Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

"The man was from Mulatuppu, which is a place neither Samantha nor Claire has ever heard of. Their father says that the man was supposed to be some sort of magician, but he drowned shortly before Rash came back to Eight Chimneys. Their father says that the other sailors wanted to throw the magician's chest overboard, but Rash persuaded them to let him keep it until he could be put ashore, with the chest, off the coast of North Carolina.

The specialist's hat makes a noise like an agouti;
The specialist's hat makes a noise like a collared peccary;
The specialist's hat makes a noise like a white-lipped peccary;
The specialist's hat makes a noise like a tapir;
The specialist's hat makes a noise like a rabbit;
The specialist's hat makes a noise like a squirrel;
The specialist's hat makes a noise like a curassow;
The specialist's hat moans like a whale in the water;
The specialist's hat moans like the wind in my wife's hair;
The specialist's hat makes a noise like a snake;
I have hung the hat of the specialist upon my wall.


There's a new Kelly Link anthology coming out in October, with some reprints and some new stuff, geared especially for young adult readers.

I was fortunate to snag one at BEA in LA, and I have to tell you, it's quite a book, indeed. If you know anyone reading a "Twilight" book. Give them this one instead. Kelly Link has all the themes and more, and she writes circles around just about everybody.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

her name, twice

read her name twice, couldn't place it
i knew the name, not the picture
but you never know the pictures
families pick the best picture, and it
never speaks the truth, never looks
back at you like the one you knew, ugly
smiling and unsmiling

that name
was it church? a temp job or some ex's distant
met only once before an earthquake?
that name
a news report? scornful misery dragged across a screen
naked, bleeding, wailing tears so of course i couldn't recall
the face if i only knew it screaming
except when people went missing, didn't they
dead, didn't they use the pictures like this one
in the paper - just like this one

in case of emergencies, call these numbers
use this photograph if anyone wants
a picture to go with the name.
written in her will, she chose a picture,
paper-clipped it to tell people in the paper
who i am, how i want my face to be remembered

that name - wait:
an actress played a woman with that name

then, in a flash like the click of a remote
on a flickering screen of times I know
her great-grandchildren will be like me soon
sitting in their pew, at a death mask
they barely know. they engaged more emotion
on the screen than the that woman in a wheelchair,
sitting at the edge of photographs, who rarely spoke
she was just so happy to be there, eating cake
with all those beautiful children

the little ones looked
the old one looked
each face a strange blank

in thirty years time, the face on the screen
will merge with the woman.

The grandchildren will tell stories to their grandchildren
about love and violence and this person
born between two pictures.

Friday, August 29, 2008

today i sent a story out...

today i sent a story out that was exactly 9,999 words to a market that requires less than 10,000.

i don't think i've ever written anything with such a wonky wordcount. 9,999 is kind of ominous, isn't it?

i think it is. i should have edited to something innocuous like 9,724, or 9,866.

maybe i should edit it into a haiku?

i can do that right now, i think.

dance with madness un-
der ash trees, beautiful ones,
i will guard the tombs

hm... not quite right, but close enough to the tone of the piece.

check back in a year or so and we'll see if anyone bought it. i don't simsub, so this will take a while if the market i intentionally wrote it for passes on it.

so we got a female vp pick from the republicans?

i really hope all the upset hillary clinton voters don't take this bait. this is shameless political pandering.

i'm all for women running for veep, and president. i just hope that the approach to politics that mccain's team is showing - courting former hillary supporters that want a woman in the white house - are smart enough to realize that palin is *not* hillary. not even a little bit. really, the only thing they have in common is gender. a vote for this woman on the issue of gender is a vote against women's hard-earned rights.

Here are some interesting quotes from MSNBC...

"[Palin] is three years Obama's junior, as well, and McCain has made much in recent weeks of Obama's relative lack of experience in foreign policy and defense matters."

and this one...

"On Aug. 1, Palin scored a major victory when the Alaska Legislature passed a bill that authorizes her administration to award a license to TransCanada Alaska to build a 1,715-mile natural gas pipeline from Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s North Slope to a hub in Canada.

The pipeline would be the largest construction project in the history of North America. If completed as hoped within 10 years, it would ship 4.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. The United States imported about 10 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day in 2007."

and here's some more...

"But conservatives praised her anti-abortion credentials.

'Sarah Palin is a pleasant surprise for those of us who had hoped that Senator McCain would pick a principled and authentic conservative pro-life leader,' former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said.

Huckabee also used the Palin pick to reach out to women.

'Governor Palin ... will remind women that if they are not welcome on the Democrat's ticket, they have a place with Republicans,' he said."

Let's review...

Palin will endanger and damage a fragile ecosystemt already under major assault with a pipeline that is a very temporary fix to the larger issues of the oil crisis. She has no international diplomacy experience outside of Canada. She wants to remove a woman's right to choose.

What can she bring to the larger issues of our day and age? Global warming? The healthcare crisis? The endless war upon a concept that drains are nation's single most precious resource: young people?

I hope women are smart enough to realize that falling for this bait will damage the environment, damage the rights of women, and damage the future of our children.

Be smarter than the GOP, Clinton-supporters. Don't let them manipulate you, dammit! Don't you understand how little they must think of all of your minds to pull something like this? Prove that you're smarter than they think you are!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

what i am probably thinking about right now at work...

Pre-dating entries because I'm busy.

And, I'm probably thinking about musical tesla coils, and beautiful music.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

more olympic sports...

Sumo/Risk hybrid, wherein sumo wrestlers sumo on a giant-sized "Risk" board

Electric Whist

Underwater Fencing

Beam Gymnastics on rolling logs.


Macy's Day Parade Balloon Jousting

Dance Dance Revolution

(The list could go on and on and on... Tomorrow, I'll be at work again, and the day after that, I might not be pre-dating blog entries...)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

olympic sports continued

today, it was very slow at work. very slow.

