Monday, July 30, 2012

L'Anse aux Meadows


Thorfinn Karlsefni, we are here!

The first thing you need to know about L'Anse aux Meadows is that it's not pronounced in the French manner.  Properly, it's Lance-a-Meadows.  Our guide, in fact, told us that when he was a boy, they pronounced it Lancy Meadows.

The second thing you need to know is that it's exhilarating to be here.  After the mandatory information center and a rather good orientation film, we were taken down to see the site of the first Viking settlement in North America and could see the reburied mounds that the children fifty years ago thought were Indian ruins.  Then we went to a reconstruction of several of the buildings, where an interpreter ably guided us through an understanding of what we were seeing.  Finally, rather than retrace our steps, Marianne and I and our friends Gail and Rob, took a long nature walk along the ocean and through the bog.  If this place weren't so far from the centers of population and so difficult to reach, it would be thronged with people.  As it is, only the determined and thoughtful make it all the way here.  So it's quiet and the folks you encounter are to a person likeable.

I should mention that Clayton Colbourne was the single best guide I've ever encountered.  He was modest, assured, humorous, had a great presentational style, and knew his subject inside-out.  Which is not entirely surprising, because he was living here at age eleven when the Viking remains were first discovered and later had a job excavating the site.  I've listened very carefully to a lot of extremely good guides in my time, and he was the most punctilious in indicating what was known, what "scientists believe," and what is speculated.

Which is all very useful to me because I hope to get a story out of this.

Much later, after various further wanderings and adventures, we all returned to Viking Village, our B&B, for a moose pot roast dinner.  Which cost us extra, of course  -- sixteen dollars per person.

I am convinced that if everybody knew what a good deal a visit here is, market forces would raise the price beyond what I could possibly afford.

Above:  Reconstruction of what they think was Leif Erickson's house. 


I Have Achieved Newfoundland


Hey, everybody:

I made it!  Marianne & I got on the plane 8 p.m. Friday, flew to Ontario, changed planes and flew to Halifax, changed planes again, and arrived in Deer Lake at 10 a.m. Saturday morning.  After a day spent exploring Gros Morne, we drove wildly up to the northernmost tip of Newfoundland and arrived at our B&B in L'Anse aux Meadows just in time to go out to dinner.

Then, driving through Quirpon (a glimpse of which you can see above), we saw a moose.  A real, wild moose.  This would not impress a Newfoundlander, who consider moose to be a terrible nuisance.  But it was a pretty big deal for me.

I'm writing this post on Sunday night and just a moment ago, Marianne called me out on the back porch because the clouds had parted and the Milky Way was visible overhead.

Now I have postcards to write.  Please consider this to be my postcard to you.

Well, and hoping you are the same,

Friday, July 27, 2012

On the Road Again


As always, I am on the road again.  This time I'm off to the land of Vikings, puffins, and moose.  That's right . . . Canada!

I'll have reports from the road as I am able.  In the meantime, please stand for the Canadian national anthem.

And for those of you who eat food . . .

Marianne and i were interviewed by Fran Wilde for her Cooking the Books feature about the intersection between genre fictio and food.  You can find the interview -- and Marianne's receipe for Metaphysically Areferential Chicken -- here.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

One Buff Bus


I'm spending the day packing.  Meanwhile, for your edification . . . a bus that does push-ups.

This is not photoshopped or faked in any way.  This is a real bus, really doing push-ups.  It's art.  By Czechoslovakian artist David Cerny.   Who first came to the public's attention when  he painted a tank being used as a Soviet war memorial pink.  That was in 1991, when doing something like that was dangerous.

You can read about it here.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Novel Waiting to be Written


As part of my ongoing research into the thoughts and craft of Darger & Surplus, I've been reading a biography of P.T. Barnum.  One of his early triumphs was the display of Joice Heth, a woman reputed by be 161 years old -- and the baby George Washington's nurse.  She certainly looked the part.  She was blind and largely paralyzed and wrinkled with age.  But she was also an engaging conversationalist.  She would tell tales about little George and sing a hymn.  A gullible public ate it up.

