Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Friday, May 30, 2008

within three hours of the start of BEA...

I met Neil Gaiman, John Scalzi, Kelly Link, and Gavin J. Grant.

Tomorrow? Ray Bradbury.

Oh, and I did get an ARC, signed and personalized, of "The Graveyard Book".

I wish my publisher flew me to BEA every year.

Seeya again soon, party people.

Joe sleep now. NOW!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

and now for something completely different from Iraq.

I asked my sister if I could put this up here because it's quite nifty.

E____ says this:

"This photo cracks me up. Our troops go out all the time to talk to the locals, etc. etc., and it always looks so interesting that we are all Rambo-ed out, to include indoor meetings, etc. In this photo a group of troops wanted to go play soccer, but they still can’t take off their gear! I bet we’d play a great game of football in this stuff!"

BookExpoAmerica Setup Pictures

I have put together a flickr stream:

Tell me if that doesn't work.

I think set-up is, in many ways, more interesting than the actual event. It's like looking at a decorated cake versus watching the pastry chef build the effervescent loveliness out of a slab of cake and some food coloring and almond paste.

Three couldn't make it into the stream. I've put them below:

Seriously, this thing is huge. After walking around the trade show floor, it occurred to me that I was going to need to get a bigger bag for tomorrow. Perhaps one that rolls... My back is injured already, I don't want to exacerbate my perfectly macho shoulder injury with a what appears to be a billion pounds of promotional copies of books.

(Also, Richard Dansky keeps wanting to give me some kind of squirrel-based beverage... I wish I was joking.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dirty Woman Sitting On a Stair in Los Angeles

We’ve talked about this, before.

How do I know which people are real and which people are fake?
The fake ones are the ones that look at me.
The fake ones are the ones that listen.
The fake ones are the ones that know my name.

That’s how I know.

I don’t want your help.

(Also, she said "Merry Christmas" to everyone walking past, too loud, too dirty, with no joy in her voice.)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

SHIT! I forgot to mention this! The End of Her World is up in Dark Recesses Press!

My short story "The End of Her World" shows up near the end of the latest issue of Dark Recesses Press April .PDF...

Wow, what planet was I on when I didn't mention that here?

I liked Sharyl Nantus' story, in this issue, too, btw.

Friday, May 23, 2008

my schedule for the week of May 25-June 1

I'm busting it at the day gig hard until Thursday.

Thursday, I'm off to Los Angeles for Book Expo America.

Thursday Night, I'll be signing books with oodles of other awesome authors at Dark Delicacies Bookstore. ( An awesome line-up of writers that is, to be sure. Come by and say hey if you're in the Burbank area.

At BEA, I'll be at the Wizards of the Coast booth on Friday from 2:00-4:00, signing books. Then, on Saturday, from 11:30-12:30, Rob Rogers and I will be hanging at Author Alley signing more books.

Also, if you're reading this, and you're going to be at any of the event looking for me, bring me some coffee. I'm going to need it. Two creams, two sugars. Stat.

Because I am a man. Because that is what men do.

I pulled a muscle in my shoulder at the gym this morning. It hurts.

In telling this story, a common theme of the stories of men hurting themselves will appear.

So, I was at the end of my workout, and had just one more exercise to do. Bicep curls. Easy enough, right? I go over to the dumbbells. the weight-level I was on was being used by others right then.

I could have a) gone five pounds lower; b) gone five pounds higher; c) waited for the other guy to finish with the weight i wanted; d) found an alternative means of exercising those curling biceps.

Naturally, I should have just waited for the guy to finish with the weights, or found a different way to curl those biceps. At the very least, I should have said to myself, "Self, 'tis the end of my workout and I'm tired, and I can survive just going five pounds lower this time."

But - drumroll please - there was a *hot girl standing there*!

I was not interested in this girl. I had no desire to flirt, or chat, or in any way, shape, or means ingratiate myself with this hot girl. In fact, I'm pretty sure I was way too old for this hot girl. This is not the point however.

I still did the dumb thing. I went five pounds higher. I know I would have not done this if a hot girl had not been standing there.