Ken, Elaine, Linda, Sandra, and me put together this long, long list of sports that ought to be in the olympics but aren't. In no particular order, here are the ones I can remember:

1) Weighted Giant Speed Chess (Mind over heavy, heavy matter)
2) Japanese Gameshow Obstical Course
3) Shot-putt Catch
4) Battleship
5) Infiltration (players infiltrate another nation's team, and throw the event, then REVEAL THEMSELVES FOR THE GOLD! Special extra points for players that cross genders... World Record Holder infiltrated another nation's infiltration team!)
6) The Hustle
7) Quickdraw Cellphone Answering
8) There's this place in Europe where guys chase a giant wheel of cheese down a hill, and try to catch the cheese. It's really dangerous.
9) Trampoline Boxing
10) Life-size Hungry, Hungry Hippo, with people in Hamster Wheels
11) Rock...Paper...SCISSORS!!!!!
12) Boomerang Clay Pigeons. (Pull, somewhere behind you! Quick, throw the boomerang!)
13) Jousting
14) Magic: The Gathering game while both players are running on treadmills that get steadily faster. You either outlast your opponent on the growing speeds, or defeath them with MAGIC!
15) Hitting yourself really hard in the face.

Yup. Slow day. This isn't even half of what we came up with. This is just what I can remember. Anyone else?

Monday, August 25, 2008

sports that belong in the olympics...?

1) Competitive Eating
2) Bull-riding
3) Nascar
4) Marathon Tetris

These four sports would make the Olympics awesome.

What other sports belong would make the Olympics more awesome?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

"I kept my reason by reciting the nullification tables backwards!"

Riiiight, Bats. We'll be the judge.

funny thing about sf fandom

normally, when a guy bloodies and mauls a girl, it's time to call the cops.

when it happens at an sf con?

she's smiling next to her torturer, posting pictures to see her in her gory glory.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

geek social networking smackdown...

Two sites went up recent-like.

One of them got big, fast. Real fast. You know 'em, you love 'em, Tor Books is the largest publisher of Science Fiction and Fantasy Books in the world. It's like a constant party at the drug dealer's Jamaican mansion over there. Nothing but big names (Scalzi, Doctorow, etc.) and big content (Irene Gallo's visitation of the Steampunk Art Show, free samples of books).

The other is Hardcore Nerdity, which is not big, just yet. They have a geekier feel (less corporate, which I like better). Also, they have movie reviews, geek interviews, and geek eyeballs perusing beyond just the book-o-sphere.

I haven't decided which one I like better.

Well, here they are, battling for my eyeballs: VS

I'm going to go post something at both places now, and see what happens.

Friday, August 22, 2008

the science of alphaville?

i fried my brain scribbling, then i fig'd i'd go gander on some cinema and recharge the battris.

watched alphaville. watched it again.

okay, they have electric brains all networked? alpha 60 is killed in an interview by an opposing view of a time conundrum?

the cops let lemmy keep his gun even as they are taking him prisoner?

the death of the fascist scientist is the catalyst of galactic disaster?

can anyone explain the science behind the surrealism?

Eye iz confoosed.

Alphaville clips:

Thursday, August 21, 2008

behind the wainscot tarot issue now live

guys and gals, seriously, just read the list of names of contributive scribblers here...


I am in excellent company I am.

Thanks Michelle, for giving me the heads up on this!

(Oh, and I notice both Barth Anderson, and other Barth Anderson showed up for the issue... I'm still watching you two... *muttering suspiciously*...)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


i have no idea what to tell you folks today.

I shall, thus, be forced to compose a limerick about something silly.

My cuddlefish hated to cuddle
He preferred to stay in his puddle
Unless I had tuna
To which he would swoon-a
Then we could hug quick and subtle

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

why do you go to a bookstore?

since Borders is turning itself into some kind of strange experiment in brick and mortar shopping experiences, I thought now is a great time to ask this question of readers:

Why do you go to a bookstore?

I tell you this: when I want a specific book, I order it. When I want to browse, and come to some kind of decision and discover something new, I go to a bookstore.

I see the model proposed by Borders as a reason never to return to Borders stores. They will not give room for browsing.

Am I alone? Am I the only one who shivers at the thought of a store where books are stocked akin to cereal?

I know books are a difficult business, like comic books, but how often do you go to a store for the pleasure of browsing, and how much of what it is a joy to find would we lose if our store shelves were packed with just the best-sellers?

Tell me. Talk. Rant. Whatever.

Monday, August 18, 2008

this इस बाद. this इस वैरी, वैरी बाद.

i found out about this via gwenda bond's shaken&stirred litblog.

Apparently, Lord Tophet, the conclusion to Gregory Frost's stunning Shadowbridge won't be stocked at all at Borders Books!

That's not very nice of them, nor very nice for their customers.

I know Lord Tophet is very high on my stack of books to read, and I'm really, really looking forward to it. I doubt I am alone.

I call Raspberries in the direction of Borders! Raspberries at them!


I have returned

I have returned from ArmadilloCon.

It was awesome.

I won 2nd place in the Space Squid Improv fiction contest.

I met and hung out with some very cool people.

I will post more later. I have much catching up to do.

I bet John Scalzi will have an excellent post about ArmadilloCon over at his blog, "Whatever".

I'll try and post my second-place improv fiction story wherein I was told to combine both "Alternate Universe" and "the Batmobile" in ten minutes... fifteen... I don't remember how long I had, but it wasn't that long at all.

What were your favorite bits of ArmadilloCon, if you attended?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Just before my trip to Austin, I'm writing in a Starbucks and see this...

