Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Old M(e)an(der) River


I'm working on a couple of stories today -- "The Woman Who Shook the World-Tree" and "The Fire Gown" -- and if Sean drops by, I may request his help in plotting "Tawny Petticoats."  So this will be brief.

Just in case you ever wondered what's with all the flooding along the Mississipi, here's a geological map of a short stretch of the river, showing where it has also been.  It's an old river and it meanders.  Simple as that.  Of course, the recent and ongoing climate changes don't help matters either.

Beautiful stuff, though.  You can find more such maps here.

And if you want to read more about Dancing With Bears . . .

An interview with me which, for reasons comprehensible only if you read it, was titled "As Tough as Rats,"  appears in Diamond Book Distributors' ezine/blog/newsletter.  In it I hold forth on the origins of Darger & Surplus, my thoughts on Russia, and the one historical figure I'd most like to meet.  Among, of course, other matters.

You can read "As Tough as Rats" here.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 104


A to-do list (apparently all done), a doodle, and an email address which I can't be bothered to decipher.  I'm sorry.  Not everything I do I worth preserving for the ages.


Monday, May 30, 2011

A Quiet Memorial Day


When I first came to Roxborough over -- my God! -- thirty years ago, the Memorial Day services were pretty sparsely attended.  The vets showed up, of course, including a very old veteran of WWI who had to be helped when he laid down a wreath in memorial of his peers, and a smattering of folks from the neighborhood.  But not all that many. The Vietnam War was recent memory and patriotism was out of fashion.  Even in a blue collar neighborhood.

Marianne and I always went, however, because that's how we were raised.  Both our fathers were in the Second World War and they always attended services to commemorate the fallen, some of whom they knew.  Once you realize that those being honored were people just like you who, most of them, died obscenely young in the service of your country, your own politics become irrelevant.  The very least you can do is to show up.

So that was my day, a quiet morning, a memorial service, and then (because life goes on) a cookout with friends.  Perfectly ordinary.  As, I hope, was yours.

Above:  Rather a blurry photo of two vets leaving Leverington Cemetery.  Richard Harding Davis was buried there, and a number of soldiers and at least one nurse who died in the Civil War.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 103


Okay, first of all, I apologize to supporters of the American president immediately preceding Barack Obama.  I try hard to keep politics out of my blog because . . .  Well, because I respect people who disagree with me politically and I don't want them to feel unwelcome here.  But the following is a distinctly partisan political rant which I ended up deciding that others could handle better than I in forums that would attract more eyeballs.  So I didn't finish it.

Those whose feelings might be hurt should skip over the following.

 I want to apologize to George W. Bush.  When you ran for president, saying you were "a uniter, not a divider," I didn't believe you.  Yet you brought together legislators on both sides of the aisle to craft wise legislation, and ushered in the least divisive era in American history.  After 9-11, when you

I'd still like to be able to say that.  The rather obvious point of the rant which I never finished being that I can't.

And, drawing back from the present moment, I also wrote:

Every year brings us closer to Apocalypse, you and I, and this has been true since the mind has been mature enough to comprehend it.
We die.  All ceases.  For us, the Apocalypse.  
For the duration of the human race, this has been the norm.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rare Saturday Update

I'm at Balticon, handing out free chapbooks, and about to go to my first Saturday panel.

What's astonishing is how many people so far have commented knowledgably about my breakfast.  Such is the magic of Facebook.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 102


For some reason, I doodled a cute cartoon animal.  Not well -- the legs are particularly bad.  But cute nonetheless.  This inspired me to write.

Oh dear.  Had I put my life into the creation of a set of cute anthropomorphic animals, how rich I would be now!  And how unhappy.   And bitter.  And raging for revenge.
Small wonder all great children's authors have gotten exactly what they wanted.


Your Wretched Refuse, Yearning to Breathe Free . . .


Here it is, the photo that all America has been screaming for!  Pictured above is Gardner Dozois, as he was when he first arrived in this country, a starving refugee from the great Dutch tulip blight.  Look deeply into those sad, sad eyes and you'll see the smallest glimmer of hope . . . hope that someday he might breathe free . . . hope that sometime in his lifetime he'll be able to eat a full meal . . . hope that the science fiction in his adopted homeland might not entirely suck.

Aww, God bless America!  I wipe a tear from me eye.

And as usual . . .

I'm on the road again!  I make no promises . . .  Saturday, Balticon has placed me on a total of eight items in thirteen hours . . .  and the last time this happened, at Lunacon, it all but broke me . . . But I'll do my best to post a photo of my breakfast on Facebook.

Because the world demands it.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Vitalis, Saint and Libertine -- On Sale NOW!


