Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Friday, January 30, 2009


You know, it's 1:02 AM, and I spent literally all day sitting at a computer making cool stuff up. (My next novel is going to be made into a movie starring Ewan MacGragor, by the way. As soon as I'm done writing it, naturally, Hollywood will come on board with this. I'm trying to get Ewan's inevitable character into some sort of brown robe, with space boots, spouting wisdom-y goodness.)

I was eating corn chips. And, I got to thinking about Frankenfoods. Genetically modified foods are going to be awesome. They will make frog-broccoli. It will be like a chia frog, but totally edible, healthy, and it's blood will have the flavor of white chocolate sauce.

They will make jellyfish with actual jelly in them.

They will make tiny, little chicken wings that grow in fungal vats, and make strange squishing noises when they try to get up and walk around.

Nature will be violated.

And, I can't wait to start eating all this crazy stuff. The sooner we master the biology of beet/beef hybrids, the sooner we'll master the kind of bodmods we need to make our puny, pathetic speck of humanity a giant swarm across the cosmos!

Let's get cooking, chef science!

That is all.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

This is not a good hotel room for Video Game Writers!

I went to all the trouble of packing up my XBox and getting it through airport security, and carrying it to my hotel room.

I pull the TV around to plug it in last night, and lo and behold, the whole thing is clamped down with all sorts of boxes, screwed over everything and attached securely around everything and there's no way I'll be able to get my XBox cables into there.

In this day and age, when games and technology are becoming ever more portable, and travelers - like me - want to game on our own games, hotels really ought to allow that.


In less ranty news, Alpharetta seems like a nice town. In America, we have so many retail chains that you can travel all over the country and encounter all sorts of familiar things. There, a Starbucks. There, a Walgreens. There, a Mickey D's. I'm not really moving to a new city. I'm moving to a remix of the last city.

Even the apartments look the same.

Where is the original city? Where is the Platonic ideal of America, upon which all others are remixed?

Somewhere in America there is a city with streets both grid-like, and meandering, and with buildings as pure to the vision of Americana as possible.

Is it in America? Maybe it isn't even *in* America. Maybe it's in Canada. Architects and city managers accidentally stumble upon it in the course of normal travel. They tell each other to go there, see this city. Maybe it's in Europe. Full of American chain restaurants and shops. Full of familiar, bland retail facades. One could not imagine art that was not for a hotel, or the friendly, inoffensive walls of a Starbucks Cafe. In Okinawa, where Asian girls speak "Engrish" slang and drive big cars around to Irish pubs, Italian restaurants, and grocery stores with huge aisles.

Cities, like disco tracks, iterate across the dance floors of the world. Designers and architects twisting around upon a single, simple theme: "Inoffensive, clean, plenty of parking, mixed use retail, gated communities" repeating like an ode to joy in the subconscious brain matter of all these designing men and women.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Goin' to Atlanta, Live Out This Fantasy...

Some of you know already and many of you don't.

I am moving to Atlanta, GA very quickly to commence work with the talented folks at Xaviant Software.

I am pleased. I expect great things.

My ConDFW Status is hopeful, but I can not promise I will be there. The Con folks are aware of this, and we all have our fingers crossed.

And, just to be clear, yes, I will still be working on my own, original fiction. I suspect I will not be producing nearly as many short stories in the near future. But, that's not the sort of thing that ever, ever stops.

So, I'm going to Atlanta. This morning.

I will get to combine two things I love: Writing and Video Games!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Expect light blogging...

I'm swamped. I'll have some good news soon, unrelated to publishing, and I'll resume blogging again when I can.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Busy day...

Sorry, folks. I was quite busy today. I'll be quite busy tomorrow as well. I hope you all manage to find some meaningful things to read this weekend instead of reading my little blog.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Two things to read together to get you thinking about America's Economic Future

First, here's a livejournal entry from brilliant fantasist Catherynne M Valente:

Now, here's the new book by Cory Doctorow compiling many of his essays about copyright law, the internet, piracy, creativity and what-have-you.

Makes for a fascinating duo. The decline of big business, and America nostalgia, hand-in-hand with the ways that big business is scrambling to contain a future at the cost of the consumer, contrary to the true nature of the technologies in question.

I think it's fascinating. One writes mythic fantasy, and the other writes activist SF. Together a picture is painted that points to the way things will be, and the way things could be.