And how did P.T. Barnum find her?  He bought her from another showman.  Ms Heth was a slave.

In later years, Barnum was ashamed of the incident -- not because he came to realize that owning a human being was wrong, but because when Joice Heth died, an autopsy revealed that she was in her seventies.

I think this story has got all the elements for a big novel:  The world's greatest showman (and the first man to realize that the power of the media could be manipulated for commercial gain), the father of our country, and the greatest shame of American history, all wrapped up in one big package of fraud and humbuggery.

Plus, there's the personality of Ms Heth.  Who, despite crippling infirmities, apparently lied her way into a comfortable gig where she was the center of attention.  All accounts say that she had an engaging personality.  Wouldn't you love to hear her side of the story?

All of this could be made serious art in the hands of somebody who has an ax to grind or a message to relate about racism or America or humbug or whatever.  Me, I don't -- nothing, anyway, suited to this particular story.  But surely there's somebody out there who does.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Elmore Leonard's Eleventh Law

Last week, I examined only the very surface of a long paragraph by Lucius Shepard and from it derived a few easy guidelines for gonnabe writers.  Easy on the adjectives, I said.  Get rid of those adverbs.  Easy on the freakin' italics.  And I might have pointed out (though I did not) how easily a great writer like Lucius gets along without exclamation points. 

Then I sent those of you who are seriously working toward breaking into print back to their own work to cut until it hurt.

Today, I'd like to say . . .  Or maybe not.

I have taught at all three Clarion Workshops (West, South, and Classic Coke) and if there's one thing the experience has taught me, it's that there's very little advice that applies to everybody.  That's because writing is not a single skill.  It's a family of related skills that produce a superficially similar end product.  There are writers who cannot begin a story unless they know how it's going to end, and writers who cannot continue a story once they discover that exact same thing.  There's no right type of writer or wrong type of writer.  And you cannot change the type of writer you are by an act of will.  Whatever type of writer you are, that's it.

To be trite (and triteness is one of those things we all advise you against; but sometimes it's necessary), it's like Kipling wrote:

There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
And every single one of them is right!
Which is not to say you shouldn't be listening to the wisdom of those who have come before you.  But if you give it a try and it's really, really not right for you, then there's no need to feel guilty about it.  Because the iron law of art is that you can get away with anything you can get away with.

Elmore Leonard once wrote a set of ten rules for writing that proved so popular that he expanded his commentary and published them as a book.  A stunningly thin book, mind you.  You can easily find these rules on the Web, usually with his commentary removed.  They say things like:  Keep your exclamation points under control and Never use an adverb to modify the word "said."   All of them good advice and well worth considering seriously.

But if you read his commentary, you find that what he's telling you is how to write the way he does.  Now, Elmore Leonard's prose is beautiful and elegant and worthy of all the admiration that has been heaped at its feet.  But it's not the only way there is to write, and he not only knows it but actively wants not to discourage those other ways.  So when he tells you to never open a book with weather, he immediately points out that those who can write like Barry Lopez and  make the weather genuinely interesting are exempt from this rule.  Don't go into great detail describing places and things, he commands, followed immediately by the observation that people who can write like Margaret Atwood or Jim Harrison can violate this rule with impunity.

So, implicit in what Leonard wrote is an eleventh rule:  Don't follow rules if you can transcend them.

Because they're none of them really rules, after all.  They're just helpful advice from somebody who's been there and wants to make it easier for you to learn to write well.  As do I.  As does pretty much everybody else who's ever committed writing advice to ink or pixels. 


Monday, July 23, 2012

Ferrogmagnetic Monday


It's hot as hot and I can't seem to work up the energy to do the writing that needs to be done.  Not even the simple chore of keeping this blog fed.  So here's a nifty video instead.



