Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Scene from Tokyo!


Sunday, November 29, 2009


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Yesterday, in photographs

First, I had to get organized. I moved my entire to-read pile into one place (except my school reading list, which isn't in, yet.)

Then, I cleaned the apartment before going off to work. I saw something strange when I took the trash out.

Ah, work... Straight from work, I met up with friends downtown for a concert.

Today, there will be more cleeaning, more working, and more hanging with friends. Truly, life is good.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

No one ever tells the truth about the Buddha
He was a prince from the east, of course
He sat under a tree, of course
He saw suffering in the world, of course

His father rose to power with a magic lamp
Three wishes... the third for a mighty son,
a cunning son, a brave son, a glorious leader of men
So mighty was the son, that he slipped away in the night with
the concubine that had spent all her wishes on youth and beauty
and the magic lamp. Under trees, they went, because
the mangroves shadowed them from the harem guards
the water at the feet of the mangroves hid their sandals.
They would not waste his wishes upon escape.
Once liberated, and hiding in the woods
He and I had the papyrus with the careful wording of wishes,
They read over and over what we would wish for.
Night fell, and he was still adjusting the wording
Sunrise, and we was exhausted.
He touched the concubines nose to wake her.
She was disguised as a begger.
She stepped out into the world to distract from the prince hiding in the shadow, with the lamp
the Djinni would be a flash of white light. Long har. Lustrous, bearded, gaunt.
I admit the Djinni looked very much like Jesus Christ.
I admit, as well, that the man who kicked the concubine into the mud
He looked very much like a young Mohammed.

Anyway, Buddha sat there, looking at the concubine disguised as a beggar.
All he had to do was rub the lamp, make a wish, and
everything was
everything would be

He just sat there, under the tree, holding the lamp, the papyrus.
The concubine waited for days, until the beggar clothes and mud smeared away her beauty.
She waited and waited for him.
The wishes she had made became like a curse.

He was looking at his lover, his immortal beloved,
She was filthy, kneeling in mud and ox dung.
She help up her hands and begged for coin.

There, he had his enlightenment, without any help from the lamp.

I admit that I was the beggar, and the concubine that inspired the Buddha.
I still have the lamp, but it does nothing for me, who exhausted my wishes on vanities.
I could paint his face from memory.

I have given this lamp to thousands upon thousands of lovers.
None but the Buddha rejected the miracles contained inside.

Still, I give them the lamp.
Always, I give them the lamp.

Make a wish, my love, I always say.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Epic Fail Night, a.k.a. This is all my sister's fault

Whilst driving home from work, my phone rang. It was my sister. She sounded somewhat excited about something, but I told her I was driving and I'd call her back when I got to my apartment. She said she'd call Mom, and call me back. She called me again when I was almost home, and I said, "Hey, almost home, still driving, call you back!"

I'm thinking something, like, serious must be up. I park the car. I turn off the engine. I immediately call my sister back, in the car.

It's not serious. She's just excited about something she's doing at law school.

I'm relieved it's nothing serious. I tell her all about the gay dwarf on elf action that my character in the video game Dragon Age: Origins is doing (Kudos to Bioware for letting players play gay heroes! It's about damn time we've got some gay heroes in mainstream games!)

I step out of the car. I lock the door. I close the door. I look up at my apartment.

My keys are in the car, not in my hand. I am locked out of my car, and my apartment.

I curse. I check to see if my front door is unlocked. I check to see if anyone's in the apartment complex office. Nope.

I have my iPhone. I call a locksmith to open my car door. I call the dispatcher. Fifteen minutes later a locksmith tells me he's twenty minutes away in traffic.

Great. I hang out. I play a game on my phone. I check my e-mail on my phone. Etc. I'm thinking how wonderful it would be to eat dinner right now. Dinner would be delicious. It was about 7:30, byb then, and I hadn't eaten anything since 11:45, when I had just a frozen burrito and a banana for lunch. Waiting... Waiting...

Twenty minutes passes. Nothing. I get another phone call a few minutes later.

The locksmith was in a car accident. No one was hurt, but a new locksmith is on his way. He's going to need 20-25 minutes to get there.

I call my sister to tell her what evil she has wrought, with her distracting phone call that sounded like something serious, initially, that causes me to buy a pizza despite my budget, and a car accident.

Then, I order the pizza. I expect the pizza to arrive before the locksmith. I order one of my favorite pizzas from a local chain, that includes Feta Cheese.