And, of course, I pulled a muscle in my shoulder.

Why do we do this, men? Why do we insist on trying to impress women even if we aren't actually interested in them. If I was married with twelve children, I'd have done the same thing. If I was married to Angelina Jolie with twelve children, I'd have done the same thing. If Helen of Troy was waiting anxiously for me to return from the gym, I still would have reached for the heavier weights. When I am ninety and some hot twenty-something girl is in the weight room, I will likely still do the same thing.

Because I am a man.

Because that is what men do.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

got a reject back that made me laugh...

apparently, an unnamed magazine i have submitted to exactly once sends back editorial comments with every piece.

i... hesitate to go into the whole thing and quote from it (and don't even ask me to name names! No way!), but i will say that if you want to berate a writer for multiple paragraphs about his total misunderstanding of an ethnic group that's comprised of primarily native americans, while also admitting that you don't recognize the technical term for native americans of mayan descent.

hm. maybe i used the proper name for that ethnic group...

this is one of the many reasons why standard editorial feedback is a bad idea. if an editor likes a story and wants to encourage the writer, then it's a good idea. if it is standard, it is very likely going to reveal more about the editor than the writer's work.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


turn the last thing you read into a haiku:

my bills are too big.
i wish i was reading books,
cereal boxes.

Monday, May 19, 2008

did you know what the nicest thing you can do for your favorite media artist is?

the best and kindest thing you can do for all your favorite media artists is simple. media (books, magazines, websites, music, films...) is the original virus.

give your favorite media to someone that you think might like it.

blurbs from neil gaiman, harlan ellison, and whatnot are all lovely things. but they are not as lovely as a blurb from you to your best friends. those are the best blurbs of all.

even better than a blurb? imagine if your best friend was handed something and told, "here is the virus that i am giving you. be infected with this art."

i explains it because folk be looking at me funny when i randomly give 'em something and be like, "hey, check it out. pass it on if you want, or give it back. whatever."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

austin streets are as hipster as the population

the directions say - on the internet - take this highway down, easy enough, right?

not right. the internet calls it one thing. the road is not the road is not the road.

it's first called 183 - which is not the highway - and then you take this road down to places that point and say there will be this highway off that way somewhere in the distance (though the map says you're on the road the whole time), and then this road merges onto a major thoroughfare - er... TWO major thoroughfares because the highway twists like vines as lanes spin up or down around each other - and the roads bend and warp until at last - at *last* - the road bears its own name on a sign.

this road is not an exception. roads bend and twist and warp and break and remain unlabeled or wrongly labeled.

also, citizens intentionally give outsiders the wrong directions with a smile.

driving in austin is like verbally wrestling with a hipster. this is, of course, a spitting contest to see who can get the other one more lost in specific references.

like, if you were really worthy of driving on these roads, you'd know them by heart, already. if i cut you, you'd bleed paint lines. if you smiled, your teeth would be paved with blacktop. your skin would be tattooed in road signs.

if you were one of us, you'd wear this hip city so close to your skin, you wouldn't even need a car. you'd just happen to be in whatever place was hippest, hottest, and most-littered with abandoned fliers of events that have all become obscure references.

austin streets are as hipster as the population.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

booksigning in austin

today at 2:00, i will be at this location;jsessionid=CE603D3DB933E1D773083480126C33CC?store=2928

that's on brodie lane in austin.

there will be chocolate. there will be books. there will be both martha wells, and rob rogers.

and, as long as i recover from my hangover (happy birthday, Ruth! Woohoo!), i will also be there.

i should be A-OK by then.

Friday, May 16, 2008

conversation with my cousin...

j m mcd - "Hey, how are you doing? Um, I'm at KickButt Coffee right now, in Austin."

A_ K_ - "I thought you weren't coming down until tomorrow? You're in Austin *NOW*?!"

j m mcd - "Yeah, I just noticed that the e-mail said I'd be down tomorrow, not tonight. I pulled it up to get your directions, and noticed that I'm a day early."