In a Starbucks, in a bank lobby, where I go because it is so quiet, and so isolated on this side of the glass of the café - yet it is still the café - a very intense man takes up residence at one of the tables in the lobby. He has a large duffel bag of unknown contents, and a grocery bag that he immediately begins to dig through. He pulls out a large quart of ice cream. he opens it carefully. He fumbles in his pocket for a spoon he carries in some kind of swiss army knife. he starts at the top of the ice cream – I can see now that it is orange-flavored – and he just starts eating. I mean, this is really happening. He is over there in pressed slacks and a shirt with a collar and a shiny watch. His body language looks like he is running from the law. Like any minute now his mother will reach over his shoulder and smack the spoon away, and take his ice cream.

He’s eating it by the shovel-load. He’s eating it frantically. He downs huge spoonfuls in three bites. His jewelry flashes in my eye in the slanting light from the sunroofs, and he devours the ice cream.

This isn’t some little pint-sized ice cream tub. This is at least a quart. He stops to read a paper, to adjust the newspaper in front of him. He breathes heavily. He is not a small man, and he moves with the darting intensity of a large man with a mouth full of frozen dairy product that never has time to congeal in body heat before a painful swallow. He groans in pain, as his throat recovers, and he reads the newspaper between frantic, dizzying competitive devouring of the ice cream.

He attacks the ice cream again. Eight giant spoonfuls gone as quickly as shots of whiskey.

He is in the café area of a Starbucks that spills over into a bank lobby, in a building owned by the bank. And, it is a quiet place, where people go for the quiet. And, he eats ice cream.

In the time it has taken me to write this, he has gotten at least half of the way through his ice cream. He hasn’t really gotten very far in his newspaper.

When he’s nearly finished he leaps to his feet over the ice cream. He struggles with it, wrestles with it. He has to stop and breathe with his arms out at his side between furious bouts of devourment. He’s almost finished. He breathes heavily with the weight of the food. He closes the empty carton. With a look of defeat on his face, he staggers to the trashcan outside. He has a look of genuine sadness on his face, as if this compulsion was something painful. Then, he paces the lobby. He paces the lobby. He picks up his belongings. He walks out the door, with a look of genuine fear on his face.

It's 9:15 in the morning, and ice cream has been eaten. Much ice cream has been eaten.

This happened today. This happened right now, today.

Right. I'm off to ArmadilloCon right now. Right now.

Seeya soon, in Austin, party people!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

i have uncovered evidence...

i have uncovered evidence that author Barth Anderson is leading some kind of strange, double-life. I suspect, in fact, that he is actually twins.

look for yourself! I discovered this strange evidence right after enjoying my reading of the book "The Magician and the Fool".

If you pick up a copy of his latest book "The Magician and the Fool", go immediately to the last page in the book. Notice anything suspicious? No?

Okay, turn the page and look at the back cover.


I shall post them both, and together we can sort out the true nature in this identity mess.

On the last page:


Barth Anderson is an award-winning author who has been reading tarot cards for over thirty years. His first novel, The Patron Saint of Plagues, received wide critical acclaim. Barth lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two children."

The second biography:

"BARTH ANDERSON lives in Minnesota with his wife and children. He has written short fiction for numerous publications and anthologies, and six of his stories have recieved honorable mentions in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. He was the winner of the Spectrum Award for best short fiction in 2004. The Magician and the Fool is his second novel."

Now, what have we learned from this. Firstly, one of these Barth Andersons has won a Spectrum Award. The other merely nameless awards (for instance, "perfect attendence in high school", "first prize in the state fair for blueberry pie", and awards of this ilk most likely). Secondly, one wrote "Patron Saint of Plagues". The other merely wrote some kind of novel, of unknown publication history. Thirdly, one has two children somewhere in Minnesota, while the other has an unknown quantity of children in Minneapolis.

All in all, I suspect we are dealing with TWO men, both named Barth Anderson, both living in Minnesota, and both writing under the same nom de plume. They are pooling their accolades and awards, in general, and using their nefarious double-life to dupe the world. Perhaps they are both slow writers, who cannot produce enough, alone, to maintain their desired reputation. Perhaps they are merely laughing - LAUGHING - at all of us who do not see what is written right in front of our faces.

But he will not laugh at me, I tell you. No! I saw it! I saw both biogrpahies, and noticed the strange ommissions from one to the other.

I'm on to you, Barth Anderson, and you, Other Barth Anderson.

I'm watching you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

ऊह, शिनी!

The forthcoming issue of "Behind the Wainscott" about tarot cards will mos def be a lovely thing, indeedy, and full of friends.

For instance, the Queen of Cups will be none other than the lovely and talented Michelle Muenzler.

Also, the Seven of Swords will be none other than the lovely and talented Jackie Benson.

I'll be there, two, chilling with my money tree and some pentacles.

I'm looking forward to this one, muchly.

Monday, August 11, 2008

the crossing

(this following piece is to go in conjunction with the short story "Gods of the Spiderhole" currently posted to Fantasy Magazine, so go read that first.)



Can’t Walk Away From Omelas

The editors of Fantasy Magazine, in their boundless folly, asked me to write a follow-up bit about my story, “Gods of the Spiderhole”. Again, in their boundless folly, they didn’t really provide any strict guidelines.

Let it be known that all opinions and ideas expressed in my short story and in this little follow-up bit are mine alone. Fantasy Magazine did not ask me to write out my political beliefs about the undocumented workers of the American economy. They just asked me to write something, anything, about the story. I probably could have written about how anthropologists conduct field work among migratory populations, or the various symbolisms of insects across cultures. (Anthropology would have been very dull and inappropriate for a non-anthropologist like me, but insects would have been fun!)

Fantasy Magazine also asked me to make myself available in the comments to discuss this written-thing-about-the-story further during the week. I will be as available as I can in the comments to discuss the issue further.

