Thursday, June 30, 2011

Looking for Advice on China


I'm planning to go to China in the spring, to research the next Darger & Surplus novel.

(As an aside . . .  You have no idea how cool writing that made me feel.  That is exactly the sort of thing that, when I was young, I hoped I'd be doing some day.)

So now I'm looking for advice.  Where should I go?  Beijing and Xi'an, of course.  But where else?  Whenever I hit the guidebooks, I end up being overcome by how large China is and how much of it sounds very, very interesting.  So I could really use your input.

Ideas?  Suggestions?  If it helps, the book will begin in Chengdu and most likely end in Beijing.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 126


An exercise, written quickly:

To love is to trust
To trust is to err
To err is to sin
To sin is to be natural
To be natural is to be simple
To be simple is to live without complication
To live without complication is to be free
To be free is to fly
To fly is to have no ground beneath one's feet
To have no ground beneath one's feet is to be distracted
To be distracted is to be confused
To be confused is the beginning of wisdom
The beginning of wisdom is to admit one is wrong
To admit one is wrong is unnatural
To be unnatural is to worship Satan
To worship Satan is to be damned
To be damned is the common lot
The common lot is to live, love, lose, and die
To do all these things is perfectly ordinary
To live an ordinary life is extraordinary, if only to yourself
To be true to yourself, you must ask questions
If you're asking questions, the Socratic method is best
Do you see what we mean?

This sort of thing is so easy!  Making words say something true is so very hard.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 125


The Windmill.  "I can't go on.  I must go on.  I'll go on."

A cartoon, not well-drawn but arrogantly erudite.  I like it.  Too bad it was ruined by the bleed-through from the previous page.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011



My pal Gregory Frost has just turned his first novel, Lyrec, into an e-book.  Greg is, of course, the brilliant fantasist who wrote Shadowbridge and Lord Tophet, the first two of what many of us hope fervently will be a long series set in one of the most imaginative worlds in the history of fantasy.

As for Lyrec itself, well . . . here's the blurb:

Lovelorn Lyrec and wise-cracking Borregad have been companions through world after world, adventure after adventure. They seek Lyrec’s lost lady, and vengeance for the obliteration of their homeworld. But the evil Miradomon is always one step ahead, leaving a dark trail of destruction behind him. In this incarnation, Lyrec is young, strong, handsome, skilled in the arts of war and song. Poor Borregad is stuck in the body of a cat. And Miradomon? 

You can download a free sample of the book at Book View Cafe,  Or just buy a copy for $4.95.  It's a terrific deal on a terrific book.

Click here now.

And . . .

I had more things to say but they'll have to wait until tomorrow.  Busy today.  Very very busy.



Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 124


A slogan slogan.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Marty Greenberg, Rest in Peace

Another piece of our history is gone.  Marty Greenberg, who, as his friend Mike Resnick pointed out, sold over 2,000 anthologies and packaged something like 700 novels without making a single enemy along the way.

I never met Marty but he was a pervasive presence in science fiction.  The field is going to look a lot different without him.

And because that's a grim note to begin the week on . . .

Here's a video for a product that may make you feel better.

Or, then again, maybe not.   Enjoy!


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 123


A doodle and a found piece of ephemera.  The opening at its center is, as I note within, the universal symbol for Tintin.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

APPEARANCES -- Sunday Update

I have one new addition to the schedule . . . and it's in walking distance of my house!  (Well, okay, the mile and a half downhill is easy; coming back uphill is a pain.)  The Spiral Bookcase is a very nifty new and used book store in Manayunk.  Anybody local who hasn't checked it out yet really should.

Meanwhile, here's my current public appearances schedule.

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. 10           The Spiral Bookcase (signing)

Sept. 21            KGB Bar (reading)

And in 2012 . . .

Aug. 31- Sept. 2   Chicon 7


Saturday, June 25, 2011

An Afterthought on Society's Child


I had so much trouble yesterday getting Blogger and my computer and the Intertubes all working together that I completely forgot to tell this story:

After the Janis Ian concert, as we were walking away, I asked my 28-year-old son Sean what he'd thought of "Society's Child."

He looked uncomfortable and said, "It was like a song from another planet.  I mean, it just doesn't seem possible anymore."

"Really?" I said.  "A song about a white girl whose parents won't let her date a young black man seems alien to you?"

"Well, it's just so . . . screwed up.  To somebody of my generation it doesn't seem possible that things could be like that."

"Let me ask you," I said, "does an ax handle mean anything to you?  Lester Maddox?  George Wallace?"

Sean just looped puzzled.

"Well, good," I said.  "That's good."

