Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Friday, April 29, 2011

dipping my toe in the wide, black, piranha-infested waters of the Amazon...

So, I'm going to be experimenting just once, to see what happens. I have released one of my unpublished stories into the world on the Kindle only, under epic fantasy, as a dollar novelette, as close to a free giveaway as I can. Novelette's an oddball length in today's market, and this one is strange enough that it isn't really perfect for any market that I know of. And, with all the folks experimenting in new publishing paradigms, I could easily sit on the sidelines and watch. But, the sidelines aren't where the action is at. I'm curious. I'm scatterbrained and curious. When a bee hits my bonnet, I've got to see it through, somehow.

I feel pretty conflicted by this. I'm not pro-self-publishing, as a general rule. In fact, I'm pretty outspoken against it most of the time.

What's different this time?

First, there is no upfront cost at all. The money flows towards the writer. If I don't make a dime, I also didn't spend a dime.

Second, other people I respect are running similar experiments. Cory Doctorow and Jeff VanderMeer and Jason Sizemore of Apex are running some interesting self-publishing experiments. Sizemore, I think, has the right idea with the Apex books: drinks of water that act as low-cost promotional materials for the larger works. I also think Jeff's got something very smart with cheekyfrawg because we may see the rebirth of fiction that is not between 100k-120k and designed for maximum paper printing cost-benefit-analysis. Many of CheekyFrawg's titles look fascinating.

Third, I don't believe in the speculative fiction marketplace regarding this particular story. The main character is gay, and lesbians and bisexuals are featured prominently. And, if that wasn't bad enough, it falls into a wordcount category that's generally a difficult sale. Novelettes are kind of a weird length.

Fourth, the quality to crap ratio on the kindle is pretty bad. Good stuff is there, but it is often high-priced in the market, and it is drowning in crap. Because self-publishing is so relatively easy on this device, lots of people are doing it. Putting something good in this marketplace at a competitive price point seems like a good idea. in part, this is because...

Fifth, people will want to use the expensive devices they just shelled out a hundred bucks to acquire. Unlike paper books, which are flooding the market in paper, there isn't as many books available on a Kindle as one could find in a used book store. People who buy a dedicated eReader are probably going to be sifting through the crap, if only to make their purchase worthwhile.

My experiment isn't perfect. My cover was done in MS Paint. By me. I'm not an artist. I borrowed a line drawing from my fiance and did a quick fiddling in MSPaint to make it look cover-like. I'm competing in a marketplace with very pretty books. My interiors were done in Word. I'm terrible at describing my own work.

In this, I think, the experiment can run alongside the "Alien Shots" short story, I Am Nature, with the cover design and interiors done by the much-better-at-that-sort-of-thing Jason Sizemore. Ergo, it will still be an interesting experiment in relation to other pieces in play.

I'm curious. I'm doing this because I'm curious.

I'm not generally a fan of self-publishing. But, I keep hearing how the paradigms are shifting. It seems to cost me nothing but a couple hours to put that paradigm-shift to the test.

What will happen next?

Well, I have no intention of blogging or promoting the book in any form unless something interesting appears out of the data. If nothing happens that is interesting, I might just pull the novelette down and do something else if the mood strikes me.

Who knows what will happen?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sensual Mysticism in an imaginary Birdland

Recently, it has come to my attention that many speculative fiction readers are unaware of the marvelous prose stylings of Rikki Ducornet. I know I've mentioned this fabulous author a couple times on this blog, and while out and about. I know her work is beginning to appear in anthologies edited by "genre" editors, like Jeff VanderMeer's CheekyFrawg eBook Imprint. But, for many in genre circles, she's an unknown.

How unfortunate for us.

Phosphor in Dreamland is a book about an artist and inventor. It is also a book about the human relationship to the world of the sublime. It is also a book about the extinction of the native people and cultures facing the brunt of colonialist arrogance. It is also a book about beautiful imagery, and grotesque characters behaving badly and strangely.