5-10 minutes later, I get a phone call from the pizza place, and they're out of Feta cheese, and they ask me if I want something else, or a different kind of cheese. I tell them "whatever cheese you think is best". I'm so hungry, I doubt I'll bother chewing. I'll swallow pizza slices like a loon eating minnows. I will open my throat and pour pizza down and choke it down whole.

New locksmith calls to tell me he's almost there! 13 miles away.

I wait around. Dum-de-dum... I've been locked out of everything for nearly an hour. the pizza arrives, at last! Hooray!

Locksmith, the new one, calls to tell me he's almost there! 13 miles away. (Ten minutes after he called prior.)

Finally, locksmith arrives. It takes him a good ten minutes to get the car open, where I can get my keys.

I try to pay with my check card, and he calls in and discovers that their credit card machine in the office is busted, and they want me to wait around for forty-five minutes while they get it serviced.

I go inside to my apartment, which I can unlock now, and write a damn check. While writing the check, the pen dies. I have to get a new pen to finish writing the check.

Once inside, I try to read and relax. A lightbulb dies. I change the lightbulb.

I try to play video games next (Halo 3) because at this point I need to shoot someone in the face. The batteries in my controller die. I have to recharge them.

While waiting for the batteries to charge at least enough to let me play Dragon Age: Origins, I check the mail. My next packet has arrived from grad school, and I will have no life until I get through it.

All in all, an exciting evening.

I blame my sister for everything. It's her fault, even, that the lightbulb died, and the pen died, and the batteries died, and the packet arrived at the apex of stress-level orange.

She apologized.

(The pizza was okay, but it really needed Feta Cheese.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Year's Best List

I had an eclectic reading year, with many books that are not current. (I'm measuring my year by November last year, by the way... Apparently the Book Year ends in January.)

In no particular order (don't believe the numbers!) my favorite books read this year were

1) Finch by Jeff VanderMeer
2) Drood by Dan Simmmons
3) Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand
4) Getting to Know You by David Marusek
5) No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
6) Gears of the City by Felix Gilman
7) Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente
8) Returning My Sister's Face by Eugie Foster
9) Elegy on a Toy Piano by Dean Young
10) Cyberabad Days by Ian MacDonald

Literary Magazines I liked the Best

*) Conjunctions 52: Betwixt the Between
*) Weird Tales #352
*) Asimov's October-November 2009

**=I had one small contribution to these eclectic collections. LDBH is probably the quirkiest and strangest book of the year, which means, to me, you should buy it immediately and go forth upon your adventure! The Rhysling Anthology is a fabulous collection of current speculative poetry, of which I am a very small part. Still, I think it is necessary to separate these from the rest, though my mentioning has everything to do with everyone else inside and nothing to do with my tiny, little pieces. Both are fantastic little books, and two of the best I read this year.

**) 2009 Rhysling Awards Anthology
**) Last Drink Bird Head

I seemed heavy on Short Story Anthologies this year. I actually didn't read very many novels that blew me away. I admit, however, that I have a few likely candidates sitting in my "to read" pile, that I just haven't had time to get to yet.

In games? My favorites first played this year, where story/writing/narrative gameplay impressed the heck out of me:

1) Dragon Age: Origins <-Haven't completed it, yet, but boy howdy this is RPG Crack.
2) Mirror's Edge
3) Batman: Arkham Asylum

Monday, November 9, 2009

When The Wall Came Tumbling Down

I may be a little late, but reading about all these retrospectives of walls falling and stuff tumbling down and what really happened, or what didn't really happen, etc., etc., I am left with just one thing to add.

When I was in East Berlin a couple years back, I met the military officer in charge in Berlin, at the Wall that night who - when faced with confusion and silence from his superiors - gave the command that changed history.

Do not shoot. Let the people through to West Berlin.

I wrote about it here:

I have his picture, with me in it, and the writer that wrote about the officer in question. I don't have it on this computer, alas, but I know I have it home. I don't have time on my lunch break at work to dig around my blog until the spot where the pictures were scanned into the wires.

I'll edit when I get home, if I can remember to do it.

(PS: When I was traveling in Germany, I went to web cafes and blogged basically the kind of stuff that would have otherwise gone into my journal - or came from my journal. At the time I had about four readers, whom I all knew personally, and I wasn't "Author J M McDermott", just some drifter by the name o' Joe that spoke enough German to get himself into tiny adventures. These days, I don't think I want to journal/blog quite like that. It's like giving away your stories before they're even written.

But, if you're curious, click around. It's a rawer look at worlds and art that hasn't been polished up into fiction.)

Thought Balloon

I am very happy that Cat Valente is safely on her honeymoon, but I am left with this depressing thought in the aftermath.

Is the only way to get honesty and appropriate customer service from large corporations through either luck, or the assistance of a large tribe?

