Tuesday, December 27, 2022

S is For Story ("The Sorcerer's Daughter")


 This seems to be a season for me to post flash fiction! I'm almost at a loss as to how to explain how this story came about. It involved Eileen Gunn, of course. Anything involving Eileen and fiction leaves me feeling addle-brained and confused.

So anyway. Over on Facebook, I somehow got involved in a conversation with the esteemed Ms. Gunn, and it somehow ended in a fiction duel. She was to write a short-short beginning with slapstick and ending with tragedy and I was to write one beginning in tragedy and ending in slapstick. In one day.

Simple, yes? Only Eileen somehow got the assignment turned around and wrote a story beginning darkly and ending in slapstick. So, after posting the first story, which began dark and ended light, I posted a second, which began light and ended dark. All in the prescribed day.

 Oh, and for some reason the phrase "Gnomes begone!" was supposed to appear in each story. I can't explain this. Just thinking about it leaves me feeling addle-brained and confused.

The only problem was that Eileen wrote a good story and I wrote two terrible ones. So I picked the one with the opposite overall shape of hers and rewrote it. The first version, I regret to say, involved a lot of goose droppings. Those were the first thing to go away. Also, as long as I was revising the story, I figured I might as well create a history for the fantasy world it occurred within. So I did.

And now I have a story that starts out light and silly and ends up dark and despairing. I cannot explain why it was thought this would be a good idea. Just trying to do so makes me feel confused and... and the other thing.

Anyway, here it is, the distinguished thing:


The Sorcerer’s Daughter




Michael Swanwick



Why was her life such a mess? Why did her spells always go wrong? Tisane’s father said she was as naturally powerful as anyone he had ever known—more so even than her late mother, who had been the wonder of the world—but impulsive. “You will be allowed to spell-cast without adult supervision when you’ve mastered calculus and not a minute before.” But she had barely begun learning algebra and already she was fourteen. At this rate, she’d be an old hag before she got to do anything neat.


Thinking dark thoughts, Tisane lugged a bucket of milk fresh-squeezed from their milch cow toward the cheese cave her father had excavated with one magisterial wave of his hand.


Harrawnk! Startled by who knew what, one of the geese hysterically half-flew half-ran past Tisane and into the barn, whose door she had accidentally left open. With a sigh, she put down the bucket and went after the silly thing.


Inside, the goose had somehow flapped and struggled its way up onto a high shelf, far beyond Tisane’s reach. In its panic, it had gotten lodged among the assortment of ancient machines from the Age of Science, which her father always meant to get around to examining someday. Honking bitterly, it endlessly bemoaned its plight.


Well, Tisane thought. Here was a good opportunity to try out her theory that magic was chiefly a matter of confidence. Her father was taking his mid-afternoon nap and wouldn’t enjoy being awakened for so small a matter. So she’d save him the inconvenience. Cocking her wrists and wriggling her fingers witchily, she shouted, Down from the shelf, you goose!”


Poof! Small, soft feathers exploded into the air. (Tisane inhaled one and almost choked before she managed to cough it free.) Out from the center of that white cloud flew the bedraggled-looking goose. Riding atop it, thin legs closed about its neck was a laughing, red-capped elf.


“Fool!” the elf gloated. “I am your doom! I will unstitch your sacks of flour and topple your buckets of milk!” He flew the goose straight at Tisane. If she hadn’t ducked, it would have slammed into her face.


Gathering up her skirts, she ran after the airborne prankster out of the barn.


“What’s all this foofaraw?” Tisane’s father came lumbering out of their cottage, face red with annoyance.  


“Don’t worry, honored sire, I’ve got everything under control.” Once again, Tisane assumed the stance of a sorceress. Confidence! she reminded herself. Grabbing words at random from her reading, she intoned in the most self-assured and commanding voice imaginable, “Double, double, toil and trouble! Gnomes begone!”


Then, turning to her father with a bright confident smile, “See? Now they’re someone else’s problem.”


