Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

What About the Tigers?

My older brother, Jiri, knew everything there was to know about the waste. He was fifteen years old. Next year, he'd be driving cattle up the highway to Io Station in a flyer by himself. I was only eight. I didn't even have a cell phone, yet. Everything I knew about the wastes had been from the internet, and from the stories people heard. Jiri had been there, once.

“On the wastes,” he said. “you can't walk on the ground. The sand is all quicksand. It sucks you up and swallows you. You have to ride on the back of giant lizards. There's only twenty-five lizards. They have names.”

“Aren't there plants on the wastes?”

“Simsa, of course there's plants. There's plants everywhere. The lizards live on floating mold and large bushes that grow on top of the quicksand like soap scum. The people keep their huts on the back ridges because the constant up and down of the head drives you nuts when the lizard's feeding.”

“How do they survive there?”

“People live in huts, on the lizards. They grow blood wheat. They mine for lizard flesh, but they have to be careful not to cut a vein, or the beast will bleed like crazy.”

We were in a tent, just him and me. It was sixty below freezing outside, but we were inside. The tent skin radiated enough heat to keep us warm. The dead grass and snow blowing around outside wouldn't penetrate much past the magnets that held the flap shut until morning.

My brother had wrapped his bleeding hand in part of his shirt. He had gotten blood on the hot mugs of chocolate milk. I didn't say anything about it, though, because he had made it for me, and even rescued marshmallows from the crash.

I leaned back. I closed my eyes. “What about the Tigers?”


Friday, August 28, 2009


eagles screamed across the sky on tuesday
i was busy picking up children
driving them to soccer, after school.
my husband busy working. or daydreaming.
maybe he was making dinner when the invasion
poured from the storm clouds and all our
metals melted like water. and all our soldiers died.
and all our men, women and children died.

i hid with my kids in a ditch, where
we were halfway to soccer practice
our car had melted like mercury around us.
we tumbled onto the road with all the other cars
melting. we ran, through plastic and foam
debris all soaked in mercurous metal,
fleeing the invisible lasers that sliced
limbs off like flying scalpels. my kids and I
were unstruck, so far. we dove into the ditch.
we held onto each other there, too afraid
to run any farther with the bleeding dead,
the screaming eagles in the sky shooting us down,
we running dead. blood and melted metal
ankle-deep in that ditch.
i plucked an infant's plastic sippy cup
from the highway flood where we hid. the lid was still attached.
i pulled it off. inside, half empty of blood and milk.

i had to be strong for the kids' sake.
they were both weeping into my chest
this infant's cup, half full of nothing,
i drank. i dipped the cup into the ditch's wounded flood
i drank again, this time all acrid blood and acrid metal
i poured it over my children's heads.
the eagles screaming overhead to kill us all.
i tried to make my children drink.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I'm going to Starbucks this morning, and I refuse to feel guilty.

Financial pros tell you that Starbucks is a wasteful habit to be indulged in sparingly.

I don't go every day. Once or twice a week, I do. I don't feel guilty about spending money at Starbucks. It's impossible.

When I was just starting as a writer, I worked at Starbucks. I had full healthcare coverage, life insurance, vision, and dental. I worked part time, and had full medical benefits. My co-workers were parents, artists, students, musicians, actors, film directors... And every single one of us would not have had health insurance, at all, if not for Starbucks. How many children have decent health-care coverage because their parent works part-time at Starbucks? I remember four kids at one of the shops I worked at, where the father was building his own company, while mother was working part-time. I remember a single mom, in college, who depended on Starbucks for health insurance for her baby, when her man disappeared the moment she was pregnant.

In my own life story, between leaving that job, at Starbucks, and my current one, I was on a cheap-o catastrophic plan that dominated my annual budget. It didn't cover anything unless I was hospitalized. I didn't see a dentist. I didn't see an eye doctor. I didn't get sick (thank god)!

I'm going to Starbucks this morning. I will spend about five dollars. That five dollars will go to a company that actually tries to provide part-timers who need it the company benefits plan, in full.

I don't see a problem with this. I look behind the counter, and I know there's a woman who's husband is retired, who probably - I don't know them that well - doesn't mind having decent medical coverage. I know there's at least one musician, back there. I wouldn't be surprised to know parents with kids are behind the counter, who really need the coverage.

If you enjoy the coffee, and you can afford it, I give you permission to visit Starbucks with no guilt. And you can tell the financial planners and budgeters of the world that you refuse to feel guilty for providing health insurance to people who would struggle to find anything otherwise.