After Looking at Obama's Executive Orders...

I think it is kind of disheartening that the president's first groundbreaking executive orders are 1) We will now obey international law, starting now. 2) We will now obey national law, starting now.

Because they weren't being obeyed before.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


It's been in my head for days, now.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

In case you were wondering what working on the Nebula Novels Jury does to your reading habits...

My Best 15 of the year list (from last year) appears at Omnivoracious, the Amazon Book Blog.


When you spend so much time reading deep in genre, you end up not straying too far when new books come out. That literary novel just needs more zombies. That biography could use with a few more space ninjas, and assassination plots.

Even when I strayed from the Nebula Novels Jury, I washed ashore among deeply genre short story anthologies.

I have weird taste. Everyone does. Feel free to disagree with me, here, there, and everywhere in the comments.

Take 28 Minutes to Watch This Amazing SF Classic

La Jetee, inspiring both David Bowie and Terry Gilliam, in countless ways. And that's just scratching the surface of the influence of this incredible, and incredibly weird film.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

you know you want to read this...

Take a deep breath with me. *In...*


The world seems like a better place today than it did yesterday.

You know you want to read the full transcript.

Because the King of Thailand is a stooge:

Here is the paragraph - courtesy of Alina's investigations - that managed to get an Australian self-published author six years in prison:

"From King Rama to the Crown Prince, the nobility was renowned for their romantic entanglements and intrigues. The Crown Prince had many wives "major and minor", with a coterie of concubines for his entertainment. One of his recent wives was exiled with her entire family, including a child they conceived together, for an undisclosed indiscretion. He subsequently remarried with another woman and fathered another child. It was rumored that if the prince fell in love with one of his minor wives, and she betrayed him, she and her family would disappear with her name, familial lineage and all vestiges of their existence expunged forever."

Now, your job is to re-post this at your blog. This is a human rights violation and the international community of writers should speak up about this.

Monday, January 19, 2009

अ नोट तो थे थाई रोयल फॅमिली...

A book that had about fifty copies published (I can't find the book on Amazon or ABEBooks or anywhere else) has a single paragraph that gets an Australian author jailed.

So, I'd like to say this:

The Thai Royal Family are a bunch of stooges. The Crown Prince? Stooge. The King? Stooge.

They are both only comparable to the portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in Rowan Atkinson's BBC Series, "Blackadder".

I hope everyone re-posts this information, and continues do so until this author is freed. I don't care what that paragraph said.

My favorite part of the CNN Article?

[quote]CNN has chosen not to repeat the allegations made by Nicolaides because it could result in CNN staff being prosecuted in Thailand.

Nicolaides had been living in Thailand since 2003, lecturing at two universities about tourism.

He was about to leave Thailand when he was arrested on August 31 last year. It is not clear why the authorities waited three years after the publication of his book to bring charges against him.


Can anyone find the paragraph in question so we can blast it across the internet like it's never been blasted before?

EDIT: Update to add that someone found the entire text of the 127-page book. I've started skimming it.

EDIT 2: I can't find "three sentences" that offend the Royal King or the Crown Prince. As this is a self-published text - which does not diminish the injustice of the situation in the slightest, in fact, it ramps it up a notch or two - I must confess to being unable to slog through the material in total. This isn't really the time to go into a detailed review, so I'll skip it. Needless to say, I would love someone to point out the exact three sentences that got this fellow in all this trouble.

Full text is here:

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Dance Party!

Everybody needs to dance today! (Because Arroxane and Mike are getting married! WOO!)


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Crossed Over For Good...

With my recent new computer, the free period on Microsoft Office was expiring, and I thought about buying the license for it. Except, I already had Open Office. I was using Open Office more. Open Office is a better, more intuitive program.

I can't quite understand how Microsoft can maintain such a near-monopoly when much less expensive programs (AbiWord, OpenOffice, etc) are so much, much better without the high price tag.

The company asks for hundreds of dollars for software that isn't as good as the free stuff. And, the expensive software is ubiquitous, while the fee stuff is obscure.

What the heck is that about?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Wailing, gnashing of teeth

Saw this news.

This is awful, awful news.

Who should play Spike Spiegel in the live action version?