I keep my little kerfluffles off the wires, for the most part. (If only because none of them escalate to the point of awful that Ms Valente experienced on her Honeymoon of all things! Goodness!)

Yet, I wonder if social media is the only way to hold these companies truly accountable if that isn't a sign that something is genuinely wrong in corporate culture.

(This, of course, assumes that most people can't really buy the lawyers and time necessary to do a lawsuit. If anything, suing large corporations, they generally do a Cost/Benefit Analysis and decide to fight or settle based on fiscal resources most of us commoners can't even imagine. Their decision to fight or not rarely takes into account the actual liability of the situations involved, to my knowledge.)

That is my thought balloon for the day. Feel free to discuss.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Been trying to get this anthology off the ground a while...

I've been trying to get this really awesome anthology concept off the ground a while, with John Helfers of Tekno Books. We both want to do it. It's a great idea. It would be cool and popular among all the fans of Henson's non-Muppet work, which includes quite a lot of the readership of fantasy books, in general.

Yet, no traction anywhere.

Apparently the key to getting traction is getting a lot of Mythic Big Names behind the project.

So, I need people who want to be in an anthology who have names that can only be properly pronounced in an "outside" voice, and must be spelled with 16 pt font.

If you, or someone you know, fits this description, let me know!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

While I am busy, may I suggest reading a motherf***ing book?

I just f***ing love this song.

Brush yer goddamn teeth.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hey All You Halloweenies...

Eating all that on sale candy after Halloween?

Well, have I got a superhero for you:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Official blog policy around these parts...

It is official blog policy here that we support whole-heartedly the equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals.

I have been crossing my fingers for Maine all day, and I hope the voters push to support the state's correct marriage laws by popular vote.

I'm a grad student in Maine, after all, and I'd hate to travel out of the Bible belt in January for an education to a place that refuses to leave the dark ages.

Go Maine, Go! Go Maine, Go!

After WFC... Sleeping in...

I slept in until 6:30 today, because I'm still recovering from the Absinthe and late nights (11:30 on the East Coast is, apparently, deadly for me). I couldn't make it to midnight to participate in the Weird Tales Midnight Invocation on Halloween, alas. I hope it went well.

Thoughts about World Fantasy...

Sharon Mock's husband, Zack, has an amazing beard that makes me feel like less of a man. In fact, when he was also wearing a T-Shirt with a burly bear on it, I actually shrank four inches, temporarily. As soon as we parted, I had to load up on Sharon's wonderful, homemade cookies to fuel my regrowth.

Shweta Narayan didn't have a reading? WTF? From now on, if Shweta is at a Con and she doesn't have a reading, someone should let her piggyback in their own time. I know I was reading such very short stories, if I had known ahead of time, I could have intervened with Shweta and the Con...

Will Ludwigsen's reading was astonishing, amazing, and wonderful. I was shocked at how few people there were in the room. Everyone, listen, this is really, really important. Will Ludwigsen is an amazing writer, and a fantastic reader, and you can be one of the cool people that's in the know on this one. Let me help. Here's a recent story from Strange Horizons: Here's his website: Here's a link to a podcast from Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, read... well, a little over-dramatically by some actor. Will's reading at WFC was pleasant and cheerful which suited the dark material better. Still... "" Will's next story will be in Interfictions 2, about a very real house that travels across the country to find its family. Go forth and stalk, world.

Absinthe. My god. I never carried any cash (because I spent it all on books). I drank the absinthhe in the Con Suite, lots of it, and I need to find out how to donate to the Con Suite after the fact, because I never had any cash on me when I got there, and could not drop an appropriate donation into the box. And they had *fantastic* absinthe. Anyone know what brand that was? I forgot to ask. (Because I was drinking Absinthe). Someone tell me who was running the Con so I can send them a donation in honor of the Absinthe to their Con Suite.

Guy Gavriel Kay has a new book coming out, and he read some of it. I know, the words "Guy Gavriel Kay has a new book coming out" are enough to open the wallet and open the mind. However, hearing the reading confirms that this is going to be another fantastic book from the premiere historical fantasist. I can't wait!

Finally, at long last, met Ann and Jeff VanderMeer! Unsurprisingly, they're wonderful. Unsurprisingly, Jeff renounced squid during his reading, and I wish him all the best with it. I admit, I have my doubts that it will succeed. His fans have not renounced squid, and that's really the problem he faces. City of Saints and Madmen will likely be promoting Jeff's squidness for decades to come. There will be no escape. The reading from Finch is an excellent reminder that everyone should be picking up Finch right about now. Finch is one of the best books of the year. It is the perfect marriage of very dark fantasy, and very dark noir. It rewards Ambergris locals, who've been celebrating the freshwater squid festivals yearly, and it rewards newcomers who are only ready for a taste of the strange, surreal, city of secret histories. "Finch" is the real shit. Get thee to a bookstore.