There's a bird in this book. This should come as no surprise on the island of Birdland where this book is set. However, what makes this island a "Birdland" is that there is a native bird, reminiscent of the dodo, but one famous for how human it seems when it is begging for its life. This peaceful bird rummages for shellfish and lives in harmony with its native surroundings. Humans have, even before the arrival of colonial expansion, killed the bird for its beak alone. The hunted creature begs and begs, and all for nothing. The colonial settlers does not help the extinct bird. The last of the Auk is killed in this book, and it is a harrowing thing to read.

I mention grotesque. the main thrust of the narrative is the discovery of a kind of photography by a young artist, poet, and inventor -- the Phosphor of the title -- who is taken in by a local rich man that sees in this invention an opportunity to own the whole island, photograph everything in it, and make images of beauty, lust, and possession of everything around him. How colonial of him, no? The artist and dreamer is appropriated by this wealthy maniac and led on an expedition into the wild heart of the island, with a spiritual adviser in tow that is so lost in his hideous pontifications that it is all that holds his soul and skin together. There's more, of course.

I read this book a few weeks ago. I have considered many things to say about it here. I have landed upon this: What is magical is often taken for granted, and what is factual is often misrepresented as magical, and what is beautiful is often taken as a sign of human weakness and frailty, and what is a human failing is often taken as a sign of an individual's strength or prowess. The best thing we can do about all of this is to make love.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Are you a book pirate? Do you feel guilty about it?

I decided to put a "donation" button on my blog, not because I am looking for donations, but because I can't think anything would be wrong if random people of the internet decided to offset their book piracy guilt by sending me a few dollars over paypal. Or, you know, if someone just feels like giving me money. Also, I've been asked a few times by publishers of litmags if they could just pay me through paypal, and I could just point them to the button.

I can't stop piracy. That's crazy. And, I would encourage pirates to buy legal copies of books and ebooks to mitigate their guilt. (Publishers deserve their share, and work very hard for it. At least as hard as authors, in fact.)

But, I can guarantee that money donated to me will very likely end up in the hands of book publishers and other authors, because I have a book buying habit that I cannot seem to stop.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

How it works with series books...

So, when someone is writing a series, and someone else (for instance, you) is reading a series, there's only one way to make sure the series continues.

It's pretty obvious, right? People vote for the sequel by buying the book that comes before it.

I'm busting my behind right now writing a sequel, and though this particular project is not in any danger that I'm aware of, I cannot help but be aware of the cold, hard reality that without strong sales, there is no real future for Dogsland beyond this one book that I'm writing now.

Fact: If you liked NEVER KNEW ANOTHER enough to want to read the whole trilogy, you should have at least a passing interest in the sales figures of NEVER KNEW ANOTHER. How does anyone concerned express their interest in Dogsland in a manner that helps create a future for the series? Well, tell people about the book. Write reviews in places where people go to find new authors and new books. Basically, spread the word. Recommend the book to friends. Boost the signal. Sales aren't imploding, or anything. This isn't to say that we are in danger. We aren't. But, sales could always be better, and good enough does not exist in the world of media artifacts. If you believe that books like NEVER KNEW ANOTHER should be the kind of books that go on best-seller lists, you can actually take an active role in making that sort of thing happen.

(I'll be the first to admit that I am probably preaching to the choir, here, because I know many of my readers here have done exactly this...)

Fact: Word-of-mouth sales are the most effective marketing tool in the universe. All you have to do is tell your friends you liked this book you read. Tell them on Facebook, in person, on a blog, on twitter, in passing in a book store, as a request to your library, or anywhere else the topic of books comes up.

What's great about spreading the word about books you like is it's a great way to find out what other people liked, so you can be the recipient of the same sort of marketing. So, when you meet someone cool and mention a book you like, you tend to get that in return. You can check out these books, and discover something awesome and new. This is how I found out about Kurt Vonnegut, once upon a time, when someone I went to high school with recommended Vonnegut to me because I liked John Varley (I was 14, and didn't know anything about Vonnegut at all, yet). This trend continued. Garcia-Marquez came to me this way. Borges did, too. Other books, lesser and greater, all came to me this way. People talking to each other about what they liked to read, and what I might like, and what everyone is reading were effective marketing tools to get me to purchase stuff and check things out from libraries.

