Thursday, July 31, 2008

Also, This..

Sorry to jump on top of you, Kelly, but "Transcriptase" the site for those protesting the whole Helix dust-up is live.

What Scalzi Said...Oh, And Hines...And Bear

Card is foaming again. Dude, take a deep breath and stop wigging out about other peoples' marriage aspirations and sex lives; your bigotry is showing.

Or, in greater depth:

Scalzi. Bear. Hines. (The order I found them in)

Wyrd Universe 7.31.08

I had fun with this last week, so here's some more:

• While you’re waiting for the film, read the (comic) book. At last week’s SDCC, Marvel Comics unveiled a first look at their adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s classic Ender’s Game (1985).

Serious about genre: Michael Chabon talks Sturgeon’s law, PKD, Philip Pullman, and the maps of childhood in an interview with the LA Times.

Over all this presides, like a bewildered king, his huge, handsome head lifted in frowning attention, a man whose massive black eyebrows have patches of grey, whose hair has become a helmet of white. It’s a Celtic head. It could belong to Robert Graves’s brother: An exclusive excerpt from Michael Moorcock’s memoir (a work in progress) about the legendary Mervyn Peake, at Enter the Octopus.

• Start cleaning out the garage hangar deck for your very own Viper. Sci Fi Wire announces that more than 3,000 props, costumes, and other pieces of memorabilia will be auctioned off after BSG's season 4 draws to a close.

The sci-fi mixtape of doom. Just skip right down to the comments. They're so much more fun than the article.

More items like this semiregularly at TM3B.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jackie Kessler

Today we've going to give you another author interview, this one with my the fabulous Jackie Kessler for her new book HOTTER THAN HELL but first let me post a link to her blog on a related topic that's not actually part of the interview. There's been a bit of snafu on the ISBN front with HOTTER THAN HELL and if you want to get a copy right away when it comes out–of course you do, Jackie's fabulous–you may have to do a tiny bit of extra hoop jumping. Here's Jackie's explanation of the ISBN mess.

And, now, on to the interview.

HOTTER THAN HELL is the third book in the Hell on Earth series (August 2008). Don't be fooled by the "paranormal romance" tag on the spine; this book is, perhaps, a love story, but it's much more urban fantasy than a romance. For one thing, there's no traditional happily ever after. For another...well, no, that'll do it. Unlike the first two books in the series, HOT stars the incubus Daunuan (pronounced "Don Juan," sort of).

Jackie Kessler is the author of the Hell on Earth series, published by Kensington/Zebra Books. She's also written numerous short stories and is the coauthor of the upcoming BLACK & WHITE, a dystopian superhero novel to be published by Bantam Spectra in 2009. Jackie lives in Upstate New York with her Loving Husband, two Precious Little Tax Deductions, two geriatric cats, and 8,000 comic books. She's not really a succubus, and despite all the rumors, you'll never catch her stripping on stage. For more about Jackie, please visit her website. And remember: love your inner demon.

1) What was your inspiration for writing HOTTER THAN HELL?

I knew that I wanted Daun to have his own story. After the events in HELL'S BELLES and THE ROAD TO HELL, I had a good idea what it would be. Heh, heh, heh. Daun's still pissed off at me.

2) Who are your favorite authors and books now and when you were growing up?
Now: Neil Gaiman, Chris Moore, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, George RR Martin.
Then: Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis, JRR Tolkien

3) What is it about fantasy that attracts you?
There's something about the nature of Good and Evil that fascinates me. Maybe it's because the two are so close to each other. Maybe it's because the dark side has cookies. But man, it's that burning drive to fight against the forces of darkness--or, from the other end, to blot out the light of the world--that is compelling. Give me the dynamic villains, the tortured heroes.

4) What (besides writing) do you do for fun?
Fun? Fun? What is this "fun" of which you speak? Hmm. I enjoy reading, long walks on the beach, the sunset, kissing in the rain...Wait, is this getting too personal? Okay, then: good music, good friends, good wine. Me = happy.

5) What sort of research did you do to write HOTTER THAN HELL?
Among other things, I did a lot of research on Mozart--who plays an important role in the story. Fascinating man.

6)  What are you writing now?
The fourth book in the Hell on Earth series, HELL BOUND. The protagonist/POV is back to Jesse, the former succubus.

7) Did you always want to write? Or did you stumble into it? How did you get where you are now?
I used to want to be a comic book artist. Then I wanted to write comic books. Then, once I was in college and started taking creative writing courses, I realized that I wanted to write books. Or, really, book: I had this one idea, and it was going to be my Great American Novel. So, er, 20 years later, that book still isn't published (although a version of it is currently on submission, eek). But I have three novels and one novella published, with three more novels and one novella to come in the next year. Life is good.

8) What does a typical writing day look like for you? How long do you write, that sort of thing?
Usually, I get the bulk of my writing done first thing in the morning, before the day job, or after the Tax Deductions are in bed for the night. When I'm on a deadline, a pot of coffee is my best friend, and I'm lucky to be in bed before 1 am.

