From the future, we travel back. We are not supposed to do it, but we do. When we do, we cannot be human, because it would put the future at risk. We have to do something else, then. We have to be something else. What's the point of all of this, in a vast and unbroken darkness?
Watch for it from your preferred eBook vendor...
Welcome to the Maze
Monday, March 10, 2014
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
First, my gratitude goes out to Jason Sizemore and Sigrid Ellis, who have been so kind as to include an excerpt from MAZE in the latest issue of Apex Magazine's digital editions. If you are a reader of Apex, and a reader of here, which is terrifically likely, you do not need to know these things. You have MAZE, and you have Apex Magazine, and you are happy! Good for you! For those of you that do not have either of these things, pick up an eBook edition of Apex Magazine, with stories by Cat Hellison, Mari Ness, Sunny Moraine, Jacqueline Carey, and Claire Humphrey from the fine folks at Weightless Books for DRM-free eBooks. (http://weightlessbooks.com/format/apex-magazine-issue-58/) If you do so and encounter MAZE, and wonder at reading more of it, there is a simple way to do such a thing. Again, from Weightless Books, pick up a copy of MAZE DRM-free! (http://weightlessbooks.com/format/maze/)
Second, my story "Dolores, Big and Strong" is available in the latest April/May 2014 issue of Asimov's Magazine! I'm writing there as Joe M. McDermott, in part because I am going to need a new author name, soon, and, in part, because I'm tired of people calling me "Jim" when I'm out and about. I may have announced this already, but I am excited and it bears repeating!
There is a third thing. If you sign up for the newsletter, you will hear about it first, and even receive a special code of special-ness!
You still have time to sign up!
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Doing page proofs late into the night, working in the day, being with family in the day, keeping the lights on, the lawn mowed, the dishes cleaned, and being an artist.
It's too much.
I broke yesterday, nearly falling asleep at one of my jobs. I had to go home early to rest. I still can barely stand up and walk around, I'm so exhausted.
It would be nice if I could get to a point where I wouldn't have to push myself up to the edge of exhaustion every day until I break down. I'm still learning how to be married and be an artist, and it's a challenge when people always have to negotiate space and time, and there's already so much negotiation because bosses want space and time, too. Bill collectors demand their due, always. The only solution that looks viable is to be independently wealthy. I'm working on that, but it is not easy to win the lotteries of life.
I've got a story in the latest Asimov's. "Dolores, Big and Strong" is a good story, I think. Go pick one up today and see if you like it. It's part of a novel I wrote that I have only just begun sending out into the world.
The leaves break in the trees. The flowers bloom. Spring is here, and soon there will be peach blossoms, lemons hanging from the trees, and marigolds like sunlight reflected back up to sunlight. Find your peace, out there, in the springtime. Don't work so hard.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
The running joke of the Creative Writing degree, and quite a few other interesting but economically-stunted degrees, is that we are doomed to say "May I take your order please?" for the rest of our career, as if that is some sort of curse or bad thing to happen. The curse isn't that we work retail or food service or anything of the sort. These are actually enjoyable places to work, full of creative people who are fun to be around, with products that we care about. The curse is that we are doomed to live in poverty.
But, that curse that is repeated towards us creative writing majors, is not seen as a symptom of a broken economy. Don't do anything to actually make the low-wage positions anything but a prison of poverty. Just warn people that they are going to get trapped there, and curse them and their life choices and their calling.
It doesn't really matter what degree plan you're talking about, either, if it is not business, finance, nursing, pre-med, etc. If everyone's a lawyer, no one's emptying the trash. changing the lightbulbs, and fixing cars. If everyone's a business-owner, who works at their business? There is nothing wrong with wanting a simple, humble life, working quietly and going home. Treating these nice folks as "takers" or "ignorant" or whatnot is a trend in public political discourse that goes beyond disgusting. If everyone's following the teachings of Rand, we live in a lawless hellhole where even basic services must be acquired by tooth and claw and bone. If we actually follow the teachings of social justice, not everyone needs to own a business, or climb the ranks of middle-management to the top, and the economics of everything isn't more important than the humanity of everything.
This is why art degrees, creative degrees, and all that stuff that is considered "fluff" by the gristmill men, really matter. Education isn't about getting a job. It's about getting a life, finding a place, learning the things that take time and expertise to learn, and pursuing what is interesting. The impoverished hellhole of drudgery following such degrees in the public discourse is not a mark against the education, but against the society such education services.
If we raise the minimum wage, countless artists, authors, musicians, dancers, etc. will directly benefit from the increase. Nobody spends more money on books than writers. Nobody attends more theatre than aspiring actors. Nobody spends more of their precious income on art than artists. Raising the minimum wage raises everyone in the arts, from the struggling writer slinging coffee without a sale to their name, to the billionaire screenwriter that has an even larger audience for their work as more screenwriters have money to spend on movies. Every self-interested creative has a stake in the increase of our field. Raise up the bottom of us, and everyone lifts up.