Behold the beautifully macabre photo of the severed head of Saint Vitalis of Assisi, the patron saint of genital diseases, peering out of a reliquary.  It's going up for auction in Ireland and the auction house's estimated value is somewhere between $1,100 and $1,700.

So if you're planning on buying me a birthday present and can't think of something appropriate...

You can read about it here.

And elsewhere in the blogoverse . . .

Scott Edelman has posted a video of all but the last two minutes of the Nebula Awards.  So if you were curious how I did as toastmaster, well, here's your chance.

The post is here.  You'll have to scroll down some.

And I have my Balticon schedule . . .

Once again, I set out to prove that I am the iron man of science fiction.  Friday and Sunday are pretty light.  But take a glim at Saturday.  Wow.


9:00 PM             Fantasy Motifs in SF Literature


10:00 AM          Postcolonial SF/F

1:00 PM            Whose program is it, anyway?

3:00 PM            Name Droppers

4:00 PM            How Plausible is Today's Hard SF?

5:00 PM            On the Shoulders of Giants

6:30 PM            Reading  (I think I'll read The Dala Horse)

7:00 PM            Clark Ashton Who?  Great Forgotten Science Fiction Authors

8:00 PM            Autograph Session

9:00 PM            Growing Up With Us — Children's Books We Still Love as Adults

10:00 PM         Name your 5 (or fewer, but not more) favorite books

9:00 AM           Writers We Don't Understand

So there'll be plenty of opportunities for you to get a free limited edition signed-and-numbered chapbook of The Brain Baron.  Yours for the asking.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 101


Here, though I'm sad to do it, I have to censor words of praise.  My son Sean had an assignment to shadow a public school teacher for a week and then write a report on how she had performed in class.  An important part of the process was strict confidentiality -- the teacher will never know how she was judged.

Sean got very high grades for the report, incidentally, but he (typically) never got around to showing it to his mother and father.  I found the report some time later when I lifted the living room rug to clean under it.  Sean clearly didn't want the thing, so I pasted it in my notebook.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Winter is Coming -- and Balticon Too!


I'm going to be at Balticon this weekend.  You all know what that means, don't you?

That's right -- free chapbooks!  This time I'll be giving away copies of The Brain Baron.  As usual, it's signed and numbered and hand-bound with colored thread to match the cover paper and color of ink the chapbook is signed with.

This is the third of a set of four chapbooks.  I've given away most of the first two chapbooks and so far not a one has appeared on eBay.  So I'm thinking that sometime down the road these are going to turn out to be pricey little collectables.

Which was the intent, all along.

Above:  For some reason Blogger refuses to upload a photo of the bundle of chapbooks resting atop the book press in Dragonstairs' work room.  So no illo today.  Facebook didn't have a problem with it.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 100


Change Your Mind
It's time to retire.  You spent your life amassing wealth -- fleecing the public, outsmarting its guardians, biting the biters, betraying your friends -- and now you can't think of a thing to spend it on?   Become a monk!  Conversely, if you've sacrificed your all to the poor and destitute, and find in your dotage that their numbers are as large as ever and those you helped out of the slums feel no gratitude at all... why not steal the poor box on the way out?  The third world calls you, with its white sand beaches, drugs, and squalid sex.

The above is an unfinished first draft for one of the sections of "The Book of Light," a sort of instruction manual for life.  This page being a little more cynical than most.

Then, notes toward a possible ending to a story I'd been working on for years, "The Dala Horse."

[Dala Horse... there she grew to womanhood, in health and safety.  The Dala Horse was placed on a shelf and by the time she was ten, she'd forgotten entirely that it had ever spoken.]
 I didn't use that particular snatch of prose.  But I finished "The Dala Horse" and it's going to appear on Tor.com.



Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Single Best Advice I Ever Received on Being a Toastmaster


Connie Willis, fresh from winning the Nebula for best novel and modest as ever, apologized to me because she thought the advice she'd given me when I called hat in hand wasn't very good.

Au contraire.  Her advice was the foundation of my toastmastery and the reason it went well.  She said many wise and helpful things, but the very best was this:  "Keep it moving."

Afterward, a lot of folks congratulated me on what a good job I'd done.  (Though the credit was really due to the presenters and receivers of the awards, not a one of whom overstayed his or her welcome, and to a crowd-pleasing speech by Michael Dirda.)  And not a one of them said they wished I'd talked more.

And it was an awfully pleasant weekend . . .