First off, the character of Spike Spiegel is not in his late forties. He's in his late twenties. Second, Spike is amoral on a good day, and on the edge of evil most of the time. You know who I think would be all right as Spike? (Not great, just all right...) Spike is also very, very funny. Not intentionally, of course. But this show was a very light-hearted romp through some very dark places, and dark mindsets.

And, frankly, why the hell is Spike casting as a white guy? Whatever happened to color-blind casting?

My ideal Spike Spiegel? Tony Leung Chiu Wai. He's at least still in his thirties, capable of playing young. He does brooding anti-heroes really well. And, unlike Keanu Reeves, he can actually act.

The only director that I think has a chance of getting the energy and oddball, hipster pacing right is a Chungking Express-era Wong Kar Wai, or maybe Stephen Chow(?).

As for the writer, I think you need someone who can do madcap, anything-goes insanity extremely well, while balancing the very gritty, bleak edge of action and violence in the show. I would probably team up Noah Baumbach with Quentin Tarantino.

And, all that said, the movie would still suck. Cowboy Bebop is a series of very kinetic, in the moment, short stories. When you expand it to a movie length (as the original Anime Movie-ization of Cowboy Bebop would reveal to you) that magic, madcap energy dissipates into the very long story arcs.

To do this movie right, you'd need to do four half hour "episodes" - one featuring each main character - followed by something finalizing for Spike.

Imagine something like STRAY DOG STRUT (with Ed and Faye already present) followed by BALLAD OF FALLEN ANGELS followed by BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY followed by BOOGIE WOOGIE FENG SHUI followed by THE REAL FOLK BLUES.

Hollywood wouldn't do it that way, now would they?

Anyway, all around, this is terribly bad news for Anime fandom. And, I hope the whole project gets ripped out of Keanu's hands and given to folks who can do it right.

Observed From Reading Both Bible and Science Fiction

In science fiction, a very common theme - especially in post-singularity writing - is life extension technologies. Thus, someone who is ninety has the body of a spry, twenty-five year old. People live hundreds of years if they recieve proper treatments.

In the Bible, long, long lives happened far back in the past. The present, and the future, was a fallen state where man loses lifespan in relation to much time has passed from that original source moment of creation.

I find it interesting, and telling, that science fiction sees the future as a place full of long, long life, while Christianity yearns for a mythical past before Mankind's terrible Fall.

Are either truly correct? I don't know. But, it is telling that the two fields turn to different places in humanity's timeline for their point of best, happiest, longest life.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Who wants to design a game for the Wii?

I was thinking about this, how most Wii games are for casual gamers. (Also, I was thinking about pretty pink ponies, but... nevermind...) I was thinking how you don't have to have the greatest graphics in the world to appeal to a casual gamer. You just have to have a very interesting and cool concept.

Anyone have the programming and graphic design skills to make a Wii game? We could design one, make it a download that can be burned to DV-R and give it away under a CC. Which would suck for you, because you'd be doing a LOT of work for no money. I'm not much of a programmer, after all. But, I'll micro-mange your every step, yell at you constantly, and then take all the credit in the end, because all you did was make the widgets move like I told you to make them move.

Got it?


I want to make a Wii game called


Remember that game at Medieval-esque carnivals where you smash the hammer on the launchpad to make your carefully-aimed frog land on a small pedestal?

This game would use the Wii controller to mimic the motion of the hammer. A few small differences, though...

You play as a mighty, muscle-bulging ogre, on vacation from pillaging to get drunk and play a game with your mighty, muscle-bulging ogre friends. This barbarian game is called "Froggy". You go to a marsh, kill some of the giant frogs by farting on them, and then you move the frogs around an obstacle course by smashing the ground with your hammer, causing the frogs to bounce into the air. Where you can either let them land, or whack them again with your hammer to get some driving distance.

The frogs would all be gruesomely dead, with big, lolling tongues throwing off their physics. You wouldn't just send them launching once. You'd have to play a kind of golf with the dead frogs, manuevering them through obstacle courses, collecting points by making them land on things - destroying them. You lose points if the frogs lose limbs. Blood splatter is fine. But all toes and tongues must remain accounted for.

The goal is to get your frog into your cup o' ale, back at the picnic table. Winner gets to take a drink of delicious, "froggy" ale.

I think this could be a big hit among the elderly. Everyone knows how much the elderly hate frogs.

Here's a Book I'm definitely looking forward to!