“But the great sorcerer’s expression, his horror-struck eyes in particular, made her wonder if maybe she’d gotten the spell wrong. Just a smidgeon, anyway. “By the demons of Old Detroit!” he cried. “You’ve created a von Neumann recursion!”


Tisane turned back. There were two elf-and-goose combinations in the sky.


Then four.


Then eight.


The elves were laughing maniacally. Waving their little red caps in the air, they dive-bombed the milk bucket, the geese, the chickens, the watchdog… even the milch-cow, which they sent scampering through the gooseberry bushes and bucking and kicking across the herb garden.


“Bring me my staff of power!” Tisane’s father commanded and she ran to fetch it. The staff had once been a nuclear control rod before it was transformed in the forges of the First Mages, back when the old world fell and science was transformed into magic.


By the time Tisane got back, the sky was dark with geese and the world echoed with the malicious laughter of the elves. Holding his staff before him, the mighty sorcerer strode forward—


And stepped on the toppled bucket of milk. He fell backward and struck his head on the hardened dirt barnyard. Tisane ran to him and raised his head, but he was out cold.


Meanwhile, the geese and elves continued to multiply. The sky darkened and the sun dimmed. Tisane’s father had always said that elves were nothing but conceptual machines, no more alive than the legendary computers of yore. She had always wondered what he meant by that. Now she thought she could understand just a glimmer. But not enough to do anything with it.


She had power enough within her to accomplish anything. But she didn’t know how to use it. Her algebra was weak and her calculus nonexistent.


The last sliver of sun disappeared behind overlapping layers of wings. Darkness swallowed up the world. The laughter of the elves merged and became universal, the roaring surf of an ocean of madness.


Tisane managed to drag her father inside the cottage and lay him on his feather bed. Then she lit a candle. Outside, the air was filling with the bodies of elves and geese, as tightly packed as the birds in the print made by the Wizard Escher that hung on the wall in her father’s study. They were so tightly thronged that they could no longer move. Still, they kept multiplying. Tisane could feel it. She had the power in her and it responded to the presence of anything magical.


Her last thought before the windows exploded inward was: It’s not fair.


Not long after, the total mass of elves and geese became greater than the Chandrasekhar limit, and the entire world collapsed into a black hole. But by then, there was nobody around to marvel at how tidily it had all come about.



Monday, December 26, 2022

Moby Dick in 12 Words--With Plushie Toy Illustrations!



Look what I found in the dollar store! It's the Cozy Classics Moby Dick.  As the back copy explains:

Teach your child simple words, concepts and stories--and an appreciation of the classics! In each book, twelve adorable needle-felted scenes and twelve child-friendly words capture hte essence of a beloved masterpiece.

Here's the passage explaining the conflict at the heart of this classic work:



And here's the moving ending:


Which I believe nobly sums up the novel's Epilogue:


The drama's done. Why then here does any one step forth?- Because one did survive the wreck.

It so chanced, that after the Parsee's disappearance, I was he whom the Fates ordained to take the place of Ahab's bowsman, when that bowsman assumed the vacant post; the same, who, when on the last day the three men were tossed from out of the rocking boat, was dropped astern. So, floating on the margin of the ensuing scene, and in full sight of it, when the halfspent suction of the sunk ship reached me, I was then, but slowly, drawn towards the closing vortex. When I reached it, it had subsided to a creamy pool. Round and round, then, and ever contracting towards the button-like black bubble at the axis of that slowly wheeling circle, like another Ixion I did revolve. Till, gaining that vital centre, the black bubble upward burst; and now, liberated by reason of its cunning spring, and, owing to its great buoyancy, rising with great force, the coffin life-buoy shot lengthwise from the sea, fell over, and floated by my side. Buoyed up by that coffin, for almost one whole day and night, I floated on a soft and dirgelike main. The unharming sharks, they glided by as if with padlocks on their mouths; the savage sea-hawks sailed with sheathed beaks. On the second day, a sail drew near, nearer, and picked me up at last. It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan. 

 There are also adaptations of Great Expectations, Pride & Prejudice, War & Peace, and the first three Star Wars movies. All of them exactly twelve words long. You can learn more about Cozy Classics by clicking here.