I got to hang out with Paolo Bacigalupi and Paul Park and (one of my favorite people in the world) Ellen Asher.  I met John Scalzi for the first time and the artist whose work every genre writer most wants on the cover of the next book, Michael Whelen.  I spent time with Sheila WilliamsStan Schmidt said that I might want to consider writing him another story sometime.  "Maybe I will," I said happily.  I saw my pal John Kessel after far too long an absence.  On his way offstage from presenting one of the awards, Joe Haldeman murmured a witticism that, despite my best efforts to stay professional, cracked me up.  And so it went, through a list of friends and colleagues too long to mention.

Cat Rambo was inexplicably absent, which was a pity because I wanted to get her to autograph her  collection, Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight.  Cat was one of my students at Clarion West, which means there's a good chance she has one of my books signed with the inscription I reserve for gonnabe writers:  The next book you can autograph for me.

And elsewhere on the Web . . .

To celebrate the publication of my vastly entertaining novel Dancing With Bears, my second Darger & Surplus story, "The Little Cat Laughed to See Such Sport," has been posted online at io9.

You can read it here.  Enjoy.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 99


The rest of the info sheet, along with what appears to be a promotional item for The Dragons of Babel.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Home from the Nebulas

I'm home from the 2011 Nebula Awards banquet, where I witnessed Connie Willis win the best novel award for Black Out and All Clear which despite being published as two separate volumes is a really-o truly-o single novel, introduced Michael Dirda who gave speech that was not only extremely good but only 17 minutes long, God bless him!, and triumphantly failed to humiliate myself in my first time ever appearance as a toastmaster.

And you thought Aubrey Darger was a pessimist!

You can find the complete list of winners (and nominees) here.

And because I like you . . .

Here's a video about the glamorous writing life, courtesy of Lou Anders who was told about it by Mike Resnick.  Believe me, Parnell Hall's experience is not atypical.  I once went to a signing by Samuel R. Delany, then at the very peak of his popularity, which had exactly five people attending, including me and a used book dealer who was there to get his stock autographed.



Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 98


Another sideways page.  This one has the Free Library of Philadelphia's info page on their most famous stuffed raven, pasted in folded but here open.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

APPEARANCES -- Sunday Update


The Nebulas have been awarded.  My sincere congratulations to the winners.  And to all the nominees as well.  When we're on the ballot, we all may jokes about whether or not "it's an honor just to be nominated."  But nobody can deny that it's a hell of an accomplishment.

Next week -- Balticon!  (Remember to ask me for the free signed and numbered limited edition chapbook.)  And on June 7th, I'll be doing a reading at the NYRSF series in New York.  My good pal Gregory Frost will be reading too.  Greg is a brilliant writer and he tells me he's writing a new story just for the occasion.  So if you have the opportunity to miss this one, by all means don't.

May 27-29       Balticon
                        Baltimore, MD
June 7              New York Review of Science Fiction Reading -- now with 100% more Gregory Frost!

July 15-17        Readercon
                        Burlington, MA

July 22             Philadelphia Fantastic (reading)
                        Moonstone Arts, Philadelphia

July 23-24     Confluence
                         Pittsburgh, PA

August 19-21   Renovation (Worldcon)
                         Reno, NV

Sept. 21            KGB Bar (reading)

And in 2012 . . .

Aug. 31- Sept. 2   Chicon 7

Above: There I am, being the toastmaster for the Nebulas.  It was fun.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Libertarian Russia


I know I don't usually post on Saturdays.  But I thought I'd share the information that "Libertarian Russia" won an Asimov's Readers' Award for best short story this morning.

The award was a tie with Carol Emshwiller's "The Lovely Ugly." Carol's a wonderful writer and a lovely person, that that was particularly nice.

Above, l-r:  Allen Steele with best novelette ARA for "The Emperor of Mars," Sheila Williams, me.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Books Books Books Books!


The Nebula Awards weekend is on!  Pictured above is a very small fraction of the books on sale in the Hilton lobby -- all by writers who are here and who will be signing tonight from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.  It is not exactly a secret that if you bring your tattered and much-beloved first edition of Fire Watch, its author will not disdain to sign it.  Connie Willis is just that sort of person.

But check out some of those names:  Joe Haldeman, Cat Rambo, Allen Steele . . . even the guy who wrote those wonderful Darger & Surplus stories.  If you can't find something in the temp Book Depot shop, you're a very hard sort indeed.

Back to work with me!


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 97


* * Dala Horse -- A thing in the forest which pursues them.

"Why doesn't it come?"

Because it has absorbed her parents -- the Dala Horse told him -- and they are able to drag it back. 

"How could such a thing be?"

Long ago the Swedes prepared.

But it is digesting them.  And when it does . . .

That is why it howls.

All the above is a kind of shorthand for a conversation within "The Dala Horse" which I ended up not using.  But the idea of a thing pursuing Linnea and her troll I kept.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Yet More Commercial Art

And I'm on the road again!  Today I'm off to the Nebula Awards, where I'm serving as MC and toastmaster. 