I remember my Uncle Andrew introducing me to Eduardo Galeano when we were talking books at a family gathering my sophomore year of high school, and buying Walking Words in a Border's in New Jersey later that day for the drive home. It was fantastic. I still have that book. I still check it out now and then, and wonder why I have such trouble finding more Galeano in the world. I remember girlfriends and friends all long gone with Umberto Eco, Ursula LeGuin, and more.

Most, if not all, of the authors I love the most were found not because I went looking for authors, but because I was talking with other readers. Most of the authors I hate, as well, came through this method, but I'll spare you the list. (Needless to say, it is educational to discover that one of your friends or girlfriends has terrible taste in books either occasionally or constantly. It is enlightening, in fact, to know this about your cohorts.)

Many of you have done what I'm suggesting already, and I cannot express how grateful I am. I hope that at 12:25 am on a Friday, at my computer screen, and after about my third or fourth night in a row toiling into the wee hours since early morning (just for you and your entertainment and enlightenment, because I love all of you, and I am grateful to anyone who reads my books) that I deserve your support. I do all I can to earn it every time I crack open this laptop, and type into the webwires what imaginings crawl out of the black hole where I have an imagination like some people have a psychosis.

To those of you that have said something -- anything at all -- thank you.

To the rest of you, remember this: If you like a series of books, and want to see more of them, there is only one thing you can do to help make that happen. Boost the signal of the series.

Please, if any of you are reading a series (not mine!) drop a line below, and let people know. I'll check things out as I can. Because, I'm not the only writer out there busting the ass. There's quite a few of us, with quality stuff if only people hear about them in this very psychically-crowded media-saturated world we live in.

Personally, my favorite (completely, wildly different) two series at the moment are the light, fluffy milSF Vatta's War series from Elizabeth Moon (especially Marque & Reprisal), and the Ambergris books of Jeff VanderMeer, most recently with the masterful weird noir Finch.

Anybody got a signal to boost? There's a few folks that come here regular-like, and I know they might like to hear about your favorite series of books to read. I know I'm curious. I'm known to buy a few books.

Boost the signals, people. Believe it or not, Whedon was wrong: It is very, very easy to stop a signal by choosing not to boost it. You can stop signals. Signals are stopped all the time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Real Question About Ayn Rand

There are people in the world who think Ayn Rand's books are the bees' knees. I am not one of these people. I don't think Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. or even Doctor Who would approve of the message of the work, and even allowing that Ms Rand is not a native speaker, her prose is wooden and her characters are somewhere on a flatness scale between a supporting role in a James Cameron epic and a photograph of a model who is posed to make one believe that the model is in the midst of some sort of dashing, amazing adventure far more exciting than a mere, excruciatingly dull photo shoot.

No, she is not a great writer. She might be, generously, an okay scribbler, if you don't mind rape, annoying narcissists, and extreme pro-capitalist-wealth-industrial aristocracy. If your idea of a good time is counting your money on your second yacht while your fifth wife is sleeping off a hangover in preparation for another hangover, you are probably a fan of Ayn Rand. It's almost inevitable, in fact. The closer you aspire to that idealized, stereotyped superrich made-up example that I made up, the more likely you are to like Ayn Rand.

The whole question of the material, then, as a critic of literature is nothing to do with Ayn Rand at all. What interests me more about the whole thing is the (slightly unsettling) question of my own tastes as a reader and my aesthetic as a writer. How much is what I read and write predisposed based on personal stuff? More specifically, how many books do I like simply because I agree with their message before I even pick them up? Even more specifically, how many relatively trite, trivial books do I adore (and the people in my social sphere, all of us barking praise, forming a tunnel of sound like a song of praise) simply because I am pre-disposed to enjoy the book?  How many times have I written something based on my pre-disposition towards it despite the subject matter's actual triviality? How many books are considered great literature not because they are truly great, but because the people who make curriculums are pre-disposed to enjoy the book because of weird quirks of their collective background?