A___ K__ - "I thought you were coming down tomorrow!"

j m mcd - "I had thought, since traffic can be so hellacious that I would come down today instead of tomorrow, so I wouldn't risk being late for the signing. In fact, I had thought that's what was always happening. I just now looked at the e-mail, and realized that I'm a day early. I suck. I'm terrifically disorganized."

A___ K____ - "Yeah, I thought that was weird how you were planning on coming down the day of."

j m mcd - "Yeah, 'cuz it can take either three hours, or eight hours, depending on traffic, and I didn't want to risk being late for the signing tomorrow."

A___ K____ - "Yeah, it's fine..."

Yeah. I suck and wrote the wrong night in the e-mail.

I need a personal assistant. Who works for free. (How can I can I acquire an intern? I need one.)

while i was driving down to austin, i overheard...

while i was driving down to austin, i overheard a gentleman say that mexicans are coming up here to take our jobs.

seriously, that's the stupidest thing anyone can say about the illegal immigrants. it sounds like a comedy skit.

dude is sitting in a DQ, with his wife and kids, and his franchise-owner shirt on his back.

i can see it now. "pablo" crosses the river in the dark, with all his possessions on his back. he dodges vigilantes, coyotes, dobermans, and cops. he shuffles to the highways and barely escapes getting hit by a semi. he eventually gets a hitchhike up to a city, to a bus station, and eventually he finds himself at a small business in central texas. he waltzes in, and makes a beeline for the owner's box.

the owner says, "can i help you?"

pablo says, "get out of this office right now. you don't work here anymore."

the owner says, "excuse me?"

pablo places his belongings on a chair. he looks around the office. "this is a nice office you got here. i'm really going to like working here."

the owner, coming to a realization looks at the mexican immigrant, from his duct-taped shoes to his sweaty, travel-stained clothes. "Oh, you're a Mexican, and you've come up here to take our jobs!"

"Si, muchacho. Now get out of here. According to our Democratic President, I come up here, and I take your job!"

Yup, that's exactly what doesn't happen in the real world.

Mexicans started coming up here because we had a sever shortage of people willing to pick crops back in the forties and fifties. Thus, we had a guest worker program. Then, people panicked. Because brown-skinned people were coming and going at will and taking jobs Americans could have!

Then, we stopped the guest-worker program. Which did absolutely nothing to stop the farmers and workers who knew each other really well by now from getting the job done, anyway. Then, we started to panic because pedophiles and terrorists and gangs are going to slip into our country in the night and cause all sorts of dangerous, scary, un-American things.

Instead of treating our neighbors like potential enemies, lets start treating them like potention friends. get rid of that dumb, expensive, ineffective wall, already, red-wing lunatics. if you want to end illegal immigrant workers, find ways to legalize what will occur whether that vein in your forehead is about to pop out from your yelling or not.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

these are all the books i found in my trunk

i was clearing out my car to get ready to do a signing in Austin, TX with Martha Wells, and Rob Rogers.

i'm leaving tomorrow for my cousin's place.

we'll be at this store at 2:00 pm on Saturday.

whilst clearing out my trunk, these are all the books i found.

what the heck were they doing in my trunk? i don't even remember!

is something living in my trunk and raiding my bags for books, hoarding them, reading them, eating them like extra socks?

i think so.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

whinge whinge whinge

i'm off work every monday no matter what. this means, that i'm hard at work every monday trying to be a brilliant writer.

yesterday it didn't quite work out for me. i gave up around nine o'clock after a full day of slamming my head against a computer screen and only coming up with blood to show for it.

then, i dug through my recent and forthcoming short stories to figure out which one i should read at apollocon.

i discovered something that makes me squint and go "rrr..."

my best short story - my interstitial steampunk/death/futurismo fantastickal tale is currently unsold. it's out on submission.

strange horizons passed on it. i usually send stories to strange horizons first, even if i'm not sure if the fit is right. the fit wasn't right. i had to hack the story down pretty bad to get it in submit at clarkesworld - about 1000 words, actually - but after gutting the story to get the 4000 wordcount rule, i was unsurprised to see it rejected.

i'm waiting patiently for the third place i sent it.

and i want to read it at my next convention, because i think it's probably the best, strangest, surrealest story i got. if it isn't sold anywhere, i don't feel right reading it.

which depressed me. but it didn't depress me as much as banging my head against a keyboard all day and only coming up with a couple hundred words that weren't total garbage.

whinge whinge whinge.

go read a good book, or watch some anime, while i clean the blood off my keyboard!