Don't forget the mass autographing tomorrow.  Lots and lots of big name writers and, even more importantly, new and unknown writers who are going to be big name writers soon.  If you get their autographs now, you have bragging rights forever.

Here's the info:

May 20          Nebula Awards Mass Signing -- FREE!
                        5:30-7:00 p.m.
                        Washington Hilton, 1919 Connecticut Avenue NW
                        Washington, DC

And just because I like you . . .

Here's a commercial that Lou Anders found somewhere.  Nicely done, eh?


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 96


To Do:  * * Contracts out!

A sheet of paper asking "What's Key 3 Spirit?" and then failing to answer the question.

Plus a widely distributed bumper sticker with the annotation:  I haven't seen one of these on a car.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 95


January 5, 2009 and January 7, 2009

Lists of things to do.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

La chica mecánica

Holy cow!  Those Spanish publishers really know how to promote the heck out a book.  

Enjoy.  Admire.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 94


A diagram.  I have an inexplicable fondness for annotation and diagrams.  I don't think this one actually means anything.


Monday, May 16, 2011

The Cocktail of the Apocalypse.


A very pleasant weekend, for the most part.  Parties at Gregory Frost's house and at Jason Van Hollander's.  And I got to see Elizabeth Hand again, so I was happy.

On the negative side, I dropped by the Borders store on Broad Street for the last day of its going-out-of-business sale, and it was a depressing event even before I lost my (cheap) camera.  When I first came to Philadelphia in -- my God! -- 1973, the first event I went to was a going-out-of-business giveaway at one of the city's great bookstores.  Sometimes it seems like I've spent my entire adult life watching bookstores go out of business.

But that's not what I want to talk about . . .

Last week, I was in western Pennsylvania and I dropped into a TGIFriday's for a drink.  When the barrista asked what I'd have, I said, "A gin martini, very dry, straight up, with a twist."  At which point (and this was a bad sign) she went to consult with the other woman behind the bar.  A very long conversation Finally, she returned with the above martini.  Which, you'll notice, does indeed have a twist -- or, rather, a slice of lemon.  In addition to three olives impaled on a plastic sword.

The End Times are upon us.

Above:  The horror!  The horror!  Exterminate the brutes!


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 93


First, a conversation with Marianne:

--I'm a Catholic.  Catholics are on a first-name basis with God.
--Aren't you curious as to what God's first name is?
--Okay, what is it?
--It's Fred.
--Fred God.  It's short for Alfred.
--I lead a very strange life.
--You're a Prot, so you'd best call Him Alfred.  From a non-Catholic, he'd think you were being impudent.

500 Words
Shepherding Wolves

Maxwell Perkins had the unenviable task of shepherding a certifiable genius -- Thomas Wolfe.

Silent, invisible, like a ninja.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

APPEARANCES -- Sunday Update

Nothing new this week.  EXCEPT that the NYRSF reading has been moved from June 7 to June 8.  You'll want to reset your clocks.

May 20          Nebula Awards Mass Signing -- FREE!
                        5:30-7:00 p.m.
                        Washington Hilton, 1919 Connecticut Avenue NW
                        Washington, DC

May 19-22      Nebula Awards
                        Washington, DC

May 27-30       Balticon
                          Baltimore, MD
June 8              New York Review of Science Fiction Reading

July 15-17        Readercon
                          Burlington, MA

July 22             Philadelphia Fantastic (reading)
                          Moonstone Arts, Philadelphia

July 23-24     Confluence
                         Pittsburgh, PA

August 19-21   Renovation (Worldcon)
                           Reno, NV

Sept. 21            KGB Bar (reading)

And in 2012 . . .

Aug. 31- Sept. 2   Chicon 7
Above:  No picture today.  I lost my camera and had to buy a new one.  A pity, too, because I don't think I downloaded the photo of Jason Van Hollander's cat.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Largest Quarter in America


I went wandering through America yesterday, down the Lincoln Highway, and discovered what must surely be the largest quarter dollar in the country.

Plus a charming commercial elephant.  (We drove past the unrelated Elephant Museum but the traffic was too heavy to stop and turn around.)

And an ice cream stand in the shape of a sundae.

And a recreation of historic-but-ramshackle Fort Loudon.

And an abandoned Boy Scout-built wickiup.

And a statue of a flivver.

Among much else.  When you travel via Interstate, you tend to lose sight of what a profoundly odd country America is.

Above:  The Almighty Dollar couldn't be bothered to crush me.  So the job was sub-let.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Back from Oblivion!


Blogger has apparently recovered from whatever mishap shut it down.  Now to see whether they restore yesterday's post.  Just in case, however, I'm repeating the photo of the giant quarter.