To be an artist or creative in this country is to accumulate letters after one's name and join the economy from a position of educational authority. (Nevermind that academia, wherein I also currently work, is looking more and more like a shell game with the way student loans work, and administrative salaries work, and poets prop up themselves upon aspiring poets.)
Increase the income of everyone interested in the arts, particularly those at the bottom, and we increase everyone in the arts, and readjust our social values such that saying "May I take your order please?" is not a curse, but a quiet, happy life, wherein one can go home to do their real, meaningful work, without burning everything out onto the altar of art.
It's such a simple plan. And, it would help every single one of us who live the life of the creative professional. Every... Single... One... Of... Us.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Analysts of media have long tried to come up with some explanation for the fear-mongering success of FoxNews, and the general malaise of an older, angry crowd spurning things like women being awesome in public, and the stories of minority authors or actors. I see the latest, inevitable flare-up in SFWA in very simple terms, related to the way FoxNews toys with the psyche of the elderly and the fearful.
Monday, February 10, 2014
Book-machine Larry Nolen recommended a text to me on Twitter (which I'm not on right now until I can work through all the things) and whenever he recommends a book, it is certain to be exceedingly good in many ways. Dino Buzzati's classic is no exception. This little review will include a spoiler-y outline, but it is the sort of book where you get where it's going very early, and it is observing the execution that matters most.
Drogo, a young Lieutenant, at the beginning of what he is convinced will be a brilliant and exciting career, receives his first posting. It is a miserable posting, a backwater fort in the far desert edge of the kingdom. It is where careers get stuck, opportunities dwindle, and everyone knows it. Everyone wants to leave. The fort is an old breastwork, and no one even recalls a time when war was imminent there. The Tartars are a myth, now, and the desert plain is bare along the horizon. Sentries post. Men march in formation. Inspections must be kept on track. Order, always, and military precision to be maintained, and proper rules must be kept. The young officers play chess and talk big of their futures. Drogo has no future. Initially, he almost feigns illness to escape the miserable backwater posting, but changes his mind at the last moment with the rumors that other officers are convinced that the fort, out at the edge of the kingdom, is going to be attacked by these mysterious nomads any day now. War is coming, and the king is foolish to allow the fort to decline so much, say these officers.
Drogo stays. Every opportunity to escape the posting fails. Fate, the indifferent and soulless and strict military system, and his own mistakes pile up until he is abandoned in what amounts to a prison of despair his whole life at the fort. He rises only to second-in-command of a forgotten nowhere place, never marrying, losing touch with all his friends and families. His life is trapped there in a kafkaesque horror that piles misery upon misery, until at last war comes.
When it does, at last arrive, Captain Drogo is a tired old man who had spent his whole life dreaming for one great moment of battle to justify all that time lost, youth wasted, and resentment built up, stubbornly clinging to a single hope of transcendent glory. Instead, he is told that he is too old, and sick. Instead of joining in the battle he had prepared for his whole life, he is moved into a carriage in front of all the new reinforcements: a walk of shame. Alone in a bed in an inn, sick and old with no hope for a better or brighter future, no children or friends or anything at all to demarcate a whole life, he dies alone.
The expression of the allegory is the point, suffering through it alongside him as all his hopes dash. Drogo's story, honestly, feels secondary in the text. He is a cipher of the reader passing through there, while the men around him, from Sergeant Tronk to Captain Ortiz to the military general, himself, far away in the capitol, express their nature upon Drogo, pour their truth and misery and cruelty into him. Do not read the book for Drogo. Read it to see how the soldiers around him, the women, how they look in at him, and what they see, and how it changes what they do.
The allegory of Drogo is very clear. Do not allow life to pass you by. Do not let any youthful dream of glory stunt your development as a fully-realized person. It doesn't really matter what the glory might be. It could be glory from military service, business, policing, etc. It could be a dream of art, of "making it" as an artist. It could be becoming a successful businessman even as fate itself pours down upon your business. It could be anything that leads you astray.
Also, that thing doesn't necessarily need to be rational. The fort is certainly not rational. The hypnotic hold it has on some of the men is widely-discussed. No one understands why they seem to choose the misery there, to stay in one place for so long dreaming of a war that is widely held as a joke. It is a mesmerism, a method that suffering has of beating humans into place. It is not rational. It is never rational.
Focus on humanity, not transcending it.
And, judge for yourself the various people Drogo meets along his miserable path, to see whether characters are truly able to achieve the greatness they desire. At least one young officer might be judged to achieve such greatness, but the general thinks otherwise. Does anyone escape the desolation of the Tartar Steppe? Do any of us escape it?
