Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Abandoned Prose

I love reading Steampunk, but for the life of me, I just can't write it worth a damn. There's something about the British-esque voicings ubiquitous to the genre that eludes me. Only one solution: posting all my failed attempts to my blog!

***



Sir Stephen Carter's journal was often as not quite dull. On the 17th of July, he ate three eggs for breakfast, and too much bacon. It gave him nasty indigestion. That is all that happened on the 17th of July. On November 21st, he overslept, and was running behind schedule all day long. He spared not a moment to describe what exactly what that schedule might be. On the 4th of October, there was written only one word, in a frantic, ecstatic, unfamiliar hand: “HOLLOWNOT”.
Still, a pattern emerged and a story took shape from the diary.
He flew over the wall on January 3rd. The clockwork gunners that walked along the tracks of the turrets and balconies of the wall were all covered in special winter clothes as if they were men. How strange, it was, to see soulless automatons dressed for cold weather. The zeppelin rode a particularly brisk wind over the cities and farms. Looking down, there was an unsteadiness to the earth. All the streets ran with tracks. Trains chugged along in all weather. Houses had a very subtle shiftiness to them. Roofs had been engineered to keep the snow from piling up. In bad weather, they trembled slightly. With trains and trembling, the city seemed to hum like an insect colony.
The zeppelin flew on, over farmlands. Steam filled the sky from the milk plants, where cows were drained of their natural fluids by mechanical hands. The fields were kept free of birds by scarecrows that walked and made clacking noises. Their sounds were so loud, they rattled through the walls of the zeppelin high above the earth. The plants did not seem to notice, as they do not have ears, but such a din would surely chase off all hungry creatures of the earth. Beside the fields, farmhouses hummed as the snow shuffled in heaps around the doors and windows. Perhaps a device was supposed to be clearing out the impediments, but the extra insulation likely reduced the sound of the scarecrows.
The larger city, near the capitol grew in heaps of gears and trembling walls – either trembling by design, or due to the countless machines spinning gears and clanking inside, he could not tell. Sir Stephen Carter saw the palace, as it had been described to him in letters with the burgermeister of the clockmaker's guild. How could anyone miss it? The clock tower was nearly tall enough to poke the sun in the face. Sir Stephen Carter took his zeppelin around once, to find a good place to dock. He noticed that the clock was going to strike the hour soon. He ran back into his laboratory, and grabbed protection for his ears. He had heard rumors about those bells, and he was not one to take chances.
At 2:00 the hour struck. The bells, each as big as a bedroom, sent flocks of pigeons tumbling end-over-end, stunned. The huge, rumbling gong of the bells rattled the machinery of the zeppelin. Sir Stephen Carter fell back in his chair. He clutched at the earmuffs, and gasped. He had felt the heavy bells rumbling all through his bones, loosening his bowels, and hurting his very eyes.
A dial spun wildly on the controls. An alarm bell rang.
Sir Stephen Carter, master of his machine even in great storms, cursed, and dashed back to his delicate devices. Glass had shattered. His vials of pressurized quicksilver had cracked, and slowly the pressure leaked onto the floor, consuming flogistan as it did so. The metals rusted. The wood rotted.
The crack began not just to leak, but to push like an artery. The pressure was building.
Sir Stephen Carter threw a tarp over the machine, to keep the spray of poisonous quicksilver from reaching the cockpit. He rushed to his dials, to reduce the pressure on his device. He had to land. He had to land quickly. He chose the nearest, mostly open area. It looked to be the market square below the town's cathedral. The cathedral did not seem solid, but Sir Stephen Carter had no time for sightseeing. He had nothing as mighty as the bells to warn the people below of his descent, but he did have an excellent bullhorn of pressurized air to honk at them. He had a sonic device that would amplify his voice to the level of an artless opera singer, to warn of his descent.
He shouted. He blew the horn. He watched below at the activity in the square. No one was running. They moved aside at a deliberate pace, people carrying palanquins. No stall-owner ran fleeing with armfuls of precious commodities. The stalls cranked and rattled and rolled away like little trains upon little tracks. The palanquins would likely escape injury, but the carts were doomed.
“Hurry! I cannot slow my descent! Abandon your goods and your carts. I will reimburse you for all damages. Hurry!
He did not crash this time. He landed. All his bottles tumbled from their casements. All his cabinets and boxes spewed their contents. He bounced from his seat, to the ground.
He clenched inside at the sound of the crash, especially the sounds below the zeppelin's undercarriage. How many people were hurt? How many were... killed?
He rushed to his feet. He quickly shoved his tools aside, for his heavy gloves and largest crowbar. He jumped out, into the courtyard, prepared to rescue injured cart owners.
The palanquins had opened their curtains. The people inside smiled, and cheered, quite unlike folks who had very nearly been crushed by a descending aeronautical engine. A man stepped from his palanquin hurriedly to rush up to Sir Stephen to shake his hand.
“You are the famous Sir Stephen Carter?”
“What in blazes...? The carts, man! There are people down there! My ship was damaged! We must extract the survivors and render aid!”
“What are you speaking about, Sir Stephen? I thought it was masterful how you landed upon the carts. It will keep the clockmakers busy for weeks! Good show!”
“But the merchants...! Hurry, man!”
“What merchants? What are you talking about? The merchants are in their offices. Why would they be in carts? I assure you that with jokes like this it is no wonder none treat your humor with such respect, to make light of people being crushed and killed like that. That's not funny at all. Here, can you autograph my book? I had hoped to run into you while you were here in town, and I had my book with me just in case...”
In the margin notes of his personal diary, Sir Stephen Carter mentions that the carts were all managed by mechanical servants, who were put into place to promote the honesty and integrity of the markets. No sly deals could be made with machines. No theft would go unnoticed under their watchful lenses. All commodities would be traded fairly at the price set by the head merchants. The carts had not noticed that they were about to be crushed by a zeppelin. They had assumed that the disintegrating population meant that the market had closed early.
No one was mad at their accidental destruction, because it meant the clockmaker's guild would have something to do. It was important to keep the clockmakers busy. Everyone broke something now and then and passed it on to keep those incorrigible tinkerers from inventing anything new.
A royal representative rode in on a mechanical palanquin slightly larger than the rest, embossed with copper and gold. The palanquin was large enough for more than one person. Upon Sir Stephen's insistence, armed guards were placed at the four corners of the zeppelin, to protect the population from the dangerous chemicals they might encounter if anyone had a bent for a little honest exploration. Upon securing the sanctity of the zeppelin, the representative of the king, a humble butler, rode with Sir Stephen in the palanquin and explained the situation at the palace. The palace was in mourning. Two weeks prior, the queen had met her fate in a terrible accident. Princess Sapsorrow had been in the same accident, and was now in the strictest medical care. The Butler also complemented Sir Stephen for his choice of entry, creating a great spectacle for the public, and providing plenty of work for the busybodies at the clockmaker's guild.
“Good sir,” said Sir Stephen, “I was brought here, in part, to assist Princess Sapsorrow's modern scientific education. If she is injured, or ill, it is my duty, as her tutor, to offer what aid I can. Please, let us hasten to her bedside.”
***