9) Where do you write?
My home office. I can (and do) write on the train, when I'm traveling from Upstate New York to NYC. But I prefer to be at my desk, on my computer, with the Internet right here to distract me. Wait, no, not that last part. Er, next question...

10) This isn't your first book; tell us a little bit about what else is out there.
The first two books in the Hell on Earth series focus on the former demon Jezebel. The first book, HELL'S BELLES, is the story of why Jezebel runs away from Hell, as well as her adventures hiding on Earth as a mortal stripper and falling in love, while avoiding the demonic bounty hunters on her trail. (Sex, strippers, demons -- what's not to like?) The second book, THE ROAD TO HELL, continues the story: now Jezebel (known as the human Jesse Harris) needs to return to Hell to save the lives of those she loves. (If she'd known love was this tough, she would have remained a demon of lust.)

Daun loves his job:
seduce a lot of mortals, bring their souls to Hell, party at the best
interdimensional pub this side of the Astral Plane. But when the King
of Lust makes him an offer he can't refuse, Daun has to give up all the
tricks of his trade to properly befriend—and bed—Virginia Reed, a woman
who's meant for Heaven. If he can get her to
love him for the incubus he really is, and if he can avoid the rogue
demons that are hell-bent on destroying him for reasons unknown, Daun
will become the First Principal of Lust, second in line to the King.
But Daun learns that love is more than a four-letter word, and that
maybe, just maybe, demons really do have feelings after all... 

You can buy HOTTER THAN HELL at:
Amazon UK
Amazon Canada
Barnes and Noble
Flights of Fantasy
Mysterious Galaxy

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Yep, I Did (and Why Beginnings Suck)

In case you were hanging on the edges of your seats waiting to find out how well I slept last night, the answer is: a lot better.

However, I ended up restarting my novel for the third time.

Gah. Well, it had to be done.

I realized that what a lot of the Wyrdsmiths had to say about the first chapter was right (imagine that!), and, having finally written out a synopsis for the whole novel, I realized I hadn't really set up any of the important character bits or... well, the ending (which I now know.)

I have to say it's really hard to go back to a series I thought was finished. I've forgotten a lot about writing science fiction in general, and this series in specfic.

Anyway, off to go write now.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Write! It's Good For You!

I haven't been sleeping terribly well lately. I'll wake up in the middle of the night and throw myself around restlessly for an hour or so. I sleep fitfully for a while and then do it all over again a few hours later. I wake up feeling distinctly unrefreshed.

I've been pondering all sorts of reasons for this sudden and uncharacteristic insomnia. I think I finally figure it out: I'm not writing regularly.

As someone in a sedentary profession, I've been trying to take good care of my body. I work out semi-regularly (at LEAST twice a week, though I've been trying for every other day); I've been watching what I eat; I take multi-vitamins; I play outside with my kids at least a little every day, etc. But, I've been completely neglecting my mental health -- which is to say, that for me, I need to write a little every day.... or at least be back on a regular writing schedule.

The funny thing is that, for me, at least, it has to be fiction. I need to let the demons out to play, as it were. Writing non-fiction (aka blogging, etc.) actually tends to make me more restless and agitated -- most interactive/psuedointeractive internet/computer stuff does (which maybe another part of my problem -- I've been substituting video game playing for fiction writing. Bad writer. No biscuit.)

So starting today, I'm going back to writing fiction every night. I'll let you know if I'm feeling better soon. I suspect the answer will be yes.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Interesting Things–Bear Edition

Elizabeth Bear is proposing an interesting point for discussion about the conversation of stories among the sfnal community and whether or not f&sf writers read mostly within their own generation of writers. The discussion is here. I'm not at all sure I agree with her. No, strike that. I suspect that she is right in terms of general trends, but that it breaks down a lot in terms of individual writers.

For example, I read very little short fiction, and what novels I read I read almost entirely for pleasure. In general I don't write in a reactionary way, or at least not in a meta-fictional reactionary-within-genre kind of way. Pushing boundaries and mapping the edges of meta-fictional discourse is to me not a very interesting way to think about writing. I can do it, but I think it misses much of the simple joy of story-telling which is at the heart of why I read and write. This is not to say that it is a bad way to think about story, just that it is one that I don't particularly subscribe to. Fortunately, there are a thousand ways and one to write, each and every one of them right, and ten times ten times that many ways to think about story, likewise all right.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Cats, Elsewhere

Boing-Boing has a funny video up of a tortoise who very determinedly chases cats out of its territory.

Friday Cat Blogging–Extreme Closeup Edition

I'm going to get you for this, you know that, right?

What do you mean I no can haz bedtime story?

What makes you think I did it?

Dear child, surely you don't think that I of all cats...

What other cats?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Way Behind

I'm seriously behind in responding to email, especially email that requires me to do something, like say critique a story. Mea Culpa. Unfortunately, I don't see myself getting really caught for at least another week or two.