Kafka, for instance, looms large in my literary canon. The Hunger Artist's peaceful, self-negating, act of performance seems like exactly the sort of thing I am supposed to love. And I love it. I think of it as an artistic ideal I will never achieve, performing for an empty room if I must to be allowed to be doing what I was born to do. Doing it on stage, indifferent to the crowd. Doing it, like Jeffrey Ford's "The Way He Does It" all over and everywhere and no one can stop it even if they wanted to. But, I look to quirks of my background -- like my disaffected suburban upbringing, the moving as a child that took away my sense of space with the big box stores and chain stores at every corner, and the constant, insufferable "branding" of everything around me that's always for sale or selling something. I am pre-disposed to love Kafka.

I have never read it in the original German. At one point in my life, I could have, but I never had the inclination to give it a shot. (I was always better at speaking German than reading it. Curse my audio-holic learning style!) I consider Kafka's work marvelous, haunting. Ten minutes ago, I would have automatically told you it was "classic" literature. Yet, the translations, to me, are all I know of the stuff, and more than that the pre-disposition to love the work exists too deeply to be extricated from fair and equitable judgment. That others like Kafka seems to speak as much to the reality that there are many disaffected modern folks, watching wars on television with full bellies and the vague sense of ignorant impotence one gets from watching CNN. There are programs that exist to train people both in the critical appreciation of the arts and the indoctrination in passing that appreciation forward to new people. We call them graduate school. In the test one has to take to even apply to graduate school in English, one is asked all sorts of questions about writers and works that demonstrate both a working knowledge of the books, as well as a working knowledge of a general critical consensus about these works. Have you read enough, and correctly, to get in? Do you agree with us by default when pressed for time in a timed test? Are you one of us? Do you like Kafka?

Well, do you? Or do you like Rand?

What do you think that says about you as a person? Are you predisposed to loving that shit?

How much of what we do as writers is just creating a mirror for someone else's desire, and how much of it is changing the world one line of ink at a time? How much of what we do as readers is seeking out that mirror of our own desires writ large by someone not-us, like a daily affirmation?

I'm almost done with this revision, and I'm not even sure it's worthwhile. The only people who will love this book are the people who are pre-disposed to loving it.

I guess that makes me a Literary Calvinist. It's not so bad, I guess. I find that I'm completely indifferent to negative reviews. I am completely indifferent to following trends. Money will come or it will not come. All of it, pre-determined.

I make flags, not books. People rally behind them if they want to, but one needs to be a patriot to love the thing, and I only write for patriots of the nation I would want to be a citizen therein, of compassion and humanism and unending hope against hope.

At least, that's what I believe tonight. Tomorrow, I may come up with some new personal philosophy or aesthetic ideal.

The other question about Ayn Rand is how anyone could read as much as she did and as widely and never change her mind about anything at all, though her marriage and her world burns down because of this ideal, and her friends drop away from her never to return. How could anyone read so much and feel so much and never change her mind?

It's not as interesting a question, to me, but there it is.

Monday, April 18, 2011

no photographs

In North Carolina, I don't believe anyone photographed the events of the hour. The North Carolina crew of BullSpec was on-hand to launch their latest issue: #5. (I've been working my way through the issues as I can, and I have been very impressed with the production quality and the fiction. Definitely a magazine to watch out for in the months and years to come!)

I drove up through the wooded hills and mountains of Georgia, South Carolina, and over into Raleigh.  I was pleased to discover that Quail Ridge Books is an excellent, excellent bookstore with lots of great titles. I made a few purchases of my own, while there, including David Halperin's novel, and an issue of TriQuarterly.