And lest you forget the mass autographing . . .

Here's the official SFWA press release:

A mass book signing will be held on Friday, May 20, 2011 from 5:30 p.m. until 7:00 p.m.
Forty authors will sign their books at the Nebula Awards Weekend, Friday, May 20, 2011 from 5:30 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. at the Washington Hilton at 1919 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. located four blocks from the Dupont Circle Metro Station (use the Q Street exit).
The event is open to the public.
The books of the authors participating in the signing will be available to be purchased near the Nebula Awards Weekend registration area in the Terrace Foyer throughout the weekend. See below for the tentative hours of The Book Depot. 
Location and hours for The Book Depot:

Terrace Lobby – Friday 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Near Mass Signing – Friday 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Terrace Lobby – Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Terrace Lobby – Sunday 10:00 a.m. – Noon 

And here's the list of who's already committed to the autographing.  There are a lot of great names there. If you're anywhere in the area, you should go through your library to see which books need to be made more valuable.

  • John Joseph Adams
  • Catherine Asaro
  • Paolo Bacigalupi
  • Christopher Barzak
  • J. Kathleen Cheney
  • Chris Claremont
  • Brenda W. Clough
  • Aliette de Bodard
  • Scott Edelman
  • Timons Esaias
  • Cynthia Felice
  • Andrew Fox
  • Laura Anne Gilman
  • Anne Groell
  • Joe Haldeman
  • Peter Heck
  • M.K. (Mary) Hobson
  • Vylar Kaftan
  • David Keck
  • John Kessel
  • Alethea Kontis
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Geoffrey A. Landis
  • Lee Martindale
  • James Morrow
  • John Scalzi
  • Lawrence Schoen
  • Stanley Schmidt
  • Abby Sexton
  • Lansing Sexton
  • Bud Sparhawk
  • Allen Steele
  • Eric James Stone
  • Michael J. Sullivan
  • Michael Swanwick
  • Judith Tarr
  • Brandie Tarvin
  • Mary Turzillo
  • Michael Whelan
  • Connie Willis


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 91


We are none of us doing as well as we think we are.  In third-world laboratories, excluded from our attention by barriers of language and money, there are

"Excluded" from our attention?

More interesting are the Three Laws of Humanics:

1)  Protect Robots
2)  Obey Robots
3)  Protect Yourself

Combine with [something]

Enforced with mind-reading tech which originally served a human tyrant

l. u. nugatory

D & S OUTSTORY -- a living hand, grown for retransplant (& . . . later, the dick [or maybe "duck"]


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 92


I turned the page sideways so I could show the essence of the headline I ripped from an advertisement for some scam or other.  Long ago, I worked as an information analyst for the National Solar Heating and Cooling Information Center.  If I learned one thing there, it's that everybody thinks that the Federal government is a cornucopia of free money.  This despite the fact that our personal experience is that it is most emphatically not.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 90


Another extempore story, this one written half on an illo cut from a magazine so it would be obvious that it was single-draft:

When the tyranny of the machine ended, and we were all released from prison, we were not, as we expected to be, happy, but apprehensive.  After a life spent in niches and cubicles, the whole wide world seemed far too large, far too open, far too free.
Where was our Hitler, where our Stalin, where our Pol Pot?  Who would tell us what to do, to be, to think?  When I stepped out into the infinite chaos that you call "Normality," I clutched my stomach in terror.  There were no guards, no screws, no cattle prods to tell me how to react.
Yes, yes, yes, you my grandchildren say.  So then you regretted the revolution.  So then you wished for your bars.
Are you nuts?  Like fuck I did.  Love, your Aunt Amelia.

     -- January 5, 2009, 10:07 - 10:08 p.m.
So I wrote that in a minute!  Not entirely bad.


Decoding Facebook


Those who've been reading this blog for some time may remember how Gardner Dozois kept bugging me to get onto Facebook

"What's it good for?" I asked him.

"It's not good for anything."

"Well what do people post on it?"

"What they had for breakfast, usually."

"Gee, Gardner," I said, "you make it sound awfully attractive.  But I think I'll give it a pass."

However, Kyle Cassidy convinced me to create an account by pointing out that if I didn't, somebody else might create one in my name and then post abhorrent material as if he were me.  "Sold!" I cried, and started posting the occasional comment, photo, or link.  To moderate response.

This wasn't good enough for Gardner however.  Every time I saw him he urged me to start posting photos of my breakfast.  Once the man gets a notion into his head, there's no shifting it!  So, finally, I obliged.  With a photograph.  Of my breakfast.