Speaking of Health Insurance, I'd like to point out this little article from 2005 that is relevant to our current health insurance debacle.

Want to have even less guilt, this morning? Drop your Senators and Representatives a note about the public option, how you want to break the monopoly of the accountants, who seem to live in this fantasy world that insurers are competing for the business of poor people, elderly people, freelancers, artists, writers, actors, musicians, and etc.

Monday, August 24, 2009

So, a bit ago the New Yorker posted a list of fantasy novels selected to follow up with Harry Potter, Narnia, and whatnot. This list, as you can see, is really limited. There's nothing wrong with any of the books listed. In fact, Guy Gavriel Kay is one of the best fantasy writers around, and perhaps the best historical fantasist alive today. Other than Kay, I couldn't really understand the other selections. Again, there's nothing wrong with them. It's just... You know, they're all writing a certain mode of fantasy. Not a particularly diverse kind, either. I have difficulty mentally separating Terry Brooks and Terry Goodkind. They're just too similar.

To me, if you want to hook young readers into fantasy, any list you create should at least attempt to demonstrate the breadth of the field of fantastic fiction, even excluding science fiction. I was disappointed that the New Yorker, of all places, would assert a list wherein the honorable mentions were often better selections than the actual list itself.

I was also unhappy that the list was 6 men, and 1 woman, with no real ethnic diversity in either the works selected or the authors.

How can we introduce grown-up fantasy to young people, then, who will either like or not like all the books on the list, or none of them? I would hope our burgeoning readers are given a better introduction to the wide, and culturally inclusive field of modern fantasy fiction.

Over at AbsoluteWrite, I asked the boards for help compiling a better list. Thanks to everyone who participated. Here is what resulted.

I think this list demonstrates the diversity of our field, and the many diverse voices working in grown-up fantasy, far better than the list of the New Yorker. I suspect that no matter who you are, almost anyone who enjoyed Narnia or Harry Potter will find something to like out of these seven books.

1) Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay
2) Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
3) A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K LeGuinn
4) The Etched City by K. J. Bishop
5) Kindred by Octavia Butler
6) Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
7) The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

This, of course, has been a topic of some discussion since Nancy Halford posted her list. I hope, however, that if you, fair reader, have a young reader interested in crossing over into "real" fantasy, this list proves useful to you as a good starting place.

A video

Courtesy of the Inferior 4+1, the original "9" video, which inspired the feature film coming out soon.

It's, uh, pretty goddamn cool.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Paradise Gardens

A museum with big spray, and spiders and mosquitoes and goats and birds. Howard Finster's Paradise Gardens in Summerville, Georgia is an easy drive from Atlanta and Athens. Walking through the swampland imaginarium was dirty, recycled, and beautiful and true.

His work, as seen in museums, loses its splendor when the Paradise isn't sinking into the mud, decaying in the very mud that gave it birth.

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away

Friday, August 21, 2009

So, you wanna buy an eBook, eh?

Well, there's lots of eBooks to choose from. That there is. Hard to tell *what* eBook to buy. There's only so much battery life to be squeezed out of that cadmium, and you're pretty sure everything you rent on your Kindle can be taken away from you if somebody, somewhere, sneezes funny in the vicinity of Seattle.

Anyhow, with such limitations into your purchase-like decisions, I want you to know that I am here to help you.

I have, for your viewing pleasure, a free sample chapter of the eBook edition of LAST DRAGON by J M McDermott.

You know, this book was shortlisted for a Crawford Prize. This book was on Locus Magazine's Recommended Reading List. This book was recipient of all sorts of critical acclaim.

This book is available from Apex Book Publishing, and available in just about format I can think of, except tattoos. And, you have my permission to tattoo any part or all of the book upon your body that you like.

This is something I do for you, at no cost to you, to help you make your e-reading decisions.

Now, on to the next bit of awesome.

I have half the book. I know it's not quite as good as the full book. But, it is half the book. If you don't know whether you want to make your purchase decision with just one chapter, I've got half the book right here, ready for you.

For this week I will be happy to give out PDFs of half the book to all who ask for it, for the express purpose of spreading it. Drop me an e-mail at sankgreall (a) gmail (O) com

And, one person - chosen completely at random per rules that I have written down, but will not share with you - will recieve - this one lucky, lucky person - the full PDF of the novel, for their eReading pleasure, under the understanding that they really ought not to share it beyond their friends and family with whom one would normally be found sharing books, and probably ought not to be pirating it.