Saturday, December 24, 2022

Manger Animals




Merry Christmas, everybody! My present for you is a story I wrote a decade ago, titled...


Manger Animals


There is a legend that on Christmas Eve the animals can talk.  Yet of all the many animals you’ve known or owned, be they pets or next-door dogs or half-tame squirrels that you almost got to accept a peanut out of your hand once, none have ever done remotely anything like that.


Still, the legend is true.  It just doesn’t apply to all animals. It applies only to those who were in one specific manger on the outskirts of Bethlehem two thousand something years ago. These were all made immortal by the Infant Jesus who, like any other child, had an inordinate fondness for dumb beasts. And for 364 days of the year (365 on leap years) they’re dumb in both senses of the word.


Ahhh, but on Christmas Eve...


On Christmas Eve, the cow and the donkey and the little goat that gnawed on Baby Jesus’s blanket are given the gift of speech. As are the two lambs who wandered in looking for fodder, the camels who carried the magi to the event and then stuck their noses in the window to see what was going on, and the pigeons who fluttered in the rafters while Joseph muttered angrily about their droppings.


“It was a night much like this one . . .” the cow begins.


“No, quieter,” says a camel.  “There weren’t so many cars back then.”


“It was cold outside,” says a lamb.  “But I found a warm spot to sleep right over there.”


“I gnawed on a blanket,” says the goat proudly.  “But somebody yanked it away.”


“I wonder who?” murmurs a dove. For animals have very little sense of what is and is not important, once you move away from the compelling subjects of food and sleep. The fact that there were people present two thousand years ago is almost forgotten.  Who those people might have been is entirely beyond their ken.


Still, like any other old-timers, they do enjoy reminiscing.


“They don’t make oats the way they used to,” says the donkey. “And that’s a fact.”





Friday, December 23, 2022

The Parable of the Creche



Once a year I present this story here on my blog. Sometimes the details differ by a word or three. But the message, I think, is timeless. Come gather around me, children, and I will tell you...

The Parable of the Creche

When first I came to Roxborough, forty-some ago, the creche was already a tradition of long standing. Every year it appeared in Gorgas Park during the Christmas season.  It wasn't all that big—maybe seven feet high at its tip—and it wasn't very fancy. The figures of Joseph and Mary, the Christ Child, the three magi, the shepherds, and the animals were a couple of feet high at best, and there were sheets of Plexiglas over the front of the wooden construction to keep people from walking off with them. But there was a painted backdrop of the hills of Bethlehem at night, the floor was strewn was real straw, and it was genuinely loved.

It was a common sight to see people standing before the creche, especially in the evening, admiring it.  Sometimes parents brought their small children to see it for the first time and the wonder they displayed was genuinely moving.  It provided a welcome touch of seasonality and community to the park.

Alas, Gorgas Park is public property, and it was only a matter of time before somebody complained that the creche violated the principle of the separation of church and state. When the complaint finally came, the creche was taken out of the park and put into storage.

People were upset of course. Nobody liked seeing a beloved tradition disappear. There was a certain amount of grumbling and disgruntlement. One might even say disgrumblement.

So the kindly people of Leverington Presbyterian Church, located just across the street from the park, stepped in.  They adopted the creche and put it up on the yard in front of their church, where it could be seen and enjoyed by all.

But did this make us happy? It did not. The creche was just not the same located in front of a church.  It seemed lessened, in some strange way, made into a prop for the Presbyterians. You don't see people standing before it anymore.

I was in a local tappie shortly after the adoption and heard one of the barflies holding forth on this very subject:

"The god-damned Christians," he said, "have hijacked Christmas."

Above: The creche as it stands now. Personally, I'm grateful to the Presbyterians for rescuing it.




Monday, December 19, 2022

Samuel R. Delany on Thomas M. Disch



My interview with Samuel R. Delany on Thomas M. Disch, who was for many years this friend and then, abruptly, not, appears in the current issue of Foundation.  