Above:  Remember the picture I took of my notebook with the Janis Ian concert pass?  I printed it out and glued taped it to the cover of the notebook.  How recursive can you get?  Then I took it to the Philadelphia Museum of Art last night for an Art After Five event and used it as a coaster for a moonflower -- sparkling wine, elderflower liqueur, and a lychee.  Who says the world isn't getting better?


Friday, June 24, 2011

Mary's Eyes and me


My friend Janis Ian saw my recent blog about the relationship of my story "For I Have Lain Me Down on the Stone of Loneliness and I'll Not Be Back Again" and her song, Mary's Eyes.  Then she sent me two mp3 files of different versions of the song and asked if I'd like to post them for people here to enjoy.

Why, yes.  I would.  Very much.  There's the first version up above.

For contractual reasons, I can't post my entire story here.  But I think I'm safe posting the first two paragraphs:

The bullet scars were still visible on the pillars of the General Post Office in Dublin, almost two centuries after the 1916 uprising.  That moved me more than I had expected.  But what moved me even more was standing at the exact same spot, not two blocks away, where my great-great-grandfather saw Gerry Adams strolling down O’Connell Street on Easter morning of ’96, the eightieth anniversary of that event, returning from a political rally with a single bodyguard to one side of him and a local politico to the other.  It gave me a direct and simple connection to the tangled history of that tragic land.
I never knew my great-great-grandfather, but my grandfather told me that story once and I’ve never forgotten it, though my grandfather died when I was still a boy.  If I squeeze my eyes tight shut, I can see his face, liquid and wavy as if glimpsed through candle flames, as he lay dying under a great feather comforter in his New York City railroad flat, his smile weak and his hair forming a halo around him as white as a dandelion waiting for the wind to purse its lips and blow.

There's more truth in this story than there is in most.  To begin with, though I fictionalize it as happening to the protagonist's great-great-great grandfather, that was me who saw Gerry Adams on that bright spring morning on O'Connell Street.  And it is my own grandfather, Michael O'Brien, after whom I was named, who dies in the second paragraph.  I was very young at the time -- three? maybe four? -- but I can still see his smile and know that he loved me.

The holy well in the Burren is exactly as I described it.  The Fiddler's Elbow is a real place, though I borrowed the peat fire and the back room from a pub in Galway.  I never went to the cinder block bar where my protagonist meets the boys but my mother once waited in the tour bus outside while her guide went in to buy her a Fresca bottle filled with illegal potcheen.  And I have lain down on the Stone of Loneliness not only figuratively, as we all must and have, but literally as well.  Once you discount all the science fiction and subtract everything that's plot, what remains is as close to an autobiographical piece as I'm ever likely to write.

So is it any wonder that Janis's song always brings tears to my eyes?  In that mysterious way art has of finding its recipients and making itself theirs, Mary's Eyes was written for me.  And for everyone else who's moved by it as well.

Here's the second version:

And I'm in reprint again . . .

My contributor's copy of David Hartwell's and Kathryn Cramer's Year's Best SF 16 came in the mail today, with my short story "Steadfast Castle."  It's written entirely in two voices and whoever wrote the intro to it (Kathryn, I'd guess) notes that it could be put on as a short play.

Which is almost exactly what Marianne and I have done the couple of times we've done readings of it.  I deliver the policeman's lines and Marianne does Cassie, the intelligent house.  Like every reading we've done together, it goes over very well.  And like every reading we've done together, everybody agrees that Marianne is the better actor.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 122


More diagrams!  In the top one, the straight line is a physical screen.  The jagged line is Surplus, approaching the Pearls amiably, being turned down by various functionaries in his attempt to arrange a meeting with the Duke of Muscovy, and then chatting with the Pearls a second time.  The first chat results in this (telescoped) exchange:

When do we meet our bridegroom?
We are anxious to . . . make him happy
The second chat results in Surplus being told:  You have no idea how much trouble we can make.

The second diagram I cannot explain unless it is a first attempt to block out Zoësophia's flirtation with the poet whose name she cannot be bothered to remember.  But that happens in chapter five, so maybe not.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 121


February 10, 2009

Three plot diagrams for Chapter 4 of Dancing With Bears.

In the first one, the top line represents the Pearls.  The bottom line is probably Surplus, dealing with several functionaries, interacting periodically with the Pearls, and ending with a meeting with the character who was originally named Molochov.  You can see that it's here where I spontaneously changed his name to the far superior Chortenko.

In the second diagram, Z is obviously Zoësophia.  But whether A stands for Aetheria or Arkady or somebody else entirely, I don't know.  It may be a reference to the faked suicide note incident.