In Speculative Fiction, the Philippines is something like the Seattle music scene of 1989. Tons of talented people, all getting their fanbases built and prepped for their crossover into the mainstream consciousness, huddled in their studios and garages, practicing and practicing and playing gigs and playing gigs... In SF, the Philippines is on the cusp of greatness.

Heard word of a book that is very high on my wish list:

Very cool cover!

Nobody has sent me any pictures of War Beetles!

This makes me sad. What if my WAR BEETLE short story turns into WAR BEETLES: The Great American War Beetle Novel? Your brilliant creations in Microsoft Paint, Photoshop, and Lego/K'Nex will not grant you a spot in the acknowledgement pages. You will look, longingly, at the place you could have had in history, influencing all the WAR BEETLE arts.

Alas, there are no WAR BEETLES in Mudville, and also no joy. For how can there be joy without WAR BEETLES?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

File under things that suck...

I was over at the SFF site all about the John W Campbell Award, trying to e-mail my information to the address that claimed all authority, and the mailer daemon says e-mail address no existy-y.

So, anyone know what I'm supposed to do to get in the running for a John W. Campbell Award for New Writer's?

I've been invited to Conestoga 2009, but...

I've been invited to Conestoga, 2009, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

I would like to go, sure, but I can only go if certain conditions are met (not by the con committee, of course, no! Conditions met by my loyal fans! That means you!).

To go to Tulsa, Oklahoma, I will need...

#1) a carpool of some sort to reduce the cost of travel, preferably me riding in someone else's car for a split of the gas money. Also, I will need...

#2)someone to split a hotel room with me, because my "traveling to cons" budget is running pretty tight, at the moment. Also, most importantly, I will need...

#3) a general public outcry in the comments, or in my e-mail that I will let my Olahoma-based fans down if I do not attend.

If all three of these conditions apply, I will do my darndest to attend Conestoga.

I have heard excellent things about this Con from friends like Rachel Caine, Cat Conrad, Brad and Sue Sinor, and numerous others. I'd actually love to go. But... con travel budget at the moment is tighter than Sir Blackadder's British wit right now.

Want to help with any or all of the conditions above? Drop me a line in the comments, or in my e-mail.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Best New Year Resolution Ever!

I've come up with an even better New Year's Resolution!

I resolve not to die in 2009!

I like to keep my goals simple and to the point, when it comes to resolutions. This is exactly the foundation of the kind of life I would like to lead this year.

Wait... What did he just say?

Yesterday, our exiting President said this in his final press conference:

"Not having weapons of mass destruction was a significant disappointment.”

No... No, wait a minute. Actually, had Iraq *had any* WMD, that would have been the disappointment. When rogue states don't have WMD, that is a significant pleasant thing. In fact, it is a very good thing that Iraq had no WMD. Because they might have used them!

I think what Bush means to say is that he was disappointed that his intelligence was wrong about the WMD, thus he sent us into a very long, expensive, and bloody war over smoke and mirrors from an intelligence department that was, at best, mismanaged at the highest levels, and, at worse, intentionally skewed to enrich the big businesses that have profited from these wars.

But, that's not what he said, now, is it?

I wonder how many "misspoken" things must come out of a man's mouth before people start to wonder what is really going on in his head

Could you imagine the insanity of existing in a state of mind where one wished Saddam Hussein actually had a hand hovering over the big, red button?

An interesting bad review...

Green Man Review didn't care for my little book.

Naturally, that's fine. It's not for everyone, like the reviewers say, and it didn't work for them. No book is for everyone. Writing unconventional stuff means you're going to displease lots and lots of people.

I do appreciate them taking the time to give it a go, and mentioning it at all. So, thanks for reviewing my little book, and for giving it your best shot.

I did want to take a moment to point out how the reviewer takes umbrage with my usage of the word "golem" instead of "zombie".

Now, I've got some mighty smart readers, many of whom liked the book. Why do you guys think I used one term instead of the other, believing golem to be more accurate?

Serious and non-serious answers are welcome, and encouraged.

Monday, January 12, 2009

How come no one told me about this?

Apparently, according to SFAwardsWatch, and, to be even more specific, my google alerts, I was a finalist for a 2009 Crawford Award.

I would have liked to know that before the winner was announced! I mean, how am I supposed to bribe the judges with chocolate, absinthe, and the severed heads of various farm animals if I'm not made aware that I'm even on the ballot until it's all over and done with?