Catch of the Day

A person who has become interested in SF through the media, or because of vague childhood memories, will pick up a book from the vast SF rack and be turned off. He or she will be turned off because the work will almost certainly be crap. . . . Yup, you could read a good SF novel a week each week of the year, no doubt. But if you read an SF novel a week picked at random from the rack, you'd never come back for a second year of such torture.
Robert J. Sawyer

[From Sawyer's “The Death of Science Fiction” (1991), an old piece given new life by recent citations in Bookmarks and Utne Reader. Via CJA at io9.]

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wyrd Universe 7.23.08

With the nationwide exodus for San Diego under way, this week is a slow one in my other universe, so for your entertainment and edification, here's some sfnal overflow from the semiregular news feature at my comics blog:

The end of humanity . . . has a beginning. The very first Caprica trailer is up at SF Wire! (If you want to give the commercials a miss, I’ve also got a lower-res YouTube version up, for as long as the link lasts, at TM3B.)

"If I were sitting in a Tube train and all the people opposite me were reading 'Mein Kampf' with obvious enjoyment and approval it probably wouldn’t disturb me much more than if they were reading Heinlein, Tolkien or Richard Adams." Michael Moorcock’s late-1970s essay "Starship Stormtroopers" is quoted in Dave Itzkoff’s NYTBR article on Elric: The Stealer of Souls.

"One of the reasons girls are jumping on this trend is you put on a corset and bustle and you can be 10 lbs. overweight or thin as a rail, and you will look good in it." SFGate takes the steampunk phenomenon mainstream. But is it really all about the clothes?

• It's not exactly breaking news, but the discovery back in April of what appears to be the world’s only full-length cut of Fritz Lang’s silent classic Metropolis (1927) languishing untouched in the archives of the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires is too cool for me to leave out.

• Not to be confused with Wyrd: Paul Di Filippo and his co-conspirators' Weird Universe "explores every aspect of a human and natural cosmos that is not only 'stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine.'" As you might expect, they’re dishing up some, yes, weird stuff over there, for instance: how many megabytes is your brain?

More items like this at TM3B. Really, you don't want to miss out on the world's only caffeinated lip balm.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Re-Direct: SF Novelists

Here's my alter ego complaining about the problems of writing a synopsis over at SF Novelists.

Waving to a Friend

My friend Kimber (Kimberly Frost) just took her new website live. Go take a look. Her first book a funny paranormal romance Would-Be Witch will be out from Penguin's Berkley division on Feb 3, 2009.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Star Wars Exhibit

Laura and I went to see the Star Wars exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota with her sister Kat and Kat's husband (and fellow Wyrdsmith) Sean Murphy. It was entertaining--cool ship models and some of the props and costumes--but Laura and I felt that it just didn't have the same impact as the Magic of Myth Star Wars exhibit, which Laura and I saw at the Smithsonian sometime last century.

We spent some time trying to figure out why that was and concluded that it's got nothing to with the exhibit and everything to do with episodes I-III. After seeing what Lucas did with I-III we simply aren't the same Star Wars fans we were when we saw the Magic of Myth. While there was some really cool stuff in the prequels, the deeply inferior storytelling has tarnished the brand for us in a deep and abiding way, which is actually quite sad.

The one big exception to the simply not as cool as all this stuff used to be factor was the cockpit of the Millenium Falcon in the Jump to Lightspeed attraction where the four of us got to go into a mockup of the Falcon's cockpit and watch a short surround-projected film that included several jumps to lightspeed. We were all acting like excited nine-year-olds for that bit, hitting buttons, flipping switches, and just generally playing in a way that grownups mostly* don't get to. It was thrilling because we all deep down loved IV-VI, and the Falcon by itself didn't evoke the disappointment of I-III.

I'm sure there's an important lesson in there for writers about not tarnishing your brand and learning when to stop, but I'm equally sure it's actually quite hard to apply. I have no doubt that Lucas thought I-III were going to be great and that's why he did them. He certainly didn't need the money. There's also a lesson in understanding that once a story has an audience and fans it can never be entirely the writer's toy ever again, no matter how much we might want it to be. Perhaps that's all generalizable to something like the writer has to understand that the audience is part of the story and that's true from the moment you start writing something you intend to share.

What do you think, gentle reader?

*I actually do get to play on a daily basis because my job is writing fantasy, but it's generally make-believe in my head, and rarely involves toys.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Smart Things--Critique

Stephanie Zvan saying smart things about taking critique.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Head Down, Writing

Back later.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Why I Write Reason #429

I had really strange dream last night about visiting my old school and ending up having to take a standardized test on the Muppets. Only, during the part of the test period where they gave you the context for the questions (new Muppets with some interesting new story structure), my cat Nutmeg escaped and I had to go chase her done outside before anything bad could happen to her. When I got back I'd missed important parts of the test. I wasn't stressed about it though because I knew I could ace the test anyway. Then I woke up.