The third diagram baffles me.  My best interpretation is that the line represents Surplus, who is continually present in the chapter, beset by frequent interactions by the Pearls, various functionaries, and finally Chortenko.  In the second appearance of the Pearls, the A is almost certainly Aetheria and I'd have to guess that I meant to suggest "the Pearls A to Z" -- a reminder to keep all of them in play as distinct individuals.

But that' only a guess.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 120


The first-draft review continues:

the wall flickers [something something], and are (the explanatory material explains) meant to convey a sense that everyone is under surveillance.
. . . what that has to do with
. . . as I was leaving, I saw the docent of a group of schoolchildren calmly but firmly trying to talk the children down.  They had climbed up into and atop of the [something] beds, and were jumping up and down.  Happy with the art, blind to its darker message.

The two places where I jumped ahead, I was scribbling down thoughts to use later -- in the latter instance at the end of the review.  Probably I was working from the scribbles then, copying them out in improved form on the word processor.

Down at the bottom is a flyer for Ubu, a version of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi that I saw in the Festival Fringe in Edinburgh.  When Yeats saw the original play, he wrote, shaken, "What more is possible?  After us, the mad gods."  Theatre Modo made the play even more scurrilous.  It was easily the most extreme piece of theater I've ever seen.  There are no words that do justice to how flat-out brilliant it was.

Probably I'd found the flyer lying about the house and pasted it into the notebook to preserve it.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The 100 Best Fantasy & SF Books Ever.


A brief post today because I'm, yes, on the road.  The inimitable Gordon Van Gelder has requested that I blog about NPR's annual readers poll of best science fiction and fantasy novels of all time.  "I gather they got 17,000 votes last year when they did the same thing for thrillers," he says.  "I'd like to see the SF/fantasy community double that."

Done and done, Gordon.  Those who'd like to lodge their opinions can do so here


A Modest Proposal


If I have any fault at all (and everybody agrees I do), it's that I want everything to be nice.  I've had an idea -- a good one, I think -- which costs nothing and makes the world a better place, particularly for new and as-yet-unknown writers.  Because I wanted it to get maximum distribution, I gave it to Patrick Nielsen Hayden to post on his blog Making Light.

You can find it here.

If you like my notion, please spread it around.

And as always . . .

I'm on the road again.  More as it transpires.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 119


June 11, 2009

I watched two hours of television and then went outside.  The cat came and sat upon my legs, outstretched from a resin chair to a metal bayou chair.  His paws are warm as warm.
By contrast with the TV, the outside world is quiet and still.  A jet loudly passes overhead for far more time than seems necessary.  Trucks.  A honk so brief it must be robotic.  Another jet.  A defiant yakyakyak of maybe laughter.  Cars.  Jet.  Repeat is necessary for verisimilitude.

I can hear, I think, the surf of insect noises, though it has to compete with the ringing in my ears.

The sky is the dullest of oranges.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Mary's Eyes and the Stone of Loneliness


On Saturday my contributor's copies of the new Asimov's arrived, with my story, "For I Have Lain Me Down on the Stone of Loneliness and I'll Not be Back Again."  Which was really good timing because on Sunday I had tickets to see Janis Ian perform in Voorhees, New Jersey.  So I was able to give her a copy.

How the story came about was that, some years ago, upon discovering how greatly she was appreciated by the science fiction community, Janis decided to put together an anthology.  Stars was made up of original stories based on (or spun off from) her songs.  I was asked to contribute and promised I would try.  I knew what song I would use.

"Mary's Eyes" is a beautiful song and a particularly interesting one in that it has two separate aspects.  One is the song that Janis wrote, in praise of the musician Mary Black.  The other is the one that no Irish American can fail to hear.  She didn't know, when she wrote it, that her Mary was an avatar of Deirdre of the Sorrows.  But there you are.  When you create a work of art, you tear a hole in reality and sometimes things you weren't aware of slip in from outside.

It's a song that brings tears to my eyes whenever I hear it.

One of the hardest tasks in fiction is putting real life into a story.  There's a lot more truth in "The Stone of Loneliness" than usually makes its way in.  The man who saw Gerry Adams was me.  The holy well in the Burren is exactly as I described it.  And by the gate to a lonely cemetery up on a hilltop in the West I lay down on the Stone of Loneliness and felt exactly what my protagonist did.  This is a lot more personal story than will be obvious to its readers.

Stars came out from Baen Books in 2007.  It took me another four years to find the story.  But now it's in print and it's all because of "Mary's Eyes."

I tell you this because you might chance to read the story and, coming upon the sentence, "It seemed to me then that we were each and every one of us ships without a harbor, sailors lost on land," wonder why I'd included lines from a Janis Ian song.

And now you know.

And on the lighter side . . .

