Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Nemean Lion is Live, and Book Club

Nemean Lion went live this morning on the website:

Also, Book Club #2 starts tomorrow with HALF THE DAY IS NIGHT by Maureen McHugh.

Pick up a copy while you still have time and join me in the comments of tomorrow's post as we all read the book together.

As people post interesting comments, I'll include them up in the main post, credited to you.

Join us! It'll be fun!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Throw It In the Fire

When you discover your work is poo, when you are working on it, you want to just take the work and throw it in a fire. You don't lose anything when it is poo. You lose time, but you gain time by abandoning the poo for something that is not poo. You also take the lessons learned from the poo and try not to make poo next time. Burn the poo in the fire, and start something new.

Except that in the digital age, with our redundant backup systems and constant flash-drives and dropboxes and tricks and wizardry, nothing is ever burned.

Someday, I will find this poo again, and I will have to smell it. I can't just throw it away. I can't do anything with it but wait until I am bored some night and desire to scour the back recesses of my backup systems for things that merit a second attempt.

Which is a waste of time thing that I do when I am too lazy to do anything else.

I want a place inside my recycle bin. I want it to be called "The Fire" and when I open my recycle bin, I can put the thing in the "fire" and it burns that out, also burns it out of any backups, and burns files that are attached or related to it in some meaningful way. Good-bye worthless story notes! Good-bye dozen or so stilted disaster openings! Good-bye! You are now all in the fire.

There is too much permanence in our world. It is an allusion of permanence. With the flood of media and datapoints, and the way passwords and technology actually functions, that sense that we are building powerful webs of interconnected "work" is a myth. Computers go obsolete and become paperweights. Children care only that the machines are wiped before they are recycled when we die. They do their best to pull out the pictures, but these photograph albums are so cheap, and there's so many pictures, these days, that it will be a genuine hassle to sort them all, even as they are moved. Ergo, many will be lost. Many more will be, for all practical purposes, lost.

When we had fires, we were more particular about these things. We threw things in them, or we did not. If we kept them, we knew they were precious, because people didn't have so very many things to hold onto.

I have too many things. I want to start a fire in the street outside my apartment. I want to toss in all the things that have accumulated: old shoes, old clothes, old bric-a-brac and papers that may have had a meaning once and all these things that someone must deal with, probably me, and certainly nothing that will be of interest to anyone if something were to happen to me, and all these things would be left behind.

Burn it. Burn it all.

And this miserable, horrible draft?

I will now throw it into a fire, and try again, as if this one never existed, for it is poo.

Monday, October 24, 2011

FREE FICTION: "Ariadne After Theseus"

[Free Fitcion from]

Is there, then, no Beyond?

Is this our goal?

Is this our goal?

-from Ariadne on Naxos, an opera by Richard Strauss

Everyone always wants to know about when we were young and a little famous, and it’s really the most boring part of my life.

My father is dead. The dashing young man is famous somewhere else. I don’t know where. I don’t keep up with him. He left me because we were young, and confused, and because we knew – both of us knew – that what I wanted wasn’t him and what he wanted wasn’t me, and leaving me on an island was better than trapping me in a new palace labyrinth in some rich house in Athens. He was doing me a favor. Really, we both had just wanted away from where we were, and running away together had been the natural way to do it at the time. I moved on long ago. I wouldn’t even call him my great love. I wouldn’t even call him my pretty great love. Honestly, we never even made love. I’ve never been with a man.

You are probably about to be my great love. Look at you, you. You’re adorable. I mean it. You’re as delicious as hot chocolate in winter. You’re a goddess, to me.

Anyway, that’s all there is to know about that boy. Let’s talk about something else from my many travels.

Do you see this weird, squishy thing? It’s a box and it’s alive, and I think it’s lonely.

[Visit for the rest, and tell your friends!]

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Shamelessly Shambling Towards Word of Mouth

I'm going to be pretty shameless for a little while on Facebook and Twitter, so feel free to zone me out a while if you feel like you don't want to hear me going on about things one could buy.

There's a reason for this, and maybe it will all become clear here at the blog someday in the next few months, though it isn't really a professional goal so much as it is a personal thing that we're trying to accomplish with the aid of slightly better revenue. In the mean time, please consider posting reviews of things, even if your review is "I really liked this" with a link to a project at IndieBound or Amazon or Whatever. Like this:

<-I really liked this! In particular, I hope that folks can point out the books that are out with what we're all calling "traditional" publishers, these days, though it is as meaningless a term as calling them all purple-trout-baboon publishers.

So, the shameless self-promotion will be ramped up a bit around these parts. If there's anything you feel comfortable doing to help, I'd appreciate it.

That is all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Free Range Evil: a pet peeve of mine, when reading...

One thing that bugged me about my recent attempt at reading FREEDOM by Jonathan Franzen, which I did not finish because I did not care for it at this time, was the free range racist in West Virginia.