What does that have to do with writing? I don't know about it at a conscious level, but at an unconscious level I woke up with quite a few of the story tools I need to solve some of the problems I've been having with The Black School sequel. Pretty much without transition I went from the Muppet dream into waking plotting on and thinking about The Eye Of Horus and I could feel my backbrain linking the two somehow.

Apparently my subconscious was able to use Kermit and the gang to organize my thoughts about what The Eye Of Horus is really about thematically and in terms of story arc and also to work out some of the details of the romance subplot.

Why Muppets? I don't know. How? I can't say for sure, but I could make an informed guess about symbolic reasoning and a brain wired for story making connections between a successful extant storyworld construct and the one I'm building.

Basically, at the unconscious level I think in story, which is why I tend to leak weirdness if I'm not writing. The stuff has to go someplace and the page is probably the safest place for it.

In short, I write to protect the rest of you from the stuff that would otherwise leak out of my brain and pollute the social environment.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Author Interview–David Louis Edelman

David Louis Edelman's debut novel Infoquake was released by Pyr in 2006. Barnes & Noble Explorations called the story of cut-throat software entrepreneurs in the far future "the love child of Donald Trump and Vernor Vinge" and later named it their SF Book of the Year. The book was also nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best Novel, and Edelman was nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer on the strength of that novel. Infoquake has just been re-released in mass market paperback by Solaris Books with a fancy new cover by Stephan Martiniere.

Last week, Pyr released book 2 of David's Jump 225 trilogy, MultiReal. The book continues where Infoquake left off, and has already been called "a thoroughly-successful hybrid of Neuromancer and Wall Street" by Hugo nominee Peter Watts.

BIO: In addition to writing novels, Dave has also programmed websites for the U.S. Army, the FBI, ExxonMobil, and Rolls-Royce; taught software to the U.S. Congress and the World Bank; written articles for the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun; and directed the marketing departments of biometric and e-commerce companies. Dave is well-versed in PHP, Ruby on Rails, WordPress, ColdFusion, HTML, Javascript, XML, and CSS, and is an expert in web usability, web design, search engine optimization, and writing for the web.

1) What was your inspiration for writing Infoquake and MultiReal?

Infoquake and MultiReal are two parts of a story I started writing in late 2000 about my dot-com experiences in the '90s. I'm a marketing guy and web programmer by trade, and I saw a number of crazy things during the dot-com bubble. Mostly I was interested in the personal dynamics -- how charismatic schemers like my protagonist Natch convinced so many people to invest in so many worthless companies.

So in 2000 and 2001, I wrote a novel titled Jump 225.7, which you might call a far-future satire of the dot-com era. I literally finished the first draft of it on September 10, 2001. Then suddenly the next day, satire seemed the wrong way to approach the story I was trying to tell. So when I started rewriting it, the story became much darker and more serious in tone. I tried to ask all the big questions about capitalism, about Western society, about human nature and greed and what the long-term prospects of the species were. The end result was the Jump 225 trilogy, starting with Infoquake and continuing with MultiReal.

2) Who are your favorite authors and books now and when you were growing up?

Growing up, my favorite author had to be J.R.R. Tolkien (unless Stan Lee counts). I'm sure I read the whole Lord of the Rings saga (including The Hobbit and The Silmarillion) half a dozen times. Then in adolescence I fell in love with Kurt Vonnegut, with a special reverence for Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five. College brought John Barth to my attention, and I've been running the biggest fan website for his books since about 1996 or so. If I had to name my favorite author since college, I'd have to pick either William Gibson or Thomas Pynchon.

3) What is it about fantasy/science fiction that attracts you?

I think for me it's the ability to rethink absolutely everything about the world, down to the smallest nanoparticle. I'm a worldbuilding addict, so I like being able to examine and reconfigure the politics, the history, and the sociology of my world to suit the story I'm trying to tell. For the Jump 225 trilogy, I considered all of those things and more -- I even got down to the level of thinking up new building materials and trying to invent ways that people would move goods from place to place in the absence of trucks and an interstate system. I can't really think of any other genre you can do that in.

4) Why did you decide to make Natch a software entrepreneur?

When I started writing the Jump 225 trilogy, I followed the axiom of writing what you know. I'd worked for several high-tech start-ups run by young, charismatic, slightly unhinged software entrepreneurs. And so that's who I started with.

The supporting characters are also based on character types I'd met in dot-coms. Horvil is the heavy-set, brilliant engineering guy who prefers to run things behind the scenes and leave the politics to the boss. And Jara is the serious, no-nonsense marketing woman who has something of a love/hate relationship with the company.

5) What (besides writing) do you do for fun?

I'm incredibly boring. I read. I putter around on the computer and tinker with my websites. I watch a lot of movies, and I keep up with the news. I'm looking forward to having children so I can have the excuse that I'm "spending quality time with my family."

6) What sort of research did you do to write these books?