Saturday, July 21, 2012

Two Rogues


Do you recognize these two men?  You should.  That's Howard Waldrop to the left and, behind him, Andy Duncan.  They don't look very trustworthy, do they?  I'm thinking they'd make a great pair of Depression-era Dust-Bowl grifters.  If I didn't already have a buddy team of con men going, I'd start this story in a heartbeat.

So should you trust them?  With your life, your money, and your sacred honor, you betcha!  But their stories?  No.  These guys tell terrible whoppers.  Isaak Walton and John Bunyan fishing in the Slough of Despond?   Flannery O'Conner's chicken?  Cut me some slack!

Nice guys, though.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Listening to Writers Read


One of the best pieces of advice I have for gonnabe writers is this:  While you're still unpublished, go to lots of readings and public appearances by writers you know are good.  That way, when it's your turn and almost nobody shows up or the audience is sullen and unappreciative you'll recognize it as normal and won't slit your throat.

This advice would have been useless, however, at my reading at the Wise Owl Bookstore in West Reading, PA, this past Wednesday.  The store was packed and the audience was both appreciative and very smart.  So I had a lovely time.

What made the evening, though, was that I was wise enough to show up early for the open mic hour, when local writers and poets get up to read from their work.  It's been many years since I last did that, and I'd forgotten how much fun such events could be.  Listening, one can hear where the writers are on their pilgrimage:  Some just setting out, others just making their first sales, one or two at that point where everything comes together.  And occasionally, something very fine indeed is read.

The event was conducted with aplomb and good grace by Sue Lange, and fterward, most of us retired to a nearby restaurant for food and talk.  If you're in the area for one of these events, I highly recommend it.

And lest we forget . . .

Apollo 11 landed on the Moon forty-three (dear God! can this be true?) years ago today, on July 20, 1969.  It was an astonishing accomplishment which I stayed up late to watch live on black-and-white television. 

In retrospect, it was madness to attempt to reach the Moon with the primitive technology available back then.  But as it turns out it was the wise thing to do.  Today we have the technology but not the will.  If we'd waited, the deed might still remain undone.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Paragraph from Lucius Shepard's Skull and the Lessons I Want You to Learn From It


At Readercon recently, I chanced to mention to Ken Houghton that I had just bought Lucius Shepard's new Subterranean Press collection The Dragon Griaule, despite the fact that it cost forty-five bucks and contained only one story I hadn't read before.  There aren't many people who can inspire me to spend that much money for a single story.  But Lucius is one of the great writers of our times and the Dragon Griaule stories, taken collectively are a major work of fantasy.  So I snatched it up.

Anyway, I chanced to mention to Ken that I planned to review the new story, The Skull, here as soon as I read it.  On Friday, Ken asked when he'd see the review and I replied, "Soon, soon."

Then I started reading the story.

Lingering over it.

Discovering that I was in no hurry to reach the end.

In fact, I started thinking I might go the very first story in the sequence, The Man Who Painted the Dragon Griaule, and read through the complete saga first.  After which I thought, maybe I'll read through all the stories in Tachyon Publications' neew Sword & Sorcery anthology first, to immerse myself in the distant sources of Lucius's series.

Because for all our analysis and critical ideation, fiction  is first and foremost a visceral pleasure, even a sensuous one.  And there is no reason for us to rush through our pleasures.

So I may be some time at this one.

And for all those gonnabe writers in need of tough love out there . . .

Take a look at the second full paragraph of The Skull.  The first full paragraph details how, after the destruction of the Dragon Griaule, his skull was transported at enormous expense and difficulty through the jungle over the course of decades to a distant capital city.  Only to arrive after the tyrant who ordered this feat done had died.