All opinions expressed are not only just mine, but they might as well be considered entertainment only. No politician has ever asked me for my opinion. I have never managed to change anyone’s voting patterns. Every letter to a politician I have ever written only accomplished the venting of my own spleen, and a polite “I’m going to ignore you, you cute, fuzzy, little Democrat” response from my Texan Republican overlords. Not one law in this nation owes its vote to my pen, or to my big, fat mouth. Not even a little tiny vote - for instance “District Selectman” and “Shirts or Skins” - has changed because of the expressions of my political beliefs. My sister’s cats ignore me when I call them, or try to convince them to do anything, ever. Also, girls usually don’t like me when I’m trying to convince them to like me. My words, no matter how passionate, no matter how erudite, exist merely for entertainment. I am wind. I am futile, futile wind.

Since I don’t find expressing my politics particularly effective at shaping public opinion, I don’t write very many political fictions. Usually, I just bury my politics into the deep bones and hope the fundamental ideas behind the beliefs leak into the subconscious of my readers. In fact, talking about “Gods of the Spiderhole” with just my Fictionist hat on, I’m not convinced I found the right balance between politics and story in the piece. I consider it too political to be truly great writing - passable, and forgivable writing, maybe, and hopefully interesting despite the flaws.


After writing a story that struggled to keep my political beliefs oblique, I interpreted the editors’ invitation at a follow-up article as an opportunity to explicate my somewhat educated opinions about the undocumented workers from Central and South America (and Canada, if they ever start doing it on a large scale, too…). Everybody loves a heated political debate, yes? It should be more fun than a dissertation on anthropological methods from a non-anthropologist. (Though, it won’t be as much fun as the bug symbolism.)

Let me find my soapbox… Ooh, I’m taller. And you’re balding, over there. Yes you, in the “Guns and Roses” shirt. You look like Satan’s Mullet Monk from this higher angle. Weird. Okay, somebody hand me my megaphone…

*Horrible squealing noises*

Ooh, let me turn down that gain… Okay… Okay… I think I got it working-orking-orking.

Now, I’m ready to rant like a street-corner preacher.


The global economy is built on the blood, sweat, and tears of an exploitable labor force.

This has been true for a very long time. In American history, our economy has been totally dependent on an exploitable labor force since the first European settlers turned the first discovered native tribe into slaves – approximately five minutes after first landing. Whether the exploited workers of subsequent generations were called indentured servants, slaves, wage-slaves, Braceros, undocumented workers, railroad workers, contractors, etc. etc, doesn’t matter. Our economy doesn’t run without people on the bottom working extremely hard in bad conditions for minimal compensation.

Economists in the American Old South that wanted to justify slavery referred to “the mudsill”, after a home-construction technique wherein a plank of wood - the “mudsill” - formed the foundation of a house. Some group of laborers, argued these economists, had to be the ones exploited by everyone else, so that everyone else could live happily in a nice house upon that bloodied, ignorant mudsill. Though the terminology has changed, and slavery – on paper – has been abolished, the basic belief remains the same. Someone has to be at the bottom of the economy, doing unpleasant work for minimal compensation. Stay in school, all ye children, lest that exploited worker be you.

Since 1942, and the Bracero program, the overwhelming majority of our agricultural “mudsill” is comprised of Hispanic laborers. An amazing amount of transportation infrastructure from roads to railroads were built and maintained by Hispanic laborers, and continue to be built and maintained by descendents of the original Braceros. An amazing number of buildings and homes are built and maintained by people who would not be welcome inside after the completion of the job. Foreign laborers are this generation’s exploitable labor force. They pay in sweat, despair, and death for the comforts the rest of us enjoy. (I’ll talk mostly about Hispanic laborers in this bit, but we must remember that we’re also talking about sweatshops and factory workers and miners and others all over the world. For instance, “Made in China” is synonymous with “Made With Electricity Derived From the Deadliest Mines in the World”.)

Unfortunately, the world has no place for the ones that would walk away from Omelas. If we went to Europe, the same system of exploitation would be true with some new and some same exploitable groups. If we went to a third world nation, the local wealthy cronies would be doing the same injustice to the general population. We could go anywhere in between and get the same result. Our global economy seems stuck in a cycle of human exploitation. (I hope we build our inexpensive robot slaves soon, because I don’t think there’s any other answer to the problem. Honestly, I don’t.)

When I hear pundits and local, politically-interested people discussing the issue of our border with Mexico (I live in suburban Texas, by the way) I don’t get the sense that the people who desire to kick out all these undocumented workers have any rational grasp of the issue. Too many people often refuse to see beyond the mere fact that some fellow hadthe gall to illegally walk a hundred miles over unforgiving, deadly deserts with all his worldly possessions on his back just to do manual labor for minimum wage. How dare he come here without permission and voluntarily enslave himself!? (No terrorist has ever entered this nation at the Arizona-Mexico border, by the way. Why would anyone with drug and oil money try something so amazingly dangerous when the airport is a vastly easier border to cross? More on airports and illegal immigration, later…)

I’m very sorry to tell you this if you’re already frothing at the mouth because of my liberalism, but no labor force is competing with that undocumented worker for the kinds of jobs undocumented workers pursue en masse. Individual cases exist, always, but no competing labor force exists on a scale large enough to meet our economic demand. (The construction workers might be an exception, but in this case, the contractors that hire illegals often do so because of reasons that have little to do with the availability of a labor force, and lots to do with the ability of an unscrupulous manager to abuse and exploit the illegal labor force.)

And for God’s sake, do you have any idea how unpleasant the trip is across our southern border?

Crossing the border is really fucking dangerous. People die of heat stroke. People get hit by cars on poorly-lit, poorly-constructed roads. People drown in flooded streams, and flooded rivers. People die in the care of callous, and/or incompetent coyotes. People are robbed and/or murdered by unscrupulous coyotes. (Unscrupulous cops and border guards from both sides do their share of robbery and murder, too).