Infoquake is heavily concerned with biologic software (or "wetware," as it's sometimes called). I know something about software, but I know very little about biology or physiology. So I certainly had to do some basic research into how the human body works. The main technology behind MultiReal also involves quantum physics, so I had to beef up on that a bit too. I admit that I don't tend to delve very deeply into the subjects that I research; mostly it's just your basic Wikipedia and Google searches, combined with long involved discussions with subject matter experts I know.

7) Natch is a compulsive workaholic. Are you that way too?

Absolutely not. I'm actually not very much at all like Natch or Jara, the two main protagonists of the novels. Although I suppose I do share certain characteristics with them. If I had to name a character who was closest to me in temperament, I'd have to say Horvil, the fat cheerful engineer who's always putting up with Natch's crap.

8) The political factions in the Jump 225 trilogy are divided between governmentalists and libertarians. If you were a character in the books, which would you be?

A lot of people who've read Infoquake assumed that my sympathies lie with the libertarians, because that's where Natch's sympathy lies. But I'm definitely more conflicted in my politics. I like to pick and choose among the different parties and philosophies. I have some definite liberal tendencies but a number of conservative ones as well.

You'll discover in MultiReal that the political situation is much more nuanced than Natch makes it out to be in Infoquake. The central government, which really seems like the epitome of evil in Infoquake, is a conflicted organization itself with some do-gooders working in the fringes. And the libertarians are full of self-interested schemers who'll stab you in the back.

9) What are you writing now?

I'm currently about 80,000 words into Geosynchron, the third and final book of the Jump 225 trilogy. I'm a very slow writer and I write a million drafts, but I'm hoping to finish the whole thing by the end of the year.

10) Did you always want to write? Or did you stumble into it? How did you get where you are now?

Yes, I always wanted to write, ever since I was a little kid. I wrote my first "novel" when I was about 6 years old, and I spent much of my childhood building up a pantheon of superheroes with my brother. I studied creative writing in college at Johns Hopkins, and tried to write a novel in my early 20s. It wasn't until I had given up on the writing and spent half a dozen years in the trenches of high tech that I came up with an idea that I could follow through on. And that was the Jump 225 trilogy.

11) What does a typical writing day look like for you? How long do you write, that sort of thing?

I've never been very good about setting a concrete writing schedule. Maybe that's why it takes me so long to finish anything. I typically work about three days a week at my part-time web programming job, and then write whenever I have the free time and the inclination.

12) Where do you write?

I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that I'm one of the guys you see sitting there at Starbuck's with his laptop for hours on end. For some reason, I find it easy to write with background chatter. But when I'm not writing there, I'm sitting on my couch at home with one dog on the back of the couch behind my head and one dog nestled between me and the armrest.

13) What is easiest/hardest for you as a writer?

The hardest thing for me as a writer is discipline. I have an easy time coming up with great ideas, and I find it very easy to sit down and start pecking on those first few paragraphs. But then I quickly burn out. If you're ever going to finish anything, you need to be able to batter your way through those burnout times, and I have a difficult time with that. And then I'm so rarely satisfied with what I write, it always takes me to forever to finish.

More about:

David Louis Edelman



Monday, July 14, 2008

Will the Sigh Bait Never Cease? (Updated)

Yoon Ha Lee asked to have one of her stories removed from the Helix archives and Sanders did so in a way that demonstrates the same lack of class good sense that he's shown through the whole mess. Go have a look.

Update: And Sanders just keeps on digging, this time with a pay-to-have your story removed from the Helix archives policy. Truly charming. On the upside, Toby Buckell continues to shine on this whole thing with an offer to help writers pay the unpublish fee.

Now For Something Completely Different....

It's Monday ... so, per usual, I'm over at "Something Wicked." However, this week all the authors are doing a re-release party for our various books, and I'm kicking it off with a contest for a signed copy of Romancing the Dead. If you want to participate, head on over here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sigh 3

I have been on vacation. For part of it, I was so completely off the grid I couldn't even use my cell phone, let alone check LJ, so I've spent a good part of today catching up on news, gossip, scandals, etc., including the Sanders rejection letter scandal (and if you're also catching up, you can find the complete text of the letter here.)

The author noted in a discussion of the rejection letter that the story was told from the point of view of a terrorist, not an ordinary Muslim, and thus "those people" probably refers to terrorists, rather than Muslims in general. But this argument goes down in flames rather abruptly with the addition of the "sheet heads" comment. It's damn clear that Sanders is not talking about terrorists there, but Muslims in general. And even if he were only calling terrorists "sheet heads," rather than Muslims in general, it would still not be okay, any more than it would be okay to call them "sand n*****s."

Personally, I have no particular objection to vilifying terrorists or even garden-variety non-bomb-throwing extremists, whether we're talking about the Muslim kind like Al Qaeda or the Christian kind like the KKK. But you need to do it in a way that is not vicious towards the vast majority of ordinary, decent Muslims (if you're vilifying Muslim extremists) or Christians (if you're vilifying Christian extremists) (or Hindus, if you're vilifying Hindu extremists, or Jews if you're vilifying Jewish extremists... it's not as if there's any religious group out there that's exempt from attracting scary assholes.) Sanders made it depressingly clear that he is a bit hazy on the difference between Osama bin Laden and, say, my representative to the U.S. House.