There's an interview with Shaun Tan in Spiegel Online International, in which all the artist's answers are in the form of drawings.  Quite nice.

Click here and then scroll down

Above:  My VIP pass.  Maybe I can bundle that up with a copy of the magazine and a Worldcon badge and contribute it to the next auction for Janis's Pearl Foundation.  That would be good.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 118


"This continual [something] has had a strange effect on urban sculpture (. . .) they have started to grow, like giant, thirsty tropical plants" and so they have been brought inside, to keep them from growing faster.  Well . . . though this is a work that grows out of science fiction and uses science fiction tropes throughout, the artist does not claim it is a work of pure science fiction.  Our genre is only a jumping-off point for her purposes and obsessions.
In fact, the sculpture is the best part of the installation.  A supersized version of one of Louise Bourgeois's spiders steps into the visual footprint of Calder's Flange.  No museum would dare overlap the two sculptures thus, but seen together they comment on each other, to the detriment of neither.
To the front of the installation, clips from SF and art films play continually, commenting on the fix of those caught in the shelter.  A lone radio plays an awful song.  And ranks of spiderlike machines on


Friday, June 17, 2011

Dancing With the Hour of the Wolf


Wednesday night, Marianne and I went down to Wall Street, NYC, to be interviewed by Jim Freund at WBAI.  Both of us.  Separately.

I was, of course, promoting Dancing With Bears, my shamelessly diverting Darger & Surplus novel.  Which is important, because if enough people buy it, I'll write another one.  Also predictable, because I'm a responsible guy who supports his publisher -- in this case, Night Shade Books.

Marianne was up to something interesting, though.  She was being interviewed on tape for a forthcoming show which will feature my interview of her in the persona of Hope Mirrlees, the brilliant fantasist and poet who wrote Lud-in-the-Mist and Paris, a Poem.  We performed the interview at a convention last year and Marianne was brilliant.  I say that objectively.  I knew the interview would be well-received and I was expecting thunderous applause at the end.  What I did not expect was the rapturous cheers.

Luckily for us, Jim was present and recorded it all.  For a forthcoming show, he interviewed Marianne about Mirrlees and about her "nano-press" imprint Dragonstairs Press.  The plan is to stitch the interview with Hope and the interview with Marianne together for a future episode of his late-night show, Hour of the Wolf.    When it comes available, you'll be the first to know.

Meanwhile, Jim's interview with me is available, for the next two weeks, online.  You can listen to it here.

And speaking of Hope Mirrlees . . .

There's good news for the well-heeled art book collector!  More on Monday.

Above:  The South Street Seaport, a hop-skip-and-jump from Wall Street and the WBAI offices.  Looks great on a spring evening, dunnit?


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 117


A drawing by R. Crumb, torn from an art magazine.  I love this guy's line.  Someday I'd like to see a show that skipped all the psychosexual stuff to examine him just as an artist who draws extremely well.

I turned the drawing into a collage so I wouldn't be simply ripping off Crumb and pasting his material online.  It came out pretty well, considering.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Crank-Down Thursday

Yesterday evening, Marianne and I drove up to the Big Apple to be interviewed by Jim Freund for the Hour of the Wolf show on WBAI.  The show ended at 3 a.m. and we got home at 6 a.m.

Do I need to mention that I'm tired today?  Very, very tired.

More tomorrow!


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 116


refurbished power plant and the turbine hall (the TH in the show's title) is reserved for very large and very ambitious installations.  Ms Gonzalez-Foerster -- who was born in Strasberg and lives in Paris -- has temporary control over it and she has created . . .
Well, primarily it is a shelter.  Hundreds of blue and yellow metal bunk beds.  Scattered among them are oversized reproductions of famous sculptures.  As the artist explains, "

Then, moving back to fill in the middle of the paragraph:

on the (bare, mattressless) beds are copies of science fiction disaster novels.  NAME as it transpires was a fan of SF from an early age and her choices are pleasantly literate:  Fahrenheit 451, The Purple Cloud, Vurt, Make Room! Make Room!, Hiroshima Mon Amour, We, The [something] of [something], The Man in the High Castle, and so on . . .  Scattered among the beds are giagantic sculptures.   As the artist explains, "The 


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Nothing to Say Today


I'm playing hooky from blogging today.  I finished a short, tragic, and romantic science fiction story called "The Woman Who Shook the World-Tree" this morning, and just now placed it in the pie closet to cool off.

Later today Marianne and I drive to NYC for separate interviews with Jim Freund of WBAI.  And early tomorrow morning, we drive back.

So I think, right now, I'll take a nap.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 115


Did you know that if you go to Elk County in Pennsylvania during the mating season, you can see elk?  The alpha males form up harems and the betas hang around hopefully.  Sometimes one will build up the courage to challenge the alpha and they'll fight.  It's a lot like high school.