Here's how it came about. Chip was at a party at Marianne's and my house after Philcon, and started telling stories about Tom Disch, his brilliance, and his difficult personality. He had his listeners rapt. Gee, I thought. Somebody should get this stuff down on the record.

In my family, we have a saying, swiped from an R. A. Lafferty story--"You see your duty quickly, citizen." Whoever observes that "somebody" should do something is that somebody.

So Marianne and I invited Chip back for lunch and an interview. It covered a lot of interesting ground and a lightly edited version appears in Foundation under the title, 'Bitter, Fun and Bright': Samuel R. Delany on Thomas M. Disch. Here's one small taste:

The last time I went to Europe, I had gotten all the way to Istanbul. I found Istanbul a really great city. I told Tom what a wonderful, rich city it was. Of course it has a literary history. Things like in Hemingway's “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” all the city sections take place in Istanbul—not to mention the opening of Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express (1934). Although that was not the social level of Istanbul I saw, I still always felt that that was something going on around me. (And, yes, the food was much, much better: Greek food, yes, but served in tiny amounts, like dim sum, so that it made culinary sense.) I had met people and I'd had fun while I was there. I'd had a great time.


Tom had a miserable time, I later found out.

The result was one of his best stories, called “The Asian Shore.” It's all about a totally isolated guy. Tom ended up spending like six weeks there during which he was not able to meet anyone. It produced things like “The Roaches.” Which is one of his best stories, about what happens when the bomb falls and you're thousands of miles away from anything you know. Also “The Asian Shore,” which is very basically a study of racism. Although that's not what you think when you first read it. John Benedict Harris, this architect, is being absorbed by the city and finally becomes indistinguishable from one of the Asians. This woman keeps calling him by the name Yavuz and his name is not Yavuz, but John Benedict Harris. You couldn’t have a more American name than that.


Tom thought his stay in Asia in Istanbul was the loneliest and most isolated time he ever had. On the one hand I feel good because it produced a great story. But Tom himself said he hated the experience. 


You can find more information about Foundation here.  If you want to subscribe or buy a single issue, you can do so here.





Tuesday, December 13, 2022

A Chatbot Reviews My Iron Dragon Trilogy



So out of idle curiosity I asked a Chatbot to write an essay on my Iron Dragon trilogy. The results below are hilarious if you know my work. (If you don't, reading The Iron Dragon's Daughter and either "The Dog Said Bow-Wow" or one of my Darger & Surplus novels will bring you up to speed.)

Oh, and I should mention that the final paragraph seems to be boilerplate whenever the chatbot is summing up a fantasy/sf novel.

 Here it is, straight from the mouth of the machine:

The Iron Dragon novels by Michael Swanwick are a series of fantasy books that follow the adventures of a young boy named Darger and his loyal sidekick, Surplus, as they journey through a world filled with incredible technology and ancient magic.

The first book in the series, The Dragons of Babel, introduces us to Darger and Surplus as they are forced to flee their home in search of a better life. Along the way, they encounter a wide range of fascinating characters, including a powerful dragon named Babd Catha, who becomes their unlikely ally.

As they journey through this strange new world, Darger and Surplus must rely on their wits and cunning to survive. They are constantly confronted with danger and adversity, but they never give up hope and always find a way to overcome the odds.

Throughout the series, we see Darger and Surplus grow and mature, as they learn to harness their unique abilities and work together to overcome the challenges they face. In the end, they emerge as true heroes, ready to take on any challenge that comes their way.

The Iron Dragon novels are a thrilling and exciting read, full of adventure, magic, and a cast of memorable characters. Michael Swanwick's writing is sharp and engaging, and he has created a truly unique and captivating world for readers to explore. If you enjoy fantasy novels with a touch of technology and a lot of heart, then the Iron Dragon series is definitely worth checking out.


And the lesson we should learn from this is . . .

 Laughing  at the Chatbot is almost as much fun as marveling at all the AI programs that are industriously at work putting illustrators out of business. But they're just at the dawn of their powers and there are programmers working feverishly to improve them. Writers--including unpublished writers who are working hard to make the leap--should give some serious thought to how to respond to artificial fiction.