Monday, May 12, 2008

abandoned monsters

I had skinned a thousand rabbits by the time I was ten. I had seen thousands skinned. My father and I made frontiersman caps from the rabbit pelts. We sold them on the side to kids at the stations that wanted to play cowboys and Indians.

Seeing all those dead rabbits and staring all those lidless eyes does something to a boy.

I had nightmares about a man with no skin. He wore the dapper attire of a landed gentleman of the nineteenth century. He wore a tall black cap. His leather boots were the brownish-green color of the bacteria tank toads. Everytime Plog moves, the boots squish, chirp, and croak like a chorus of frogs. His suspenders are made from the same stuff, but I don’t know if they croak when he wraps them over his shoulders, straps his smart trousers over his narrow waist.

I’ve never seen Plog take off that top hat. Maybe he has bunny ears under there, maybe not. I never considered that he might until one of my ex-wives mentioned that the hat would be an excellent hiding place for bunny ears.

The clothes – though smart – really ought to be caked through with blood and ooze from the exposed muscles and tendons and bones. Plog has no eyelids, and that’s what is really creepy, to me, that he never blinks and never sleeps.

Here’s what I don’t tell anyone. When I see my reflection in glass, I can usually see Plog standing behind me, watching. Then I turn, and he’s not standing there. I turn back, and he’s gone from the glass.

I dream of him all the time. He’s sitting in my subconscious at the head of a table full of trussed up friends and family, asking me if I want to say grace before we eat Grace, and laughing at his own jokes alone. His frog boots... (the journal entry ends abruptly here. likely, the author wandered off to other pursuits. however, there is a small chance the monster crawled through the canvas and struck suddenly, before the author could express his impending doom like a fictionist ought to do.)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

she's a pretty girl

she's a pretty girl
she's a very pretty girl
with her leaf-green skin
and her eyes like silver sins
her ruby lips smirking dares
and jeweled serpents in her hair
and if she winks at loathsome you
do you know what you will do?
your swallowed heart will skip a beat
you'll hold a breath from head to feet
and the final thing you'll know
in your eyes that are aglow:
she's a pretty girl
she's a very pretty girl
with her leaf-green skin
and her eyes like silver sins
her ruby lips smirking dares
and jeweled serpents in her hair
and if she winks at you...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

what i found at the benbrook public library

whilst perusing the offerings at the benbrook public library, i discovered that #1) my fiction section at home is larger and more diverse. #2) their DVD collection rivals the local blockbuster for quantity, diversity, and quality.

also, i discovered sale racks for books deemed no longer worthy of keeping. in the 1-dollar section? "Lavinia" by Ursula K. LeGuin in mint condition, as if it was untouched by human hands. very sad.

also a hilarious artifact from th land before internet: the 1988 Writer's Market!

(No dot matrix printouts, please, say editors throughout...)
I am still sifting this ancient tome for pearls of wisdom.

here's something to wrap your brain around. In 1988 there were less than 20 markets for science-fiction and fantasy.

Compared to ralans webstravagazna?

looks like the internet brought us back from the brink, my friends.

Friday, May 9, 2008

one whole day for writing...

ah, a whole day to sit in my cave ans scribble a new book... hm, let me just move this collection of elizabeth hand short stories out of the way. i must be careful not to lose my place. wait, where was i in there?

*three hours passes*

ah, such lovely stories. hey, i need to get to work! okay, i'm going to open my computer right now and get to work. oh, i remember that i downloaded cory doctorow's latest book in a .pdf, and i don't remember where i left off on it...

*six hours later*


*looks at clock*

HEY! I totally blew my whole day of writing!

i think i still have an hour or so, but i do have to update my blog.

okay, now. NOW i am going to work for the rest of the day.

for serious.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Interview With Mary Robinette Kowal, queen of puppets!