Here's what comes next:

Adilberto's obsessions were not those of his father.  He spent the bulk of his reign pursuing wars of aggression against neighboring states and the skull became a roosting place for birds, home to monkeys, snakes, and palm rats, and was overgrown by vines and fungus.  His son, a second and lesser Adilberto, restored the skull to a relatively pristine condition, transformed the land around it into an exotic garden, bronzed the enormous fangs and limned its eye sockets and jaw with brass, jade and copper filigrees that accentuated its sinister aspects and inspired the creation of tin masks that years later came to be sold in the tourist markets.  He adorned the interior with teak and ebony furnishings, with gold, silk and precious stones, and therein held bacchanals that established new standards for debauchery (murder, torture, and rape were commonplace at these revels) and contributed greatly toward bankrupting an economy already decimated by the excesses of Adilberto I and Carlos VIII.

Okay.  Have you studied that paragraph carefully?  Beautiful stuff, eh?  Now take a good look at what it doesn't contain.  It has very few adjectives and only two adverbs.

Next, boot up the story you're working on right now and do a search for "ly" -- see how many adverbs you've got?  Most of them are not only not needed but actually weaken your prose line.  You should go through the text and remove most of them.  Including every adverb that appears after the word "said" (or intoned or hooted or snorted or plainsonged or whatever) -- those are signs of insecurity on your part.  You don't trust the dialog to sound menacing so you specify it's said "menacingly."  You don't trust the courtesan's words to sound flirty so she says them "flirtily."  You don't trust the king's assent to sound grudging so he says them "grudgingly." 

If that's not clear in the words, well, you need clearer words.  Not an apologetic adverb to come on stage and say, "Here's what the dialog was meant to convey."

Now take a look at the overgrown serpent-infested jungle of unnecessary, insistent, opalescent adjectives which clutter the lucidly pristine prose you are trying to put down on the dark and stormy page.  Compare your prose to Lucius's.  Notice how much more effective his is? 

Get our your machete.  Start chopping.  Don't stop until you're standing knee-deep in blood.

All done?  Excellent.  Here's a tissue.  I know that hurt, but it's a lesson that all serious writers have to learn if they want to walk in Lucius Shepard country someday.  I can't say that it's for your own good.  But it's for the good of your fiction.

Oh, and all those bleeping italics?  Get rid of them too.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

An Apology to Jeff VanderMeer

Jeff VanderMeer just wrote to tell me he's upset at the "cheap shot" I took at him in yesterday's post.

That was absolutely not my intention.  Every word I wrote about him was meant to express my admiration for his efforts on behalf of Amos Tutuola's legacy and memory. 

But if Jeff could misunderstand what I wrote, so can others.  So I will state this as simply and clearly as possible.

Jeff and his wife Ann are literary heroes for all they've done on Tutuola's behalf.  They've complied a forthcoming e-book collection of his uncollected stories, Don't Return Bad for Bad.  Jeff interviewed Yinka Tutuola, the fantasist's son, at length and put the interview up on the Web, making much useful information available to all.  And from things he said on the panel, I got the impression that he had quietly engaged in other good works as well.

On the panel, VanderMeer was strikingly modest about his part in all this.  Had I done a fraction of what he has done for Tutuola, I would have been quite chuffed about it.  He, however, referred to his own achievements only when absolutely necessary.  This is what I meant when I said that I was impressed by how "not-full-of-himself" he was.

I am horrified that my words could be interpreted as anything but praise.  And I apologize for my not making my intentions sufficiently lucid.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gregory Manchess At Work


Artist Gregory Manchess has posted an illustrated account at of how he created the cover illos for my first two Mongolian Wizard stories.  Dear God, the the art director worked him like a horse!

But, from my perspective at least, it was worth it.

I have a superstitious belief that certain stories are fated for success, and that this begins with their getting extraordinary art.  The Jeff Jones covers for Ace Books' reissue of Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser books comes to mind, or the painting that James Gurney did for the issue of F&SF with Lucius Shepard's original Dragon Griaule story.

So, too, I dare hope, for the adventures of Ritter and Sir Toby.  They have a hard war and my own high expectations ahead of them.  But getting two such illustrations at their outset seems a good sign.  I intend to take it as an omen.