Marianne and I have been out to look at the elk twice.  It's an extraordinary experience.

I forget why I pasted that business card in there.  I may have promised to send something to its owner. At any rate, there's no reason to put his name and contact info out on the Web.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Glaciers . . . Really, Really Fast Glaciers!"


This trailer would be the very best disaster movie spoof ever, except for one thing . . .  It's not a spoof.  It's for a real movie.

Watch and enjoy.

And there's an article about me in the Roxborough-Manayunk Patch . . .

Every few years somebody writes up something about me in the local media, and it always makes the folks in Roxborough, my Philadelphia neighborhood, happy.  Because I'm one of those people you see wandering around at odd times of day and have to wonder about.  So it's a relief to them to know that there's a reason for this and that I'm not simply mentally deranged.

This is my first time in a local e-paper, and it went pretty well.  Writer Tom Sunnergren did a good job with what I gave him.

You can read the article here.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 114


Like cattle to the gods are we -- placid, balky, and blissfully unaware of our purpose.  Save for the time traveler Amanda Nelson.  She broke through, into the superchronic plane where our owners dwell.
"Why, Bossie! What are you doing on this side of the fence?"

You can tell this is nearing its final form by the care I take with my handwriting.

"What is the Nature of the Catastrophe?"
The Unilever Series: TH 2058
by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster
The Tate Modern, 10/14/08 - 4/13/09
"It rains incessantly in London," the artist writes in the show's explanatory notes -- "not a day, not an hour without rain, a deluge that has lasted for years and changed the way people travel, their clothes, leisure activities, imagination, and devices.  They dream about infinitely dry deserts."  An impeccably science fictional opening to an installation whose inspiration was SF.  The Tate Modern, in London, is a 

The opening to a review of an art installation I saw in London.  It was later published in the New York Review of Science Fiction.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Alas, Dirigibylon!


So close!  It looked like Marianne and I were finally going to ride the Eureka this afternoon.  Unfortunately, all flights were canceled and for an extremely unhappy reason.  A blimp burned and crashed in Germany yesterday, killing its pilot.  Because the airship communit is so small, everybody pretty much knows everybody else.  So airship pilots worldwide are in mourning.

Mike Nerandzic, an airship pilot with over twenty years experience, died a hero.  He managed to save his three passengers, though at the cost of his own life.

Before a sacrifice such as that, one can only stand silent.

Above:  The Eureka, attached to a mooring truck.  My snapshot, taken from the field.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 113


This is just a note that was left to us by a friend when we were staying with her in London, just before Marianne and I took the train to Edinburgh.  That would have been early in 2009, just after Marianne retired from the Bureau of Laboratories.  We went to London, Edinburgh, and York in a kind of victory lap.

This particular notebook didn't go with us, though.  The note somehow made its way back to America with us, and so I pasted into the most convenient notebook.  As a kind of diary substitute.  For some reason I seem to be congenitally incapable of keeping a diary.


(Watch This Space!)

This is just a place-holder because I'm scheduled to go up on a Zeppelin flight today.  Originally, I was supposed to fly Saturday, but that was cancelled due to lightning storm cells.  Tomorrow the Eureka flies to Columbus, Ohio, so this is my only chance.

I may have said this before, but keep your fingers crossed for me.

If I do go up, I'll post pix and flix tomorrow.

And I saw a movie Sunday . . . 

I went to Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris yesterday.  The parts set in the present were just warmed-over Woody Allen.  But the scenes in 1920s Paris . . . oh, my.  The actors who played Scott and Zelda were wonderful.  Hemingway was a hoot.  The guy who played Picasso might just as well have been him.  And, best of all, Gertrude Stein (my hero!) was played as a straightforward, unpretentious American woman of genius.  Exactly the sort of person you wish would read your novel and advise you on it.

I saw the movie with Marianne and, immediately afterwards, told her, "I want every part of the fantasy except for the romantic interest.  Because I'm already married to you."  That's the kind of line you can only get away with if it's literally true.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

APPEARANCES -- Sunday Update

The NYRSF reading has come and gone and my scheduled Zeppelin ride on Saturday was canceled due to thunderstorms.  (One of the airshipmen did tell a story about two guys he knew who, in a hurry to get somewhere, flew into a storm cell and were flung up far above normal cruising altitude, above the storm.  Where the 'ship began to ice up.  Both men, he said, quite the business soon thereafter.)  But I've still got a shot that they'll reschedule the flight for tomorrow.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Meanwhile, here's my current public appearances schedule.