I live in Minneapolis, which has a substantial Muslim minority these days. My daughter's school is about 10% Muslim. I come into contact with Muslims every day, and they are hard-working, decent, ordinary people. The last time I worked on a political campaign, back in 2001, there were Somali campaign volunteers who were not yet able to vote because they had not been here long enough to become citizens, but who volunteered on the campaign because they were so excited about participating in democracy that they couldn't wait. The primary election that year fell on 9/11, and at the victory party that November, I saw an elderly Somali woman wearing both a hijab and a t-shirt with an American flag and the words, WE STAND TOGETHER.

Incidentally, regarding the legality of public posting of rejection letters: lucky for me, satire is protected speech. This was the very first piece I ever sold; I worried that the editors in question (Gordon Van Gelder, Gardner Dozois, and Scott Edelman) would take offense. I'm not sure what Gardner and Scott thought of it, but Gordon Van Gelder sent me a postcard telling me how much he enjoyed it. (I framed it. It's still on my wall.)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sigh, Part 2

Toby nails it again. I like Toby personally and on a professional level I respect him enormously and this whole thing only reinforces that. Unfortunately, a number of folks whose work I enjoy or respect have, imo, significantly diminished themselves in their defense of Sanders, and that makes me sad.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging

Dreaming of Conducting A Symphony


Still Life With Beer


And Steal Everyone's Left Shoe


I Was Here First!


Thursday, July 10, 2008


I don't have the stamina to post on the Sanders mess. On the up side, if you want to know more about it, Toby Buckell pretty much nailed it here. Making Light is also good on the subject, here. Oh, and what Bear said. In particular, her last paragraph explains why feel the need to comment here.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Why We Sign Books and Other Mysteries

I had a signing at Northtown Mall on Tuesday night. It was, as we say in Minnesota, "interesting."

Mason, at least, had a good time. I bought him two new Calvin & Hobbes and a new three-pack Garfield. The other ladies were fairly impressed at how quietly he sat absorbed in his books. He got a little squirrely at the end, and, of course, we had to take a break to eat, but I think it was fairly successful given I had my four year old in tow.

I, of course, sold no books.

Before you cry for me, Argentina, I have long ago come to the realization that book signings are really for booksellers and for authors. The booksellers get a stock of signed books, which, according to at least one bookseller I talked to actually sell pretty well off the shelf -- and better than their unsigned cousins, at any rate.

The author benefits the most, I think. The author gets a chance to meet-and-greet the booksellers, who, as we know, are the ones who do any and all "hand-selling," which can be key to a book's success. The author also usually leaves with a sense that many of the books won't end up as stripped returns. (Note: I worded that very carefully, because I'm well aware of the fact that in many cases signing a book does NOT save it from being returned. Plus, sometimes the booksellers will crassly admit to returning as many as possible. It's only crass because all the authors I know tend to take that stuff personally. We know it happens; we just don't want to necessarily hear about it.)

But, back to the positive. Personally, I also really like to do "multi-author" signings, because then the authors also have a chance to catch up on industry gossip and whatnot. Plus, the time goes a lot faster when there's someone else to talk with.

I sometimes wonder why we bother, since, like so many things in the publishing industry, book signings feel like they come from another era -- one that's being overshadowed by "promotional" opportunities on the that crazy Internet thing all the kids are into these days.

I suspect that book tours -- the kind that are sponsored by publishers for gigantically best sellers (who, in my humble opinion, are the ones who need it the least, but then much of capitalism makes very little sense to me) -- still perform some important function in terms of boosting book sales and maybe even just allowing fans and opportunity to see that Big Name Star is just and average guy who puts his/her pants on one leg at a time... I'm not sure. I just know that I'll probably continue to sit in empty Mall bookstores staring at the wall for many years to come... at least until the bookstores stop asking me, that is.

CONvergence Report Days 2 and 3: Saturday and Sunday

Started off the day by hopping in the car and driving around till we found a nice little hole-in-the-wall kind of cafe where we had a lovely breakfast. I should say that Laura drove, as it was morning and Laura prefers not to have me operate any kind of heavy machinery much before 10:00 since I wake up very slowly. I had a big old omelet–I find that when I am at conventions I crave mass quantities of protein in a way that I do not in normal life. When we got back we noodled around for a bit and then I went off to do a panel while Laura cross-stitched in the atrium.

The panel was Writing Business: Cover letters, manuscripts, and rejections (Roy C. Booth, Kelly McCullough, Michael Merriam, Adam Stemple, Anna Waltz) and it was held at Krushenko's, the literary venue that Eric Heideman (editor of TOTU, SMOF, and all around good guy, has been running for years). The panel had a good mix of folks Anna and Michael are much more up to date on the short markets these days then I am. Roy has published a jillion plays and does comic and movie work, though he can only talk about the latter in a general way because of NDAs. Adam, in addition to being an actively publishing novelist, is Jane Yolen's son and probably has absorbed more publishing knowledge through simple osmosis than most of us do in actively working in the business.