When the panels and readings began, quite a lot of excellent stuff started happening. David Halperin and Jay Requard both read from their latest novels. The Crossed Genres crew made a strong showing with some excellent fiction and talks by editors. Bull Spec, as well, had a strong showing with the excellent story "Absinthe Fish" by M. David Blake, and part of the cover story to issue #5 (that I'm not up to in my reading, yet...)

Basically, it was awesome. If you were there, you know that. If you weren't there, you wish you could be. If you get a chance to attend an event put together by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn, I recommend it. A great time was had by all, and everyone walked away the better and the stranger for the fiction that was present and presented at the night in question.

PS I've come up for air, before diving back into the water. I'm trying to finish this thing so I can finish something else and so I can find new things ot keep my hands busy. Dogsland is deep in me. Dogsland is everywhere I look. Always Dogsland.

PPS Maze is coming

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Last Night and Later this Week

First off, I'm going to North Carolina this Friday for a big gathering at Quail ridge books, and I'm really looking forward to meeting all the awesome folks of North Carolina, and the excellent crew responsible for the rising star (with good reason!) of the Speculative Fiction Magazine Marketplace: BULL SPEC. (

Last night, my fiancee was off work, so we took the opportunity to take care of some pressing business. First, I tried my first Durien. Neither one of us had any idea what it would be like. We were at the Farmer's Market in DeKalb County, buying fancy local honey, and we noticed some frozen Durian hiding in the back of the fruit section. We decided to give it a shot.

At her mom's house, with no idea of how bad of an idea this was, we cracked it open and took a taste. The smell was just as bad as everyone says it is, and even worse: It lingers! The taste was like eating rancid custard, complete with strange fibrous skin-like things that were reminiscent of bacterial goo. Awful. Just awful. People eat that on purpose? WHY?

And the smell... We sealed up what we could not eat. We lit incense. We apologized to Angie's mom, who walked in to her own house not expecting the release of such an awful thing unto the kitchen.

Angie liked the fruit a little, but not by itself. She thought it would need to be in a fruit salad, with pineapple and other bright, sweet things to cut the rotten egg flavor. Personally, I thought it was one of the most odious foods ever placed inside of my mouth and swallowed. The only good thing I can say is that it is clearly -- surprisingly -- edible, because what I tasted went down smooth and easy and never even made my stomach grumble a little. As bad as it was, it didn't trigger a gag reflex, somehow, which most things that foul tasting would trigger. So, if you're starving in a jungle and about to die, be sure to know what a durian is. It won't kill you. It will just make you wish it wasn't food. Other then that, avoid the durian whenever possible, and never let anyone convince you that's a delicious treat. No. It is gross.

Second, I was going to go to a local writer's group that meets up just to write, but we were running low on time to make mead, and we are hoping to make much of the alcohol for our wedding, so we need to get on that pretty quick! Alas, boiling the three gallons of water in the giant stainless steel pot after cleaning and sanitizing everything takes a while, and we were up until about eleven getting it all done. That's another week where I mean to go to this writing group, and get dragged into another pressing project. Next week! Next week, I'll try! I'm leading the busy life of a freelance writer/graduate student/soon-to-be-groom! Things just get crazier and crazier as I take on and complete projects. I don't know why things never seem to settle down. I guess I'm just too much rock&roll to ever let anything settle down!

Third, we started our first mead! Hooray! We're making a simple sack mead with local wildflower honey. We had the help of Angie's mom, who used to make all kinds of wine and clearly knew what she was doing. We also had the help and recipe from this book for a basic sack mead:

Hopefully the results will be delicious. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

I really should update my bibliography... But, what am I missing...?

One of the reasons I keep my bibliography up on my (admittedly, not so fabulous as this blog) website is that it forces me to sit down and list out all of my publications somewhere, instead of just relying on my memory. I mean, your first half-dozen sales are tattooed into your memory more deeply than graduation ceremonies. After that, things start to get a little hazy.