And was flooded with comments.  Everybody had an opinion.  Friends I didn't realize I had friended popped up to express their admiration of my breakfast.  Both Janis Ian and David Hartwell felt compelled to post commentary on the subject.

I don't understand new media at all.

And I'm still on the road . . .

But I'll be home soon.  And when I am, I'll tell you what happens when you make the mistake of asking for "a gin martini, dry, straight up, with a twist" in western Pennsylvania.

Above:   There it is, the distinguished thing.  My breakfast. A basket of fresh-baked biscuits brushed with orange juice and sprinkled with yellow sugar, black coffee, a crock of butter, and small jars of homemade figs-in-port and tomato jam.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Quotidian Question


I'm on the road again!  But while I'm making that weary 300-mile trek northward, I thought I'd posit the following question to you, in the hope that someone here can answer it:

What the heck is that plastic yellow grid on the telephone pole in the picture above?  They're common as common nowadays but darned if I can figure out their purpose.

Okay, I'm off.  Back in touch soon.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 89


January 4, 2009

U.S.S. Jenkins -- subterranean landship


Trains and giant trees

The U.S.S. Jenkins
     -- voyage to the bottom of the earth

The first of these ideas may have eventually blossomed into "The Trains That Climb the Winter Tree," co-written with Eileen Gunn.  The second is a detail, a reference to Will F. Jenkins who, as Murray Leinster, wrote a novel with a submarine equipped with a device that allowed it to effortlessly pass through solid matter.

* * D & S -- Deep under Moscow, Darger was being poled in the subterranean canals.

The first appearance of the notion that in the Moscow of Dancing With Bears, the Metro had been converted to canals.


This is probably my idea to write a story on the leaves of a tree, one word per leaf, photograph the leaves and publish them as a picture book, collect the leaves when they turn color and fall in the autumn, and then include a leaf with each limited edition of the book.  It would be a Halloween story, of course.

The bureaucrats waddle like penguins, sure of themselves, [something] of the south [or maybe "truth"] seas.

A young artist is sure of herself but sees the market as an all-but-insurmountable wall.  She thinks that a Company of kindred souls, all true hearts and proud, will help her up the northern slopes.  But ultimately all they ever do is train and equip her.  On the mountain slope she is alone.


Monday, May 9, 2011

And I'm On the Virtual Air Again!


I'm audible again!  The good folks over at Speculate! have just posted an interview with James Patrick Kelly and me about our stories in Eclipse Four (edited by Jonathan Strahan and published by Night Shade Books).  It was a pretty free-wheeling interview, and of course Jim is as witty as witty can be.

Look at those two rogues up above, up to no good and plotting who-knows-what.  That would be at the mingler just before Jim won a Nebula Award for Burn.  Yet, looking at that photo, I can't help think that we're just about to run a major scam of some kind.  The Wire, perhaps, or the Rag.

You can find the interview here.  Or you can just go to the Speculate! website and poke around here.

And I have been reminded to mention that  . . .

There will be a group signing at the Washington Hilton this May 20th from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. as part of the Nebula Awards Weekend -- and it will be open to the public.  Free.  So if you're in the area, this is a real opportunity.  Lots of big-name writers as well as brand new hardly-known-at-all writers who are going to be big as big in a couple of years.  This is a great opportunity to document your ability to spot the big names early by scoring a career-early autograph.

There will be copies of Dancing With Bears for sale at the event and, I'm pretty sure, books by other writers too.  But nobody's going to be insulted if you bring in books you already own.  Quite the opposite, in fact.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 88


The inherent weakness of steampunk is how readily it lends itself to quotation and pastiche.  The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was a wonderfully successful example.  But if I set out to write a steampunk story at this late date, having such an example before me, it would be hard to resist having Holmes and Jack the Ripper fight it out in Graustark.  As a successful writer, I have no trouble resisting this temptation, but were I a new writer, with one or two or no publications under my belt . . .

The strength of steampunk is that it draws upon the literature of an entire era.  So that it will not soon be exhausted.  Plus, that era's literature being plot-intensive, it can be productively mined and then merged with a great many modern and post-modern literary tropes.
Not that I recommend this to a new writer.  Best that you follow your own star, your heart [or maybe "best"].
But if you're already set on steampunk,  full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes.

This, I believe, shows you exactly how dreadful my first drafts are.  But it explains why my handwriting is so bad.  I'm trying to write as fast as I can think.  So there's not the time to be lucid, either physically or logically.

Again, this is an essay I never got around to writing.  It turned out I didn't have anything essential to say on the subject.

And a rather better bit of writing:

To be pursued by the moon is of course to delude oneself . . .  The moon follows effortlessly, you cannot escape, and the larger issues -- whether you will live forever, for example -- have already been decided.