Thursday, January 30, 2014
First, and this is very important, expect to see me on Saturday at The Twig Bookshop!
Joe McDermott Book Signing - The Twig Book Shop - Current
I hope to see you all there!
I don't make a lot of public appearances, so do try to get the most out of this one, if you can. (Some authors can manage to do lots of signings all over, but they probably don't also have very time-consuming day jobs and a family!)
Guest posts have appeared here, there, and everywhere:
Beauty in Ruins:
Art feeds your dreams. Dreams feed your art....
Wagging the Fox
Have you ever been lost at night in an unfamiliar city without a GPS? I was in Wiesbaden, Germany, and staying at my sister's apartment in Erbenheim. I was cat-sitting. I had gone to midnight mass for Easter at the cathedral, from the bus. I had to hurry to catch the last bus home. I missed the bus. Alone in the dark, then, in an unfamiliar city on foot. Germany has enough foot paths, and the cities were small enough, it could be done, and though it was as dangerous as you can imagine, it also wasn't as dangerous as all that. I walked through empty neighborhoods of mansions and industrial parks. I walked along the empty highway, oriented around a tall tower with neon lights. I walked alone.
My Superpower at Skiffy and Fanty
I am old enough, or young enough, to have played Street Fighter II in arcades without an inkling of expectation that it might enter the home console market at some point. I remember this well because the only place I ever had a chance to play it was at a local movie theater. If you were any good at it, you’d miss your movie. My friend, Ben Drake, was very good at it. I was not. I looked over his shoulder while he took on kid after kid, pounding them into virtual submission, while one of our mothers nagged us about how we were going to miss the movie we went there to see.
The Troubled Scribe
Traveling through most major cities outside the East Coast on foot is a terrible idea. I lived in Fort Worth for a while and I tried to walk and ride a bike as much as I could, but it meant dressing in long jeans and a denim jacket even in high summer for the brambles and trickling weeds. There aren’t safe paths for foot traffic since everyone drives. Pedestrians are dangerous. They must be vagrants and criminals and folks that don’t belong.Midnyte Reader
Remember the scene in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth when the two doors stand side-by-side, one leads to the castle and the other to *dum dum dum* certain dooooom! and the guards are two entities. One lies, and one tells the truth.
All right, there's a couple things I want to point out. First, one of them lies, the other tells the truth? But, they both tell the truth before the whole riddle begins. Also, there's four of them, not two. If the one on the bottom is lying about the ones on top, than he knows which one it is, and it sort of alludes to that when the one on top gives the answer by consulting with the one on bottom.
The end of genre is at hand. It did not die in a massive burst, and there was no single moment to point to that nails the coffin shut. No, it is the way things die when the demographics shift. The radios that play that song dwindle into the AM bands, go out like little lights, with a few hanging on a while, for old time’s sake. This is happening. This is our future. Genre existed to create a space for the marginalized dreamers, the outsiders, and the strange. But, everyone is strange now. Our biggest movies are genre. Our biggest musical acts are bisexual aliens. Everyone loves comic books, now. The conventions make the front page news all over the world. Like all good, American things, our young people love it more when it comes back to us made strange by a foreign culture. It’s not the Beatles, this time. It’s Anime.
Writing a book in this climate, a genre book, is a grand shrug against the tides of time.
One of the Artists on the Book, AnnGee, the amazing and beautiful and amazingly talented illustrator - also known as Mrs. McDermott - posted clean versions of some of the interior ornamentation she drew for the books. Go check out some of her other work while you're there!
Right, so, remember: Book signing on Saturday at the Twig. On Saturday. This Saturday. Noon.
I will have all six books for sale, so come by and see what you're missing.
(I have an excellent relationship with the Twig, FYI, and if you ever are in need of a signed copy of anything by me, contacting them is the easiest way to do it, and I know they can take mail orders!)
I am lying fallow, working and reading. Lots of reading. Lots more working.
Be at peace while in my absence, fair intertubes.
Sunday, January 26, 2014
I was sitting on my back patio in the brief respite between the Canadian fronts, today, watching the birds sweep over the lawn for scraps.
Despite the severity of winter, it is not winter itself that is the most deadly time for the creatures of the world. Spring is the worst, right at the beginning of it. Food stores run out. Acorns stored for winter sprout and break through the grass green and alive and inedible. The end of winter and the beginning of spring is the worst moment, the darkness before the dawn, and the flush of loquats and mulberries feed the world until the rest of the world wakes up.
Winter is still here, still passing through. I watched the brazen animals desperately scrounging through my raised beds and pots. I realized that the seeds I had planted must no longer be present in the soil. I would have to plant again, something else. Maybe I should spread birdseed and gruet out in the grass and cover the pots and growing places with wires or tarps until germination comes.