Welcome to the bliggedy-blog, Mary Robinette Kowal!

Mary is not only a stellar sci-fi author. She's also a professional puppeteer who has worked with Henson productions.

She currently works with Other Hand Productions on various and diverse puppet diversions.

Down to nuts and nougats...

JM-> How did you get your start as a puppetteer?

MRK->I was one of those kids who wanted to do everything. When I was in high school, a friend of mine belonged to a church with a puppet troupe. I thought that was the coolest thing ever and it came the closest to covering everything I wanted to do. When I went on to college, I was an art major with a minor in theater and speech -- again, this was as close as I could get to doing everything. Then, I was doing Little Shop of Horrors and a professional puppeteer came to see the show. Until I met her, it never occurred to me that someone would give you money for working puppets. I pretty much changed careers on the spot.

JMMcD->How do you recommend people get their start?

MRK->There are two basic routes. You can find someone to apprentice with, which is what I did. Or you can study it in college. The University of Connecticut, for instance, has a very good program. Both routes are valid, but either way, I think you have to spend some time "paying your dues" by interning with someone.

JMMcD-> Where do you get your puppets? Do you need to make your own, or do other people make them for you?

MRK->It depends on the show. Some shows I make the puppets and some I perform with other people's puppets.

JMMCD-> What is the day in the life of a professional puppetteer like?

MRK->That is a hard question because there's no such thing as a typical day for me. If I'm on tour, my life looks totally different from when I'm in town. And a day in town varies depending on if I'm designing, building or performing in a show. Really, a day can vary from getting up at 5 a.m. to set up in a school gymnasium, performing two shows, driving to another town and having the rest of the day off, to: Spending the entire day building things, then rehearsing, then going back to the shop to build and then realizing that I've forgotten to eat and then falling into bed. Sometimes I'll go months without any performance related activities, just building, drawing or writing.
My days vary wildly.

JMMCD-> Can you tell me about some of your favorite puppets - for yourself or someone else to weild - and what makes them different and special to you?

MRK->My favorite puppets are the ones that almost move themselves. What I want is a puppet that allows me to not have to think about the manipulation so I can focus on the performance. I say that, knowing full well that one of my favorite puppets is Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. The puppet can weigh between 80 to 125 pounds. It's a show that leaves me with horrible bruises, but the show itself is such a kick and there's a huge endorphin rush from surviving the performance that I'm quite addicted to it.

I love the fox puppet I made for Pinocchio, because he is a pure expression of the character and a joy to manipulate.

As I'm thinking about it, I suspect that my love for a puppet really comes down to the character it's built to portray.

Thanks for your time, Ms. Kowal! If you'd like to add anything or take anything away, please drop a note in the comments and I'll move it up to this spot in the post!

Puppetry is wicked awesome.

My favorite fantasy films from childhood were both from puppets. "The Dark Crystal" and "The Labyrinth" are breathtaking and gorgeous and available on DVD today. Compare them to the cold CGI of most fantasy features, and you'll see why puppetry kicks more ass.

Other notable puppet projects of the fantastic include "Fraggle Rock", "Jim Henson Presents", "Little Shop of Horrors", "Being John Malkovich"...

What are your favorite examples of speculative puppetry? Anything awesome I missed?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


When I was a boy, five aliens entered my bedroom and shined a light in my eyes that's with me still.

I was eight or nine at the time – just a boy. I shared a room with my brother. We had bunkbeds. He was older than me, and meaner. He had the top bunk. I slept on the bottom. My dad had put in some cloth on the bottom of the bunk with cartoon figures. I spent every night staring down Super Grover, listening to my brother talk in his sleep. Then, I snored a while – probably woke my brother up with my snoring – and lived another carefree kid day. Usually the cat came in and spent the night on the foot of my bed, or my brother’s bed above me.

(The first sign of trouble I recognized was that the cat ran off like something horrible had happened to her.)

I was lying awake, wondering why I felt so strange all of a sudden. Then, there was this flash of light, and time seemed to hiccup. Three aliens appeared in the window. They looked in on me with huge, black eyes - like insect eyes in their lightbulb heads. The light flashed again. They were in the room now, and there were two more of them behind the three, and they were all in the bedroom.