Congratulations are in order to Daryl Gregory, whose book "Pandemonium" is deemed the winner!

(Does he even know, yet? Did anyone tell him? Or, will he also find out from his google alerts?)

I'm busy today, but here's something cool to check out!

A Science-Fiction and Fantasy First-Line Game on a popular writer's message board, wherein I post under the pseudonym "Badducky".

Start at the top, and watch as it spins wildly out of control into vast, crazy Awesome.

Right. Seeya tomorrow!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

on the playoffs...

I wish the Eagles and the Giants could somehow both lose.

That is all.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Can't write until I recover hand...

My hand is currently in use. I cannot work at all until I get it back.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Unicorn Giant War Beetle!

The "Unicorn" is a touch smaller than most other Giant War Beetles. She's only as big as a small suburb.

She can ram you with her huge unicorn-like horn! Also, it shoots big friggin' rockets! She has acidic tentacles all over her body, and steely-sharp pincers all over her feet!

You can't see the under-carriage, but down there is a bunch of harnesses for machine gunners!



Thursday, January 8, 2009

Challenge to all photoshoppers!

As you can clearly see, this WAR BEETLE was bioengineered to give it more long, spindly, hard-steel legs to keep it's frikkin' HUGE bulk up in the sky. It's basically the size of a suburb. Each of it's six eyes is the size of of a wal-mart. And, they shoot frikkin' lasers. They have huge, diamond scythes on their faces so they can eat their prey - OTHER WAR BEETLES! - and long trunk-like tubules that spit acid.

Also, they are always drenched in the red, red blood-spray of their enemies.

I could spend all day doodling WAR BEETLES! in Microsoft Paint.

Instead, I want you - yes *YOU* - to photoshop me up some giant war beetle action! Or take a picture of your amazing Lego Giant War Beetle!

The winner gets a prize, if anyone actually does this.

Also, you get to say you made a better giant war beetle than I did.

Which would be difficult, because mine is totally awesome for a minute-and-a-half in microsoft paint!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Everybody Has Cool Names in the Future!

Last night I was working on a science fiction short story.

I shall start at the beginning. I was burned out working on a very difficult section of a new novel that I will not tell you anything at all about, period, except to say that I am working on a new novel. Why wouldn't I be working on a new novel?

Anywho, I was burned out, but it was only just after dinner time, and I didn't feel like I had written enough.

Thus, I popped open the computer to a quick note I had written myself after watching Escaflowne the day before. "Giant War Beetles!" said my note. That's all the file said. I decided to write a story about war beetles. Because war beetles are automatically cool. Say it with me now... "WAR BEETLES!" Doesn't it just roll off the tongue? It makes the geeky parts of your brain fire off signals of geek happiness. WAR BEETLES!

Now, naturally, because I am J M McDermott, my story ended up about almost nothing to do with the actual war beetles.

As I was working on the story, I needed two names. I decided, because it was a story about fucking massive beetles of war that I had to make the names really cool.

The story was just sent out this morning, and we'll see what the world thinks of my War Beetles.

(War Beetles. I just like typing War Beetles. It makes me happy. War Beetles. War Beetles. You should try typing war beetles. It feels good.)

However, and more to the point of this post, I was thinking as I was waiting in line at the post office that I can't recall any character in science fiction with a truly dreadful, embarrassing name.

Where are the Morrisses and Berthaminas with last names from Eastern European cultures that are spelled like the mad ravings of someone with a lot of severe swelling in their throat? Where are the African-American names like my former classmates in elementary school, Precious Washington and Desire Lewis?

Where are the names that are mind-boggling experiments in double entendre that means their parents must have been either cruel or really naive, like Richard Assman?

I can't recall ever encountering someone in SF from the future who did not have a cool name.

Thus, I predict that in the future everybody will have a cool name!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Because self-pimping for awards makes me feel icky


Look, here's a lovely web-trailer for Catherynne Valente's latest (I'm a huge Valente fan. Literally. I'm a 260 pound gorilla that reads as much Valente as he can find. I'm both large, and a fan of Valente. I'm really looking forward to Palimpsest. I wish I had enough publishing cred to snag an ARC. I'm going to have to buy one just like the hoi polloi. And I don't mind, because I think it's important to support the bleeding edge of arty SF!) Here's the trailer.


I feel less icky.

About Hugo Nominations...