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


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Caught Between Zeppelins

Air travel is so maddening!  This is the second time today my Zeppelin has been delayed.  We were supposed to take off at 8 a.m.  Now we're scheduled for 2:40 p.m.

Still, it's a Zeppelin, eh?

Did I mention that I'm going up in a Zeppelin?


Friday, June 10, 2011

Dreams and Dragonwort


Apparently I was writing nonsense verse in my sleep, because I woke up with the following stuck in my head and hastily jotted it down before it could evanesce.

A blow, a blow,
A low and bitter blow,
And even more so
And ever more sorry
That that kind of story
that calls the sun "daisy-doe."
A blow, a blow,
A blotch upon our glory,
Struck from our history,
A blow, don't you know?
A blow.

Or maybe it was part of the dream's libretto.  I'll never know.

And tomorrow . . .

Marianne and I go off on an adventure.  Unfortunately, weather is a factor so there's only a fifty-fifty chance it will come off.  But if it does I'll be blogging about it Monday.

Above:  Dragonwort in bloom.  Only two sprigs in our front garden have bloomed so far; last time it was all of them en masse.  I should probably learn more about the plant's life cycle.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 112


Ay Tataris, vitede a qui
que si no te vas, te vas a mori
do do do miii, do do do sool (pa! bajo)
mi sol do la ree
(abajo) fa so la sool . . .
(como si estuvier amas en do rayor)

This is not mine.  I forget what it was, but I suspect it was a nonsense poem in Spanish or Latin.  I seem to recall that I wrote something requiring nonsense signals from Elsewhere and so I ransacked the Web for nonsense poems in several languages, and then excerpted snippets.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hot Day, Cool Story . . .


It's a sweltering hot day, but I don't care.  I have a new story out!  Or, rather, I have a new e-story out.  It's called "The Dala Horse" and it's a e-book.  Available at for ninety-nine cents.

Or -- whoops! -- no, I just checked and I almost have new story out.  It's available on preorder, but it's not coming out until July 12.  Well, what the heck, it's a hot day and it's almost the cocktail hour, so I'll talk about it anyway.

I began thinking about this story when I was goh at Swecon in 1999.  I was at the pub meeting after the convention and I took a dala horse I'd bought that day out of my pocket.  A silence descended over the bar.

Finally, one of the people on the con committee mumbled, "My parents have one of those."

So dala horses -- those blocky little wooden horses painted bright colors with flower harnesses they sell to tourists in Sweden -- are not cool.  And things that are not cool are very interesting to try to make cool.  I knew in that instant that sooner or later I'd write a dala horse story.

Here's how the story begins . . .

            Something terrible had happened. Linnéa did not know what it was.  But her father had looked pale and worried, and her mother had told her, very fiercely, "Be brave!" and now she had to leave, and it was all the result of that terrible thing.

Off Linnéa goes, like a good little child, across the snowy mountain alone to the house of her Far-Mor -- her paternal grandmother.  Along the way she meets a troll, who eats girls.  And he's being hunted by something far worse than he could ever be . . .

It's a science fiction story, it has a happy ending, and it costs less than a buck!  How can you go wrong?

How well will it sell?  That's an interesting question.  We'll find out, I guess.  Props to the good folks at Tor for trying this experiment.  Meanwhile, what a terrific cover/illo the commissioned for it!    My compliments to whoever the artist is.

Above:  That's Svea, filling the sky.  All Swedes know who Svea is.  Though they don't know who my Svea is.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 111


A lulueightball cartoon I admired.  Lulueighball is always scabrous, often offensive, frequently hilarious.  I commend it to your attention.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Devil Cats of the Great Fantasy Artists (Number 1 in a Series)


This sinister-looking creature is Josie the Cat, who shares habitat with illustrious two-time World Fantasy Award-winning artist Jason Van Hollander.  She's a beautiful thing and I suspect that she doesn't think much of me.  Look at that expression!

I took the snap during a recent visit to Jason's house.

I have to wonder, though, that nobody's ever gone around photographing the cats of various artists, writers, and such.  They're much more photogenic than we are.

And speaking of the reading in New York . . .

It went well.  I may type up a few thoughts tomorrow.

And as long as we're talking about Darger & Surplus stories . . .

I forgot to mention yesterday that "The Little Cat Laughed to See Such Sport" can be read free at io9.  Just click here.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 110


Like cattle to the gods are we -- placid, balky, and blissfully ignorant of our true purpose.  Save for time traveler Amanda Nelson.  
She broke through.  And found herself in an ultrachronic plane.  It looked like nothing she had ever seen.
"Why, Bossie!  What are you doing on this side of the fence?"  A luminous being who could only be a god seized Amanda by the halter she hadn't been aware was there and tugged her inward.
"Wait!  What are you --?  Why are we --?"
Abruptly, Amanda found herself at home, in a universe where time travel was impossible and she was married to a man who beat her.