But, wait! I've got a few physical hard copies floating around here... I think it's high time I gave one of them away.

There is a number between one and one-hundred that totally exists and is written down on my notepad right next to his computer. The number that I have chosen is the number of the person who e-mails me looking for half the book who will recieve the full book, signed and personalized, gratis.

So... Who wants half an eBook? Who wants to win the full eBook? Who wants to win the real deal?

All you do, friends, is drop me a line at sankgreall gmail com, and ask for a freebie. It will be up to the mysterious numbers on my notepad to decide if you are the winner!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Random Photos on my iPhone

One thing about cheap, easy photography is that you'll get plenty of photos that you'll only remotely recognize.

The bowling alley photo I recognize. I don't know what the rest are, I'm afraid.

Any ideas?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In Hyperion

Okay, have you read Hyperion by Dan Simmons?

Can you explain something to me?

You know when Rachel enters the Sphinx by herself, and encounters the Shrike?

How does the narrator, her father, know what happens inside the Sphinx?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bruce Lee Could Have Destroyed Japan

So, I've been thinking about this a while, and I think I've figured out how to geometrically prove that Bruce Lee could destroy the entire nation of Japan in single combat.

I will be using extensive film clips to prove this, courtesy of YouTube.

First, let me say, that three of the great warriors are dead, and it is arguable that the survivor is clearly the one who is the greatest. I suspect the forces of PCNB* are at work, and will explain in a footnote. Though it is true that the transitive property does indicate that this living legend could, in fact, conquer Japan, it must be remembered that the Imperial Throne would crumble as soon as Bruce Lee decided to conquer Japan.

First, let's begin with how Bruce Lee easily defeated the seemingly unstoppable force that is Chuck Norris.

Now, Chuck Norris is no slouch. He handily defeats David Carradine in this evidence also found on YouTube.

(Is it just me, or does it look like David and Chuck are about to make sweet love to each other when Chuck drops his gunbelt? Nevermind...)

Now, David Carradine - though he would be out of his league against Bruce Lee - does manage to use "Shaolin Tricks" to conquer the son of Bruce Lee, Brandon.

(The "Shaolin Tricks" I see? All of them camera tricks. Oh, and sound effects. *WOOSH!*)

(At this point, you are probably thinking to yourself that fight scenes have really diminished in quality over the years. And, you'd be right. What the hell? What happened to our fight scenes since the 1970s!?)

Anyway, we're not quite at Japan, yet. Here's an important moment, where Brandon Lee is destroying the evil gangster, T-Bird.

You may not be aware of this, but the person getting cooked was actually President of the United States of America, as witnessed in the documentary "Flags of Our Fathers" by Clint Eastwood. This president - Truman - has apparently become a devil-worshipping, drug addict, anarchist in retirement. (Ah, so like Detroit and our American steel dream, from the glory of war to the decline of our great industrial cities...) During World War II, T-Bird fucking conquered Japan!

Ergo, by the transitive property of action movies, Bruce Lee could conquer Japan.

*(It must be said that the Bruce Lee battle occurred PCNB, or "Pre-Chuck Norris Beard". Like Samson, Chuck seemed to grow exponentially when he acquired a beard, as evidenced by this video of combat with the living essence of Beard itself, a frikkin' bear:

Further study will be necessary to deduce whether Chuck Norris' beard provides enough power and oomph to conquer our victor of all Japan: BRUCE LEE!)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Chimps on Ice

Summer is hot. THe Blog-O-Sphere is full of stupid people.

So, let's watch chimpanzees ice skate.

Edit to add: The video was apparently auto-playing. I don't like that. Videos on blogs should only play when clicked upon. Video deleted. Here's the link to the http:

World Fantasy Convention

I just bought a membership to World Fantasy Con. I'm 80% percent sure I'm going. I'm 100% sure I won't be there Thursday.

If I can get a day off work, I'll fly out Friday morning. If not, I'll fly out late Friday night.

Hope to see all of you there.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Courtesy of BoingBoing... Ultra Deep Space!

More Homophobic Authors, apparently...

Ah, the blog-o-sphere has brought to light another well-respected author's raging, puzzling homophobia.

I have this problem. I have a hard time reading books by authors that seem to believe that homosexuality is some kind of satanic joyride into bestiality, incest, and forced child-orgy labor camps.