There isn't much time, though. So think fast.



Saturday, December 10, 2022

Grant Wahl, Dead in Qatar




Another journalist had died. Grant Wahl probably thought himself safer than most because he specialized in soccer. But he was confronted by the Qatar government (and then received death threats and was followed) for wearing a rainbow shirt in solidarity with the LGBQT+ community. Not long after, he suddenly fell ill while covering a soccer match and taken by paramedics to a hospital where he died. He was 48.

Wahl's brother Erik believes he was murdered.

You can read about it on the Lawyers, Guns &Money blog here. Or read the NBC News account, which does not report anything suspicious about the death here.

Above: Image copied from Lawyers, Guns &Money.



Friday, December 9, 2022

Feeling Sorry for the Illustrators? We're Next


So how about those AI art programs--Dall-E and the like? Personally, I don't think anybody's said it better than the guys at Penny Arcade, above. (You can find the entire cartoon here.) There's been a lot of argument over whether the astonishingly convincing images created by something that isn't even self-aware are art or not. But nobody doubts that these programs are going to put a lot of illustrators out of work and seriously reduce the incomes of many or most of those who remain.

This prospect horrifies me, particularly since I know and like a like of those artists personally. But it's going to strike a lot closer to home a lot sooner than I thought.

I was talking with an editor at a science fiction convention recently and observed that sooner or later there were going to be programs that wrote fiction. 

"Oh, they're already here," he said. In fact, he knew a writer who routinely uses one to create his first drafts. He types in a few prompts and it spits out an entire story which he then revises into something that can be published. 

The writer in question produces formulaic fiction, of course. But the programs are only going to get better. A lot of marginal writers are likely to be forced out of the marketplace soon. And after that, better ones. And after that...

In the meantime, editors are consulting with each other on how to develop tools to detect artificially-created fiction. Because the means such programs employ--studying massive amounts of published fiction and writing imitations of it--leaves everyone involved open to charges of plagiarism.

So what can writers do?

Step one is to ditch Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey. Every time you write a story or book that recapitulates the twelve or seventeen or ninety-eight stages of heroism, you're doing your bit to program the reader to expect exactly that structure. And that structure is extremely easy to imitate. Hell, a machine could do that. If not today, then soon. 

Step two is to stop relying on all the other crutches that writers use to come up with an easy story: Retelling a classic story but making the villain the hero, rewriting fairy tales but giving the protagonist contemporary values, etc., etc., etc.

Step three is to dig deep and come up with stories that satisfy the readers without giving them what they're expecting. Human stories that no non-sentient machine could possibly write because they're not retellings of stories that came before.

I know that sounds difficult. It is difficult. But if you decided to become a writer because you thought it would be easy... boy, are you in the wrong place!

End of sermon. Go thou and sin no more.

Above: I'm not a gamer but I follow Penny Arcade (www.penny-arcade.com) to keep up on that portion of the culture that involves gaming--most of it, to be precise. Also, it can be pretty funny. I recommend it.





Wednesday, December 7, 2022

A Footnote to The Once and Future Rye



 Not all that long ago, I wrote a history of rye whiskey as a metaphor for the history of America. (The Once and Future Rye: The Whiskey That Was America is still available for purchase at www.dragonstairs.com.) Just now, I found a passage in Bernard De Voto's essay/slim book The Hour, a jolly crank rant claiming that there are only two cocktails worth drinking: whiskey straight (by which he means rye or bourbon but not Scotch and how this is a cocktail is beyond me) and the Martini, which I wish I'd run across while writing my own chapbook. Here it is:

I don't know why but there are more brands of good rye than there are of bourbon. And I don't know why the God-damned Navy is permitted to monopolize so many of them--but here's a tip for you. Keep green your friendships in the service.

Now isn't that strange? De Voto's essay confirms one of my own central findings, which is that Prohibition turned America's palate away from rye to whiskey. But who would have suspected that for the longest time (The Hour was first published in 1948), bourbon was an also-ran? To say nothing about that weird observation about USN commissaries.e

It's clear that the history of American tippling has been sadly neglected. There's plenty of room our there for an amateur chronicler to make their mark. (To those reading this: That's a hint.)