Women and children face an exceptional amount of danger. The greatest shame at our nation’s doorstep is the number of women and children who are kidnapped, raped, and murdered in these border towns, and whose cases remain unsolved, under-investigated, and often, completely undiscovered.

Why would anyone face this danger? You’ve got to be either crazy, foolish, desperate, or courageous to try to make that crossing. Every step of the way you are robbed, abused, and imperiled, until you get over that line where Mexico ends and America begins. If you came from farther south than Mexico, the Mexican government was not happy to have you, and was far crueler to you than any American border guard. I ask again, why would anyone willingly face this dangerous middle passage?

Answer: Because the moment a worker arrives on the other side of the Crossing, the opportunities for work seem endless. Everywhere a man can possibly make money with the strength of his own arms – whether picking crops or changing flat tires or mowing lawns – someone is there who will hire an undocumented worker, or somebody knows somebody who will hire an undocumented worker. Since the Bracero program introduced a generation of Mexican workers to a generation of American farmers and railroad bosses, undocumented workers know where to go and who to ask and how to ask. Enough generations have made the Crossing so that new avenues of work are opened up everyday by employers that recognize the value of an exploitable labor force. We’ve got ourselves an underground economy that’s been going like gangbusters since 1942, and the trend shows no sign of stopping.

Since we’re talking about an economic model, we’re talking about supply and demand. One current political trend seems to want to clamp down on the supply of laborers. Let’s look at what happens when law enforcement clamps down hard on the supply end of an equation without solving the problem of demand:

The war on drugs is a fiasco. More money is poured into this “war” annually than I and everyone I know will see in this lifetime. None of this expenditure of time, money, and blood is producing results. It seems like every year things have escalated to a new height of violence and misery in our inner cities. It seems like every year, our prisons swell and swell and swell with an unending glut of new criminals guilty of drug-related offenses. (Land of the free, indeed…) Simple economics explain why we seem to be exploding with drug-related crimes.

A drug user will burn their life down to get more of their preferred poison. Any action, no matter how reprehensible, is justified by the acquisition of today’s temporary fix, and no price is too high if it leads to the fix. Since the demand remains very strong, regardless of what happens to the supply, reducing the supply will only increase the cost of the product. Drug trafficking is an extremely deadly job, though the wealth at the upper echelons of drug traffickers is astonishing. Few drug dealers last more than three years without either getting killed, or going to jail for an extended period of time, but new drug traffickers take to the streets everyday to pursue the upper echelons of wealth. What happened? The street value of the product increased because demand did not sink with the loss of supply. The profits increased. The success of the violent traffickers justified more armaments, stronger organizations, and an overall escalation of violence across the field. The war on drugs has only worsened the toxic atmosphere in our inner cities. If you could make more money flipping burgers after school, why would you stand on a corner in all weather fourteen to sixteen hours a day getting shot at by rivals and hassled by cops?

The drug cancer that has gripped our urban poor like a vise could be healed by focusing our resources on reducing the systems that create drug demand instead of escalating the war on drug supply. If the demand dissipates, the money dissipates, and the violent criminals seek out avenues of wealth that often don’t involve standing on corners day and night, allowing kids to walk among the street corners and go to school in peace, further decreasing drug demand as education increases, and etc. etc. etc.

Apply supply and demand logic to our borders. Who would walk across the deadly desert if there was no oasis at the end of the trail? Who would place their lives into the hands of a disreputable breed of human smugglers if they did not have faith in the results? Who would face all the dangers at our borders if there was no reward to be had on the other side?

In contrast to drugs – and, I am very sorry to say it - undocumented immigrants cannot be stopped by combating the demand. The demand is just not going away. The demand moves around among various ethnic and economic groups all over the world throughout history that, for whatever reason, have found their place at the bottom of the proverbial mudsill. Before we were exploiting Braceros, we were exploiting poor white, Chinese, and African-American workers. The problem remains the same, and only the ethnicities change. Someday, it will be my Caucasoid-American descendents if we don’t get those slave robots built, soon.

Instead of looking for ways to end our immigrant labor force, I think we should look for ways to reduce the exploitation. The first step is to normalize the process of crossing our border to work. We should legalize it in a way where – unlike the slavery-by-any-other-name Bracero program – officials aren’t robbing the workers at every turn.

We should make it simple and transparent and a process to achieve an inexpensive work visa even if someone just stumbled up to the border with a valid ID and enough money for bus fare to San Antonio. There’s plenty of work in San Antonio, for those hard workers willing to be nothing but arms for low wages.

By pulling this underground economy into the light of the law, we can focus our energies at enforcing safety protocols, health codes, rights-education, and all sorts of things that currently are easily overlooked by unscrupulous employers – (like those construction contractors that actually could be hiring American workers if the foreigners weren’t so easy to work for 60+ hours a week without any health benefits or expectation of promotions or careful scrutiny of the amount skimmed off the paycheck in taxes… What’s that? Complaint? Why don’t I just call my cop buddy over and you can tell it to him! By the way, you’d have to show that cop your photocopied green card… Dozens of guys I could take instead of you, Bracero. Dozens.)

We can keep track of the workers as they find housing, go to work, and participate in the American economy. Our guest workers will feel safe calling the police if they are being robbed or violently attacked. They will be able to report dangerous working conditions to the appropriate authorities. We will be able to educate them in who those authorities are. Social workers will not be shunned as spies for the INS. Children will get to enroll in school. Healthcare can be appropriately administered and health insurance education can make inroads to combat the bankruptcy of hospitals. (By the by, we absolutely should make it a priority to ensure appropriate healthcare to the population group that, almost by themselves, labors in every facet of our nation’s food-chain from picking crops, to slaughtering animals, to packaging the food, to moving food all over the nation, to working in the kitchens of restaurants and wealthy homes, to busing our tables when we’re done eating... Just so you know why healthcare’s a really good idea there.) All sorts of wonderful things that you and I take for granted can be implemented to decrease the exploitation of our exploitable labor force.

