne and I told our friends we were getting married, the old married hands warned us, "Someday soon you're going to wake up thinking, 'Oh my God, what have I done?'" but assured us it was a natural thing and we'd soon get over it.

I'm still waiting.

Actually, no, I'm not.  After thirty years in which I have never once regretted marrying this woman, I'm pretty confident that day of doubt will never come.  For all the mistakes I've made, opportunities missed, and stupidities performed, this one thing I got right.  And as far as I'm concerned, one good decision pays for all.

Yesterday afternoon, Marianne and I celebrated thirty years of glory by throwing a party and inviting all our closest friends.  Then, just after the last guest left, the trick-or-treaters started to arrive.  For odd micro-demographic reasons, we never get very many kids on Halloween.  But yesterday we did.  So many that we had to raid the refrigerator for cans of soda and dip into our emergency backup stash of candy to treat them all.  But we had enough to be generous to each and every young costumed visitor.

So it was a particularly good day for me.

And I'll bet you're wondering about the pendant above . . .

As an anniversary present for Marianne, I commissioned a one-of-a-kind pendant from Janet Kofoed.  It's a representation of the Southern Cross (which is part of our private romantic mythology) with two rubies, a diamond, and a pair of sapphires representing the constellation's stars, as glimpsed through a silver twig.

Janet is a wonderful jeweler and for the quality of work she does, she doesn't charge enough.  I always tell her so, immediately after writing the check.  You can check out her work here.

Commissioning an original piece of jewelry is such an adult pleasure.  It makes you feel like you've gotten somewhere in your life.  Like you're a person of substance.

Which, of course, you are.