This was written for Hope-in-the-Mist, my study of the fantasist and poet Hope Mirrlees.  I don't think I used it, however.

I'm quite pleased with the cartoon of the fugitives being pursued by the moon, however.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

APPEARANCES -- Sunday Update


No changes from last week.  But, oh man, the Nebs are barreling down on us fast.

May 19-22      Nebula Awards
                        Washington, DC
                        (There's going to be a group signing, and this is the
                         first event I'll be attending at which copies of  
                         Dancing With Bears will be available)

May 27-30       Balticon
                        Baltimore, MD
June 7              New York Review of Science Fiction Reading

July 15-17        Readercon
                        Burlington, MA

July 22             Philadelphia Fantastic (reading)
                        Moonstone Arts, Philadelphia

July 23-24     Confluence
                         Pittsburgh, PA

August 19-21   Renovation (Worldcon)
                         Reno, NV

Sept. 21            KGB Bar (reading)

And in 2012 . . .

Aug. 31- Sept. 2   Chicon 7

Above:  There was a plant sale at Morris Arboretum this weekend and I took a snap of this sculpture on its grounds.  Sometimes it's a very thin line between art and ductwork.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 87


January 2, 2009

Mr. Monck Mason's flying machine, the Victoria

l. u. Griswold's "Memoirs of the Author" (EA Poe)

From these notes, I surmise that I'd just toured the Free Library of Philadelphia's rare book room.  A marvelous place.  Among its many treasures is Grip, the raven which in life was owned by Charles Dickens and inspired Poe's poem, "The Raven."  Griswold was the son of a bitch who slandered Poe immediately after his death, which slanders have been the received wisdom ever since.

The flying machine reference is to the Great Balloon Hoax, one of Poe's finer dishonesties.

Oh, and "l. u." is my shorthand for "look up."




Like Falstaff, I am not only witty in myself but the cause of wit in other men.  And I value this.

So you can imagine how I felt when I saw this morning's Sluggy Freelance

A word of explanation.  Last year, I met cartoonist Pete Abrams at Conclave in Kansas City.  I told him I read his strip daily, and he asked me to give him an award.  So I folded my calling card into an origami frog, inscribed it appropriately, and presented him with the coveted "Frog" -- for services to literature.

I also explained to him that Frog was my favorite of his characters, in part because of an incident when my son Sean was a boy.  We went out on the front porch one day to discover that my friend Gene, who was making wooden toys at the time, had dropped off several shopping bags worth of wood scraps.  He'd thought we could burn them in our wood stove.  But Sean and I proceeded to use them to build an enormous city on the kitchen table.  When we were done it towered higher than either of us, and Sean placed an origami frog in the center of it, explaining that the city was "so great it could only be controlled by The Frog!"

So this morning I clicked over to Sluggy Freelance where a story so complex that I despair of synopsizing it for you is in the process of winding up, and I found . . .  I found . . .

I'm so happy.

You can find the strip here.

And above . . .

Ah, the lonely romance of a small theater at intermission!  Marianne and I went to see Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at Curio Theatre last night (a very successful run; the show's just been held over for an extra week) and enjoyed it immensely.  How many times have I seen that play?  I've lost track.

Almost forty years ago, during my last summer in Williamsburg, Virginia, I had a job working as a stage hand for The Common Glory, a seasonal tourist play performed in an open-air amphitheater on the edge of Lake Matoaka, I had the first half of that play memorized.  It summed up my life at the time -- adrift, directionless, and filled with dark omens.   It's strange how that bleak play bucked me up at a time when I needed it.

I won't tell you about the night my friend Paul was manning the rowboat tricked out to serve as a British Warship on the lake and the sheriff's underage daughter boarded the boat, naked and looking for action.  But only because if I stop there the incident sounds more salacious than it actually was.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Another Lazy Thursday

It was a beautiful spring day today.  Blue sky, white clouds, car windows open.  The world was full of catkins and petals and seed pods drifting downward like underwear flung into the air with gleeful abandon at the fringes of some vast arboreal orgy.

So I took the day off.  Drove off to Swarthmore for the public library book sale and bought a stack of books so high.  Had lunch on the porch of the Chestnut Grill.  And now I'm going to have some Popeyes Chicken before wandering off to the Curio Theater to see Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

So I am well, and hoping you are too.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 86


And here's what those mysterious blotches of color were in yesterday's Scribbledehobbledehoyden page -- Mummer feathers!  Picked up from the road after one of the string bands passed by.

I really get a kick out of the Mummers Parade.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Just Another Quiet Day


Quiet day.  Wrote a few pages of "The Mongolian Wizard."  Drove to the comic book store and bought the most recent Moomintroll comics book.