I don't know if you hear this a lot about writers, but we tend to fail more than we succeed, and our failures tend to remain out of the limelight because we don't publish them.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Rrr...

Prejudice is a mental illness, not a point of view.

I guess it's my own fault for reading FoxNews.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Overextended

I'm a little overextended right now. Notice the prevelance of YouTube videos in lieu of actual content?

I'd rather slow down than burn down into nothing but YouTube Videos.

On the other hand, you probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the fictions, and that's kind of what's extending me over the limit.

Would you rather read blog entries, or new books?

If you say blog, I poke you with a rusty fork.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mind meld, elsewhere than SFSignal

Jeff VanderMeer don't need no invitations to make a solid mind meld, all he does is post a question to his blog (fascinating comments, show no sign of stopping, soon):
http://www.jeffvandermeer.com/2009/04/14/what-have-you-sacrificed-for-your-writing/

(What is a Mind Meld?

Hope y'all all survived your taxes.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009



Pro: Swift police response in case of actual alien.

Con: Over a dude going for a walk on stilts, stopped by cops for crime of walking down street, when the crime rate for Britain, in general, suggests that crime isn't lessening, nor are all these cameras doing anything to deter crime or convict criminals compared to the sort of measures that allow people who are different from normal to walk down the street in whatever clothes we like.

I remember in college I was in the Shotokan Club, and I had to practice out at night on the grounds, and some security guard called the campus cops on me because it looked like I was doing something violent. You know, practicing karate in a park...


Ick.

Question about Tor.com

So, I'm a critically-acclaimed novelist, fictionist, and poet. I have not even the beginning of a clue as to who to query at Tor.com for short fiction for their website.