The problem isn't the religious opinion that is different from mine. One can say "Hey, I think homosexuality is against my god, so... It's wrong. Gay sex is the work of the devil." And, to me, that works, as an argument. It's a crappy argument, but I'm not one to argue against your God. I also don't think you can take that and extend it out onto society, even though you really want to.

Here's the way I think about that. I am a vegetarian. I think bacon is evil. Many religions agree with me on the "eating bacon"="evil and wrong" equation.

Bacon is not the slippery slope to cannibalism. Making that logical leap makes me an idiot, (even though part of me actually does believe that eating our close genetic cousins, like monkeys, pigs, cows, and other land-dwellers and whales walks the line of cannibalism to close to permit to continue). Making that argument, despite your personal belief that sees a connection where reason does not follow diminishes my trust in you, as a craftsperson of intelligent, plausible, rational, realistic characters and prose. (Seriously, bacon might as well be cannibalism, and it's destroying our planet. Stop eating bacon. You're evil and wrong. You! Yes, you! Put down that bacon!)

Personally, I'm not a big fan of bacon. I think the world - and America - would be a happier, healthier, more morally righteous place if there was no bacon. The environment would be improved by the end of bacon. The cost of healthcare would shrink. The deficit would shrivel. World peace would result, as all nations and religions unite. The end of bacon is the path to nirvana.

But, the act of eating bacon (which I believe is wrong and evil and bad) does not mean that the people who eat bacon are baby-eaters just waiting for their chance to chomp down on the fetuses of forced abortion clinics.

How do you deal with an author who can't grasp that nuance? Do you trust their fiction?

(You're craving bacon right now, aren't you. It's evil. It's wrong.)

I may pick up a book or two by someone who has lost my trust as an intellectual. Maybe. But, if I smell anything that could be judged as stupid in the right light, I tend to suspect it might be stupid.

There better not be any bacon in there, though. Bacon is evil and wrong.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hugo Awards and the Campbell

Huge congrats to Ann VanderMeer and David Anthony Durham, and all the other winners!

It pleases me to see the people on the ballot that I think should win, win. I didn't even vote!

I would have voted for "The Graveyard Book", as well, and it pleases me to see it victorious. I would have voted for "Exhalation", as well, and - again - it pleases me to see it victorious. I'm not up on the novellas and novelettes, but I have no doubt in the powers of Nancy Kress or Elizabeth Bear, and I'm certainly going to be looking for these stories later.

In the other categories, I would buy Donato Giancola paintings if I could afford them. Seeing them in person is really memorable and exhilarating. I know Cheryl K. Morgan has been a huge cheerleader of my little book, and I'm very glad someone gave her an award. I wish I could give her one. Now, I don't have to. She won the Hugo! I could go on, but I don't need to gush.

The big surprise, to me, was Ann's much-deserved victory in the Locus-dominated category. Weird Tales Magazine is basically awesome. I could give you reasons, but I don't think I need to. Isn't a Hugo a better reason than any I could offer you? If you ever wondered if you should subscribe or not, here's the most prestigious award in SF/F suggesting that maybe you should.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Everything is off my desk!

Hooray! My desk is clear for at least another two weeks!

Time to catch up on my reading. First up will be either Red Gold Bridge by Patrice Sarath, or Diana Rowland's Mark of the Demon.

Then, I think I will read me some non-fiction from Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

And, I think I'm going to write a short story, but I don't know what it will about, or anything else about it except for this. There's a bodyguard with a human's body, and a tiger's head. He has a scimitar. Possibly, this scimitar is sharpened with nanotechnology. Possibly, the scimitar is poisoned with the blood of the cockatrice. Either way, I need to get to know this strange entity, and I'll get back to you with more when I can.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Clearing things off my desk...

I's all about clearing things off my desk right now.

For instance, his glass of whiskey has got to go!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Comes out August 14th, I hear.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Apparently, I'm following in Carol Berg's footsteps...

So, I went to the same high school as Carol Berg, a few years after she graduated (Nolan Catholic High School, in Fort Worth, TX).

Apparently, I'm in the same graduate program as she graduated from (University of Southern Maine's Low Residency MFA).

I hope I also follow in the footsteps of her many publications and successes.

Honestly, I feel kinda weird about it. At least we went to different undergrad programs, and live in different parts of the world.

Also, elementary school? Probably different.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

One legal, and one illegal photo from the Woodruff Center in Atlanta.

They have some *fabulous* Duerer prints from the Louvre, but I didn't make the attempt at sneaking a photo in the crowded room, with security looking on.