There's this scene where one of the the main characters, an older white male, is in a steakhouse in rural West Virginia with a beautiful Bangladeshi woman, his assistant and probably about to be his mistress if I had read any farther along, who is very dark-skinned. When the old man goes to the bathroom, he is approached by what I refer to as a "free range bad guy" who is a racist and makes a lewd and racist remark, suggesting the possibility of a violent reaction.

I've seen this in lots of stories from writing workshops, too. This character appears, with perfect timing, who does the most horrible thing imaginable before stumbling back behind the curtains at the side of the stage, without a name, without a face, without any role in the fiction except to be this chaotic evil bastard who does a bad thing.

It's always a male, too. It's always a male figure that shows up to mug, rape, spit, punch, hit-and-run, and voice the wickedness of the world. Generally, this character is what would be referred to as a "lower class" character, the sort who would not be out of place in a round up of the "Usual Suspects" for any particular region of the country, whether an urban male with a dark hoody in the city, or a poor white trash racist in the country. If we're really lucky, we get an evil authority figure, like a cop or an employee of a business that surprise us with their free range evil.

When I meet this character, I am often struck by how the writer does not seem to have any emotional investment in that character, and no desire to really make them something that stands out as a character. They're stock. They're no better than the herd of redshirts who died on alien planets, or the countless African-Americans arrested on television screens early in the show or used to fill out the bustling station scene.

Evil is free range, roaming about, waiting for the perfect moment to strike, apparently. Every shadow, and every trip to the restroom in the club, or every step out behind the restaurant is an opportunity for evil to smell our aura and decide if we are ripe for the devil's touch.

In fiction, it drives me nuts to see it happen. When it's done well, like in Don DeLillo's fictions the roving bad characters are given a chance to be more than a stock hoodie or hick, to introduce himself and have a small character arc of his own between what he perceives himself to be and what he truly is. When it is done poorly, like in FREEDOM, it is a stereotype wrapped in a moment that is fleeting and unfulfilled.

Bad things happen, but there is something very trite and twee about such perfectly-timed evil, such convenient-to-the-plot random acts of evil, such stereotypical-stock character evil.

Imagine, in FREEDOM, if the character who made that racist quip about liking dark-skinned women stepped out of the restroom, and sat down to dinner with his wife and kids, who were all dark-skinned. It's still a racist quip, that his wife would probably not appreciate, but it becomes a reversal of tone where the guy who at first seemed kind of scary turns and and smiles, giving the main character a big thumbs-up about his date.

There are racists in the world, just as there are muggers and bad guys. They are the devil, a swirling chaos vortex of evil looking for a chance to bite away at society. Promoting "good things" like community action and charities, is an attempt to push back the devil, and make the things that drive people into the devil's care lesser and lesser a little bit every day.

But, how do we write about them?

I will say this about Jonathan Franzen's moment in FREEDOM: I did not feel like he ever really had a chance to sit down and talk with people from West Virginia. When I was seventeen, I traveled through there with a Drum and Bugle Corps (I played the Contrabass Bugle for the Blue Knights Drum and Bugle Corps) and we spent a few days there, doing laundry and practicing. In the laundromat, the people were some of the friendliest, most helpful folks I'd ever encountered in a laundromat. I, in my youthful inexperience with laundry, confused front-loading washers with a dryer, because obviously it was a dryer for it had a door like a dryer. I went outside to play my horn in the parking lot, thinking nothing of this. Once it was revealed to me the true nature of laundry machinery, I had to rush to get my clothes out of the second washer and sorted into dryers before the bus decided it was time to move on to the next town with all 100 or so people involved with the touring musical group. The women there did not have to help me, because they were laundromat employees in a poor neighborhood, surrounded by an ethnically-diverse bunch of kids from Colorado/Utah/Texas/Etc but they did help. And, without their friendly and affable help, I'd have been wearing a lot of wet clothes for a while, on that tour, maybe catching some horrible illness as a result that would leave me smelling musty and gross for the rest of my life. I was being teased by my teenage peers for my laundry fail. I was going to be teased about it for a while, no matter what, but if I had damp, stinking laundry, I would be teased much longer, indeed.

It is this that I think about when I think about free range evil.

There is also free range good.

It is perfectly timed. It is out there, waiting in the wings, for a chance to step out into the spotlight. I don't remember the names of those two very nice, helpful women, who went above and beyond the call of duty to teach the silly kid how to get his clothes dry and hacked a couple extra dryers to do it without costing me all those coins I lost in the front-loading washer. These sorts of things make almost no appearance in fiction, that I can recall. It would be just as cloying and strange, in fiction, as free range evil, but t is out there, waiting for a chance to be helpful, and save the day.

In fiction, we have to deal with these things, floating out there, and waiting for a chance to step out of the chaos and change the course of lives. My advice is to avoid stereotypes, always make sure the free-range evil character is given an arc of their own where expectation about who they are or what they are twists and turns a little bit. Also, remember that there is probably more free range good in this world than bad. Maybe there should be more of it in fiction.