That's cold.  It was written to be engraved on the back of a stem-winder I own which has a bucolic scene of a farmer leading a cow back to the barn.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Slow Tuesday Morning -- Cool Tuesday Night


It's a slow Tuesday morning.  Even my hyperactive, superball-chasing Bengal cat, Miss Helen Hope Mrrrlees, is morphed out. 

But that's going to change!  This afternoon Marianne and I, along with Gregory Frost, motor up to the Big Apple where Greg and I are doing readings at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art at 7:00 tonight.  (Full details in yesterday's post.)

Marianne has given me a small number of Dragonstairs Press signed-and-numbered limited edition chapbooks to give away.  But because I only have a few, you have to ask for one.  I won't be announcing them publicly.

And because I was asked . . .

I received an email from Jeffrey Hamblin, who has read Dancing Wth Bears and wanted to know what other Darger & Surplus stories exist and where they can be found.

There are, so far, three Darger & Surplus stories:  "The Dog Said Bow-Wow," "The Little Cat Laughed to See Such Sport," and Girls and Boys Come Out and Play."  They are all in my Tachyon Publications collection The Dog Said Bow-Wow.  There were also four connected short-shorts published as "Smoke and Mirrors: Four Scenes from the Postutopian Future" in an anthology called Live Without A Net, edited by Lou Anders, which have not been collected.

And of course, there are more in the works.

Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 109


This is a piece of ephemera, a flyer handed out by Barnes activists, folded in three and pasted in my notebook in such a way that it can be unfolded and read in its entirety.

To make a long and convoluted story short, the Barnes is a fabulous art museum, at present still in its original building outside Philadelphia.  Barnes himself was a brilliant collector who hated the Philadelphia art establishment --- who, at the time, despised him for collecting Renoirs, Cezannes, and so on, rather than (say) Landseers.

In the 1990s the foundation got in a perfectly pointless fight with its rich neighbors, who objected to visitors parking their cars on neighborhood streets.  Things escalated.  Millions were pissed away in lawsuits.  The Barnes went broke.  The Commonwealth bailed them out.  But part of the deal was that in exchange for an extremely large amount of public money, the collection had to go into a new museum, built for that purpose in Philadelphia.

Some people quite understandably wanted the Barnes to stay where it was.  They were angry and confrontational and they lost.  They kept protesting anyway, long after the point where it was obvious that their protests were not going to work.

That's the extremely simplified version.  To get the whole story you'll have read a couple of books and at least one movie.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Reading in NYC -- TOMORROW!


Tomorrow night -- that's Tuesday, June 7th -- Gregory Frost and I will be reading at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art, 138 Sullivan Street (between Houston and Prince) in New York City.

It should be a great evening.  Greg is a terrific reader and has written a new story just for this event.  I'll be reading "The Pearls of Byzantium," a never-to-be-published story handcrafted from the early sections of Dancing With Bears.  I took two chapters, gave them a stand-alone resolution that doesn't occur in the book, and then boiled them down to reading length.  I've done this before, either once or twice, but since I always discard the story afterwards and then re-craft it for the next reading, the version you hear will be, in the old, unspoiled sense of the word, unique.

Plus, between our readings, Greg and I will reprise one of our five-minute podcasts from the series Darger & Surplus Explain to You:  How to Run a Con, which appeared (or perhaps I should say "was heard") in StarShipSofa.  

This is all part of the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings.  The doors open at 6:30, and the readings start at 7:00.  Admission is free but a donation of $7.00 is suggested.  Which means if you're young and that seven bucks kind of hurts, feel free to attend without paying.  Nobody's going to snarl at you.

If you can possibly make it, you really should.  If you can't enjoy this particular evening, you simply don't like going to readings at all.

You can find directions here.  The NYRSF flyer for the event is here.

DId I mention that the Soho Gallery for the DIgital Arts is an interesting place in its own right?  One of the thousand reasons that people live in the Big City.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 108


In his day, no cat dared
Set foot in his back yard
From battle he returned untouched,
Silken, sure, and hard.

In decline, he brought home scars
Pink line across his nose -- a single ear was pierced
Yet none there were upon his butt
His fighting yet was fierce.

Ouch.  Even for a scribbled first draft that's dire.

Mere youth today can best his strength
Yet still he pleads each night
For somebody to [something] the door
To one more challenge, one last fight.