Anyone?

Monday, April 13, 2009

vegan flatbread tastiness

so...

2 cups of whole wheat flower+flour for rolling area
1.5 teaspoons of salt
2 tablespoons of melted margarine (any oil will do... Peanut? Olive?)
+/- 1 cup of water
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
spray canola oil

Equipment:
skillet, medium-high heat
rolling pin
clean area to roll dough (I used a large cutting board)

Make a mountain of flour. Put a hole in the center of the mountain large enough to add 1/4 cup of the water. Add all your dry ingredients into the hole. Then, drop half your margarine in the hole. Then, drop 1/4 cup of water. Stir and knead for a bit. Then, add more water. Repeat the stirring and adding of water until you have a nice dough.

Flatten your dough. Put the remaining margarine on top. Fold the dough over, and over, and over and continue working the dough.

Put the dough in a covered bowl, and allow the dough to rest for five-ten minutes.

Heat up your skillet. Spray with canola oil.

Roll your dough up into a snake. Divide the snake into approximately 18 - 24 small balls.

Do one ball at a time. Flatten them with the rolling pin as thin as you can without losing the dough.

Cook on the skillet. Grab the next ball to roll out. Work fast! You've got to roll out your next little ball of dough while the prior one is cooking. Flip the cooking one between twenty-thirty seconds, and you've got about twenty-thirty seconds left.

Every second round of cooking, spray more canola oil on the skillet.

Freeze what you don't eat, and heat up in a toaster oven or microwave.

Tasty vegan flatbread for sandwiches and dipping.

Easy, too.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Mmm...

Cadbury Creme Eggs...

Mm...

MM...

MORE!

*Happy Easter everyone. I hope you're with your family, eating seasonal candies, and having a great time.*

I have room for at least ten more Cadbury Creme Eggs in my belly! YUM!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

Late Night THoughts

WHo would win in a fight between Batman and Captain Crunch? For some reason, I can't shake the feeling it might actually be Captain Crunch...

I mean, he teleports wherever there's cereal... He's got a scary hat... He's got an army of zombified sugar-coated children...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

RE:QueryFail

What? Who has time to cruise all these agent twitters and agent blogs?

Aren't you supposed to be writing and mastering your craft? Wouldn't you rather be watching Japanese TV commercials on YouTube? (I know I would!)



SO MUCH MORE AWESOME THAN CYBERSTALKING LITERARY AGENTS!

Who cares if they hate all those queries? Who cares if they hate your query?

Does... not... matter...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Three Reasons Vermont is Awesome!

1: Cheese!

2: Ice Cream!

3: Legalized Gay Marriage by overruling a dumb governor's veto power!

Hooray!

Also of note: Iowa Supreme Court made a good call. I hope it sticks.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

And...

I was as impressed as anyone when SF Fandom discovered ZOMG Frederick Pohl has a BLOG!

What I really want, though, is a Frederick Pohl Twitter. That's what I actually want.

I'm imagining the kind of twitter's we'd get...

"Had some eggs on toast. Metaphoric model for unified field theory? Nah. HeeChee don't need no stinkin' eggs on toast. Eggs on Fans, bitchez!"

"I was going to fill this twitter with name-dropping, but the weight of genius would crush the twittersphere. I'm awesome! LOLZ!"

"Jigsaw puzzle of pi out 1000 digits. Psh. 1/2 hour with Arthur C. Obi Wan Clarke. Micro-managing 1w/Force btch can't hold a puzzle piece on his own. STFU ACC!"

It's 11:47 PM, do you know where your child is?

Yes, as a matter of fact, I do know exactly where your child is. Your child is on the internet right now, playing Team Fortress 2, or Battlefield. Or, your child is making dumb you tube videos talking sh** about things that don't matter to anyone not as brain-dead as your child.

Used to be you had to leave the house to hit people with baseball bats, trash talk, and immortalize yourself in the minds of your friends.

I was thinking today about the internet, and about how I might have more memes than memories.

So, I'm thinking maybe it's time to take a break and live in the real world a while, instead of here.

Discovery: Yahoo Mail Acting Weird

Whilst looking for banking e-mails I didn't seem to be getting, I discovered that Yahoo mysteriously decided to stop forwarding mail to my gmail account.

Thus, if you e-mailed me at j_m_mcdermott (.a.) yahoo.com in the last month, I only just now got it, and I don't really have time to deal with it, right now.