I'm looking at it now on another tab, and I'm certain I'm forgetting something, but I don't know what. What did I forget to add? All the new stuff, the stuff at the top of my brain churning at the surface, drowns out the rest.

For instance, I've got a piece of non-fiction related to all my work on mosaic texts coming in the Interfictions Zero project through the Interstitial Arts Foundation. I've heard from a literary magazine about another one of my Arias for Women and Monsters. When I see the contract, I'll announce it all formal and official and whatnot. Also, I think I'm going to be doing a really cool short story collection, but it's going to take a few months to work out all the details on it. It's something old and something new, and it will be as much an experiment in production processes as it will be an adventure in forms. 

I just came home from Texas where I was helping my brother settle down into his new house, at least for an afternoon or two. I'm exhausted with blisters all over my hands. Angie drove me home last night and I could barely keep my eyes open. The week before, I mailed my thesis off to the first and second readers. I mailed off the last bit of materials to the University of Southern Maine this morning. I'm in a cafe, near the post office,  and I'm still so tired. I'm staring at the bibliography and convinced that I'm forgetting something. 

So many of the letters we write to the world are as thin and small as a sugar crystal. We throw it into the grand canyon, and it makes no boulders tumbling down the sides of the cliffs. It just falls into the water and dissolves. 

Nothing we do will remain for long in the world. My brother bought an older house, because he's an awesome contractor/electrician/locksmith/HVAC/construction guy who knows how to coax new growth up from the pipes and electric wires that run under ground. He's bought the kind of house that drinks a man's sweat and gives it back to him in equity, and he's just the guy to do it. When he's done with this house, it will be a palace. It will stand against the storms for generations and hold the ground. 

I write letters to the world, like throwing handfuls of sugar over the edge of the canyon walls. My sweet dreams tumble down the sides of the rocks, and fade into the sand. I can't even remember all the places I stood to throw the crystals into the big, blue sky above the rivers and walls.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Energy Technology and Video Games

Like many geeks, I have played a frightening amount of Sid Meier's Civilization series. I skipped the latest one, because, seriously, I'm a grown up, and seriously, I need to be very careful about what video games I allow into my life. But, I played them before, and similar games to them. My favorite non-Civ Civ was an Ancient Egypt simulation with the annual floods to feed the growth of my empire. I still dust off the old games a few times now and then for nostalgia's sake. I like shaping societies, even fake societies.

In games like these, sometimes you run a deficit to build up technology to allow yourself to succeed, or you do something that has negative side effects for a little while because it is the springboard to something newer and better. This happens in life, too. You go into debt so you can repair your car so you can still drive to work, which pays off your debt eventually. You go into student loan debt to earn a degree that -- at least in theory -- is supposed to increase your economic viability. A loan is like a game in life, in that the way you allocate the resources of the loan to successfully pay off the loan is like a game. Do it well, and "win" by paying it down very quickly. Do it poorly, and "lose" because you can't pay it off fast at all. Sometimes, almost everyone has to run a little debt whether to buy a car or a house or a latte or a suit for a job interview. Sometimes, everyone has to do something with a potentially large negative side effect to be a springboard for something bigger and better and otherwise hard to achieve.

I was thinking about these things when I was looking at the news from Japan, and thinking about how slow my investments in green technology seem to be moving compared to how dire the need for them happens to be. Like, if everybody all together decided to make the transition into green technologies we'd all sort of have to pay the price as if we were living in debt. (And not the bullshit green technologies like the paradoxically-named "clean-burning coal". Right. Burning. Clean. Right.) We'd have to ration our energy use. We'd have to be careful about driving to make sure we don't go alone, and all our carpooling accomplishes multiple errands organized efficiently to maximize gas. We'd have to live like we were in an "energy debt", and work ourselves into new patterns and technologies to build up to the point where we would not be exceeding what we could afford to produce with real green technologies.

More than that, thinking about this series of extended and muddled metaphors got me thinking about the relationship between nuclear energy and pollutant energy and the planet.