I'm eligible for numerous awards, this year. I hear Hugo nominations are open.

I'm not saying you have to do this, naturally. I just thought I'd throw this little factoid out there, and let the few folks who stop by here now and again to remind folks that such things are open. After all, the important thing is that you participate in the award, whether you select my work or not. Really, the best thing you can do to make an award like the Hugo work good is to participate in the process, and provide your own, little influence on who gets the nifty rocket.

If you happen to think my stuff is the bee's knees, well, here are some handy suggestions for things that are eligible.

LAST DRAGON is, naturally, eligible for a Hugo for Novel - though I suspect it will be a cold day in Hawaii before my arty, post-modern fantasy novel stands a chance against such strong, popular contenders as Zoe's Tale, Little Brother, and The Graveyard Book.

Some of my short stories are eligible, for the Hugo Short Story Category.

Gods of the Spiderhole, in Fantasy Magazine, for instance.

Or, The Lovesong of Jack McNally in Atomjack Magazine.

The End of Her World in Dark Recesses Press.

Dave Jones and the Survivor, also in Atomjack Magazine.

All links are clickable to the right.

Finally, I would also suggest that I might be an excellent candidate for a John W Campbell Award. I mean, I'm a new writer, after all, and the John W Campbell is designed to acknowledge new writers, isn't it? I'm a writer. I'm new. I'm eligible for that one.

But, there are many, many fine candidates for all these awards, and I think what is really important is that everyone who is eligible participates. Participation makes awards work better.


Monday, January 5, 2009

My favorite short stories of 2008.

I've read a *LOT* of great short stories this year.

I thought however, that instead of making a big, long list, I'd just point you folks in the right direction to the short story that made the biggest impact on my imagination in both written and podcast form. These are the two that I read (or listened to) much more than once, trying to study the craft carefully to see how it worked and why it worked.

From Spring's issue of Talebones, I loved James Van Pelt's "Rockhouse". I always considered "The Fall of the House of Usher" the worst short story by Edgar Allan Poe, because very little happens, and it's all just a veiled reference to incest. Which is gross. James Van Pelt manages to take a story I didn't care for and completely reconstruct it from the ground up - er... Down, actually - into a wondrous, magical realist meditation on life and living, with an unforgettable underground mansion.

I've also spent lots of time this year listening to podcasts while cleaning the apartment, or playing chess against the computer, or other such nonsense. One story really stood out as both a brilliant and powerful work of short fiction, and as a primer for how exactly one should do readings with different dialects. From Podcastle, Maureen McHugh's "Ancestor Money".

I could go on at length about many other pieces. Sure, I could. But you and I both know you aren't going to follow every link I post. Anyway, everyone has been making all sorts of lists, and lots of stories have been mentioned all over the place, and everyone's correct about how brilliant everyone is.

I've given you two links. That should be enough.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Note to self...

On my deathbed, I will not say, "Gee, I wish I had played more freecell!"

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ever hear about Thaumatrope?

A new Twitter-based 'zine tests the limit of flash speculative fiction.

It's been fun watching this project, and fun submitting to them.

They've got more than a few entries by me in their pipeline. I'm getting close to the ten dollar mark! I might actually need to open a paypal account to recieve payment!

It's been fun. So much fun, it seems, that they had to close their submissions pile.


Here's the website:

Friday, January 2, 2009

abandoned prose...

Sometimes you'll be writing a short story, and then see how the short story isn't working because it really needs more room to do correctly.