Another storm, another miserable flush of winter, in a day or so, and then quite nearly spring.
The winds blow out all the world. The terrible winds blow down from the north.
I would rather think of these things than anything else.
The preorders struggled to arrive in all this terrible weather, but they arrived. They are signed and sent away.
I have guest posted.
Let me rest. Let me lie fallow a while and watch the earth pass out of the worst times, that early spring, where there's nothing out there, and everything is fighting to start.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
I have an ambivalence about agricultural technology that comes from how pointless it mostly looks. The things we do to improve yields come at such a high price. But my moral foundation - outside of my religion - comes from my belief that we need to abandon this rock to the birds and step out past the darkness in the sky. There is so much room for life.
So, to proponents of genetic engineering, and our destructive system of agriculture, I offer this response.
Someday this planet will be a vast, wild wasteland. The people will be gone. We will have stepped into the starlight. So, perfect your technique of genetic manipulation and the malleability of the organisms that evolve and evolve, but do not pollute this pristine mother with your experiments here. We are all only on one rock. A single outbreak could kill us all. One nuclear winter would be enough to wipe away all known life in the whole universe. Let us step into the stars, first.
Mars appears to be an amazing laboratory. The long growing season there, the water, the seemingly limitless supply of isolated spaces, and the gap between worlds all paint a picture of what could be done with man and beast and living green cell. There, build your organisms from scratch. Here, leave the ancient preserve alone.
Sunday, January 12, 2014
I will be signing books at the Twig on February 1, in the neighborhood of noon, give or take. All 6 will be present and for sale, (I hope!) so you can fill out your collection if you are so inclined. For folks who missed the early 50 deal at Apex, this is an excellent opportunity to show up in person or call in and snag a signed copy of MAZE.
View Larger Map
I hope to see you there!
Thursday, January 9, 2014
Down south spring is weeks away. Things that don't mind a cold snap must be pruned like wild books that don't know their own best scenes. Do it now before the winds come, to protect them from damage. The spring winds will blow through soon, clear out all the world.
The polar vortex did some damage, and I'm surveying that, too.
Friday, January 3, 2014
Naturally, my preferred vendor would be straight from Jason at Apex Books, but if you have a gift card burning a hole in your pocket, this would be a lovely thing to use it on, right? Now would be a great time to post a review, if you have read it already. Just sayin'... ;)
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Go here: http://www.apexbookcompany.com/2013/12/maze-by-jm-mcdermott-early-50-orders-have-opened/
Apex is now accepting Early 50 orders for MAZE by J.M. McDermott. Only 50 pre-order copies are being made available. MAZE is a new novel by J.M. McDermott. When you place your Early 50 order, you get the following: 1) Free domestic media mail shipping. International shipping is discounted by $3.00. 2) A link to download the eBook of MAZE, meaning you’ll get to read it before you can officially buy it! 3) Your trade paperback copy of MAZE will be signed by the author. 4) Each trade paperback copy will be hand-numbered 1 through 50. 5) When the print edition becomes available, Early 50 orders are shipped first, starting with book 1 of the 50. The release date is slated for sometime in January, 2014. Place your order here. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org). About Maze: From every corner of time and space, sometimes people go missing without a trace. They never come back. Get lost in the long stone halls of the maze with the ones that find each other, form tribes, scrape out a life from rocks and sand. Their stories interweave. Maia Station is a scientist ripped from stasis, but she has no tools to test the way things are. Instead, she raises her daughter as best she can and survives. Wang Xin once had his head dipped in water, and a djinni in the water entered his eye. He sees the future, exactly as it was supposed to be if he hadn’t seen the light, but it does him no good in the life he has. In a world much like our own, Joseph comes home from a ten year high school reunion and encounters a light in the darkness. The light speaks. My name is Jenny. Put me in your lung. Breathe deep.
Monday, December 9, 2013
I have been nearly done with this novel for so long now, I fell like I'm caught in a timewarp. Always there's one more thing to do, another thing, and then another, and then I have to change something and do something and wait, do I have time to work today? Where did the time go? Where did the time go? My birthday is coming down the pipe, and I measure my New Years upon such a thing, and race against it to try and finish this novel that will not, will not, stop. Hey, MAZE is coming. Special order yourself a copy of MAZE from Apex Books, and maybe you'll be lucky to get a signed one. I expect those to show up shortly. So, go contact Jason and his team at www.apexbookpublishing.com and see if you aren't fast enough to merit one of the first 50 that will probably be signed, if any are left after the mailing list gets first pick! Where did the time go? I toil all day, locked in a cave, pushing words into a form and unpushing them.