If we were an entity playing one of the games of Human Civilization in this real world, as some kind of all-powerful, all-knowing player of nations against nations, the cost of modern energy is quite severe. It ruins the land around the cities, polluting the citizens and sickening them, and makes for an agitated, disgruntled population with leisure and communications technology to overthrow their masters and sue for the money to pay for the cancer treatments we need to survive. We, the overseers, would see the powerful potential of the atom as an energy source, and wonder at statistical dangers and the looming, omnipresent toxicity of the spent fuel rods accumulating. We'd see the slow melting away of the ozone layer as a temporary price to pay for the large gains possible through the number of calories we're accessing to build civilization towards something greater.

Industrialists urge us not to worry. Technology, many claim, will find a way to solve the problems of oil and gas and spent fuel rods, over the next ten thousand years. We can continue to push the clean-up into the future because it isn't actually as dirty as it could be. I mean, look at all the ways technology has already reduced the ecological impact? Industrialists stopped pouring arsenic into drinking water, after all. They did it for a while, then it was bad so they found another way to deal with the waste and now we're all doing so much better. Everything else will be like that. Industry will find a way.

Industriali advisers in this game say not to worry because we'll just keep innovating our way out of trouble and we can continue to develop our cities, and our complacent ways forever. The fuel rods will never accumulate so great that we are personally affected. The pollution can be dealt with later, because people still need to get to work, or the all the cities and factories and cultures will collapse into a ruin of stone age tools.

In a video game, this sort of "pollution debt" would be justifiable as it leads to an actual innovation that makes the pollution unnecessary. It would be a balance design, to make sure the players don't feel like they are all the way to the best, awesome thing yet that's going to save us all and make this ecological energy debt worthwhile.

So, what's the victory condition? We're going into all this global and ecological and health debt, pouring so many toxins into the world it will take generations for our kids just to piss clean of pollutants. What's our victory condition, here? What are the game balance designs of the universe trying drive us towards? Because, it looks a lot like solar energy is the future, to me. The vast majority of the natural world already runs on solar energy. Energy comes from the sun, up through the plants and up the food chain to fuel the entire natural world. They've been doing it for quite some time, and show no sign of slowing down. We're the weirdos who've tried to build something different than solar, next to the bodies that are totally reliant on sunlight like any other beast. And look where it's gotten us and all of our neighbors on the planet.

So, how long do we keep running in debt?

I walked to this cafe to post this message to the internet. Walking here, I wondered how much of the energy I used up walking came from sunlight, and how much came from oil to drive the grains to my door.

So much of it a waste.

Like this small letter poured into the world, there is no victory condition. The word is not strong enough to change the world. Whatever masters rule us all herd us in our willful ignorance, distracting us with baubles and dancing celebrities and interesting books, and do whatever it is that they want to do, secure in their high, omniscient camera view of the world seen from the top of the Sears tower.

Like every player to play the game, they'll do it better as they develop skill. Unfortunately, we're in hardcore mode and there is no reload and no second chances and nobody seems to have read the manual to know what they're supposed to be building towards.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Not Music Piracy and Interfictions Zero

Two things of note this morning, and first allow me to celebrate the library and something my lovely fiance taught me about libraries.

Libraries often carry CDs of music that one could borrow. For instance, she brought over the dancey funky sci-fi  sounds of Jamiroquai's "Traveling Without Moving". We popped it into my computer because it is the best sound system in the apartment. Immediately, iTunes imported the CD. Naturally, my iPod inherited the new imported CD immediately. Of course, my time spent moving large, heavy plates up and down and running in place were enhanced by the dancy-funky sci-fi sounds.

So, let's review this thing I discovered over the weekend. Libraries let you borrow CDs. Libraries are awesome. iTunes auto-imports anything you place inside your computer. If you were so inclined, you could keep the tunes you just imported forever and ever, or even export them to a new, blank CD.

Naturally, it is only fair and just to delete all of these copies the moment -- the very moment -- you return your CD to the library for the next music pira... I mean, legal borrower of library media.