Along with legalization of our immigrant labor force, criminally-motivated individuals would not find our borders as easy to slip through. Reducing the flood of the undocumented immigrants down to a large river of approved guest workers through legal entry points would reduce the strain on our law enforcement personnel. We wouldn’t need to build fences or install cameras at quite the same breakneck pace. The ones who did cross illegally, for whatever reason, would be easier to track and capture without so many other bodies clogging the system.

Let’s swallow our pride and legalize the economic process that will be in place whether we like it or not. We need to normalize and legalize what we have been doing both legally and illegally, in some fashion, on a large scale, since 1942.

Continuing my theme of supply and demand, even if we managed to clamp that border down with a wall and a no-man’s land and deadly snipers that rivaled communist Berlin, more undocumented workers come through our airports everyday than ever hitchhike across Death Valley in the summer. Here’s how it works:

A manager of an average building in Middle America does not want to keep a janitor on payroll, for a variety of reasons. It is much cheaper and hassle-free to hire out those jobs to a contracting company. The manager takes bids on the contract. The low bid wins. This contractor is responsible for the legality of the labor force, not the manager. Want to guess how easy it is for an unscrupulous contractor to hire undocumented workers?

These sorts of laborers do not just come from the Mexican border. A village leader will recruit workers in their ancestral village anywhere across the impoverished nations of the world. The bright-eyed worker flies to America, with legal visas and a promise of work. Then, that village leader will work their slave labor force very, very hard while charging the plane ticket, the visa, plus room and board, back onto the worker as a debt that must be repaid at the cost of most or all profits from the work. The worker is not educated enough to know their rights – for instance the forty-hour work week, overtime, the safety and warning labels on chemicals, etc. etc. etc. The language and cultural gap is great enough that the worker does not know where to go for help.

For instance, what do you do if you’ve been raped by your boss in Omaha, NE, and the only language you speak is Latvian, and you are terrified of being arrested and raped again just for standing there, much less concerned about the reprisal by the boss’ wealthy goons upon your family back in your impoverished village in Latvia?

I hope students of history are reminded here about why African slaves were more prized than Indentured Servants or Native American slaves, beyond just the malarial survival rate. African slaves were proverbial fish-out-of-water, with nowhere to go, and no knowledge of how to get there if they escaped or faced peril. They were low-escape risks, and easier to catch if they did escape. (Think about this: the harder it is to cross the border the other way, towards home, the easier it is to exploit the people stuck here. No wonder all those Republican-voting cronies that profit most from illegal workers also seem so adamant about securing that border.)

Of course, the company claims it doesn’t know that all those non-English-Speaking people who are worked as hard as robot slaves below minimum wage aren’t in this nation legally. The contractors get arrested, if anyone finds out, maybe. The corporate overlords blame the manager that hired the contractor, and maybe the manager is re-assigned or let go. The managers that aren’t caught are rewarded for their lean operational budget, and promoted. The system promotes exploitation. The giants of industry roll forward, unashamed at the blood on the tile that falls from the skin of the ones mopping up the blood who bleed, and mop and bleed and mop and bleed and mop.

Even if we shut down our Mexican border, and not one human made the crossing illegally, the demand for an exploitable labor force wouldn’t go away. We’d just get more stories like this, this, and this. Instead of solving the problem, we’d just get a brand new kind of bad, exacerbated by the wealth involved when demand is high and supply is low, and the dangers of the situation would be exacerbated by the appeal of wealth to dangerous people willing to do dangerous things, whose tendencies are in turn exacerbated into violence and cruelty and wealth by the very system that we put in place to stop the hiring of undocumented workers.

Alas, even if everything I want to happen happens - through no result of my pedantic punditry which is purely for entertainment purposes - we’ll still have a global economy built upon the suffering of an exploitable labor force. Where would we go where humans do not exercise the urge towards human exploitation?

We can’t walk away from Omelas. There is no escape from Omelas. Everywhere we go, we’ll rediscover Omelas.


(Author's note: I actually could put up a hyperlink to every single word in this article, though I felt that might discourage the following of any of the links. Enough facts are out there. If you'd like more information about anything, just google it, or ask me in the comments.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

congrats to all Hugo winners!

I'm really glad I didn't have to choose between Scott Lynch, David Anthony Durham, and Mary Robinette Kowal for a Joseph Campbell Award.

Lordy, that's a tough, tough call.

Congrats to Mary for pulling out ahead on that tight little ballot!

Also, congratulations to all the other winners...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

what i'm working on...

starts somewhere in here, or maybe here, or maybe here.

Want to meet one of the characters?

En No Gyoja gets a name change, and a bit of a different mission, but that's him. If you see him in the museum, he's life-size, and the color is still visible. His shoes are amazing, with such detailed, life-like feet. You can walk around the piece and see him from all sorts of different angles.

I don't trust Mr. Gyoja. Neither should you, if you are ever unlucky enough to meet him.

Friday, August 8, 2008

पोएट्री while i वेट फॉर this फाइल to load

i'm waiting for a big honkin' file to upload... backing up the next manuscript...

some poetry whilst i wait:


i had a nightmare of my hand
a woman shoved it
past the lips of my cold blender
i watched the grind

gore of peaches, nectarines
bones of almond in the roar
blender - blender - urged for more

among oranges i shivered to engine whine
we watched - detached - through cellophane

Thursday, August 7, 2008

apparently, wade phillips is quite the writing instructor...

from the fort worth star telegram the other day...

"When you're good, sometimes being good keeps you from being great because you hear all the positive things and you think, 'I'm there'. We're going to concentrate on the little technique things and, if we do the littler technique things, we've got a chance to go from being good to being great."