I knew time had stopped working right because of the wind. The streetlamp was right in front of our house. We had bushes. Wind blew, and the bushes blew, and I could see them. (The aliens had been standing just beyond the bushes, peering over the bushes voyeurs with vacant faces.) They came up to the bed. I felt their hands on me like cool, dry sponges wrapped in pleather.

God, I was so scared. I was so scared. I tried to move. I tried to scream. I couldn’t do anything to stop them. I couldn’t move a muscle; I couldn’t move a breath.
I heard my brother’s breathing above me, and the aliens were ignoring him. His breath had been paused. I heard the long continuation of the sound of his breathing. He was exhaling and exhaling and exhaling like he was nothing but air inside of him, like a tire eternally flattening.

I couldn’t move my eyes, but I knew there were five aliens right there.

A light came next. It didn’t just flash in my eyes like a doctor. It reached into my eyes. It dug down into my eyes, crawled past my eyes and into my optic nerve. I felt it past that, too, wiggling through my neurology. I felt it all the way down to the tip of my spine. I felt a loss of control in my spine and muscles. My back arched, though I did not want it to arch. What I wanted was to hold very, very still until the aliens left. (Their hands were still on me. Ten hands, forty spindled fingers, all of them marking my flesh in a hum of unfamiliarity.) The light dug into me and dug into me. I felt my whole self being read like a computer file. I felt measurements, like calipers inside of my head. I felt my brain explode in the light.

Then, as suddenly as they came, the aliens left.

The light stayed with me all night. My back spasmed randomly backwards until I felt my hipbone grinding on the bottom of my spine. I felt the light lingering inside of my neurology.

I felt different.

The next day I didn’t say anything to anyone. I got up. I went to school. I raised my hand in class. I sat with friends in the lunchroom, and talked about rock music and homework and extra-curricular activities.

That night, I didn’t want to go to bed. I wouldn’t have, unless the cat had been there. After running off so scared the night before, tonight she slept blissfully at the foot of my bed. I told myself it was only a nightmare. I closed my eyes. I prayed for sleep. I begged the light behind my eyes to leave me alone, not to kill me, to let me sleep in peace.

I told myself it was just a bad dream. It was irrational, and a bad dream. I tried not think about it.
When I was a boy, five aliens entered my bedroom in the night, when time hiccupped and they flashed a light in my eyes and held me down with hands like dry sponges wrapped in pleather.

I wondered why my brother had been spared this fear, this light.

I started to measure all my friends by the light. Had it happened to them? (No, it hadn’t happened to anyone but me. They were happy, and unafraid of the dark night, of hiccups in timespace and flashing lights.) I was often alone. I never let these strangers that hadn’t experienced the alien light inside to where I carried it.
I wondered about the why of lights. Were they measuring me? Were they re-arranging me? What was it for?

I had to make sense of things.

There was always this part of me, separated from my face, feeling this light hiding in me.

(I started to write not long after that. I was in junior high school, and I started to write poetry – terrible, terrible poetry about buildings that were falling down and puddles of water that were drying up. I drew geometric tessaracts in an unsteady hand. Then, I expanded the tessaracts into a warping landscape of boxes that were locked in multiple dimensions at once, and everything was warped and fuzzy and the third dimension was broken into countless planes. I didn’t know what exactly I was drawing until much, much later, but alien abductees often discover geometric arts.)
When I was a boy, five aliens entered my bedroom in the night. They scanned me, or planted something inside of me. I don’t know why they did it, or what it meant.
I was alone all the time. I came home and went to my room alone. I read books. I performed far below my abilities in school. I read more books. I sat by myself at lunch, or played endless rounds of chess with the weird kid that grew up to be a furry.

I gained weight.

I held conversations with the light.

“What are you doing in there?” I said.

The light shined deep in my spine.

“Why did you single me out?”

The light flickered a little, like it was sending an ecstatic morse code somewhere.

I read more books.

“Are you from the future? Are these aliens really just people from the future who evolved into what they became?”