I would never condone Music Piracy. That is easier and safer than anything with Warez or even "ripping" CDs. That promotes libraries. At the expense of evil music companies. While promoting musicians that I could better support by going to their live shows with my fiance, buying two tickets (three or four if we go with friends or Angie's sister) and dancing and having a good ol' time at the live show. No, this is terrible. And illegal. And wrong. Just delete the CD's content from your personal library when you deliver the CD back to the library.

Am I the last guy to figure this one out, or what?


In other news, Interfictions Zero is live with their first of a revolving series of essays, dedicated to providing a critical foundation to interstitial texts. The first essay was a combination of personal essay and literary criticism involving prostitutes in Havana and Junot Diaz' Pulitzer-Prize winning The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. My essay on Mosaic Texts, ripped wriggling from the pages of the thesis I just mailed out, will be coming soon from this very on-line anthology.

Check out the first of many interstitial essays, and check-in every month for a new look into the strange texts between things.

(link: )

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Review: The Sad Tale of the Brother's Grossbart

I wrote this on a few minutes ago, and repost it here.

This book was a maudlin, violent, disgusting, grotesque, and hilarious trek across Medieval Europe in the company of two of the most odious saints to ever consider themselves the blessed of the queen of heaven. The grave robbers of the title do unspeakable, horrific acts and even a few good deeds according to their own, particular moral code that is constantly, and hilariously hammered out in discussion between the twins. They smite demons, make deals with witches, murder children, and aid their fellow man as they see fit to judge them meritorious, living moment-to-moment on their journey from Germany, through Italy, and into Egypt. ("Gyptland" as they call it.) 

Beyond just the brothers, they encounter all sorts of comically individual characters, each with their own particular moral codes that get hashed out along the way as the constant moral debate of the scoundrels picks up or abandons, celebrates or condemns, blesses or murders all the people along the way. One thing is certain, the Brothers Grossbart are anti-heroes of the blackest sort, and as long as they are in a book where one need not actually smell them, wildly charismatic. 

I recommend this book to fans of Rowan Atkinson's "Black Adder" character in particular, and perhaps fans of Monty Python's "Quest for the Holy Grail".

I gave it four out of five stars at Amazon, but I would have liked to give it four-and-a-half. The only very, very minor quibble I had with the book (and this is like whining that there's just a little too much butter on your delicious pancakes. "Shut up, you got delicious pancakes! With butter, even!") was that some of the fight scenes had so much happening between all the different characters that I had to read them quite slowly and often reread passages just to keep all the many, many flying limbs and weaponry in order in my head. This is such a minor quibble, I felt no need to mention it at Amazon, and I'm half-debating deleting it now. (I mean, the pancakes were so very delicious, but that little extra butter you put on top was...)

Friday, April 1, 2011

SFSignal is hosting a giveaway

This is not an April Fool's day joke:

I actually made one teeny-tiny mistake when I was putting this together. It was totally my mistake, and I am to blame for this.

(Too many juggling balls in my head, too much arranging things on an iPhone instead of a computer with a full display and features...)

This is actually only supposed to be for one day. Not two weeks. My bad, and oops. I'm sure that will be corrected shortly.

So, hurry up to get your download, and tell your friends.

Eligible fiction

As I was filling out my World Fantasy Ballot (I won't be there, alas, unless a miracle of funding descend upon my head and a membership is thrust upon me for free...) it occurred to me that I have eligible work.

In case one were curious, I published these short stories in 2010.

"Death's Shed" was published in December 2010 from Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet
"Dedalus and the Labyrinth" was in Weird Tales 355, in Spring 2010
"The Lady or the Tiger" was in Apex Magazine in February 2010

My novels are not eligible this year.

I don't want to encourage or discourage nominating my work. I think you should nominate the best work, period. If you have trouble accessing these stories, and want to read them, drop me a line and I'll pass them your way gratis.

I don't know if I can legally post them on-line, and I don't really have time to investigate that, at the moment.