Dozens of caravan companies were on this cliff with us. Our gurads and their guards immediately got in friendly debate about the borders of the different groups.
The cliff was packed, on both sides. The side nearest the city – our side – was reserved for caravans. Our jumpers walled off the wagons with sturdy metals and heavy bolting screws. They didn’t let any of the caravan so much as touch a screw. I watched Ferdinand and Joachim with much interest. They could bind a wagon with iron in ten minutes, despite the great weight of the grating they used, pulled out from under the platform. They lashed their heavy ropes and chains to the top corners of the wagon walls, and the wagon axles. They lashed those ropes to the harpoons mounted on their mangonels. The horses and oxen had ot be driven, drugged, to the top of the platform, where they stepped onto the metal grating that would contain them. I knew the animals would experience injuries, and upon arrival I would likely have to purchase replacements for the animals that break legs, or worse. I watched the Gribaldi brothers wall off the animals, with the ostlers, in their metal cage. The ostlers, from inside, further doped the animals into a stupor, until the creatures collapsed to the ground. Then, the ostlers bound them with ropes to the grating. We fit all our animals and our four ostlers in a metal crate twenty feet by twenty feet. The lead ostler walked around after the Gribaldi brothers, shaking at the cage walls and testing their strength. He seemed pleased with the results. He and his men tied themselves down, next. They had the worst of it, with the animals.
The rest of us stood around, waiting. We were not traveling in luxury. The heavy equipment of the mangonels was reserved for the wagons and the animals. After all of the larger objects were secured and prepared for travel, the Gribaldi brothers handed out leather straps to all of us. We were encouraged to tie one side to our wrists in advance, and to remain close to the ramp. Then, they prepared their own crate of supplies, that would be used near Saravel to get all of us off the back of the Saurian.
“When the Great One comes,” said Ferdinand, to me, and – I assume – everyone else who received a strap, “the whole ground will tremble, and you won’t be able to run quickly. When the Great One’s back is in range, we will transport the caravan, with or without any of you. When the last man makes the trip, so will I. We will cut the lines behind us. Anyone who is not around will be stranded.”
I didn’t go far. I walked under the ramp, and saw all the ropes there. The Gribaldi brothers had enough mangonels and ropes for a caravan twice as large as ours. I calculated the expense in my head of all this wood in the desert mountains, and all this iron that would need to be replaced every year. They would only turn a profit if all of our spice made it to market, and they were paid their share of the profits. If even one of our wagons was lost, the Gribaldi brothers would probably be unable to replace their metals in time for the next season’s jump.
The profit wouldn’t be high, either.
I walked among the men. My father had told me that the best thing I could do, if I didn’t know what to do with myself, was to look confident and assertive and walk around among the men. Bulger and the wagon drivers were sitting in the dust, eating and drinking what they had recovered from the wagons before everything was bound down for the trip.
“Best eat while you can, sir,” said the Jon Bulger. “Won’t be long now. Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow.”
I waved at him. “I’ll eat later. Did everyone lash down their spices? I don’t want to lose even one crate.”
Jon rolled his eyes. “Sir, we’ve all done this before. We know our business. Sit with us a while, and eat something. Walking around like that all the time makes you look nervous.”
“We’ll have plenty of time to relax on the Saurian,” I said. “Besides, I am nervous. I’ve never done anything like this before. You were nervous your first time, weren’t you?”
He shrugged. “It’s not so bad. A bit rough getting over, but the Jumpers and ostlers do all the work. We’re just along for the ride. I hope your jumpers know what they’re doing.”
I borrowed a line from Ferdinand, though I had truthfully not known about their other line of work when I hired them. “They are likely the most competent jumpers available this late in the season,” I said, “because people judge them because of their line of work the rest of the year.”
“Not one word, Mr. Bulger. Not even one.”
“Right, sir. I’m sure they’ll be fine, like you say.”
I walked away. I knew they would be grumbling about me behind my back. Let them grumble. Father always said the crew is supposed to hate you a little, just because you’re in charge.
We waited there half a day. The desert sun wasn’t as bad that high up the mountain, where the breeze was always cool. The journey here had been grueling. Two horses had died from the heat, and replacing a horse this close to the Saurian’s back was an unpleasent expense. There was no way to be sure our new horses would survive this trip uninjured, and we’d have to replace more horses on the other side. Naturally, I was to be blamed for driving the crew so hard that horses died. We had been moving too slow after we had to replace a couple broken axles. If we missed the Saurian, the whole trip was a bust, and the spice had to be sold at a loss in markets where it would not bring a great price.
I stand by my actions, even at the cost of the horses, especially considering how close we came to missing the Saurian.
For only half a day, I anxiously paced my caravan. Ferdinand found me pacing. He touched my shoulder and pointed at the other side of the cliff. The passengers and travelers were in motion, bustling around the cliff, near their mangonels.
“They can see the desert behind them. They know when the Great One is near before we feel him. In the dunes, you can see for miles on top of the cliff. Best gather the men near the mangonels, and check with the ostlers. Make sure they’re all lashed down good. Sometimes men get tired of waiting like that, and loosen their straps.”
“Right,” I said. My hands were trembling. I tried to will them to stop shaking. I couldn’t.
Jon Bulger was already over at the ostler’s crate, shouting at the ostlers to check their straps. I glared at him, and sent him back to the wagon drivers.
Tom Gish, lead ostler, unstrapped himself enough to reach a hand through the cage and place it on my shoulder. “Don’t worry much about that Jon Bulger,” said Tom Gish, “He’s still not sure about you, is all, and this part of the trip is a bit bumpier than waltzing down Cormorant Highway with perfumes and silks.”
“Mr. Gish, I would advise you to advise Mr. Bulger to remember who is in charge of this caravan.”
He laughed. “I will, sir. Your father is in charge, and he put us in your capable hands.”
I snorted at him. “Tell me, Mr. Gish, is there anything I can do for the ostlers while we’re on the Saurian? I know this part of the trip is bumpy.”
“Nothing to it, sir. We’ll be right fine. The Jumpers won’t let us starve or nothing. These jumpers are a bit funny-looking, but they seem to know their business.”
“Take care to strap yourself back down, Mr. Gish. I came here to make sure you were strapped in, not to encourage you to stand up again.”
He smiled and clapped his hands. “I think it’s fun, actually. Hope I don’t break anything. I broke a rib once. Hurt something awful everytime the big fellow took a step.”
I waited until Mr. Gish was strapped in. I joined the drivers and the guards near the mangonel that we would be riding down. Ferdinand and Joachim were unruffled. They loaded their mangonels. Together they cranked the giant bowstrings back, and gently adjusted the harpoons to shoot as straight as possible considering the circumstances.
They were nearly halfway through their mangonels when I felt the first tremor.
All the caravans cheered, all the travellers. The roasing shouts filled the sky, but they weren’t load enough to mute the heavy steps of the Saurian, whose each footfall sounded like a thunderclap in the sand dunes.
II rushed to the clump of men near the mangonel. We formed a line under Joachim’s guidance. Strongest looking men first, and weakest last. I was not a manual laborer, and I was nearly last. The captain of the caravan guard was behind me, in his old age. I knew for a fact he was stronger than he looked, and wiry under his clothes, but he never minded when people mistook him for a weak old man. Ferdinand clapped my shoulder. “We have a few minutes. I’d advise sitting down until the Great One comes. His foot steps only make the earth shake more. We are lucky he steps on the dunes far below. The sand mutes his powerful steps so that we, here on the rocks, do not feel the worst of it.”