I was struck by how vivid and filled with movement Manchess's first sketches were.  Then by how each change and artistic decision made the paintings better.  It's a glorious thing to watch a professional at work.

Particularly when you're the one who ultimately benefits from it.

You can view the entire article (and it's well worth viewing) here.

And speaking of Amos Tutuola . . .

As I'd hoped, I learned a lot at the Readercon panel on Amos Tutuola.  But what knocked me out was how not-full-of-himself fellow panelist Jeff VanderMeer was.  As a spin-off, apparently, of his and Ann VanderMeer's telephone-directory of an anthology, Weird, the VanderMeers have been working with Yinka Tutuola, the great writer's son and the manager of his literary estate.  Among other activities, they've assembled an e-book of uncollected Tutuola stories titled Don't Return Bad for Bad, forthcoming soon from Cheeky Frawg.  And Jeff conducted an extremely valuable interview with the younger Mr. Tutuola, which greatly expands our understanding of the writer. 

You can find the interview here.


Friday, July 13, 2012

FRIDAY'S POST: In Which I Am Absent But Happy


Before I left for a science fiction convention Friday, I carefully wrote a post -- and then didn't put it up!  Typical.  Here's what you missed:

Look what came in the mail yesterday!  One of my genuine accomplishments is that I have reached a stage in my career where inclusion in a best-of-year anthology is so common that I don't bother to keep track of them anymore and so never have any ideas how many include my fiction in any given year.

So it was a pleasant surprise to find that I'm included in The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Ninth Annual Collection, commendably edited as always by Gardner Dozois.  Doubly pleasant to look inside and discover that I have two stories included.  So to mark the occasion, I'll tell a very brief anecdote about each.

The Dala Horse was of course inspired by the brightly-painted wooden toy horse that has, almost inexplicably, become a symbol of Sweden.  It's always a surprise to foreigners to find that it was a nineteenth-century invention and has no mythological or folkloric story behind it.

When I was in Sweden for the 1999 Swecon, I bought one, intending to find its story and write it.  Which, only slightly more than a decade later, I managed to do.  Swecon was a great success that year and the con committee invited me to their pub meeting the night before I flew home again.  Midway through a very pleasant evening, I took the small red Dala horse I'd bought out of my pocket.  A silence fell over the previously=noisy table.

Finally, one of the committee members cleared his throat and said, "My . . . my parents have one of those."  And changed the subject.

For I Have Lain Me Down on the Stone of Loneliness and I'll Not Be Back Again had its roots rather earlier, when I was in Dublin one Sunday, minding my own business on O'Connell Street, when Gerry Adams walked right past me.  One his way, I later realized, from a speech at the General Post Office commemorating the Easter Uprising in 1916.  But its immediate cause was a song by Janis Ian titled Mary's Eyes.

Sad songs about Ireland (and are there any other kind?) are my Achilles heel -- the only things, other than my family, that can make me cry.  Janis put together an anthology of science fiction stories "inspired by," as they say, her songs, and I tried hard to finish this one in time for inclusion.  But it was far too personal and far too tricky for that.  So it got finished when it did, which was long after the book came out.  I sent her the original manuscript in way of apology, figuring she could throw it into her Pearl Foundation auction, and that was that.

A year or so ago, though, Janis made an appearance in my area, so I went to see her.  During the concert, she played Mary's Eyes and called me out in the audience.  Alas, my eyes were filled with tears, and I could not see to stand.

And as always . . .

I'm on the road again.  This time to Burlington, Massachusetts, for Readercon.  If you're there, say hello.  You won't be interrupting anything important.  Just a batch of panels and such.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Great Amos Tutuola


So little is known about Amos Tutuola!  Yet he was one of the great fantasists of the Twentieth Century.  Partly our ignorance is due to the racist expectations of many Western readers.  Partly it's due to an understandable suspicion on the part of Nigerians that his work was being appreciated by Westerners for all the wrong reason.  Mostly, though, it's due to the fact that in the forty-five years between publication of his first book, The Palm-Wine Drinkard, and his death in 1997, nobody thought to repeatedly interview the man, his relatives, old-timers who knew him as a boy, and send out folklorists, videographers, and ethnologists to track down all the strands of influence and biography that went into his work.