The light shined deep in my medulla oblongata.

“Do you know something about me that I don’t?”

The light moved deep down into my spine, and I felt it like a chill.

“Will the aliens come back?”

To this, nothing.

They haven’t been back that I can recall.

I don’t trust my dreams.

I don’t trust the night.

I stopped sleeping in beds for a while. I was seventeen, and I stopped sleeping in beds. I slept on the floor, hidden among the clothes and strewn trash. I had a hiking pad and a sleeping bag. When I went away to college, I pushed my bed up against the wall and stayed on the floor. I wanted to be in the wrong place when I was asleep, so they couldn’t find me if they came back.


When I was a boy five aliens, their bodies like giant lightbulbs attached to long, wan, naked gray skin, entered my room in the night and shined a light inside of me.
I stayed awake long into the night. I started drinking coffee and staying awake and wandering into cafes that were open long into the night. I never wanted to sleep. I scribbled the dreams I wasn’t having into notebooks, and slept in the daylight hours.
I had hiding places all over the dormitory. There’s this place where I could huddle into a corner and no one found me until my junior year. I spent two years, alone in the corner at the end of a hall, in this strange lip.

I hid in stairwells and fire escapes. I found quiet places in libraries where I could sleep under the lights.

I asked the light if this was the way it was always going to be now.

The light in my ocular nerve merged with the florescent lights in the stairwell.

I realized I could sleep in a bed when I noticed how my roommate had sleep apnea and snored all the time. As long as he was snoring and it was moving, I could sleep unafraid. I could dream for a while.

Things got better when I slept in beds again.

Sometimes I can’t.

Also, and I can’t explain this, but I figured I had to do something great to justify all this fear. I wanted all this fear, from the aliens that scanned me and maybe had planted something inside of my head – some program, or measuring device – to be justified because unlike my brother I would do something great with my life. I’d do something measurable.

And the only skill I had was waking dreams. I wrote all the time. I abandoned music to write more. I burned love affairs down. I burned friendships. I burned them all at the empty document.

What else could it be, but the pen-fed dreams that’s all I seemed to feel any inklings of greatness?


Now I am a man, and I seem to sleep fine most of the time. They’ve never been back. I still feel something inside of my head, but I don’t know if it’s the same light, or if it is only the haunting of a conscience urging me to work harder, faster, better.
Was it all real or was it only a nightmare? Our family watched the X-Files, after all. I was an imaginative boy, ripe for nightmares. After “Willow” I was terrified of trolls. After “The Dark Crystal” I became obsessed with dreams of survivors after an Armageddon. Maybe it was only a dream.

I don’t like to clean my room. I like to be the only one that knows the path across the floor. I keep my windows closed all the time. I stay awake long into the night. Sometimes I like to sleep hidden in the corners of the bedroom, the living room. One time, I fell asleep in the bathtub, but the backache didn’t make that worth it.

I don’t trust my dreams.

I don’t trust the night.

When I was a boy, the aliens were real to me.

Now that I am a man, it feels real enough. After all the things that were shaped by the aliens, whether they were real or not, they're real now.

When I was a boy five aliens came into my bedroom and shined a light in my eyes that's with me, still.

Interview With a Puppet Master

Tomorrow, there's going to be a big interview with Mary Robinette Kowal, an award-nominated sci-fi/fantasy author, and *a professional puppeteer*. i had a chance to ask her some questions about her super-awesome day job.

here's a little reel of some of her work...

Come back tomorrow, party people.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

there were mosquitos, gargoyles, and there's gokliya

...There were mosquitos. Like miniaturized gargoyles, they sipped our blood with impunity. We killed them if we could. Mostly, we couldn’t. In the summertime, when the mosquitos came, we covered our skin with mud. We burned fires near the edge of the marsh because mosquitos tended to move towards the smell of smoke, and lots of the mosquitos died in the flame. Gargoyles, too, never moved if you were looking at them. They crept slowly around the top of the walls like stray cats the size of panthers, with hideous faces and sharp claws. They were the same color as the stone. They were easy to kill, as long as you could see them in time, because they wouldn’t move away from the brickbat that crushed their bony skull. They always seemed to come from the east, when they came, and even if they surprised someone, the worst they’d do is get a few scrapes in before they were seen and froze where they stood. Gokliya took the heads of smashed gargoyles with their stony eyes still intact and lined the walls of the barricades and the walls around us, so the eyes looked out over the halls and saw everything. We haven’t seen any gargoyles in our village since. We’ve caught all kinds of things in our nets, but none of them are particularly dangerous...