Monday, November 28, 2022

Vacuum Flowers One-Day e-Book Sale!



My e-book publisher, Open Road Media, informs me that there will be a one-day e-book sale for my novel Vacuum Flowers. On November 30 (that's Wednesday), it will be available, in the US only, for $1.99.

 I know it seems like I post something like this, only for different books, rather a lot. But it seems to be Open Road's business plan. So if you like e-books and would like to read my novel... well, here's your chance.


And as long as I'm here . . .

I might as well tell you something about the ending of Vacuum Flowers. It ends with Rebel Elizabeth Mudlark, the protagonist, standing in the vacuum docks with her husband's coffin at her feet, waiting for transportation back to her home in the Oort Cloud. Her passage through the Solar System took her on a cometary orbit inward and then out, making various stops along the way. (This is a sub-genre of sf that was once called the Grand Tour.)  

Now, comets travel in one of two paths--either a hyperbolic orbit or a parabolic orbit. The hyperbolic orbit takes the comet in and then out, never to return. But the parabolic orbit is closed loop. Which means that sooner or later, the comet will return. All the time I was writing the novel, I was aware of both possibilities. In one possible ending she would return. In the other she would not. In one ending, her husband was alive. In the other, the coffin held a corpse.

I held both endings in my mind without choosing one up until I came to the very last page. Then I made my choice and the novel was finished.

Looking back, I am convinced I made the right choice.

But it was a close thing.


Thursday, November 17, 2022

David Sherman



David Sherman is dead. Tom Purdom used to introduce him as "walking time bomb David Sherman" because that was the slur upon combat vets at the time, but of course he was nothing of the sort. He was a good man and excellent company.

David began his writing career by writing military fiction because as an ex-marine who had served in Vietnam that was something he knew well. He moved on to military science fiction, both solo and in collaboration with Dan Cragg. His work was highly regarded.

It has been a long, long time since I've seen David. Many years ago, he moved to Florida for the weather (and, he would have said jokingly, the women). But it was always comforting to know he was out there, writing and enjoying life.

Now he's not, and the world is a sadder place for that. David was solid stuff. He had a good sense of humor. You'd have liked him.

Above: I found this picture on Facebook. I believe it was taken by his friend Colin Wolfe.



Thursday, November 10, 2022

My Philcon Schedule



 I've just received my tentative Philcon schedule. Since the convention begins in a week and a half, I'm pretty confident that this will also be my final schedule.  

Here it is:

Start Time      Duration       Room Name                                Title

Fri 7:30 PM    25 Min                204                      Readings: Michael Swanwick                       
Sat 1:00 PM    50 Min                217                      Autographs: Tom Purdom, Michael Swanwick         
Sat 2:00 PM    50 Min          Plaza 3                      We ARE Living in Philip K. Dick’s Future, Aren’t We?
Sat 4:00 PM    50 Min          Plaza 3                      The Excitement and Frustration of Exoplanets     
Sat 9:00 PM    50 Min          Plaza 3                      Women Speculative Fiction Authors Before 1970   

Sun 10:00 AM  50 Min        Crystal 2                    The Timey-Wimeyness of Time    




Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Opening Paragraph du Jour



Herein begins an informal occasional series. The opening paragraph of Anais Nin's Collages:

Vienna was the city of statues. They were as numerous as the people who walked the streets. They stood on the tips of the highest towers, lay down on stone tombs, sat on horseback, kneeled, prayed, fought animals and wars, danced, drank wine, and read books made of stone. They adorned cornices like the figureheads of old ships. They stood in the heart of fountains glistening with water as if they had just been born. They sat under trees in the parks summer and winter. Some wore costumes of other periods, and some no clothes at all. Men, women, children, kings, dwarfs, gargoyles, unicorns, lions, clowns, heroes, wise men, prophets, angels, saints and soldiers preserved for Vienna an illusion of eternity.