But Tutuola was one of us, a fantasist, and it's very rare for a fantasist to be taken seriously while he or she is still alive.

I'm going to be on a panel about Tutuola this weekend, and I hope to learn more about him.  In the meantime, here's a brief memorial I wrote for Locus when he died:


One of the great fantasists has fallen, and most of us in the field never even knew he existed.  But Amos Tutuola, a tribesman of the Yoruba people in Nigeria and author of several books, most notably The Palm-Wine Drinkard, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, and The Brave African Huntress, was one of the best writers of fantasy in world literature. 

Tutuola's fictions were, in Dylan Thomas's words, "thronged, grisley and bewitching," filled with strange creatures, magic, horror, and humor.  He wrote in an oddly-cadenced and strangely-phrased English.  For added emphasis he wrote words LARGER, as if he were telling a story aloud and had suddenly raised his voice to startle and alarm his listeners.  For good reason:  Tutuola was first-generation literate, a man who grew up in an oral culture and then managed to transplant some of its power onto the written page. 

I do not know if Amos Tutuola was a literary genius or merely a conduit for the storytelling genius of his people.  But to read The Palm-Wine Drinkard is to be transported back to one's first rapturous connection with literature, to that initial visceral encounter with Dickens or Nabokov or Austen that revealed what a marvelous and admirable thing fiction could be.  Stripped of all familiarity, lacking the critical terminology that helps to explain and domesticate great literature (for, make no mistake about it, the underlying principles and conventions of his vastly entertaining fictions are not those of literature derived from European models), the story becomes strange again, enigmatic, and beauteous.  We lack the language to explicate its appeal.  But critical words are not needed.  His stories speak to the soul.

Amos Tutuola discovered his vocation shortly after World War II, upon his release from military service as a coppersmith with the British army.  He chanced to buy a magazine containing an advertisement for a collection of Yoruba tales.  As he later recounted in an autobiographical essay, his immediate reaction was, "But Eh!  By the way, when I was at school I was a good taleteller!  Why, could I not write my own?  Ooh, I am very good at this thing."  The following day he started to write The Palm-Wine Drinkard.

It was extraordinary luck that Tutuola was published at all.  As he explained: 

Well, I wrote the script of Palm-Wine and kept it in the house.  I didn't know where to send it to.  Again, the following quarter I bought another magazine of the same type.  Fortunately when I read it, I got to where it advertised "Manuscripts Wanted" overseas.  Well then!  Immediately I sent my story to the advertiser.  When my script got to them they wrote in about two weeks saying that they did not accept manuscripts which were not concerned with religion, Christian religion.  But, they would not return my manuscript.  They would find a publisher for me because the story was strange to them that they would not be happy if they returned it to me.

The book appeared quietly in 1952, and has been in print ever since.  It has been translated into at least fifteen languages.  Tutuola's work is now widely taught throughout the world, and has had a strong influence not just in literature, but in dance, the visual arts, and music as well.  Brian Eno and David Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts is probably the most famous work inspired by Tutuola's oeuvre, but there are many more.

Amos Tutuola was 77 when he died from hypertension and diabetes.  I shall always regret that I never had the opportunity to meet the man.  What excellent company he must have been!  What a fine laugh he must have had.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Introducing Yuri Nekrosov


Yuri Nekrosov is a young writer of fantastika (in Russia, they do not distinguish between science fiction and fantasy) whom I asked to explain himself and his first novel in only two minutes.  He did a splendid job.

And his first novel is about garbage elves!  Everybody I've shown his book to has desperately wanted to read it.