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

I had a fantastic year in 2008. What with my book launching at last, doing quite well, and being chosen for some excellent year's best lists, I really couldn't have had a bad year.

Also, I had a fantastic time at some wonderful conventions. ConDFW, where we launched the book by eating, drinking, and playing RockBand, was great because it was the first time my parents met lots of my friends. Since I'm actually great friends with my parents, it was a happy event to see them all getting along. AggieCon was lots of fun, too.At AggieCon, people actually showed up to my reading, which had never happened before. I had to read and everything. They seemed to like it, since everyone in the reading went to buy my book in the dealer's room soon after. At ApolloCon, I danced, I paneled, I met lots of new people, and even played some cool games. At FenCon, I got to cross over and sit on the volunteer side of the desk for just a little while, which I thought was lots of fun. Great concert at FenCon, too, which is a redundant statement because they always have great filking. At ArmadilloCon, I was dazzled by the panels, wherein literary-ish topics were on the menu, and attended in force.

I also published about a dozen short stories and poems. Needless to say, that's a very nice thing to do. So many of my attempted stories are failures that slink into my hard drives to die that I am always pleased and excited to see any of them come out good.

I made many wonderful friends, and even lost a few friends that turned out not to be so wonderful. Such is life.

Anyway, this year has basically been a total blast.

Now, for next year, I came up with some New Year's Resolutions that should point me in the right direction.

1) I resolve to read a book full of naughty limericks.

2) I resolve to doodle in the margins instead of reading a book, if I'm reading a book and discover that it bores me.

3) I resolve to develop mastery ofthe Force, and to construct my own light-saber to defeat the forces of the dark side.

My only concern with my list is what I will do if the book of naughty limericks bores me, and I end up doodling in the margins instead of reading the book. Would pushing myself through the limericks break resolution #2, or would abandoning the book break resolution #1. It's a good thing I'll be a Jedi Master soon, because it's the kind of conundrum only Yoda could solve.