Doesn't seem to be a reason for it, and I'm still downloading the hundreds of mail and spam mail that will need to cross over.

After reading CNN's article on Self-Pubbing, I had an idea...

Wouldn't it be great if SFWA's Writer Beware Representatives and most public faces, Victoria Strauss and A C Crispin got to go on The Daily Show or The Colbert Report to get their good word out about the waves of misinformation?

Somebody who knows how to do this start a web-petition. I'm lucky my blog doesn't explode in my net-un-savvy-ness.

Everyone, blog about why this is such a good idea.

Tell everyone to tell everyone and then tell them to tell everyone. Let the outcry be heard from the blog-o-sphere! Victoria Strauss and A C Crispin need to bring the Writer Beware Message to Comedy Central's Hard-Hitting Fake News Team!

(I'd say CNN, but I want them on a news show that actually matters.)

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Vampire

Keats' last book of poems was stolen by the flower girl that cut his throat. Keats had been continuing his nights under an assumed name, in Paris, where - obsessed with his new blood-soaked, delirious eroticism - he penned “Le Fleur du Mal” in the blood of prostitutes and beautiful men that had been used up into husks. He always remembered the day he coughed blood into a handkerchief like a rose falling from a skull's gaping maw, and the day he laid back and let La Belle Dame Sans Merci finally finish the job like a pale night lily thrusting up from a sweltering pond.

He was so tired, by then. He held still for her when she crippled him, stole his library, and sold it all off to the notorious dilettante, Baudelaire, for her opium and food.

Next trace I found of Keats, he was in Algeria, where nightfall is peppered with gunfire and scattered stars, writing letters and running from poetry. He slowly devoured the boy, Rimbaud, and the brilliant boy's poems dwindled into the same immortal darkness unto death.

I'm looking for their tracks in the library. I think they went to India. I'm learning to speak Urdu. I'm digging through the letters of clerics and mystics.

Where did they go? China? The Russian Veld?

CNN Fails Publishing 101

I am flabbergasted by the sheer volume of wrong, wrong, wrong information in this article on CNN.com, trumped up with lots of quotes from self-publishing marketing staff without any word about the vast and overwhelming majority of self-pubbed authors that lost money on their crazy scheme, or worse - fell victim to a scam operation spouting this kind of rah-rah claptrap.

So, you tell me, fair readers, everything wrong in the article.

I'll start. Did you know that I, apparently, don't keep my own copyright because I sold my book to a major, big league, publishing company? The author of this article seems to think I don't keep my copyright.

Was this article written by the marketing manager for LuLu or iUniverse? Might as well have been.

CNN, you failed even the basic test of factual accuracy.

All Ideas Are a Point of Tension in the Cultural Wind, Expressed in Numerous Ways by Many Independent Thinkers









Sunday, April 5, 2009

One thing I did this weekend...

I just want to mention that I decided to set Mass Effect on the easiest setting, and play the gimpiest character (Soldier specializing in Assault Rifles) to pound through the game and check out the story.

Bioware does exceptional work on main characters, and major NPC dialogue.

I find myself oddly disappointed, again, in the way they write the characters that only appear for a few moments. Some of them, like the Salarian Infiltration Unit, get some good lines! Most of them, like the cannon fodder Krogans and the various merchants and random people you meet in the universe for various random quests really, really don't get good dialog.

Having met one of the lead writers of Bioware's often very well-written titles (except for this consistent hiccup), I know their attitude is that not every character gets to be a perfect little snowflake. Time and production schedules and the realities of video game production make it so.

But, that's really the wrong attitude ot have game after game after game. Every character is *supposed* to be a perfect, little snowflake. That's our job as writers. We know there's a craft breakdown in the system, that repeats itself game after game after game.

Instead of accepting this, why aren't we trying to find a solution that works?

Hm. We'll see how I feel about this in a couple months.

Mass Effect has some design quirks I don't care for, but all-in-all, it was lots of fun. I suspect video games - as they become more cinematic and more ubiquitious - will grow to dominate the field of adventure stories. Soon they'll out-movie movies, and out-epic epic novels.

When it comes to books, I prefer the kind of books that can only be books. Because Bioware's games are only getting better, among many others, and they're only going to get bigger and more popular.

Did you know it isn't Easter this weekend?

I didn't know it wasn't Easter until I started calling people to wish them a happy Easter...

Apparently, it's NEXT weekend!

Huh. Wow.