Monday, May 5, 2008

moon reflected sun reflected

people say - people always have something to say - that when gibbons gaze into the water and see the reflection of the moon, the animals do not know that the reflection is not the moon. they cannot discern the difference between the real and the facsimile.

i should add, that people are equally foolish. the reflection of the moon is really the sun. if we are what we do - and the sun, to us, is light - than the reflection of the moon is a sun on the water, like a rainbow pooled together into a rippling, white face.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

upcoming appearance in Austin...

oh, did i tell you folks?

Me, Rob Rogers, and Martha Wells will be going down to Austin on May 17th to do a signing at a Barnes and Noble on Brodie Lane at 2:00 pm.

If anything, the coolness quotient shall increase dramatically when all three of us enter the same room with our fans.

Come by and say hi, if you wanna.

Also, bring stuff for us to sign.

I can't speak for my co-signers, but I'm pretty bad at all forms of forgery. 'tis best to bring stuff by me for me to sign.

recommend me something

please, friends and readers, drop a comment to recommend a book or anime i might enjoy.

you obviously have good taste, after all.

two thoughts for a saturday

firstly, when people say "soul" they are usually referring, instead, to either memory or identity. these folks are likely incorrect.


*puts on his prophecy hat for a moment, a tad embarrassed and hoping he does not quite make the fool of himself that he is araid he will likely make.*

after a brief conversation with jeff vandermeer, i got to thinking about artistic movements, and whatever movement i might or might be a part of.

i think the center of whatever movement i might or might not be a part of - or close enough to the center for it not to matter much the details - is catherynne valente. i think the publication to watch close for the folks close to the center in this movement is one i have yet to publish in (also indicative that i am not the center of it): goblin fruit.

the important things we will likely all have in common:

1) nearly no distinguishing line exists between our poetry and our prose.

2) our post-modernist re-imaginations of classic themes have more, more, more heart than irony. (Her Orphan's Tales re-imagined Arabian Nights. My first book re-imagined heroic fantasy. and Etc. Unlike new weird post-modernists, our horror is tinged with fabulism, and our stories are not squick-inducing on the whole.)

3) we are, most of us, in the neighborhood of 25-35, thusly making us - valente far more than I - the potential leading edge of a potential generation of writers with similar themes and motifs.

(ms. valente started early, publishing her first book in her early twenties. i wrote my first about the same time she did, and mine has only just come out, so i'm a bit behind on publication, alas. 'tis the way of the industry that some things come out quickly but most things come out tediously tardy. as our generation really starts to publish and come out of our shells and fill the ranks of the industry i suspect we shall see far more writers full up with numbers 1-3.)

4) if you ever want to know what's going to happen in the future of the fictions, you will see it in the magazines:

especially goblin fruit...

i don't know how things will shake down in the coming years, whether i'm right or wrong, but i do know of all the magazines i see publishing this stuff that i suspect has a similar generational trend, i have only cracked two of the markets, and have yet to publish anything in what looks to be the centers of what's happening (goblin fruit, clarkesworld, lady churchill's rosebud wristlet, strange horizons). i'm likely not going to be the center of it, whatever it is. i'll just do what i do, and see what appears in the magazines, in the shelves, and among the scribblings of critics.

*takes off his prophecy hat and feels a little foolish, but them's the shakes, jills and jakes.*

check out valente, if you haven't before. she's the moorcock of this one, if anyone is, and if anything exists.

her website.

end of transmission.

Friday, May 2, 2008

mandala and a moving car

mandala and a moving car-
distilled - a graceful circle
with fine, ornate detail work
and red - red - red paint

a bodhisatva smile
sleepy eyes looking down
and away, and away