Coach Wade Phillips, of the Dallas Cowboys, is apparently quite the writing instructor.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

ओह, and as अल्वाय्स...

and, as always, if you haven't figured it out from the "about me" section of blogger, you can always contact me at my e-mail addy


have a happy worldcon everyone!

i'll be in the troll cave, cutting into the veins and pouring the sap all over the computer for a bit, and i might not be around too regular like.

i hope zampano survives the weekend, but no promises.

watch the post for your buttons, ladies and gents. the rest hit the mail in the morning. anyone else wants one, let me know before i go to the post office in the am, and one is yours.

feel free to tell people *you* are j m mcdermott, if you are wearing a button. like elvis, i think i deserve some impersonators.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

i long for a day that will never come
with people i will never know
and drinks i will never taste
and food like nostalgia wrapped in gold
in a place i can only imagine
then, when i am done, i wonder
where all the lost days have gone
and all the lost dreams

there must be a guardian of hidden things
standing watch from the cupboards
with a flowery sword of forget-me-nots
that flood the nostrils with memories

guardian, my guardian, keep these things safe:
the woman i never had the courage to love
the man i never had the grace to kiss
the night i never had the stamina to dance
the morning i fell asleep again

i will borrow them from you someday
when i can bribe you with hot chocolate
in tiny thimbles placed in shadowy corners
all i ask in return is to give me

one peek.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Zampano and I met for the first time in a public place. He wasn't crazy, I could tell. Most of the people that responded to the ad were crazy. Zampano wasn't crazy. He asked me what I knew about vampires, and I told him about the werewolves, and about my mother when I was young.

I was homeless a long time, before I grew up. I had seen it all. My mom and I lived in an abandoned van for a while, on the other side of the harbor from the city, where the trash washed ashore and got collected into large piles. It wasn’t officially a city dump. Officially it was a beach, and fenced off with intimidating signs. People found their way in to the place. Werewolves hung out there. They wore ragged denim and stank like they were always covered in blood. They ran in packs. They just rummaged through the trash, looking for rotting meat and the cheese from the bottom of pizza boxes. They looked like hairy people in poorly fitting clothes if you didn’t get a good look at their faces. If you saw just their faces, you’d think they were big dogs.

That’s not even the beginning of what I had seen at the shelters, later on.

At the time, I stayed out of the way of the wolves. I went to the bus stop and made my way to a public school, and if anybody tried to follow me home, I threw rocks at them. My mom got her mail through a PO Box. She got alimony from my dad. She used most of it to pay off her gambling debts a little bit at a time.

Eventually, she got up enough with her debts that we came out of hiding. We went to the shelter.

I slept in a cot in a room full of cots. Grown men fucked in plain sight of everyone, even us kids. Junkies trembled off the worst of their addictions.

That was worse than the wolves in the dump. At least wolves didn’t bother normal people. Their presence scared off the worst of the gangs and sinners.

My second night in the shelter I asked my mom if we could go back to the beach.

She told me it was time to try and be humans, and we had to start somewhere.

That was also the first time I watched my mother kill someone, at the shelter. Everyone was sleeping, or staring off into the nightmares of their drugs. I was the only one who saw her rise from our cot, and place her hand on a woman’s cheek. She bent over the woman and kissed her – my mother’s worn-out, sunburned face against puffy, white, pockmarked cheeks – right on the lips. Then my mother started breathing in hard, like the opposite of blowing up a beach ball. The woman was dead in the morning. The social workers at the shelter came in with coroners and moved her body into a black bag. They stripped the cot’s sheets for the wash.

I told my mother what I had seen her do. She told me I had been dreaming, and nothing more. I had only been dreaming.

The shelter found a communal house for us, with some other families. It was okay, I guess. My mom got a job. I stayed in school. I think my mom was robbing people in the night, because she was working at a gas station, but she always seemed to have extra money in her pockets that was too much for anyone to have, in her position.

I guess nobody asked her about it, because everyone liked the extra money around the house.

The point of all this is, when Julia showed up dead, I knew it wasn’t because she was a junky. You can’t hide that kind of thing for long.

My mother is still alive. She lives in the same house. People don’t talk to her if they don’t have to. Children avoid her.
I avoid her.
I saw her once, late at night, on a bus roaming the city after the lights had all gone out in all the bars all over town. I had looked down the bus when I stepped on, and I saw her. She didn’t see me, because she was staring at the people across from her on the seats in the front middle, where the seats look across to each other. She stared at an old, Asian man enough to burn a hole into him. I sat down, in an empty seat, and watched her, watching that Asian man. He looked right back at her with fear on his face. At the next stop, they got off together. I watched them walking away hand in hand, the old man terrified.
Maybe I was dreaming.
The people I was with didn’t know that was my mother. I didn’t want anyone to know.
I wasn’t the kind of son that called home once a week.

Julia, wherever you went that night wasn’t with your sister, and you weren’t a junky. The cops and the medical examiner must all be under the spell of the night creatures.
They drained her blood, and left her body for the crows in the woods.

Zampano listened to my story. He asked me if I had ever drank someone's blood. I told him I hadn't. I told him that I honestly wasn't sure if my mother was really my mother, or if she was just some creature that found me alone on a street somewhere and took me in.

That's the truth, I'm afraid.

Zampano said we should ask the werewolves what they know about vampires.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

10 year what? Reunion? Already?

I just got back from my high school reunion the other evening.

In high school, most of my life was lived outside of high school. I had little school spirit. If you looked me up in my senior yearbook, you'd find one picture of me among the students - (with burgundy hair...) - and one picture of me waaaaaaaaay in back with the marching band. (I played the tuba.)

In high school, I spent my time doing martial arts and doing drum corps. I slept in high school. I woke up. I passed a test. I went back to sleep. Prom weekend fell on the same weekend as a drum corps camp in Denver, and I was like, "Okay, expensive party with people I've been staring at for six years, or Denver and hang out with people I'll be performing awesome music with all summer and beyond." Drum corps won, hands down.