Monday, October 17, 2011


My name was just Korey, then. I was my mother’s only child. I had no father I knew. I grew up in a small town, in the country.

A carnival came to the big field, back behind the house I shared with my mother. I didn't know the carnival was coming to town that day. Just passing time and I saw it. I climbed over the back fence, and stood in the field behind the house where the grass grew wild and our small town ended in fields and fields and fields of long grass right up to the mountains. It was evening twilight. The stars were already peeking out from beyond the veil of the blue sky. Bugs jumped from stalk to stalk. I held my hands out to run them along the wispy tips of the grass. The bugs were going to the carnival, too, I reckon, after the bright lights and the sweet cotton candy. I heard the music over the hill. I wasn't expecting music like that – old music, like the kind they’d play for tap dancers. I wanted to go.

My mother said to me "Got the brain of a frog sometimes, girl" when I asked her. Then, when I asked her again, "No, and I mean it. You've got work in the morning."

Read the whole story for free, and the rest of the collection as it appears every Monday?->

Read the rest of the collection right away?-> Donate 5 dollars or more, or visit your preferred retailer of eBooks (smashwords, Amazon, Nook) for the full.


Amazon Kindle

Thursday, October 13, 2011


So, did you read EMBERS by Sandor Marai?

What did you think?


*hears the sounds of crickets*

Well, regardless, we can try again next month. This time, I've chosen a book early because ordering used took so long last time.

The book I've chosen is Maureen McHugh's second novel, HALF THE DAY IS NIGHT, which I have not read before, and I suspect other huge McHugh fans have also not read. I do this because there is a collection coming out in November from Small Beer Press that I suspect I will also be purchasing, and I really want to fill out my collection of Maureen McHugh books with first editions while they are still inexpensive.

If you read Embers, come on down to the comments section and let's talk about it, eh? I thought y'all wanted a book club!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

For Immediate Release

Press Release type thing with one part bolded as it may be of particular interest to YOU, my fair blog readers:

Joe McDermott

In Greek mythology, the heroes cheat on their wives, go into murderous rages, seduce and abandon, drink too much, and destroy all the wondrous things in their world in the name of glory, desire, or maybe heroism. The women and monsters of these myths rarely get to speak for themselves. WOMEN AND MONSTERS by J. M. McDermott seeks to allow the muse to speak for herself, following in the tradition of Margaret Atwood’s PENELOPIAD and Carol Ann Duffy’s THE WORLD’S WIFE.

The surreal, post-modern short story collection by critically-acclaimed writer, J. M. McDermott, repurposes the characters from myths into explorations of the universal themes of life. Eurydice describes why she remained so quiet to drive her husband mad with doubt. Deianira explains her side of the death of Heracles. Ariadne moves on from the labyrinth, and from Theseus, beyond Naxos and into the city. Also, there are monsters like Charybdis and Scylla, the Nemean Lion, and the terrifying Gorgon.

This unconventional book is published unconventionally, and will have an unconventional launch to match. The collection begins as an eBook, only. The short story collection will also be released one story at a time, every Monday on a dedicated website: The site is open to donations, but encourages readers to go to different retailers to purchase the full eBook. After a successful eBook launch, a print edition will be forthcoming.

J. M. McDermott has always walked an interstitial line between fantasy and literature. His first novel, LAST DRAGON (Discoveries 2008), was described by Jeff VanderMeer as “William S. Burroughs writes Epic Fantasy” and by Paul Witcover in SciFi Weekly as “…like Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s AUTUMN OF THE PATRIARCH.” His work has appeared on the Best SF/F list at’s Omnivoracious blog, received nominations for the Crawford Prize for first fantasy, and on the ballot for the Rhysling Award in Speculative Poetry. His Dogsland Trilogy has received wide critical acclaim including praise from John Clute in Strange Horizons, Paul Goat Allen for Barnes & Noble, the Book Smugglers, and more.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Long Weekend Updates

In Virginia, driving down I95 to Georgia. I was in Maryland for a funeral.

Updates: Disintegration Visions is in copyedits, and it always comes back.

Secret Projects continue in secret. Secretly wditing cool x
Cool things.

On November 17, 2011, I will be at Georgia Tech for a Science Fiction Symposium with many others, including Chesya Burke and Eugie Foster and Kathryn Ann Goonan. Should be a fabulous time.

Cool things happening.

Stop to acknowledge the loss then life again. Read any good books lately? I am reading in a car. Coming home.

Monday, October 3, 2011

BOOK CLUB IS LATE: Mail is late.

I ordered the book two weeks ago from a used book vendor on-line, but it has not arrived yet. I'm very disappointed about this.

Anyone had a chance to start reading, yet?

I will update this post with your thoughts and observations even as I try to hunt down another copy of the book in question.