It was a great deal of fun as it was a good articulate crew with a sense of humor and we had a large audience to keep feeding us questions. I've been in writers groups with Anna and have known and been friends with her for about ten years. Michael and I have been on quite a few panels together as well as sharing a reading time a few years back and I enjoy his company. I've likewise done quite a few panels with Roy though I don't know him as well. I'd never met Adam before, which is surprising because we both lived in the same city for years and for a lot of that moved in circles with a good deal of overlap–Ren Faires for me and Irish Music for Adam. I hope I get a chance to talk with him more at some later date.

After the panel I found Laura and we were going to wander around looking for something to do but got preempted by bumping into our old and very dear friend Tesla (yes that's her real name) who we hadn't managed to actually get together with for about six years–there are definite disadvantages to living out on the edge of nowhere. We hung out with Tesla for several hours, accumulating and spinning off other folks at a pretty steady clip, some mutual friends, some that knew us or Tesla but not the other. One of those latter made for a great introduction moment. An obvious con-runner (con-com perhaps?) showed up, gave Tesla a big hug and joined the conversation as so often happens in these situations. After a bit, Tesla pauses and says, "I don't know if you've all been introduced. Ishmael, this is Laura McCullough and her husband Kelly." At which point both Ishamael and I did giant double takes. He because I'm one of next year's GOHs for CONvergence. I because Ishmael is one of those people I've been hearing about for years from multiple sources but had never actually met (he's another TC area SMOF). Handshakes and grins were exchanged and then we all got back to a lovely chat.

At some point Tesla had to go do music things and Laura and I needed food. That happened and Laura and I eventually ended up back at the atrium where we worked on a puzzle and hung out a series of folks including writer/editor Catherine Lundoff, a friend of many years standing, and poet/editor Rebecca Marjesdatter. If you're getting the impression that a lot of hanging out in halls and corners was happening you're perfectly right. Laura and I found out years ago that not only do we have more fun that way at conventions of both the sf and physics variety, but we both get more work done at hallway meeting than almost anywhere else.

Somewhere in there we also wandered back to our car to pick up an old manuscript of mine and a folder full of readings and talks, all of which we then delivered to my archivist Lynne Thomas–have I mentioned that I love how my writing clutter turns into her buried treasure? One moment it's a mess, the next: "Presto-chango," and it's potentially valuable historical documents. I love my job.

More hanging out and then I went off to my next panel: Urban Fantasy (Kenneth Hite, Kelly McCullough, Michael Merriam, Juanita Nesbitt, Adam Stemple, Jody Wurl) This one was 11:00-11:59 p.m. and way past my bedtime, but too much fun to give up. This was another good group. Jody and I have been friends for something like 25 years and Kenneth Hite was one of this year's thundering herd of GOHs and both fun and funny. Juanita I'd met at my library panel the previous day and she's very sweet. A good time was had by all and my books got a great unsolicited plug from an audience member who had all three to be signed for a friend. Best of all, neither of the standard Urban Fantasy flame wars got started. One of those is the one that tries to draw an arbitrary line between the urban fantasy that gets marketed as fantasy and the urban fantasy that gets marketed as paranormal romance. The other is the one that pretends urban fantasy hasn't exploded as a genre by ignoring everything published in the field in the last ten years. So, yay panel!

We even all agreed that the current round (last twenty years or so) was kicked off in 1987, the year which saw the publishing of Emma Bull's War for the Oaks and Eleanor Arnason's Daughter of the Bear King–both fantasies set in the Twin Cities. I wanted to put Tim Powers' Last Call closer to that time then it was. I was thinking only a year or two behind in '88 or '89 but Kenneth Hite didn't think so and he was right. Last Call was '92.

After the panel and the inevitable post-panel chat, Laura and I went face down for the night. I should also mention that I picked up a copy of Michael Merriam's self-published short story collection at that point and that if you get the opportunity you should too. They're all stories that have been previously published in various professional venues. Michael got tired of answering the question "Where can I find your stories?" with a laundry list of publications that might or might not be currently available–the eternal problem of short fiction. I'm quite looking forward to reading it as I really enjoy Michael's work.

Sunday was a much briefer day for us and I will append it here. Checked out. Had Breakfast. Did a reading (good attendance). Said some goodbyes. Headed for home.

And that's it for CONvergence 2008.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Tobias Buckell Is Coming to My Party!

For those of you who know Tobias Buckell (and those of you who should know him), I'm very pleased to relay the news that he's going to be a guest at Mid-Ohio-Con 2008 in October. More at my comics blog.