When you're writing a lot, you get a little fuzzy in the head about things like dates and times. It happens.

Happy Easter

I was gearing up to start making the family phone calls, and realized I wouldn't feel comfortable talking to people on the phone unless I was actually showered and dressed.

Also, I skip church on Easter Sunday. It's because there are lots of people who only go to church on Easter Sunday. Lots of people. Lots and lots and lots of people. It's frightening, cramped, hot, uncomfortable, and it takes forever just to do the most basic stuff.

I'm not saying these folks should go year 'round, or not at all. I am saying us regular folk suddenly got a real strong urge not to go, on a holy day of obligation. My faith was tested, and LOST!

I think skipping today means I'm just as lackadaisical as the folks who only go on Christmas and Easter.

At least I feel kind of bad about it. That at least means I'm not irredeemable, yet, doesn't it?

Happy Easter, everybody.

(Tomorrow is a wonderful day: The Cadbury Cream Eggs Go On Steep Discount!)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Forgot to mention this...

Seriously, I've gotten to a point in my writing that I realize a week after the fact that I've got a story coming out, and I should, like, mention that, or something(?).

Brain Harvest just picked up a flash piece of mine about carnivorous butterflies.

I discovered this magazine because I saw a really good story by Nick Mamamatas on it. If you're starting a magazine and want people to submit good stuff to you, publishing good stuff from the get-go is really the way to do it.

I hope I remember to announce when the story goes live! (No Promises...)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Thursday, April 2, 2009

After Reading Table of Contents for a couple Year's Best Anthos....

It's not that I don't think the editors of the "Best of..." and "Year's Best..." are off the mark. Actually, most of my favorite fantasy stories end up in these anthologies. And, it's not that they're ignoring micro- and semi-pro 'zines. That's wholly and unequivocally false to even a glance across the ToC.

It's that I think the semi-pro 'zines are where it's at in fantasy short fiction, these days. I don't get excited by the latest issue of F&SF quite in the same way I do for Electric Velocipede. I'm more engaged by one issue of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet's sci-fi than in multiple years of Analog. Asimov's is lovely, true, but in a cage match with Talebones, that venerable standard-bearer of the field would face true competition when it comes to innovative fictions.

I would love to see a Year's Best Anthology Dedicated to Micro- and Semi-pro publications, dedicated to the edges of the field. Even if it were an on-line only, thing, it would be a cool list to have handy.

And, I mention it here because I don't think I'm qualified to do it, even if I had the time for it.

I nominate Cat Rambo and Eric Marin.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Lights, Bugs

So, Coyote Wild (*sob*) is apparently not moving forward with publication of anyone.

That means, my story "Lights, Bugs" will not be forthcoming from them anymore.

Which means I've got this 15,500 word novellete with absolutely no idea where I should send the darn thing, now.

Anyone doing an anthology about twenty-something fantasy set in suburban Texas?

My thoughts on a middle grade book

Writing for kids is hard. Very hard. Doing it well takes gobs of talent, an exceptional internal editor, and a constant connection to someone you used to be inside of your mind.

I have read and enjoyed many YA and MG books. Lloyd Alexander and Roald Dahl and J K Rowling and the travails of those unfortunate Baudelaire children are all excellent things to read no matter what age you are.

Right now, one of my favorite MG authors is just getting her sea legs in the field. Adrienne Kress, author of "Alex and the Ironic Gentlemen" has a new book out, right now, a sequal - kind of - called "Timothy and the Dragon's Gate".

I was fortunate enough to give it a read.

As a very odd person, I really like how the odder a person is in Adrienne Kress' books, the more likely they are to be nice, friendly, and helpful. The stranger the stranger, the COOLER the stranger. Whether you're tlaking about the guy who herds mutant fish in the London Sewers, or the famous billionaire disguised as a trash collector.

I also love how MG books can get away with things that I could never get away with. Because it's a comedy. With a happy ending. So, when Timothy plummets from a plane into the middle of the ocean, the amazing coincidence that saves his life is not the sort of thing that throws you from the story. In fact, it engages you further with the narrative, because it's as much about how the author playfully constructs wild and zany obstacles as it is about how she constructs wilder and zanier solutions.


I enjoyed it thoroughly. I also suspect Adrienne Kress was really, really good at playiing make-believe as a kid. I suspect she hasn't quite ever gotten over it.

Anyway, that's all I got for today. Busy at work, and really, I ought to stop procrastinating and go make some stuff up.