The attentive among you will have noticed that I dropped a page between yesterday's post and today's.  That's because said page contained a scan of Marianne's driver's license, blown up to 8 1/2 X 11 size, which she'd had to fax somewhere for some reason of officialdom, and though it was folded in a way that only one quarter of the image showed, I decided it might be possible for somebody to extract personal info by analyzing the bleed-through on the reverse.

Not that I believe anyone here would do such a thing.  But why take chances?


Friday, June 3, 2011

Michael Dirda on Science Fiction


The good folks of Lore recorded Michael Dirda's quite splendid Nebula Awards speech and my brief but heartfelt introduction.  That's it above and I recommend Michael's speech entirely.

If you look up the video here, you'll note in the sidebar that they have also posted brief interviews with me and with Connie Willis, both taken at the Nebs. 

And I went to see Thor . . .

Don't ask why.  It was hot.  The theater was air-conditioned.  I am totally without pretension.  And from the very first spectacular display of CGI to the climactic CGI battle in the legendary Hall of CGI, it was CGI-tastic.

We'd better hope that CGI isn't a nonrenewable resource, though, because this movie burned through a lot of it.  At this rate, within twenty years we'll be reduced to making movies like Casablanca again.  In black and white.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 107


More of the anticipatory elegy to what was one of the great cats of our time:

Mere youth today can best your strength 
yet still today you plead
for us to open the door to valor
one more charge, one last fight 

Which completes the first draft.  Now I try to lend the poem structure:

The aged warrior sleeps
Curled by the wood stove fire
All who feline glory seek
Need seek not one hair higher

Which being sucky, I began afresh:

The aged warrior sleeps
Curled by the wood stove fire
All ye who martial glory seek
Look here and look no higher.

Which is better.  We start again:

The aged warrior sleeps
Curled by the wood stove fire
All you who martial glory seek
Stop here and look no higher

And on to the second stanza:

Bold slaughterer of mice and snakes
God's  punisher of birds
Nemesis of young opossums
Oblivious to words

We're starting to get somewhere now.  Stay tuned.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

At the Foot of the Garden


Some while back, friends gave us a garden light.  This year I placed it inside the pergola at the foot of the garden.  (This is the famous "War of the Roses" pergola which made a cameo appearance in Jack Faust.)  It looked so good there that I decided to make it permanent.  Which is why I've started referring to that corner of the yard as Little Narnia.

I lead a very twee life, sometimes.

And symptomatic of This Freelance Life . . .

I'm working furiously and productively on a clutch of short fiction right now.  One story which is not quite complete, "The Mongolian Wizard," has hatched a sequel.  I'm elbow deep in a Darger & Surplus adventure.  And there are others.

So I'm playing hooky.  Off I go, down the Shore, as we say hereabouts.

See ya when I get back.

Above:  There is is, Little Narnia.


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 106


A first draft, written while the noble and then still alive but very old cat was as described.  Forgive my failures as a poet.  Admire the beast himself:


The ancient warrior 
lies at my feet
curled by the wood stove fire
eyebrows expressively bored

Bold slaughterer of mice
birds-bane and
slaughterer of young opossums
swallower of snakes

In your day no cat dared
set foot in your back yard
you returned from battle untouched

Aging but still triumphant you
brought home scars -- an ear pierced
a pink line across your nose
but none on your butt

Doggerel though it is, this is an unfinished first draft.  I'm pretty sure you'll have to endure several more.  It's worth nothing that the facts come before the scansion and the rhyme, though.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

When Did You Know You Were an Artist?


Writer and literary adventurer Patrick Ross made a trip across the country a while back, interviewing creative folks of all stripes, during the course of which he stopped by my house.  Now he's posted the small film above, in which I play some small part.  Man, I was looking shaggy that day.  But what the heck, it's another five seconds of fame.  The other folks were looking pretty good, though.

I appear to have come later to my assertion of the role of artist than anybody else.  That's probably because I was originally going to be a scientist.  Or else an engineer, like my father.

You can read what Patrick had to say about his film here.

And speaking of films . . .

I watched a truly stunning samurai flick last night with the extremely pulp title The Sword of Doom.  Tatsuya Nakada plays an amoral killing machine who is nonetheless haunted by the violence he has done.  Director Kihachi Okamoto crafted a film whose every frame is a work of art.  And at the end, there's a seven-minute fight scene that all by itself justifies our collective desensitization of violence.

That said, the film is for hardcore samurai flick fans only.  It was intended as the first movie of a trilogy and the other two were never made.  So those who watch films for the story will find it it maddening how this one ends in mid-swordstroke, with all the major plotlines unresolved.

Still, a beautiful, beautiful film.  Here's the trailer:


Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Page 105


Another to-do list and a doodle the humor of whose title (LOLCAT) is that it's not humorous at all.

Has our age gone too far into irony?  I think so.