Some people were genuinely surprised I came.

I'm glad I did.

Everyone had grown up. We're all living and working and falling in and out of love. We're crossing the tables of the lunchroom - *gasp* - and mingling freely with no cliques anymore, no casual indifference to each other, and putting all the stupid kid posturings aside. We know who we are now, as adults, and we are all comfortable enough in our skins to stop feeling threatened by each other, and to talk about what we remember and be one group of people, instead of dozens of smaller groups inside a bubble separated from each other.

Nolan Catholic High School, class of 1998, is doing just fine.

Zampano’s wife was an actress. She wasn’t a very good actress. When I first found Zampano, he was already bleary-eyed and watching the films she had made over and over and drinking himself to death. She was always topless in the films, eventually. Zampano hated that about her movies, but he couldn’t fight her about something she wanted so badly, especially when the money always helped. She fought zombies and teen mutants and a dozen sex-crazed serial killers. Then, she went out for drinks with her sister and never came home.
She was found in water. A thousand needle marks along her legs and arms made everyone say she had been a junky, but you couldn’t hide that kind of thing from your husband.
Zampano knew it was the vampires that had done that.
Her sister couldn’t remember a thing. The police grilled her for hours, and all she could remember was getting in a taxi at a cheap sushi bar in Burnaby, and going home. The sushi bar didn’t recall a thing. The credit card slips and receipts all came back with a different story.
Zampano never spoke to her again. He spoke to me.
We had something in common, then.
We met because I had posted an ad on Craigslist, in Missed Connections:

Vampires are real in Vancouver!

Did you lose a loved one, and you know she wasn’t a junky like they say they were?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Julia, tell me, where did all your father’s trains go?

I walked around Vancouver, and found nothing but train tracks and not a single train came to drive back the blackberry bushes from the side of the tracks. I tried pushing my way through some bushes once, when I thought I could get between them, and it cost me a shirt and a little bit of blood.

Hungry things, those blackberries, nibbling on anything that comes their way. Their fruit is the color of blood. I imagine the birds that swoop in, and the dogs and squirrels, pay the price for what they pluck, just like the kids do when they get greedy and dig into the deeper places in the bush.

And the trains, I suspect, lost the will to fight against the blackberries. Steel may be stronger than a single branch, but branches heal and steel does not. The trains won the early battles, but every little scratch built up until the trains pulled their jagged cheeks from the port city. They ceded their realm to the cars and the boats and the blackberries.

Even your father retired from the business to a house surrounded by blackberry bushes in Burnaby. He had said that originally, the train engineers liked planting the big bushes because it kept drunks and bums from lingering in the shadow of the tracks. Fewer people got hit by trains when the tracks were wrapped in blackberries. And, the neighbors liked it, because they liked plucking off all those berries in late July.

I think the blackberries are part of the conspiracy. They are not a native fruit. They came to this island with the trains and the waves of sailors from all over the world. The fruits were originally from Norway, or Germany, or some other cold, damp place full of old nightmares.

Your father knew something, Julia. Your father retired from the trains before you were taken. He built a huge fence around his house. He planted poplars and roses that shot up from that volcanic soil like weeds. Everything grows in Vancouver, even vampires.

Friday, August 1, 2008

ओह, and just a moment to update on some friends' stuff...

Just to let you know, Rachel Caine and P N Elrod both recently got some exciting new projects in the works.

Watch out for the latest Weather Warden book coming from Ms Caine on August 5th. Fans of action-packed urban fantasy will find much to love in the Weather Warden series. Rachel Caine's books are always fun to storm through when you want a little entertainment without all that literary framing. If you like Joss Whedon and Jim Butcher, you will find much to love in Rachel Caine's books.

P N Elrod has a new Jack Fleming book coming out soon, too.

You look away from people's blogs for a minute, and they get all announcey on you. That'll show me!

Best of luck to both of you. May you sell One Billion copies.

One Billion.

वैंकूवर निघत क्रेव्लेर्स...

Drinks. Of course there were drinks. We were at a bar, Zampano and me. He was drunker than I was. He was always drunker than me, except when he wasn’t. He said to me that he found a secret in the steel.
He was a steel-worker, and he told me that the pipes were under the ground, waiting and growing. Steel workers like him didn’t build buildings. They merely placed the girders around the place where a building ought to grow, and let the pipes and wires reach up like creeper vines. The carpenters came and hid the places where a building grew from the eyes of men.

We were drunk, Zampano and me. I pounded his big hands. I told him he was drunk. He told me he had only begun to drink. Then, when we were drunk. I mean when we were so drunk not even the bartender that knew us, and had known us for years, and knew our mother’s maiden names, and knew all the stories we told when we were drunk. Not even she would pour one more drop of liquid into our cups. She reached into our wallets herself for the money, and we trusted her. We didn’t begrudge her any tip she might take from us. Because we were drunk, and she deserved the money.

Then we slept in the back of my van, right there in the parking garage. It was more expensive than a motel, but we were in no condition to drive home.

When we woke up, we looked out at the steel city, and all the beautiful buildings that had grown like metal trees between the water and the mountains.

We were miserable. We puked next to the van. We cursed the day we ever drank a drop, and cursed the man who poured alcohol into his throat, and cursed the men that drank to pass the time between nightfall and daybreak.

Zampano started crying before I did. His sobs were dry and quiet. His contorted face gazed down at the floor of the parking garage. He said his dead wife’s name.

I looked down at my hands and closed my eyes.

The crows watched us like black pigeons. They cawed sometimes, but I didn’t understand a word they said.

The last time I had seen my wife, the crows had already eaten her eyes. A tentacle of vine had drawn a line across her naked, grey skin.

Her name was Julia. She was thirty-two when the night creatures plucked her like a fruit.