Wyrd Event

If you happen to be around, Mason and I would love to see you at:

On Tuesday, July 8, 2008 from 5:00 - 7:00 pm I'll be signing at the Waldenbooks in Northtown Mall with Lois Grieman and Michele Hauf. Waldenbooks is located at: 212 Northtown Drive Blaine, MN 55434. For more information call (763) 780-1264.

And now back to your regularly scheduled program....

CONvergence Con Report (Day 1, Friday)

I had a good, if occasionally surreal, con–but then isn't that the way they always work?

I normally commute back and forth to CONvergence (it's only an hour away) but I'm co-literary-GOH with Pat Rothfuss next year, and Laura and I thought we should go for a more immersive experience in preparation. We stayed at the Sofitel, which is the hotel next door to the con and a lovely hotel in the European mode. Next year we'll be in the con hotel, but I suspect that we'll go back to the Sofitel the year after (unless we're in Scotland for the summer, keep your fingers crossed on that one).

We spent most of Friday hanging out with archivist extraordinaire Lynne Thomas and her charming husband Michael who is another of the writer clan. Lynne and I were on two panels together that evening and we all had a lovely dinner between the two with Lars Pearson and Christa Dickson of Mad Norwegian Press. As an aside, Lynne archives my papers at NIU along with those of Jack McDevitt, E. E. Knight, Sarah Monette, Elizabeth Bear, Kage Baker, Caroline Stevermer, and Tobias Buckell, among others. She is on a mission to save the archives of as many f&sf authors as humanly possible, a mission I very much support.

The first of those panels was Care and Feeding of Your Home Library (Paula Fleming, Jenni Klumpp, Kelly McCullough, Juanita Nesbitt, Lynne Thomas) which was a great deal of fun, and at which I learned several new things about the storing of books. New to me was the idea of transporting and storing boxed books spine down so that the pages are pressed into the glue for however long they're stored. More familiar was the discussion of avoiding big temperature swings, extreme temperatures, too much moisture, etc. I talked up Delicious Library as a wonderful cataloging tool, and Jenni had good things to say about Lynne tried to convince us all that it was okay to throw away books in bad condition. She's right, but I don't think she had much success on that front.

After the panel a bunch of the audience headed for the front of the room–which I am quite used to–and a bunch of them were carrying my books–which I am not so used to. It was my first ever fan swarm and very cool if somewhat disconcerting.

Then dinner.

Followed by the Dr. Who season 4 panel (Michael Lee, Steven Manfred, Kelly McCullough, Lynne Thomas, Michael Zecca). I did not say much but had a good time. The original panel description suggested that there would be more discussion of seasons 1-3 then we ended up with, and since I live beyond the edges of cable land and don't bit torrent I was not as up to date as I really needed to be. Also, I am discovering that I am not great on fan panels. I am a fan, a third generation fan, no less, but I don't keep the necessary information at my fingertips in the same way that my fellow panelists seem to. The sole exception being LOTR stuff which is written into my bones.

Afterward we went on for general hanging out and social with a variety of folks.

More later.

Kelly, This Morning

more cat pictures

I'm hoping it wears off as I wake up.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Thomas M. Disch, R.I.P.

Farewell, Tom Disch.

We need more writers like you.

You'll be missed.

More on Gender and SF

Hey, I inspired someone... 5 Ways Sex & Romance Will Save Science Fiction

Friday, July 04, 2008

Smart Things--Justine Larbalestier Edition

Justine on writing blurbs and on writing on the hard days.

P.S. Just back from CONvergence 10, more on that later.

Friday Cat Blogging

Here's the Feline Collective in all its fuzzy glory:

Jordan and Isabelle:

Meglet (Nutmeg really):



Thursday, July 03, 2008


Better than fireworks. Have a happy Fourth, everyone!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Gender Bias Conversation

I was invited to participate in the SF Signal: Mind Meld conversation about what to do about the perceived gender imbalance in SF/F. The responses (including some from people far more interesting and articulate than I am) are here:

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Noodling, Or the Fine Line Between Processing and Woolgathering

I'm in one of those (usually) short fallow periods that seem to be a part of my process. What that means is that I need to let my subconscious pick away at some identified problems in the structure of the book going forward.

The way it usually goes is my subconscious spots a big old problem in the plan before I actually get to it in the text and I have conscious "well damn," moment. I then stall out for a while, usually on the order of a week or two while my backbrain picks away. Then, at some point I say, "the hell with it, I'm just going to write through it," and I do so. I suspect that I hit the write through it moment because my subconscious has solved the problem and sends some subtle message to the motivational centers.

Unfortunately, there's a potentially perfectly valid alternate theory: I'm lazy. I hit a difficult spot and don't want to do the work to get through it, so I go off and woolgather until my Midwestern guilt at not working gets bad enough to drive me back to the keyboard where I solve the problem in real time by just writing through it and all the fallow period stuff is so much sophistery to disguise the fact that I don't actually like to do hard work.

I strongly suspect and hope that the first theory is the correct one but I'm aware enough of my ability to self-justify that I will never really know, and that's actually pretty aggravating.