Isn't that charming? Note the lack of specificity, the suppression of commas outside the lists, the quick turns of invention, the way the author keeps it lucid and interesting throughout. She really did know what she was doing.


Friday, November 4, 2022

My Worldcon Brunch-Interview with Scott Edelman



 One morning at the Chicago Worldcon earlier this year, Scott Edelman treated me to brunch and recorded a rambling-filled anecdote interview for his Eating the Fantastic podcast. At least, that's how I vaguely remember it. While I value what I've written immensely, I don't pay much attention to what I've said. It leave my mouth, enters the air, and disappears.

But here's how Scott remembers it:

We discussed his response to learning a reader of his was recently surprised to find out he was still alive, how J. R. R. Tolkein turned him into a writer, why it took him 15 years of trying to finally finish his first story, how Gardner Dozois and Jack Dann taught him how to write by taking apart one of his tales and putting it back together again, why it was good luck he lost his first two Nebula Awards the same year, the good advice William Gibson gave him which meant he never had to be anxious about awards again, which friend’s story was so good he wanted to throw his own typewriter out the window in a rage, the novel he abandoned writing because he found the protagonists morally repugnant, why he didn’t want to talk about Playboy magazine, the truth behind a famous John W. Campbell, Jr./Robert Heinlein anecdote, and much more.

So apparently I was pretty interesting. 

You can find Scott's blog and instructions on where to find the interview here


Above: Photo and copyright by Scott Edelman.



Monday, October 31, 2022

Sunday, October 30, 2022



This is your fate and you cannot avoid it.

Friday, October 28, 2022



You and your beloved will copulate in darkness.


Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Tuesday, October 25, 2022



you'll go down into the suffocating soil.


Monday, October 24, 2022



With a scream--of ecstasy? of terror?--


Gregory Frost's Rhymer Trilogy - First Volume Out This Summer!!!



 Marianne and I had dinner last night with Gregory and Barbara Frost and it was of course a delightful evening. If you know them, you're the exact opposite of surprised. They are smart, warm, caring people--and I could dump a few dozen more adjectives on them, all admiring. Did I mention witty? That too.

One thing we talked about was Greg's Rhymer Trilogy, volume one of which (appropriately enough titled Rhymer) comes out this summer. I am excited about this because I consider Gregory Frost to be one of the best fantasy writers at work today. Here's what the publisher had to say:

Thomas the Rhymer, legendary 12th Century figure of traditional Scottish balladry, as you've never seen him before.

Rhymer brings to life Thomas the Rhymer, legendary 12th Century figure of traditional Scottish balladry, as a champion who must battle the diabolical Yvag—an alien race thought to be elves and faeries—hellbent on conquering our world. This saga pits Thomas against the near-immortal elves, first with only his wits, then with powers of his own that enable him to take on these evil creatures throughout the centuries. He’s known by many names over time—Tám Lin, Robyn Hood, and numerous other incarnations reaching into the present—but at his heart he is still True Thomas, one man doing all he can to save us all from a powerful foe.

When his brother is snatched right before his eyes, Thomas hunts for justice and discovers that not only do these “elves” steal people, but they also are skinwalkers who occupy humans in positions of power. Their goal: to obliterate humanity and take over our world. When Thomas is dragged into their alien realm, he’s imprisoned and barely escapes alive, but in the process he gains near-immortality and the ability to transform himself. Will it be enough to protect his loved ones and defeat this powerful foe?

Which sounds pretty good already. But we discussed this and the forthcoming books in some detail and I can tell you that it's a lot more interesting than whoever wrote the above makes it sound. No dis intended; it's just that it's a more complexly interesting set of ideas and situations that Greg is working with than can easily be boiled down to a couple of hundred words. 

I apologize that I can't share any of that with you. But it was told me in confidence.

Anyway, I look forward to this book (and the others) with fierce anticipation. I recommend that you do too.


Sunday, October 23, 2022



Two bony hands will seize your head and push down.



Saturday, October 22, 2022



For an instant, you'll stare into the empty sockets of a madly grinning skull.


Friday, October 21, 2022





When you're buried to the chin, your one true love will breach the surface.