Oh, yeah.  And Osama bin Laden is still shark shit.

Above:  That's where I learned the news a couple of days ago.  On Ridge Avenue, two blocks from where I live.  I know it's bad of me to feel good about the death of a human being.  But there are human beings and human beings, knawmean?


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 85



That's a decent title.  Below it are the notes toward an essay I never wrote.

end:  But shouldn't we have been asked first?

n -1:  In the fifties, this would have provoked outrage.  In the sixties, there would have been riots. The times today being what they are, the people who made this decision -- whoever they are -- knew that nobody would object.  And, so far as I can tell, they're right.

And another early note toward the (still tentative) third dragon novel.  You'll note that "Beth" is bracketed by not-so signs.  I'll know the book is ready to begin when I find the protagonist's name.

Dragon III -- As Beth lay dying . . .


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

And I'm in Print Again!


My contributor's copies of Eclipse Four (Night Shade Books, edited by Jonathan Strahan) arrived yesterday.  So I am in print again!  And feeling good about it.

Here's the contents list:

"Slow as a Bullet" - Andy Duncan
"Tidal Forces" - Caitlin R. Kiernan
"The Beancounter's Cat" - Damien Broderick
"Story Kit" - Kij Johnson
"The Man in Grey" - Michael Swanwick
"Old Habits" - Nalo Hopkinson
"The Vicar of Mars" - Gwyneth Jones
"Fields of Gold" - Rachel Swirsky
"Thought Experiment" - Eileen Gunn
"The Double of My Double Is Not My Double" - Jeffrey Ford
"Nine Oracles" - Emma Bull
"Dying Young" - Peter M. Ball
"The Panda Coin" - Jo Walton
"Tourists" - James Patrick Kelly
Which is a pretty exciting lineup of names.  I haven't read through the anthology yet, but my son Sean dropped by and read the Eileen Gunn story at one standing (literally; he didn't sit down) and pronounced it good.  So that's a promising sign, innit?


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 84


"Assholes Live Forever"
(the good die young)

Who knows who I was thinking of when I wrote that? 

Plus a to-do list and instructions in two languages for a simple magic trick.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Strange Music in the Air


Saturday, I went barefoot in the grass -- on Broad Street, in front of the Academy of Music.  The Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts concluded with a street fair that drew easily 50,000 more people than they were expecting.  It all concluded with a performance by La Compangnie Trans Express (which started 45 minutes late -- in part because a quick-thinking security guard arrested a strangely-dressed non-English-speaking performer, but mostly because the other performers couldn't get through the crowds) which . . . well, it's hard to describe.  It was kind of like those little candle-chimes that people put out at Christmas.  Only with human beings playing drums and bells a hundred feet above the street.

The (rather crude) video above should give you some rough idea of what it was like.

And I heard from . . .

My old friend Sandy Meschkow sent me an loc which he would have posted on the blog had he a Google ID.  Sandy and I used to work for the Franklin Institute Research Laboratories back in the day and he gave me all sorts of good Analog-ish material to use in my science fiction.  Which I didn't actually use because I wasn't yet capable of finishing a story, much less a hard sf story.  But it was kind of him to take me seriously.

As you might guess, Sandy is a fan of Robert A. Heinlein:

Mike, a big tip of the hat for mentioning www.tor.com, which led me to the Heinlein Symposium (August 11, 2010) and Jo Walton’s June 14, 2009 post, “The Worst Book I Love”, a valuable comment on Friday, which is my guilty pleasure RAH book. Although some space is wasted by those commenting on Patterson’s few outright errors and possible lapses in fact checking (Should an author Google to fact check a fact one has already Googled and then Google that And then hire a private eye to check further?.) and MUCH space is wasted on namecalling ( “If you think RAH wasn’t a racist and a sexist, then you are an even BIGGER one!”  And so on.). But there were some really valuable discussions. If you haven’t read it, you both might enjoy it. Marianne, there are some good comments from women old enough to remember the dark days when it was a thrill to find any women in a book who was as tough and smart as any male Heinlein character. We young guys in those sexist times didn’t appreciate how a Heinlein book could be as much of a literary rocket ride for girls as for us. I certainly would never have thought to hand a copy of  Have Spacesuit, Will Travel  to any of the cute girls in my classes and say, “You gotta read this!”

And if you speak Chinese . . .

I'm laying the groundwork for my next-but-one novel and I wondered if either "Darger" or "Surplus" sound like any word or words in Chinese?  Approximately, I mean -- in a rough or punning fashion.  Because if they do, that might be a useful thing to know.

No fair drawing conclusions about where said novel takes place.

Above, bottom right:  Me.  Barefoot.  Broad Street.  Is this a rich world or what?