Partially, of course, this is due to some really wonderfully gonzo illustrations by Meethos.  But, let's face it -- garbage elves?  Great idea.

I'm not sure whether Meethos is an individual or a studio.  But down below is pretty much typical illo which includes a website.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ringing in the Higgs


I'm trying hard to work today, so . . . here's a level-headed beginner's explanation of the Higgs Boson.  Not to be confused with Bos'n Higgs, over in Girl Genius

My thanks to Gregory Frost for sending me the link.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Upcoming Public Appearances


Normally when I'm working on a novel I like to just hole up and type -- and right now I'm working on two novels.  So it's unusual for me to have two public appearances  coming up in the next fortnight.

The closer appearance is this weekend at Readercon in Burlington, MA.  Here's my schedule:

Friday July 13

5:00 PM    F    The Books Readers Don't See. Christopher Brown (leader), Barry B. Longyear, Anil Menon, Michael Swanwick. This is about non-English-language science fiction & fantasy, basically.

6:00 PM    RI    A Story from Scratch, Part I. Elizabeth Bear, Kyle Cassidy, Lee Moyer, Michael Swanwick. This is one of Kyle's odd projects.  Using models from the audience and "props provided by celebrity guests," Bear & I will create a story that will be photographed by Kyle.  Lee will create a cover.  The final work will be read on Sunday and an e-version of the book made available for download.  For some reason, the schedule says, "business casual attire recommended."  But those who are familiar with Kyle's or my or Lee's or Bear's work will probably dress up somewhat better than that.

8:00 PM    E    Autographs. Kit Reed, Michael Swanwick.

9:00 PM    RI    Readercon Classic Fiction Book Club: The Palm-Wine Drinkard. Michael Cisco, Sarah Smith, John H. Stevens, Michael Swanwick (leader), Jeff VanderMeer.
Amos Tutuola was a genius.  All literate people should know that.

Saturday July 14

11:00 AM    RI    A Story from Scratch, Part II.

1:00 PM    NH    Reading. Michael Swanwick. 

3:00 PM    ME    A Story from Scratch, Part III.

Sunday July 15

12:00 PM    ME    A Story from Scratch, Part IV. 
I believe this is the public reading part.

Then I appear at:

The Wise Owl Bookstore
624 Penn Avenue
West Reading, PA

July 18
6 p.m.

I haven't been to the Wise Owl yet, but apparently these events are (forgive me) a hoot.  The website notes that "The event will begin at 5pm with music from Gary M. Celima, an open mic with area authors follows and then Swanwick will take the stage."

So if I were you, I'd show up at five.

Most importantly, this event is free of charge.  You're not going to get a better deal than that.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Straddling the Continents


My friend Igor Iva sent me some photographs taken during and after Aelita, the Russian science fiction convention in Ekaterinurg.  Here's one of them.  It was taken at the border of Europe and Asia during the picnic after the con.  Not everyone was there, of course.  It was a picnic and nobody was giving or obeying orders.  But that's a good selection.

You'll note that I'm carefully standing on both sides of the border, straddling the continents.

Above:  I can identify most of the people in the photograph, but not all.  So, rather than offend some of them, I'll be silent on the subject.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Sincere Apologies

As pretty much always, I'm on the road again.  I've got some cool stuff to share with you, but it all requires editing, formatting, and the like.  Meanwhile, I've got two novels and a nounload of short fiction to write.  Plus a couple of pieces of nonfiction that I really should get down on paper.

All of which is to say:  I'm on the road again.  My next post will  be on Monday.  I apologize for having nothing of substance for you today.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Mongolian Wizard Adventures Begin!


Big news today.  My new story, The Mongolian Wizard, is up on  As you might be able to guess from the cover illo, it's a Ruritanian fantasy set in "a fractured Europe that never was," as whoever writes Tor's intro material puts it.  You can also most likely guess that it's meant to be first and foremost entertaining, that it's an adventure story, and that it has a dark edge to it.