Picked up Camille Alexa's short story collection, at last! It's been sitting in my wish list for a bit, and now it shall be removed. I shall read it shortly. Camille has blue hair, and writes speculative poetry. She hung out with me during the group signing and refused to sign my book until she was inspired to come up with something interesting to say. How often do you ask a writer, during the huge group signing event at WFC, to sign their book, and they say "Not yet! Wait! Let me think!" Camille was one hip cat. I think if she started hanging with Sharon, Zack, and Shweta all the cool of the room would become unbalanced and everyone at the edges of their vicinity would only be able to talk about uncool things, like peanut-based dioramas of Civil War battles, or yogurt.

Had a holy shit moment when Jeffrey Ford said hello to me in the hallway. I almost fell over. Yes, I am a writer. But, more importantly, I am a fanboy. I come to this field as a reader, first, and a writer second. Holy shit, Jeffrey Ford said hello to me in the hallway, after we had been drinking with Chris Roberson, Jetse de Vries, Neil Williamson (all fantastic people, by the way). Jeffrey Ford sat across the table from me. I leaned over to Neil to speak quietly in the crowded room, "Hey, uh... Is that... Jeffrey Ford over there?" Neil said, "Yeah, isn't this Con awesome?" "Yes," I said, "This is an awesome con". I never really had the courage to say hello, because I knew I'd be a trembling, over-excited fanboy. Like, for instance, what I was when I said hello to Connie Willis, and also Nalo Hopkinson. Later on, Jeffrey Ford said hello to me in the hallway and I almost fell over.

(This is very similar to my reaction when Jeff VanderMeer first e-mailed me to say he was going to be writing a review of my first novel. Holy Shit, Jeff frikkin' VanderMeer just e-mailed me!?)

I was so glad I got to catch up with my Texas friends, Chris Roberson, Alison Roberson, John Picacio, Gerald Warfield, AlleyPat, Tricia! Jesus, I hadn't seen y'all in, like, forever! I miss you folks!

TANGO! The lovely Melinda Thielbar and J. C. Hay were at the con, and I haven't seen them since Saratoga Springs! I wish I had more time with everyone I haven't seen in so long! Goddammit, the con really needs to be about six weeks to catch up with everyone! Melinda introduced me to one of her fellow Clarion graduates, who teaches Tango, and we learned to dance just a little in the huge hallway of the Fairmont. Okay, John Hay wasn't around when we got around to the tango, but he missed out. My only regret is that Melinda's husband wasn't around. Richard Dansky deserves some accolades and beer, as I know the paperback rights to Mr. Dansky's excellent novel FIREFLY RAIN were recently picked up. I'll be sure to let everyone know again closer to April. Don't forget, now, party people.

Books! I have so many books! Where will I put them all? Everyone who blogs about WFC will blog about the books. I was most pleased to get a free copy of MADNESS OF FLOWERS by Jay Lake, at his reading. (THANKS JAY!) I enjoyed Trial of Flowers the most out of Jay's books, because New Weird is aesthetically more fun to me than Clockpunk (though I did enjoy the Clockpunk). Now I have the new freaky-deaky chapter in a weird city with unforgettable magic and gods. My favorite scene in Trial of Flowers was the roulette table, and the surprising appearance of the color white. *wink* No spoilers, here, folks! I wonder what will happen next...

I could go on and on and on and on. Look, if you're a writer, and you got the scratch, this is the Con for you to go to go to go to.

And, I've got to go to go to go to work, party people.

Oh, I did a reading Friday, and I was very pleased that people I didn't know showed up! Naturally, I was more pleased that people I knew showed up! I read three completely different stories under the assumption that I want everyone to have something they like. "Speaking of Butterflies", from Brain Harvest, "The End of Her World" from Dark Recesses Press, and "Dedalus and the Labyrinth" forthcoming from Weird Tales. Everyone told me I looked really nervous (which I was), but also that they loved the second story. Having read a similar line-up at a Con, I happen to know that most con audiences fall asleep during "The End of Her World", which is a very dense and depressing sort of story. I was surprised it was the most popular one of the day. Hm. Next year, if I do a reading, I may read "Death's Shed" forthcoming from LCRW...

Anyhow, have a fantastic day, everyone. I have a fantastic amount of work to do, so I must leave you with that.