What you can't guess from the illustration is that this is the first of a series.  I liked Ritter and Sir Toby, the main characters, so much that by the time I'd finished the story I had the plot for another story.  And by the time I'd finished that, I had the plot for a third.  These guys -- and the situation they're in -- have really got a hold on my imagination.

Right now, in fact, I have the shape of the entire series roughed out in in my mind.  I know how it's going to end and what major plot twists will occur along the way.  I even know who the mysterious visitor in the final adventure will be.

Does all that sound like I'm pushing this story hard?  I am.  I want everybody to love these stories and these characters as much as I do.  Just to keep the pressure on me to write more.

But decide for yourself.  War is brewing in Europe and all the greatest wizards of the continent have gathered together to try to stave it off . . .

You can read the story here.

And speaking of the illustration above . . .

Illustrator Gregory Manchess has done a fantastic job of not only picturing the characters as I saw them myself, but of conveying  the mood of the story and indeed the feel of the entire series.  Mostly, though, what it does is let you know if this is the kind of story you want to read.  If the picture makes you hope that "The Mongolian Wizard" is as good as it is, you'll almost certainly like the story.  But if it doesn't look like your sort of thing, you can pass it by with a clean conscience.

Did I mention that I like this artwork?  I really like this artwork.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Playing Hooky


No blog today --- I'm off to the beach.

As filler, here's Rob Pratt's stunning trailer for an imaginary cartoon, Bizarro Classic.


Monday, July 2, 2012

My Audible Fiction


Audiobooks are certainly coming up in the world.  (A good thing, too, with all the traveling I do!)  My stories appear in four anthologies on  They are:

We, Robots,
Timeless Time Travel Tales
The Best of Analog Science Fiction & Fact Magazine

and, just the other day, The Year's Top Ten Tales of Science Fiction 4, edited by Allan Kaster.  which contains "For I Have Lain Me Down on the Stone of Loneliness and I'll Not Be Back Again," my tale of love and terrorism set a century in the future. 

Six of my novels are also available as downloads -- and this is why I haven't mentioned them before; because normally I blog about my fiction when I receive the contributor's copies -- on Audible.  They are:

Bones of the Earth
Stations of the Tide
Jack Faust
The Iron Dragon's Daughter
The Dragons of Babel
Dancing With Bears.

As for the job the readers have done . . . I honestly can't tell you.  It turns out that I cannot listen to other people reading my work because they put the emphasis on other words than those I would.  You wouldn't think it would be that big a deal, but it is.

Other people's novels, however, I have no problem with.

You can read about Kaster's audio anthology here.

And as a piece of whimsy . . .

I bought the first volume of the new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series and am happy to report that it's nowhere near as gnostic as the 1969 version was.  It struck me, however, that Alan Moore was at a disadvantage dealing with the year 1997 because for legal reasons he had to stay with immortal characters from out-of-copyright fiction (Orlando, Allan Quatermain) and unnamed or renamed characters we're supposed to decode and who have minor roles (Emma Peel, James Bond).

So I began in my imagination to put together a new team of EG, for an adventure that could be written a century from now.  Emma Peel makes an excellent M and I'd keep her.  I think that Buffy and  Hannibal Lector both deserve a place on the roster.

But who else?  Ideas, anyone?


Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Courage of Pussy Riot

According to the Guardian, the detention of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Ekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alehina, members of the feminist anarchist punk-rock collective Pussy Riot has been extended indefinitely.  Their crime?  Back in February, the group performed (and filmed) a protest song in Christ the Redeemer Cathedral in Moscow.

This was an astonishingly courageous thing to do in Putin's Russia.  Predictably, the police grabbed who they could and slung them in jail, where they remain with no trial in sight, apparently because the government doesn't have much of a case.  Because Pussy Riot performs in masks, it's not even certain that the women they arrested were part of the protest.

You can read about it here.

And you can view the video that has three brave young women in jail, facing charges of "hooliganism" that might result in a seven-year sentence below.